Frog 1/96 Lancaster TK (conversion)

KIT #: ?
PRICE: 9s 6d
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Carmel J. Attard


The transformation of in-flight-refueling to a technique of practical use was wrought by a single man, Sir Alan Cobham. From 1930 he studied the problem. He talked with Flight Lieutenant R.L.R. Dick Atcherly, who had researched the problem in the USA, drawn up a scheme for an improved system involving a weighted cable trailed from a tanker and a grapnel fired from the receiver, and taken out a patent. In 1934 Cobham formed a company, Flight Refueling Ltd, to develop Atcherly’s system. His two big HP W.10 were taken off National Aviation Day barnstorming and converted as tankers to refuel the prototype Airspeed Courier G-ABXN. The latter took off on 24th September 1934 to fly to India; it refueled over the Isle of White, but over Malta a throttle breakage forced Cobham to make a wheels up landing. Undaunted, Cobham forged on at Ford airfield, Sussex and gained Air Ministry support to carry out trials with two Vickers Virginia bombers, the Armstrong Whitworth AW 23, Handley Page HP 51, a Boulton Paul Overstrand and the Vickers B9/27. In 1937 hardware was designed for refueling Short C-class flying boats to enable them to fly the North Atlantic, trials being flown with a AW 23 and the boat Cambria. Against competition from Mayo Composite aircraft, which sought long range by using a pick-a-back carrier aircraft.

Attempts to develop a technique with in mind that refueling could close the mid Atlantic gap, where during the war years U-boats lurked beyond the RAF’s range but little more was done. In 1944 the RAF realized it had nothing in the class of the B-29, and that the planned Tiger Force to bomb Japan would be unable to fly useful missions. An answer was to burden the Avro Lancaster with a vast 1,200 Imp gallons saddle tank but in-flight refueling seemed a better solution. When the war ended in August 1945 the Flight refueling design team at Ford came with a breakthrough which consisted of the probe/drogue method whereby the tanker merely trails a hose with a stabilizing drogue on the end which serves as a conical guide for a rigid forward-pointing pipe or drogue leading into the fuel system of the receiver aircraft. The valves on the drogue and probe are automatically opened when the two are locked together, and close as soon as contact is broken.

 Three ex-RAF Lancaster B Mk 3s were used: NE147, PB972 registered as Class B G-33-2 and ND648 (G-33-3). The company itself purchased a further four aircraft, which were rebuilt at Staverton as combined tanker/receivers and received civil registration: LL809, LM681, LM639 and ED866 became G-AHJT/U/V/W respectively. The first two gave the first public demonstration of loop-hose refueling at the 1946 SBAC show. With the emergence of the Avro Tudor airliner, non-stop missions to Bermuda were explored with a refueling near the Azores, and the first flight was made in 20 hours on 28th May 1947 using two Lancasters. Another refueling took place on the return, made in 15 hours 30 minutes, but in flight refueling was never used operationally in post-war civil aviation.

 The subject of this kit build is Avro 683 Lancaster III/I serial PB972 that was used for the Refueling flight trials at Staverton in March 1945. The Lancaster, which is now registered G-33-2 was employed for one of the early development probe-and-drogue refueling programmes. The shortened nose on the Lancaster was fitted as part of the development programme for civil use. This blunt nosed Lancaster G-33-2 was the tanker and Meteor F Mk3 EE397 was the receiver. Most of the hook-ups being over Bournmouth/Poole area, UK, and in the accompanying photo taken on 7th of August 1949 it is in company of Lancastrian believed to have carried BSAA observers.


The kit was in shops back in1966, molded in black styrene and clear transparencies to be built as the type in service with RAF Bomber Command.

This was in fact a re-build project after encountering an interesting article on the development of the Flight Refueling Programme conducted at Staverton circa 1945.


This was a straight from the box kit build as a first stage but with the cockpit canopy left out for a later stage. The kit was then modified to the flight-refueling configuration. Careful side drawings were studied of the type to figure out the shape of modified nose that the particular Lancaster carried. The nose turret was carefully cut with a razor saw and a new one built after a blanking piece made from plastic card closed the front section. The nose was built in putty over a center section piece that had the final shape required. Upper and rear turrets were faired over using Plasto as filler. Fuselage side blisters and an astrodome were cut and the Perspex molded from clear acetate after carving a male pattern in wood. Refueling equipment was scratch built in scrap plastic and stretch sprue was then fitted under the fuselage making reference to photos of the aircraft. Detail was added to the cockpit and after painting the interior the canopy was glued in place. A long antenna made from a length of steel wire was added to the nose.


 The finished model was given an overall coat of silver mixed with gloss varnish. Decals came from spares box making use of stripes from an Almark sheet to mark the over wing black walkway stripes. Registration came from spares.


 I enjoyed this mini project apart from minor annoyances such as deep panel lines on plastic surfaces but considering the time when the kit was first issued this could be tolerated. The finished model fully captures the unusual subject and made me aware of the various experiments and trials that underwent before the refined refueling system employed by so many air forces today came into being.

Carmel J. Attard

November 2009

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