1/32 Echelon Lightning F.6

Gallery Article by J B Wolstenholme on June 8 2010


I bought this vac-form kit some years ago and decided, after a cursory inspection, I was not up to the task at that time. As my experience grew and I became aware of the future release of the F.6 by Trumpeter, I finally decided to give it a go. A thought process over some months finally gave me the solution to a major problem. I particularly wanted this F.6 with ventral gun/fuel pack and OWTs. My research, and that by others, showed fairly conclusively that XS903-BA (black spine/fin) never flew with over-wing tanks (OWTs). The eventual solution which came to me (not copied, original?) was to make the tanks removable and fit small ‘panels’ to hide the tank mounting holes. As an extension to this thinking, I also made the model so that it could be displayed in four configurations: (a) devoid of stores as photo above, (b) ferry configuration with ‘slippers’ on stub missile pylons and OWTs, (c) squadron service with Red Tops, and (d) a ‘whifer’ with Red Tops and OWTs (photo at end)

As a first timer to vac-forms, injection moulded kits did not totally prepare me for what lay ahead. Whilst Frank Brown had done a tremendous job with the shape of the aircraft, the problems (or challenges if you prefer) come from the limitations of vac-forming and white metal parts i.e. little and/or soft detail unlike injection moulding, wider/soft panel lines, no panel screws (not rivets) and ‘rounded edges’ to many components which should be angular. I also used the Flightpath Detail and Weapons set, but it was not as useful at it appeared at first inspection. However, what parts could be used certainly helped in the areas for the cockpit, MG bays, jet pipes and resin missile bodies.  

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All sub-components were either heavily modified or scratch built in order to get a good level of detail, some of which are shown here:  

[1] Cockpit – Echelon and Flightpath versus scratch built. The F/Path tub was of no use, but the main instrument panel and film instruments were incorporated to give very good detail.  See photo 03

Completed shots of the cockpit tub are, unsurprisingly, difficult/impossible to take when within the fuselage.    See photo 04

[2] Ejection Seat

The kit white metal seat (left), progression to basic shape (middle) to competed seat (right). I elected to place the straps up over the head box, as was the tendency, to keep all the straps and back cushion from ‘falling’ forward.    See photos 05 and 06

[3] Intake trunking and Engine Compressor Face.  I beefed up the joints to the trunking outside, as this was thin in places and I didn’t want a ‘failure’ at an inopportune time. F/Path compressor blades otherwise scratch built components.   See photos 07 and 08

[4] Fuselage vents, scoops, drains etc of which there is a humongous number on both sides of the fuselage and to the underside. A variety of methods were used, from plastic tubing to scrap resin and plastic card, with thinning to fuselage inside with a SM blade No10 for NACA inlets.  See photo 09

[5] Landing Gear 

There was a heavy frosted finish to all castings. I initially used an old flat needle file to remove the worst and then finished with Wet and Dry paper. Also removed most of the detail and reformed from plastic sections and resin scrap pieces. Drilled for wheel axle and detail.   See photo 10

The kit main gear legs and brake units were formed as one in white metal with results as previously discussed. After removing all the detail, the brake units, scissor links were reformed and detail such as brake lines, Bowden cable and walking joints added.  See photos 11 and 12

[6] Main Gear Bays

There was little detail in the main gear bays (left) so I totally rebuilt the bays in order to make use of the F/Path PE ‘roof’ components (right) and then add the details.  See photos 13 and 14

This photo shows the basic components after removal from the formed sheets. It comes as a bit of a shock to those of us that are spoilt by quality injection moulding. However, the thickness of the vac-form plastic lends itself to a good amount of re-scribing and sanding.

[7] Radar Bullet and Nose Gear Bay
Rather than using the kit methodology of fitting the lower pylon mount through the intake trunking, I opted to separate the lower pylon mount from the gear bay and make a completely new NG bay. This aided both the detailing in the gear bay and the intake.
See photos 15, 16 and 17

[8] Jet Pipes and Nozzles
The kit white metal nozzle detail is as good as you could expect. I therefore combined scratch built actuators etc with the F/Path PE fitted inside the kit casings. Rather than trying to paint the jet pipes burnt metal, I burnt the PE with my micro torch.
See photo 18

[9] Panel line re-scribingBy the nature of the process you are not going to get sharp ‘panel’ lines. I therefore opted to re-do all these as well as add thousands (?) of panel screws; not rivets. On a painted aircraft the rivets are not really evident.  See photo 19

[10] Over-wing Tanks
Overall shape was very good, but again detail ‘soft’ or missing. Weld seams were added, pointed nose ‘flattened’ and panels added/re-scribed. The dots indicate the use of narrow strips of styrene sheet inside to strengthen/thicken the joint (common with fuselage joint).

And finally, here is the ‘whifer’:  
See photo 22 
This article is a brief overview of the WIP build which can be seen, together with completed photos, click here 
Particular thanks to Hugh Trevor and Jim Featherby for photo and technical input.

J B Wolstenholme

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Photos and text © by J B Wolstenholme