Avro Shackleton – WB851
The Avro Shackleton was the last variant of what could be reasonably argued as the greatest family of heavy bombers of all time. Starting with the much maligned Manchester, from which emerged the most famous of the family, the Avro Lancaster. The Lancaster morphed into the Avro Lincoln and then finally the Shackleton family. Along the way there were a number of Civil “diversion” including Lancastrian, York, Tudor and the little known Linconian. It’s interesting to note that there was no civil version of either of the “bookends”, Manchester and Shackleton. The reasons behind both are fairly obvious, the former, kept falling out of the sky while the later appeared at a time when piston-engined Civil aircraft were making way for them new fangled jet thingies.
Like most British aircraft, the Shackleton emerged from an Air Ministry Specification, in this case Air Ministry Specification R5/46 issued in 1946. The specification aimed at development of the Lincoln to act as a costal command aircraft. The specification anticipated a modified Lincoln, Sir Ron Chadwick, Arvo’s chief designer at the time had other ideas. Although the wings of the MR I are comparable to the Lincoln that’s about where the similarities end, the fuselage of Chadwick’s design was a major deviation as were the tail plane and fins and rudder. In addition the radar equipment was placed in the nose, this was to prove to be an ongoing problem being subject to bird strike damage causing significant changes to the Radar installations in the MR II.
The driver for the Shackleton specification arose from the ongoing need for long range marine and anti-submarine patrol aircraft. With the conclusion of the Lend-Lease arrangements at the end of WWII hostilities Fortress and Liberator aircraft were no longer available to the Brits for this role. With the Lancaster having been replaced by the Lincoln it was surmised that an “ASW” Lincoln or similar derivative could fulfil the role and it was on this basis that specification R5/46 evolved.
In due course the first prototype of the Shackleton Mk I made its first flight on 9 March 1949.
The Shackleton appeared in three main variants, the MR I, the subject of this article, the MR II which was to emerge as the longest serving of the Shackletons with its ventral dustbin radar installation and the MR III. Commencing with the MR 2, as a consequence of the movement of the radar equipment to the ventral position the nose area was also redesigned. The MRIII and final version of the Shackleton was based around a redesign of the landing gear arrangement and the migration from a “tail dragger” to a “tricycle” configuration. Of interest, the MR III had the highest weight loading and therefore a shorter airframe life, in addition, the nose wheel of tricycle under-carriage was subject of a high incidence of failure as well as impacting on stall characteristics. These factors were to lead to the MR III being retired from RAF service in advance of the venerable MR II which remained in service until 1984 being the last operational piston engined aircraft in
RAF service giving the Shackleton an operational life of some 34 years, significantly longer than its much more famed Lancaster predecessor.
Just by way of interest the name Shackleton and Roy Chadwick has more than a passing acquaintance with Sir Earnest Shackleton being a relative of Roy Chadwick’s wife’s family. Further to this in 1919 Roy Chadwick designed a small sea-plane for Sir Earnest Shackleton last Antarctic vessel, “The Quest”.
Shackleton MR I + II + III
In order to model a reasonable MR I Shackleton it was in fact necessary to use elements of all three marks! The fuselage came from the Sanger MR I Vac-form, The wings and tail-plane were from the Revell (ex Frog) MR III, the wings being modified to the MR I/II standard using the excellent Aeroclub MR II conversion.
In terms of references the Warpaint (Series No. 6) publication on the Shackleton is essential reading for any modeler wishing to undertake a similar project. In addition to the major components mention above I also purchased the two Airwaves Shackleton sets, one which covers the general internal and external detail and the second provides a set of etched metal flaps to replace the plastic ones provided with the Revell kit.
Construction started with the Sanger vacform fuselage. Vacforms, ahh vacforms, probably the most feared and neglected aspect of modern day modeling. There is no doubt many modelers baulk at tackling vacform kits, there is also no doubt there is an art to building these beasts. It is my experience that all modelers make an almighty mess of their first (and in my case their second and third) vacform, but once you have two or three under your belt and come to grips with the techniques they provide access to many unusual subjects that simply are never likely to be seen in an injection molded form (my fantasy is to build a Short Mayo composite pair, if any reader has one they are prepared to part with I’d love to hear from you). So my advice is, at the next swap meet buy a couple of vacforms and have a go, but be aware, unless you’re a demi-god, don’t expect your first vacfrom to be of the same standard as your best injection molded model, that said, after two or three your likely to fall in love with the medium.
The cockpit was built up using the Seats from the Aeroclub Mk II conversion and the Etch Brass components provided by the Airwaves set. The radar “dish” itself was scratched built starting with a spare one from a Paragon Lincoln conversion I was lucky enough to secure.
There was much planning and reinforcing done on the inside of the fuselage to ensure everything came together on the day. This included reinforcing where the wings and tail plane were to be attached to provide a stronger attachment point for these appendages (which were attached via brass rods), fitting the turret ring and installing numerous reinforcing bulkheads.
With the fuselage assembled and left aside to dry my attention turned to the wings. I chose to use the Revell wings and modify them to the MR I/II standard rather than using the vac-form wings primarily because the engine fronts on the nacelles on the vac-form kit are frankly a poor representation of the engines, in addition clearly the effort required on the wheel wells and under carriage assemblies was going to be something near Herculean if a pleasing result was to be achieved.
As well as all the raised detail the Revell Shackleton wings are festooned with grossly oversized rivets, well these just had to go, after a couple of hours of muscle building sanding the wings were ready to include the Aercolub MR II conversion. The Aeroclub conversion for the wings is quite straight forward and ingenious and once complete the wings were re-scribed with recessed panel line detail. It was at this stage I also incorporated the ceiling of the Airwaves flaps in the wings. I like many modelers found re-scribing a difficult task, that was until I was introduced to the “re-scribers best friend”, that being good old fashioned Dymo tape ! Dymo tape easily contours to the complex curves found on our models and makes the perfect straight edge for scribing against. I have a range of scribing tools but my tool of choice is the Tamiya scribing tool (available at most larger hobby shops). One word of caution with Dymo tape, I find it best to apply it to my workbench and lift it off a couple of times to reduce the strength of the Dymo Tape adhesive. I have had on more than one occasion the Dymo tape pull filler out of joins or paint off the model.
Things that Turn – Engines and Wheels
Engines and Nacelles were next up, again the first job is to remove all those blinking rivets and re-scribe again. The Airwaves detail set provided new radiator grills and a bit of filling and clean up was required on the engines.
The wheel wells themselves looked a bit naked, with the help of a friend of mine, Fred Harris (well let’s call it help !), I was able to find the necessary data on the layout of the wheel wells and took to scratch building the key items of the wheel well interior with plastic strip. Again this is not an overly complex task but does take some time, quite some time, Like days! (thanks Fred!). I must say after all the effort, I find the detailed wheel wells far more appealing than the empty shell provide by the kit, even though the likelihood of anyone ever actually seeing this part of the model is fairly remote!
As the tailplane on MR I and MR III were identical I simply, sanded off all the rivets (again!) re-scribed and prepared them for cementing to the fuselage.
Putting it all Together
With the main assemblies complete the moment of truth was upon me, would it all go together? Dry fitting the wings and tailplanes to the fuselage revealed something that it looked more like a “fractured duck” than the streamlined profile of the Shackleton (D’Oh!), Wing dihedrals and angles were all over the place. Hmm, time to break out the filler and (course, ok, very course) sand paper. With some enthusiastic encouragement eventually reasonably correct angles were attained. When crafting different kit components into a single model it is essential to have extensive dry fitting, inevitably things won’t go together quite as expected on the first attempt.
Time to break Out the Airbrush
With all the major components together it’s off to the paint shop. I am still somewhat old fashioned when it comes to painting still preferring the old enamels and haven’t yet migrated to the new high quality acrylics that are available these days. Typically for the top coat I use Gloss paints, either the ever faithful Humbrol or, for specific military shades Hannant’s Xtracolor range which is reasonably available from a couple of the bigger model shops in Melbourne. I find the Xtracolour paints spray very well and evenly, the down sides however are; the drying time can be excessive (they need to be left at least over night to dry) and the exact shade of colour can vary from batch to batch. For your information the batch number is marked on the tinlet so if you are buying a number of tins I suggest you try and get them all from the same batch.
Before putting on the top coat I always under-coat with Modelmaster Grey Primer. This stuff is brilliant! It applies smoothly, highlights any defects (best fix ‘em now before the top-coat goes on) and when lightly sanded with 1200 or higher wet & dry or even better Micromesh gives a fantastic surface to take your top coat. By the way if you haven’t tried Micromesh, you must get some and give it a try. Micromesh is the best way to polish up plastic for natural metal/silver type schemes, it is also fantastic for a quick sand between coats and will give a fantastic smooth finish on any model.
For the Shackleton MR I used Humbrol Gloss White and Xtralcolor X3 Medium Sea Grey. Given the nature of the Shackleton, which dirtied up easily I chose to use “pre-shading” techniques to simulate a modest level of weathering. Pre-shading is a technique where panel lines (and sometimes whole panels) are emphasized with a darker colour and the final top-coat misted over the model to the desired level of pre-shading still visable through the final top coat.
To achieve the pre-shading effect some modelers simply spray black along panel lines and then apply the top coat. I prefer a slight variant where I place a “Post-It” note just forward of each panel line and spray the darker colour (Medium Grey under the White and Extra Dark Sea Grey under the Medium Sea Grey) along the edge of the Post-It note. I like the way this technique provides a pre-shading effect that follows the air flow over the wings and fuselage.
If you like to darken the panel lines on your model with a black wash try doing this during the pre-shading stage, that is, apply the black wash after the pre-shade colour has been sprayed on but before you apply the final coat. I find this gives a good balance of darkened panel lines without them being too stark.
After applying the top coat, but before it dries (I’m using slower drying gloss paints remember) I mist the model with General Purpose Thinners as per John Jordon’s recent article in a previous edition of this magazine. The application of the GP Thinners on the still wet paint breaks up the surface tension which results in a smoother more highly gloss finish.
Once dry and we’re ready for decaling, well almost. Its at this stage I remove all the masking for the transparencies, etc. I am sure you have noted that often you can get quite a ridge of dry paint around the edges of where masking tape has been applied. How I deal with this is to give the whole model a quick run over with Micromesh particularly focusing on these unwanted “ridges” Finishing with 12000 grit, which also helps polish up your transparencies. After a thorough (and careful) wash in warm soapy water I then apply a thin coat of “Shine Magic” (or Future if you have it) over the entire model (including transparencies). Now this sounds like over kill and to some extent it is on the light grey and white colour scheme, however I have found that it’s best not to leave anything to chance with decal silvering. The higher gloss surface you can prepare the better chance you have of avoiding the dreaded and evil decal “silvering”. Darker colour schemes are the most susceptible to silvering, black schemes being the biggest risk.
One more trick to help avoid silvering. When decaling prepare a mixture of 50% white (craft) glue and 50% water. Once you are ready to apply the decal brush this mixture onto the area to be decaled and apply the decal over the (still wet of course) mixture. As we know silvering is caused by very small pockets of air under the decal, the white glue will fill in any areas where air could get trapped and as it dries clear it reduces the likelihood of silvering. If you use this technique you may notice some residue around the decal from the white glue even after a warm soapy wash, don’t panic, a re-coat of Shine Magic and this residue will disappear completely.
With the Shine Magic well and truly dry (overnight) out came the decal bank. Unfortunately the only set of decals around for the Shacklton MR I produced by Sanger and well out of print so it was off to the decal bank to find the necessary Codes and Serials. The wing walks were courtesy of a set of old Frog Lancaster decals (the MR I conveniently having black wing walks). Manufacturer’s Prop markings came from the excellent Aeroclub MR II/AEW-2 sheet which although it contains markings for at least one MR I (MOTU version), did not have any of the items needed for the aircraft of my choice. Roundels again came from the trusty decal bank along with numerous other hand made items (wing de-icing strips, prop warning stripe, etc.).
Given the shape (and condition) of the transparencies I decided decal strip was the best option for the transparency framing. This is done by spraying some clear decals sheet with the interior color first (black in the case of the Shackleton) and then the top color. Thin strips are then lightly cut in the pre-painted decal sheet (don’t cut all the way through or the decal will break) and then placed in water. Hopefully the pre-cut strips will lift easily off the backing paper for application to the model. It’s a bit fiddly, but it works.
With the decals in place another (thin) coat of Shine magic was applied over the whole airframe (including transparencies otherwise over time the decal strip frames tend to fall off). Over this was sprayed Xtracolor Semi-Gloss varnish with Xtracolor Matt Varnish sprayed along panel lines and misted over the how model to achieve the desired sheen.
With the main airframe now complete its time to add the remaining assemblies. These consisted of the Turret and its 20mm Cannons. The Aeroclub MR II conversion has an excellent set of cannons and vacform turret so I opted to use these rather than the rather non-descript version provided with the Sanger vacform. Likewise I chose to use the undercarriage legs and wheels provided in the Aeroclub MR II conversion for the same reason. I was compelled to use the Sanger tail wheel as the MR II version was a twin tail wheel configuration while the MR I retained a single tail wheel arrangement somewhat similar to that found on the Lancaster.
I am starting to sound like an Aeroclub salesman but I also used the Aeroclub Shackleton Prop set (P064) rather then the Revell kit set. In my view, the Aeroclub set has a more accurate looking spinner while the props provided with the Sanger kit just didn’t cut the mustard.
The final major assembly was the Airwaves flaps. I know many modelers that do not like working with etched metal and although these looked very complicated they were pretty straight forward and I think are a step up on the kit provided versions. Austin Turner, a fellow modeler friend introduced me to “Selleys – No More Gaps” as a modeling tool. I was rather skeptical when first introduced to the product, but it has a range of useful applications around the hobby, in this case, rather than the usual “Super Glue” to attach the flaps I used “No More Gaps”. Unlike Super Glue which delivers a very brittle joint, “No More Gaps” provides a much more flexible joint which is much more tolerant to the odd bump and knock. This feature has already saved me from having to re-glue them back on numerous times!
The final task was some “Invisible Thread” radio aerials a couple of pitot tubes and some remove before flight tags and the model was complete.
I must say I found this a most enjoyable and rewarding project. I am quite pleased with the final product in spite of the fact I dropped it, spilt paint on it and managed to break an engine off, but this range of events are pretty much standard fare for me.
Overall I think I spent around 150 hours on the project but I have to admit I am a fairly inefficient modeler (who’s in a hurry anyway).
I must take a moment to thank Bryan Gibbins (of Ontario Canada – how did we ever survive without the WWW ?) who kindly provided me with numerous Shackleton photos (including all those in this articale) and John (Mo) Botwood, the founder of the Shackleton Association who likewise provided invaluable assistance in researching the subject.
Ok well what about the mistakes ? I have never completed a model without making at least a few “errors and omissions”, well I didn’t do to bad on this one. I would have liked to better detail the Radar Operators position, there are a couple of “black boxes” very visible in through the nose transparency I missed and failed to include. Also unfortunately I laid the model against a reliable set of plans only after I had completed and attached the wings only to find the wingspan approximately 10mm too long. Again had I noticed this I could have easily corrected it during the construction phase, oh well I won’t tell anyone if you don’t !
Well what’s next ? Hmm, that Avro York still beckons.
Phill Sporton’s bio:
Phill hails from a suburb of Melbourne in Australia. Phill has a wife (Jen) and three children, Louise (20), Paul (18) and Anna (16). For a crust Phill is an Executive with the local Australian Telco Telstra.
Phill started modeling when he was about 14 and then like all good modelers took a break in his later teen years returning to the hobby in his mid 30’s (Phill is currently closing on the dreaded 50 years of age).
You can’t tell over the Internet but Phill is 6′ 8″ (202cm) tall and in younger years played in the Australian National Basketball League.
In addition to this Phill is also an active member of the local Baptist Church and on the Executive Committee of “Open House” (www.openhousecic.org.au) a not for profit organisation that focuses on the under privileged in our community. Phill has also been recently appointed as a Director to the Board of the Australian Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.
Outside of these and family activities Phill sleeps !