Airfix 1/48 Gloster Meteor F.8
|NOTES:||New tool kit|
A classic example of form following function, the Gloster Meteor was designed and built when there was no rule of thumb for the design of jet fighter aircraft, it being the first of its type to see squadron service with the Allies in World War 2. Britain’s Gloster Aircraft company had been entrusted with the construction and testing of the Gloster E28/39 single jet engine technology demonstrator, but even before its first flight the British issued a specification for an operational jet fighter, F.9/40 and in the knowledge that available jet engines, of 860lb thrust, were wholly marginal on the thrust and power that could be achieved, providing two engines was the only available solution. In order to make the engines accessible they would be slung midway through the wings and new front and rear main spar designs, with banjo shaped apertures, were adopted to allow the flow of air through the units. In most respects the airframe structure was perfectly conventional for a military aircraft of the early 1940s but the act of burying the engines in the wings freed up the airframe to incorporate a number of innovations. The pilot need not sit behind a bulky piston engine and propeller in a tail dragger configuration, but could be positioned far forward in the nose with unprecedented vision and the ability to take off and land in a horizontal configuration with no adverse swing from the effect of a propeller. The guns were grouped closely around the cockpit for better accuracy and free from the demands of a propeller arc, a short, strong undercarriage could be employed. It took two years of intense testing and development to get the Meteor into limited service, in the closing months of World War 2. Meteor Mk.1s were powered by Halford engines of 1,600lb thrust and their successor Mk.4s had Rolls Royce Derwent engines of 3,000lb thrust that propelled a fighter that was capable of predictable front line serviceability and a type that was to serve in significant numbers in the Royal Air Force and export customers in the immediate post war period. It was a programme of progressive improvements that led to what many consider the definitive Meteor fighter, the Mk.8, which first flew on 12 October 1948. The fuselage was lengthened by an additional bay immediately behind the cockpit that permitted an additional fuel tank to supplement the under wing and belly tanks that had already been developed. A new tail unit was fitted to improve handling. The engines were Rolls Royce Derwent 8s of 3,500lb static thrust.
Over 1,000 Meteor 8s were built and it was the mainstay of the Royal Air Force’s Fighter Command in the early Cold War years. When it first flew in 1948 it was already on the edge of obsolescence, yet it was a prove a reliable and dependable engine and airframe combination, factors which assisted its export success to Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Egypt, Israel, The Netherlands and Syria.
Meteor 8s will forever be associated with the bright colours of the 26 different RAF fighter squadrons that operated them, including the volunteer squadrons of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force that kept them in service until their disbandment with the Defence Cuts of 1957.
There are five parts frames in Airfix’s now familiar pale blue-grey plastic and one of clear. Surface detailing is mainly recessed panel lines that some may consider a trifle too deep but they look OK under a coat of acrylic.
An A4 sized instruction book runs to 16 pages and 98 steps of construction. There are two pages of A-3 colour three-views as a colour and decals placement guide and a separate stencils diagram.
Decals are provided for two options, both RAF. First is camouflaged with Dark Green and Dark Grey upper surfaces over Silver under surfaces. Representing an aircraft of No 111 Squadron, North Weald, 1954, it features the Squadron Leader’s Yellow tail fin. Second is an all silver aircraft of No.85 Squadron, Binbrook, 1968. Although this has all the appearance of a classic fighter squadron’s colours, by 1968 85 Squadron was a target facilities unit and this Meteor wore its flashy colours in a more humble target towing role.
The mouldings show some hint of what Airfix may have in mind for future releases. There is an unused clear moulding for the early type of canopy with a solid rear fairing and the unmistakable shape of the camera windows of an FR.9. The outer lower wing panels each have eight flashed over holes which suggest a rocket installation. Finally the Mk.8 fuselage parts have their own parts frame, so a T.7 or F.4 might even be an option for this manufacturer.
As it stands the kit provides plenty of scope to ring the changes on the Meteor F.8 but as always a careful check of references may be required, particularly in tracking down which of the late airframes had enlarged air intakes. (The consensus on the web appears to indicate that they were all in the late RAF serial blocks WKxxxx and WLxxxx and numbered about 350 airframes.)
I decided to build straight from the box with no aftermarket, but before the build commences it is a good idea to read through the instructions since there are a number of options where alternative parts are provided. They are:
Undercarriage extended or retracted, although a stand needs to be purchased separately for the retracted version. Ejector seat with or without moulded in seat belts. Control surfaces can be posed deflected and air brakes extended if desired. Cockpit canopy open or closed. Engines exposed or covered in, or even one displayed separately on a maintenance stand. Gun bays to the sides of the cockpit open or closed. Early extended or later smaller ailerons. Engine nacelles with large or small inlets. Pilot’s access step can be shown extended.
I like to my models to be neat, tidy and all buttoned up so no open hatches for me, but this kit has great diorama potential.
When building kits I normally look for sub-assemblies to keep me entertained when I feel like doing assembly sessions rather than painting. This is not necessarily the best policy for this subject since some of the parts are handed and it is best to keep them attached to the numbered parts frames so they do not get mixed up. This applies to the gear legs, main wheels, engine intakes and nacelle inners and to the under wings tanks. It may be best to keep assembly exactly to the sequence set out in the manufacturer’s instructions.
Construction inevitably begins with the cockpit interior and Airfix have done a great job with a complex series of parts that capture the nose area. There is a small floor section incorporating the rudder pedals and an oval cut out for the nose well housing. Two sides form a bath tub housing around the rear of the cockpit and show high relief detail of the boxes, wiring and switches of the cockpit walls. To the rear of the cockpit tub there are two curved boxes that form the gun bays and conform to the curves of the fuselage sides. The bathtub parts were glued together and the nose wheel bay, moulded as a one piece box was glued underneath. I had decided not to install the gun parts, so the redundant gun bays proved a handy place to epoxy some lead shot in place either side of the tub to provide the 15 grams of nose weight that Airfix recommends. While this was drying the ejector seat was built up. Comprising five parts it builds into a convincing representation of one of Martin Baker’s finest and I elected to use the seat insert with moulded on belts. British aircraft of the period have cockpits finished in unrelieved Black, but I chose to paint the cockpit interior and seat in Xtracrylix XA1203 Schwarzgrau Matt to allow some of the moulded detail to show through. The seat cushions were painted in Matt Medium Blue and seat belts in Sand Yellow. The cockpit assembly was completed with the addition of the instrument panel and control stick and a forward bulkhead which forms the face of the nose wheel bay. A small decal is provided for the instrument faces and there are warning stickers on the seat. The front face and underside of the tub were painted in Tamiya XF-16 Flat Aluminium since they form the interior of the nose wheel bay.
Attention then switches to the wing structure, based upon a one piece lower section that runs from tip to tip and includes the lower halves of the engine nacelles. There are two substantial wing spars, the rearmost having large circular cut outs for the jet pipes. These are glued into positive spanwise slots in the wing structure followed by partial ribs that form the side walls of the gear bays. Two long jet pipes are provided to run from the rear face of the rear spar and out through the tapering section of the nacelle. A pair of small engine support brackets are glued in followed by a landing light under the outer left wing. This resulted in a minor surprise to discover that Airfix do not provide clear wing tip lights, they are just marked out on the solid plastic. The upper outer wing panels were added, one each side and the basic wing structure set aside to harden.
The main fuselage structure was completed by joining the two halves and fitting the two flared fairings at the intersection of the wing and fuselage. The fuselage was glued down, saddling the wing structure and the whole assembly could be set aside to harden overnight. The tail section can be added next with the horizontal parts formed from upper and lower halves with one piece elevators. They proved to be a slightly sloppy fit to the tail fin and needed to be propped in place while the glue hardened. The unusual split rudder is fitted as two separate sections without fuss and this completes the tail assembly. The rivet detail to the moving tail surfaces is very prominent and was reduced a little with a few swipes of a sanding stick. I deviated from the instructions at this point and brought forward the installation of the nose gear. The nose leg is formed of two quite complex sets of struts that are fixed to a bulkhead and the upper section of the nose leg projects below the lower line of the fuselage. This area is nicely detailed and even includes the box-like ballast weights that appear on the full size machine. The two halves of the nose cap clamp around the nose gear and for the rest of the build the upper section of the nose leg projects from the fuselage so this was protected with a temporary shield of card taped in place. The gear bay is painted silver overall.
Construction moves on to the engine nacelles and the kit offers a choice of the early intakes with a smaller inlet, or the version that I chose, the later cut back type with a larger diameter opening. The intakes are beautifully moulded in one piece with a sleeved insert to the interior. The parts are handed to take account of the sweep of the wing leading edge but once correctly identified were glued into place without drama. Next the two piece ailerons were added to the wings and again a choice of style is offered but the instructions are quite clear on the options. The river detail on these control surfaces was reduced with a little light sanding.
The next decision for the builder relates to the engines: being cowlings closed up; open with engines exposed; or with one engine displayed on a maintenance stand with its cowling left open. If the cowls are closed up then some engine detail should be visible through the intakes so I elected to build most of the engines even though they would be buried in the closed cowls. I toyed with the idea of building the engines and leaving the cowl panels as a removable press fit arrangement but this is not possible since the upper support framework of the engines will not permit the covers to seat in place due to the moulded thickness of the covers. The engines are formed as five main parts with a good level of high relief detail but I did little more than paint the front and rear faces in silver with a little dry brushed darker colour before they were glued into the open engine bays and the upper cowl panels glued shut.
The main airframe was finished by adding the belly slipper tank and the canopy/wind shield combination with the clear parts masked off with Tamiya tape. The airframe was gently sanded to remove any imperfections, and then required just a trace of filler on the main joints to prepare for painting. The undercarriage wells were plugged with offcuts of plastic sponge and the whole airframe primed with grey auto primer delivered from a rattle can. The vertical tail was sprayed with a white undercoat, then finished in Yellow from the Citadel range, then masked off with Tamiya tape.
The camouflage colours were airbrushed using my trusty Iwata HP-C , commencing with the upper surfaces overall in Tamiya XF54 Dark Sea Grey. The camo pattern was defined with rolled snakes of Blu-Tack low tack putty infilled with Tamiya tape and the exposed areas painted in Tamiya XF-81 RAF Dark Green. When dry the upper surfaces were masked off ready for the undersides to be painted in Tamiya XF-16 Aluminium Silver. When applying silver undersides I always prefer to paint the silver last to avoid it being marked with masking tape.
All masking removed, the airframe was left a couple of days for the paint to harden, then gently buffed with an Ultra Fine sanding stick before the application of two thin layers of Future/Klear transparent floor polish as a gloss base for the decals.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
To my surprise the application of the decals was a tedious slog. I think it likely that I had a rogue decal sheet in the kit, but they took an age to separate from the backing sheet, needing some four to five minutes of soaking in water at a time and this is most un-Airfix-like; in fact one or two of the larger decals had dry patches that refused to release from the backing sheet after the main part of the decal wanted to float free, so the whole decalling process took a long time. This was compounded by the fact that, for the version I chose, there were 214 separate decals, including stencilling, so be prepared for a long haul. The design of the decals is also a little eccentric in that some, such as the wing walks are printed on a handy clear backing sheet to cover the four sides of the rectangle, yet the black stripes of the tail fin amount to 12 decals that need to be fiddled around the edge of the fin and rudder. It is worthwhile to paint a thin Black line around the edge of the tail fin to close up any small gaps in the decal installation. The yellow dotted lines along the edge of the canopy are supplied as 16 miniscule decals, as are a number of other subjects that could just as easily have been printed on a linked clear backing. Infuriated and defeated by the tiny yellow decals, I settled for whittling the tip of a cocktail stick to resemble a screwdriver and used the tip to dab yellow paint onto the canopy rail as an approximation of the correct pattern. Then I found that some of the small stencil decals wanted to fall off as they dried and they had to be eased back into place with a dab of varnish. I battled on to a reasonably satisfactory conclusion but at times I wondered whether this jet plane might be on the waiting list for the Shelf of Doom. The airframe was finished with two more brushed coats of Future/Klear to provide a slight sheen that I judged to be appropriate for an RAF jet of the period.
The undercarriage and wing tank components were duly added to the airframe. The main gear legs consist of two halves which incorporate the prominent wheel pants (fenders? - we Brits call them mudguards) and trap the well detailed wheels on positive lugs that align the flats on the tyres with the ground. The gear legs fitted onto raised lugs in the gear bay and were supported by an X-shaped cross strut arrangement. Construction was completed by the installation of the gear bay doors, which are a positive fit , then the lower nose leg, gun ejector chutes and a couple of small aerials.
This is a great subject and one I am glad to have in my collection. Airfix kits are certainly well detailed these days but I wonder if they are a little over-engineered. Care is required in construction and the tolerance of parts is so close that a coat of acrylic paint can throw things out. I shall assume that the decal release problems are an isolated incident but the decal design and layout is no help to older eyes such as mine.
I am glad that I persisted with the challenge, it is a fine model of a classic type and the kit has much scope for diorama and super-detail enthusiasts. The aftermarket is already releasing some tempting alternative decals and colour options so I can see me revisiting this kit in spite of the trials it caused me.
Recommended with slight reservations; but not as one for beginners.
The Gloster Meteor by Edward Shacklady, Macdonald & Co 1962
Sample courtesy of my LHS, Spot on Models and Games of Swindon, England
If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please
or see other details in the
Contributors. Back to the Main Page
Back to the Review
If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.
Back to the Main Page
Back to the Review Index Page