Aeroclub 1/72 Fairey Flycatcher

KIT #: ?
PRICE: £6.40
DECALS: One Option
REVIEWER: Carmel J. Attard
NOTES: Short run with white metal parts

HISTORY

 

In 1922 the Air Ministry Specification 6/22 called for a Naval single seat fighter to replace the Nieuport Nightjar, in carrier borne service. Alternative landplane, floatplane and amphibious configuration were required. The power plant was to be based on one radial engine, for which the Bristol Jupiter and Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar were specified. The contenders were the Fairey Flycatcher I and the Parnell Plover, each being ordered to the extent of three prototypes. Parnell later built 10 production examples of its Plover but though this aircraft looked far superior in looks to the angular Flycatcher, it was no match in other respects to the Fairey Biplane and lasted barely a year in Naval service. The first prototype of the Flycatcher, with a 400hp Jaguar II engine made its maiden flight on the 28th November 1922 as a landplane and was subsequently er-engined with identically rated Jupiter IV engine for the 1923 RAF display.

 

Like most other Fairey aircraft the Flycatcher I had the camber-changing mechanism, which gave an extremely short take-off and the ability to fly into carrier decks without using arrestor wires. The Flycatcher also had a short span that proved to be another advantage in carrier operations. It was also easy to be taken down in the lift without any need to wing folding. The first unit to equip with production version was No 402 Flight of the Fleet Air Arm in 1923, and it continued to replace earlier types on all the aircraft carriers and also as an aircraft turret platform fighter in some capital ships. The total production including three prototypes amounted to196. It continued to serve the flight until 1934 where the last aircraft floatplane, operating with No 406 Flight attached to the East Indies Squadron, was replaced by Hawker Ospreys.

 

The Flycatcher was extremely popular with the pilots who flew it. It was very responsive and strong in spite of its mixed wood and metal construction under a covering largely of fabric and could be dived vertically at full throttle. It was aerobatic even as floatplane form. There were no export sales, no genuine aircraft survived, although a full scale replica has been built in UK with a non standard engine.

 

The Fairey Flycatcher has good connections with aviation in Malta. Several were based at Hal Far during its operational years at one time or other. On the 19th of February 1924 the second annual air display was held at Hal Far. This was arranged at the wish of His Excellency Field Marshal Lord Plumer who was also the Governor of Malta and Commander in chief. He along with members of the Maltese government wanted to see some of the first flights of service from Hal Far. Aerobatics were performed by a number of Flycatchers, which have been sent to Malta and erected at Kalafrana the previous month. Other occasions also served for the type to take temporary base at Hal Far. The British carrier HMS Eagle arrived off Malta on the 7th of June 1924 and three of itís four flights flew off to Hal Far. These were  Flights No 402 with 6 Flycatchers, Flight 422 with Blackburn fleet recce aircraft, and Flight 460 with Darts.

 

Details on the occasions when Flycatchers came to Malta are as follows:

 

Unit              From carrier                      Date in                  Date out

402 Flight    HMS Eagle                        June 1924             April 1929

403 Flight    HMS Hermes                     Nov 1924             August 1926

401 Flight    HMS Eagle                        Febr 1926             Septem 1926

407 Flight    HMS Courageous              June 1928             August 1929

404 Flight    HMS Courageous              Septe 1928           August 1929

402 Flight    HMS Eagle                        June 1929             May 1931

405 Flight    HMS Glorious                   July 1930              Septem1932

406 Flight    HMS Glorious                   July 1930              January 1932

408 Flight    HMS Glorious                   July 1930              March 1931 


THE KIT

The Flycatcher was a stubby little fleet biplane of the 1920s era and Aeroclub was the first to produce it in 1/72 scale as the type was only issued to 1/48 scale earlier under two different suppliers label in injected form. The Aeroclub kit is a mixture of gray plastic with white metal parts. The metal parts are the engine, propeller, interplane and undercarriage struts, fuselage guns, control column and seat. The kit is small and so is the cockpit opening making the interior practically hidden and so is the interior detail. A reasonably good decal sheet is issued for one aircraft.

CONSTRUCTION

The instruction is easily followed and leads to a rapid assembly of the airframe. The tail plane may require thinning in section so that it leaves a gap visible between the tail plane and the fin/rudder unit and fuselage just like the real thing. So it is suggested to refer to illustration and photos of the aircraft. Care is taken when placing the upper wing on the already fixed lower wings. It is common practice to fix the outer struts first, then lower and fix the upper wings and when set and well secured, one can then trim and fix the fuselage short struts. I added rigging using the invisible thread method involving passing the thread through small-predrilled holes on wings and fuselage. One may resort to represent rigging with steel wire, which can save a lot of time but in the end it is a rather fragile kit. My kit came without a windscreen and no operating aileron and elevator horns supplied. I had to add these from shaped scrap plastic.

COLORS & MARKINGS

The kit is first given a coat of Humbrol silver mixed with a few drops of clear gloss varnish and allowed to dry for some 4 hours before the decals issued with the kit are first trimmed and applied. These represent a Flycatcher of 405 Flight from HMS Glorious and that was the same Flight that used Hal Far airfield, in the south of Malta whenever the carrier put the aircraft ashore during visit to Valletta Grand Harbour.

CONCLUSIONS

 In spite of the few shortcomings that one encounter with short run kits there is nowhere else to go if you want to add a Flycatcher to your lot. However with a little of extra care and patience the result was pleasing as it stood alongside the Blackburn Ripon and Baffin models from the same era.

REFERENCES

 

-T he Encyclopedia of World Aircraft by Paul Eden & Soph Moeng.

2    - Military Aviation in Malta GC by John F Hamlin

3   - Fairey Flycatcher Air publication 1078 Air Ministry 1924.

Carmel J. Attard

 August 2009

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly , please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page