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Airfix Bristol Blenheim Mk.IF

Review of the 1/48 scale aircraft kit with a turret-assembly jig that's super clever
The Blenheim first flew in 1935 and entered service as a light bomber that was as fast or faster than contemporary biplane fighters. The Mk.IF was a fighter conversion primarily used at night, establishing the intercept and interdiction tactics mastered by its offspring, the Beaufighter.

Options include open or closed cowl flaps, raised or lowered landing gear, and posable flaps. Crisp recessed panel lines and rivets detail the airframe and raised instruments detail the cockpit. Bombs, racks and what looks like a strike camera indicate that a bomber version is on the way. Decals are provided for a plane in dark earth and dark green over black, and a night fighter in overall black.

The 20-pages of instructions start with the cockpit, although you may want to skip ahead to Page 19 (more on this later). The tube framework is well represented and goes together quickly. I had to thin Part D7 to allow room to correctly mount the jump-seat (A28). The instrument panel faces are provided with two decals, a center panel, and the surrounding details. I split the latter into four parts to ease alignment over the raised detail. Once applied they look fantastic.

While it looks complicated, the engineering of the landing-gear struts made construction and installation easy.

The wing spars make setting the correct dihedral simple, and the horizontal tail surfaces join without any seams to fill.

However, you may want to add wire pins to the rudder to help secure what is essentially a butt join and may be a bit weak otherwise.

Pay close attention to the drawings in Step 66. I didn’t and had to tear apart the engines. The two slots for the air intakes are on the left side as you face the front of the engines (as clearly shown in the drawing), not the top! (The intakes will be on the starboard side of the completed power egg.) I could have used an extra pair of hands to get the multi-piece cowls lined up correctly.

Airfix provides a jig to aid construction of the multi-piece turret, and I loved it! Place the parts in the jig, add a touch of super glue, and everything lined up perfectly.

Now about Page 19: I decided not to install the pilot as it would’ve been a tight fit. The assembled fuselage was narrower than the clear parts that make up the nose and canopy. So, I used a piece of tubing disguised as part of the cockpit structure to spread it. I am planning on building a second kit as a night-fighter flown by U.S. Navy crewmembers sent to learn British tactics. When I do, I am planning on building the clear nose first, then going back to Page 1 and making sure everything aligns to the nose. Another option would be to connect G4 and G11, the vertically split nose halves, to their respective fuselage halves before assembling the fuselage.

I painted the cowls, flaps and, gear doors separate from the airframe. I used Testors Model Master paints inside and Mr. Color on the exterior.

The decals went down well over a coat of Pledge Floor Gloss (PFG). I tried to accelerate the process with a hair dryer on the fuselage codes, but I don’t recommend it. They began to bubble rather than conform to the surface. I sealed them with PFG and then Testors Dullcote.

The flaps are a simple butt joint, but I wish they had a more positive system for alignment. The engines, props and gear doors fit well, just be sure the gear doors “snap” all the way in. The hole for the antennae mast is a little large. You may want to add some filler. All that was left was to drop in the completed turret.

Although this kit has minor challenges, most modelers should easily overcome them. I thoroughly enjoyed mine. Airfix continues to give us great kits of interesting subjects and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the October 2019 issue.
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