Welcome to the latest edition of Workbench and your regular update from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling. You will all be pleased to hear that we have some big news for you this week. Following on from the news of the new 1/72nd scale Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe announced in our previous blog, we have more new tooling information for you this week. As the title above suggests, we will be announcing a new model tooling in 1/48th scale and one which features an aircraft from the drawing boards of the famous Supermarine company. With much to tell you about, we will be devoting the majority of this latest blog to our new model announcement, before ending with a look at a selection of the latest submissions from the Customer Images section of the Airfix website. Without wanting to delay the announcement any further, let’s take a closer look at our latest exciting new tooling announcement.
Supermarine – a famous name in British Aviation
If you were to ask most people what the word Supermarine meant to them, the vast majority would reply ‘Spitfire’ without any hesitation. There is no doubting that the Spitfire is the most famous aircraft designed by Reginald J Mitchell and his team, but the heritage of the Supermarine company was actually built around the construction of effective marine aircraft. Again, this would immediately lead most to think of the Schneider Trophy winning Supermarine S.6B, which was itself a development of the company’s earlier racing seaplane designs and the ultimate aircraft in Mitchell’s quest to design the perfect racing seaplane. Again, although the S.6B is a fast, enigmatic aircraft, it is not the type of craft that the Supermarine company were most proficient in building.
The famous Schneider Trophy winning Supermarine S.6B
The heritage of the Supermarine company was in their ability to design and produce effective and reliable marine aircraft, both for individual buyers and for military applications. With a number of extremely successful marine and amphibious aircraft designs to their name, the years prior to the outbreak of the Second World War were very much about marine aeroplanes.
A classic Mitchell design in 1/48th scale
It would be difficult to think of an aircraft design so markedly different to the sleek and elegant Spitfire, but the Supermarine Walrus amphibious biplane was from the hand of the same designer. Despite its somewhat ungainly appearance, the Walrus proved to be an incredibly effective aircraft and flexible enough to take on a number of roles in some of the most demanding operating environments. Coming at the end of a long line of capable single-engined flying boats and amphibians, the Walrus was actually the product of a Royal Australian Air Force requirement for an updated and more robust version of their existing Supermarine amphibian, the Seagull III, which had proved so successful. The new aircraft, which would become known as the Seagull V, would need to have the capability to be catapult launched from Royal Australian Navy cruisers, so the wooden hull of the earlier version was replaced with a strong metal design, with additional stainless steel forgings for the catapult spools and mountings.
At home on the water – the heritage of the Supermarine Company
Despite the enthusiasm of the Australian Air Force for their new amphibian aircraft, the RAF were much less impressed, deciding that they had no need for such a craft – they soon changed their minds. Successful trials of the new aircraft at Felixstowe showed how effective the new aircraft was and with a large expansion of naval forces underway, the Seagull V offered the Admiralty an effective aircraft for reconnaissance spotting and gun targeting for their cruisers and battleships. After using some of the Australian machines for trials, they decided to place their own order for the latest Supermarine amphibian, with the British machines being called the Walrus, even though they were almost identical to the Seagull Vs of the RAAF.
One interesting fact that demonstrates how robust the Supermarine Walrus (Seagull V) design actually was came during the 1933 Hendon Air Pageant. Even though the prototype Seagull V had only flown days earlier in the hands of famous Supermarine test pilot Joseph ‘Mutt’ Summers, the aircraft attended and was demonstrated at the huge Hendon Airshow. Belying its rather ungainly appearance, Summers stunned the huge crowds by proceeding to loop his new aircraft, a feat that was only possible due to the strength of the design and how it had been stressed for catapult launching – now that really is how to announce your arrival. Without doubt, the Supermarine Walrus went on to become one of the finest amphibious aircraft ever produced and was responsible for saving the lives of a great many downed airmen.
A significant new Airfix tooling in 1/48th scale – The Supermarine Walrus Mk.I
Despite the undoubted success of the Supermarine Walrus during its illustrious service career, it could certainly not claim to be held in the same regard as its famous fighter stablemate, which went on to become one of the most significant aircraft ever to take to the skies. It does, however, remain as one of the more interesting aircraft of the Second World War and deserving of much more affection. With this new model being produced in the larger 1/48th scale, it has allowed the Airfix research and design team to incorporate a superb level of detail and innovation into their new tooling, which will surely bring this impressive aircraft to the attention of many more people.
The unmistakable shape of the Supermarine Walrus amphibian
Workbench readers are now becoming well versed in the processes the Airfix development teams have to go through in order to bring a new model kit to market, so for this latest announcement we will simply provide an overview of these details and concentrate on showing images from this exciting new project. As all the previous editions of Workbench are still available on the Airfix website, please do look at some of the earlier publications if you would like to re-visit any of the processes involved.
Looking at the design of the Supermarine Walrus, it is clear that this particular project was going to be a challenge for the Airfix team. The distinctive and relatively complex design of the aircraft was to be reproduced in 1/48th scale, which dictated that much more of the finer details would have to be incorporated. The research team had access to original Supermarine plans and technical drawings, which would form the critical basis of the project. This would be augmented with the opportunity to inspect, measure and photograph three examples of the Supermarine amphibian at separate locations around the UK.
Supermarine Seagull V (A2-4) at RAF Hendon
This particular aircraft is the oldest surviving example of the Walrus series of aircraft and has been displayed in the Battle of Britain Hall of the RAF Museum Hendon for many years. Following the end of its RAAF military career, this particular machine passed into civilian hands and was used successfully as a small seven-seater airliner until 1970, when it was involved in a take-off accident. In 1973, the aircraft was traded for a Spitfire and came into the possession of the RAF Museum, who began a painstaking restoration. Using many parts from their own collection, the aircraft was eventually put on display in 1979, wearing an attractive early war camouflage scheme.
Supermarine Walrus Mk.I L2301 at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton
Walrus L2301 saw continuous service throughout WWII with the Irish Air Corps as N18, undertaking maritime reconnaissance, surveillance and rescue flights. It was also involved in a failed defection attempt, as a small number of airmen attempted to transfer to the Germans in January 1942. Following a brief stint as a civilian airliner after WWII, the hulk of the aircraft ended up lying in an open scrapyard by 1947. Rescued by the Historical Aircraft Preservation Society, the Walrus eventually came into the hands of the Fleet Air Arm Museum in 1964 where it underwent restoration. Since the end of 1966, the aircraft has been on public display.
The third Supermarine example visited by the Airfix team, where they were assisted by the team at Vintage Fabrics
The Airfix research team were allowed special access to all three of these magnificent aircraft and we would like to place on record our grateful thanks to the fantastic people at the RAF Museum Hendon, the Fleet Air Arm Museum and at Vintage Fabrics Limited for their kind assistance.
The huge amount of photographs, measurements and drawings were then collated to assist the designer in creating a CAD Base Model of the aircraft in the necessary scale. After much reviewing of the shape and accuracy of this model within the team, the designer then begins the painstaking work of creating the model’s individual parts, all referenced from the base model. The parts must be split in such a way that they can be tooled for injection moulding. Once the model is divided into parts, each part can have details applied to give the final kit more realism. All this is carried out in Hornby Hobbies’ parametric CAD modelling software which allows the designers to see the model in wireframe, cross-sections, or even exploded views. Importantly, this software allows the designers to visualise how each part will locate to others, all in order to make the kit a pleasurable build for the modeller. Taking its place in an ever expanding line up of 1/48th scale aircraft models, the Supermarine Walrus will surely be a much loved addition to the Airfix range.
Computer rendered 3D images – The Walrus lives!
Without doubt, the most significant stage in the production of a new model tooling is the release of the computer rendered 3D images that modellers love to see so much. When these attractive images are published, it indicates that the project is real and gives modellers a good indication of how the new model will look when it is eventually under construction on their own workbench. For some time now, these images have been used in Airfix catalogues, within Workbench and in modelling magazines and have become some of the most popular future tooling imagery with our readers. With the Walrus being a particularly impressive new model, we are including quite a number of these appealing images, just to whet your appetite a little for what you can expect in 2017 – enjoy!
The magnificent new 1/48th scale Supermarine Walrus Mk.I is very much something to look forward to. The impressive size and detail of this new model will ensure that another Supermarine design will be amongst the most popular releases in the Airfix range and serve to mark the aviation heritage of one of Britain’s most famous aircraft designers. Although they look so completely different, the Walrus would look great displayed next to a 1/48th scale Spitfire. We are very much looking forward to bringing you regular updates from this magnificent project over the coming months.
A09183 Supermarine Walrus Mk.I 1:48 is due for release in July 2017 – be sure to sign up for the Airfix email newsletter to be the first to hear when this model is available for pre-order.