Contrail 1/72 Fairey Gordon/Seal

KIT #: ?
PRICE: 6.00 when new
DECALS: Two Options
REVIEWER: Carmel J. Attard
NOTES: Vacuformed kit with injection molded parts


The Fairey Gordon was a British light bomber (a 2 seat day bomber) and utility aircraft.It evolved from the Fairey IIIF.

The Gordon was a conventional two-bay fabric-covered metal biplane. It was powered by 525 to 605 hp (390 to 450 kW) variants of the Armstrong Siddeley Panther IIa engine. Armament was one .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis gun in the rear cockpit and a fixed forward-firing 0.303-in (7.7-mm) Vickers machine gun, plus 500 lb (230 kg) of bombs. The aircraft was somewhat basic; instruments were airspeed indicator,altimeter, oil pressure gauge, rev counter, turn and back indicator and compass.

The Gordon was developed from the Fairey IIIF, primarily by use of the new Armstrong Siddeley Panther engine. The prototype was first flown on the March 1931, and around 80 earlier IIIFs were converted to a similar standard, 178 new-build aircraft were made for the RAF, a handful of IIIFs being converted on the production line. 154 Mark Is were produced, before production switched to the Mark II with larger fin and rudder; only 24 of these were completed before production switched to the Fairey Swordfish. Bith tha Gordon and the Navy Seal operated from Hal Far, Malta for a time during the prewar years in the early 30s.

The type had mostly been retired from RAF and Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm service prior to World War II. No 6, No14, No29, No35, No 45, No 47, No207, and No 223 Squadrons of the RAF operated the type.. Six of these aircraft were transferred to the Egyptian Air Force.

Forty-nine Gordons were dispatched to the  Royal New Zealand Air Force  in April 1939, 41 entering brief service as pilot trainers. The RNZAF found the aircraft worn out and showing signs of their service in the Middle East including at least one scorpion. The last of these and the last intact Gordon anywhere was struck off RNZAF service in 1943.

The only known survivor is RNZAF Gordon Mark I NZ629, which is under restoration in New Zealand. On 12th April 1940 two trainee pilots Wilfred Everist and Walter Raphael of 1 Service Flying Training School were flying NZ629 from Wigram when they encountered thick cloud and were blown towards th Southern Alps. The aircraft crash landed in beech forest just beneath the snowline o Mount White. Everist and Raphael tramped to a shearers hut. The airframe, minus instruments, guns and engine, was left suspended in trees at the crash site, (part of a large sheep station). In 1976 it was relocated - still largely suspended from trees - by Charles Darby, with assistance from Walter Raphael, (Everist was killed in action over France). NZ629 was recovered by Aerospatiale Lama. It was stored for over twenty years before restoration commenced. As of 2005 the restorers were looking for an engine.


It is surprising how the period of Inter War years has been almost totally neglected by injection moulded kit manufacturers. Thanks to the cottage industry who with vac form kits market produced biplanes of the mid 20s-30s like the Blackburn Baffin, Ripon, Blackburn, Fairey IIIF, Gordon, Seal, Wildebeest, Overstrand, Horsley and so on, these being generally offered by Contrail Models.  One of these kit offerings is the Fairey Gordon. This can equally well be made as a Fairey Seal used by Fleet Air Arm. This is a good quality kit released by Contrail with a good detail moulding. It is a fairly straight forward construction to produce a nice finished a pre war medium bomber biplane.

The 1/72 scale Fairey Gordon comes in white sheet of vac form plastic with some injection moulded parts in the kit. These are injected in black plastic and the parts comprise of engine cylinders, exhaust ring, pipes, undercarriage legs, wing struts of different sizes and propeller. Generally speaking the injected parts are quite crude but with a little patience can be produced to advantage. There is also a good quality decal sheet for a RAF Gordon of 35 Squadron so that there is no need to stock spare roundel and black serial numbers or purchase extra decals from specialist suppliers.


The kit component parts, mainly the fuselage and wing parts, tail fin to produce the Gordon, cockpit decking, crew seats and instrument panel are scored around with a sharp modelling knife and are broken away from the carrier backing sheet of plastic. This is followed by removing the excess plastic by sanding using wet and dry paper stuck to a board. This is best done inn a circular motion and gently pressing each kit part to ensure that the waste plastic was removed evenly. The cockpit area was then shaped using a pointed modelling blade and files. The fuselage halves were placed flat on a board so that the cabine struts placement is marked and gently drilled blind holes. The same sequence repeated at the correct positions in the wings and interplane struts. The cockpit floor, instrument panel that comes with the kit were cut and assembled and painted. Crew seats were shaped, painted and assembled inside the cockpit which so far was all fixed to one side of the fuselage. Plastic pieces were added intermittently at the inner of the joint to act as guides. Interior was painted aluminium and black with seats dark leather brown.. Fuselage halves were joined together using liquid cement. Tail planes and fin also glued in place. The lower wing halves were then joined to the fuselage by inserting the locating tongues at the root of wing slots which were cut in the fuselage lower. This assembly may look a little flimsy at first but when the top wing was added at a later stage the complete structure became quite rigid. At this stage more detail was added to the cockpit like control wheel, three crew seats, seat straps, rudder pedals, front instruments, some side instruments and control wires at the rear of fuselage.

Leading edge slots on upper main wings were cut out from plastic card and correctly curved with a file. These were fixed in place along with actuating jacks. The two row radial engine was replaced with a white metal one along with a more accurate metal propeller from the Aeroclub selection. Undercarriage struts were finally added along with a thin metal rod for the wheel axel.

The final task was to add the rigging. I did the rigging process when struts were in place and both wings were set together. For many this may be the principal reason that could be discouraging to build biplanes but I can assure that this will be the the case until the very first set of rigging is completed on a biplane. From then on one can be hooked and forgets all about monoplanes and jet aircraft for a long while. The method I use is drilling tiny holes at appropriate places next to the wing struts, and literally sewing the two wings together. Once sewn using invisible thread, a tiny spot of super glue is added to the drilled hole. Filler added and area smoothened with excess thread gently sheared off. 


 Besides the paint work to the interior mentioned earlier the fuselage was basically painted black at the top decking and the rest was silver or aluminium dope finish. The mid area was painted before the struts got in the way. The aluminium had a little white added and a few drops of clear varnish added to the mix. The radial engine was painted burnt oily metal and same were the exhaust manifold. Struts could be black or retained aluminium finish. The struts that came with the kit were insufficiently provided to cater for all of them. I added more using spare ones by Contrail that I had in stock. Smaller inner struts and tail plane struts not provided were made from same struts as main ones but reduced in thickness and size. The top decking area was masked and the kit given an overall coat of aluminium dope mix.

 A cockpit windshield was cut from clear acetate and folded at two points to form a three piece screen. This was glued in place with a tiny spot of kristal kleer. An overall coat of clear varnish was applied to the kit and decals issued with kit were finally slid in place. This represented a Gordon of 35 Squadron.


 This was a time consuming build but in the end it turned into another pleasing pre war model. Same kit could be built into a Fleet Air Arm Fairey Seal in place of a Gordon, so if you ever see one on e-bay, grab it like I did.


Carmel J. Attard

December 2008

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