Wednesday, October 1, 2014

High flying Spitfire

Spitfire HF Mk VI, BS141/NN-B, 310 Squadron, Castletown, Scotland, 1943

This is one of those subjects (the Mk VI) that I've wanted to do for years, but never had the chops to tackle the wingtips. I was able to get a resin set (Airwaves I think) and finally decided I just had to dive in; my motivation was building a subject that "woulda, shoulda, coulda" been a good aircraft.

The Subject

In the Spring of 1941 the RAF was convinced Germany would restart the blitz but with higher flying bombers that were beyond the capabilities of the Mk II and V (then in development). They decided to modify the Mk Vb with a pressurized cockpit to sustain the pilot, extended wingtips for greater lift and a 4 bladed prop for more bite of the less dense air. Of course, Germany instead invaded Russia and the high altitude bomber fleet never materialized. Ultimately the RAF only build 100 HF Mk VI Spitfires; most served in just two squadrons although some served in squadrons at flight strength.

BS141 was one of those HF Mk VI aircraft that served alongside the Mk Vb in 310 Squadron. Performance of the HF Mk VI was poor at altitude, being marginally better than a suitably modified Mk Vb with 4 blade prop and extended wing tips. The latter was significantly easier to manufacture than the pressurized HF Mk VI. It was fortunate for the RAF that Germany changed its strategy in June 1941...

The Model

Since I had quite a few Airfix Vb kits on the shelf, I decided that the time had come to just do it. I also decided this would be something to model in flight, so I found a stand and prepped the fuselage to accept it. Construction was straight forward, the Airfix Vb kit has been around since 1974; I carefully measured the cut lines on the wing tips and faired them in with only 3 sessions of fill-sand-prime-fill-sand-prime.

The kit shows its age having no real cockpit detail, but that's not a problem if the pilot is painted and put in. In fact he looks like it's very crowded in there, and having sat in a Spitfire cockpit on more than one occasion I can agree that it's a snug fit! Additionally, the exterior detail is raised; which can be argued is more accurate given the lapping of the panels and the removable panels do have recessed lines. I chose not to keep the raised lines and sanded them down, but not completely off. I can see them if I look carefully.

The resin bits for the wing tips and pressurization intake went on with no difficulty. I sourced the prop from the more recent Airfix Mk IXc kit. Painting was very straight forward, I started with a lightened mix of Sky (Humbrol 90 with some gray added) because the Sky codes in the decals were obviously a lighter shade of Sky. Ultimately I still missed the mark as when the decals went on the codes took on a decidedly blue tone, and still much lighter. Oh well...

I used my standards for painting: Tamiya XF83 for Medium Sea Grey, Tamiya XF81 for Dark Green and Humbrol 106 for Ocean Grey. I had originally started to paint this model with a brush only, but in the end decided it was easier to quickly shoot major colors with my air brush.

Decals are a mix of aftermarket (Aeromaster) roundels and fin flash coupled with the codes and serial from my AZModel HF Mk VI kit. The Aeromaster decals nearly disintegrated when I used Revell's decal soft, so I stuck with water after that first underwing roundel. They worked fine from there. The AZModel decals needed a bit of softener so I used Daco's soft formula, which worked perfectly.


In the end those Sky codes make this model look "not quite right". Additionally, they appear slightly off register which may be affecting the color perception. Okay, how does a single color decal look "off register"? It appears to have been printed in two layers and one of the layers is slightly off.

I'm looking forward to building the AZModel HF Mk VI, I know it will look all the better given my experience with their Mk Vb kit -- it's the same sprues used for all the 'b' wing Spitfires. However I need to find some better / replacement Sky codes.

Thanks for looking...

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