Classic jet powered aircraft of the Royal Air Force

Classic jet powered aircraft of the Royal Air Force

Welcome to this latest edition of Workbench and all the news, updates and exclusive announcements from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling. In yet another feature packed Airfix blog, we will be enjoying something of a classic British jet indulgence as we have a trio of related model updates to bring you – firstly, we will be featuring the latest stunning box artwork and scheme option information relating to two impending kit releases which mark classic British jet aircraft of the Cold War era and will undoubtedly be the subject of significant build activity over the coming months. We follow this up with yet another Workbench exclusive feature and the very latest news and pictures from the highly anticipated 1/48th scale Hawker Hunter F.6 tooling, which definitely underlines why this British classic is regarded as one of the most beautiful aircraft to ever take to the skies and will be a hugely popular addition to our growing 1/48th scale range. Without any further delay, we have an appointment at RAF Little Rissington and a distinctive little jet trainer which introduced many a future fast jet pilot to the joys of jet powered flight.

A jet powered ‘Wooden Wonder’?

Airfix de Havilland Vampire T.11 kit A0258A on Airfix Workbench blog

This beautiful artwork certainly manages to convey the beauty of this classic training aircraft and why many people wished they could have had a career as an RAF pilot

It is often said in sporting parlance that ‘nobody remembers who came second’ and whilst this rather brutal assessment does not carry through entirely to the aviation world, there is still a ring of truth in the statement, particularly when considering popular public opinion. As the first jet aircraft to enter service, the Messerschmitt Me 262 ‘Schwalbe’ has been the source of fascination for many people since 1944 and is without doubt one of the most important aircraft in the history of flight, however the second jet into world service, the Gloster Meteor cannot claim to enjoy the same popular recognition. Its saving grace was that it was both the first British and indeed Allied jet fighter to enter service, but as it saw significantly less combat than its German equivalent, it occupies a position very much in the background of aviation history. With that being generally accepted as fact, spare a thought for the aircraft which had the dubious honour of being the second British jet to enter service and how this aircraft is generally regarded by anyone other than an aviation enthusiast with relative anonymity.

Beset by numerous unfortunate development delays, the de Havilland DH.100 Vampire programme overran so significantly that its service introduction came too late to see operations during the Second World War. Had this not been the case, the aircraft would have surely proved itself to be a very impressive fighter/ground attack platform and quite possibly, one of the most famous aircraft of the entire war. Historically though, the Meteor would take the accolade of being Britain’s first jet in RAF service, with the Vampire coming a close second, but despite always being referred to as the second British jet, it did have a number of notable firsts to its name. It was Britain’s first single engined jet fighter and was the first RAF fighter to exceed 500mph, with later versions of the aircraft going on to set further records – it was the first jet aircraft in the world to take-off and land from an aircraft carrier and in 1948, the aircraft set a world altitude record of 59,446 feet. In another significant first, in 1948, the Vampire became the first jet aircraft to fly across the Atlantic, as six Vampires from RAF No.54 Squadron conducted a goodwill tour of Canada and the USA, performing a number of impressive formation aerobatic display routines during their visit.

de Havilland Vampire T.11 WZ507 at Halfpenny Green on Airfix Workbench blog

Britain’s only airworthy example of the beautiful de Havilland Vampire T.11, WZ507 pictures at Halfpenny Green in 2017

For the important task of training future Vampire jet pilots, de Havilland developed the handsome T.11 trainer, which for many people is one of the best looking British jet aircraft to ever take to the skies, particularly amongst the early jet designs.  Sharing the same stable flight handling characteristics as the single seat variant, the Vampire T.11 was the ideal platform to introduce the student pilot to the delights of fast jet flying and was the first advanced jet trainer to adopt a side-by-side seating arrangement, for the student and instructor, which allowed the student to be more confident during any training flight and his instructor to have a much clearer view of what the student was doing.  To achieve this configuration, the cockpit area of the aircraft had to be widened and gave the fuselage pod an egg shaped appearance - this increase in frontal area necessitated a number of additional modifications to the airframe, but the T.11 was essentially a classic Vampire jet, only made for two.  Usually, when you adapt existing aircraft designs in such a manner, it can result in something of an ungainly hybrid aeroplane, which looks much less appealing than the original design on which it was based, however, this was certainly not the case with the Vampire T.11 trainer.  This trainer was extremely easy on the eye and arguably became the best known version of the de Havilland Vampire, even though it was to be the final variant of the series.  Its operational effectiveness is underlined by the fact that almost 800 Vampire trainers were eventually built, going on to serve with more than twenty of the world’s air forces and help thousands of front line pilots to gain their jet powered wings.

de Havilland Vampire T.11 XK624, Central Flying School, Royal Air Force Little Rissington, Gloucestershire, England, 1970.

Airfix de Havilland Vampire T.11 kit A0258A on Airfix Workbench blog
Airfix de Havilland Vampire T.11 kit A0258A on Airfix Workbench blog

Full scheme details of the first decal option to be included with the impending release of Vampire T.11 A02058A

The impending release of a new Vampire T.11 kit from the impressive existing tooling (A02058A) will be of interest to many modellers, particularly as it marks one of the most attractive post war jet aircraft produced by a British manufacturer. It is also interesting to note that whilst most people associate jet powered aviation technology exclusively with metal airframes, the Vampire fuselage adopted similar construction techniques as those used on the wartime de Havilland Mosquito – it was made of laminated wood! Described colloquially as something of a ‘furnace in a wooden tube’, this construction method proved to be so successful on one of the Second World War’s most effective multi-role aircraft, that it seemed quite logical for de Havilland to utilise it on their early jet design and allowed the unique shape of the aircraft to be formed quickly and effectively. Indeed, when looking at the front section of a Mosquito, it is really easy to see the similarities between this WWII classic and the side by side seating arrangement of the Vampire T.11 – you could almost be looking at a small jet powered ‘Mossie’.

The first scheme option available with this latest Vampire T.11 kit is an aircraft wearing the distinctive silver and dayglo livery of an RAF training machine of the Central Flying School. Many modellers will agree that this training version of the Vampire is one of the best looking aircraft to see RAF service and this eye catching scheme certainly shows off the clean lines and distinctive shape of the aircraft. XK624 was built in 1956 and was the last Vampire T.11 in operational RAF service – during its career, this Vampire served with No’s 1, 3 and 7 Flying Training Schools, as well as time spent with the Central Flying School. Interestingly, in 1972, this aircraft joined a Gloster Meteor T.7 to form the famous RAF display team ‘The Vintage Pair’, which were to star at many an air display around the country. Following its retirement, XK624 was preserved and placed on display at Lytham St. Annes, before eventually being donated to the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum at Flixton, where it can be viewed to this day. This is certain to be a popular finish option for this attractive new model kit.

de Havilland Vampire J-28C SE-DXU (ordered for the Austrian Air Force), now flown and maintained by the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight, Sweden 2006.

Airfix de Havilland Vampire T.11 kit A0258A Swedish Air Force on Airfix Workbench blog
Airfix de Havilland Vampire T.11 kit A0258A Swedish Air Force on Airfix Workbench blog

If anything, this olive drab and grey scheme adopted by the Swedish Air Force is even more attractive than the more usual RAF training scheme and will certainly make for a popular alternative

Proving to be an exceptionally accomplished aeroplane, the Vampire was to enjoy particular success on the export market and was used by 31 overseas air forces – indeed, the only major western nations not to use the aircraft were Germany, Holland, Spain and the US. This reliable and capable jet fighter/fighter bomber allowed many smaller air forces the opportunity to replace their outdated piston engined aircraft with a new jet design, without the cost of developing their own indigenous aircraft and quickly allowing their airmen to become familiar with jet technology. As greater numbers of single seat fighter variants began to leave the UK for new homes abroad, so the T.11 training variant would usually follow, allowing air forces both to train, convert and provide currency flying for their Vampire aircrews.

The second scheme option included in this latest Vampire kit is for an aircraft in Swedish Air Force markings, which if anything are even more attractive that the previous option – there is something really appealing about the training Vampire in this olive drab and sea grey scheme. Sweden was to be a major operator of the de Havilland Vampire, having a requirement for a relatively cheap, reliable and capable aircraft to form the mainstay of their updated fighter force. In total, they would operate approximately 400 of these diminutive twin-boom fighters, including 57 of the training variant, which carried the Swedish designation J-28C, with the final training aircraft retired as late as 1968, when Vampires were replaced with the latest indigenous designed SAAB aircraft. This particular aircraft was built in 1953 with construction number 15264 and supplied to the Royal Air Force with serial number XD440. It was sold to the Swiss Air Force in August 1969, flying as U-1238 and many years later passed to the Swedish Air Force as SE-DXU. Wearing these particularly attractive colours, this aircraft is now maintained and operated by the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight and anyone fortunate enough to see this aircraft displaying at a UK Airshow will find it difficult to see past this magnificent scheme option.

De Havilland Vampire T.11/J-28C A02058A is scheduled for release in May 2018 and it will be interesting to see which of these two fantastic schemes prove to be the most popular.

The Samlesbury Sensation

Airfix English Electric Lightning F.6 XS903 'Sharkmouth' A04052A on Airfix Workbench blog

The English Electric Lightning F.6 is without doubt one of the most thrilling aeroplanes to ever see Royal Air Force service

There are few aircraft which can claim to enjoy the enduring acclaim of the magnificent English Electric Lightning, which has the honour of being the nation’s first and only all British supersonic fighter aircraft, a real fighting thoroughbred which served with distinction throughout the Cold War years. Representing a huge leap in terms of aviation technology when the Lightning first entered RAF service in 1960, its introduction gave Britain one of the most capable fighting aircraft in the world and the envy of all the world’s air forces. Its blistering performance and climbing capabilities gave the aircraft an unequalled reputation as an interceptor and the most thrilling ride a pilot could ever hope to experience – no wonder the Lightning is still held in such overwhelming affection by anyone who was lucky enough to see one display, or better still fly one!

The ultimate variant of this flying 'hotrod' was the Lightning F.6, an aircraft which took all the impressive attributes of its predecessors and endowed it with more speed, greater range and better handling, allowing this magnificent aircraft to post a stellar 28 year RAF career, through some of the most volatile periods in our history and during a significant period of continued aviation development. The F.6 saw the return of guns to the Lightning, following their omission on the F.3, which augmented a pair of Red Top air to air missiles in an offensive role and was very much welcomed by RAF pilots – although speed was always a word used in conjunction with the Lightning, their pilots were always of the opinion that the aircraft was more than capable of engaging in dogfights, as long as it retained its cannon armament. Perhaps the most significant improvement was a welcome increase in operational range, with additional fuel carried in a large ventral tank and the ability to carry two additional over-wing fuel tanks – even though many commentators will always site the lack of range as a real Achilles heel of the Lightning, this is not altogether fair. For the role it was originally intended, as a fast, quick reaction aggressive interceptor, the Lightning excelled in every respect and protected Britain and her V-Bomber airfields throughout the Cold War period. Although Lightning pilots were always keen to promote the dogfighting capabilities of the aircraft, its particular talent was to race at unequalled speed towards a potential threat and blast it from the sky out over the North Sea and well away from the British mainland – in this scenario, the Lightning reigned supreme.

The English Electric/BAe factory at Samlesbury, between Preston and Blackburn was a significant location for the production of aircraft during the Second World War and post war periods and is currently employed in the production of sections of the new Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fifth generation combat aircraft. Producing many of the original Lightnings which were destined for RAF service, the relatively short runway at Samlesbury, combined with the location of the airfield required that many aircraft made their first flights beginning with something of a combat take off, to reduce the impact of operations on local communities. The aircraft would make the short hop to nearby Warton, where they could commence their flight test programme in earnest at this more suitable location for this type of work.

From an Airfix perspective, if the Spitfire can claim to be the most successful piston engined aircraft type immortalised in kit form, the direct jet powered equivalent has to be the English Electric Lightning, a perennial favourite and always amongst the most popular models in any range. The latest announcement in this series features two new RAF Lightning F.6 schemes which will further enhance the reputation of this 1/72nd scale classic – scheduled for release in June, let’s take a look at the schemes available with A05042A.

English Electric Lightning F.6 XS903/AM, RAF No.5 Squadron, Binbrook, Lincolnshire, England, 1984.

Airfix English Electric Lightning F.6 XS903 'Sharkmouth' A04052A on Airfix Workbench blog
Airfix English Electric Lightning F.6 XS903 'Sharkmouth' A04052A on Airfix Workbench blog

Scheme details of a rather distinctive Lightning which ended its service life with a delivery flight to the Yorkshire Air Museum

In most cases, the development period associated with post war combat aircraft can be both a lengthy and expensive business, which may also see the aircraft developed to fulfil a role for which it was not originally intended. The fluid nature of world politics and associated perceived national threats dictate that aircraft now have to evolve and adapt, often whilst still in development and certainly during their service careers. Although the Lightning’s career spanned some 28 of the most volatile years, its mission profile change little during this period and it was exceptionally good at what it was tasked to do. Standing at a state of constant readiness, the Lightning Force was prepared to perform a ‘Supersonic Dash’, rushing towards potential threats at great speed, engaging and destroying them before returning to base, again at high speed to refuel and rearm, ready to do the same again. Although range was always a factor in these missions and there would be little room for error with regard to fuel reserves, sorties flown in this manner should never have been a problem for the Lightning. In later years, as part of a ‘mixed fighter force’, the Lightning would work in conjunction with Phantoms and Hawks to provide a particularly hostile welcome for any aircraft approaching the UK with less than friendly intentions.

This first scheme option presents modellers with Lightning F.6 XS903, which first flew on 17th August 1966 from Samlesbury and was delivered to RAF No.5 Squadron early the following year. Just a few months into its RAF career, the aircraft displayed at the 1967 Paris Airshow, where it was equipped with both over-wing fuel tanks and under-wing rocket pods. She is presented here in a two tone air superiority grey colour scheme and sports rather unusual sharks mouth and eyes markings, which were applied to three 5 Squadron Lightnings during a detachment to an Armament Practice Camp in Cyprus during September 1984. These impressive markings proved to be a relatively short lived addition and by the following summer, they had been removed. Following the aircraft’s withdrawal from RAF service, it was flown to the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington, where it performed one final flying display, before entering a new career as a museum exhibit – you can still get close to XS903 by paying a visit to this fantastic museum.

English Electric Lightning F.6 XS921/Q, RAF No.56 Squadron ‘Firebirds’, Akrotiri and Luqa, Cyprus and Malta, June 1974.

Airfix English Electric Lightning F.6 XS921 56 Squadron 'Firebirds' A04052A on Airfix Workbench blog

This particular Lightning proved to be a rather significant aircraft in the logbook of former BAe Test Pilot Craig Penrice

The second scheme option included with this latest Lightning kit is XS921, another F.6 which first flew from Samlesbury on 17th November 1966, in the hands of BAe’s famous Chief Experimental Test Pilot Desmond ‘Dizzy’ de Villiers. It was first assigned to RAF No.74 Squadron ‘The Tigers’ in December 1966, before later joining No.56 ‘Firebirds’ Squadron at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus in September 1971, also going on to fly in the colours of both No.5 and No.11 Squadrons.

On 19th September 1985, whilst flying with No.11 Squadron from Binbrook, this aircraft crashed into the North Sea, some 30 miles off Flamborough Head on the Yorkshire coast. The pilot, Flt. Lt. Craig Penrice reported a malfunction of the aileron powered flying control unit, probably as a result of a foreign object jamming one of the input levers – he managed to eject from the stricken aircraft, but sustained serious injuries during the incident, which required a lengthy period of treatment and recuperation. Returning to flying duties some eleven months later, he went on to become the Chief Test Pilot for BAe, where he was involved in the development of the Hawk and Typhoon (and also the F-15 whilst working in a similar role in the US). He is one of a select few pilots who can claim to have successfully ejected from a jet aircraft twice, as he was forced to do so again in 2003, when the Hawker Hunter he had been displaying at an Airshow in Northern Ireland developed a problem en route back to its home base and also crashed into the sea. In a relatively recent development, a full size replica of Lightning XS921 now stands as an impressive gate guardian outside the BAe Samlesbury factory where the original aircraft was built 52 years ago.

This latest 1/72nd scale English Electric Lightning F.6 kit (A05042A) is scheduled to be released in June 2018 and is available to pre-order on the Airfix website or through your usual model supplier.

A British jet aeroplane of distinction

Exclusive new 1/48th scale Hawker Hunter F.6 A09185 on Airfix Workbench blog

This computer rendered image of the new 1/48th scale Hawker Hunter F.6 shows why this proved to be such a popular new tooling announcement within modelling circles

No collection of classic British post war jet aircraft would be complete without the inclusion of the hugely successful Hawker Hunter, which undoubtedly also competes for the title of ‘world’s most attractive aeroplane’. We are pleased to end this edition of Workbench by bringing you the latest update from our new 1/48th scale Hunter F.6 project and an exclusive first look for Workbench readers at the test frames produced by this splendid addition to our growing 1/48th scale range. Already showing the impressive detail levels included in what was essentially a quite simple aircraft design, the extra size associated with this scale is certain to display the beautifully clean lines of the Hunter to great effect and will surely become one of our most popular releases once the kit is available to modellers. Please remember that these images are of the test frame shots from the new 1/48th scale tool and may still be subject to alteration by the Airfix design team – the four frames show all the component pieces which will be included in the first release of this extremely impressive kit.

Exclusive new 1/48th scale Hawker Hunter F.6 A09185 on Airfix Workbench blog

This series of images shows the latest test frame components from the new 1/48th scale Hawker Hunter F.6 tooling, one of our most popular recent new model announcements

Exclusive new 1/48th scale Hawker Hunter F.6 A09185 on Airfix Workbench blog
Exclusive new 1/48th scale Hawker Hunter F.6 A09185 on Airfix Workbench blog
Exclusive new 1/48th scale Hawker Hunter F.6 A09185 on Airfix Workbench blog

Although a relatively simple aircraft to look at, the Hawker Hunter F.6 in this larger 1/48th scale will be a modelling thing of beauty and is destined to reside on many a workbench following its release 

This represents an exciting development in our new Hunter F.6 project and over the coming months, we intend to also bring you built model samples, scheme option details and the unveiling of the ever popular box artwork, which will signify that this highly anticipated new model is on schedule for its currently publicised October 2018 release date. Full details of this beautiful models can be found on the Airfix website, where you can ensure you have an example of our new Hawker Hunter F.6 as soon as it is released by registering your pre-order, or by speaking to your usual model supplier – excuse the pun, but this beauty is guaranteed to fly off the shelves once available. Please keep checking workbench for further details on this and other exciting new tooling projects which are destined to join the growing Airfix range during 2018 and beyond.

We are afraid that that is another edition of Workbench done and dusted, but we will be back in two weeks’ time with another interesting selection of Airfix news, features and modelling updates, which may well include an exclusive report from a Phantom unveiling event, which includes an unusual link to Airfix instruction sheets – more on this in the next edition.

As you know, we are always keen to gauge the thoughts of our readers and there are several ways in which you can contact us, which include our dedicated e-mail address at workbench@airfix.com and of course the Workbench thread over on the Airfix Forum. If social media is more your style, you could access either the Airfix Facebook page or our Twitter channel, using #airfixworkbench where you will find plenty of modelling news, views and discussion. Whichever medium you decide to use, please do get in touch, as it is always interesting to hear from fellow modelling enthusiasts and the projects you have on the go at the moment.

As always, the Airfix website is the place to go for all the latest model release information, with our New Arrivals, Coming Soon and Last Chance to Buy sections all accessed by clicking on the above links. As updating the website is a constant process, a quick search through each section of the Airfix web pages will reveal new information and updated images in many of the product sections and this is always an enjoyable and rewarding way to spend a few minutes.

The next edition of Workbench is due to be published on Friday 11th May, when we look forward to bringing you all the latest news, updates and exclusives from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling.

Thank you for your continued support of our Airfix Workbench blog.

The Airfix Workbench Team

 

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