Folland’s Gnat is aptly named – it’s about the smallest airframe they could wrap around a tandem-seat cockpit, jet engine, and assorted systems to achieve an effective training aircraft. The aircraft was, in fact, selected by the British Aerobatic Team the Red Arrows, who flew it for several years before they adopted the BaE Hawk for their mounts. The Gnat is the outgrowth of Folland’s single-seat Midge (also aptly named) whose final derivative – the HAL Ajeet, flown by the Indian Air Force – became known as a “Sabre-killer” for its success against Pakistani AF F-86s. It was hard to see, fast, nimble, and possessed a potent offensive armament package.
Airfix’s current release is a new tooling and follows their other recent releases in quality of moldings and beautifully engraved surface detail. The cockpit is relatively basic, with decal instrument panels and separate panels forming the sidewalls. A little paint and drybrushing on those and adding masking tape belts to the kit’s ejection seats was enough to make it look appropriately “busy” and fairly convincing. For additional interest, I applied a few squares of black and dark gray decal here and there to give the cockpit a little more presence.
Optional open or closed gear doors are provided for building the model gear-up or gear-down, but no stand is provided in the kit – it’s available as Airfix item AF1006 and is sold separately.
For the gear-down option, the main gear is meant to be assembled into the wheel wells before the wells are glued into the fuselage. This makes forthcoming seam work and painting the model harder, but trying to fit the gear after the belly pan and so forth are all glued together is a real exercise in frustration. It can be done – I did it on my model – but I ended up having to cut away some plastic here and there, so my solution didn’t exactly bear fruit. Better to build it per the instructions’ sequence and just pay the piper later.
The intakes fit into fuselage recesses and need some trimming first…they also needed some filler around their lower edges once they were glued in place. A little filling and sanding around the belly pan was needed, too, but in general, the fit of everything was very good.
Airfix has provided front and rear views for fitting the horizontal tail and getting the right angles for those and the main wheels – nice touch.
The seam between the one-piece upper wing and the aft fuselage is a little difficult to access and sand smooth because of the multiple contours of the fuselage and spine, so a little care taken to line that seam up as closely as possible when first assembling it will pay off with less elbow grease down the road.
Since for this out-of-the-box project I planned to build the kit with the canopy closed, I temporarily spot-glued that part in place with white glue to keep paint out of the interior….which is lots easier than masking the whole cockpit. I used an undercoat of Tamiya X-2 gloss white acrylic on the whole model, followed by spraying the day-glo areas with Testors' #1173 Neon Orange enamel. Once the enamel had gassed out, I overcoated the model with Tamiya X-22 gloss clear, then masked and sprayed Testors non-buffing Aluminum Metalizer to represent the natural metal finish, with a few darker areas for interest. After the painting was completed, I popped the canopy off, cleaned the paint off it with rubbing alcohol, and it was ready to mask and paint.
The kit provides one markings option, a single aircraft from the Central Flying School at RAF Little Rissington. The matte-finished decals worked beautifully, though the white of the roundels was a little translucent and thus the day-glo orange shows through them a bit. Complete stenciling is provided, and there’s bunches of that to keep you busy for an evening, but they add a lot to the finished model – great decals.
The kit was a pretty straightforward build with no surprises, and the only real trouble I had was holding onto to some of the tiny little parts while cleaning up their sprue nubs and so forth. The only things I’d add to a future kit would be the backseater’s internal protective windscreen and an open canopy to display the cockpit.
Airfix’s Gnat is a good-looking model when finished – a real eye-catcher with the bright paint job. Many thanks to Airfix, Hornby, and to IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review this sweet kit.