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Fairey Swordfish Mk.1 from Airfix

By Phil Pignataro
Published: June 14, 2012

Product: This is a first-rate kit with excellent detail, a choice of wing configuration, and different weapon options. Although the kit is not overly complicated, construction is involved. The cockpit is quite detailed and consumes nine steps in the instructions.

The Build:
I haven’t modeled a biplane in more than 30 years, shying away from the inherent alignment and rigging problems. So I approached building the new Airfix Swordfish Mk.I with some trepidation. I shouldn’t have worried, however. Airfix has cleverly engineered a solution for the alignment, and I found a new product which made rigging easy. More about that is in the Marketing section.

Make sure you dry-fit these pieces; several will need fiddling to fit. You end up with a "cage" sandwiched between the fuselage halves and a separate lower section. Instead of a flesh color, I painted the interior fabric areas reddish brown; I read that this primer color bled through the interior fabric. I didn’t install the engine assembly here so I could insert a handle for painting.

Next I attached the tail assembly without its struts (parts 14D). This unit did not fit well on my sample. At this point, I painted the fuselage, its braces and the tail struts separately to ensure complete coverage. The fuselage and tail decals followed, as I wanted to minimize subsequent handling of the model.

Steps 18 and 19 are critical to setting the wings properly. I was a bit careless removing the wing-to-fuselage struts (parts 1B and 2B) from the sprue and broke two of the four posts. Sand the top portion of this unit to fit it to the opening in the upper-wing section. Make sure it slips easily into the wing so you don’t have to struggle with it later and risk breaking it.

I made a tactical error here when I surmised it would be easier to rig the wings before attaching them to the fuselage. Therefore, I decided to combine the steps for the two wing positions to facilitate the rigging process. That didn’t really work well; I’d recommend sticking with the instructions on the wings. Airfix includes a spar for the upper-wing sections, and slots in the upper wing for the interplane struts. These add strength and a means to achieve the correct dihedral for the wing.

Please note: If you choose to fold the wings, Airfix thoughtfully provides two jigs to facilitate their placement. I painted the various wing pieces before I glued them together, then touched them up later. Also, I applied the remaining decals. They are rather thick but respond well to setting solution. The decals for K8449 pretty much go over every possible bump on the model, so break out lots of your favorite setting solution.

Do pay attention to the wheels. Because of the flat spot in the "weighted" tires and the tilt of the landing gear struts, they must go on their respective sides to have the wheels sit correctly.

Precision Enterprises Unlimited of Vermont supplies Wonder Wire, a composite ceramic fiber. The 6-mil rigging made this task easy. Having checked several references, I previously drilled some of the rigging attachment holes. Then, I simply measured the openings, chopped the correct lengths of ceramic fiber and attached them with white glue. I employed the same technique for the rudder and elevator control cables. With its metallic sheen, there is no need to paint Wonder Wire.

The Fairey Swordfish Mk.I is another great release from Airfix. It is an attractive, dimensionally correct model at a reasonable price. Although construction of the Swordfish Mk.1 is intricate, Airfix has thoughtfully minimized the challenges of building a biplane. Still, I recommend it for the intermediate modeler.

I spent almost 40 hours on this kit and am pleased with the result. Airfix plans to release the float version, so maybe I won’t wait 30 years for my next biplane.

Product: Fairey Swordfish Mk.1
Maker: Airfix
Scale: 1:72
Stock number: A04053
MSRP: $16.99
Availability: Hornby America

• Good model at the price point
• Involved assembly
• Add-ons help with rigging