I realised that further work on my ex-Frog Firefly would be somewhat risky at the moment as fitting the observer’s canopy requires some surgery to the fuselage, and without the Falcon Clearvax canopy to use for test fitting I’d be working blind. So the Firefly’s been parked until I do some shopping.
In the meantime I’ve started a Hasegawa F9F-2 Panther. This will be modelled as an aircraft of VF-51 or -52 on USS Valley Forge, which was in Task Group 55 with the Firefly’s ship HMS Triumph in 1950. I bought Airwaves set 72052 to dress up the cockpit as the kit’s cockpit is a ‘blank canvas’.
First I started work on the ejector seat. I have an Aeroclub white metal seat to replace the one in the kit, by the way. The Airwaves ejector seat handles are quite square, and might represent a later style than the rope ones that I see in the Detail & Scale book and my other source – a YouTube clip from The Bridges at Toko Ri! I made fuse wire handles instead, and represented the canvas cover with tissue paper soaked in diluted white glue. The Airwaves seatbelts are quite nice but I need to learn how to ‘pose’ them a little better because they bury the seat and cover each other. Perhaps part of the problem with that is that I was too scared to anneal them after the incident I had with the Firefly’s brass bursting into flames!
For the cockpit, the Airwaves set includes instrument panels for F9F-2 and F9F-2P versions, sidewalls and consoles, and a good supply of levers. I fitted them all according to the instructions except for one handle on the left hand side. It’s marked ’emergency’ in photos but I don’t know what it is besides that. Anyway I found that the Airwaves ones have too long a ‘stalk’ so it would have looked odd. Cutting down the stalk didn’t work for me as the part was too tiny for me to deal with. Once I had everything else fitted in the cockpit I test fitted it into the fuselage. And it didn’t fit. The sidewalls come down too far so they spoilt the fit at the sides, which is also affected by the instrument panel being too wide and the rudder pedals being too tall. I cut down the rudder pedals and filed various things but the fit still wasn’t wonderful, so in the end I had to resort to pretty major surgery on the cockpit sidewalls and the ends of the instrument panel. It’s black anyway so the problem doesn’t show up unless you look. For the exterior of the kit the only part is a representation of the fan blades for mounting in the jetpipe, but the kit’s already got a fair enough representation – given that it’s hidden away.
With the problems I had getting this set into its recommended kit I wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to use this set for the Revell/Matchbox F9F-5, especially since the left hand console is flat, as it is in the -5 while it should be stepped in the -2. Airwaves also do a more comprehensive set for the F9 (72214) with the correct stepped left hand console, a much better cockpit interior, a boarding step, wing fold details, and the special ladder needed to climb up the folded wing to get to the tip tanks. It’s the same price as 72052 and I wish I’d bought it instead, but I was misled by its description (F9F-2/5 Panther wingfold) on the Hannants website! Eduard do a set too, for 2 pounds more, which looks fabulous.