Airfix BE2c: A Learning Curve

Whilst wandering around the modelling Southern Expo in Hornchurch, I picked up this new tooling Airfix BE2c.

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It’s been a good couple of years since I’d last built an Airfix aeroplane, and I was walking around the show looking for WW1 era aircraft.

Now, I’ve never modelled a bi-plane before. I know they can be complex kits in comparison to the later aircraft, but I fancied a challenge and I find that era of aviation really interesting.

Because I’m so inexperienced, this will just be a bit of a review of the kit rather than a build thread. There are some things I’m going to point out that I would do differently if I were to build the kit again, though. So hopefully you don’t make the same mistakes as I did.

My inexperience with bi-planes is one of the reasons that drew me to this kit, but we’ll cover that in more detail later.

Another reason, is that it’s a new casting.

The Airfix kits I’ve built in the past have all been basic older casts. They are fun, quick kits but lack the quality of kits produced by companies like Tamiya, Games Workshop, Dragon and Battlefront miniatures.

Airfix have been working hard over the past few years to really improve their castings. I’d read a lot of good reviews about some of their new kits and wanted to give one a go for myself.

The new casts certainly don’t disappoint. There are lots of clean and crisp detail, no warping, and not much in the way of excess plastic to get rid of from the moulding process. The plastic also feels to be of a nice quality. I’ve had some kits on the past that have almost felt rubbery.

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The new pilot figures are also a lot nicer than those in older kits! Much more refined.

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As well as full length figures, this model also comes with a full interior. Footplates, joystick, instrument clusters etc. Again, that’s a first for a kit I’ve built from Airfix!  (Sorry for the terrible pic.)

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As a build, the model goes together pretty easily. The instructions are very clear and printed in colour with the last stage being shown in orange. It sounds strange, but in the few places where the assembly instruction isn’t 100% clear, it helps to be able to look at the next step to see what the part should look like on the model. Being coloured in orange rather than 50 shades of grey, also means you can see any bits that should be ahead or behind the part on the model.

As a newbie to bi-planes it was very much appreciated!

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There were a couple of times I strayed from the instructions. They suggest to put the pilots in after putting the two halves of the fuselage together. With the joystick etc, I think it would be more fiddly to get the pilots in, rather than putting them in their seats before the two halves go together.

Speaking of fuselage halves, in Airfix kits of past, there would always be a visible gap that would need to be filled and sanded back. The two halves of the kit went together really nicely. There is a visible join line, but it’s not as ridiculous as older models.

My favourite feature on the kit though, is these:

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These are little guides to set the angle of the upright supports of the wings. They set the angle, and hold the uprights whilst they dry allowing you to get on with something else.

The only bit I can say I didn’t like about the build, was that the machine gun needs to be cut from it’s mount and turned around in order to fit. It’s detailed in the instructions, but being such a fine piece, it was fiddly and unnecessary. I couldn’t see why it couldn’t be cast in the correct position.

The instructions also suggest to do the rigging and control lines at the end of the build. As the uprights are so flimsy, I’d suggesting drilling the mounting holes for the wiring before you really get into the build, to make it easier at the end to get nice, tight rigging. I’ll know for the next bi-plane I make!

There are a couple of decal and painting options available in the kit. I’ve followed the box art scheme which is of the BE2c “2693”  flown by William Leefe Robinson of the No39 Home Defence Squadron based in Hornchurch Essex. (Just up the road from my house.)

On the night of September 2/3 1916 Robinson shot down Zeppelin Schütte-Lanz SL11 commanded by Wilhelm Schramm. Schramm and his 15 man crew perished in the inferno. It was the first Zeppelin to ever be shot down over Britain. Robinson earned the Victoria Cross. His reports and tactics were noted and taught to new pilots, who using his method would down more Zeppelins trying to bomb London. Robinson died on 31st December 1918 aged 23.

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Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed!

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By Richard Francis

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