One small step for Airfix modellers
Welcome to this latest edition of Workbench and all the news, updates and exclusive announcements from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling. It seems that at the moment, hardly a week goes by without a significant event or anniversary being commemorated and in this 95th edition of our Airfix blog, we are going to be turning our attention to three of the most pressing. Firstly, we will be going a little ‘astronautic’ and looking at how the 2019 model range is commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the first human being setting foot on the surface of the moon – we will be illustrating this story by featuring a magnificent Eagle Lander kit build, supplied by one of our readers in Phoenix, Arizona. We also mark the impending RAF retirement of the workhorse Panavia Tornado by featuring the Tornado Special Interest Group and how they use their impressive modelling talents to ensure this aircraft continues to receive the aviation attention it deserves at model shows up and down the country. Finally, we also mark the long overdue return of the Martin B-26 Marauder to the Airfix range, one of the hardest working aircraft during operations in support of D-Day and showcase an attractive model build which replicate a historic wartime picture. We will also be bringing you confirmation of all the lucky readers who were victorious in the latest round of Airfix competitions on both the blog and via our social media sites. As usual, we have quite a lot to get through, so we had better head straight off to a modelling appointment on the ‘Sea of Tranquillity’.
‘The Eagle has landed’
An exclusive first look at the decoration guide which will accompany the release of the 50th Anniversary Lunar Module kit
At a time when the widespread ownership of television sets was still in its relative infancy, it is not difficult to imagine that anyone with access to a TV would have been glued to it during the summer of 1969, amazed at what they were seeing and hearing – a man attempting to set foot on the surface of the moon. With many historic photographs showing large groups of people huddled around TV sets, both in homes around the world and in public places where sets were less common, the monumental events which took place on 20th July 1969 are still considered to be the greatest TV moment of the 20th century and not only underlines the incredible achievements of the NASA space programme itself, but also how their exploits captivated the entire world. This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 mission and will surely stimulate renewed interest in the Space Race from people who are old enough to remember it and captivate a new audience who are discovering its fascinating story for the first time. Helping to achieve this from a modelling perspective, the 2019 Airfix range includes the re-release of two classic space kits, along with the Vintage Classics release of the 57 part Astronauts set.
As with many of the historic kits which have appeared in various Airfix ranges over the years, many thousands of Workbench readers will undoubtedly have fond memories of building these models during their formative years, as they helped a love of the modelling hobby to take a firm grip of us and probably still have the ability to subliminally take us back to a time when life seemed so much simpler. Although we all undoubtedly have our favourite established modelling subject matter, such as aircraft, military vehicles or ships, space models seem to have an appeal which traverses all tastes and will probably have been attempted by most of us during our modelling past. The re-release of both the Saturn V rocket and the Eagle Lander Gift Set will probably encourage many of us to add one or both of these kits to our build schedules in this significant anniversary year and we are certainly looking forward to seeing plenty of completed examples in the Customer Images section of the Airfix website, following their May release. Knowing you lot as we do, we are fully expecting to see some extremely imaginative diorama builds which will serve as inspiration for many and simply admired by the rest of us.
Brett Harper is fascinated by the Space Race and used all his years of modelling experience to build this magnificent representation of a classic Airfix kit
With the impending release of our 50th anniversary space trio, we were fascinated to see a recent submission to a modelling website featuring a classic Airfix kit build, which had a distinctly lunar leaning and we simply had to find out more. After exchanging a couple of messages, we were pleased to make the acquaintance of Mr Brett Harper, from Phoenix Arizona and not only had the opportunity to discuss his superb Apollo Lunar Module build with him, but also his fascinating views on the current state of the modelling hobby. As he approaches his 60th birthday, Brett described how the Space Race played a significant role in his youth and has served as inspiration for many a modelling project over the years. Taking up the hobby at around eight years of age, Brett describes how with a group of friends in his home town, they would build models to act out the great American battles of the Second World War, even though America was at that time, embroiled in the Vietnam War – they seemed strangely remote from this ongoing conflict. Kits were built to allow the battles at Wake Island, Midway and Guadalcanal to be acted out and even at this early age, authenticity was important to them all – if one of the group messed up with his paint scheme selection or decal placement, the others were only too pleased to point out their error. Finding out more about the machines and men who fought in these famous battles was just as important as the modelling project itself, in this age before the advent of the computer.
Modelling continued to be a big part of Brett’s life through his teenage years, which encompassed much of the Space Race era and was the subject of many a modelling project, but as with most people, work, marriage and children became priorities in later years and ensured that the hobby was very much on the back-burner for quite some time. He returned to modelling on a more regular basis back in 2014 and even though he is still in full time employment, he can usually fit in a couple of hours in the evening, when his wife has gone to bed and devote a little more time to modelling over the weekend.
This original Airfix box artwork will be familiar to many readers and is one of the reasons why Brett enjoyed the modelling hobby over the years. The inspiration for his latest lunar build, this one was a $25 ebay purchase
The story behind this particular Apollo Lunar Module build started back in 2018 and the increased media activity around the impending 50th Anniversary commemorations of the first manned moon landing. Having made the Airfix kit several times over the years, Brett decided to scour the internet to see if he could find one at a reasonable price. He described how these original kits can sometimes go for over $50, but he was only prepared to pay half this amount and got lucky on eBay. He told us how the artwork was always a big attraction for him and was a major part of his modelling enjoyment – “It is the artwork that draws you in and before you know it, the kit is on the workbench and coming together”. As for the older ‘Classic’ kits, Brett told us that he really prefers these in the main, not only because they remind him of his modelling youth, but also because they are what modelling is all about, harnessing your imagination. With the kit acting as something of a plastic canvas, the ability to make slight improvements using your imagination, a bit of planning and your modelling skill is really rewarding and when you can massage the kit into something cool with your imagination and effort, that is the real joy of modelling.
Brett described how the Airfix ‘Eagle’ Lander is a very enjoyable kit to build and although it is a great representation, there were areas where he thought his modelling experience could enhance the overall appearance of his model build. Not really being a fan of expensive after market products, his destination for modelling accessories was the local Dollar Store and a collection of everyday items which could be turned into the ideal modelling accessories. The legs of the craft were wrapped in electrical tape to give them a more robust appearance, before being painted and a new set of blast deflectors were scratch built, adding to the overall accuracy of the finished model. The distinctive gold leaf appearance of sections of the lander was achieved by first applying Dollar Store foil and then simply painting over with gold paint – Brett described how this effect is not as easy to achieve as you might think and comes after years of failed attempts to get the required finish. The cheaper tin foil the store sells is exactly the right thickness to produce the desired effect, any thicker and it looks awful, any thinner and it just breaks. Some modellers use gold candy wrappers (sweet papers to us Brits) to replicate this feature, however, this has never really worked for Brett and he prefers his foil method. Interestingly, these metallic ‘foil’ looking areas on the actual Eagle Lander were a multi-layer blanket of aluminized Kaptan film and depending on where they were used on the craft, the outer layer might be yellow, silver or amber in colour, but generally had a gold foil appearance – we could always give NASA a quick call to see if they have any off-cuts lying around, just for authenticity’s sake!
Brett decided that we would enhance his Lunar Lander build, using his modelling skills and some household items which proved to be just what he needed
Insulation tape, cheap tin foil and some gold paint all helped to produce these extremely pleasing results
Brett’s finished Lunar Module looks absolutely fantastic and will no doubt serve as inspiration for many a similar model build over the next few months. His decision to post his build pictures on the internet, as well as allowing us to feature them on our blog not only highlights current trends in the modelling hobby, but also reveals Brett’s fascinating opinion on how this impacts on him as a hobbyist. As a member of on-line clubs and modelling Facebook groups, the internet has transformed Brett’s enjoyment of the hobby and he really feels that he is not alone in his modelling any more. Rather than being locked away in his workroom, away from the rest of the world, the internet has added greatly to his enjoyment of the hobby, allowing him to connect with fellow modellers everywhere, sharing information and both giving and receiving modelling inspiration and knowledge sharing. Because of these active and constructive on-line communities, Brett’s return to modelling has been both successful and enjoyable and where he may have worked on one or two projects each year in the past, he currently turns out at least one model a month and thoroughly enjoys doing so. We would like to thank Brett for speaking with us and allowing us to share his Lunar Module build and interesting hobby views with fellow Workbench readers and we look forward to featuring more of his builds in the future.
One small step for Brett, but a superb addition to his growing model collection. The re-release of our Lunar Module will be a fitting modelling tribute to this 50th anniversary year of the first moon landing
Before we leave the subject of the first manned moon landing and its impending 50th Anniversary, it is interesting to note that arguably the most famous quote by a human being may have actually been misquoted. As the world watched in awe as astronaut Neil Armstrong set foot on the surface of the moon, he delivered a statement which stands as one of the most famous in human history – “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Although this is the line which is often quoted when recounting this historic first lunar step, does this actually make sense? In the years after the mission and certainly following interviews with Neil Armstrong himself, what he maintains he actually said is, “That’s one small step for A man, one giant leap for mankind”, which is much more appropriate and altogether more profound a statement. Just one of many discussions and opinions which still surround the moon landings, it seems rather insignificant to discuss an erroneous ‘A’ when considering the incredible achievements of the Apollo programme, however, this just illustrates how the Space Race continues to captivate millions of people to this day.
Our trio of space releases are scheduled for a May release, well in time to be on workstations everywhere by the actual 50th Anniversary of man landing on the surface of the moon.
Farewell to the ‘Mighty Fin’
The magnificent Tornado is in the twilight of its RAF career, with its final withdrawal from service taking place at the end of this month
As many aviation enthusiasts will be aware, the end of this month will see the Panavia Tornado GR.4 finally withdrawn from Royal Air Force service and with it, the end of a glorious 37 year career. Originally designed to strike fast and hard against Eastern Block targets whilst avoiding radar detection, the Tornado would have delivered its ordnance accurately against strategic objectives, hopefully before the enemy even knew they were under attack - it would then make good its escape at the same high speed and low altitude. The last remaining jets in service now reside at RAF Marham, with eight of these flying warhorses only returning from operations in the Middle East during January 2019 – the Tornado has certainly earned its wings on combat operations for much of its service life. With unequalled aviation credentials, it is no wonder that these final few weeks of Tornado operations has seen many enthusiasts descending on this Norfolk base, desperate to catch one final glimpse of this flying warrior in RAF service, before it slips away into the aviation history books and museums up and down the country. This outpouring of affection for the Tornado probably reflects its status as the final Cold War era jet in RAF service and undoubtedly one of the more interesting aircraft to see service with Western air forces over the past 40 years. Even though it will certainly be missed when it is finally withdrawn later this month, there is an active group of modellers who are dedicated to preserving its aviation legacy – the Tornado Special Interest Group.
If you want to talk Tornado, these are your guys. A full team were on duty for their Scale Modelworld attendance, with their impressive display of Tornados
If you have ever been fortunate enough to visit the Tornado SIG display at a recent model show, the one thing you will probably remember about this group other than their impressive collection of Tornados is their friendly demeanour – these guys are always smiling. It’s no wonder really, as the object of their obsession has been in service for over 40 years and with just under 1000 aircraft produced during this time, there is never any shortage of subject matter to inspire them. Despite the sadness associated with the impending retirement of the RAF’s last Tornados, they will also happily tell you that there is no need to despair, as you can not only enjoy commemorating its long British service in modelling terms, but also that the aircraft remains on active duty with the air forces of Germany, Italy and Saudi Arabia.
The story behind the establishment of the Tornado Special Interest Group revolves around a former British Army soldier and how modelling helped him following his return to civvy street. Sick of painting the hundreds of road wheels on the many military vehicle models he had completed over the years, Andy Hardwick decided that he was going to try something different – an aeroplane. His first subject of choice just happened to be a Panavia Tornado, which he decided to finish in a colourful Luftwaffe JaBoG 31 ‘Boelcke’ special scheme, but as this was his first serious aircraft build, he sought the help of fellow modellers on the Airfix Tribute Forum. Through the forum, he met Andy Walker, who was both a proficient modeller himself and something of a Tornado fanatic. His advice helped Andy H with his first Tornado build and the two arranged to meet in person at the IPMS Scale Modelworld show in 2012 – the rest, as they say, is history. The two hit it off straight away and walking amongst the impressive display tables at Telford, decided that they would begin the process of establishing their own SIG – the Tornado Special Interest Group.
A Tornado haven. With a display featuring Panavia Tornados of all types, representing several different air arms, there is plenty to admire on the Tornado SIG display table
This poignant display replicated the 35 years of the Tri-National Tornado Training Establishment tribute arranged for the 2017 Royal International Air Tattoo
The two Andy’s were soon joined by Nathan Robinson, who is something of a computer geek (Andy’s description, not ours) and proved invaluable in helping establish the group as an IPMS SIG and setting up their web presence – Nathan has featured in a previous edition of Workbench, as he is also the driving force behind the English Electric Lightning SIG. Other members began to join the group, however the nucleus of the Tornado SIG is only made up of around five or six senior members, with others coming and going as they see fit. Their shared love of the Panavia Tornado, in all its many guises, serves as their inspiration and their Facebook presence can now boast more than 1500 members, a figure which seems destined to increase dramatically with all the media exposure the Tornado is enjoying at this present time. The SIG’s first show was the Sword and Lance show at Darlington in 2013, but this was quickly followed by their first ever display at Telford later the same year – their impressive display consisted of half the stand taken up with early RAF GR.1 jets and Desert Storm aircraft, with the other half featuring a selection of Luftwaffe and Aeronautica Militare special schemes. The group have always looked to make their displays as interesting as possible for the Tornado enthusiast, using appropriate props to add impact to their presentations and believing that quality will always win over quantity when planning their show attendance.
This spectacularly presented Italian Air Force Tornado marked the 60th Anniversary of 311º Gruppo and was a popular performer on the UK Airshow circuit in 2017
A Tornado SIG display can always be relied upon to introduce some much needed colour to any model show display
As is probably the case with many of the Special Interest Groups we see displaying at shows up and down the country, Tornado SIG members usually arrange their show attendance and build themes via e-mail and social media, with everyone offering to do certain builds which miraculously appear in all their glory at the next event. This tends to work extremely well, however, the team will always leave a little space for new or casual members, who may decide to bring their own Tornado build to a show the group are attending and have it displayed. From time to time, group members may also decide to have a get together, which will usually involve an RAF station and perhaps the odd Tornado or two. One particularly memorable trip saw the chaps heading up to RAF Lossiemouth as guests of No.XV Squadron, where they presented the Squadron Commander with a beautifully finished model of one of his aircraft. This visit ended with an unexpected opportunity to sit in the cockpit of an RAF Tornado GR.4, which was something of a dream come true for these Tornado modelling aficionados.
We would like to thank Andy Hardwick for kindly taking the time to speak with us and helping us to produce this feature – amongst his modelling commitments (plastic of course), he is also hard at work studying for an English History degree and he assured us that the Tornado is not currently in his plans for a dissertation subject. For anyone looking forward to catching up with the team at this year’s Telford Scale Modelworld Show, he let us into a little secret that the recently decided theme for their display is ‘Tornado retirement’, but he would not elaborate further on this – we will just have to wait until November to view their Tonka delights. For more information on the group, please check either their main webpage or their popular Facebook page, where you can engage with SIG members, pick up Tornado modelling tips and keep up to date with all their show display plans. As we sadly approach the final flights of the Tornado in RAF service, we know a group of chaps who will help cure your Tornado blues and continue to celebrate the aviation legacy of this magnificent aircraft.
Currently, the only example of the Panavia Tornado we have in the Airfix range is A55301, an air defence variant F.3, wearing the striking markings of an RAF No.111 Squadron Leuchars based aircraft. This large starter set is scheduled for a June release and will further help to tell the story of this incredible aircraft.
Airfix competition winners revealed
As Airfix Workbench continues to be the most popular blog across the Hornby Hobbies websites, it will come as no surprise that we also enjoy fantastic support when running any Airfix related competitions, either within the blog itself, or on our social media sites. Over the Christmas holiday period, a number of competitions were held across all these channels and we are pleased to announce the lucky winners now, as all have now been contacted by e-mail and kindly provided their delivery addresses. The winner of our ‘An Airfix Wellington is not just for Christmas’ competition was Michelle Williams and the two winners of the RAF 100 books were Peter Hastings and Kat Comer. Your prizes will be winging their way to you shortly, although there may be a short delay as we have just relocated our entire office from Sandwich, back to our old Margate site – we will have details of this development in a future edition of Workbench. Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter the various competitions and congratulations to our winners.
Return of the ‘Big Hairy Bird’
The stunning artwork which accompanied the release of Martin B-26 Marauder A04015A
As this year marks the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings and the Allied operation to invade occupied Europe in 1944, there are a great many events planned to commemorate this significant event, in the UK, Europe and across America. With the media and printed publications certain to be giving the anniversary extensive coverage over the next few months, modellers will have no shortage of historic inspiration for their 2019 build projects, as the vehicles and aircraft which took part in the operation continue to be an enduring source of fascination. D-Day occupies a significant place in military history as it stands as the largest seaborne invasion ever attempted and was preceded by months of preparatory strikes by thousands of Allied aircraft. In the days leading up to D-Day, many of the aircraft taking part in air operations supporting the landings were painted with distinctive black and white identification markings, to help prevent Allied aircraft being inadvertently targeted by friendly units and instantly aiding recognition during the frenetic air engagements which were expected. These high profile markings are a significant feature when modelling aircraft from this dramatic period in history and will undoubtedly prove popular with modellers throughout the rest of 2019.
One classic kit which made a welcome return to the Airfix line-up during 2018 and presents the modeller with an example of an aircraft which featured heavily during air operations in advance of and immediately following the D-Day landings, is the Martin B-26 Marauder, one of the finest medium bombers of the war, but one which was to endure something of a troubled introduction. This particular kit may be familiar to some Workbench readers, many of whom will have enjoyed building it in the past, however this latest release is also accompanied by new scheme details and decals, along with spectacular new box artwork, which certainly helps to convey some of the drama of D-Day air operations. Illustrating the heavily contested airspace which was the domain of the heavily armed Marauder, this artwork will undoubtedly serve as inspiration for many a 2019 build project.
Profile artwork featuring the spectacular presentation of this hard working B-26 Marauder
The B-26 Marauder was a high speed medium bomber designed for the USAAF, which possessed such impressive published performance statistics that it was ordered straight off the drawing board and before any prototype aircraft had flown. A high wing monoplane, the B-26 was powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engines, which were the most powerful units available to the designers at that time and would endow the Marauder with great speed, compared to contemporary aircraft. The highly advanced nature of the design saw the introduction of many new technologies, however its relatively small wing gave the B-26 a high wing loading, which would prove difficult for novice pilots to master and resulted in a number of fatal training accidents. These proved so significant that the Marauder earned the unenviable nicknames of the ‘Widow Maker’ and ‘The Flying Coffin’ and almost brought about its premature withdrawal from service – indeed, there were reports that some crews refused to fly the aircraft. As it was, the adoption of some design modifications and alterations to the flight training programme radically altered the fortunes of the B-26 and transformed it into one of the most successful aircraft of the Second World War. Earning an excellent operational reputation, the Marauder would go on to post the lowest combat loss ratios of any USAAF bomber in WWII.
This authentic wartime photograph of “The Big Hairy Bird’ not only confirm the striking artwork applied to it, but also shows the distressed appearance of a post D-Day Allied bomber
USAAF operations during the Second World War continue to be a source of fascination to this day, due in part to the striking nose artwork carried by many of their aircraft and how these make for extremely interesting modelling projects. Without doubt, one of the most flamboyant schemes carried into combat by a USAAF aircraft during WWII was that applied to Martin B-26B-55 Marauder 42-96165 ‘The Big Hairy Bird’ and this magnificent scheme is one of the options included with the release of this fantastic kit. This particular aircraft was used extensively in operations supporting Operation Overlord and the D-Day landings and a number of authentic WWII images exist of this aircraft, showing it whilst engaged in these operations – fascinatingly, these pictures not only show its highly distinctive nose artwork, but also serve as invaluable reference for any modeller looking to reproduce a scale representation of an Allied aircraft from this period. Clearly taken in the weeks following the Normandy landings, the pictures show the distinctive black and white identification markings which are synonymous with this period of the war, but heavily weathered and illustrating just how active this bomber must have been during this period – they also provide a point of modelling discussion regarding the accurate representation of the markings on any D-Day period build project.
An exclusive selection of built sample images, showing the spectacular scheme applied to this USAAF 9th Air Force Marauder
Marauder 42-96165 6B-T ‘The Big Hairy Bird’ was originally assigned to the 599th Bombardment Squadron of the 397th Bombardment Group, operating in the European Theatre with the US 9th Air Force. It was stationed at RAF Rivenhall in Essex from April 1944, with the unit flying its first combat mission in theatre on 20th April – it would signal the beginning of an extremely active period for this medium bomber. The aircraft of this unit flew medium altitude strike operations against targets in preparation for the D-Day landings, attacking anything from rail yards to Axis defensive fortifications. They were particularly effective in support of actions known as the Battle of the Bulge, where they prevented the reinforcement of German units by destroying rail marshalling yards and bridges, creating choke points where Allied airpower could destroy a huge amount of enemy equipment. As the Allies continued to make significant gains in Europe, the Marauders of the 599th relocated from Rivenhall to Advanced Landing Grounds in France and Holland, where their effective bombing support continued to be in high demand, as Allied forces marched inexorably towards Berlin.
Already an attractive looking aircraft, the Marauder was also one of the most effective bombers of the Second World War and one which proved particularly successful during operations in support of D-Day. Wearing these extremely distinctive markings, ‘The Big Hairy Bird’ will probably be a difficult scheme option for modellers to refuse when tackling this kit, particularly when combined with the genuine WWII image we featured earlier – it may even encourage some to consider finishing their kit as an example of one of the hard working bombers which helped to ensure the success of the landings themselves. We are pleased to also include this exclusive series of attractive built model images featuring this scheme, which serve as something of a stark contrast to the rather wearier looking wartime picture of this magnificent aircraft in operation.
A model USAAF WWII scene – The ‘Big Hairy Bird’ being prepared for her next modelling assignment on the Airfix stand at last year’s Telford Scale Modelworld show
As many readers will undoubtedly be considering build projects featuring D-Day subject matter over the next few months, this magnificent Marauder may prove to be a popular choice and with the aid of the wartime picture featured above, proves that despite the flamboyant nature of these markings, this was no squadron show pony, but an extremely hard working instrument of war. Martin B-26 Marauder A04015A is available now, but as it has been available for a while and stocks are now running quite low, it might be a good time to consider adding this to the stash now, as it could be some time before we see this Airfix classic in the range again.
That’s all we have for you in this latest edition of Workbench, however, we will be back as usual in two weeks’ time with a further selection of Airfix modelling delights for your enjoyment. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for subjects you would like to see covered in a future edition of the blog, or ways in which we could enhance your enjoyment of Workbench, please do not hesitate in contacting us. We can be reached via our usual e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org or by contributing to our 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 is your preference, 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 sections, which are both quickly 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 often reveal new information and updated images in many of the product sections and this is always an enjoyable way in which to spend a few spare minutes.
The next edition of Workbench is due to be published on Friday 29th March, when we look forward to bringing you all the latest news, updates and exclusives from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling.
On behalf of the entire Workbench team, thank you for your continued support our Airfix blog.
The Airfix Workbench Team
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