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Spitfire F.22

Airfix 1/72 Spitfire F.22 Build Review

By Michael J. Gething

Date of Review September 2015 Manufacturer Airfix
Subject Spitfire F.22 Scale 1/72
Kit Number A02033 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Simple build, unique mark Cons Some delicate parts
Skill Level Basic + MSRP (BP) £7.99

Build Review

As a new name to your review panel, perhaps an introductory CV is in order. I'm a Brit or to be specific, a Yorkshireman (that's the White Rose county) from the East Riding. I've been sticking plastic together and painting the resulting model for some 55 years. I'm a wordsmith by craft, specifically an aerospace/defence [with a "c"] journalist and editor since 1973, currently with IHS Jane's (as in Jane's Fighting Ships, Jane's All The World's Aircraft and Jane's Defence Weekly, since 2007 prefixed by the letters 'IHS' after the group that acquired us) where I have been for almost 23 years.

For the last 12 years, I've been the editor responsible for electro-optic/infrared equipment within the defence equipment reference series, nine years as editor of Jane's Electro-Optic Systems until the subject was merged with three other yearbooks to create an omnibus publication, IHS Jane's C4ISR & Mission Systems, where my content, suitably re-aligned into Air, Land, Maritime and Joint/Common Equipment volumes, continues.

As a modeller, I'm a member of IPMS (UK) and have contributed, sporadically, to the UK magazine. I followed the late Alan W. Hall providing the modelling pages for the Air Cadet News for nine years, 1972-81 (while serving in the Training Branch of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve), and edited the last old-style Airfix Magazine in mid-1993, published during Alan Hall's second period of involvement. I believe it may be said that I've 'done the course'. As retirement beckons (November 2015) and not wishing to close the hangar doors totally, a mutual friend in the defence industry connected me with Michael Benolkin and Cybermodeler. This is my first effort on his behalf. I trust it is of value, so 'on with the motley' ...

Reverting to the Cybermodeler style, first a few words about the original ... Most folk will know that the Vickers-Supermarine Spitfire was designed by R. J. Mitchell in the late 1930s (a story told in the movie 'First of the Few' – well worth a viewing if available in the United States) with the prototype flying on 5 March 1936. Following Mitchell's premature death in June 1937, Joseph (Joe) Smith was appointed in his place and oversaw the development of the Spitfire. The Mk.I [ROMAN NUMERAL 'I' NOT Arabic '1'] and entered service with the Royal Air Force's 19 Squadron on 29 July 1938 (a year after the Hawker Hurricane Mk.I, the re-tooled Airfix kit of which was released in 2014 and to which I shall return in my second planned review).

I shall assume the majority of readers are familiar enough with the glory days of the Spitfire. The Spitfire F.22 was the peripenultimate mark of Spitfire, of which 278 were built, serving with the Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF - akin to the US Air Force Reserve) and one regular RAF unit (73 Squadron in Malta) between 1946 and 1951. It was powered by a Rolls-Royce Griffon 61 or 64 with a five-blade Rotol propeller, giving a maximum speed of 450 mph at 25,000 ft and a service ceiling of 44,500 ft. Compared with Merlin-engined versions, the Griffon-engined aircraft were considerably 'beefed-up' with new engine mountings, steel fuselage longerons, steel reinforcements for the centre-section spar booms, strengthened undercarriage and mounting, and an enlarged fin/rudder assembly.  It was armed with a pair of 20 mm Hispano cannon in each wing and the F.22 version featured the cut-down rear fuselage and 'teardrop' canopy (also featured in some late-mark Merlin-engined variants).

Spitfire F.22

The kit itself comprises three sprues of parts plus a transparency sprue, offering closed or open canopy options, plus the under-fuselage 'traffic light' transparencies and reflector sight. Great care should be taken when cutting the windscreen from the sprue, as mine split in half straight down the middle when I attempted it! (It was eventually replaced via a request to the Airfix website, but it took three months. I solved the immediate problem by using a vacform closed canopy from Falcon Clear-Vax of New Zealand.) The decals depict an all-silver model (PK433) from 603 Squadron (Sqn), RAuxAF, based at RAF Turnhouse (now Edinburgh airport) Scotland in 1951 or a camouflaged example from 607 Sqn., RAuxAF, based at RAF Ouston, England, depicting the aircraft (PK553) that took part in the Cooper Trophy air race of 1948.

Apart from the use of the Falcon canopy (not originally planned), I also chose to use the aftermarket enhancement kit from Freightdog models of the UK, offering a one piece spinner/propeller assembly, replacement cannon and slightly more-detailed wheels.

The parts themselves are all well detailed and produced and fit together well. The cockpit interior comprises seven parts plus pilot (and don't forget to use the instrument panel decal at this stage). This was painted interior green and the detail picked out with a black wash and some dry-brushing, as was the structural detail on the fuselage interior. When dry, the interior fitted neatly into the fuselage and both sides mated well, with little recourse to seam filling, although some work with fine Micromesh abrasive was required to remove the joint lines. The rudder and tailplanes were then cemented into place and fitted well.

The lower wing is one piece, into which must be cemented the 'traffic light' transparency. When completed, I then painted (from front to rear) green, yellow and red over the back of each light, and also the lower part of the cockpit in interior green. The undercarriage area under the upper wings was painted the same colour and treated to a black wash. The upper wings fitted snugly to the lower wing and, once dry, then cemented to the fuselage: again a good fit with just a smidgeon of filler required.

Spitfire F.22Spitfire F.22

The two under wing radiators were then attached along with the oil cooler and all fitted neatly without recourse to filler. I also painted the tail wheel bay interior green. (If modelled undercarriage 'up' then a closed fairing is provided, as are closed main wheel doors.) As it is my practise to leave attaching smaller parts until after the main painting and decaling has been done, I proceeded to mask off the cockpit area and apply Humbrol Maskol over the 'traffic lights'. I sprayed an undercoat of light gray, to highlight any further joint sanding and then, as I chose to make the 603 Sqn. version, the overall silver finish. I used spray cans rather than an air brush, as this particular skill has passed me by – I'm usually an old-fashioned brush painter.

Spitfire F.22Spitfire F.22

Once dry, I brushed a coat of Johnsons Klear (other gloss varnishes are available) to give a good setting base and then set about the decaling. This took several evenings, as I tend to let the small stencilling decals fully dry before handling the areas where applied, using Mister Mark Setter and Softener. Once all the decals were in place and dry, another coat of Klear brought up the High-Speed Silver finish, followed by careful wash applications to bring out the engraved panel detail.

It was now time to apply the small parts (all pre-painted) – the spinner/propeller assembly (with manufacturer mark decals applied), cannon, the full undercarriage (again pre-painted), engine exhaust manifolds, pitot tube, radio antenna, pilot and canopy. Being a vacform, the latter was cut and trimmed and secured in place with white glue.

Spitfire F.22Spitfire F.22

The result was a neat little silver Spitfire model. Not a competition winner, I grant you, but it did secure an honourable third place in the monthly competition at the IPMS branch I attend in mid-Sussex.