Scaleplanes 1/72 Blackburn Monoplane 1912
KIT #: SP008
PRICE: around $10.00
REVIEWER: Chris Peachment
NOTES: Basic vacuformed kit


The Blackburn Monoplane, also know as Type D was built as a single engined mid wing monoplane by Robert Blackburn at Leeds in 1912. It was powered by a 50 hp Gnome rotary engine. Although the tailplane has conventional rudder and elevators, wing warping was employed rather than ailerons. The wing has wire bracing via an ash kingpost set just ahead of the cockpit The fuselage has a triangular cross-section, with rounded upper decking and aluminium covering at the front and engine cowl, which is half rounded and designed to contain oil spillage. The undercarriage is a pair of wheels and skids, the wheels being joined by the axle mounted above the skids.

Harold Blackburn flew it from March to July 1913, and on three days in July delivered bundles of the Yorkshire Post newspaper. The aircraft crashed in 1914 on the family farm at Wittering, where the remains lay untouched until discovered by Richard  Shuttleworth in 1938.  The restored version first flew on 17 September 1947, and still flies with the Shuttleworth Collection. It is Britain's oldest flying aircraft.


I found this in the second hand box of a dealer at an IPMS model meeting at RAF Hendon in North London. The kit dates from some time in 1980s at a guess, and while straightforward, presents the usual problems of constructing a vacform. The plastic is white and medium soft, which helps with the carving and sanding. 


Began with the usual careful cutting around the edges of the vacformed parts and separation from the carrier sheet, and then a full six hours of carving and sanding down the mating edges to achieve a reasonable fit.  The moulding is good for a vacform and includes raised ribs in the wings and tail which were acceptable. The tailplanes are moulded as one piece, but it best to separate the elevators and rudder, sand down the joint then re-attach them. Leading and trailing edges must be sanded down to a very thin edge. Once sanding is complete, I went over the whole thing using one of my wife's nail polishing sticks to get rid of the scratches and restore a smooth surface.

 There is a primitive floor which is the only thing which needs to be inserted into the lower half of the cockpit before the upper and lower halves can be joined. I used small location tabs made from the scrapped carrier sheet and glued inside to locate the edges of the two halves. I painted the interior a doped line colour for which I used Vallejo Model Color Beige.  A small seat from the spares box had the back cut down, then painted matt aluminium with a leather seat cushion. The control column features a wheel at the top, and I am still searching for one in the right scale which will be added later. And that is the extent of the cockpit.

The area forward of the cockpit and engine cowl can now be sprayed silver. I used Humbrol number 11,  then masked it off  and painted the rest of the fuselage and tail Clear Doped Linen. The wings too can be painted at this stage.

 I fitted the tailplane next as that was easy to align. Four small triangular off cuts from the plastic sheet were used to make control horns on the elevators.  These, like all the struts were painted wood brown, with no varnish.

 The wings are simple butt joins and this proved more problematic. They sat there with reasonable strength until later when I came to rig them, and the elastic thread pulled the starboard wing into an anhedral. More of that later. It would have been impossible to use metal tubing to make an insert into the wing roots, as the wings are too thin. One solution would have been to add mounting tabs of plastic to the ing roots and carve holes in the fuselage side for them. But I didn't think I needed them until too late. Be warned and do it early on.

 After the wings are fixed in place, the undercarriage is made from plastic rod using the very good 3D scale plan provided with the kit.  Mount a kingpost above and ahead of the cockpit, using the same plans, and then rigging can begin.

 I used elastic sewing thread from Aeroclub, painted silver with a felt tip pen and then cut to slightly overlength.  Anchor each wire at one end with a drop of superglue gel, and then stretch it the other over the kingpost with tweezers, and secure with more gel, dabbed on with a cocktail stick or toothpick. It isn't hard, but it does need patience, and constant referral to the plans and any pictures you will find on the internet. The underwing rigging wires are partly secured to the undercarriage.

 I discovered that the thread had pulled the right wing downwards. I thought I might have to pull it all off and start again, but after much deep brainwork, found a solution by snipping off the longest length of wiring, re-glueing one end to the wing tip, then stretching it to its maximum and glueing the other end to the king post. This had the effect of pulling the wing up to the right angle, and since the rest of the rigging is elastic, it took up the slack. A good exercise in not plunging into the first thing you think of, but trying a different approach. Had it not worked, I would have had to start again from scratch. Or consigned the whole project to the shelf of doom until I had my patience restored.

 The engine mounts were fashioned from aerofoil section plastic rod, and consist of  two U-shaped brackets, joined at the base, with the top ends glued into each side of the engine cowl.

The kit provides a vacformed engine which is an unsightly blob, and only useful to judge the right size. An injection moulded one was found from the spares box, and glued in place under the cowl, after painting it matt black with some gunmetal dry brushing. The tailskid was cut from two lengths of plastic rod, painted wood brown and fitted on the under side fin.


 There are no markings. The paint used overall was Vallejo Beige, which I sometimes use for Clear Doped Linen. Weathering was kept to a minimum as pictures show the aircraft is kept in a clean state.

 Finally, a propeller was found in the spares box and cut to length with the tips rounded off by sanding, and painted dark brown with a coast of Tamiya Clear Orange to represent varnishing. Two wheels were found from the spares box, and carefully superglued in place on the ends of the axle. And that was that.


One very nice looking little monoplane from a period which is sadly neglected by mainstream kit manufacturers. The aircraft is fairly well known in UK aviation circles and I wanted this kit for that reason.

I would recommend it to someone who wanted to cut their teeth on a vacform, because there are few parts, with no complex or compound curves. The wing joints do need some forethought, but that is all part of the process of vacform and scratch building. It is pleasing to the eye, and makes a nice companion to all those other pointy-nosed avgas-burning jobs that you have on your shelves. And in terms of aerodynamic design it is not so very different from any modern fighter. It all began here.


The sole surviving example is with the famous Shuttleworth collection and there are numerous pictures of it on the internet. Just type Blackburn Monoplane 1912 into your search engine. Since Google refuse to pay their taxes in the UK, I use one of the others. It isn't much by way of protest but it is the best I can do.

There is a superb film of it in flight on youtube at and also on vimeo on which you can freeze at any point and get close look at the detailing. 

 Chris Peachment

August 2013

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