Contrail 1/72 Short Seamew

KIT #:
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Carmel J. Attard
NOTES: Vacuform with injected plastic and metal parts.



 The Short Seamew, was produced as a simple, cheap, light weight A/S aircraft to Naval Specification M123/1951. Designed by David Keith-Lucas of Short as a lightweight anti-submarine platform to replace the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm (FAA)'s Grumman Avenger AS 4 with the Reserve branch of the service. It first flew on 23 August 1953, but, due to poor performance coupled with shifting defence doctrine, it never reached service and only 24 production aircraft had flown. 1957 saw the economy drive kill any future development and only seven had reached the Royal Navy when all other orders were cancelled project.

An order was placed in February 1955 for 60 aircraft (split evenly between the FAA and RAF). with Seamew XA213 successfully completing carrier trials on HMS Bulwark in July and December 1955. Naval service flight trials with two Seamews were carried out with 700 Naval Air Squadron in November 1956, which included catapult trials and around 200 takeoffs and landings on HMS Warrior.

The RAF lost interest after four Mk 2s were built with three of them converted to AS1 standard; the fourth (XE175) was flown by S/L W. "Wally" J. Runciman for a series of sales tours in 1956 to Italy (March), Yugoslavia (April) and West Germany (May).

Meanwhile the FAA decided that the RNVR Avengers would be replaced by Seamews, but only four had been taken on charge by the time the RNVR squadrons were disbanded in March 1957 in keeping with the 1957 Defence White Paper, before any Seamews were allocated to them. Seven aircraft eventually delivered to the FAA were scrapped at RNAS Lossiemouth, and the other 11, complete and awaiting delivery, were scrapped at Sydenham. The Seamew was found to have poor handling characteristics and was underpowered. About the same size as the Gannet but it was powered by a single, as opposed to double, Armstrong Siddeley Mamba turboprop.

The last surviving Seamew, XE180 which had been purchased by Shorts on 31 August 1959 for ground instruction at its Apprentice Training School, was scrapped in 1967.The Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust has preserved a Seamew engine, which is found at its Coventry branch.


It is difficult to call the Seamew beautiful, but it has a distinctive and interesting shape, and the Contrail kit was very welcome. The vacform kit comes in a stout cardboard box with instructions, photographs, scale plans and two decal options. Moulded in white plastic card that contains all components on it. Also included in a sealed bag is an injection moulded undercarriage legs, wheels and an arrestor hook. The propeller is made of white metal. Pilot and observerís cockpit canopies are also provided in clear vac form acetate which turned pale orange with time.


The main components are generally accurate and I used the scale plans provided to measure the fuselage width, overall span dimensions and overall length. I have done away with the tail wheel undercarriage as it appeared oversize and the main undercarriage legs needed some refinement and reshaping.

Otherwise I used the kit parts throughout and can be said the model was built straight from the box employing generally the usual techniques in building a vacform kit but using extra care. Principal extra additions includes mainly detailing the sparse cockpit office, adding instruments with adequate reference as well as 2 crew figures. The two canopies were trimmed and made to conform to the place where they had to be attached to the fuselage. Fuselage area around cockpit required to be sturdy enough in order to support the wings, adding more internal bulkheads and also inserting a supporting prop made out of plastic sprue which would hold the main planes level and aligned when these are fixed to the fuselage. The fuselage jet exhaust was also replaced with a hollow tubing that was cut to measure and blanked on the inside within the fuselage .

The wings and tailplanes went together fairly easily adding cross section brackets at intervals within the wings interior to make them strong enough and retain shape. The leading edge slots were nicely produced in the kit. I strengthened the wings by inserting long piece of sprue and that made them retain the required thickness,. The outer wing panels had dihedral and so care was taken when rubbing down the lower half.. The yokes and main wheels had to be drilled out to take wire axles.

The last component to be added to the kit was the white metal propeller. This needed light rubbing down with wet and dry paper before it was painted black with yellow tips. Many of the panel lines needed to be rescribed as the sanding almost removed a number of them. A tail wheel leg was added as this was not supplied.

There were two decal options:  An RAF Coastal Command aircraft in overall dark sea grey and a Fleet Air Arm example in sky and extra dark sea grey which I chose to do. Model was sprayed using Humbrol paint. The black de-icing boots were brush painted. Dark grey decal was used for wing walk-way areas. In spite of age on the kit, the decals behaved very well and adhered without any difficulty.


I highly recommend the kit if you can get hold of one and any vac form builder with average experience can produce highly satisfactory results. I am thankful to Richard Stracey of Brisbane who kindly provided the kit for this build.

Carmel J. Attard

24 April 2017


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