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Aeroclub’s Venom FB. Mk 4

23 Apr

Aeroclub's Venom FB. Mk 4,model aircraft kits

Featured as part of SAM‘s aerobatic teams series, this striking red and white Venom FB. Mk 4 was flown by Peter Williams of No. 60 Squadron’s display team in the late 1950s. Jonathan Burns recreated the aircraft using the Aeroclub kit.

The inspiration for this model came from a profile artwork in a Scale Aircraft Modelling feature on RAF aerobatic teams (SAM 27/1, March 2005), which featured Venom FB. Mk 4 WR496/N. It turns out that a friend of mine, Peter Williams, flew this very aircraft while he was with No. 60 Squadron, RAF. This unit operated an aerobatic team made up of six Venom FB. Mk 4s in 1957-58, when the squadron was based at Tengah, Singapore. The serials of the six aircraft were WR537/A, WT564/B, WR407/C, WR533/L, WR496/N and WR421/P. The team flew at the Manila airshow with great success. WR496/N was apparently a much-loved aircraft, popularly referred to as ‘November, Queen of the Skies’.

The aircraft wore a very attractive scheme of overall gloss white. The tanks, both wingtip and pylon mounted, were red, with the tip tanks sporting a white lightning flash. The rudders were also red, as were the serials on the booms. Peter very kindly supplied me with a copy of a photograph of his aircraft taking off which, although blurred, clearly shows the main features (Photo 1). In this image the four tanks appear to be much darker in shade than the fin and rudder, although all sources state that they were all painted red. The photograph also shows that only the starboard tip tank had a white front portion.

Aeroclub's Venom FB. Mk 4,wright brothers plane model

Aeroclub’s Venom FB. Mk 4

The only available Venom FB. Mk 4 kit in 1:72 is that made by Aeroclub (Photo 2). The kit is typical short-run, with caramel-coloured main components, a vacformed canopy and white-metal undercarriage

(Photo 3). The decals are good, but in my example they had yellowed (Photo 4). The kit decals were therefore not used, apart from the red ‘no step’ markings on the upper wing. The modeller must fabricate many details, including the undercarriage doors, pitot tube, ejector ports and aileron mass balances. However, the overall build is inexpensive and presents a nice challenge – the perfect way to while away a few evenings.

I started by carefully detaching the components from the sprue gates using a razor saw, and then cleaned them up and test fitted the fuselage halves. I noticed that, although it looked correct, the kit

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and the plastic around the intake openings needs to be thinned somewhat. I offered the wings up to the fuselage and realised that they would sit with too much dihedral, so the wing roots were trimmed until I was happy with the angle.

Tail surfaces

I made a mistake with the tail booms and tailplane: the latter consists of a main central section, which requires mass balances to be built, and two outer winglets. The location for the central section is a little vague, and when I came to add the outer winglets I realised that I’d got it in the wrong position and had to separate the glued components. In future, I would add the outer pieces first and use these as a guide to position the main tailplane. As it was, all the adjustment threw the tail booms slightly out of alignment.

I assembled all the components and saw that some gaps remained (Photo 6), and so I applied (rather too much) filler around the wing to fuselage join and also around the tail booms (Photo 7). After sanding this down, I re-scribed some of the lost surface detail. Luckily the Venom had quite a smooth airframe so there are relatively few panel lines required.

Scratch-built detail

The kit leaves the modeller to fabricate a great deal of detail. I started by making the tail pitot tube mounting out of scrap plastic, the cannon shell ejector chutes and the intake vanes from 10-thou plasti-card. I drilled the booms and added whip aerials from copper wire, which was able to stand up to much handling as the model progressed. I realised that the nosewheel door has an inner lining with prominent lightening holes, which I simulated by using two layers of plasticard, with holes drilled in the inner layer. The tailplane requires an elevator actuator fairing on its upper surface and the mass balances underneath, while the rear fuselage needs a tail bumper. I also took the opportunity to lengthen the air intake behind the cockpit. A new jet pipe was made from the ‘corrugated’ section of a bendable drinking straw (Photo 8).

Aeroclub's Venom FB. Mk 4,1 18 scale aircraft

I assembled the four fuel tanks and then noticed that the leading edge mini-slats could be improved. I therefore carved them away and, after studying the Venom preserved at the Mosquito Aviation Museum at London Colney, fabricated new examples from slivers of plasticard (Photo 9). After this, I added the tip tanks: these have a hole drilled in their outer edges to represent the recess for the mounting bolts.

Red and white finish

With most of the airframe complete, it was time to prepare the model for spraying. A coat of Halfords automotive primer revealed a few blemishes, which I sanded before applying a couple of coats of appliance white paint from a can. The cockpit was painted Revell Matt 9 Anthracite, followed by some gentle dry-brushing with greys and a few blobs of colour to represent switches. The seat came up very well – seat cushions were olive drab with seat straps in light tan; the yellow and black firing handles were made from fuse wire. The tip tanks, underwing tanks and fins received about five coats of Humbrol acrylic red, the sort that is provided in ‘starter’ Airfix sets, and this gave a pleasing dark colour.

Aeroclub's Venom FB. Mk 4,1 32 model aircraft

The decals had to be assembled from various sources. The roundels came from Model Art sets, the No. 60 Squadron fuselage bars from Modeldecal sheet 101 (one of these became detached and lost – I replaced it with some black decal film and a rather clumsily painted lightning flash –Photo 10) and the underwing and tail-boom serials from various other Modeldecal sets. The white lightning flashes on the tip tanks came from the spares box – in fact, St Andrew’s crosses originating from the Spanish version of Revell’s 1:48 Ju 52/3m. Since the starboard tank has a white front, I assumed that the flash would be slightly shorter on this side.

The model was given a couple of light coats of Xtracolor matt varnish and then the canopy and formation lights were added. I’m very pleased with this little model – it provided a bit of a challenge and that made the final result more worthwhile. With Classic Airframes’ new 1:48 Venoms recently announced, I do hope that a decal manufacturer makes the markings for ‘November, Queen of the Skies’!

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