Just a Gorgeous, Streamlined Shape!
Way back in early 1965, "Thunderbirds" burst onto our small, black and white TV screens and, for a kid of ten years of age, it was a virtual revelation in models and excitement. While most programs relied on model FX sparingly to illustrate a particular plot point, here was a show where nearly everything was a model! The trees, the buildings, the vehicles, the terrain, heck even the people were models! What more could a ten year old ask for? Nearly half a century later the "Thunderbirds" phenomenon continues unabated on our television screens and the show has provided countless model makers with more inspiration than they can handle.
The very first major design shown in the pilot episode, "Trapped in the Sky", was the Fireflash - a beautifully designed airliner of the future a hundred years on. Whether it could actually fly or not was of little concern – it just looked so damned good! While the story was entertaining to myself and my parents, that of a terrorist attempt to threaten hundreds of people by planting a bomb aboard an aircraft, just to bring out the International Rescue machines so they could be photographed, the plot seems uncomfortably prophetic these days in the light of world events – a little too close to the bone perhaps? From the moment this ten year old boy clapped eyes on her, he fell head over heels in love – just the audacity of placing the pilot cabin at the rear of the aircraft, halfway up the vertical stabiliser, was just mind-boggling in itself! To top that off, try landing a huge airliner atop a trio of moving platforms! And what about viewing windows on the leading edges of both wings? Purely outrageous, but we believed it all.
|Derek Meddings' original 1964 design sketch for the Fireflash|
No expense, time and modelling effort was spared on the pilot episode of this new show. An entire world of models was created, in varying scales and levels of detail. The Fireflash herself existed in a number of sizes, the largest being a good three feet in length, not counting the oversized sections of her built for specific closeup scenes.
Up until now no injection moulded kit of the Fireflash has ever existed - a crying shame as the modelling community have been missing out on one cool looking aircraft! A few years ago Aoshima finally produced one version, albeit in 1:350 scale which, in my mind, is way too small to be impressive. However, when Hobbylink Japan was selling these kits for about $16, I just couldn't help myself. Yes, the kit's way too tiny, but is it accurate enough to be worth the trouble to assemble? Some of us already know about the Japanese penchant for including oversized wheels on their models, but luckily that annoying feature has been overlooked with this particular kit. As far as accuracy is concerned, she looks fine to me, although the undercarriage still looks a little too big for the scale. Putting the kit together took all of an afternoon, with very few problems. Some puttying is required around the main wing roots, but that's about it. All done, except for the painting. I decided to paint both sets of undercarriage landing gear as this broadens the photographic aspects of the model.