Thursday, 25 June 2020

Planet Models 1/48 Westland Welkin

I must admit that I had never come across this particular aircraft before. But it was a response by the RAF in 1942/3 to a perceived threat from the JU-86P. This would need to be countered with a high altitude heavy fighter to deal with reconnaissance missions that may be a prelude to a new high altitude bombing threat. As it happened, this threat never materialised and only some 75 Welkins were built, and not all of them ever flew. In many ways a stretched version of the Whirlwind, but it was largely a new design.

Planet models are very good at churning out decent quality resin kits of some of the more unusual subjects. As with most of their offerings, this one is solidly cast, although as is usual with the genre, the surface details are a little heavy and simplistic. The internal cockpit details are generous, but again rather simplistic and a little "rough". But as ever, if you want a model of something more unusual, this is the price one pays.
I can't comment with total authority on the accuracy, although it looks right. I have read that it's a little under-scale, but my calculations don't seem to bear this out.

My instant reaction to the kit parts was that the heavy, solid wings appeared to be a bit much for the relatively flimsy two fuselage halves. Being resin, too much strain would potentially be disastrous so my first resolve would to strengthen the fuselage with some struts.

The cockpit tub went together pretty well, fitting the instrument panel was less precise, and took some messing about but I got it to an acceptable state in the end. Planet provide a few nice etched details, including reasonable belts so I installed and painted these. Not too much effort was spent as things won't be that visible.

We now move on to the one major flaw in this kit. The wings are dead flat, and this is wrong. The aircraft should have a 3-4 degree upwards dihedral on the tip sections. Indeed, this is obvious from the cover picture on the box, but Planet seem to have completely ignored this. Unfortunately this was too much for my neurotic brain so I chopped the end of the wings, drilled some pin holes and re-connected them at the correct angle. After a lot of filling and smoothing this seemed to have worked.

The wings and tail all aligned fairly easily, although a fair but of sanding and filling was needed.

The Welkin had, as far as can be ascertained from the limited references available, a fairly complex rear canopy sliding structure and although Planet have provided etched canopy supports, the underlying mechanism is not represented. So, admittedly using a little artistic licence, and based on the best references I could fine, I cobbled it together from spare etched brass.

The customer asked for the medium sea grey scheme of DX289 ZQ-V, which has a PRU blue underside. Planet provide decent enough decals, virtually no stencilling of course, and the decals were a little delicate but went on well.

So there we go, a decent model kit of a little remembered aeroplane. Hard not to recommend it if you want to build a 1/48 Welkin, if only because you don't have any choice.

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Airfix 1.48 BAC TSR-2 (Review)

Well here's a plane that gets most enthusiast's juices flowing. And in a nice big 48th scale option as well. And it is BIG. Most have some knowledge of this sadly defunct aviation project - killed off by political machinations more than anything else, but what could have been is rather exciting. And what a looker! Would not look out of place coming out of Skunk Works today, but back in the 60s this was something extraordinary.

Airfix first pushed out a 1/72 scale TSR-2 in 2006 and followed it with this bigger version in 2009. Now - that is relatively recent in the grand history of plastic kits, but I have to say there is definitely something a bit primitive and early 80s about it, and to be brutally honest I would have expected something a little more refined from a kit of recent vintage. A relatively small parts count, thick plastic, some chunky indistinct mouldings and that terror of Airfix kits at the time (and many since), deep wide panel lines (trenches?) that you could lose your modelling knife in. Looks like it is simply an upscale of the 1/72 kit, however the word on the street is that this was designed as 1/48 initially and down scaled for the initial 1/72 version.

But on the upside, the parts fit together very well, it is pretty accurate (with one big exception) and makes for one hell of an imposing model. The main accuracy problem is the canopy. The pilots windows are too big, too square and the canopy profile is too flat. The operators section canopy is passable, but the big elephant in the room is the forward windshield. Not only is the middle windscreen panel flared in shape (should be rectangular) but even more annoyingly it doesn't fit on the fuselage. It sinks too low and leaves a large "lip" in front of it. This is surprisingly tricky to fix and yet still maintain the correct overall profile. I have to say, this is unforgivable. If you look around you can find some enterprising modellers who have come up with solutions, mostly involving packing under the sills but I couldn't be doing with that so I bought in the CMK vac form replacement which is accurate, and also fits the Airfix fuselage correctly. I am not generally a fan of vac canopies but sometimes you've just got to do it.

I also bought in the CMK cockpit set, which provides a nicely moulded replacement tub. It also fixes the other main bugbear of the Airfix kit, which is the ridiculously tall instrument panel coming (HUD area) which appear to not allow the pilot to see forward. Other cockpit sets are available, and in some ways I wish I had bought one of them to be honest. The CMK one is well moulded and does seem to represent the TSR-2 cockpit well, but doesn't bear much relation to it's own instruction diagrams (or the photo on the box it came in). Therefore much guesswork and trial and error was needed to fit it together and, indeed, into the Airfix fuselage. But I got there in the end and was pretty happy with the result.

My customer wanted everything closed to properly appreciate the graceful lines of this beast. However given the lovely detail in the cockpit I initially resolved to put the canopies on "loose", i.e.could be removed to view the interior. Unfortunately, despite much effort, I could just not get an acceptable lack of seam around the canopy areas (not the CMK vac form's fault, but you never get a perfect fit with vac form as you have to cut it out yourself) and so we agreed to seal them on. However, once finished it is surprising how much of the cockpit detail can be seen anyway, so not all that effort was wasted.

As per my customers wishes, all panels, air brakes and bomb bay were sealed closed. If you want to show them open, you WILL need some aftermarket help. Although I have to say the central wheel bays are a pretty good effort by Airfix. Effort that is sadly lacking in other areas unfortunately.

Interestingly, this is one of the few jet models that doesn't need any nose weight! This is thanks to the sheer length of the forward section the centre of gravity is well forward of the main wheels.

Once everything was together, I primed and painted all over in white. The kit decals are pretty good, maybe lacking some of the finer stencils but they worked well for me.

One problem with an all white model, to my mind, it that it looks boring. And I refused to apply a panel wash as I usually would in this scale, because those panel lines are so intrusive I didn't want to highlight them further and it would probably have ended up looking like a cheap diecast. However I gently outlined the key control surfaces and movable panels with pencil to add a little interest. What's more, photos of the original XR219 showed that it did get weathered a bit, even if only as a result of test flights. So I duly applied a fair amount of weathering until I was satisfied that it looked more like the real aircraft.

I dressed up the undercarriage with bits from my spares drawer and some brake lines. I used the SAC metal undercarriage set because this is a big model and the extra strength is recommended. SAC legs are great for strength but contrary to popular opinion they very rarely add any detail. They are simply duplicate moulds of the kit parts, mould seam lines and all (really guys? you could make a little effort please), and in this case came with a lot of extra flash that needed removing. The kit (or SAC) parts aren't actually that bad detail wise (with the exception of the calipers which are terrible - I replaced them with spare etch), but the TSR-2 undercarriage is particularly complex and will always benefit from some enhancement. I did try to get hold of some after market help here but none could be located, most sets for this kit are simply no longer available.

So that's pretty much it, all the problems listed here don't in any way detract from the pleasure I had in putting together such a fine model of such an astonishingly striking aircraft, and all credit to Airfix for releasing this kit, despite a few schoolboy errors in it's design.

I hope you enjoy the end result!

Monday, 30 September 2019

Monogram 1/72 B-52E Stratofortress

There's something about building a really "BIG" model. All practical considerations go out of the window in favour of an imposing monster that you'll never find space for. Not that I need to find space, except in a big box to ship this one over to my customer.

Anyway, this one is BIG. I believe it was, for some time, the biggest mainstream model kit out there until Revell pumped out their enormous 1/48 scale B-1. These days of course, the likes of Hong Kong Models and MPM are busy trying to "out big" everyone anyway, not sure where it will end. But this one hails from the mid 70s I believe. And it shows. Big, chunky plastic, very basic engineering and not a lot of exquisite detail, and of course raised panel lines. But let's be honest, the "BUFF" (at least in it's earlier incarnations, which is the subject of this build) is not smothered in much detail, and also raised panel lines hold few fears for me these days. I have moved on from the "fill the panel lines with dark wash or it's crap" school of modelling (at least in the smaller scales) and am now more into making a model that actually looks like the real thing. Which generally does not look like an ill fitting jigsaw. A bit of sanding down to just leave a suggestion of the line and perhaps a little post shading are all that is needed in my book. Maybe some extra effort around control surfaces and doors is warranted but otherwise go with it, that's my advice.

So back to the kit, and it's not actually that complicated to build. Although the parts are large, there aren't that many of them (at least by modern standards). There is, however, plenty of flash and sink holes. Fortunately, in my example, (although I may have been lucky) there wasn't much warpage. This can be a particular problem in the wing parts and one of them did need a little heat treatment but I've dealt with worse in much smaller models.

There isn't much in the way of after market for this kit, however I did manage to acquire some engine exhaust sections from Shapeways, a couple of ejection seats and I also used some brass gun barrels from Master for the rear guns. My customer also provided the Black Dog Resin bomb bay (which is meant for the newer Italeri kits - more on that later) and a couple of Mk41 nuclear bombs from Spectre Resin to go in there. The obligatory SAC metal undercarriage also found it's way into this project.

The build started with the undercarriage, which slots nicely into the fuselage halves. Not that it will be particularly visible, but I did feel the urge to dress things up a little with some spare etch as there is no detail whatsoever in the kit parts.

The cockpit went together next, again very little detail in the kit but I used the resin seats and carefully applied the supplied decals for the consoles. Not exactly state of the art but given the poor visibility it was perfectly adequate.

Fitting the Black Dog bomb bay was rather tricky. The kit comes with one of those "loose" design bomb bay door sets that were so popular before we started wanting realism in our models, which found the waste bin quickly as decent double fold doors are provided by Black Dog. However, I did have to cut out the top part of the doors from the fuselage halves and also had to reconstruct the fuselage at each end of the bay since it is slightly shorter in length than the kit represents. It was a bit of a chore, but I got there in the end. The Black Dog bay is beautifully detailed which is a bit of a shame in some way because again, once the Mk41s are in there not so much is visible, even if you did manage to turn the model upside down.

The fuselage goes together surprisingly well, even with that alien bomb bay in there (I had to fettle a bit of the resin away to allow the wing spars to fit properly by the way - if you ever do this make sure you test fit the wings before sealing up the fuselage).

The wings fitted together nicely and are surprisingly rigid given how large they are. I did, however, have to heat treat the starboard wing as it was a little warped, and getting the wing droop right is one job that anyone who has built a
B-52 in any scale will never forget.

I put the engines together next - the Shapeways exhaust cones required that the rear section of each pod had to be cut away and as you can see, I needed to re-construct them with Milliput. That was a job I had not anticipated and was not the most enjoyable part of the build to be honest.

Once the engines and fuel tanks were installed along with the tail section (no problems there) it was time to start painting. The paint job in itself is not complicated, however when the model is so big that only one wing at a time will fit inside one's spray booth it became a total nightmare. But I managed eventually to get the main painting done with a combination of impressive bodily contortions and incredibly careful handling. How I got through this without dropping it I don't know. I applied my usual aluminium base coat with some slightly darkened panels to add a little interest.

While the paint was drying I built the Hound Dog missiles, which had been provided by my customer from a different kit (which one I'm not sure). Each of these is as big as some 1/72 aircraft I've built in the past. The size of this thing is incredible.

The decals from the kit are a waste of time, fortunately I had been provided with a plethora of decals from various sources, one sheet from Wolf Pack containing the necessary shields and numbering, and all stencils came from various other sheets.

A satin finish and a bit of post shading and staining finished things off nicely. I also scratch built the array of antennae unique to the "E" behind the rear undercarriage. I also added, for interest, the little MA-1A start cart from CMK.

So, what an experience. But it has certainly resulted in a model that nobody can ignore, and if I do say so myself, for a kit that is not much younger than I am, it has scrubbed up rather nicely.

Full progress photos can be seen here.