by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
The latest Airframe Album from Richard Franks covers Britain's ultimate twin piston-engined fighter the de Havilland Hornet and its naval counterpart, the Sea Hornet. With its sleek good looks, the Hornet's long been a favourite among modellers looking for something a little "exotic", but it can hardly be said to have been over-covered - and, indeed, many would argue that we're still waiting for an accurate modern kit of the aircraft.
The new volume follows the series' successful formula, with 146 pages soft-bound and printed on high quality stock. As well as Richard Franks' historical and technical notes, the book also includes artwork from Richard Caruana and Wojciech Sankowski, and model builds by Libor Jekl and Steve Evans.
ContentsThe book breaks down into the following main sections:
1. Technical Description
2. Evolution - Prototype, Production and Projected Variants
3. Camouflage & Markings
I - Hornet & Sea Hornet Kit List
II - Hornet & Sea Hornet Accessories & Decal List
III - Bibliography
The Introduction gives a concise 21-page historical overview of the development of the aircraft and its service history. It's well illustrated with useful shots of the machines at various stages of their career and ends with a comprehensive list of the specifications. It does seem extraordinary that no efforts were made to preserve any of these superb machines until it was too late - a real case of "you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone".
The Technical Description is going to be the focus of the book for most modellers, being a the next best thing we can hope for to a Walkaround (at least until David Collins' ambitious Hornet Project is hopefully completed one day).
This 80-page section breaks down into 7 main Groups:
1 - Fuselage
2 - Wings
3 - Tail
4 - Undercarriage
5 - Engines
6 - Weapons
7 - Miscellaneous
The depth of coverage is very comprehensive, with most Groups being further subdivided so, for instance, the Fuselage Group covers:
1. Cockpit Interior
2. Canopy & Forward Fuselage
3. Main & Aft Fuselage
4. Fuel. Pneumatic, Hydraulic & Oil systems
5. Electrical, Radio & Radar systems
The content is from servicing manuals, pilot notes and period B& W photos from a variety of sources. These combine to give a really detailed reference for each of the Hornet / Sea Hornet variants and will be pretty much essential reading for anyone wanting to improve one of the available kits.
The Evolution gives a handy at-a-glance chronological guide to the features of each variant. The isometric views by Wojciech Sankowski are accompanied by concise notes and should be a real help to modellers get things correct.
Camouflage & Markings combines useful period photos and a detailed account of the colours carried by the Hornet and Sea Hornet during their careers. The section ends with an attractive selection of colour profiles by Richard Caruana, but unfortunately it does look as though Richard has fallen into the trap that has bedevilled so many kits, because the windscreen is clearly incorrect compared with the many clear photos in the book. (The isometric views in the previous section are correct.)
The Models are Special Hobby's 1:72 Sea Hornet NF Mk 21 and Trumpeter's 1:48 Hornet F Mk 1. As you'd expect from talented modellers like Libor Jekl and Steve Evans, the results in the step-by-step builds are very attractive, although neither get to grips with some of the most serious flaws in either kit - e.g. both also miss the nose/cockpit/canopy problems. True, Steve corrects the ridiculous "fabric" control surfaces in Trumpeter's effort, but in both cases it seems a missed opportunity not to at least address the many other problems that stand out like sore thumbs, and give cross-references to the relevent sections in the Technical Description.
Finally, the Appendices give a useful round-up of the kits and accessories that have appeared over the years, along with a list of further reading.
ConclusionIn my opinion, the Technical Description alone makes this a must-have for anyone building a kit of the Hornet or Sea Hornet. Although none of the series I've read have included scale drawings, I'd have really liked to see some in this volume, because it would have been an ideal opportunity to provide modellers with an accurate set at last and been just what we need to provide the added confidence to tackle quite ambitious correction projects on the available kits. Noting their absence is not meant as a criticism, but they would have made a great added extra.
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