1/48 Classic Airframes

de Havilland F.Mk.3 Hornet

by Michael Presley



While there are many candidates for the (60-odd year old ) title, "Ultimate Piston Fighter"  (meaning  a  operational, production aircraft ) , the Grumman F8F-2 Bearcat, the Hawker Sea Fury, North American P-51H Mustang, and Supermarine Spitfire Mk.22-24 being among the many popular contenders, there is quite a number who would nominate the deHavilland Hornet (and Sea Hornet ), with justifiable reason.  It was the fastest piston aircraft ever operated by the Armed forces of Great Britain (the Supermarine Spiteful was NOT an operational aircraft, and was built for testing in very limited numbers, as was the Goodyear F-2G Super Corsair, Dornier Do.335 Pheil, and Republic XP-47J , and XP-72 Thunderbolts ), as a matter of fact, it replaced one contender, the Spitfire Mk. 22-24, in R.A.F. service.  It was probably only second behind the P-51H in terms of raw speed. It was certainly the fastest climbing piston fighter in British service, as well, being second only to the Bearcat in this regard (both having much superior initial climb rates than any jet fighter for years to come). It also competed with the Grumman product in terms of harmony of controls, and for the sheer joy of flying (many of the last piston fighters were not as popular with experienced pilots, as the earlier marks,...the F4U-5, P-51H, Bf-109G-K, and Griffon powered Spitfires, notibly so...the Bearcat, & Hornet, while derived from the earlier Hellcat, & Mosquito, were totally new designs).  

The Hornet served the Royal Air Force in front line duty well into the 50s, being withdrawn from service in 1955, (and sadly) with all examples being scrapped.  

The Classic Airframes Hornet, and Sea Hornet kits were put on the market early this decade and are (delightfully) still in production (unlike most of CA's offerings which have truly been "limited run").  Like all Classic Airframes kits, it is mixed media (low pressure injection styrene, resin, with vacuformed clear parts), without alignment pins, or slots, and is better left to experienced modelers (or modelers who will be 'experienced' some day).  The kit comes with two vertical stab-rudders, which allows you to build either the early F.1 model (without dorsal fin, although many F.1s  were retrofitted with the dorsal), or the later F.3. I strongly suggest the "Warpaint Series No. 19 , de Havilland Hornet"  by Tony Butler as the best (and nearly ONLY) printed reference source (although there is some good information online). I also purchased Xtradecal's sheet #XD42-48 to have a broader selection of markings. I decided to build PX293 (coded QV-A), as it appeared while serving as the mount of No. 65 Sqaudron's C.O. at R.A.F. Church Fenton, Yorkshire during 1950.  I found three curious contradictions in my reference concerning this aircraft. Xtradecals' instructions refer to it as a F.Mk.1 (obviously with the dorsal retrofit ) , while Warpaint No.19  calls it an F.Mk.3 , and states that PX293 was at Church Fenton from 1951-52. The other contraction being the color line of the PRU Blue on the fuselage underside. Warpaint's profile art shows it as a straight line from wing trailing edge to tail cone, while Xtradecal's shows it to swoop up under the horizonal tail. I subjectively decided I liked the latter, and painted so, as there were no photos to settle the matter. Interestingly, on page 32 of WP-19 there is a photo of PX-293 about to be scrapped in 1955. However, it is in the later Dk. Green, Dk. Sea Gray, with PRU Blue underside scheme.                         

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I built the kit pretty much out of box with a few exceptions. Firstly, I elected to use True Details' resin Sea Fury wheels. I believe ( although not 100% sure ) the wheel, brake and tire (tyre, in British ) assembly was interchangable with that of the Sea Fury, which would have certainly have simplified parts inventory on Royal Navy carriers. At any rate, the TD pieces are exactly the same wheel style, diameter, and width, only with a nice tread, and wheel brake venting on the inside (plus they just look prettier) .  I drilled my own alignment holes for fuselage, wing halves, and guides for the horizontal stabs using needle bits for pins. I also used brass tube for wing spars, articulated the rudder and elevator using copper wire for hinges. A P-51 gunsight was thinned down & added to an otherwise beautifully detailed resin cockpit (which paints up nicely, and drops in place without undue filing, and fitting). I thinned, and twisted the prop blades to match reference photos, and as the props are "handed" (from the rear, the port engine rotates clockwise, & the starboard engine rotates counter...inward from the top of the arc), I found it useful to color code each blade with a drop of paint on it's base...red for port, green for starboard. Although you are probably brighter than I am, and have no need of such "crutches",  I found it saved me undue confusion. The 20 mm shell ejection chutes were also opened.  I used stainless wire for the rather long whip antenna, & jeweler's solder for the brake lines. One area of concern is the forward rake of the main gear struts. CA doesn't really provide a stop or pin for getting the proper angle. Judging from every available photo, and 3 view drawing, the angle is fairly severe (forward swept). I found butting the gear leg almost to the front of the wheel well opening to look just about right. All paint was Testors Model Master. Although challenging (as all "limited run" kits tend to be) , I found it to be a fun build of one of the most graceful of airplanes (aeroplanes).  Hopefully Classic Airframes will continue to keep these beauties on the market.  However if the D.H. Hornet appeals to you, I'd put one in my personal inventory tomorrow, even if you judge your skills presently inadequate for the build. I would hate to wake up and find them gone, & if you're an older modeler (like me), you know exactly how that feels...


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Photos and text by Michael Presley