After the dodgy entry into jet aviation in the Fleet Air Arm that was the Supermarine Attacker, the next aircraft to equip 800NAS was the beautiful Hawker Sea Hawk.
Sir Sydney Camm was a genius. His designs for Hawkers at Kingston-upon-Thames (the town in which I was at school) broke the rules at every turn, yet became legends. His first design (one year after joining the company) was the Hawker Tomtit, a remarkable biplane that weighed just 373lb empty (165kg), that’s not much more than two of me. Scary to think that a capable flying machine might have its gross weight increased by 50% just by my getting into the cockpit…
He then went on to design some absolute beauties – for example the Hawker Hart (a light bomber that was faster than most fighters of the day), the legendary Hawker Hurricane, the Typhoon and Tempest and the ultimate piston-engined fighter, the Hawker Sea Fury. After the war he designed many fine jet aircraft, not least of which were the Hunter (the prettiest aircraft of all time in my eyes) and the Hawker Siddeley Kestrel, which later became the world-beating Harrier jump jet. The first big jet project he got across the line and into FAA squadron service was the Hawker Sea Hawk.
Having already done the ancient Airfix kit, I wanted to look further afield and plumped for the Hobby Boss model. I have to say, this was (in the main) a good choice.
The kit comes with four sprues plus one for the canopy (in two parts, so an open cockpit is easy), plus two decal sheets. The yellow and black panels are for aircraft used during the Suez crisis of late 1956 in which 800NAS took part flying from HMS Albion – but more of that later. The whole front fuselage and wing comes halved, so no wing joints to worry about. The cockpit comes as a tub with instrument panel, stick and ejection seat as extra bits.
This means one can assemble and paint these while other things are getting assembled, such as the very good inlets and exhausts for the engine and the superb main gear bay.
The pieces are very well moulded, very precise and clean. I didn’t have to clean any flash from anywhere and most parts fit together precisely. The holes for mounting the fuel tanks and rockets need to be drilled through – but this means that if you want to do a ‘clean’ aircraft you don’t have to do any extra filling.
Where I will quibble is that the rockets have the main body and the rear body moulded separately. They are not easy to glue together, and I can’t really see why the couldn’t be done as one piece. But then I’m not a plastics engineer so there is likely a good reason for this.
On to paint, and it is the standard extra dark sea grey over sky type B. Now, for those Suez stripes. The decal sheet is numbered, but the instructions don’t say which of the two panels that form the stripes around the rear fuselage is which – one goes on top and one underneath. So i guessed that one was the top one, put it on and discovered it wasn’t. In trying to get it off and onto the underside, it tore in several places. Bugger. So, I decided to paint them instead.
This was quite the process. First, masking off the areas for the stripes and covering all the rest. Then spraying a coat of white, then two coats of yellow. Yellow paint is terrible at covering other, darker colours. I have found this for years and years, even when I was doing Napoleonic figurines. These days it is things like propeller tips, you need to do white first, then yellow. So, once that has dried and has been varnished, more masking tape for the black stripes which get painted over the yellow. Again, generally two coats.
But, I will say that after all that faff, they look pretty bloody good and probably better than the decals would have done. That’s what I tell myself, anyway. So a last few things like the remainder of the decals (in fact, very good they are), a few pinched from other sheets to make an 800NAS aircraft, attaching aerials and the open canopy and voila! A nice example of a very, very beautiful aeroplane.
Then the final kicker – it is too tail-heavy. No mention of this in the instructions – people must do free-standing ones so Hobby Boss must know of this. To add a counter weight I chopped up some lead airgun pellets and added them to the nose undercarriage bay. Not enough. So then I started pushing them through the engine inlets and letting them fall into the nose. Eventually I had enough and the Sea Hawk sits nobly on all three wheels.
The next kit has already arrived. Try to imagine the polar opposite of the Sea Hawk in terms of elegance and utility.