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Folland Gnat T.1 (A05123A) 1:48


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Folland Gnat T.1 (A05123A)

1:48 Airfix

 

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The Gnat was a developmental evolution of the earlier Midge that Folland had worked on without Government sponsorship as a small light-weight fighter of simple construction that would be easily made without massively specialised tooling. The Gnat kept to this ethos, and although it didn't find favour with the Ministry of Supply as a fighter, it did find a niche as a jet trainer. Elsewhere it was used as a fighter and trainer, but its most high-profile use that gave it a lasting place in the heart of many aviation enthusiasts was as the aircraft of choice for the Red Arrows until their replacement with Hawk T.1s in 1979.

 

As a trainer with the RAF it served from 1965, allowing pilots to get up to speed with fast jets before being streamed into their eventual speciality. At the end of 1978 the drawdown of Gnat airframes reached critical mass, with the unwanted aircraft being sold on to other operators, private or otherwise. India built single seat F.1 Gnats under license as the HAL Ajeet, as well as the more familiar two-seat trainers, although they were quite different to those used by the RAF.

 

There are still plenty of Gnats on display, and three are often seen in the skies at UK airshows, which is a lovely sight, especially as one flies in the Yellow Jacks, another as a Red Arrow, and the third in trainer red/white/grey.

 

The Kit

1:48 modellers had been waiting for years for a mainstream model of the Gnat, and with the exception of the beloved Aeroclub multimedia kit that I've had the pleasure of building, we were a bit left behind. When Airfix announced the 1:48 kit was announced everyone was pretty happy, with a few more boxings being released over time.  Inside the small top-opening red box are three grey sprues, a clear sprue, a set of crisp decals, and one of Airfix's new style instruction booklets, which has spot colour and greyscale throughout.  It's a lovely looking aircraft, and Airfix have done some very nice work in replicating its lines, with modern moulding techniques, fine panel lines, and detail that is thoroughly modern.

 

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Construction begins with the cockpit, which has a wheel bay hump added through a small hole in the rear floor, complete with some interior ribbing. The cockpit floor includes the side consoles with throttle quadrants and other instrument detail moulded in, plus some raised floor panels. The rudders are separate parts, as are the front and rear bulkheads, after which the instrument panels can be added to their slots in the floor along with the control columns front & rear. The detail of the instrument panels are depicted as 3D raised line drawings, and have no bezel or panel details that would be seen on the real thing, so are a little archaic compared to the rest of the detail. There are decals to fill the instrument faces, but as these areas are on full display under a large clear canopy, they could have been better. Speaking of the canopy, you get a two-part open, and single closed canopy to use, and the clarity is superb, with minimal distortion. I will be using the Eduard Zoom! to pretty up my instrument panels, as I like the extra realism without too much effort on my part. The ejection seats are multi-part, made from eight parts each, with a duplicate seat cushion with no seatbelts moulded in for use when you install the supplied three-part pilot. These are Folland's own lightweight 4GT/1 ejection seats, which have a prominent frame that extends up behind the head-box. The pilot's seat is added to a bulkhead before being installed in the cockpit, while the instructor's seat slots straight onto the rails moulded into the rear bulkhead.

 

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The fuselage's clean lines are spoiled on the sprues by the lack of intake trunking from its lip to the trailing edge of the wing. This is a wise move however, leading to easier joints to clean up, and easy accommodation of the full-depth intake trunking that's included with the kit. These curve around to pass the main gear bays, which also have some nice detail moulded in that is probably sufficient for most modellers, as it seen through only a small opening after completion. The cockpit is installed in the starboard fuselage half, as is the two-piece exhaust, which has detail moulded in, and an engine rear to cap the inner end. The front of the engine is slotted into the intake trunking end, a small nose electronics bay is added, and the fuselage can be closed up. The instructor's coaming can be added at this stage to cover the void between their compartments, to which the clear blast screen is added toward the end of the build. Later in the build the upper portion of the nose is added, and if you elect to leave this bay open, a small equipment cluster is added to the inside of the panel, the nose light is attached to the front, and a tiny blade antenna is added to a recess on the exterior. Sealing the bay omits the extra part, and requires you to remove the hinges from the panel that hold it in the correct position when posed open.

 

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The wings are full-span on the upper part, and have separate flaps and ailerons, with two-part lower wings. If you are installing the slipper tanks, you'll need to drill the flashed over holes in the lower wing, and once joined the wing is laid on the top of the fuselage, completing the spine that merges into the root of the vertical fin of the tail. If you look closely at the spine you will see a fractional mis-match between the panel lines running from each wing, but as it is so small (infinitesimal, actually), it will probably disappear under paint, or you could knock it back with a scriber. With careful fitting, a clean seam should be relatively easy to achieve, and the flying surfaces can be added now, or left off until later if you are offsetting them. Each surface is thin, so made from one part each, so just clean the mould lines, and you're done. The starboard side of the fin is a separate part, and attaching it captures the rudder between the hinge points, so it can be left loose or posed to one side or the other. The elevators fix using the usual tab & slot method, and should be at 90o to the fin. Their flying surfaces are moulded in, so some cutting will be needed if you want to move them. The commonly used slipper tanks that are suspended beneath the wings are made of three parts, with an insert that covers the cylindrical bottom section where the access panels are, and the nose cone slotting onto the end. Some slide-moulding has been done here, and fettling with plenty of test-fitting will be the order of the day to improve the fit and avoid using filler.

 

The landing gear can be posed down or retracted for flight, with separate parts for each eventuality to make the modeller's life easier. The in-flight nose gear cover has a fin on the inside surface to prevent it from dropping back into the bay, which is very sensible. If you are using the landing gear, the legs are all single parts, and just need some lead wire to depict the hosing, although little will be seen of it once complete. The wheels are nicely done, with the two main wheels having separate outer hubs and a small hint of sag to the tyres under the weight of the airframe, but nothing excessive. The twin nose-wheels are one part each, and echo the slight sag of the mains. All the bay doors are provided with large attachment points, which should give a strong joint, and the main bay doors have rib detail too. A scrap diagram shows the correct angles from the rear, and another shows the location of the main bay door "spat".

 

Clear parts are provided for the wingtip lights, the prominent nose-mounted landing-light, and of course the canopy, which as mentioned earlier is supplied as a single closed part, and a two-part open option, which is held open with a pair of hinge tabs at the rear, where it meets the fuselage spine. The large pitot probe and a few small blade aerials are the final tasks with the build, and these are shown from the front to aid correct positioning.

 

Markings

Three sets of markings are supplied with the kit, and from the box you can build one of the following:

 

  • Central Flying School RAF Little Rissington, Gloucestershire, England, 1961
  • ‘Yellowjacks’ Aerobatic Team, No.4 Flying Training School, RAF Valley, Anglesey, Wales, 1964
  • No.4 Flying Training School, RAF Valley, Anglesey, Wales, 1968

 

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As well as the decals for the instrument panels, there are numerous stencils provided for the fuselage, and decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas.  The third option is printed separately on gloss paper in full colour, implying they either added it later, or omitted it from the instructions for some reason.

 

Conclusion

If you're in the market for a really nice Gnat in 1:48, you now have a choice of easily available, mainstream boxings that ticks all the boxes.

 

Very highly recommended.

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