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Airfix Hawker Sea Fury FB.11

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/48 scale aircraft kit
Designed during World War II for the Royal Navy, the Sea Fury didn’t get into combat before the war ended. However, it soldiered on until the early jets were ready for ship deployment, eventually seeing combat over the Korean Peninsula.

When I saw several fly in the National Air Races at Reno, I realized the designers had somehow managed to combine the beauty and elegance of the Spitfire with the brute force of the P-47.

Airfix’s kit looks great in the box. Options include posable ailerons, elevators, rudder, and canopy. The wings can be built straight or folded, and the kit provides plenty of ordnance to hang under them. Airfix even included a set of closed gear doors in case you want to display the model in flight (stand not included). The only thing missing is a gunsight.

The 16-page instructions add only one or two parts in each of the 80 steps. There are numbers for color callouts, but no mention that they’re Humbrol paint numbers (or what the colors are). But those charts are easily available online, now that you know they’re Humbrol. Two color pages show paint and decal options, and a separate page lays out the stencil placements. 

The plastic is soft and quite rubbery. I accidentally bent the wing spar/bulkhead 120 degrees and it didn’t even show any stress marks. The plastic was slow to react to Weld-On and Tamiya extra thin, but Mr. Hobby’s Mr. Cement S quickly produced an inseparable bond. Better yet, it made seams disappear.

The molding features flash and seam lines, but once they’re cleaned up the parts’ detail really shines. Instrument-dial decals were included; they were thick, and two of them didn’t want to conform to the raised detail. But the others look great under a drop of Pledge Floor Gloss (PFG), and the cockpit winds up looking good. 

The only filler used on the fuselage was to correct the leading edge of the starboard half of the vertical stabilizer. The plastic just stopped at the panel lines. I built up layers of gap-filling super glue and sanded to match the port-side stabilizer.

Jumping ahead to add the horizontal stabilizers, I used a clear ruler with a grid pattern to check alignment. With the tail surfaces in place, it was easy to see that the spar provided an even dihedral for both wings.

Normally, a wing-fold option means horrible seams to fix and extra work to reinforce the joints. But Airfix has devised an internal structure that solves these issues. Follow the instructions and the seams will become panel lines, and the joints will not flex. Engineering genius!

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the engine cowling. Follow the instructions and you will have prominent steps at the nose and exhaust rings. The diameter of the joined upper and lower cowls is smaller than the diameter of the rings. I think if you add the upper cowl to the nose ring, and then the lower cowl to the nose ring (leaving a small gap between the cowl pieces), and add the exhaust ring last, you could eliminate the steps. Filling the gaps should be easier than leveling out the steps. There are one-piece aftermarket replacements already available to solve this problem.

I used Model Master enamels for the exterior, and Alclad II for the exhaust and heat shields.

A coat of PFG prepped the model for decals. They are thick and tend to bridge panel lines. I coaxed them with a hair dryer until I noticed a pitot tube starting to curl. Several applications of Microscale Micro Set did help. The decals have minimal excess film and are opaque and in-register, but a few of the stencils did silver.

The landing gear has a little play in it, but this makes installation and alignment easier.

The kit provides two sizes of drop tanks, what is either a reconnaissance or a searchlight pod, two styles of bombs, and doubled rockets. The tanks and the British-style bombs look great. However, the rockets are split vertically and the fit is surprisingly bad; seams on the rockets and the aft end of the U.S.-style bomb are difficult to reach.

Still, most of the model’s problems are easily fixed. With the exception of the cowling and the ordnance, this is the best-fitting kit I’ve ever reviewed. My recipe for the ultimate 1/48 scale Sea Fury starts with the Airfix kit and adds an aftermarket cowling and decals.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the September 2018 issue.
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