Slipping the Bonds
by George Paterson

Lightning F.6 – 56sq. RAF


Recently I presented an image of an English Electric Lightning from 92 Squadron RAF, and the work I did to realise that image gave me an appetite to search my archives for other promising photographs of Lightning models.

My main folder of images of the Lightning did contain some promising subjects, but I wanted to search through another folder that I keep of downloaded, and as yet unsifted images, to see if anything relevant came up.

The Initial Image

This is the result of that search and it's a picture I found some time ago in a review of a model show that's held annually in Brno, the capital of Moravia. I think that the review in question was published at , but I can't be sure of that.

As I found it in my archive, the image is 1500x968 pixels, but that may be misleading, because I recall that the review images could not be downloaded directly, but had to be captured by screen-grabbing – that results in a .png image, not a .jpg, so some processing must have been done later via Photoshop, in the course of which any captioning has been lost.

This is a good clear image, with a lot of detail visible, except on the far wing which is rather soft.

The lighting is good, but there is a gradation of brightness, mainly causing the front fuselage to be much better lit than the rear. This is a result of photographing the model on the show bench, where the ambient lighting is not sufficient, and using flash is necessary.

The aircraft appears to be an F.6 of 56sq. RAF, coded “A”, and is in the standard finish of that unit. 56sq. used other more vivid schemes from time to time. Their display team, called “the Firebirds”, had the spine from the rear of the canopy up to and including the whole fin in red, and the leading edges of both wings and tailplane also in red. Another scheme had the spine in red with the fin in red/white checkers over all; the checkered flash on the front fuselage was replaced by a large red/white wedge in front of the roundel.

Treatment of the Image

I rescued the starboard wing, closed the canopy and the flaps, and repaired the gap in the ventral tank where it was obscured by the mainwheel leg. The airbrake was selected in closed position with the skin on and around it repaired by cloning. And that is just about all I did to get the airframe structure complete.

To remedy the lighting gradient on the fuselage, I divided it into sections, and then lightened the rear sections progressively, and darkened the forward ones. I lightened the fin and tailplane, the starboard wing (a lot!), and darkened part of the port wing.

Finally I pasted the total airframe selection to a high-altitude skyscape. To get the airframe to harmonize better with the blue-biassed background, I colour-shifted it towards blue a little, and as usual that needed a corresponding small reduction in red, to avoid the blue shift looking more like purple – I've never been sure why that happens.


I think this is a reasonable portrayal of this aircraft in flight. I have a set of photos of a 56sq. T.5 model, in the scheme with the red fuselage spine and fin. I may well do an in-flight picture from that review ere long.

56sq. flew Lightnings for 16 years, from 1960 until 1976. Then they flew Spey-engined Phantoms for another 16 years, until 1992. Next they flew the Tornado F.3 in the OCU (operational conversion) role, until 2005, and disappeared as an active unit in 2008.