Slipping the Bonds
by George Paterson
Lightning F.2A – 92sq. RAF
The English Electric company was a well-known producer of domestic appliances in post-WW II Britain, marketing refrigerators, dish-washers and the like; but it was also prominent in the aircraft industry. It seemed a bit anomalous that the outfit that had its name on your electric toaster was also producing the Canberra bomber.
Actually, EE had been a significant subcontractor to the aircraft industry since it was formed in the early 1920's from remnants of WW I military subcontracting companies, so it didn't burst onto the aero scene from nowhere. But now, with the former chief designer of Westland Aircraft, W.E.W Petter, as its chief designer, it had the ability to originate new designs. His input was crucial to the success of the Canberra, and he masterminded the development of EE's next design, the Lightning interceptor.
The Lightning was a phenomenal aircraft in the role it was designed for. Its rate of climb, time to altitude and service ceiling were the best of any aircraft of its generation, and it is said that it outclassed even the F-15, a generation younger, in these respects. However, it was a complex and expensive package, was difficult to maintain and, to cap it all, it had very limited range. Unlike the Canberra, it didn't do well in the export market.
The Initial Image
This model by Jurek Greinert represents the CO's aircraft of 92sq. RAF, and the image is one of ten pictures in his review. All ten are large good-quality images, 1280 pixels wide, and the definition is good over the whole airframe. Mostly the lighting is also even, but in this picture the fuselage is very foreshortened, and there is a gradient in the lighting, the rear fuselage being darker than the front end, and especially so towards the upper tip of the fin.
Treatment of the Image
Most of the details are quite clear, so not much selection of inner detail was needed. The rear fuselage needed some reconstruction, because the undercarriage and air-brake conceal large parts of it.
Although the canopy is closed on the model, I did selections for the main parts of it, and for the yellow strips around the glazing. All the main décor was also selected, and I spent some time clarifying the details of the missile.
I evened up the illumination of the rear fuselage, and also with the upper part of the fin. All this was done by selecting the parts to be lightened with a very soft-edged tool.
I didn't want to show the plane in a high-altitude intercept scenario, but instead put it onto a low altitude backing, its attitude suggesting only a gentle climb.
I wouldn't call the Lightning an elegant aircraft, but it has a bit of character, and it was around at a time when flamboyant colour schemes were still in vogue. This one is typical of the extravagant schemes worn by squadron leaders in the RAF between 1950 and 1980.
By the way, the different marks of the Lightning are not easy to tell apart, since many of the earlier airframes were upgraded to embody some of the improvements that led to the final F.6. This example is an F.2A, an early mark that nonetheless looks like an F.6. Unusually, it carries four 20mm. cannons, as well as its missile armament.