1/72 Contrail Blackburn Blackburn II

Gallery Article by Carmel J. Attard on Nov 8 2019



Blackburn Blackburn II


The Blackburn Blackburn was a deck-landing biplane intended for reconnaissance and gunnery fire control. Its specification was contemporary with the Avro 555 Bison with which it shared many common features and which fulfilled same naval requests. Both the Bison and Blackburn were little short of grotesque in appearance and ungainly and slow in the air. In spite of all both were very successful in their designed role and remained in service for almost a decade.

The Blackburn Blackburn was a two bay biplane of fabric-covered wood and metal construction with folding wings and powered by a 450 hp Napier Lion IIB, 12-cylinder water cooled engine arranged as a detachable power unit and installed in a Dart type louvered engine bay with detachable shutters. To simplify Fleet Air Arm spare holding, the basic structure was almost identical with that of the Dart being built up from lengths of tubular steel fitted into joint-clusters machined from the solid. A number of sub assemblies were bolted to form a complete aeroplane. Main planes, tail unit and control surfaces except the rudder were interchangeable with that of the Dart.

At centre unit there was a greatly increased girth to provide cabin accommodation for the two crew members during long recce sorties. The wireless operator gunner sat at forward end with his gear mounted above a folding table, while a rearward extension of the cabin roof shielded the navigator/observer from the slipstream when moved into the open rear cockpit to use sextant, range finder or camera.

The pilot sat in an open cockpit in a cut-out in the leading edge of the top centre section, with the decking in front of him cut away to clear the control wheel. The gap being closed by a Triplex windscreen. Engine cowling sloped away sharply to give him a good view of the carrier deck when landing-on.

Armament consisted of one Vickers gun (with 50 rounds) mounted externally on the port side of the pilot's cockpit and firing threw the airscrew, and a downwards firing Lewis gun on a scarf ring immediately aft of rear cockpit. There were thus four crew positions but the machine was nevertheless a 3-seater. Undercarriage was a wheel and axle type strengthened centrally with additional struts for deck landing at a high rate of descent. Claws were fitted for engaging fore and aft arrestor wires used at the time. Large port holes were provided to lighten the gloom of the cavernous interior. 

There were 300 production aircraft built as Blackburn R1 Mk1 besides three prototypes and there were 29 production aircraft and one prototype conversion Blackburn R1A Mk II.

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Name: Blackburn Blackburn
Make: Contrail
Scale: 1/72
Type: Vac-form kit with metal parts and one decal option.

The kit.
Moulded on white styrene with components being vac formed and these consist of two fuselage halves, six parts for the top and bottom wings, two tail plane parts, two fin and rudder parts. There are two sizes of contrail type of struts to be cut to short lengths for main planes and tail plane support. The wheels are also vac formed in four parts. Undercarriage legs, engine side exhausts and twin blade propeller are injection moulded. Metal items are the Lewis side gun and scarf ring complete with gun.
A folded instructions sheet contains 1/72 scale plans and short history one side and building instructions with scrap views of various bulk heads and jigs for use when fitting the wing struts at the correct inclined angle.

All parts are separated from the moulded sheet and each component are sanded on wet and dry sanding sheet making constant reference to instructions not to remove too much of the material during sanding. Items like tail plane and elevators, fin/rudder need extra sanding on the inner faces to attain the requisite slim section and sharp trailing edges. As for the injected parts in black plastic, these have all the surplus flash removed with a sharp knife. They are removed from the runner using an exacto saw. These need the edges to be rounded off to complete the contour.

In both fuselage halves are cut out the cockpit opening. Circular windows are opened in each fuselage half. From cut off material is made the cockpit floor and cemented in place adding control column ahead of crew seat. Crew seats are cemented on scrap plastic plinths to attain the height. Interior was then painted.
From scrap material half a dozen strips aprox "long and 1/8" wide and were cemented at strategically spaced intervals around the inside edge of starboard fuselage.  A small part is left projecting to act as keys when joining the two halves together and when correct alignment is achieved the joint is flooded with liquid cement. Tape held the parts together until thoroughly dry. Filler was then added and joint was smoothened off. Wing parts are also cleaned and cemented together. Assembling the wings, and wind screen, tail plane etc go in same manner as in previous builds. One needs to be careful to position the wing assembly jigs on the lower wing, 1/8" out from the inboard struts and the upper wing is placed on the jigs before the glue is applied. Struts are allowed to dry overnight and binding tape could then be removed. Jury struts are then fitted to either side of fuselage forward position only. These are of much smaller cross section than than the main interplane struts. Cementing the tail plane struts with tail plane bracing. With the assembly dry strong enough, then holes are drilled at all positions where bracing wires have to pass. Thin fishing line was used for bracing wires and secured with a tiny drop of super glue adhesive.

Injection moulded parts for the undercarriage are glued in place and when these were dry wheels were cemented in place. Control horns and linkages were made from tiny pieces of plastic card cut to shape.

Colour and markings.
Aircraft was silver doped overall with a red fuselage band with white numerals. In spite of time on them decals behaved well during transferring them in their respective places.

The Blackburn entered service in 1926 with No 420 fleet spotter flight at Gosport and later on HMS Furious. In 1929 Flights were renumbered 450 and 449 fleet spotter recc flights. HMS Coragious brought the type to Malta and for a time the Blackburn operated from Hal Far airfield, Malta, until these were eventually replaced by Fairey IIIF in 1931. Not an easy kit to build for the novice modeler but certainly not out of reach to those keen on FAA early types with experience with vac form kits.

Carmel J. Attard

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Photos and text by Carmel J. Attard