Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Airfix Hawker Typhoon 1B


As I get older, I find myself retreating further into a second childhood. I have found myself watching James May's Bestest Toys programme with wistful nostalgia. I sit there misty eyes over Meccano, Hornby Trains and Lego but most of all - Airfix plastic plane kits.

I must have been about seven when my mother came home one day with an Airfix 1:72 Spitfire and a tube of polystyrene glue. Little did I know (Ihave always wanted to use that phrase) that this was the start of something awesome. To follow were plastic tank kits and little toy soldiers. My favourites were the 8th Army and the Afrika Corps.

Well plastic kits are back on an upswing and Airfix, like Hornby trains, are back. I recently acquired a classic 1:72 Airfix kit of a Hawker Typhoon 1B and have made it. These really are great little models.

The innovative Sopwith-Hawker company were the most important manufacturer of fighter planes in Britain. The last all-British fighter that will ever be designed is a Hawker, the famous VTOL Harrier, still in combat in Afghanistan.

The Typhoon was designed in the late 1930s as a planned raplacement of the Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes that fought the battle of Britain. The onset of war meant that it was rushed into production too early. 142 were manufactured and were a disaster, nearly all being lost to accidents. The guns malfunctioned, the engines burst into flames on ignition and the cockpit was polluted with carbon monoxide. Worst of all, the tails fell off with fatal results for the pilot. Finally, it proved to have a miserable high altitude performance compared to the upgraded Spitfires.

It was nearly cancelled, except for a quirk of fate. The rugged Typhoon had a superb low level performance. At the time, 1943, southern England was subject to low level FW190 hit and run bombing that was impeding the build up of arms. The Spitfire defences were outclassed by the 190 at low level.

They fixed the tail and got the guns working and unleashed the Typhoon on the 190s with highly satisfactory results. OK, the engines still caight fire on ignition and the pilot had to wear a mask at all times but at low level there was nothing to touch it. They fitted two 500lb bombs, then two 1000lb bombs and sent it on sweeps across occupied Europe where it caused chaos. Fitted with rockets, Typhoons harried the German army in its retreat from Normandy and shot up the Natzi armoured columns in the Ardennes.

The ugly duckling that had nearly been cancelled had become one of the most important alled aircraft of WWII.

7 comments:

  1. What a great little kit and a nice slice of it's history to go with it, thanks John.

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  2. dear Blitz
    Thanks, have a good Xmas,
    John

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  3. Thomas Willoughby27 December 2009 at 01:18

    I always liked the Typhoon, and built the Momogram kit myself as a lad. I have the Hasagawa kit in the stash waiting its turn.
    I just bought the Tamiya 1/32 Spitfire mkIX, i t will be a real challenge. Merry Christmas John. Tom Willoughby

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  4. The beaufighter was my favourite, but I'm very much a staunch admirer of the Hawkers. I guess I've always preferred 'rugged' to 'showy'.

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  5. Dear Thomas
    Good luck with the Spitfire.
    Have a great New year,

    John

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  6. Dear Admiral
    The Sopwith Hawker company made great warplanes.
    John

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