The next kit off the line is one of the best I have made, at least I think so. It has taken a while to find one at a reasonably sensible price on the second hand market.
The Supermarine Scimitar replaced the Hawker Sea Hawk in 800NAS. Operating from HMS Eagle, the Scimitar joined the squadron in July 1959 and remained as the front-line fighter until February 1964. By the end of its short service career, its main role had changed from fighter to strike aircraft, its built-in four 30mm cannon backed up by an array of bombs, rockets and guided munitions such as the AGM-12 Bullpup missile. The aircraft was also cleared for tactical nuclear attack missions with the 15-kiloton Red Beard freefall bomb. The Scimitar was powered by two mighty Rolls-Royce Avon engines, each generating 11,250 lb thrust, but was still subsonic. As was said at the time, that’s an awful lot of effort in order to go not very fast. The Scimitar’s principal claim to fame (or infamy) was that it required over 1000 man-hours of maintenance for each flying hour. Just 76 Scimitars were built, of which 39 (51%) were lost in accidents. One accident, when an aircraft went off the deck of HMS Victorious after an arrester wire broke, resulted in the death of Commander John Russell RN, Commanding Officer of 803NAS. This was in front of the press, including a British Pathé news crew, and the film of the disaster and the attempts by a rescue helicopter to save Cdr. Russell is possibly one of the most harrowing things ever shown to the public. Modern ejection seat technology would have saved him.
The Scimitar’s replacement in 800NAS was the Blackburn Buccaneer S.1. This was a more capable aircraft in many ways, but a combination of its weight and the relatively underpowered Gyron Junior engines, plus the small size of British aircraft carriers and puny steam catapults, meant that you could take off either with a full fuel load or a full weapons load, but not both. So, some Scimitars were retained as ‘B’ Flight of 800NAS to operate in the ‘buddy’ refuelling role. The bombed-up Buccaneer would take off with tanks about a third full (at the most), then hook up to a Scimitar tanker to top off with JP-4 fuel before continuing on the mission.
So, this is an Xtrakit model of XD 321, an aircraft of 800B NAS. Xtrakit is a brand used by the model shop Hannants, but they got Sword to actually make it. It therefore has many of the issues and some of the benefits seen in previous sword kits. The artwork shows the very fine ‘foaming tankard’ tail art used by the Flight.
Inside the box are three plastic sprues, clear plastic two-piece canopy, a resin ejection seat and the decals for two aircraft, one from 800B NAS and the other from some other squadron, OK it is from 807NAS. The ejection seat seems to have come off its moulding base, as there should be another tiny part for the initiator handle at the top of the seat. The idea was that, in order to eject, you reach up over your head and grasp a big yellow and black handle. Pulling this down over your face initiates the ejection sequence, helps you assume a good back posture for the 20+g acceleration you are about to experience when your seat rockets fire, and also brings a protective screen in front of your face to protect you from air blast as you will likely be flying quite quickly.
These days there is a handle between your thighs at the front of the seat, much easier to reach in high-g turns. The visor of the helmet is weighted so it automatically shuts when you eject, protecting your face, and there are restrains that pull your legs, head and shoulders into a good position. If you have some time, take a look at how ejection seats work these days – it is a piece of engineering quite unlike any other – and a British company, Martin-Baker, is the world leader.
So, the initiator handle is missing. Not a problem for me but a kit collector would be pretty angry…
Still, it made me fashion the handle from a piece of 3mm brass wire. Seems OK once painted up. The instructions have the decency to tell you to weight down the nose (flattened air gun pellets in PVA glue), then the two halves go together – surprisingly well actually.
Next, the wings. Specifically, fixing them to the fuselage. The locating tabs on the fuselage seem to bear no resemblance whatever to the shape of hole between the two halves of the wings, so they won’t fit on. Time for another bit of bodging.
I sanded off the spurs, put some 1mm plastic dowel into the wing roots, marked off their locations on the fuselage and drilled some 1mm holes. The I could slide the wings on, already lined up and with some degree of sturdiness.
Sadly, this did leave some gaps – but a bit of trusty Miliput putty and we are good to go.
A quick spray of primer to check for any gaps (did a little bit of extra filling), then we can lay down the first coats of finish colour – Extra dark Sea Grey over white, what is often referred to as ‘Fleet Colours’.
Now, one thing is puzzling. This model is sold with the tanker version on the box. One decal option includes the tanker markings of 800B Flight, i.e. the foaming tankard. So, why (one wonders) was the kit sold with four underwing fuel tanks? I mean, how are you supposed to get fuel to other aircraft? It’s like your local petrol station having a tank load of fuel buried beneath the forecourt but no petrol pumps. Bah! So, I had to order a resin buddy refuelling pod from Freightdog. This sits on the starboard inner pylon. It has a little ram-air prop at the front to run a generator. From the rear of the pod would come the refuelling pipe for the receiver aircraft (well, Buccaneer, let’s face it) to hook onto. The hose reel and the fuel pump were run by the generator.
Anyway, with several passes of filling and filing the fuel tanks were done. Plenty of gloss varnish and the Scimitar looks pretty bloody good, if I say so myself. I have done a tiny bit of ‘distressing’ of the paintwork, a few chips out of roundels, a little bit of work with the panel lines, but not too much. After all, they didn’t actually fly that much so wouldn’t have suffered enormously from the elements. I’m really happy with it.
So, what next? Well, it will be a while as I’m pretty stacked up with real work at the moment. Perhaps I’ll find something at RNAS Yeovilton when Dad and I go to the Royal Navy Air Day in July…