Thursday, August 11, 2016

Avro 504K

The Avro 504K was one of the true workhorses of early aviation. The aircraft initially flew on September 18, 1913, and the last one was completed in 1932. In all 8,970 examples of this iconic aircraft were built, and 13 were delivered even before the war broke out. The Avro 504 had the dubious distinction of being the first RFC aircraft to be shot down during World War One, but the aircraft gained fame on November 21, when Avro 504s of the RNAS bombed the Zeppelin sheds in Friedrichshafen. The Avro 504 became the mainstay trainer of the RFC after Major Robert Smith-Barry, an outspoken critic of the way the RFC trained its "Fokker Fodder" during the first years of the war, became the CO of No. 1 Reserve Squadron at Gosport very late in 1916 or in early 1917. Smith-Barry got rid of the old Maurice Farman S-7 Longhorns, also known as "Rumpties", that had been used to train budding pilots. The Avro provided a flying experience that was more akin to the aircraft used in combat. Among other measures, Smith-Barry also sought out competent and encouraging instructors to train new pilots, and furthermore he made sure that the pilots were taught how to deal with stalls and spins instead of simply avoiding potentially hazardous maneuvers. The so-called Gosport System eventually became the norm within the RFC and then the RAF, and the Gosport System contributed greatly the British successes in the air later in the war. As an item of curiosity, the skid between the wheels of the Avro 504 was referred to as the "toothpick" by members of the RFC and RAF.

This incarnation of the 1960-or-so Airfix kit comes from the late 1980s and 1990s. The kit is moulded in grey plastic, and the decals are for a trainer in Egypt in the early 1920s and a preserved Avro. The Airfix kit apparently has a fuselage that lacks depth. This can be remedied by gluing plastic card to the underside, but I did not realize this error until the model neared completion. Some parts were added, such as the tube attached to the petrol tank, a nervous pilot up front and his instructor in the rear cockpit ready for takeoff, the windshields, the semicircular braces under the wings, and, of course, the rigging. I wanted an Avro from the time of the Great War, and i chose to paint the aircraft in markings from No. 8 Training Squadron Royal Australian Flying Corps, which was based in Leighterton in 1918 and 1919.

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