Special Hobby 1/48 Miles Magister

KIT #: 48037
PRICE: $38.00
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Patrick Earing
NOTES: Injection molded with brass, resin detail parts and clear windscreens.  Vacuformed training canopies included  

HISTORY

The Miles Magister was a low wing monoplane using stressed plywood construction.  The Maggie, as the Magister was affectionately called, sported a dual cockpit design with tandem controls, and provisions for blind flight training.  Additionally, the Magister was the first purpose built trainer to have landing flaps.  Entering service with the RAF in 1937, the Maggie was an ideal primary trainer for the high performance Hawker Hurricane and Spitfire fighters then entering service.

The Irish Air Corps (IAC) procured its first batch of ten Magisters from RAF stocks in 1939 as a result of program expansion that had begun in 1937 to increase the number of short term pilots in the IAC.  These air craft were delivered to Irish Air Corps Training Schools numbers 31 and 40 at that time, with an additional 5 being received in 1940.  The magister was the only primary trainer used by the IAC throughout WW II.  As a result attrition and wear, the Irish Department of Defense ordered an additional 12 aircraft in 1944.  Although new airframe construction had ceased in 1941, Miles refurbished airframes from surplus RAF stocks to meet the order.  Delivery of these final twelve aircraft began in 1946 and they remained in service with the IAC until 1952.

THE KIT

The Special Hobby Miles Magister is a gem of an injection molded kit; and with the added resin and brass detail parts included with the High Tech boxing, it becomes spectacular.  The kit comes in a typical Special Hobby end flap box.  Inside is a single plastic bag containing two full injection molded sprues covering the major components of the airframe and a smaller sprue with additional main landing gear legs.  Additionally, the kit includes two additional bags containing selected resin parts; most of which are direct replacements for injected pieces found in the kit, two etched brass frets and clear injection molded windscreens.  The kit also contains small vacuformed pieces that represent the rear cockpit canvas cover in the deployed position.  The decal sheet is produced by DEAD Design and includes markings for two RAF aircraft and one Irish Air Corps aircraft.  The sheet looks spot on for color and register.  Instructions are included and are adequate including color and decals placement guides.

CONSTRUCTION

The Miles Magister represents the second of my Irish Air Corps theme builds for 2012.  Starting with a Max Decals sheet, I decided that I would try and get my monies worth and build as many of the aircraft provided for as possible; however, the Magister represents an outlier, and I had planned to scavenge enough decals to mark it from the various marks of aircraft I wasn’t going to build as provided on the decal sheet.  Imagine my surprise and glee when I realized that the kit from Special Hobby included the appropriate markings for an Irish Air Corps bird! Score!  My kit was purchased from Squadron out of convenience, and showed up in an uncharacteristically smashed box.  Fortunately, little was damaged beyond easy repair, however, the vacuformed canvas hood sections were crushed beyond recognition-but, as I did not plan on modeling the aircraft in this configuration it did not represent a loss. 

After looking over the contents of the box I washed all of the resin parts with dish soap and started construction by spraying Model Master enamel RAF Interior Green on all the cockpit parts, including the fuselage side walls and inner engine cowlings.  Starting with the seats, I attempted to remove the large casting blocks from the bottom of the two alternate resin seats provided by Special Hobby.  Unfortunately, I trimmed too close on one and destroyed it.  Oh well, I still had the injection seats as included in the kit.  I detailed the one resin seat I had successfully removed with the beautiful pre-painted brass seatbelts.  Looking through a couple of sources it came to my attention that the seats in Magisters were painted either interior green or black, so why not mix it up on my model?  An additional benefit of mixing the colors was that is effectively hid the casting differences represented by using one resin and one plastic seat.  Using the resin floor and bulk heads I began assembling the cockpit; again, by removing the modest casting blocks from these parts.  Unfortunately, pictures looking down into Magister cockpits are as rare as hen’s teeth and as such I struggled with how to place the seats properly.  The kit instructions show the seats attaching to the cockpit bulkheads; however, after a couple of false starts it became apparent that the seats sit behind the cast ‘beam’ in the floor on a small ‘perch’, not directly up against the bulkheads as shown.  Additionally, the oval indent in each bulkhead needs to be opened up to allow the seatbelt harnesses to pass through and attach out of sight on the back of these bulkheads.  Painting the provided brass belts with an appropriate khaki color I installed them without incident and moved on.

Once through this rather dubious start, things began to go smoother.  I painted and attached all of the small etched details for the interior side walls, followed by painting and sandwiching the instrument panel brass together, and then attaching these assemblies to the provided injected panels for additional thickness to provide enough surface area to attach them into the fuselage.  Again, fixing the instrument panels into the fuselage requires no small amount of guesswork-beware that the instrument panel(s) are lined up not only for side to side but also that you do not ‘turn’ them too far down the curve of the fuselage as it will be very noticeable later when the bulkheads are installed if they are out of plumb.  For contrast and to show wear I used a mixture of black, brown and grey pastels to dirty up the interior surfaces.  Next I attached the mostly completed interior into the left fuselage half and began the process of ‘narrowing’ the resin cockpit parts to overcome the sizable 3/16 inch gap their rotund state had created.  In short order things were right and I closed the fuselage up using a mixture of Tenex and CA glue.

Things really started to progress at this point.  I carefully painted the false engine front and installed it into the nose cone.  Attaching the two side cowlings required some patience, but be warned-they do not fit well; nor are they supposed too!  Scanning images of the real aircraft it becomes apparent that there are sizable gaps and mis-alignment on both sides and bottom where the cowling meets the fuselage; however, care must be taken that the parts are true to the centerline of the fuselage, and that there is an equal amount of overhang on each side.  I used Tenex to ‘attach’ the parts which with its slower dry time allowed some wiggling around for best fit.  I then added the nose piece and wiggled everything around some more and set it for good with an additional application of Tenex.  Unfortunately, I ended up with a small step at the bottom of the nose to cowling joint, possibly due to a small bump of plastic on the inner face of the nose that I missed.  Once everything was set and dry a small amount of sanding corrected the step and all looked well.  Remember, although gaps and steps are appropriate at the back edge of the cowling, the front joints should line up well and fit flush-as on the real aircraft.

Next I carefully assembled the wing halves with Tenex. Unfortunately, the lower left wing part had acquired some considerable damage from the shipping process at the wing root, and not only did not mate well, but also came up quite short for length.  As I looked at gluing the wings on it became apparent that the left wing would require some additional shimming to create the proper angle as seen from the front.  Magisters’ have no dihedral at the roots, only tipping upward outboard of the landing gear.  I installed 20 thousands card stock along the entire lower edge using Tenex and carefully trimmed the excess.  In the end I should have used 30 thousand card stock or slightly sanded the top of the right wing as the left wing came up a tad “cocked” look as seen from the front.  I ‘hid’ the discrepancy through careful trimming when I attached the landing gear, evening out the sit.  At this point I also added the rudder, and horizontal tail surfaces using Tenex.

The bottom fuselage seam needed a liberal coat of 3M green acryl spot putty, and after sanding everything smooth, I primed all of the seam/joints with my usual acrylic lacquer (automotive) primer. 

At this point I turned my attention to the landing gear.  For the IAC Magister’s, it depends on the time period whether they wore wheel pants or just had the bare gear legs.   The kit includes detailed bare gear legs and a detailed pair of resin wheels, neither of which are used for the ‘panted’ option.  Instead a set of mediocre plastic wheels are sandwiched into the wheel pants, these being the parts I used.  Once dry and the seams cleaned, I ‘tacked’ the legs to the wings and attempted to level the sit by sanding one tire bottom a tad and them further carving additional material from the top mounting edge of the same assembly.  Satisfied that everything looked right I permanently attached the legs with liberal amounts of Tenex. 

Cleaning up the seams between the fuselage and the wings required multiple applications of primer and sanding.  Maggie’s had a smooth, flush transition that is difficult to achieve with the limitations of plastic molding and a glued butt joint.  Once finished and ready for paint, I rescribed a few lost details, cleaned the dust and got ready for color.

COLORS & MARKINGS

 

The IAC Magisters wore numerous color schemes from their stunning black and polished aluminum initial trainer colors, to a more subdued wartime garb of camouflage. 

After stuffing the cockpits with tissue, and taping the engine front I began by painting in reverse; dark colors to light.  Using my trusty Iwata TR-1 I covered the entire model with Floquil Engine Black.  Once dry, I masked a line half way down the fuselage sides and out to the landing gear supports on the top of the wings.  I then sprayed the top surfaces with Model Master Dark Earth enamel.  Again, after a spell to dry I used frisket paper to create the camouflage pattern and sprayed MM Dark Green.  Removing the masking I then masked the fuselage and sprayed the bottom of the wing and tail surfaces (including the fuselage strakes) with Floquil Old Silver.  Finally, I over sprayed the entire model with Testors Glosscoat from a spray can in preparation for decals.

One area of contention existed regarding what color the wheel pants should be.  My primary resource, The Irish Air Corps: An Illustrated History states that the wheel pants were painted the same silver as the under wing surfaces.  However, in direct contrast to this the text includes a picture of Magister No. 33 with clearly painted and much chipped wheel pants.  It is unclear from the image what color-black, or one of the upper camouflage colors that had been used.  I chose black for nothing more than symmetry.

The kit decals include a logo from DEAD Design who I assume to be the creators.  I know nothing about DEAD Design; however, their decals are fantastic!  Everything was spot on for color and register.  Additionally, the decals were tough enough to be moved around on the model, but layed down as thin as the best from Cartograf with no silvering and a solid response to MicroSol setting solution.  Because of the time period I wanted to portray, the kit provided aircraft numbers were slightly modified by removing the 1 from 130 and making the registration number a fictious 30.   Although not absolutely correct in size and font, the tradeoff for having wheel pants more than offsets the inaccuracy in my opinion; and the real crux is that I have nothing of a correct font in my stash anyway.  Once everything had a few days to dry I top coated the entire model with Testors Dullcoat and removed all the remaining masking. 

I finished up construction by installing the last few etched detail parts, tail wheel, the windscreens, and the propeller.  Finally, I used raw umber and black pastels to slightly weather the model followed by some chipping around the cowling and wheel pants using MM enamel Steel and an OOO brush. 

CONCLUSIONS

The Special Hobby Miles Magister is an entertaining build of a unique aircraft.  Although the kit does not present any real building difficulties, because of its limited run nature, resin and etched parts it will take some experience to tease out the gem hidden within.  Recommended.

REFERENCES

Maxwell, Joe and Patrick J. Cummins   The Irish Air Corps: An Illustrated Guide.  W &G Baird, Ireland.  2009

Wikipedia

Google Images

 

Patrick Earing

 

February 2012

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