Kit: AXO5119 Airfix Spitfire PR Mk.XIX
Price: £16.99 available from Hannants UK
Decals: Two options
Reviewer: Frank Reynolds
Accessories: Eduard PE Seatbelts.
Surely the Grand Prix version of the Spitfire series, the PR.19 was fast, sleek and agile. “Alone, Unarmed and Unafraid”, the pilots of the RAF’s photo reconnaissance squadrons had the benefit of a proven airframe that was unburdened by the weight and drag of cannons, ammunition and armour. The Spitfire line had progressed from a Merlin-engined interceptor fighter of 1936 to the uprated Griffon engine that first appeared on the Mk12, then the Mk14. Derived from the Mk.14 fighter, the dedicated Photo Recce PR.19 first went into squadron service in May 1944. It was destined to be the last Spitfire version in front line service, finally retiring in Singapore on April 1, 1954.
Post war, in the early jet age, the Spitfire Pr.19 was still fast enough and high enough to be effective and compared with early jet aircraft had an impressively long range, all combining to ensure that it was still an effective asset. Sweden acquired 50 refurbished ex-RAF examples between October 1948 and May 1949 and these served with four squadrons until replaced in 1955. Sweden was unusual among Spitfire operators in that it only ever employed this specialist unarmed reconnaissance version. Being a neutral country in the crowded Cold War Baltic area, Sweden had need of effective intelligence gathering capability along its extensive land and sea borders.
Neatly and sharply moulded in pale grey flash-free softish plastic, this kit shows the level of quality that Airfix is now consistently achieving. All of the parts frames are new and unique to the PR version and there are options for extended or retracted landing gear, open or closed canopy, separate control surfaces and flaps and a choice of two decal finishes, both Cold War warriors, one from Sweden and the other the last ever Spitfire in RAF front line service.
For those who have toiled in the past converting fighter versions of Spitfire kits to this specialised version, the troubles of the past are over since this sharp Airfix offering features all of the essential characteristics of the PR version – the unarmoured, rounded one-piece windscreen, the bulges in the under wing forward of the wheel well for the fuel pump covers; the intake on the lower cowl side under the exhausts for the cabin pressurisation system; the smooth weapons-free wing structure and the camera ports in the fuselage sides and belly.
There are some delightful touches in the kit. Perhaps to offset the lack of armament options, the interior is enhanced with additional bulkheads and camera parts for the rear fuselage and the option of opening up the camera hatches. A total of five bulkheads offers scope for a very busy interior.
Three types of wheel moulding are provided; half-wheels for the retracted gear option and for the extended gear both full and flattened tyres, which are positively located on to the axle stubs by a small key way. There are flat areas moulded onto the inside face of the undercarriage legs to provide a positive seating for the bay doors. The five bladed propeller is a one piece unit which aids blade alignment.
Surface detail is typical of the latest Airfix offerings, firmly defined might be one way of putting it; some consider it too heavy handed, others are quite happy. I find that it looks about right under a coat of paint, providing enough definition without the need for any post-shading.
The clear parts are effective, perhaps a trifle thick, but not a problem for my standards of modelling. There is the option to model the canopy open, using a part first introduced on Airfix’s Spitfire Mk.12 fighter, where the fixed rear section and sliding centre section of the canopy are combined into a one-piece unit, although this is very thick and requires some awkward masking inside and out and a small section of the fuselage has to be cut away to accommodate it.
The decals are crisp, clean, and of good colour density. Comprehensive stencilling is provided for the Swedish version and examination under a magnifying glass shows it to be seemingly written in Swedish – a neat touch. Further classy details include tiny tyre creep marks for the wheels and a total of 15 tiny decals to enhance the propeller and spinner assembly. The paint scheme could hardly be simpler – in overall PRU blue with a red spinner.
Construction was simple straightforward and unspectacular. I followed the sequence in the instructions, commencing with the interior. The level of detail and complexity of the interior bulkheads and triple camera installation require the alignment of the parts to be carefully checked before everything is closed up, but I found no problems with this. No filler was needed and all of the parts locked neatly into place, useful where alignment of wing dihedral and undercarriage legs is concerned. The only aftermarket that I used was a set of Eduard PE seat belts. There was no fuss and no drama. If the build sequence is followed as per instructions a good result can be expected for all but the most critical of modellers. The Swedish Spitfire has one of the simplest colour schemes going, all in Hannants’ Xtracrylix paints applied with my long serving Iwata HP-C airbrush. The decals went on well over a coat of Future/Kleer and responded effectively to Micro Set and Micro Sol.
A great overall package at a bargain price. Simple to make for novices and a good framework for super-detailers to work their magic.
- Spitfire International by Helmut Terbeck, Harry van der Meer and Ray Sturtivant, Air Britain (Historians) Ltd 2002.
- Spitfire, the History by Eric B. Morgan and Edward Shacklady, Key Publishing, 2000