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Pilot less, or elsewhere

Things accumulate in corners - nothing to do with a stash or even confinement to barracks - and a couple of months ago a book and a kit converged from opposite ends of the workroom when I was wondering what to work on next. The book was Reaper Force, an account by Dr.Peter Lee of the introduction and use of a remotely piloted flying device firstly for information gathering and subsequently for weapons use. From the other shady end I fished out the carefully-hoarded Kinetic 1:72nd kit of the Reaper which came with multiple virtues; these included relatively small size in spite of its long slender wing - helpful both while being put together on the workbench and while I'm trying to RAF Reaper, 2023park/store it afterwards - a selection of both markings and weapons, a simple colour scheme once I'd decided what the colours and not very many parts. This all took place while I was writing the most recently published of the new series of Tailpieces in the June issue of SAM - it should have crossed your doormat by now - and that explains how and why it has a familiar ex-2TAF squadron marking on the fin. I may return to this category if kit manufacturers think it's worth their investment; it has serious What If possibilities, and I have held on to the Platz kit of the Northrop X-47B in case I fancy it in the colours of one of our navies for attack, tanker or ECM duties and I can find some interesting resin attachments and decals. Remember 800B?

To plagiarise David Coulthard, which is always worth while, other recent builds should be visible shortly.

Chasing a legend

With the quality of recent Airfix aircraft it's a temptation to build one at least as they appear, especially for me if it's of an aircraft which has been active with British forces in the last fifty years or so with the hope that it's up to this recent standard; mind you the speed with which the parts move from box to bench varies, and for me often depends what colours and markings are on offer. Over my last several years the possibility - sometimes the distinct attraction - of something non-standard and/or what if? is always a possibility, and I've been known to buy a kit with a twinge of uncertainty and then wait for the decision on how to finish it to become obvious; well, obvious to me anyway.

I've been making Buccaneers in one form or another long before anyone had heard of Johnny Depp, goingback to the NA.39 at a time when Airfix would regularly bring out kits of prototypes with promise; well, British prototypes. I must have covered most of its users and schemes though I think the Blue Angels was one of Kit Spackman's that appeared around the time of his celebrated PR.19. I have recently unearthed one of Frog's early Mark 2s from the depth of the garage shelves, and I remember clearly making an S.1 from a similar kit with intakes in resin by Maintrack, whose Peter Lockhart gave us several variations on the rarer products of the British aircraft industry in the 'fifties and 'sixties. Modeldecal covered a variety of finishes both carrier and land based, many of which I must have used as intended as well as applying the decals to alternative aircraft. When the new kit came out I bought after a pause it partly on reflex but also on the suggestion of my older son; he made the nautical variety, and while I did consider one in "Colonial Navy" livery I waited for an RAF Germany possibility .

It must have been a twitch of my largely dormant mojo that brought back to mind the rumours of an all-black Buccaneer that was based at Laarbruch but apparently never photographed; it was believed, or at least accepted, that it carried on its fin the stick figure of the Saint, the fictional criminal/hero of Leslie Charteris who was allegedly the "Robin Hood of modern crime"; he had been a feature of my teen-age reading and who - somewhat later - had been adopted by 16 Squadron in their Canberra days and later featured on their Jaguars. Making the Bucc was straighitforward,and I decided it should have the slipper taks that were a feature; painting it all black was a no-brainer, and I knew I'd find a decal for the marking from somewhere in a box.

Unsurprisingly it turned up on one of the What If TSR.2 option sheets, which I was fairly sure I'd used not long after that kit originally appeared; the slight drawback was that it was in 1:48th and a bit big for the fin but by now I really wanted to make this, and thought I might be able to bend the limbs slightly and adjust the halo. That turned out to be close enough for...(fill in your preference). I had found from my Invariably Reliable Source that he'd actually taken its photo back in the day, and that he would have no problem recovering it from his archives. Once the model was together and suitably black - although I painted the tanks dark green in case the Wing Commander Flying who I assumed was the nominal "owner" wanted to stretch it's legs - I left any decalling apart from offering the Saint to the fin and making a little adjustment; I didn't know which roundels were used and whether there would be any fin flash, though after a week or so's patience I did apply the ejection seat warnings. Then I found the photo.

I was sure I'd checked all my references in my workroom and one or two that had wandered away a little, and when I was moving one of those useful Waitrose shpping bags which have acquired a few random books, if not travelling stash, and lo! there was Flying the Buccaneer by Peter Caygill, who last helped me with Griffon Spitfires.Buccaneer S.2 XT279, 16 Sq Laarbruch 12/83 And even more lo! in the second batch of photos was a low level air-to-air of XT279 properly black and suitably decorated. The photo was b&w, and it wasn't hard to work out the red/blue national markings; judging by the Saint I'm pretty sure the serial was yellow but after a couple of fruitless enquiries - even Dick Ward hadn't thought of yellow! - I settled for white ModelArt decals for the fuselage and overlooked the serials underwing.

Early on in this process when it seemed that the result would be much more What If than it turned out to be after I found the photo I considered putting a sharkmouth on it as well, harking back to 16's time in Germany with the Canberra B(I).8. The well-supported story has it that this was originally applied when a couple of the aircrew of the period found a photo of a USAAF Marauder of 1944 decorated with the mouth, and figured that the two types had something of their shapes in cBuccaneer S.2 16 Squadron, late 1983ommon. This Canberra was one of the subjects of a fairly early Modeldecal sheet that I've made use of on various models over the years; you probably know what's coming next. I enjoyed making this kit, and even though I'm trying to reduce my modelling, I shall now see if I can find/blag the necessary sheet and work out how to apply to the black/yellow band that 16 wore on its Venoms' booms to a Buccaneer rear fuselage; placing the sharkmouth shouldn't be a problem. I'm still pondering; sometimes a ponder is a good move, or even a good not move.




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