Classic Airframes 1/48 English Electric Canberra B.2 Build Review
By Fotios Rouch
|Date of Review||April 2006||Manufacturer||Classic Airframes|
|Subject||English Electric Canberra B.2||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||4126||Primary Media||Styrene, Resin|
|Pros||Nice detailing, especially with the resin castings||Cons|
|Skill Level||Intermediate||MSRP (USD)||Out of Production|
The Canberra is the result of a Ministry of Aircraft Production requirement for a jet-engine medium bomber to replace the Mosquito. In 1944 English Electric Aircraft of Preston, England, amongst several other British aircraft manufacturers, submitted a proposal for their twin-engine design.
English Electric won the competition and 90 aircraft were ordered before the prototype made its first flight. The prototype first flew in May 1949. Thrust was provided by a pair of powerful axial flow Rolls Royce Avon turbojets giving the Canberra high speed and unmatched altitude. In 1957 the Canberra held a world altitude record of 70,000 feet! It had a maximum speed of 470 knots (871 km/h), a service ceiling of 48,000 ft (14,600 m), and the ability to carry a 3.6 ton payload. The Canberra did not carry any defensive armament since it could fly fast and high enough to avoid combat all together.
1,352 Canberras were built in 27 versions before production ceased. The Canberra was operated by the RAF and was exported to West Germany, Sweden, France, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, India, Pakistan, Rhodesia, Ethiopia, and South Africa.
The United States also built the Canberra in many versions, but this is another chapter in the plane's history.
First impressions and Preparation
The model came to us straight off the press sans box, instructions, photo-etch and some of the clear parts. The plastic was all there together with the resin and the decals and this is all I needed to get going on this much anticipated subject.
My first impression was that there is a lot of goodies offered for the modeler to have fun with. I am fairly confident that this is the biggest kit Classic Airframes has produced to date.
The plastic is generally very nice with well defined panel lines and little flash other that in the expected areas. The resin is exquisite. Very nicely done with zero defects in my sample and full of tinny detail. I have said it before that I am not a big fan of clear plastic but I have to say that the Canberra canopy came out very well and you will see later in the article how good it looks after a bath in Future .
Preparation consisted of cutting all the parts from the sprues. Maybe this is not a good idea for the beginner but I had no instructions to follow anyway! Once the parts were cut and cleaned up I proceeded to washing the plastic and resin in warm water and 409 cleaner.
One good thing about not having instructions is that you really look at everything twice. I tested the fit of all the major parts and studied the model quite a bit before anything else was done.
My fist task of choice was to see how I could make the 4 part fuselage look the best and which would be the best way to proceed. Make the front fuselage plug and attach it to the rear fuselage assembly? Scary proposition as it would most likely lead to a step mismatch somewhere. I realized that if I were to assemble the left and right sides and then merge them in the conventional left/right way I would end up with a very clean assembly. To achieve that I cleaned up and sanded down the areas where the rear plug meets the front plug.
I test fitted and checked again and again by adjusting and flipping over the fuselage to verify that there was a smooth and perfect match. Once satisfied I ran glue on the inside of the fuselage and left both sides dry overnight. In the meantime I focused on cleaning up the wings and prepping them to accept the nav wingtip lights. The Canberra (US variants too) has big clear lens caps covering the whole wingtip corner and housing the position nav lights. The cool thing is that the cutouts are so big that you can clearly see the interior structure of the wing and the lightening holes. To get the wing ready I first removed the excess plastic with a serrated razor blade.
I taped the lower wing to the top wing just so I could make sure that the cutouts were symmetrical. I finished the process by softly filing the cuts until smooth.
Next job was to assemble the cockpit pieces. Here we have a mix of resin and plastic. As I said before the resin looks great. Too bad it all has to be painted interior black. Not a bad idea if the modeler cuts down the black with some gray shades and some panel dry brushing. Sadly, a good portion of the interior will not be visible in the end.
The resin wheel wells are very well done and are full of tinny details. Lots of structural detail is present and I believe that there is nothing that can be added to them. Most importantly the wheel wells fit very well into the wing cavity. Very little sanding is required to remove resin material and ensure no obstruction as the wings top/bottom parts get glued together. After the resin wheel wells were super-glued to the bottom wing surface it was time to bring the wings together. I chose to sand the wing trailing edges a bit and thin them down for a better scale effect. I also used a sanding stick to ensure that the wing tip nav light cavities were nice and straight
As the wings were drying I turned my attention to the intakes. The first job is to remove the ejector stubs that reside inside the intakes. In my example one of the four intake pieces had the ejector stub in a weird location. Do not get alarmed as the stub is easy to clean up. First use a new x-acto blade and carefully cut it down until you start getting worried that you might scratch the surrounding plastic. Then just sand down the stub until it is gone. It took me less than ten minutes to get it to disappear.
One part of the kit that needs a little extra attention is adapting the intakes to the wings. Spend a little extra time here and you will need less putty, less sanding and minimal or no loss of panel lines.
After you have carefully removed the flash from all the mating areas on the wings start test fitting the intakes and keep adjusting the mating areas by gently sanding away excess material. Here is how mine ended up looking after spending a little quality time with it. Not perfect but it will certainly do the job! Once all looks good and checks out ok it is time to run liquid cement and secure the parts until dry.
The next day it was time to check the results and see what else was needed to complete the intakes. Well, I still needed to sand down a few areas. One area that will benefit from some sanding is the interior of the intakes. Thin down the intake lip a bit for a better scale effect. Well, the next step would be to primer the wings and the intakes and see what was missed. Sure enough, some re-scribing was necessary but overall the results were satisfactory.
The exhausts can do with a little thinning down as well if the modeler is so inclined so a better look can be achieved. A set of very nice resin inner exhaust pipes is included that does a lot for that final look.
Now that the wings and intakes were done it was time to get back to my favorite part of the build. Doing the nav lights. Since there were no clear parts included in my test shot sample (no worries, the final product has clear parts for the nav lights) I had to fabricate my own. First I cut some styrene Evergreen stock and super-glued it on the nav light cut outs. I then filed and shaped the styrene with a sanding stick to the appropriate shape. The last step was to use a candle and heat some clear plastic stock until it got nice and soft. I then simply pulled the clear sheet over the wing tip and formed a basic lens. The white styrene was then popped out and the clear vac was placed over the opening to see how it would look. Not perfect but after trimming it and dipping it in Future I knew it would fit the bill.
Work on the cockpit followed next with the whole interior as well as all the parts being sprayed various shades of black. All the details were dry-brushed with lighter gray shades and many of the switches were touched with a dab of red or yellow.
The interior parts were test fitted numerous time to get them positioned right so the fuselage would close up with no interference. Well, in my sample I had to file down the rear cockpit bulkhead and trim the main cockpit floor here and there. Of note is the fact that the rear bulkhead and the front wheel well make a rather positive and well defined lock that helps with the cockpit orientation. When all looked good and the fuselage would close without issues I turned my attention to the balancing of the model.
The Canberra as a model is a definite and dedicated tail sitter if you leave it to its own devices. There is just too much plastic behind the main landing gear. I took a swag at how much weight would be required to get the model balanced. I thought that 120 to 150 grams of led behind the bulkhead would do the trick. I bundled them up, glued them over the front wheel well structure and just in case I built a small bulkhead to contain the weight in case things came unglued.
The fuselage was then glued together with liquid cement and left to dry overnight. The next day I sprayed the fuselage joint with Mr. Primer and it became apparent at that point that it was not a bad idea to glue the parts in complete left/right assemblies.
Note to the modeler: This is a good point for the modeler to perform an important task. The clear nose piece is of a slightly larger diameter that the receiving plastic fuselage diameter. The modeler can slightly sand back the fuselage to achieve a perfect match. No big deal but this is a good point to do that before paint is applied later. Another option would be to do all that in the very beginning of the assembly process with securing the front fuselage parts with tape and doing the sanding at that stage. This way you will avoid damaging the bombardier station's delicate resin parts.
The main wings were secured to the fuselage with the aid of plastic rods that are provided in the kit. The two rods are inserted in the fuselage and the wings are affixed in a rather secure way to the fuselage as opposed to the traditional butt-joined way we usually see. The tail wings were glued straight onto the fuselage and the assembly was left to dry overnight. Mr. Surfacer was used the next day to pinpoint the areas were AcrylBlue automotive putty was going to be necessary.
The landing gear was added and then I realized that all my calculations were wrong and I still had a tail sitter! Boy, was I glad that I had not glued on the exhaust pipes! More lead was thrown in the nacelles (25 grams in each one making for close to 200 grams grand total) until I got the model to stay on its nose wheels. Alternatively, if you put weight in the radio operator's compartment you can get the job done with less weight and nobody is ever going to be able to see through the tinny radar operator window anyway! The good thing is that the landing gear is extremely strong and it will not get overtaxed.
The clear canopy was glued in place and it looked very nice after its Future treatment. The fit of the canopy to the fuselage was very good too. The clear nose piece needs a little help but we already talked about the solution.
Things were coming along well and I was getting ready to start thinking about the painting process. Pictures were collected on the German variant and the small things I would have to add such as extra antennas, etc. This is when I realized that I would have to blank out the starboard side window. I knew I was going to be painting the top fuselage windows (my early sample did not include the clear plastic) but I had totally missed the absence of the side window. I started looking around at the other B Mk.2 variant pictures I have and I should urge the modeler to carefully review their material as to the exact window configuration of the variant they have their heart set on.
Painting and Markings
Once the side window had disappeared it was high time to enter the Canberra to the paint shop. I airbrushed RAL 2004 orange for the airframe and Alclad II for all the metal shades. The masking tape was then applied and black was sprayed for the nose antiglare area and the inner main wing leading edges. I masked and painted a very thin white line around the canopy that represents some kind of weather sealer that I see in almost all of the Canberra photos.
Clear green and clear red resin stock was used out of the Cutting Edge set to get the nav lights done. If you have not done so yet, this is a good point to drill the lightening holes on the wing tip exposed airfoil areas. Paint the area silver or better yet primer yellow. Then the vac clear lens went over and was trimmed with a fresh x-acto blade. The lens was then secured with clear watchmakers glue. Some Future was used first to brighten up the clear colored resin and later to freshen up the shine of the nav lens covers.
In the end I added a few blade antennas, some extra nav lights on the fuselage, a tail clear nav light and some little bumps visible in the pictures for the German Canberras.
I also used Bare Metal Foil to simulate the wing tip tank fuel caps and the starter cartridge exhaust port on the side of the intake nacelles. Speaking of wing tip tanks. Do sand down the seam on the bottom of the tanks. Do not sand down the seam on the top front area. There is a wire there that leads to the front of the tank light.
The decals went down very nicely and I did not have to use any aftermarket solution at all. A coat of semi-gloss Testors varnish was used to seal the decals and the paintjob overall.
The weathering was kept to a minimum since many pictures show the Luftwaffe Canberras very well kept up most of the time. I used pastels with a small brush around some areas on the wings and fuselage.
This was a fun project and it filled an important void in my collection of jets! The Classic Airframes Canberra is a well executed limited run model with no insurmountable construction problems and a very pleasing and accurate final result.
I know that there is another Canberra that will come from Airfix some time in 2007, maybe. The probability of me making accurate predictions on how good it is going to be is rather low.
I know it will be a bit cheaper. I know it will not have a great super-detailed resin interior and wheel wells. I also know that it would have to be extremely modular to be able to cover B Mk.2 AND PR.9 AND B-57 variants! It is more like they will have to do totally different kits! I can speculate that we are probably not going to see the PR.9 and B-57 when Airfix realizes what it takes to make them. I also have seen the latest Spitfire Airfix released. IF this is an indicator of what we shall expect in terms of molding finesse then you can draw your own conclusions.
Having said all that I wish all model makers well and yes I would be first in line if Airfix does release a PR.9 Canberra. I hope that reading this article will help you make your Canberra better than mine and in less time! Let's see how long before uncle Jules sees the potential in making us a B-57 family.
My sincere thanks to Classic Airframes for this review sample!