Excellent levels of detail and accuracy typify Airfix’ recent releases, especially those within their 1:48 collection. As you’ll read in this update, their new Blenheim is certainly no different…
Arguably one of the most significant aircraft of the Inter-War years, the Bristol Blenheim can trace its lineage back to a privately funded venture and a determination to place Britain at the head of the aviation world. Frustrated by a succession of aviation records achieved by overseas manufacturers, Lord Rothermere, owner of the Daily Mail Newspaper and keen observer of the aviation scene, invited Britain’s leading aircraft manufacturers to do something about the situation. Resolved to capture the civilian aircraft world speed record for Britain, he offered to fund the development of an aircraft capable of achieving this feat, which eventually resulted in the Bristol Type 142 taking to the air. This sleek, twin engined design was both beautiful to look at and extremely fast in the air, easily managing to capture a new world speed record for a civilian passenger aircraft. Setting a new mark of 307 mph, the new Bristol design gave Lord Rothermere what he had been desperately hoping for and he christened the spectacular new aircraft ‘Britain First’.
In widespread service with the Royal Air Force at the start of WWII, the Bristol Blenheim and its brave crews would be asked to shoulder a heavy burden in the months that followed, with a Blenheim mounting Britain’s first sortie of the war just 63 minutes after war was declared against Germany. Living up to the name ‘Britain First’ Lord Rothermere bestowed on his spectacular Bristol Type 142 civilian transport and inspiration for the Blenheim, these aircraft went into combat determined to show Britain’s defiance and determination to prevail in this second global conflict. Significantly, the pace of aviation development in the 1930s continued to increase and whilst the Blenheim was a ground-breaking aircraft design when it first entered RAF service, it was quickly outclassed by the latest breed of fast monoplane fighters. With relatively light defensive armament and weighed down with the equipment of war, gallant Blenheim crews would suffer terrible losses at the hands of the Luftwaffe, particularly during the early months of WWII. (Airfix)
Though overshadowed by the more glamorous fighters, the Blenheim is an important part of the history of the RAF and thus its inclusion within Airfix’ 1:48 range is more than welcome. Though we have already seen both the Mk.I and Mk.IV variants appearing within their 1:72 collection, seeing it in this larger scale with the heightened levels of detail that 1:48 can offer, is as pleasing as it is impressive, now that the kit is finally to hand.
Comprising 216 finely-moulded plastic parts, this new kit replicates the blunt-nosed Mk.1F heavy fighter, with its underfuselage machine gun palette and single-gun upper turret. Decals are supplied for two different aircraft, one in standard night colours of Dark Earth, Dark Green and black and the second in overall matt black. The choices are as follows:
- Bristol Blenheim Mk.1F – No. 23 Squadron, Royal Air Force Wittering, Cambridgeshire, England, February 1940 (this scheme is currently applied to G-BPIV flying with the Aircraft Restoration Company, Duxford)
- Bristol Blenheim Mk.1F – No. 54 Operational Training Unit, Royal Air Force Church Fenton, North Yorkshire, England, December 1940.
From the moment you open the kit’s box, you become aware that Airfix have taken considerable trouble to create as detailed a replica as possible. From the superbly appointed cockpit, through the complex undercarriage and on to the two complete engines and their delicate cowlings, you know that from the box this will be a superb replica of this important aircraft; add detail and it will be a show-stopper.
First stop on the journey is the cockpit. Detail within this part of the model is superb and I can see very little that could, or should be added, other than seat straps. Of course with all of that glazing to peer through everything will be on show, so careful construction and painting will almost be mandatory if the illusion of realism is to be maintained. Though the kit offers raised details throughout, the instruments are further embellished with decal faces which is a nice touch. Though a single pilot figure is included, there is no gunner which is more than understandable given the difficulty that that would pose trying to either squeeze him around the detail in the turret, or design him to part of it from the ground up. Detail within the turret incidentally is every bit as fine as the cockpit and thanks to the ultra-clear glazing, is all on show.
Moving on, the undercarriage and wings are our next stop. Options here too, with raised or lowered gear legs the former being used in conjunction with the pilot figure and a separately available display stand. The undercarriage units are once again very impressive and though comprising a large number of delicately moulded parts, appear to be easy to assembly to create a faithful recreation of the Blenheim’s legs and wheels. One thing worth pointing out here is that the gear will need too be painted and assembled before they are mounted within the wings, so that will demand a degree of head-scratching and forward planning when it comes to final painting and masking. Forewarned…
“In combination all of these features helps to not only create a wonderfully realistic surface finish, but also illustrates the lengths that Airfix are going to, to push the boundaries and the quality of the kits that they manufacture.”
With the undercarriage and cockpit dealt with the airframe comes together quickly, familiar fuselage and wing halves being used to create the type’s distinctive shape. As with many kits from this stable, the wings, tail and tailplanes are embellished with separate control surfaces that allow a degree of flexibility when it comes to final set-up and display. Add to that the chance to drop the flaps and open up the cowlings and cockpit, and the possibilities available from this kit are plain to see.
Across the board the surface detail is as fine and delicate as I have yet seen from Airfix. Incised panel lines hold hands with both incised and raised rivets, the latter only apparent as you run your fingers over the surface of the plastic. Similarly, the fabric flying surfaces are sensational being more than a match for the heights that Airfix reached with the geodetic structure in their recently released Wellington. In combination all of these features helps to not only create a wonderfully realistic surface finish, but also illustrates the lengths that Airfix are going to, to push the boundaries and the quality of the kits that they manufacture.
The final major areas of interest are the engines. Airfix has once again taken the time to model these as completely as possible, the depiction of the aircraft Bristol Mercury powerplants being superb and the perfect basis for superdetailed replicas that can be displayed with the cowlings open. Once again, assembly looks to be straightforward and though you need to carry out the work twice, a fun part of the model that will repay your time with two of the best engines yet seen in this scale from this brand.
The remainder of the build deals with the smaller features, underfuselage gun pack, undercarriage doors and then finally, the glazing. The clear parts in this kit are wonderfully realised, but they will take some care to assemble cleanly. With the main glazing being split vertically, I can see much gnashing of teeth, the need to paint the glazing and apply and adhesive carefully being of paramount importance. I’m assuming here that the fit will be almost perfect, but even so, inert adhesives such as PVA may well be the most sensible route to take to ensure that nothing is damaged during this most critical of assembly stages…
This is a very fine kit, simple as that. When announced and the CAD files started to roll in, the prospect of a highly-detailed replica became more than apparent; now that we have kit to hand, that promise has been fully realised. Modellers will find that this is an engrossing project that will result in a stunning replica of this important aircraft — just how stunning, will be seen in a future issue of Model Airplane International.
Thanks to Airfix for the review sample looked at in this feature.