New Gloster Meteor 1:48, plus Wildcat and Stuka updates
Welcome to this third edition of Workbench, giving you a behind the scenes look at what's happening here at Airfix HQ. You will recall that our previous blog announced the magnificent new Boulton Paul Defiant in 1/48th scale, which really does appear to have found favour with our readers, particularly as we are in the 75th anniversary year of the Battle of Britain. We can now tell you that it will be joined by yet another new tooling in 1/48th scale, which retains a link with the Royal Air Force, but comes from a different era altogether.
Airfix 1/48th scale range increases again with RAF jet fighter!
The Gloster Meteor F.8, which is on display at IWM Duxford
For modellers with an interest in classic British jets, we have some spectacular news for you - in 2016 Airfix will be releasing the Gloster Meteor F.8 in 1/48th scale. In this larger scale, the Meteor will look absolutely magnificent and will allow the Airfix development team to incorporate an impressive level of detail into the new kit. The F.8 version of the Meteor was, for many, the ultimate fighter version of this famous British jet and formed the mainstay of Fighter Command throughout most of the 1950s. This was the most heavily produced version of the Meteor and enjoyed excellent export success, as many countries were keen to secure an effective and relatively cheap jet fighter for defence purposes. Let’s take a closer look at how the Meteor project started to take shape.
Research is the key
At the start of every new model project, obtaining as much research material as possible is absolutely essential. Undertaken by the lead Airfix researcher, this process may include securing original design plans and technical drawings, potential access to preserved aircraft, or arranging for an outside agency to scan the aircraft in question. In most cases, this will certainly require communication with museums, aviation officials, or owners and operators of historic aeroplanes.
Duxford research trip for the Meteor F.8 jet fighter
At this stage, the lead researcher will also have to make a decision on which particular incarnation of the aircraft the new model will present and if there is any opportunity to include variant flexibility into the tooling. Once all these important decisions have been taken, the next stage is usually for members of the development team to conduct a research visit, usually to a museum, but often to a private aircraft collection. These visits require the team to photograph and measure the subject aircraft from every conceivable angle, and may be conducted at a time when the museum is closed to the public. The images and measurements will be added to the research file, which by now will be taking shape nicely.
The new manufacturing processes adopted by the Airfix design team allow them to incorporate high levels of detail into their new generation of kits. As with some of the impressive models that have been announced recently, the new 1/48th scale Gloster Meteor will benefit from utilising laser scanned data, using a process known as LIDAR scanning.
Nose and gun detail of Meteor WK991 at Duxford
LIDAR scanning technology
A LIDAR scan uses laser light to accurately map the surface of an object in three dimensions, by analysing the light that is reflected from the scanned object. This results in the production of a high-definition 3D computer map of the object - this data can then be imported into the Hornby Hobbies CAD (Computer Aided Design) system enabling the production of an incredibly detailed model which is directly mapped from an actual aircraft.
The laser scanner is placed around the subject aircraft in as many as 40 or 50 separate positions, both on the ground and from a raised position such as on a scissor lift, so that the best coverage can be achieved. The scanner then rotates, sweeping the area with a laser, which will be constantly taking measurements throughout the scanning process. As many as 5 million points can be mapped in each sweep which will produce a 3D image file, with lots of fine detail – the scan is even capable of picking up different layers of paint on the aircraft!
Laser scan data image for the Meteor F.8
The scanned data is still quite raw at this stage and will need to be cleaned up, using a specialised piece of computer software. The individual scans are stitched together, cleaning out all unwanted material which may also have been captured during the scanning process. This could include clutter in the immediate scan area, bystanders, or errors caused by reflective and refractive surfaces such as nearby glass and mirrors. Importantly, this type of scan produces a data file of the exterior of the aircraft and although this is incredibly accurate, it is only used to produce a raw shell data file – the designers still have a lot of work to do!
Laser scan data image, including the addition of base model curves
Once the designers receive the final scan data, it is loaded into the Hornby Hobbies CAD system. Using this scan data they can produce a 3D base model at the appropriate scale. The scan data is only effectively traced over, as the designers don’t want to reproduce any bumps or dents from the scanned aircraft. This base model is then used for designing the whole kit, including the parts, details and clearances. Their knowledge and expertise is very much in evidence now, as they design individual parts for manufacture, incorporating all the tolerances and manufacturing peculiarities specific to the plastic injection moulding industry. We will look more closely at some of the other stages of new model production in a future edition of Workbench.
CAD base model data, from which individual parts are designed
The new Meteor will benefit from highly detailed Rolls-Royce Derwent engines, including an engine stand and fully detailed nose cannons and ammunition drums. Interestingly, the new model will also show the full nose wheel assembly structure, which will allow the modeller to display their Meteor with the nose cone removed.
A CAD screenshot of the Meteor F.8 with Derwent engine and stand
This is a very exciting new model indeed, which we are proud to announce today and we look forward to bringing you more Meteor information as the project progresses - the new Gloster Meteor F.8 is available to pre-order now with an expected release date of April 2016.
We would also like to give our thanks to the Jet Age Museum, Gloucestershire, for their invaluable support throughout this project.
Built up prototype model, showing some of the impressive detail on the new model
New Grumman F-4F Wildcat Update
Airfix model collection on display at this year's RIAT show
The Airfix team was in attendance at the recent Royal International Air Tattoo, with a collection of recently announced models available for inspection. It is always nice to know that modellers are looking forward to getting their hands on some of these new models and the feedback we received was gratefully received. One model that received particular praise was the new Grumman F4F Wildcat, which really does have a high level of detail packed into its diminutive frame. This impressive kit will allow the modeller to complete the aircraft in normal flight configuration, or to have the wings folded back in typical Grumman fashion for storage on board an operational aircraft carrier.
Beautiful new box artwork for the new Airfix Wildcat kit
The Grumman F4F Wildcat was such an important aircraft for the US Navy and US Marine Corps as they were dragged into WWII following the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. It was the best fighter available to them at that time and was forced to take on the extremely organised Japanese Naval aircraft in the Pacific. Thankfully, the Wildcat was a tough and reliable fighter, which could more than hold its own against its Japanese foes and many of the early WWII American aces were pilots of this classic little naval fighter.
The new 1/72nd scale Wildcat was announced some months ago, so this latest news is a final update before the model begins to appear in model stores all across the country. The new model is due to appear in three different guises in the Airfix range – a medium starter set, complete with cement, paint and paint brushes; a ‘Dogfight Double’ set, complete with the newly tooled Nakajima B5N2 Kate in a classic Pacific air war duel; and finally as a stand-alone kit release. All three kits are due for release in September and can be pre-ordered now.
Decal options for VMF-223 ace Captain Marion Eugene Carl
This standard edition (A02070) features decal options for an aircraft that was flown by Capt. Marion Eugene Carl, of VMF-223 – Carl was the first US Marine Corps ace of WWII and his Wildcat carries an impressive tally of victory flags on the side of the fuselage. Serving through the air battles at Midway and Guadalcanal, Carl ended the war with 18.5 aerial victories against the Japanese. As 2016 will see the 75th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack and America’s entry into World War II, this impressive new model is destined to find itself on many a modeller’s workbench.
Free RAF Museum Lectures - Airfix ‘Scaling down reality’ talks at Hendon and Cosford
We are excited to announce that during August, our lead researcher Simon Owen will be presenting two lectures at the RAF Museums in Cosford and Hendon, allowing you a fascinating insight into the world of Airfix and how we take iconic aircraft from the Battle of Britain and scale them down to produce accurate replicas for today’s demanding modellers.
The presentation will cover a range of topics, including the history of the Airfix brand, the problems of scaling model aircraft and the design and production process itself. Simon will also be on hand to answer your questions at the end of the session. This is a perfect opportunity to meet a senior member of our team and to gain an insight into what goes on behind the scenes at Airfix HQ.
Entry to these extremely entertaining sessions is free, but both Cosford and Hendon require you to contact them and reserve your place prior to attending the event. Each talk will last approximately one hour, depending on how many questions you may have at the end! The important details are:
RAF Museum Cosford – Wednesday 19th August at 13.30
Please reserve your tickets here
RAF Museum Hendon – Friday 28th August at 13.00
Please reserve your tickets here
If you can make either of these events, please reserve your tickets early as space at both venues will be limited. Simon is a mine of aviation information and you will definitely be royally entertained.
New 1/72nd scale Stuka ready for action
Profile artwork of the new Battle of Britain Stuka scheme
We end this latest edition of Workbench by looking at another new 1/72nd scale tooling which is fast approaching release. Very much in keeping with the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain theme, the Junkers Ju-87B-1 Stuka was one of the Luftwaffe’s main attack weapons during the conflict and could definitely be described as one of the most distinctive aircraft of WWII. In truth, even though the Stuka was synonymous with Luftwaffe operations throughout WWII, it was almost obsolete by the summer of 1940 and if it did not have fighter protection of its own, it was at risk of being quickly shot down by RAF fighters. Despite this, the Stuka continues to be one of the most famous aircraft of WWII and is extremely popular with collectors and modellers alike.
A previous edition of Aerodrome looked at Stuka operations during the Battle of Britain, including how the crew of a Ju-87 would survive the violent dive attack manoeuvre, which induced high G forces and often caused the pilot to black out.
Test shots arrive of the new 1/72nd scale Junkers Ju-87
The new model has been produced incorporating all the impressive design technologies now used at Airfix, which should see this new model as one of the most accurate Stuka kits available to the modeller today. With decal options for either the famous Battle of Britain scheme displayed above, or an attractive Spanish Civil War scheme for one of the handful of machines to take part in this conflict, the new 1/72nd scale Stuka is due for a December release. The picture above shows the impressively clean test shots of the new model, which illustrates just how close this model is to release.
We hope that you have enjoyed Workbench 3 and all the updates we have for you – we will have more in our next edition! Until then, thank you very much indeed for reading and don’t forget to keep modelling!
The Airfix Workbench Team
© Hornby Hobbies Ltd. All rights reserved.