by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Richard Franks’ latest Airframe Album covers one of the true classics of British aviation - the Gloster / Armstrong-Whitworth Meteor in its many guises. The 194-page softbound book combines historical data and colour references, a modelling section, plus a comprehensive walkaround section that will be a go-to for many modellers.
The book begins with a 26-page Introduction that gives quite a detailed account of the development and service career of the Meteor. All the single- and two-seater variants, along with experimental types such as the prone-pilot and Reaper ground attack aircraft are each treated to their own sub-sections, making it simple to pin down any particular version you're interested in. The Meteor's service in the UK was so extensive, it has a dedicated section in the Appendices, so the Introduction instead focuses on the type's foreign service with no less than 15 countries.
Without a doubt in my mind, the principle reason most modellers will want this book is its Technical Description section. This takes the form of a 53-page "walk-around" combining modern and vintage photos with illustrations from original technical manuals to form a really comprehensive pictorial reference to all areas of the aircraft.
With Meteor production spread over so many versions, the section does a remarkably good job in providing just the kind of detailed shots and information that we find so useful as modellers. Coverage is broken down into the following broad sections:
Canopy & Forward Fuselage
Main & Aft Fuselage
Engines, Nacelles & Exhausts
Drop Tanks/Fuel & Oil Systems
The list doesn't really give an idea of the full depth of the material, though. For instance, the Cockpit section alone covers eight pages, and three pages are devoted to the landing gear. Navigating the walk-around is made simple through section titles at the top corners of the pages, so it's very quick to find the information you need.
Next comes a chapter entitled Evolution, which gives a quick visual guide to all the Meteor variants and test aircraft, with 40 pages of isometric drawings by Wojciech Sankowski. These are captioned to highlight the differences between each version, making the chapter really handy as a guide for modellers - a kind of check-list, if you like, for what work will be required to build any particular aircraft.
As you’d expect with an aircraft that had such a long and varied career, Camouflage & Markings occupies a significant chunk of the book. Over the course of 43 pages, the author outlines all the major colour scheme variations sported by the Meteor in UK and foreign service, along with the many "one-offs". The section features excellent profile artwork by Richard Caruana, and there are some really spectacular options, including demonstration teams and drones, providing great inspiration for anyone seeking to build something a little bit unusual.
Something that modellers will find useful in this section is a pair of stencil placement guides for early Meteors and the Mk. 8.
Rounding off the main content of the book is the Models section, with a pair of excellent builds by Libor Jekl and Steve Evans that give a taste of what's currently available and to highlight any pitfalls in the chosen kits.
Libor tackles the 1:72 Dragon/Cyberhobby F Mk. 1 and, as usual, the quality of his work really belies the small scale, because you could easily mistake the finished model for a largescale kit. The kit is built mostly as supplied, but Libor adds an Eduard detail set to improve the cockpit and replaces the kit's roundels with more convincing Xtradecal items.
Steve comes more up to date with a build of Airfix's 1:48 FR Mk. 9, pointing out the few minor construction problems he encountered along the way. The real surprise is that he hit trouble with the decals - printed by Carograf, no less - which goes to show that we should never take anything for granted, even from a manufacturer with such a high reputation.
Finally, a series of Appendices offer lists of Kits, Accessories and Decals, followed by a comprehensive guide to British Meteor squadrons and a useful Bibliography.
ConclusionAirframe Album 15 will appeal to aircraft enthusiasts and modellers alike, and I can say without hesitation that it deserves a place on the bookshelves of anyone interested in the “Meatbox”. From a modeller’s perspective, it really will be a huge help to anyone looking to add detail to a build of any Meteor variant, because it contains a mass of hugely useful information to work from.
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