by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
I really couldnít resist Airfixís new Folland Gnat when I spotted it in my LHS recently - for a guy like me who grew up in the in the UK during the Ď60s, it really ticks all the nostalgia boxes: itís the Red Arrows in their ďproperĒ mounts, itís British - and itís a new-tool Airfix kit!
Airfixís new Gnat arrives in a bright and attractive conventional box, with nice artwork of a trio of Red Arrows flying in tight formation inverted on the front, while the sides carry useful illustrated generic building and painting tips. The bottom of the box is devoted to the Airfix Club, which does look worth joining for discounts and exclusive offers.
The kit itself comes with all three main sprues bagged together, and the clear parts further sealed in their own bag for protection. My kit arrived in perfect condition, with no loose or missing parts.
The Gnat comprises:
89 x grey styrene parts
7 x clear styrene parts
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
First impressions are overwhelmingly positive. For me itís a huge relief that the kit IS NOT moulded in red styrene. Grey is much easier to work with, so well done Airfix for avoid the obvious.
The parts are very neatly moulded for the most part, with just a whisper of flash here and there and a couple of small surface blemishes that will be easy to sand away. More important for me is the very smooth exterior finish - very refreshing when we see so many CAD produced kits these days with a textured surface that will need polishing.
The panel lines are engraved - a tad heavily for my taste, but many folks will love them. Ejector pins have been kept largely out of sight, and most of those that havenít look quite light, so they shouldnít be too much of a problem to remove.
Test fitThe breakdown of the basic airframe is a little unusual, but rather clever - and thanks to good design and moulding, works very well. The fuselage halves clip together neatly, but have large sections left open for the separate intake trunking running down the sides. These have bevelled edges and fit neatly, immediately giving the fuselage extra rigidity.
The wing has a full-span upper section with individual lower panels. Again, the joints to the fuselage bevelled and, once again, itís a precise fit. The stabilisers are one-piece, with impressively thin trailing edges. The fin has a drop-in panel on the starboard side, but the rudder is moulded integrally with the main section, again ensuring a sharp trailing edge.
A few detailsThe cockpit is built up from 25 parts and should look suitably busy straight from the box. Each ejector seat comprises 7 parts, and a nice touch is that alternative cushions are provided, with- and without a moulded on harness. This is to allow for the neatly moulded 3-part pilot figure thatís provided - but, of course, it will also save trimming off the moulded belts if you wish to add an aftermarket harness.
The cockpit tub and instrument panels are quite well detailed, and the raised bezels for the panels should work well if you dry-brush them. Nicely printed decal instruments are also provided, but the bezels are quite heavily moulded, so they may have trouble snuggling down. Iíll probably drill out the bezels to apply the decal faces individually and glaze them with drops of varnish.
The separate side panels on the fuselage have allowed Airfix to include quite ingenious intake trunking that leads back to a well moulded fan that, along with the jet pipe, prevents a see-through empty look to the fuselage.
The kit can be built with an open nose avionics bay. This is an impressively detailed on-piece moulding - but there are a couple of prominent ejector pins to deal with. Itís a shame, because they are really the only awkward ones in the kit, and they are just where youíll spot them if you donít sort them out.
The wheel wells are quite simple, but the undercarriage legs are very nicely moulded. The wheels are slightly weighted and have decent hub detail, but the mainwheels in my kit have the only moulding flaw Iíve found - a slightly ďwrinkledĒ appearance on the outer faces. It should be quite easy to fix, but itís odd in a kit thatís otherwise so impressively moulded.
Optional external wing tanks are provided, and the method for attaching the smoke generator pipes under the fuselage is really quite ingenious; to keep them symmetrical, the instructions suggest installing them with a moulded-on support ďcradleĒ, which you trim away once they are firmly attached.
The transparencies are beautifully clear, with a choice of open and closed canopies, an interior windscreen for the rear cockpit, and a nose lamp cover.
Instructions and decalsThe construction guide is printed as a 12-page A4 booklet, with shaded drawings that are clear and easy to follow. Assembly is broken down into 37 straightforward stages that should be simple for modellers of all abilities and experience to handle.
Really, the only thing I donít like is the way Airfix have handled the painting suggestions. Numbers for Humbrol paints are keyed to most details (thatís fine - most manufacturers list their own paints where appropriate), but the problem is that thereís no list of the paints included that actually names the colours. The side of the box only lists the numbers again. Itís obviously not the end of the world - but it is somewhat tedious.
Decals are provided for a pair of Red Arrows Gnats:
A: s/n XS107 in 1977
B: s/n XR977 in 1979
The decals are very nicely printed in perfect register in my kit. The finish is semi-matt - slightly surprising for a gloss-painted aircraft, but most modellers will want to seal them under a top coat anyway. The colours look good, but the opacity of the white will be the acid test over the red paintwork. The white and blue parts of the fin flashes are provided as decals, so all you have to do is paint the red along with the rest of the airframe. The Union flags are printed in situ - fine if you want to use the decal flashes, but many modellers will prefer to paint them. You can always trim out the flags, but it's a shame separate ones weren't also included.
ConclusionI'm really impressed with Airfix's new Gnat T.1. It's a lovely little kit of a classic aircraft, and priced at a shade under £17 is excellent value for money and should do deservedly very well.
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