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Vampire T.11 Trainer in RAF Service (48-A007) 1:48


Mike

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Vampire T.11 Trainer in RAF Service (48-A007)

1:48 Pilot Replicas

 

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The De Havilland DH.100 Vampire was built to fulfil a wartime requirement for a small, lightweight jet fighter for the Royal Air Force, but although the prototype aircraft flew almost two years before the end of the War, the production aircraft arrived too late to see service in the conflict.  Despite this, well over 3,000 examples were produced overall, and the aircraft enjoyed a relatively long service life by the standards of the day.  Powered by a single De Havilland Goblin turbojet that was regularly upgraded, the diminutive and low-slung Vampire was capable of almost 550mph and had a service ceiling of over 40,000 ft.  In common with many other fighters of the day, it was armed with four 20mm cannon, as reliable missiles weren’t yet in production.  The two-seat T.11 trainer was a private venture that was equipped with an improved Goblin 35 power-plant, and while it wasn’t initially built at request of the Ministry, over 500 airframes were produced, seeing extensive use with the RAF as a conversion trainer to assist pilots transitioning from prop to jet engine aircraft at this pivotal point in aviation history.  It continued in service into the 60s, after which it was replaced in RAF service, although some airframes continued in foreign hands, the remainder going into private hands or to reside in museums around the world.

 

 

The Kit

Many modellers, particularly those of British or Anglophile aviation enthusiasts have been waiting for a newly tooled Vampire T.11 for a while, and on its announcement by Pilot Replicas, there was a great deal of happiness evident, particularly on our forums.  Once photos of the early renders, and then photos of a test build began surfacing, there were concerns voiced on the accuracy of the model, but you must bear in mind that these have been from aviation enthusiasts, some of whom have exceptionally rigorous standards compared to most modellers.  We will look at the issues raised after the main portion of the review for those that would like to know, and they can decide how they feel about those raised, and whether they would deal with them, or ignore them and build it anyway.  It’s all a matter of perspective after all.

 

The kit arrives in one of Pilot-Replicas’ shiny top-opening boxes with captive lid, with a painting of a Vampire on the runway, and the three decal option profiles on the side.  Inside are five sprues of grey styrene, a clear sprue, a small Photo-Etch (PE) fret, two decal sheets, instruction booklet printed in colour, a separate painting and decaling guide in high-gloss coated paper, and an A5 sheet that gives extra information for decaling of the lower wings, and a clarification of the use case for the ejection seat pull handle between the pilot’s knees.  Apparently, these were not fitted in-service and were a later adaptation, the pilots using the loop above their heads whilst in RAF service.  Pilot Replicas have a reputation for finely crafted models, and this one is no exception, with plenty of detail moulded-in, and more to be had if you opt for the additional sets that Pilot Replicas themselves have designed and produced.

 

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Construction begins with the cockpit, where the pilots sit side-by-side in what is a very cramped space that wasn’t really intended to seat two.  The floor has a hump where the nose gear bay intrudes, and the rear bulkhead has a pair of frames located on holes in the floor and rear, fixing a double rudder pedal box into the front of the cockpit.  There are two ejector-pin marks in the centre pedals, but whether they will be seen is debatable, especially as the cockpit is so cramped and will be painted all black, so only fix them if you feel the urge.  The instrument panel is a wide cruciform shape that receives a pair of gunsights, one per side, and as the completed panel is lowered into position in the floor, a lever and two control columns are also fitted, with plenty of detail painting throughout the process, with help provided in each step.  This extends to the detail that is moulded into the inner sides of the fuselage pod, the aft deck behind the cockpit, and the coaming that is installed over the instrument panel during closing of the fuselage.  The exhaust is made in anticipation of closing the fuselage, fitting a representation of the rear of the engine to the forward end of the tubular trunk, and this assembly is painted with various burned metallic shades.  A PE trim wheel is fixed to one of the side walls, and the cockpit assembly is installed in the front of the two fuselage halves, fitting the exhaust assembly to the rear, and using at least 10g of weight into the nose to prevent a tail-sitter.  The afore mentioned coaming and aft deck are added once the glue is dry, leaving the pod to one side after dealing with the seams while the wings are built.

 

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There are twin whip antennae on the outer wing panels, which require a pair of flashed-over holes to be opened from within the upper wing, so take care to carry this task out before gluing the wing halves together.  Each wing is made from top and bottom halves, the lower wing having the main gear wells moulded-in, while the bay roof detail is moulded into the underside of the upper wing.  The jet intakes are separate inserts at the wing root, with a cleverly moulded length of intake trunking moulded as three parts that minimise seamlines, built and painted aluminium before it is installed behind the intake.  The wingtip lights are supplied as clear parts that fit into a notch in the leading edge with a bulb moulded-into the wing, which should be painted red or green, depending on which wing it is.  The same process is completed for the other wing, and the two tail booms are made from two halves each, adding the elevator panel with separate flying surface between them as you plug them into the rear of the wings that have already been fitted to the fuselage, the fairings for which are moulded into their trailing edges.  Each boom also has a short, rounded winglet stub on the outer end, fitting with the same slot-and-tab method as the main surfaces.

 

The nose gear bay is moulded as a single part that is glued into an insert under the nose, which also has the two cannon trunks installed either side, giving the aircraft a centrally mounted quartet of 20mm cannons for concentrated firepower.  The insert can then be offered up to the cut-out and glued carefully to reduce clean-up once the glue has cured.  The nose gear leg is moulded as two halves that trap the two-part wheel between the yoke, adding a small triangular part to the front.  This is plugged vertically into the bay, adding the front gear bay door and actuator forward, and a side-opening door with moulded-in lightening holes to the rear, locating on a pair of guides on the side of the bay.  The main gear bay has an H-shaped actuator and the outer bay door fitted, adding the chunky strut with separate oleo-scissor links, a retractor jack to the side, and a captive bay door on the inner side.  The two-part wheels have weighting moulded into the bottom of the tyres, and the instructions show that they should be 79mm apart when fitted, as shown in a scrap diagram nearby.  A clear lens is inserted under the port wing while the model is inverted, painting the interior silver before installation.

 

Some T.11s were fitted with ejection seats, while others were not, and Pilot Replicas have included both for your ease.  The ejection seats are made from two halves plus an L-shaped seat-pad, an ejection handle in the headbox, and the optional later handle between the pilot’s knees to depict a post-service airframe should you wish.  The simple “tin” seats are supplied with PE four-point belts, while the ejection seats have the belts moulded into the cushion parts.  Your choice of seats can then be installed in the cockpit depending on which decal option you have chosen, folding up a PE open-topped box to fix to the aft deck before the canopy is installed.  The windscreen is glued to the front of the cockpit, adding a PE wiper to the bottom edge, and gluing the rear section over the aft deck.  The central opener can be fitted closed, or it can be posed hinged up for the crew to exit, gluing it to the interlocking hinge portion that is moulded into the relevant canopy frames.  A scrap diagram shows the correct angle for the open canopy, which sees the lower frame of the opener vertical to the ground.  The final tasks involve mounting a pair of mass-balances under the elevator panel, and fitting the twin aerials to each wingtip, using the holes drilled earlier in the upper wings.

 

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The thread for this kit in our Rumourmonger area has been active with Vampire aficionados noting some issues with the kit based upon photos and renders that have been seen before the kit was released, and you can decide for yourself whether they bother you.  To assist our readers with making their own decision, we undertook a tape-up exercise to establish the shape of an actual production model, using a 50mm lens that resembles the equipment fitted to the human eyeball quite closely, so that distortion is minimised.

 

  • The thickness of the wing leading edge - or rather its bluntness has been called into question, and while our photo has a tiny gap between the wing halves, it could be argued that this is true.  To remedy this, sanding the leading edges to a more prototypical shape could be done with little effort, although repairing the damage to the riveted surface would be required. 
  • Lower Windscreen Frame – Members cited the apparently square bottom frame with no curve visible on photos.  Looking carefully at the windscreen part, there is a curve moulded into the lower rail that is perhaps not as pronounced as it could be, but is there, but might be lost if the modeller is too liberal with filler.
  • Nose Shape – It is said to be not bulbous enough, which could be partly to do with the ‘missing’ windscreen curve on the test build, although it could well be off to an extent.
  • Aft Wing Root Fairing – this is incorrect, as there is a slight change of angle between the wing and the fairing on the real aircraft.  This means that the fairing is too long, ending too close to the exhaust.  This could be rectified by careful cutting and sanding of the fairing to reduce its length and change the angle subtly.  It may be wise of pack the interior of this area with non-solvent filler (epoxy putty for example) before attempting this in case you go through the styrene here.
  • Wingtips – These are a little too curved, and should be sanded to a more accurate profile from above, blending the tip to create the correct shape.

 

There are bound to be other minor issues here and there, but no kit is perfect, and neither is any modeller.  Whether the issues mentioned bother you, or you feel you can either live with them or fix them yourself is your decision.  We do regularly ignore canopies that are over 48mm thick if they were moulded in-scale, and many other aspects of our hobby too, but where to draw the line?

 

We ask that the members that wish to discuss this kit continue to use the Rumourmonger thread, quoting photos or text there, rather than muddle this review thread.  That way, anyone interested in investigating further can do so without subjecting everyone to their ruminations.

 

 

Markings

There are three decal options included on the extensive sheets, and all three choices have a base of aluminium (not bare metal) for the metal areas of the airframe, and silver dope for the wooden forward section of the fuselage pod.  All but one have bright trainer yellow or dayglo red striping at points over the airframe, and large codes under the wings and on the fuselage.  From the box you can build one of the following:

 

  • WZ589 56 Sqn., RAF Waterbeach, 1955-58
  • XD429 RAF College, Cranwell, 1957-59
  • XD588 141 Sqn., RAF Coltishall, 1955-56

 

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Decals are printed anonymously, but are of high quality, with good registration, sharpness and colour density, plus a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas.  The additional sheet provides alternate underwing serials for all the decal options, pre-cut around the main gear bay doors to simplify installation.  They appear (under magnification) to be of a slightly lower resolution to the main sheet however, so it might be preferable to persevere with the main sheet decals and cut them yourself after they have dried.

 

 

Conclusion

There are caveats with every model, and because of the interest in the Vampire Trainer amongst our members, it has been examined with a fine-toothed comb.  Putting those issues aside for a moment, the detail, ease of build and having three interesting decal options appeals, and it should sell well to those that aren’t put off.

 

Recommended after reading this review.

 

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Review sample courtesy of

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I think my general knowledge of aircraft is a blessing in that I know a very little bit about a lot of aircraft (primarily WWII & Vietnam), but am nowhere near an expert on any one plane.  It may be may addictive nature, but when I see a new kit of an aircraft I like and don't have, my typical reaction is "Pretty, Pretty" and how can I get the box it will come in past SWMBO's disapproving glare.  I'm kinda satisfied with a 90% there type representation and more concerned with how easy it is to build and where are the construction steps I need to look out for.  On the other side, I am continually amazed at the detailed knowledge members of this forum have concerning individual types of aircraft and versions of the same, along with the correct various shades of color that would be appropriate.  I guess my haphazard point to this ramble is your reviews are really set up to help people like me determine how well a kit will go together.  That is really nice.  When it comes to building the kit (something I really have to work on), the detailed information that is available online on this site allows me to determine if I have the skill, time or inclination to bring up a kit to a really high standard of representation.  It really is the best of both worlds and I thank all who participate on this site to make my life easier and much more fulfilling.  Thanks.

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Very helpful review. The pictures of the raw taped llastic, especially, reveal that the kit will offer a very happy outcome with just a little effort, thanks to a good fit of parts. The etch seat straps, markings and decal instruments also seem to offer an out-of-the-box experience, albeit with some internal filling and use of sanding and polishing sticks. 

 

Thanks again, 

 

Tony

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It looks great, and a much needed type for my shelf of 50s jets. Certainly accurate enough for my standards. 

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