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First Look Review
E. E. Canberra B(1)8 / B(1)12
  • Airfix_Canberra_Boxtop

by: Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]

Originally published on:

Airfix's 1/48 scale English Electric Canberra must surely be among the most keenly anticipated kits of recent years. A while ago it looked as though it was a victim of the company's financial crisis, but the subsequent rescue by Hornby revived hopes that one of Britain's most popular post-war aircraft would finally appear as a mainstream quarterscale kit.

Even though the Canberra lies outside my normal areas of modelling interest, a sense of brand loyalty to a company that's been a part of my modelling life since the 1960s meant I grabbed one at my earliest opportunity.

So what are the first impressions? Well, it's a pretty big kit in an even bigger box! For a dyed-in-the wool propeller head, the sheer size of the wing chord at the roots is quite a shock. Most of the sprues are in one big plastic bag, the tranparencies bagged separately within it, with the wings sprue loose in the box, separated by some bubble-wrap. The kit comprises:

172 x grey styrene parts (some not needed for this version)
8 x clear styrene parts
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
A 14-page A-4 instruction booklet.

The parts are moulded for Airfix in China and the style and styrene used rather reminds me of Trumpeter and Hobbyboss. The moulding is nice and clean with basically no sign of flash. Knockout-pin marks have been kept out of harm's way and the only minor sinkage I found in my kit is under the wings ahead of the aileron cutouts. The surface has a silky sheen and with detailing in the form of prominent engraved panel lines. While a bit heavy, they are consistent and neatly done and a coat of primer should knock them back a bit.

For a kit of this size, Airfix's Canberra is surprisingly simple - quite a lot of the parts count is accounted for by a generous set of stores. The box states that the kit is suitable for 8-year olds upwards and I can believe it - Airfix have clearly aimed for a much wider market than Classic Airframes did with their short-run kit.

Test fit
The parts are warp free and a check of the main components shows the fit is excellent. The fuselage and wings have very chunky locating pins and line up precisely. The fit of the wing roots is very good, while the stabilizers are a bit loose in a dry-fit, but will be fine when cemented. Airfix have moulded standard fuselage halves, and to cater for the different Canberra versions, there's a separate section incorporating the cockpit. This is probably the most critical point of the model and, if the fit was poor, it could have been a real problem. Happily, it's a tight fit and matches the fuselage contours perfectly; with a little care, the joint should be just about indistinguishable from the surrounding panel lines.

The detail
The overall detailing reflects the general simplicity of the kit and is a little soft. The cockpit isn't bad, with multi-part seats and reasonable sidewalls and consoles, but the pilot's instrument panel is very basic. A unusual touch these days is the inclusion of seated crew figures. They are maybe a little small, but should look fine when installed.

The kit can be modelled with an open bomb bay with a separate pannier for 4 x bombs. There are also underwing pylons for a choice of bombs, missiles, single or dual unguided rocket launchers and wingtip fuel tanks. There's an optional gun pack and the tips of the cannons are rounded. You might want to drill out the barrels, but they probably would have caps on them in real life to keep dirt out.

The wheel wells are nice and deep with neat rib detail, but there's plenty of scope to add some plumbing. The gear legs are a bit basic, but they are good and sturdy. The kit is a natural tail-sitter and the instructions recommend 100 grammes of noseweight, although a tail prop is also provided. The hubs are reasonably and the tyres are weighted.

The clear parts are bagged separately to protect them and are quite thin and free of distortion. The pilot's fighter-style canopy is split in two, but the instructions state not to pose it open (presumably, it was only opened on the ground for servicing, with the pilot entering the aircraft via the nose hatch). The entire nose cone is a separate clear part. This means no problems with fitting the bomb-aimer's windows, but I found this piece a little cloudy, something a dip in Future/Kleer wil hopefully help with. The kit includes clear parts for the wingtip lamp covers.

Instructions and decals
The instructions booklet is attractively produced and the assembly diagrams are clearly drawn and logically laid out in 39 stages. That might seem like overkill for what is essentially a simple model, but it breaks everything down into nice easy chunks that will ensure an easy build. Humbrol paint matches keyed to most details.

The kit's colour schemes are illustrated on a separate full-colour painting guide:

A. Canberra B(I)8, No. 16 Sqn. RAF, Laarbruch, Germany, 1972
B.Canberra B(I)12, No. 14 Sqn. RNZAF, Ohakea, 1968
C. Canberra B(I)12, No. 12 Sqn. SAAF, Waterkloof, 1969-75

The decal sheet is enormous and includes a comprehensive set of stencils. The items are thin and glossy and printed in excellent register. A nice touch is that the roundel centres are separate items, ensuring accurate alignment. At first glance I thought the Roundel Blue used was a bit pale and muted, but closer examination reveals that it's printed as fine dots, so many modellers will want to replace the national insignia. How about a set of Miracle Masks, Mal?

Overall, Airfix's Canberra shows huge potential. It's a big and attractive kit and the great fit and slightly simplified detail makes it ideal for the mainstream market. Experienced modellers will see it as an obvious canvas for superdetailing - and I'll be amazed if a host of aftermarket don't follow its release. The parts breakdown is almost an open invitation for resin and etched details and there's obviously plenty of scope for new decals. Airfix have done well by keeping the price down to a reasonably affordable level. OOB it looks a simple and enjoyable build and I'm looking forward to tackling it - and, of course, for any Brit, it's always great to see a new Airfix kit!

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.

Highs: Cleanly moulded and simple construction. A large and impressive kit at a reasonable price. Good set of decal options.
Lows: Simplified details in places. The blue of the decals is printed as small dots.
Verdict: Perhaps a little basic in places, Airfix's new Canberra is well targeted for average modellers. Great fit of the main parts promises an easy build.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:48
  Mfg. ID: A10102
  Suggested Retail: 27.99
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Apr 05, 2008
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

About Rowan Baylis (Merlin)

I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...

Copyright 2020 text by Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Armorama. All rights reserved.


Thanks Rowan All of the markings were from the kit. Thinner than other recent Airfix offerings, and care is needed as they stick where they are put - no moving around to position them correctly - the fuselage roundels on mine are slightly higher one side than the other. Overall it's one of the best kits I've made for a long time - even the wing/fuselage joint didn't need any treatment.
APR 20, 2008 - 08:55 AM
Nice one, Dave. Looks very good. The Airfix kit fills a gap in the market. Although I am a fan of German WWII kits, the market is already overflowing with those, so nice to have something different. I will probably have to build one of these. I lived close to the NATO "forward" airbase close to Copenhagen. I remember them flying low overhead many years ago, when I was in primary school.
APR 24, 2008 - 08:07 PM
Rowan just a comment about the canopy it would be opened for entrance and egress as there is no other way to get into the pilots position on this aircraft.Same goes for the PR9. Den
APR 25, 2008 - 07:15 AM
Hi Dennis Many thanks for the info. I wonder why Airfix show so clearly not to open it? All the best Rowan
APR 25, 2008 - 08:24 AM
I don't know why ,but can you imagine trying to get into the seat in full flying gear from inside the aircraft.I based my view on what I saw at R.A.F. Wyton when on summer camp with the A.T.C..I would assume that the canopy would normally be closed due to our wonderful british weather when the aircraft was parked in the open.
APR 28, 2008 - 10:14 AM
My lovely lady won this for me at RAF Cosford in the Tombola But she wants it in BLUE! Could this kit represent a PR9, & more importantly could it be in blue? thanks in advance Jon
APR 13, 2010 - 07:11 AM
Hi Jon I think the simple answer is "no" - the PR.9 was "stretched" and had a much broader chord to the wing centre section as well as other changes. I don't know about blue. The 1st prototype was blue, but that was different again and had the early style canopy. All the best Rowan
APR 13, 2010 - 10:28 PM
Thanks for reply Rowan So I need to 'swap' it for an early model (B2?) or would a 'bubble top' do the job?
APR 14, 2010 - 01:18 AM
You'll need more than the canopy for it to be accurate. The whole forward fuselage is different and so is the internal layout - the pilot sat on the centreline in the B.Mk.2 but offset to the left in the B(I).Mk.8. Even the instrument panels are different. Your best bet is to arrange a swap or sell your Mk.8 and look for a Mk.2.
APR 14, 2010 - 01:27 AM

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