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Whittle E28/39

Frog (Novo) 1/72 Whittle E28/39 Kit First Look

By Ray Mehlberger

Date of Review January 2009 Manufacturer Frog
Subject Whittle E28/39 Scale 1/72
Kit Number F174 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Neat kit of Britians first jet aircraft Cons Almost non-existant cockpit detail, Raised type panel lines may not please some modelers
Skill Level Novice MSRP (USD) Out of Production

First Look

Whittle E28/39
Whittle E28/39
Whittle E28/39

The Gloster E.28/39 (also referred to as the “Gloster Whittle”, “Gloster Pioneer”, or “Gloster G.40) was the first British jet engined aircraft to fly in the United Kingdom. Developed to test the new Whittle jet engine in flight, the test results would influence the development of an operational fighter, the Gloster Meteor.

In September 1939, the Air Ministry issued a specification to Gloster for an aircraft to test one of Frank Whittle’s turbojet designs in flight. Working closely with Whittle, Gloster’s chief designer George Carter laid out a small low-wing aircraft of conventional configuration. The jet intake was in the nose, and the tail-fi and elevators were mounted above the exhaust pipe. A contract for two prototypes was signed by the Air Ministry on 3 February 1940 and the first of these was completed by April 1941. Building started in Hucclecote, near Gloucester, but was later moved to Regent Motors in Cheltenham High Street (now the Regent Arcade), considered a location safer from bombing.

The aircraft was delivered to Hucclecote for ground tests beginning on 7 April using a non-flightworthy version of the Power Jets W.1 engine. With these satisfactorily completed, the aircraft was fitted with a new engine, and on 15 May, Gloster’s chief test pilot, Flight Lieutenant Gerry Sayer flew the aircraft under jet power for the first time from RAF Cranwell, near Sleaford Lincolnshire. The flight lasted 17 minutes and was a complete success. Tests continued with increasingly refined versions of the engine over the following months. Later in the test program, small, auxiliary fins were added to near the tips of the tailplanes to provide additional stability in high-speed flight. The E.28/39 specification had actually required the aircraft to carry two Browning .303 machine-guns in each wing, but these were never fitted.

The second prototype (serial W4046) joined the test program on 1 March 1943, initially powered by a Rover W2B engine. Testing had revealed problems with engine oil and lubricants. The second prototype was destroyed on 30 July in a crash resulting from an aileron failure, attributed to the use of the wrong type of grease in the aileron’s controls. One aileron had “stuck in position”, sending the aircraft out of control. The test pilot successfully bailed out.

The first prototype continued flight tests until 1944, by which time more advanced turbojet-powered aircraft were available. Although the Gloster E.28/39 was not able to achieve high speeds, it proved to be a capable experimental platform and exhibited good climb rate and ceiling. Moreover, experience with the E.28/39 paved the way for Britain’s first operational jet fighter aircraft, the Gloster Meteor – as already mentioned.

Frog was a model company based in the UK. When they went out of business the majority of their molds were sold to NOVO in Russia. Novo still markets 95% of them. I went to the Novo site and the Whittle is still shown there, but the site is all in Russian text and cannot tell you the price of this kit today. I purchased mine, over 30 years ago, for a paltry 70 cents.

When I first moved to my city back then, I met a modeling neighbor. He introduced me to a department store, that has since gone out of business, that sold both Frog and Airfix aircraft kits. This is where I purchased this kit and several others. I had not modeled since my teens and a 4 year tour in the USAF, but now I was HOOKED again. Some of the kits also had the brand name FROG AIRLINES. I have never understood the airlines part??

The kit comes in a cello bag, that is stapled to a header card. The artwork on half of this card is of the first Whittle prototype (serial no. W4041G) sitting on a runway. It is in a wave pattern camouflage of sand and dark brown over a yellow undercarriage. It carries the British roundels in the normal 6 positions. Behind the fuselage roundels is a yellow circle with a yellow P inside it (P = prototype). After this is the black serial no. W4041G. There is a red, white and blue fin flash on the rudder sides. This solitary scheme is the only marking on the decal sheet and is shown on the other half of the header card that folds over the back of the bag. It is shown there, in full color, is a 3-view illustration.

Under the illustrations is the comment: “Great Britain’s first jet aircraft, built by the Gloster Aircraft Co. and powered by Frank Whittle’s Power Jets W.1 engine, first flew 15th May 1941, piloted by Flt.Lt. P.E.G. Sayer. W4041/G is now displayed in the Science Museum , London.”

The other side of this header card serves as the assembly instructions. It begins with 5 international assembly symbol illustrations and their meanings in 7 languages, including English. Below this, is 8 assembly steps. Although these steps call out part numbers, there are NONE on the parts trees. Meaning that modelers will have to identify things on the trees by their shape in these drawings and try to find them. Bad move Frog!

The bag contains what appears to be a larger parts tree that Frog butchered into smaller trees that have just a few parts on them, in order to fit into the cello bag. There are 2 loose fuselage halves, 2 loose wing halves, a loose nose-wheel and main wheel compartment door. Other than that, there are 4 chopped-up trees of parts molded in medium gray styrene and the single clear cockpit part. The decal sheet, with the single marking for the 1st prototype Whittle (already described above) completes the bag’s contents.

The 1st tree holds: halves of the horizontal tail surfaces and the other nose wheel compartment door (5 parts)

The 2nd three holds: landing gear legs, 3 other main wheel compartment doors, cockpit wall/floor combination halves (6 parts)

The 3rd tree holds: a large (1/48th scale??) standing pilot figure, a 1/72nd scale seated pilot figure, wheels, nose wheel strut and the pilot seat (8 parts)

The 4th, and final medium gray tree holds: the other horizontal tail halves, rudder and wing flaps (5 parts)

The clear canopy part and decal complete the bag’s contents. The canopy is molded solid and would be better if replaced with a vacuformed copy. However, the cockpit interior is very, very sparse – with only the combination floor/sidwall halves and the seat and pilot. This is an area that sorely needs more detail added by scratchbuilding for sure!

This is an easy build with only 28 total parts in the kit. However, as mentioned, the cockpit interior needs some serious attention. Recommended to modelers of all skill levels. It is definitely a week-end project.