Airfix 1/72 Tucano T.1


Airfix 1/72 Tucano T.1




AUD $9.90


See review


Michael Johnson


Very frustrating build


The Shorts Tucano T.1 serves with the RAF as a basic two seat turbo prop trainer. Selected in the face of fierce competition to meet RAF requirement AST-412 for a Jet Provost replacement, the Tucano has a high performance combined with a considerable economy of operation. (Whilst evaluating a replacement for the MB326 Aeromacchi, the RAAF also considered the Shorts Tucano. Eventually the RAAF selected the Pilatus PC9).

 Developed from the Embraer EMB-312 Tucano, which is also in widespread service, the RAF version has a more powerful engine in a redesigned nose, a four bladed propeller, ventral airbrake and restyled wingtips; less obvious are the structural strengthening to give 50% longer fatigue life, new BAe Hawk style cockpit layouts and strengthened cockpit canopy; the crew are provided with Martin Baker MB 8LC ejection seats.

 Following a lengthy development programme, the Tucano entered service with the Central Flying School at RAF Scampton in mid 1988 and as the 130 machines on order were delivered into service they replaced the Jet Provost with the Flying Training Schools, No. 7FTS being the first. The UK Ministry of Defence also has an option for 15 Tucano T.1’s and the Kenyan Air force has also ordered 15.

 The Tucano T.1 is powered by a Garrett TPE331-12B turboprop engine developing 1100 shp and has a maximum speed of 514kph (312 mph) at 4567m (15,000’). Wing span; 11.2m (37’ 0”) and length 9.85m (32’ 4”).

I snapped this kit up at a recent club night held at a local hobby shop, the incentive being an attractive discount of 25% and the vision of the completed model positioned next to my BAe Hawk T.1A .


Resides in a typical top opening Airfix box, with box art depicting the attractive all black scheme adopted by the RAF for their trainer aircraft. Opening the box reveals two light grey plastic sprues, one clear, an excellent decal sheet and a comprehensive instruction sheet. On the whole, all parts are clean and flash free, with fine, nicely defined engraved panel lines.

 My one gripe, as usual, is that the clear parts are not bagged separately, so protecting them from scratches and the like. It would be no more expensive to do and would save extra work for us all!

 Decals were dense and slightly thick; however there were no details at all on some of the placard markers and squadron badges. What had printed was blurred and lacked definition. However I decided to use them as there appeared to be no aftermarket options available at all. I also decided not to use the out of register roundels, substituting them with perfect, but slightly smaller roundels of the correct type from my Mike Grant Decals Hawk decal supply.

 I also did the rounds of the Hobby shops here in Perth and looked at two other Tucano kits, with all suffering from out of register roundels, but the stencils were much more sharply defined. During this process I ordered another sheet online from Airfix. C’mon Airfix, give us some quality control here!


Construction (as always) started in the cockpit. The instrument panels were painted neutral grey and the kit provided instrument panel decals were added. The standard interior finish for the Tucano is grey, for this I used Humbrol H64 grey. The plain looking ejection seats were painted black, cushions picked out in olive drab and masking tape seatbelts added to “busy them up a bit”. They were a tight fit for the cockpit tub, needing a little shaving of the lower sides to allow a better installation.

 A quick dry fit ensured the completed cockpit tub fitted well so it was then cemented into place along with as much lead weight as would fit in, and the fuselage sides joined together. The fuselage only needed minor amounts of filler which were then cleaned up with wet and dry used wet to remove any seam lines. The nose and radiator assembly was another story altogether, requiring a fair amount of filler and associated work with wet and dry to eradicate the seam and to smooth it in to the rest of the fuselage.

 While the fuselage was drying, I assembled the wings. These needed careful filling and re-scribing to remove the joins of the upper and lower wing halves. Gaps in the wheel well where the well sides were too short were attended to with applications of PVA glue, the excess wiped away with a moist cotton bud (That’s a Q-tip for our cousins across the Pacific). I did check to see if the top wing half could be forced to meet the wheel well sides but the distortion caused by doing this would have been too obvious. 

The wings attached to the fuselage fairly well, with small amounts of filler required, smoothed over with the nail polish remover dipped cotton bud. This is a fantastic way to fill gaps in areas such as wing roots or hard to access areas. I apply the filler as normal, leave it to cure for 5 minutes and then run an cotton bud dipped in nail polish remover (make sure the remover is of the acetone type) along the filler. The moist cotton bud softens and smooths the filler into place perfectly, removing any excess in the process. Once dry the whole process can repeated if required.  I then carefully sanded any remains of the small step created after the filler had dried thoroughly. 

The underside, where the one piece lower wing abutted to the fuselage was another matter, requiring filling and sanding to eradicate the join line. Care is needed to be taken to preserve the complex shape of the rear lower wing; this was complicated by the ventral aerials close proximity to the join lines. The wheel wells and air brake well were then painted white with several thin coats of Citadel Skull White. Once the paint had dried for 24 hours, I masked all the wells with moist tissue paper, which was then covered in Humbrol Maskol.

 Once the wings and tailplanes were on, I realised that the trailing edges should have been thinned out as they have a real “chunky” look to them, reminiscent of earlier kits. Unfortunately substantial thinning would have to be done and I was not willing to buy into re-scribing and replacement of moulded features.

 The exhausts were cleaned up and hollowed out with a hobby drill and painted with Testors Metallizer Burnt Iron. I elected at this stage to leave the exhausts off. This was to be a decision to that was to cause problems at a later date.

 The canopy was polished with Novus plastic polish and brush painted with Future inside and out to improve clarity. Once the Future had cured, Tamiya masking tape was used to mask the canopy and it was then cemented in place. PVA glue was then used to fill any gaps.


I took the quick way out with the overall black finish of the Tucano, laying down a number of mist coats of Citadel Chaos Black straight from a spray can. This gave a wonderful flat back finish which would later form a perfect base for gloss coating.

 While the airframe was drying I began to mask the complicated black and white spinner and propeller scheme so prominent on the Tucano. This nearly drove me to distraction, but worked perfectly and I was most impressed with the end result, breathing a very deep sigh of relief and reminding myself how much I prefer building 1:48 scale kits!

 I sprayed the undercarriage legs and wheel well door interiors white and applied Future to them in preparation for some weathering. Weathering was a disaster, and I had to cut back the paint with Mr Muscle oven cleaner and start over. This time the weathering turned out rather well and another sigh of relief was breathed as the finished items were flat coated and set aside to dry. 

Once all the paint on the airframe had cured, I applied several coats of Johnsons Future with a wide flat brush, kept especially for this purpose, to seal everything in and prepare the surface for the application of the decals.

 Applying the decals was time consuming and frustrating but once in place they settled wonderfully onto the model with no silvering at all. Most of the yellow stripes had to be touched up with Aeromaster Orange Yellow to remove white edging and to fix up gaps caused by adjusting their ill fitting nature. I used Aeromaster Sol II decal solvent to help bed them all down with no adverse reactions. Once the decals had dried, the fuselage was washed very carefully with a damp cloth to remove any glue and solvent residue and the decals where then sealed in with yet another coat of Future. As I mentioned earlier, Airfix has real problems with quality control and decals vary wildly from kit to kit.

 As this is a trainer aircraft, I decided that it would be kept pretty clean by overzealous ground crews, with weathering kept to the bare minimum. So I contained the “dirtying up” to the wheel wells and the undercarriage legs.

 Once again the model was put aside to cure and finally sprayed with Pollyscale Low Sheen Clear, to give an all over “scale” gloss finish. 

Canopy masking came off now and to my horror the Tamiya masking tape had marked the Future coated canopy. I nearly threw the Tucano against the wall for the umpteenth time but taking a firm grip on my feelings and squashing my frustration again, I removed the remainder of the masking and brushed on a thin coat of Future, thus restoring the canopies clarity. What a wonderful boon for modellers Future is!

 Funnily enough it was only recently at the WASMex (Western Australian Scale Model expo) weekend that I was discussing Tamiya masking tape with some fellow modellers. Seems as though this problem has occurred before and seems to depend on certain batches of tape. I might buy another roll with a different batch number and see how that fairs.


Placing the undercarriage opened up another can of worms. The pegs for the undercarriage legs were incorrect, forcing me to remove them and butt join the legs to the correct locations within the bay, reinforced later with some CA glue. Once the retract struts were in place each leg assembly appeared quite strong. Citadel Skull White followed by re-washing and Aeromaster flat coat was used to touch up the insitu undercarriage assemblies.

 Placement of the pre painted twin exhaust pipes proved problematic, with some careful filling, sanding and re-painting having to be undertaken to ensure a better fit. It would have been better to fit these before painting of the fuselage.

 Now the moment of truth arrived, I had read several reviews about the Tucano, reinforcing the tail sitter aspect of the kit. I had hoped that there was adequate weight enclosed within the nose. WRONG!! I had a tail sitter. The Tucano nearly flew into the wall after this discovery and this build  was supposed to be part of my AMS cure?

 I held my breath, sipped the nice hot cup of tea my wife brought downstairs to me and contemplated the situation. Cold logic cut in and the Tucano did not look too bad, nothing a smidgen of blue tac on the nose wheel wouldn’t fix, something I used to do as a kid! This would suffice until I secured a decent resin or Verlinden card base. At WASMex this year I purchased some aftermarket ejector seats from Aeroworks, a South Australian based mail order Company run by Craig Chidley. Craig had some fantastic resin concrete tarmac bases for sale for around AU $35 which would be just the ticket for displaying the Tucano.

 So, feeling much better about the state of all things Tucano, I finished off adding all the remaining items and finally the Tucano was done!


After much undue pain and gnashing of teeth over badly fitting smaller parts, poorly printed decals and other issues, I now have a Shorts Tucano in my model cabinet. With an all over black finish and yellow stripes, it does look quite nice.

 Airfix is the only mainstream manufacturer to offer the Shorts Tucano as part of its catalogue at present, although Premiere marketed a Tucano some time ago which would be an alternative if it could be found, either at club sales, swap meets or eBay. As such I would recommend this kit only to those who want a Tucano in their modelling cabinet!

  Mind you, it really does look great parked next to the Bae Hawk T.1A trainer….


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Michael Johnson

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