- Published on Tuesday, 28 February 2012 00:01 Robin Jenkins
1/72 Folland Gnat T.1
Catalogue # A01006
Available direct from Airfix for £5.99
Although it has never been one of my favourite aeroplanes, I vividly remember the first time I ever saw a Folland Gnat. I was 11 or 12 and, on a visit to my grandparents in Shropshire, we went to the main (then new) shopping complex in Telford (close to where the IPMS Nationals are now held in the UK). There, parked on display in the main car park on a low trailer, to help raise funds for the RAF, was a Gnat. My overbidding memory was just how small an aircraft it was, even to me at that tender age.
Initially developed as a development of a private venture as a lightweight jet fighter for the RAF, it never served in that role but instead became a primary jet trainer as the T.1 version in the 1960s for pilots scheduled to eventually see service flying the English Electric Lightning. It was exported to Yugoslavia, Finland and India, who became the largest user of the type, including manufacturing it under licence and even refining and developing it themselves to design the HAL Ajeet. Of course, people old enough in the UK will remember the Gnat as the first aircraft type flown by the Red Arrows from their formation in 1966. It is forgotten though that the Red Arrows were formed by the amalgamation of more than one pre-existing display team, one of which, the "Yellow Jacks", based at RAF Valley, already flew the Gnat (below); painted in a bright yellow colour, this was a display team which, to my eyes at least, wore a more attractive scheme than that the Red Arrows carried.
Credit and copyright: Wikipedia
There have not been that many kits of the Gnat over the years and I cannot say I have ever built the older 1/72 kits from Airfix or Matchbox or the 1/48 offering from Aeroclub. I have had it at the back of my mind to someday build a Yellow Jacks machine but never got round to it. Now, in front of me is a brand new 1/72 kit from Airfix. I first saw the test build up for this kit on a visit to Airfix last year and have been looking forward to it.
In a small, now standard-format box, there are 2 major sprues, a small transparency sprue, the decal sheet and the instructions. The first sprue (below) provides the modeller with the fuselage halves, tailplanes, undercarriage legs and covers, some of the cockpit pieces, intake openings and interiors and parts of the drop tanks. The cockpit is basic but basically sound. The intakes and their interiors are really well portrayed, something so often overlooked on even bigger scale jet kits. The undercarriage parts are verging on sublime, so well are they done.
The other major sprue (above) gives the wings, optional lower centre sections, rear jet pipe, wheels (with slightly angled flats on the tyres, I kid you not!), nose leg, pitot, cockpit floor/nose wheel bay roof, main undercarriage bays and the remaining parts of the drop tanks. There are also 2 very unconvincing pilots; even a cursory glance confirms they are not wearing flying suits and helmets appropriate for a 1960s jet. The main parts, as with all of Airfix's recent releases, have excellent detail and panel work (below); I know some modellers think this is a touch heavy but, believe me, under coats of primer and paint, it looks absolutely right. The other major point is that the kit accords just about perfectly to the Gnat plans I sourced in every dimension; you could not ask for a better executed model in terms of accuracy.
The only other part of the kit which I felt did not quite match the quality of the remainder was the canopy (above). My photo show the combination of the curvature and the thickness of the plastic used causes a small amount of distortion of the view on the sides; this is a shame for, unless a vacform replacement is made or released commercially, this cannot be cured.
The decal sheet (below) offers a single choice, but a very attractive one at that: an aircraft from the CFS (Central Flying School) at RAF Little Rissington in Gloucestershire in 1964. Decals are easily up to Airfix's recent high standards and include instruments and full stencilling.
Finally, as with all recent smaller releases from Airfix, a good colour profile of the aircraft's scheme is portrayed on the rear of the box (above). I have no doubt that it will look a treat in the day-glo and silver colours when built up; however, the inexperienced modeller often finds trouble in getting a decent finish with day-glo paint, it is a colour that should always be sprayed for best effect.
One possible omission is the lack of suggesting noseweight for this tricycle undercarriage aircraft in the instructions. Most models of aircraft with this U/C system do need weight in the nose, but not all; without building it, I'm not certain, but I have a suspicion that Airfix have missed this out and it should be added to the next reprint of the instruction sheet. On the other hand, the instructions do clearly show the modeller clearly how to set up the odd angles of the Gnat's undercarriage; many Gnat kits I have seen finished over the years have missed this point and look very odd because of it.
Finally, the price is wonderfully well set at under £6.00, offering truly excellent value to the modeller.
So What Do We Think?
For the 1/72nd modeller, Airfix have come up with another definitive model of a well-known type, something they are doing with some regularity at present. It is very well executed, accurate and with an interesting decal scheme (though we all know a Red Arrows aircraft will follow, no doubt in a gift set); only the canopy and poor pilots could be replaced. It also offers great value for money. In fact, when you look at the prices of other modern releases from other companies, you cannot help but think that Airfix have got it spot-on with their pricing policy at present. My love affair with the Yellow Jacks may take a little longer to fulfill until some aftermarket decals appear but this is the kit I will use to realise that modelling ambition when they are available.
Another 1/72 winner
Our thanks to Airfix for the review sample. To purchase directly, click THIS link.