Workbench - behind the scenes at Airfix
Welcome to the very first edition of Airfix Workbench, an exciting new addition to the Airfix website where every month we will be taking you behind-the-scenes of the Airfix Product Development department, tracking the development of Airfix models often many months before they are released.
The idea behind this new blog is to give Airfix enthusiasts a dedicated area of the website, where we can keep you informed on product development and new project announcements. In essence, this will be the first stop for all things Airfix and will regularly showcase images and new development information that may be being made public for the very first time. As product development projects take many months, even years to come to fruition, you can expect to be hearing about models that are still some way from being on the shelves - no more waiting for the December range announcement to see what's arriving in 2016!
We will be looking to produce Workbench every month, but if there's something particularly exciting that drops into our lap then there'll be an extra 'stop press' issue. You'll also have the chance to discuss what you've seen on Workbench on a dedicated forum, in addition to suggesting topics for inclusion in future blogs.
So, how do you start the very first Airfix Workbench blog? There really can only be one answer to this question – by unveiling TWO brand new model releases, all new 1/72nd scale aviation model toolings, so without further ado let’s get on with it!
Two new Airfix aviation models in 1/72nd scale
There is no doubting that the most popular scale for model aviation kits is 1/72nd scale, as it allows the modeller to display, for example, a finished Tiger Moth next to an Avro Lancaster, clearly illustrating the relative size of both aircraft. With so many models already in the range to choose from we are rarely struggling for subject matter. One area where we could certainly benefit from more model choice is that of World War I aviation. As we are currently commemorating the centenary of the Great War, we hope the addition of two brand new WWI models in the 1/72nd scale aviation range will be welcomed.
New tooling No.1 – Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c
BE2c profile line drawings
We're excited to announce that the 1:72 Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c will be part of the new Airfix 2016 range, due for release in January. Designed by the government Royal Aircraft Factory, the BE.2c was predominantly a reconnaissance aircraft, at a time when the main focus of aviation activity was obtaining battlefield information.
The first edition of our new Aerodrome blog includes a robust history of the BE2c, including the destruction of airship SL.11 and the first Victoria Cross award for actions in the UK, so we will concentrate on the model's development from here.
A preserved example of the Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c
Any new model tooling project has a long and complex development period - to explain the process in detail would take several blogs! The first step is obviously to decide on a subject, obtain the relevant permissions and begin researching it – for argument's sake, let’s assume that the new model is an aircraft. The next stage is to gather detailed drawings and archive photography, then arrange a visit to a 'real' example (assuming that it still exists) to painstakingly measure and photograph, and possibly laser scan the aircraft.
The design work begins with the creation of a 3D CAD surface model of the aircraft in the desired scale. The parts are then designed from this surface model and the required surface details are added. The whole design process can take from 3 weeks for this BE2c, up to 10 months for the 1:24 Typhoon.
Technical rigging plan of the BE2c, used at the development stage
The Design is then prototyped to allow the team to check the accuracy of the design, and how the kit assembles. After several more internal hurdles, work can begin on designing and producing the model tooling itself.
Airfix research trip to Duxford airfield
Even after all of this development work has been completed, it will still be many months before the new model is available in the shops. Once the tool is ready to be tested, it will run a series of test shots. These are built by the designer to test for any required alterations or refinements, and the process is repeated. While tooling is underway, any artwork that may be required can begin to be designed, which includes production of the decals needed for the new model and the all important instruction sheet. The penultimate stage is to commission any box artwork for the model, before production samples are finally approved and the kit released for sale. All this work can take many months to complete and although we have made it sound quite a methodical process, there will inevitably be a multitude of challenges along the way.
Computer rendered 3D CAD image of the new Airfix BE2c aircraft model
The beautiful new BE2c will be an extremely welcome addition to the Airfix aviation range and as you can see from the CAD model image below, it is an extremely impressive piece of work. This image also shows the addition of the 10 wing spar mounted Le Prieur rockets, which were designed to be used in the battle against the Zeppelin balloon menace. The rockets proved to be rather ineffective against these silent night raiders, with the firing of them being much more visually impressive, than operationally effective.
A brand new detail, which also features in our second new release below, is the inclusion for the first time of digitally sculpted pilot figures, a technology never seen before in an Airfix kit.
Computer rendered 3D CAD BE2c model, featuring the strut mounted Le Prieur rockets
Decal options for the new BE2c
The new BE2c model is due to be released in January 2016 and will be supplied with decal options to complete one of two aircraft. They will be:
Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c, 2693, Lt. William Leefe Robinson, Suttons Farm Airfield
Essex 3rd September 1916
This is the aircraft that Robinson used when destroying German airship SL.11, over Cuffley on 3rd September 1916. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for this action.
Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c, 8407, Royal Naval Air Service, East Fortune Airfield, East Lothian December 1916
This aircraft was fitted with ten Le Prieur rockets, which were attached to the outer wing struts of the aeroplane.
Model sprue image for the new BE2c model in 1/72nd scale
Fokker E.II/E.III Eindecker
Computer rendered 3D CAD images of the BE2c and the Fokker Eindecker
The second new model announcement is just as appealing as the BE2c and could be described as its nemesis in the Western Front, the Fokker Eindecker. Most people would describe the Eindecker as the first purpose built fighter aircraft in the world and although it was by no means the perfect fighting machine, it was to have a huge impact on the air war over the Western Front.
Replica Fokker Eindecker at the historic Stow Maries aerodrome - image courtesy of Steve Kimpton
The Fokker Eindecker has to be regarded as one of the most significant aircraft in the history of aerial warfare. It was the first purpose built German fighter aircraft and was unusual in being a monoplane design, at a time when most aircraft designs were of biplane configuration. It also possessed a huge technological innovation, which gave the aircraft a massive strategic advantage – it was the first aircraft to be fitted with gun synchronization gear. This significant development allowed the machine guns of the Eindecker to fire through the arc of the propeller, without the fear of hitting the blades themselves. Significantly, this allowed the machine guns to be installed in the eye-line of the pilot and made attacking another aircraft much easier, with a much higher possibility of a securing a victory. This proved to be a huge advantage for Luftstreitfrafte pilots and led to a period of air superiority for the Germans, over the Western Front. In a period known as ‘The Fokker Scourge’, by Allied pilots, the Eindeckers enjoyed great success against their adversaries, who were so dismissive of the capabilities of their own aircraft, that they referred to them as nothing more than Fokker fodder!
Computer rendered 3D CAD image of the new Airfix Fokker Eindecker
Fokker E.II Eindecker, 69/15, Lt. Baron Kurt von Crailsheim, Feldflieger Abteilung 53, Monthois Airfield, France Late 1915
Again, this fantastic new 1/72nd scale kit is due to be released in January 2016. In addition, both of these models will be available to pre-order shortly - check back here for details. As the models near release and when we receive the latest artwork information, we will certainly share these details with you in a future edition of Workbench.
Well that's it for the first edition of Workbench. We'd love to know what you think of the new blog, and the new releases featured. Also, why not suggest what you'd like to see in future editions of Workbench? There's now a dedicated Workbench thread on the Airfix Forum, or drop us a line on Facebook or Twitter using #airfixworkbench.
Until next time, thanks for reading and happy modelling!
The Airfix Workbench Team
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