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Heather Kay

Dreaming Spires - a Pavla Airspeed Oxford

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Before we know where we are, the Trainers GB is upon us. It seems a lot of us are keen to get started, and have spread their towels on the beach chairs, ready for the off in a week! Who am I to argue?


Scanning my 1940 stash I noted several trainer aircraft waiting their turn on the bench. There's a couple of Miles Masters, a De Havilland DH89a Tiger Moth, an Avro Tutor and, the subject of this build, an Airspeed Oxford. Quite whether I'll be able to tackle more than one remains to be seen. My last GB entry, the Airfix Classics one, turned out several builds, so you never know!




Like a lot of us with obsessions fair interest in various subjects, I scan the second hand kit web sites for likely models. For a long time, I had been after the Pavla Miles Master, and I was chuffed to notice their Oxford available from the same site. Into the basket they went and, in due course, they took up residence in the stash. The box had been somewhat squashed, but brief inspection showed the contents appeared to be more or less intact.




Everything was still in the sealed poly bag. The kit dates from the early 2000s, and being of the limited run variety, I expect a little effort will be required to assemble. I also expect to replace some of the delicate details, such as antennae and so on, with something more robust.




Various schemes are covered in the kit, but I would like to do this one. An air gunnery school example from 1940 fits my specific interest bubble nicely.




My final version selection may be decided by the decals. The kit ones are showing signs of cracking, so I think I will need to source something from the aftermarket bods. That may well have a bearing on the exact example I'm able to reproduce, so we'll see what research turns up.






Fairly standard stuff for limited run kits. It all looks fairly clean and well moulded. I am a little surprised by fine raised panel lines, but I'm not going to fret over those. In fact, on closer inspection, they are actually engraved lines. Trick of the light, and that's my excuse.




Some of the smaller details might need replacing. This weapon, for example, seems a bit vague. I'm sure a Lewis gun is a bit beefier than that.




No cabin details, but the instrument panel looks nicely busy. I don't plan on going overboard on the interior details. 




Vacuum-formed canopy and turret cupola. The latter show signs of being crushed, so that might need some thinking about. Perhaps it's time I learned how to plunge mould. :tmi: There appear to be resin parts for the undercarriage. I rather think they might be better rendered with brass rod and tube for strength and durability. Is that a resin tailwheel stirrup? Hmm. 


So, all in all, it looks like a relatively straightforward build. (Famous last words!) I'll do some rummaging about to dig up references, but I don't expect to be doing overly much upgrading beyond the bits already noted. Something that ends up looking like an Oxford at the end of the process will make me very happy indeed.





Edited by Heather Kay
Technical error.

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I think that there is enough in that box to keep you busy Heather. I look forward to watching this develop.

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I will be following along with this one if that’s ok Heather?


I love this series of aircraft. I have an RS Models Airspeed Envoy; I think the precursor the Envoy?  Your kit looks like quite different in terms of how the parts will go together..


I love the mid 1930’s style elegant design of these. Your kit looks great, a lot of really nice details. Resin and vac form in the box too!


If you need a replacement vac form canopy and/or dome, this may help;




Good luck with the build, I’m looking forward to it 😊👍


Best regards


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2 hours ago, TonyTiger66 said:

Good luck with the build, I’m looking forward to it 😊👍

Thanks Tony. So am I!


Thanks for the link. I’ll check that out. I tried to locate some aftermarket decals, but nothing turned up for the right period I’m after. I may have to try and rescue the sheet I have, and replace the main national markings from other sheets.

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What a lovely subject choice Heather. The Oxford was such a pleasant looking aircraft. Alas that's more than can be said for those decals :( Best of luck resurrecting them. The gun also looks a bit like the toy 'Tommy' gun my dad made for me out of some scrap wood when I was a kid :D 

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Before I started prepping and assembling things, I thought it might be worth actually doing some research into the Oxford. This goes against my usual attitude to builds which assumes the bits in the box are more or less correct!



This video turned up. It is very much of its time, particularly the voice narration. It does, however, include some useful closeup interior and exterior shots of Oxfords of both Mks I and II. The continuity is a bit of a hoot, too, with a right old mixture of camouflaged planes with yellow undersides, and aluminium doped aircraft, swapping randomly on the same training mission.


Right, back to digging up references. Then I’ll have a closer look at what’s in the box and see what it’ll build into.


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I’ve found some useful period photos on the interwebs, plus a walk around of a Belgian example in a museum. I’ve also read around on the development and service life of the Oxford, and what an interesting and versatile plane it was. Almost 8,500 of them were built during the Second World War, and they lasted in RAF service until 1954. Not quite as faithful as the Anson, but still, a fine record.


I am still fretting over decals. As mentioned at the top, the original kit ones are looking their age. Most of the National markings I can replace, but the aircraft specific ones might prove troublesome. I’ve looked around for alternative planes that I may be able to cobble together from stock decals, just in case the kit ones don’t work. More on that, no doubt, in due course.


The other thing that was bothering me was the turret. Now, there were two kinds of Oxford in the period I’m interested in: the MkI, with the Armstrong Whitworth turret and Lewis gun, and the MkII, which was without the turret. I’ve found a serial for a MkII, and the kit does provide alternative parts to build such a beast. That, then, is my standby if I’m unhappy with the turret.


So, what's wrong with the turret? Well, the vac-form transparencies had been crushed at some point.




You can just make out the apex of the turrets are a bit squished. However, the real thing was literally open to the skies right through the damaged area, so perhaps they can be used after all. What about inside?




This is what Pavla reckon goes on in the turret. I don’t think the designers had come across a real AW dorsal turret, and I felt there must be something better out there. More internet rummaging ensued. 


3460655563_d5d22a1b02_b.jpgArmstrong Whitworth AW38 Gun Turret by ruffleader, on Flickr


Here's a real one, albeit I believe from an RAF rescue launch. You can just make out a fair bit of framing going on inside, supporting the air gunner and his weapon. Further digging turned up some more useful images.


Meanwhile, a dim lightbulb had lit up in the back of mind. The same type of turret was fitted to the Avro Anson. I have the Special Hobby kit in the stash. I wonder what they did for the turret?




As it turns out, a darned sight more than Pavla attempted. It's polyurethane, though. Still, with the aid of photos and a drawing, I reckon I could do a @TheBaron and concoct something better from brass. Even if I make a horlicks of it, it’ll still be better than the original parts. 


That just left the weaponry. 




Never throw anything away. My Bits Box turned up a spare Lewis gun from an Airfix Blenheim kit. That’ll do nicely, and definitely makes a better fist of it than the crude spud gun from Pavla.


Now, I don’t want you to think I’m having a downer on Pavla. Far from it. I just think I can make a nicer model with some parts that actually look right. Anyway, enough research. Time to check out the instructions and perhaps even - *gasp!* - glue some parts together!


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Don't now if this is of any help with the Turret's Syndrome Heather?



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7 minutes ago, TheBaron said:

Don't now if this is of any help with the Turret's Syndrome Heather?

Turret's Syndrome! 🤣 I can’t beat that.


Seriously, handy info is always handy. Thank you.

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With a Mk.II kit in the stash to do one of the machines operated out of local bases along the Moray coast I'll looking to pick up plenty tips and information from your progress Heather :)

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2 hours ago, Col. said:

I'll looking to pick up plenty tips and information from your progress Heather :)

I had better watch my step, then! On with the styrene wrangling!




As is traditional, we start with the cockpit. Well, in this case, we start with the interior. I’m heading for a MkI, with the turret, which usually carried a crew of three. Although Oxfords were fitted with dual controls, air gunnery training school planes generally had the co-pilot seat and controls removed. When I say removed, the seat was actually folded up out of the way. Pavla provide three seats, and expect two of them to fill the flight deck. I have left one out, along with the requisite control column. I may yet decide to carve out the bump the seat sits on. Meanwhile, further back we find the navigator/wireless operator's seat - and not a lot else. I rather think I ought to give sparks something to look at, if not actually operate. I’m doing a little research into that. It doesn’t need to be extremely detailed, as it’s hidden inside the fuselage, but there ought to be something there, as the interior is effectively wide open until you hit the bulkhead to the rear of the turret. Shapes need to be visible if you peer through the front of the canopy, I think.


I left the instrument panel out for the time being. Like many limited run kits from the former Eastern Bloc countries, instructions tend to be a little vague in places. Add into that mix a lack of positive location marks, it can be a little tedious dry-fitting, sanding, fitting again and so on. I don’t think I’ve got the wireless op seat in quite the right location, perched on the wing spar bump as it is, but there you go.




With the big greenhouse up front, and the bomb aimer's panel under the nose, I really felt I ought to add something to the interior walls. I sketched out, with the aid of a cutaway of a MkII I discovered online, where the main frames went. The plane was mostly made of plywood fitted to the framework. I’ve probably added more than will ever be seen, but isn’t that what we do?




A while later, after some mild styrene strip abuse, the fuselage sides had some detail.




Finally, for this session, I propped the floor assembly in the fuselage half. One feature of the real plane, and visible in the video I linked to earlier, was a reinforced bulkhead affair at the back of the flight deck. This was designed to prevent the cockpit being crushed in the event of a novice pilot overturning the plane on landing or takeoff. Once I’ve attached the floor to one fuselage half, I will fit some styrene rod and bits and bobs to represent this reinforcing loop. Some of it may have to wait until the fuselage has been closed up. There’s also a matter of some structure under the flight deck that might be visible through the clear panel underneath the nose. Another thing I need to consider whether it’s worth the extra effort to create.


Right, time to go and see if I can knock something together that looks like WO and navigation station.

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I wanted to check the fit of the wings, and I thought it might be instructive to see some of the issues the limited run stuff throws up for the modeller.




Large and sometimes obtrusive feed gates need some little care when removing the parts from the trees. I opted to cut further away from the part, and then clean back carefully.




As well as thick feed gates, massive ejector pin marks seem to be de rigeur. Some can be ignored, but these in the wings will need to be carved and sanded away.




More lumpectomy required for the upper wing halves.




Apart from some careful filing around the fuselage, which had quite a lot of excess plastic - not flash - in the cabin windows, around the cockpit canopy area, and on the wing roots, the main lower wing part fits quite well. This area is often a problem, but Pavla have done well here. Praise where praise is due.


And there Flickr decided to throw its toys out of the pram. I’ll share the other image later. :penguin:


Right, where were we? Ah, yes.




The shape of things to come.




Finally, why I’m doing some extra work on the interior. You can see all the way through to the rear bulkhead. Even with transparencies in place, something will be visible.

Edited by Heather Kay

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