That dream project – the journey begins…

How an Airfix 1:24 Harrier GR.3 will become a two-seat trainer – hopefully!

Over the years I dabbled with the idea, but work and many other projects got in the way and though I have completed a number of Harrier builds for work with both Military In Scale and Tamiya Magazine, none has been of my beloved trainer

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I remember it well. It was around 1985/86 (I forget the actual date) that I made a trip to the IPMS UK Nationals at the Royal Show Ground, Stoneleigh. This was a trip that I had made many times, but this year was memorably different. I was around 15 at the time, so was always keen to see the wonderful models and perhaps learn a few things (hell, even buy a few things with what limited money I had…); what I learned was that there was a model on display that would have a profound effect on me for the next thirty years, an itch that I wouldn’t be able to scratch, a build that one day I would have to complete.

That model was David Haggas’ 1:24 Hawker Harrier trainer.

David, was at the time around 15, or so I believe (I was too shy to talk to him, so never found out). I’d never seen any of his models before, so when he rocked up to Stoneleigh with his Harrier and — quite rightly — won the Junior Best In Show Trophy, I was more than impressed. Actually, I was deeply jealous! Here was someone of my age who had built a model that I could only dream of completing and that sent shockwaves though my psyche. But more than that, what really hit home was the way that the model looked on the table, all elegance and poise. I had to build one.

Over the years I’ve dabbled with the idea, but work and many other projects got in the way and though I have completed a number of Harrier builds for work with both Military In Scale and Tamiya Magazine, none has been of my beloved trainer. So, this year, on a whim, I bought the large Airfix Harrier with the intention of building a GR.3. And then that itch returned. What about a trainer? What about converting it into a T.4? Could I finally build a model that I’ve wanted to do for the last 30 years..?

Well, having started it, we are about to find out!

Having bought the Harrier, I’ve recently started to work on the changes to the airframe (or more specifically, the nose) details of which you can see here. But first, I had to collate some references and as many pictures of the real thing as I could. The books were not a problem, but the real thing kinda was. Though I had a lot of external images, those for the interior were slightly more problematic. By chance I came across a picture of a nose section at a museum in Gloucester (The Jet Age Museum – http://www.jetagemuseum.org/) so combined a trip to the Cotswolds with a quick detour to the museum and though massively incomplete — to put it mildly! — an hour taking pictures of the interior of the nose, at least gave me an idea of the structural changes needed, if nothing else.

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With those under my belt, my good friend Andy King, posted on his Facebook page that he was in Caernarfon at the Airworld Museum (http://www.airworldmuseum.com/), home to an almost complete T.4. This aircraft is actually something a hybrid, with being a T.4 with T.2 nose and Sea Harrier cockpit instruments, but it is still perfect for my needs and so I am extremely grateful to Andy  for allowing me access to the 130 images he took of it on the day. Though I now have the pictures, I almost feel like I have too much information, but it’s better to have too much, than too little!

Over the coming months I’ll chart the build on here. So far I’ve begun work by extending the nose, adding the 47” plug into the nose using plasticard, beam, strip and so far, copious amounts of filler, superglue and primer. It’s still nowhere near perfect, but it’s getting there. I’ll probably spend the next few weeks perfectly the finish and then creating the internal bulkheads and floor sections ready for detailing. Though it was tempting to use the kit tubs, the side consoles are the wrong shape, so these will need to be rebuilt: better to start again than try and correct those parts…

So this is as far as I’ve got. The images are fairly self-explanatory and though there’s little to see in terms of fine detail, you get an idea of the work that’s ahead of me. I’ve given myself a deadline of this year’s Nationals which might be almost 30 years to the day since I first saw David’s wonderful model – it just seems to be fitting somehow to debut mine at the same show as he did, all those years ago…

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