Aeroclub 1/48 Gnat T.1

KIT #:  
PRICE: £26.50 (cheap it isn't)
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Dan Lee
NOTES: Short Run kit with metal parts and vac canopy

HISTORY

 

The Folland Gnat was a reactionary byproduct of the sophisticated, bigger, faster, heavier and powerful mantra that dominated the aircraft industry in the beginning of the jet age.  W.E.W. "Teddy" Petter, the designer of the Lightning, rebelled against that trend and designed a cheap lighter fighter jet that could defend UK airspace.

 

Originally, the Gnat was to be similar to the Me-163 Komet, a little rocket point defense fighter.  That idea didnít work out as rocket powered fighters proved to be an aviation dead end so Teddy opted for conventional jet engines instead which were becoming more compact at the time.

 

Work progressed on the lightweight fighter till 1957 when most UK aviation projects died a quick death after the infamously naive Defense White Paper proclaimed manned aircraft obsolete and missiles the wave of the future.  Luckily for Folland, both the RAF and the Indian AF found what they were looking for in the Gnat.  The RAF wanted a simple jet trainer that could train their ďobsoleteĒ pilots a lot cheaper than trainer versions of the complex and expensive jets they were flying in service.  The Indian government wanted to build up their aviation industry on the cheap by acquiring the license to build the Gnat for their AF.

 

The two seat T1 Gnat became famous as the mount of various RAF acrobatic teams, but more famously with the Red Arrows who flew them till 1979 when they were replaced by the BAE Hawk.

 

In Indian hands, the Gnat/Ajeet was known as the Sabre Killer in the various Indo/Pakistani wars and proved to be a tough foe for the American trained Pakistani pilots due to its amazing agility and small sizeóNo22 Squadron of the IAF was named the Sabre Slayers.  They served with distinction till they were replaced by Indian made Mig-21s in the late 70s.  However, as one realizes, the small size of the Gnat/Ajeet fighter limited its payload and range.

 

Finland was another user of the Gnat F1, buying 12 copies for its air force.


THE KIT

 

 

It has all the hallmarks of a limited run kit from lots of flash, rough parts, poor fit and no guide pins.  The white metal parts have some flash, but no serious flaws to the parts.

 There are a grand total of 24 plastic parts in light grey styrene and 31 parts in white metal (landing gear, cockpit, antennas and wheels.)  The assembly instructions are reasonably detailed with arrows pointing at specific areas and not vague areas, but typical for short run kits.  The copy of the kit I purchased came with both injection molded and vaccuform canopies.

 The paint guide is good (if not better) as those from major model makers.  The four options are detailed with the stencil locations clearly marked.  Two of the four options are for early 1960s trainers with NMF/aluminum lacquer and day-glo orange markings while the third option is a late 60s Gnat with light grey instead of NMF/aluminum lacquer and the final option is the 1970s signal red and light grey trainer scheme.

 

CONSTRUCTION

 

It is going back a few years so I may have forgotten a few things.  If I recall correctly, the Aeroclub Gnat fuselage went together reasonably well for a short run kit.  This still means a lot of sanding and filling was required.  The pieces didnít have the best fit and required a fair amount of sanding to get them to line up.  One of the things I did wrong is that I sanded down part of the forward wing reinforcements when I used CA glue to fill in the gaps.  If I followed the instructions and used Milliput or even Mr Surfacer instead then I would have avoided that self inflicted problem.

 

At the time, I left out most of the cockpit pieces with the exception of the instrument panels.  The metal parts were primed with Tamiya metal primer spray and then the interior parts were sprayed with Tamiya XF-19 Sky Gray.

 

Thanks to the long layoff (three years) between working on this kit, I had to deal with those phantom seams using CA glue.

 

When the assembly was completed, I proceeded to polish the plane with various grits of sanding cloths to prepare for the silver surface.

 

COLORS & MARKINGS

 

I masked off the day-glo orange areas and sprayed on Model Master Insignia White enamel first and then when it was dry, I sprayed on a couple of coats of MM Day Glo Orange enamel (outside in the garage as I donít use enamels or lacquers in the house.) 

 

The coats of Day Glo turned out to be thicker than I thought and I ended up with a ridge where the masking tape was.  I did not see them until I sprayed on the Tamiya Old Silver from the spray can, polished, gloss coated and decaled part of the model and then was forced to sand/polish them away.  My frustration with this put this model on the shelf of doom for almost 6 years.  After I cleaned off the dust, I masked off and sprayed the tail pipe Tamiya Burnt Iron.

 

The Decals didnít work out as well as I hoped as some of the stencils disintegrated when put in water while the white on the decals wasnít opaque enough so the day glo orange showed through.  I had to use post-it notes to mask the tail flash decal and spray on Tamiya gloss white to make the white, white while I left the roundels alone.

 

I had a better time with the interior decals.  I used the Mike Grant jet cockpit placcards and instrument sheet to add some color to the interior as there was no surface details on the white metal instrument panel and I wanted something more than just black dots for the dials and gauges.

 

I didnít add any wash as trainers were kept in extremely good condition.

CONSTRUCTION CONTINUES

 

The various metal bits and landing gear doors including the landing gear were primed and sprayed Tamiya AS-12 Aircraft Aluminum or Old Silver.  I did not use the metal antenna and went with 5 thou plasticard instead.  All the parts were glued in using CA glue.  The wheels were hand painted RLM 66 dark grey.

 

I added the ailerons to the plane which had been painted Old Silver.

 

The canopy and interior clear parts were masked off and sprayed flat black and then the canopy pieces were sprayed with Tamiya TS-30 Old Silver.  I cut some plastic rod that was painted grey to act as the canopy brace and hinge mechanism.  The canopy was glued in with some CA glue.

 

I drilled a small hole in the nose and inserted an MV lens for the landing light that was small enough to go in but not prevent the clear plastic nose from aligning with the fuselage.  The clear plastic nosecone was glued in with Elmers white glue.

 

Lastly, I took a surplus needle, cut it to the appropriate length as per instructions and super glued it to the nose.


CONCLUSIONS

 

The Aeroclub Gnat isnít one of my better builds and shows off my lack of skills/knowledge some six years earlier.  It proved to be a way tougher build than I thought.  However, the color scheme is striking as it is a pain in the rear and shows that given enough motivation and time one can build something from the shelf of doom.

 

I know this kit is out of production and can be rather hard to find.  If you do have it then be warned that this is a rather challenging kit and can be hard even for an intermediate builder with experience building a few short run kits.

Dan Lee

December 2012

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