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D. H.108 The First and Last Swallows of Spring. A pair of British prototypes

12 Apr
2012

D. H.108 The First and Last Swallows of Spring. A pair of British prototypes,airplane scale model

The D. H.108 was a British experimental aircraft initially designed to evaluate swept-wing handling characteristics up to supersonic speeds. Initially proposed in 1944 as a design test for the proposed tailless D. H.106 Comet, the aircraft saw the mating of a single tail fin and swept wings to the main fuselage section and engine of the de Havilland Vampire. The aircraft was named ‘Swallow’ by the Miinistry of Supply, but de Havilland never took up the name.

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The D. H.108 was the first British swept-winged jet aircraft and the first British tailless jet aircraft. It was also the first British aircraft to exceed Mach 1, and indeed one of the first jet-powered aircraft in the world to achieve this landmark speed.

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The small decal sheet has all you will need to finish off your model

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The contents of the Planet Models kit

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The smaller parts of the Planet kit come moulded in a resin film

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The shallow cockpit leaves something to be desired, but it does stop tail sitting

Debunking the myth that resin is better. The Heller injected plastic parts, in metallic grey, are every bit as good

Some filler was needed around the nose where the fuselage halves meet

D. H.108 The First and Last Swallows of Spring. A pair of British prototypes,airplane scale

The clear canopy also needed filler to blend it into the Once painted, decalled and the panel lining picked out, fuselage Planet’s kit does look rather nice

The single-page instructions are easy to follow

Planet’s First Prototype

Enclosed inside a small white open-ended box, are twenty eight cream coloured resin parts. The upper and lower fuselage/wings items are separately moulded, and all the other parts come enclosed in a single moulding film, and these parts, once released from their confinement and cleaned up, are nice and crisp, apart from the single-piece front wheel assembly which is beyond saving and needs replacement. There is just one vacform canopy, a small decal sheet and a single sheet of A4 which serves as the instructions/paint and decal guide.

Construction

The first thing to do is to decide what to do about the fuselage, this is because Planet have made a compromise in the lower half section, where they have moulded the front solid instead of giving a full depth cockpit. Now, I can see what they are about here as the

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D. H.108 is a tail sitter if there ever was one, and the solid front is just the right weight to prevent this, but it does present the builder with a dilemma – do you build the kit as designed and compromise the cockpit, or do you

remove the resin to allow a full cockpit but then have the tail sitting problem? I opted for the former, as I could not be doing with all the extra work, not only digging out the resin, but scratch building the cockpit as well as replacing

all the parts.

So just what have Planet given you for the cockpit, given the somewhat restricted space in the kit? Well it’s not good news. As the three D. H.108s were built from aircraft taken from the production line the cockpit was, by and large, the same as the Vampire D. H.100, with the addition of an ejection seat in the third aircraft, which is the subject of this kit. None of the parts here bear any resemblance whatsoever to any de Havilland aircraft ever made to the best of my knowledge, but given that you can’t see that much through the canopy, I worked with what was there, just replacing the kifs control stick, with a spare from the Heller Vampire. The whole interior was painted matt black and given a dry brush of matt aluminium. Seat belts were made up from Tamiya tape, and given a coat of Khaki Drill with the detail picked out in black.

Once completed the two wing/fuselage parts were joined together and the joint cleaned up. The canopy was fitted next, and this was attached with Humbrol Clearfix, then blended into the fuselage with filler.

The last stage of the build is the undercarriage. The parts supplied are not really very accurate and were replaced by items from Heller’s Vampire, which consisted of the whole front leg and wheel and the main front bay door. The main undercarriage legs were, again, from the Heller kit, as the wheels in the kit are too big in both diameter and thickness (as are the Heller items for the D. H.108), so a root around in the spares box came up with two old FROG wheels from the Spitfire XII + VI kit, which did the trick. The main wheel bay doors were the resin parts in the kit. All that remained to do was to make the two pilot tubes that are fitted to the wing tips and the radio antenna just behind the cockpit.

Whirlybird’s 1st prototype DH 108

If s been a long time since I made a vacform kit, in fact the last one was Maintrack’s Project X D. H.108 Swallow, so I was delighted to find, inside the small stout box, that Whirlybird have reissued the Project X kit. To fit it in the box the once single sheet of plastic has been cut into manageable sizes, and this is made up of twenty-four parts including a set of wings, two types of fuselage, representing the first and third prototypes, some internal items and

D. H.108 The First and Last Swallows of Spring. A pair of British prototypes,model aircraft construction

others. There are eleven metal parts including the undercarriage, two seats, and the wing tip anti-spin parachute containers fitted to the first version, and to round off the parts two pairs of clear vacform canopies. The small decal sheet and one A4 size page of instructions are reprints of the Maintrack items.

Construction

Right, to work, and first things first – what version to make? I plumped for the first prototype, as the Planet kit is the third aircraft. Once the parts were marked out they were cut from the plastic sheet using a very sharp knife, then I made up a flat sanding surface, using a sheet of window glass with wet & dry taped to it. The various parts were rubbed down to their correct sizes, or that was the intention, but as it happened I got carried away with the left hand side and rubbed it down too much, which resulted in a large gap along the centre of the fuselage that needed some work with strips of plastic card to close. This had the advantage of making a solid joint, and once the two halves were fitted together, layers of filler and superglue built up the gap, which was rubbed down to the right shape.

The old Maintrack kit has stood up very well to the test of time

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The two types of vacform canopies are some of the best you will ever come across

As with the rest of the kit. the decals are reprints of the original Maintrack ones

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All the parts are now cut out and ready to be sanded into The two types of fuselage – the marked out one at the top is shape on wet & dry – note the glass sheet used to achieved Tape was used to get a good grip when everything is wet and for the 3rd prototype and the cut-out bottom one is the 1st a flat surface slippery

D. H.108 The First and Last Swallows of Spring. A pair of British prototypes,model scales

Once the Heller cockpit was fitted, the amount of work needed to repair the over-sanding to the fuselage side was Caught in the act of messing up the left hand side fuselage somewhat time consuming

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D. H.108 The First and Last Swallows of Spring. A pair of British prototypes,model airplanes rc

Once the damage was fixed, the wings could be attached, and filler was needed to blend the top of them into the fuselage

The underside also needed filler around the wing-to-fuselage joint

As you can see. there is a rather large gap along the fuselage joint!

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Once the joints were rubbed down and cleaned up, the main undercarriage bays were cut out. Filler was used to make the bay walls

The metal wing tip anti-spin parachute containers are easy to fit to the wing tips, with just a hint of filler being needed to cover up the joint

The undercarriage legs fitted without any trouble, though it was necessary to cut them down a bit to achieve the right sit

Before construction commenced the cockpit needed to be made up, and the kit contains a number of rudimentary parts for this area. I only used the rear bulkhead and metal seat, with all the rest coming from the, by now, somewhat depleted Heller kit, including the instrument panel, control stick, cockpit floor/front undercarriage bay and the hydraulic system reservoir (the small box-like structure just behind the cockpit on the Heller kit), all of which fitted nicely into the vacform fuselage.

The fit of the wings was really very good, with filler being needed to blend the fuselage/wing joint top and bottom, though it is a good idea to make up the intake walls before you glue the wing to the fuselage. Once the wings were in place, the tips were removed and the two anti-spin parachute containers were fitted, then the main wheel bays were cut out, with the walls to both these and the front bay made up with filler. Holes were drilled for the three metal undercarriage legs and these were fitted, with the front bay doors coming again from the Heller kit.

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All that remained to do was to fit the canopy, which was an excellent match to the fuselage and the engine outlet – no prizes for guessing where that came from – to replace the very poor metal item.

Colour Options

Both aircraft were finished in highly polished metal, so I brush-painted them with Humbrol Silver (#11). The panel lining on the Planet kit was picked out in Humbrol matt Black (#33), with just the control surfaces being picked out on the Whirly Bird model. There were panel lines which could have been rescribed, but in this scale they can’t be seen, so I don’t see the point.

I made an educated guess, based on available photographs, and painted the undercarriage yellow. Once this was dry the decals were added. The printing on

Heller Vampire FB.5

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As you may have noticed the Heller Vampire FB.5 (which has also been modified to represent the French ‘Mistral’ version) is indispensable to the build of either kit, so what makes it so special? Released in the nineteen seventies at a time when Heller were making the best injected moulded kits you could get, the Vampire has stood the test of time and is probably still the best Vampire around in 1/72. Its delicate raised panel lines may put some off, but that is their loss. Made up of thirty-eight parts, three clear, the level of detail with cockpit and undercarriage parts is as good if not better than the best resin kits, as is the injected canopy and the full-depth jet outlet. It can be picked up for under a fiver, which adds to my very high opinion of this plastic kit. If you see one in any of its various boxings then buy it, as not only is it an excellent kit in its own right, but it is very useful as a donor kit for any resin member of the Vampire family, in 1/72.

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VW120 The third prototype. VW120, first flew on 24 July 1947 flown by John Cunningham, a wartime nightfighter ace. The following year, on 12 April 1948, it established a new World Air Speed Record of 604.98 mph on a 62 mile circuit. VW 120 was destroyed on 15 February 1950, in a fatal crash near Brickhill, Buckinghamshire, killing its test pilot. Squadron Leader Stuart Muller-Rowland. Accident investigation pointed to a faulty oxygen system that incapacitated the pilot.

The Vampire imaged here is the Heller FB.5, converted to a Mk I, done by adding Heritage Aviation’s resin Vampire wing tips and the boom and tail off a defunct CMR Vampire Mk I. The one-piece canopy was added to the Mk I from January 1946, replacing the three-piece model (as fitted to TG 283). The decals also come from the comprehensive set in the CMR Mk I kit. showing an RAF Mk I of 130 Squadron from 1946. The aircraft is finished in all-over aluminium and has the B type roundels and fin flashes of the time

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D. H.108 The First and Last Swallows of Spring. A pair of British prototypes,large scale rc airplanes

With all the undercarriage assembly painted and in place, the end was in sight

The Heller/ Whirlybird cockpit is now completed and awaits the canopy

All finished. The canopy did require some filler to blend it into the fuselage. The real bonus here is that I ended up with an excellent spare early Mk I canopy, worth its weight in Gold!

The Planet model is not too good, with the register being a little off and the colours seem to me to be a tad washed out on the national marking, but despite this they did adhere to the surfaces without any issues whatsoever. The Whirlybird items are nicely printed with good register as well as excellent colour density, the one drawback being that they are printed on a continuous backing film. Once cut out the national markings and the small aircraft numbers adhered to the surface well but when I used some Micro Sol on the large numbers on the underside of the wings to help smooth them out, some of the black ink started to dissolve – so don’t use Sol or Set.

After the decals were left for twenty-four hours to dry, both kits were given a coat of Humbrol Clear Poly to represent the polished surface.

Conclusion

What we have here are two very interesting aircraft, which at the time were at the cutting edge of British aeronautical design. The Planet Models Swallow looks good once made and there is no doubt that its exterior detail is miles better than the Whirly Bird kit, however it has some major issues with the quality of the moulding and the lack of accuracy in most of the smaller parts.

D. H.108 The First and Last Swallows of Spring. A pair of British prototypes,rc scale model aircraft

 The shallow cockpit area is a good idea to deal with tail sitting, but there is the subsequent compromise with the size and depth of the cockpit.
The Whirlybird kit gives you the option of both the first and last Swallow, the metal parts are accurate and nicely moulded, and the clear canopies are some of the best quality you will ever come across. If you have never built a vacform kit, and they are surprisingly really easy to build, then give it a go, as the Whirlybird kit is an excellent choice, and around half the cost of the Plant Model resin kit.
Just one thing – you will need to get hold of the Heller Vampire to get the best out of both of these kits, but it has been issued by Revell and Airfix as well so it should be relatively easy to get hold of.

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