The Fairey Flycatcher was one of the most popular aircraft ever in British service, with a career spanning from 1923 right through to 1935, when it was finally replaced by the Hawker Nimrod as the standard Fleet Air Arm fighter. In its heyday in 1930, no less than 17 out of 24 FAA Flights were equipped with the Flycatcher.
The Flycatcher holds the distinction of being among the first aircraft designed specifically for carrier operations. Despite its slightly ungainly looks, the designers at Fairey apparently got the right mix of characteristics from the start, the trials of the Flycatcher reporting that: "The type has many excellent features as a deck-landing scout, the following being worthy of special mention: 1. View of pilot. 2. Slow landing speed and efficiency of flap gear. 3. Controllability at slow speeds. 4. Shock absorber gear of undercarriage."
The Flycatcher's manoeuvrability was legendary, Air Commodore Paul rating the type among his top ten favourite aircraft that he'd flown: "It was a small and very responsive aeroplane, in which the pilot seemed only to have to think a manoeuvre for the Flycatcher to follow his thoughts."
Despite its popularity and long career, only 196 Flycatchers were built (plus 3 prototypes) and the type was never sold overseas. No original Flycatchers seem to have survived, but a replica is on display at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton.
Source: Profile #56 - The Fairey Flycatcher, Profile Publications, 1965
Silver Wings have gained an enviable reputation for their high quality resin kits. I was suitably impressed when I reviewed their quarterscale Supermarine Seagull
, but this is my first opportunity to examine one of their 1:32 kits.
The Flycatcher arrives beautifully presented in a compact top-opening box. I should also mention for the benefit of anybody who, like me, obtains the kit direct from Silver Wings, that this was exceptionally well packed for transit - snug inside a made-to-measure cardboard bix that was lined with expanded polystyrene sheet.
Back to the kit at hand, inside the box you are greeted by a series of bubble-wrap pouches containing a multitude of zip-lock bags or resin parts. The major parts have been removed from their casting blocks and the main fuselage halves are taped together. The kit comprises:
178 x grey resin parts
27 x etch parts, plus film for the instruments and windscreen
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
The casting throughout is really quite superb. The masses of small parts are perfectly formed with minimal flash and, as far as I can see so far, only one or two tiny bubbles that will be simple to deal with. The surface detail comprises a beautifully subtle fabric effect on the fuselage and flying surfaces, and engraved panel lines on the forward fuselage. I'm tempted to run a scriber along the panel lines to sharpen them a little, but they should look fine straight from the box. However, I think there should also be fasteners of some sort on the panels - I hasten to add that's just a "gut reaction", not based on referring to photos.
Of course a biplane like this doesn't really lend itself to much dry-fitting, but what I can do is very encouraging. As noted above, the fuselage arrives taped together, and lies up very nicely with no warping. The lower wings plug in with solid locating stubs and are a tight fit to the fuselage sides. The upper wing is made up from three panels - again the fit is good and positive, promising a reasonably straightforward assembly (I use the term advisedly, as this is by no means a beginner's kit).
(NOTE: The instructions indicate the dihedral on the outer panels is 13 mm, but Doug Nelson (who is preparing a build review of the kit) informs me that it should be 11 mm.
Silver Wings have noted the mistake and will alter the instructions in future.)
The weight of the wings surprised me when I unpacked them, and the reason soon becomes clear when you inspect them - they are cast with a metal spar. This helps not only ensure they are perfectly straight as shipped, but will stay resistant to temperature fluctuations that might otherwise warp them. The undercarriage and interplane struts are all similarly cast with metal rod cores, so the completed model should be quite sturdy.
A few details
The cockpit is built up from a mix of 45 resin and etched parts. The tubular structure forms a sort of cat's cradle into which fit the pilot's seat, controls, fuel tank and ammunition canisters. The instrument panel is formed in two layers from etched parts with film backing for the instrument dials and should look great - but Doug Scott has pointed out that it is based on the panel fitted in the replica Flycatcher. The original style was rather different, so I'll scratchbuild a new panel for my model.
The fuselage-mounted machine guns are each made up of 6 parts, plus a small brass feed of "ammunition".
The Armstrong-Siddeley Jaguar is almost a kit in its own right with every cylinder, exhaust outlet and push-rod cast as a separate item. That makes almost 100 parts by the time you've added spark plug wires and a few bits of pipework (not supplied). The result should look quite stunning though, and really be worth the effort as there's no cowling to hide all your work. The propeller is cast as one piece complete with a delicate starter claw clutch on the boss.
The distinctive undercarriage is made up of 7 parts, with the main load-bearing items strengthened as noted above. It's obviously crucial to get everything sitting square, so using a simple assembly jig may be a good idea. The wheels look great, with neatly modelled inflation points on the hubs. The tyres are unweighted, so I'll probably add a slight "flats".
Instructions and decals
Silver Wings provide a 12-page A-4 instruction booklet. The drawings are simple, but do the job OK, breaking assembly down into 30 stages. There are a few simple written notes in English, and a colour coding system to show where photo-etched parts are used. I'd recommend studying the instructions quite carefully to fully familiarise yourself with what goes where before starting construction, as it may be wiser to alter the sequence at times - e.g. if you build the control column as shown in stage 6, it will be very hard to wriggle it into the completed cockpit framework in stage 13.
None of the resin parts are numbered, so I think it's a good idea to sort through all the small items, identifying them against the diagrams, and bagging them in sub-assemblies.
Generic colours are keyed to most details throughout assembly.
Decals are provided for 3 flamboyant colour schemes:
1. s/n S1282 "10", 408 Flight, HMS Glorious, Mediterranean Fleet, 1930
2. s/n N9679 "13", 404 Flight, HMS Courageous, Mediterranean Fleet, 1929
3. s/n S1274 "527", 401 Flight / 801 Squadron, HMS Furious, Home Fleet, 1933
The decals are printed by HungAeroDecals, whose products are new to me. They are excellent quality, with precise registration and minimal carrier film on the thin, glossy items. The serials are printed integrally with the rudder stripes, which may disappoint those who prefer to paint the stripes, but of course it does ensure a perfect match with the colours of the other decals.
Handmade limited run resin kits like this don't come cheap, but the quality is truly excellent and enthusiasts of Golden Age aircraft should love it! It's not suitable for beginners, but I thoroughly recommend it to anyone experienced with resin kits, and particularly biplanes. They should find it a very satisfying build thanks to the excellent casting and sound design. I think it's safe to say it's not a subject that the "majors" are likely to cover tomorrow, so you are guaranteed something rare and rather special in your collection.
I must thank Doug Nelson for arranging for this kit from Silver Wings. He is preparing a detailed "no paint or filler to hide behind" Building Guide that we will publish on Aeroscale shortly, while I'll be contributing my own full build beginning soon.
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