Airfix 1/72 Bristol Freighter Mk 31
KIT #: ?
PRICE: $15.00 when new
REVIEWER: Carmel J. Attard
NOTES: Airmodel kit #43 is £3.36


Supply and logistic aircraft have always played a vital role during war crisis, drought situation, casualty evacuation etc. In a post mortem discussion following the Yom Kippur war in early 70s between Israel and the Arab states, it was stated that it was not the extra fighters which won the war for Israel but the transport and supply of fresh arms from superpower backers. Both the USA and USSR had begun airlifting weapons to their client states. Syria received about 15,000 Tons in 934 transport sorties, not counting substantial post-war deliveries by sea. On the other hand, C-141 and C5s made 566 sorties with 22,395 tons of equipment including dismantled CH-53D helicopters. El Al Boeing 707 and 747s brought a further 5,500 Tons and there was also a sizable sea borne effort. Such was the scale effort by transport types bringing fresh supply of arms and equipment that it has in the end a significant effect on the final outcome of battles of war.


Such was the scale and vital part played by transport aircraft and this applies particularly to any war zone at any spot on earth. Model enthusiasts of military aircraft types can only make justice to the military transport by adding the types and show the true diversity of model warplanes. There are many transport aircraft models on the market and carry a wide diversity of color schemes naming in particular the C-130, C-119, C-118 and C-47 just to mention a few. Perhaps not quite an attraction is the Bristol Freighter Mk31. This transport military aircraft has filled a gap in the transport role during the pre C-130 and An12 period. On occasions I recall the Mk31 stopping over at Hal-Luqa airfield when they were on ferry flights from UK to countries in the far east Two particular occasions that I have still a vivid picture way back in the early 60s were those of a Freighter in medium gray and dark green camouflaged carrying Pakistani AF roundels and in another occasion an all metal finish Freighter Mk31 in Iraqi AF insignia. Both made a lumbering approach in somewhat low altitude to runway 024 when they stopped overnight for refueling before continuing on their outgoing journey to their respective country.


The type also played an important role in service with the Royal New Zealand AF in support of the NZ contingent during the war in Viet Nam. The Mk31 was also in service with the Royal Canadian AF and the Australian AF. The RAF at one time also used the Freighter Mk31 one of which visited Hal-Luqa on a couple of occasions belonging to the A&AEE circa 1966. More recently I was able to see a Mk31E from very close quarters when I visited Point Cook aviation museum in Victoria, Australia.


Two color schemes that attracted my attention were a Freighter in the early white silver and gray scheme in RCAF service and another on in 3-tone Viet Nam style of camouflage RNZAF. It is interesting to note that the largest order for 38 Mk31m variants came from Pakistan, which goes back to 1948. Argentina, Burma, Canada, Iraq and New Zealand were the other major military operators. The Canadian AF had some of theirs modified to have a radar nose making them quite distinctive.  



The Airfix kit may be hard to find but is accurate in spite that it is a mid 60 release. The Airmodel kit has nose and tail replacement plus radar for the CAF version.


This is a re-release of the old Airfix kit of the Bristol Super Freighter Mk32. It was greeted with enthusiasm being keen on transport types and I got no less than 2 models when it was reissued in late 80s. Airmodel provides the conversion kit for the Mk 31, which is mainly a military transport type. The Airfix model is molded in silver plastic containing excessive surface rivet detail that required smooth sanding down. The control surfaces are somewhat thick that also required scraping down along with the trailing edges. Interior detail is very basic but this is not apparent when the model is completed provided nose doors are closed. I assembled the control surfaces fixed permanently after cutting the locating pins at the sides and filling the excessive gaps at both ends. On the positive side the parts are mainly accurate in scale and fit together beautifully. Sinkholes that are associated with thick molding sections are absent and no filler is practically needed apart from the wing joints. For those who like building dioramas the kit contains a 4-part car-loading ramp, which gives scope for a variety of dioramas completing the kit in British United Air Ferries for which decals are provided. Another release of the kit contained decals for Southend – Ostend service that are of good quality. Reference to photos of the real aircraft one can add ample of detail such as aerials, accurate door hinges and canopy type associated with the Mk31 that differed on this type. With good fit of parts one cannot expect any better out of a 50 year old kit but considering everything it only needs little work to produce a reasonable model or better still a real nostalgic beauty.



In both examples built I have used the Airmodel Vac-form conversion set. This set consists of a tail fin, new redesigned short nose, a radome item and lower nose transparency. One could also use the Magna Models conversion kit but this was a totally different approach as it was a resin set. Studying various photos one will discern that not all Mk 31 carried the clear front glazing and the two versions I selected had an extended cockpit canopy, which I think should have been an added item with the Airmodel set. I had to mold my own two canopies and this had the advantage of being much more clear to show detail inside as these were formed from clear acetate.


After all the injected kit parts are cut, trimmed, any presence of fins removed, and rivet detail reduced by sanding, the areas needing to cut are carefully marked. The first step in making the model is to blank or add various windows to conform with the particular Freighter being made, referring particularly to a Canadian Mk31 and a R New Zealand AF Mk 31 which differed in various minor details. One can opt to use kit transparencies for the fuselage windows or use Kristal Kleer, which proved very convenient for the size of aperture. One can also make clear square windows from acetate. Wherever windows needed blanking this was done by sticking the kit transparency in place and then level with filler followed by sanding to equalize with fuselage level. This will make the original windows outline undistinguishable from the rest of fuselage.  To cut out new windows the position of each window is marked with a pencil. Small holes are drilled at corners and in between then remove the unwanted part and using a modeling pointed knife cut out the square and completing the square sides with a smooth flat file. In the case of the New Zealand Freighter the rearmost window at port side was blanked. On the starboard fuselage side the two rearmost windows are blanked as also the ninth window from rear end. A window was then added in space between the 5th and 6th window. The third window aperture was reduced by 1/16” from bottom.


To make new cockpit canopies I used the kit one as male and an extension was added to the sides. I made three attempts to get the best two using the smaller burner of a gas cooker as a heating source. At this stage cockpit office was fixed in place adding two crew figures and painted in appropriate Air Force costume for the respective machines. Interior was also panted light gray with cockpit coaming and instruments in black etc. Fuselage halves were then joined. The wings were assembled but not glued to the fuselage at this stage.


The modification into Mk31 consisted mainly in cutting the fuselage nose vertically on a line 3/16” forward of cockpit coaming. Small intermittent stabs made from plastic card were then glued to provide better “key” for the rest of the new vac-form nose. The new short nose is now prepared, the two halves are glued together using Humbrol liquid cement and allowed to dry. The lower front aperture was then carefully cut and the nose transparency provided is trimmed with scissors to match.  Nose was glued to fuselage and any filler added and allowed to set and smoothened. The new tail fin is now assembled. The height of kit rudder part is increased by 1/16” with a piece of plastic card made to shape. Thickness of rudder was also reduced by scraping. Trim tab was refreshed with scribing tool. The new tail fin replaces the kit pointed one and was fixed in place. There are horizontal air intakes at the leading edges of wings close to roots. These are shaped using round needle files. A dividing bracket was added at center of these intakes.


In the case of the Canadian machine the number of windows conformed to side views as shown on the Airmodel Kit No 83 instructions. A radar thimble nose was also added. The new cockpit canopy were trimmed to conform to fuselage and fitted to each machine, sticking each in place with Klear liquid. It is surprising how strong a bond this makes without spoiling the clarity of the clear canopies. After setting these were masked in preparation for the eventual paintwork.  A clear astrodome was also molded and was fixed to rear upper fuselage, offset to starboard. The rest of kit was then put together, adding wings, undercarriage, detailed engine cowlings which had a number of small exhaust outlets at rear and lower end. Details as aerials, DF loop, radome of bullet shape, wireless were all added at this stage to fuselage top. Aerials were added under wing tips. Nose hinges were replaced with neat ones made from rectangular pieces of plastic card, four to each model.



The RCAF machine was in silver and white standard scheme and red/orange arctic markings to wing tips and tail plane. Underside of fuselage was light gray. Decals came from a sheet ‘CAN FORCE Decal’ CF-1 and CF-3. These contained the red white CAF trim of the correct size and CAF roundels. Other small lettering and legends came from Model Decal sheets.


For Bristol Freighter Mk 31M NZ5911 (ZK-EPG, c/n 13135 now in open storage at Dwen Airmotive) which was in service with 41 Sq RNZAF circa 1969 this was completed in standard Viet Nam camouflage of shadow green FS34079, green FS34102 and Tan FS 30219 in Compu Color enamel paint. Lower surfaces were light gray FS36622. Decals applied were picked from sheet RDAM 21, Roodecals that contained both RAAF and RNZAF post war roundels. Small stencil, 41 Sq crests on tail fin, walkway marking and danger markings were all hand painted decals. Lettering and yellow arrow markings picked from spare decal box.


My thanks go to Robert Schoop of Colorado Springs who provided detail drawings to RCAF machine and also to Mark Davies and Peter Mossong and Tony Carr of New Zealand for sending detail drawings and photos of the RNZAF Mk 31M. All this information proved very helpful.



 A relatively simple conversion producing an unusual model much neglected at the scale of 1/72. A civil version can equally well be produced using same conversion method. I enjoyed building both models and sure enough bringing a satisfactory result making the effort well worthwhile.

Carmel J. Attard

August 2012

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