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Chipmunk T10

Airfix 1/72 Chipmunk T10 Build Review

By Michael J. Gething

Date of Review January 2016 Manufacturer Airfix
Subject Chipmunk T10 Scale 1/72
Kit Number A01054 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Simple build Cons Small mods required
Skill Level Basic + MSRP (BP) £5.99

Build Review

Acknowledgement: This Review is adapted from a feature I wrote which appeared in the IPMS(UK) magazine #03/2013 and is reproduced here with the Editor’s permission.

The Chipmunk was the first indigenous design from de Havilland Aircraft of Canada (DHC) and was designed to succeed the de Havilland Tiger Moth biplane trainer. The prototype Chipmunk (CF-DIO-X) made its maiden flight from Downsview, Toronto in Canada on 22 May 1946, powered by a de Havilland Gypsy Major 1C piston engine. Adopted by the Royal Canadian Air Force (which acquired 113 powered by the Gipsy Major 8), it entered service in 1948 and DHC at Downsview built 217, the last rolling off the line in 1956.  Between 1955 and 1961, a further 66 were licence-built by OGMA (Oficinas Gerais de Material) for the Portuguese Air Force.

By far the largest production was in the UK, where 735 DHC-1 Chipmunk T.10 aerobatic primary trainers were built for the Royal Air Force (RAF) by DHC’s parent company, de Havilland Aircraft, initially at Hatfield, then later at Chester, the last being delivered in October 1956. The Chipmunk T.10 entered service with Oxford University Air Squadron (UAS) in 1950, going on to re-equip all UAS units, followed by the Air Experience Flights (AEFs) of the Air Cadet organisation. It served briefly with 20 Reserve Flying Schools of the RAF Volunteer Reserve 1950-53, operated on internal security duties with 114 Squadron in Cyprus 1958-61, soldiered-on with the UAS until 1972 and was finally retired from AEF duties in 1996. Both Prince Philip and Prince Charles learned to fly in Chipmunks (in 1952 and 1969, respectively). The last two Chipmunks on RAF charge – WG486 and WK518 – are used by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) as conversion trainers (being piston-powered and tail wheel configured) for the volunteer RAF pilots that fly the BBMF’s Spitfires and Hurricanes, who are more used to tricycle undercarriage jets.

As an air cadet myself and, later, as an RAF VR(T) officer with the Air Cadets, I had flown some 20 sorties in the back seat of Chipmunks between 1963 and 1978. I loved it! Exactly 42 years to the day of my first ever flight, on 13 October 2005, I was fortunate to fly one more sortie. Strapped into the old-fashioned, seat-type parachute over a bulging flying-suited body (well, it had been issued some 35 years earlier and a chap can put on a bit of weight over time) I clambered into the back of Chipmunk T.10 WK518/K of the BBMF, piloted by ‘the Boss’ of the BBMF at the time, Squadron Leader Clive Rowley. I relived the memories of yore but, sadly, with a cloud base of around 1,000 ft, there was no room to indulge in aerobatics under a clear blue sky ... but it was a wonderful flight down memory lane.

Chipmunk T.10 WK518/K is the longest-serving of the two BBMF Chipmunks, having been delivered to the Flight from No 1 AEF at Manston in April 1983. This aircraft first entered RAF service in January 1952, going to the RAF College at Cranwell to be used for the elementary flying training of pilots. Other units which operated WK518 include the UAS units for Liverpool, Manchester, Cambridge, Hull, Leeds and London Universities, and also the RAF Cottesmore Station Flight. The all-black BBMF ‘corporate’ colours were applied to both Chipmunks for the 2000 display season. Subsequently, in February 2012, WK518 was re-painted in the light gray/dayglo orange colour scheme it sported while serving with Hull UAS in 1961.

Being a modeller, I wished to commemorate the flight with a model of WK518 but, at the time, getting accurate markings and white-ringed D-type roundels the correct size was the problem. Then, in the spring of 2012, Airfix re-issued their Chipmunk kit (dating back to 1970) as the all-black BBMF scheme, complete with decals for both WK518 and WG486. I acquired one and set to work.

The kit itself remains exactly the same as originally issued (I still have one and a subsequent re-release, both unbuilt) and so, to bring it up to current BBMF standard, one needs to add the anti-spin strakes modification on the rear fuselage forward of the tailplane and the later engine exhaust configuration. Both of these were, to me, essential to depict exactly the aircraft in which I had flown. Here’s my step-by-step approach to what is, basically, an easy build (although purists may well also wish to reduce the rivet detail and enhance the cockpit detail – I chose not to) but with a couple of tweaks.

Step 1

Carefully cutting the two fuselage parts from the runners and cleaning off the joints, I prepared the two anti-spin strakes – long ago and far away I’d done the same mod to a Chipmunk model after cementing the fuselage together and decided it would have been best done beforehand. Reference to the accompanying photos will give you the approximate sizing and, using plastic card, I scaled them by eye from the photos of the real thing. At this stage, I also filled the locating hole for the kit-supplied exhaust with Squadron Green Stuff.

Chipmunk T10Chipmunk T10Chipmunk T10

Step 2

As my scratch building is not ... er ... up to scratch, I declined to make a detailed interior, settling for two ‘modern’ crew figures from the spare crew box to replace the 1940s-style figures included in the kit. With two crew figures, you can barely see the interior through the rather thick canopy. I did, however, paint the fuselage interior matt black and fabricate two instrument panels from plastic card. Once done, the fuselage halves were cemented together.

Chipmunk T10

Step 3

This covers the wing assembly – the one-piece lower wing and two upper surfaces. Again, I cleaned up the runner joints, using a sharp scalpel blade and then painted the cockpit floor area matt black. Once dry, I cemented the upper surfaces to the lower wing. Once this was done, I used Green Stuff to fill the small cracks between the upper wing surface and the wingtips, using a scalpel blade and fine wet-n-dry to smooth off the join. As previously noted, I baulked at rubbing down the overscale surface rivets and re-scribing panel lines. (Pause while the purists suck their teeth in disgust!)

Chipmunk T10

Step 4

Back with the fuselage, I cleaned up the joint lines and the exhaust locating hole with a combination of scalpel blade and fine wet-n-dry. I also decided exactly where the new exhaust had to go by reference to the photo and, using a small very drill bit (one of a set of eight given to me by a sympathetic dentist when aged 14, still in use), drilled a new locating hole. At this stage I also drilled out the air intake on the front part of the engine fairing and the other little intake protrusions. I then added the propeller locating pin (but with a lump of Blu-Tack behind to prevent it dropping out, as I was not planning to attach the propeller until later in the construction). I then added the engine fairing to the fuselage and cleaned up the joint lines once more.

Step 5

While all the above was on-going, in between times, I had painted my two ‘jet-jockey’ crew figures. BBMF pilots wear an all-black flying suit, while the rear figure (supposedly depicting myself) was togged out in a standard RAF olive green suit. Flying helmets were satin white with a matt black sun visor. The seats were painted matt black, cemented to the locating pins in the lower wing and the crew figures added. Once this was done, the wings were cemented to the fuselage and set aside to solidify overnight, and then the tailplanes and canopy (the heavily-framed one, not the streamlined Canadian version, also supplied) were attached. This was now looking like the real thing.

Step 6

Once everything had lain fallow for 24 hours, I made a final clean-up with fine wet-n-dry around the joint lines and then, using one of The Domestic Authority’s cotton wool pads, washed the model in warm water with a couple of drops of washing up liquid, to remove any grease from the moulding process or sticky fingers. It was now ready for the paint shop, ahead of fixing the undercarriage and pitot tube under the wings, and the tail wheel.

Step 7

Using the excellent colour views supplied by Airfix on the packaging, I identified the location of the white stripes and painted an undercoat of matt white in Humbrol Enamel (I was only just experimenting with acrylics). Leaving it overnight, this was followed by the gloss white. I also painted the upper part of the nose ahead of the cockpit canopy matt black, again leaving them overnight to dry off thoroughly. I masked off the wing and fuselage stripes and the nose anti-dazzle panel, using that magnificent medium (only recently discovered) of Tamiya Tape. I then, stage by stage, applied the gloss black. (By the way, I’m painting the old-fashioned way with brushes.) I did this over several days, as the masking allowed me defined areas to paint, leaving unpainted or completed areas with which to hold onto the model. Carefully painting the canopy framing came last. Once done, I applied a coat of Johnson’s Klear to get the overall surface gloss uniform.

Chipmunk T10

Step 8

Once completed, I set to work applying the decals (or transfers, if you prefer the older description of the water-slide markings). With lot of detailed, minute decals to apply this took several days (doing a bit each evening, when the mood took me). I also painted the wheels, fixed main undercarriage legs, tailwheel and pitot tube. At this point I cut short lengths of rose wire (obtainable from all good florists) and bent them to represent the brake cables from the bottom of the main undercarriage leg fairing to the central axle locating point for the wheels, which were then cemented into place and set aside to dry.

Step 9

I attached the main undercarriage legs, tailwheel and pitot tube to the model, using a “super glue” and left them to dry-off and set. At this stage, I added the new engine exhaust, fabricated from a cut-off from a paper-clip. It was now time to fix the propeller. You will note from the photos and the kit artwork that the front of it is black/white stripes with yellow tips, and black rear. The kit supplied decals for the stripes but I chose to paint them – white first, mask-off, then black – adding the yellow tips at the end. Once completed and dry, I applied a drop of cement to the locating hole behind the spinner and slipped it into place. Job done. I had my model complete ... or so I thought.

Chipmunk T10

Step 10

A month later, a couple of days before showing off the completed model at the IPMS Mid-Sussex Branch meeting, I checked the photos I had taken on the day of the flight. Trained observers/imagery analysts will immediately note a small white-painted panel on the starboard upper fuselage behind the canopy. This is not on the decal sheet, I thought, neither on any of the official pictures of the aircraft. Never mind, in the move to depict the aircraft on the day I had flown in it, this white panel was required. I raided the unused/spare decals in my vast collection and found something that could be cut to size and applied it – thus marking the specific uniqueness of my model. A quick dab of Klear finally finished the project.

Chipmunk T10

Postscript: For those of you wondering how I got to ride in a BBMF “Chippie”, let me explain. Clive and I were at Bournemouth School together in the Air Cadets and, during my 40-odd years as an aviation/defence journalist, our paths had crossed and re-crossed professionally and we kept in touch. In March 2005, Clive gave his BBMF talk to my local Royal British Legion branch and, afterwards, I asked him what the chances were of getting a nostalgic flight in one of his Chippies.

Chipmunk T10Chipmunk T10

“Good”, was his response – once the display season was over, the fighter pilots used the Chippies to maintain flying currency and he could authorise my flight as a passenger in the back seat. I did, however, agree to write the experience up by way of a quid pro quo. Without the joy of aerobatics to describe, I asked Clive to treat me like a new pilot without any tail wheel aircraft experience and talk me through how he began to convert a qualified Tornado or Typhoon jet pilot used to a tricycle undercarriage onto a piston-engined, tail-dragging Second World War fighter. The resultant article, describing the Chippie’s past history and their role today, was published in the Air Cadet magazine, successor to the Air Cadet News, for which I’d written the modelling pages for a dozen years in the 1970s and 80s. So I guess it’s true what they say: what goes around, comes around.