MPC 1/72 E.E. Lighting F.1A




$0.70 when new


One aircraft plus


Scott Van Aken


Airfix rebox


The English Electric (later British Aerospace) Lightning was the first and last supersonic single place interceptor built by the British. Many of us poor Yanks have never had the opportunity to hear the roar of its twin Avon turbojets as it disappeared off into the distance. In England, there are a few still around and some of them are still used to perform high-speed runs to the delight of the crowds. Unfortunately, they are unable to get certification to fly them in the UK. This is because of the lack of a full manual backup control system and the ease at which the flight controls can be accidentally switched during maintenance. Never mind that many of the airliners now daily carrying thousands of people are also without a manual backup system as they flit around using fly-by-wire!

Getting back on track, the Lightning was in service for over 25 years and went through a number of major variants. The first production version was the F.1A with the F.6 being the last one. There were never a large number of these aircraft with many variants being a combination of new aircraft and rebuilds of older airframes. The planes went through the full spectrum of camouflage schemes from shiny natural metal with vibrant unit coloration to the dull low visibility greys.

The Lighting is one of those aircraft that just looks purposeful. It is unique in having its twin engines one atop the other. Naturally the British couldn't do it the easy way! It must have been a maintenance nightmare, but it was loved by those who flew it and those who didn't have to work on it!! The F.1 was armed with two 30mm Aden cannon and two  Firestreak IR missiles. Top speed was around Mach 2.3, but I'll bet that like the Phantom, it ran out of fuel before it ran out of speed! 


Some of you may not be aware that for a fair number of years, MPC reboxed Airfix kits for the US market. These kits were identical in terms of plastic to the ones sold in the UK, but came with different boxes and decals. In fact, one of the trends of the time with MPC was to add a chrome sprue that included customizing parts. This also carried over to the decal sheet. I bought this kit second hand and there were no customizing parts included, which really wasn't that much of an issue. However, it did include the custom decal sheet.

There is basically no detail in the wheel wells or cockpit. You can position the speed brakes open. There is no detail in the speed brake well.  Few Lightnings were seen with these items open. There is little depth to the intake and exhaust and no intake trunking or exhaust pipes. The transparency is thick, has some deformities and has NO framing on it at all. The main landing gear legs are thin and spindly; the nose gear has the wheel molded in with it. The gear doors are VERY thick.

Instructions are three easy steps with one for decals. Any items that need painting prior to construction are called out. The decals, yellowed with age and all on a single carrier, provide markings for what looks like 111 Squadron as well as the usual customizing markings. A nice addition is that the kit comes with a display stand.

Now I know that this doesn't sound too encouraging, but you need to know a few things. First, this is a very old kit and gives a good shape, but that is about it. Secondly, there are  a lot of aftermarket parts for the 1/72 Lightning that can be used to spruce up the kit quite a bit. There are also oodles of aftermarket decals for the early Lightning. Modeldecal alone probably has done every variant in every squadron in 1/72. Finally, there is a much better early Lightning done by Trumpeter so the only real reason to build this one is because you have it or you want a nostalgia build.

I have built a bunch of these kits. It is a simple build and though it doesn't meet today's standards, is one that even kids will enjoy slapping together.

February 2024

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