1/48 Airfix DAP Canberra b20

Gallery Article by Phil Mead on Sept 28 2010


Kit A10101    29.99 Pounds at Hannants

I had been thinking about making a Canberra ever since the Temora Air Museum started flying one in Australia.  When a friend asked if a kit was available it was a good excuse to have one too.  Ted and his brother Alan had worked together on the Canberras in Vietnam as an engine fitter and armourer respectively so the project became his 60th birthday present.  In my defence the kit was released later than advertised and he did get it before his 62nd.  

Why Airfix? 

I read reviews of the Classic Airframes kit and decided to see what Airfix would come up with and in the end I decided that Airfix had a couple of features that would out weigh the nice resin in the Classic cockpit (you can now buy a resin cockpit update for the Airfix kit and I would). To begin it had a bomb bay and it also provided the windows for the Navigator position which were also missing on the Classic kit.  The flaps could be lowered and the control surfaces were all separate parts.  A choice of wing-tip tanks or bombs was also available for the Australian version and accurate navigation/landing light transparencies are provided.  When you add to this that locating pins and lugs for the fuselage and wing and tailplane joints it was the kit of choice for the average modeller such as myself.  Of course it is not without fault itself as the build inevitably reveals.  

Making two kits allowed me to try options and Ted wanted his plane to have a crew on board, something I donít do, plus control surfaces in the neutral position, flaps up and wing tip fuel tanks so mine would have Bombs on the wing tips, no crew and offset control surfaces but flaps up.  


This review is for the average modeller such as myself and I think that that is where the Airfix kit is targeted so all you master modellers might want to move on to the next article.  

And so to work.

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The ejection seats are fairly agricultural but what you would expect from Airfix.  I didnít want to buy after market seats (but should have) so I modified the kit seats a bit to improve them.  Fortunately someone in England  was trying to sell one on ebay at the time and provided a great colour photo of it for reference.  The rest of the cockpit was out of the box and looks OK.  You will never see what is in the Navigatorís area as it is a big black hole so Ted wonít know that I had to take the Navigatorís shoes off above the ankle to fit him in.  The pilotís cockpit is far more open than I thought it would be and here is where an after market seat would help.  

The bomb bay is supposed to painted black but the photo I have of an Australian aircraft has aluminium walls with black tubing overhead.  The bomb rack  provided (part 6B) didnít look like anything I had ever seen before so it must be a British thing.  I devised my own using evergreen strips so that it is representative of the photo in Target Charlie, page 62 (see references).  I donít know much about bombs except that they should be avoided and couldnít tell you the difference between the GRU84GT and the standard model so I just painted them and glued them to the rack.  

The Navigatorís windows are provided as a single clear piece (2Q) which has to be glued to one side of the fuselage before the fuselage halves are put together and this caused me some fit problems which was fixed with  Miliput and a lot of angst.  I can understand that they could not mould the window holes into each side but it just wouldnít work for me.  Next time I would cut this part in two and insert half in each side as the middle of it is painted anyway and could be filled along with the fuselage centre line.   

Before joining the fuselage halves weight is required.  Now Australia has lead in abundance so it didnít quibble.  I think my Canberra's might well scale out correctly for weight as well!  


Airfix provides two engine fronts so that an early Avon Mk1 version with 1 starting cartridge or the later Avon 109 engined machine with three starting cartridges can be built.  The wings are simple to build and as I have never seen a Canberra with its flaps down I left them up (but nice touch Mr Airfix).  The ailerons come in two parts (top and bottom) and they are asymmetrical so be careful.  Making two at once gave me eight pieces and it was only when I went to glue the last one in place that I realised that I had glued two tops and two bottoms together!  Thatís what sanding sticks are for.   

The tailplanes and elevators are simple enough and I had noted in some photos that the elevators were in a raised position (pitch up).  I gathered that the Airforce must have done the same as I did in the bush and lashed the controls in place with the seat belt.  This gives full aileron and pitch up elevator but is quicker than control locks for short periods of time.  The down aileron always goes further than the up aileron.  The rudders were left in the Neutral position as I had to put a large decal across them and the vertical fin.  The rudder has a lot of thick panel line dug into it and so I filled them a bit with Mr Surfacer.  

The instructions specify wheel parts 24C/28C for the Australian Canberra but all the photos I could find had the rims represented by parts 23C/27C so I used these in stead.  The nose wheel gear looks a bit fragile but it continues to withstand about 1% of Australia ís lead deposits.  

The canopy on the Airfix kit has a clear-vision window moulded on either side which makes it accurate for the Trainer version.  OK but the cockpit doesnít represent the trainer version and neither do the decals supplied.  The worst thing about it is that they are oval in shape and it is very obvious that the real ones are perfectly circular.  Whatís that about Mr Airfix?  Well what was I to do?  Iíve never been game to sand clear plastic before and the thought of it scares me to bits.  Now procrastination has always been a large part of my modelling technique and I used it to great effect now.  After about a month I practiced with an old P-40 canopy and found that two grades of sanding stick followed by three grades of Tamiya plastic polish did a really good job so with eyes closed and toes crossed I went to work and it came out so well that I took both of those stupid ovals off.  Some evergreen plastic tube cut fine and sanded provided a new circular clear-vision window.  I then bathed them in future floor polish, the real stuff from the USA.  When my daughter went to the US to visit friends she asked me what souvenir I might like and there was only answer to that - Future Floor Polish.

This was at a time when carrying liquids onto a plane was treated with some suspicion but, though somewhat confused, she came through with the goods.  No doubt the FBI have her on file.

I like to use Testors enamels for the interiors as they are easier to brush and touch up than the thicker and glossy acrylics.  Inside of these things are black with a touch of colour on the instruments and control levers. The bomb bay as mentioned was painted black.

The colour scheme diagram provided was not exactly the same as that shown in the photos that I could find of A84-233 so I modified it accordingly (Stewart Wilson page 117).

For the exterior colours I used Gunze H330 Dark Green over H332 Dark Sea Grey and these are authentic for an Aussie. Iím not very good at artistic work but I did want to emphasise the panel lines so I chose the Post Shade technique. Not wanting to lose the authentic look of the colours mentioned I decided to subtly darken the panel line areas so I subtly added too much Tire Black and Dark Sea Grey into a mixture clear and thinners. This was fixed with a coat of thinned Dark Sea Grey. After I sprayed the Green I added some Luftwaffe Black- Green to some Dark Green, Clear and Thinners and sprayed this onto the panel lines and by the time I had put the dulcote over it I had the effect that I had desired.

One thing I noticed while putting the decals on was that a lot of the panel lines depicted on a very good coloured instruction sheet are nowhere to be found on the kit. Some one went to a lot of trouble to get this right but Mr Airfix didnít bother to follow through on the kit and in fact there are no panel lines on the tailplane. If you are a panel line freak you will have a ball with this one.

Largely I used the kit decals and although they looked as if they would be good I could not make that decal film disappear. Now, I know how to put a decal on and I glossed these planes up like greasy pigs but still could not get rid of the film outlines which was very depressing. I have this problem with Monogram decals as well. The alternative is to buy an aftermarket Aussie Decal sheet ($36) plus a sheet of stencils from the UK ($30). I pushed on. Ted wanted to represent A84-231 which was lost in the Vietnam jungle until last year after being shot down with the loss of its crew so I hopped on to Photoshop and ran up the required serials and side numbers along with the Red Bomb tally. This was then printed out onto Testors Inkjet paper and sealed with Liquid Decal film. The black numbers went on well (no sign of decal film here Mr Airfix) but the red bomb tally was too dark because of the dark background and thin ink. It would have to do.

Little Bits
I have seen Aussie Canberras made by the big names in the modelling business and they bristle with antennas. When I looked at photos of Vietnam era Canberras I noticed that the number of antennae was limited to a rear ventral blade and a blade under the tail cone. Also only one HF aerial was strung on Vietnam aircraft with the other being strung when they returned to Australia. Therefore I have strung some EZLine from the top of the tail fin to the small antenna provided on the right side above the Navigatorís position.

I clipped off a piece of small diameter clear sprue provided at no extra coast with the kit and rounded it off at both ends, painted it clear orange and attached one above and one below the rear fuselage to represent the quite obvious hazard beacons.

Even though the box art on this kit depicts the correct Pitot tube for an Australian Canberra this part is not include in the kit. Surely this would not have broken the budget Mr Airfix. I manufactured them with some Aeroclub aerofoil section and some more evergreen rod. They go under the nose and to the left side which is actually the right side when it is upside down (trust me, this is important information). Ted asked if the kit did not provide Static air sources! Well no kit does but I could see his point and manufactured some after I had photographed 231 but they are now attached. As I didnít have a crew onboard mine I made a pitot cover and ďremove before flightĒ ribbons out of some aluminium sheeting. 

The wing bomb racks have braces on either side which are fairly robust and must have caused a lot of drag but that just made them easier to recreate. I also added the electric cable that enabled bomb release.

The landing lights are right out at the wingtip beside the nav lights so I drilled a cone shaped and painted it with Silver Chrome Trim but it is no overly noticeable. The nav light s were hollowed to allow the red and green lights to be added.

Well there it is! It looks like a Canberra and who could ask for more than that because it is a beautifully shaped plane from the early jet era. It sits in the cabinet next to my Meteor, Avon Sabre, Phantom and red Vampire and it does catch the eye. I donít count rivets and have no idea if it is the right size and donít really care if it looks right and it does. Well done Mr Airfix I did enjoy the experience and I will get around to your BAe Hawk soon.


  • Lincoln, Canberra & F111 in Australian service by Stewart Wilson

  • Target Charlie by Steve Eather

  • 2 Squadron RAAF site

  • www.Airliners.net

  • ebay (thanks Mate)

  • My own photos

Phil Mead

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Photos and text © by Phil Mead