Airfix 1/72 P.1127 Kestrel





One aircraft


Scott Van Aken


A real oldie reissued


The Hawker/Bristol funded P.1127 development began in 1957. The Bristol Pegasus engine (originally with only 11,000 lb thrust) was developed for the aircraft with heavy US funding support. It was based on the earlier Orpheus engine, and had a bifurcated jetpipe and vectoring front and rear nozzles. The P.1127 made its first hover on 21 October 1960 on tethers, but this was not considered to be beneficial to feel out the aircraft response, so the first un-tethered hover was made less than a month later, on 19 November 1960. First conventional flight was made on 7 July 1961 and first double transition on 12 September 1961. Control power was low about all axes, which, combined with suck-down and limited height control power, resulted in a high pilot workload in hover. Hot gas ingestion was overcome with a low forward speed in takeoff and landing. One of the two initial test aircraft crashed, with the pilot ejecting safely. The British government began supporting the development before the first flight, funding the first two prototypes, and later four more. Pegasus 3 power was increased to 13,500 lb thrust. In 1962, the UK, US and Germany initiated a tripartite program, funding nine improved P.1127 Kestrels for use by a UK-led tri-national squadron which conducted operational trials. These used Pegasus 5 engines, with thrust increased to 15,500 lb. The Kestrel paved the way for the Harrier .


This is a real trip into the past. The Kestrel was one of Airfix's old Series One kits. That meant basic airframe, minimal detail as it was intended to be built and played with in a single day. As you can see from the parts layout above, the kit is rivet city with the few panel lines being limited to the control surfaces; those on the wings recessed and on the tail, they are raised. There are a few places where the impression of the ejectors on the inside of the fuselage have translated into bumps on the outside. To eradicate them means removing 'detail' so be prepared to sand and rescribe the entire model if you care at all about a modicum of accuracy. There are also sink marks on the thick bits and ejector pin marks on all the other parts. Interior consists of a pseudo seat and pilot. Period. Gear wells are mere depressions in the plastic with no detail. Both in-flight and on ground outriggers are provided, but no stand to display the aircraft on. You also have a choice of pointy nose instrument probe or the standard rounded one as well as optional tail cones. If you are careful in gluing the exhaust nozzles can be rotated. The wheels are OK, but the main ones have large holes in them for the axles. A very clear single piece canopy is provided which is quite thick and will properly distort the interior so you can't see the lack of detail.

The instructions are more than adequate to build the kit with all colors provided as Humbrol numbers, so those of us who don't use Humbrol paints will have to make a guess. There is no decal placement guide or overall painting instructions. However there is a large additional sheet of warnings in multiple languages so that we don't try to eat the plastic parts or mix glue in with our cereal or do self-appendectomies with our X-acto knives. Apparently that is more important than knowing where the decals go. One will have to rely on the box art and then scrounge photos of the plane from other sources to figure out where the rest of the decals go. The decals are well printed  and offer markings for two planes. Obviously some of the optional bits go with one serial and one with the other, but I'll never know which goes with what, thanks to the lack of a decal placement guide. Anyway, they look thin and  should go on with minimal fuss.



This is a kit for collectors who don't want to pay a fortune for the older version, for those wanting a slap together model and for masochists who think they can make a quality model out of a really old Airfix kit. I'm sure the latter can be done, but not easily and not without robbing a lot of bits from a Harrier kit to make up for what's lacking in this one.

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