The kit is cleanly moulded, very little flash and has relatively few parts compared to some similar modern offerings.
I'm going to take the plunge and go for an aluminium finish. Wish me luck. But having finally tamed the impetuous beast that is Alclad II, I shall hopefully be able to do it some justice.
We then move on to the air intake which consists of a very cleverly engineered system of ducts, incorporating the radome section in one go. However I was sure to fill the radome with lead shot before sealing up, as this plane will need a lot of nose weight to sit on its wheels properly. The tail pipes also need painting and construction at this stage since they sit deep within the fuselage. So far, everything was fitting very nicely with very little finishing required. But the acid test of fit is when you try to get everything in the fuselage, which was next.
Since I was planning a metallic finish, I then spent a lot of time smoothing down the fuselage seams since although Alclad produces an excellent finish, it shows absolutely no mercy when it comes to showing up your seams. The wings and tail went on with no fuss at all, only a small bit of thick primer being used to clean up the wing roots. I did, however, inadvertently use the wrong tail fin (there are two in the kit) and did not realise my mistake until it had largely set, so I had to very carefully remove it and replace with the correct one. My own stupid error, but look out for that if you are building this. Also, the elevator fit to the fuselage is not particularly intuitive, so best of luck with that as well. As usual, I left off the undercarriage and other surface details until after painting. I masked off the canopy and other orifices and turned to the paint booth.
Now started the very tedious task of masking off individual removable panels and spraying them with darker aluminium to make them stand out from the rest of the body. This is a painfully boring process but is well worth it as it adds enormous realism to the end result.
I then gave the whole model two coats of Klear. Conventional wisdom says Klear spoils the Alclad finish but I don't agree and it also is rather necessary to protect from the subsequent weathering process as well. She was now ready for decals.
I placed the main decal markings in place from the XtraDecals sheet and used the kit decals for all the stencilling. Everything went on without protest and settled down nicely with setting solution. The only difficulty I had was the walkway markers on the wings which do not match the panel lines at all (take note, Airfix) and needed some adjustment. Another coat of Klear and she was set aside to dry.
Once cured, I gave the plane a black oil paint wash which brought out the panels and rivets very nicely, before finishing the whole thing with a satin mix of my own concoction which blended the finishes of the metal against the painted sections very well indeed.
Attaching the undercarriage was a little frustrating, there are no proper locating lugs for the leg support arms and the instructions are very vague, so I used reference photos and a bit of guesswork to get those in. That said, the undercarriage aligned itself very nicely which was a relief, so often one spends ages adjusting and modifying to get the wheels and legs lined up properly. I then glued on the missiles and the few remaining probes and sticky out bits and she was almost done.
I did not use the overhead emergency handles provided by QuickBoost, as I find I can never get the yellow/black stripes painted convincingly. So I cheated and raided my stock of Eduard pre-painted etch frames and glued these to the top of the seat. Dropped in to the cockpit, and she was finished.
This is a great kit, and I will be building another one very soon. It stands its own ground perfectly against the very latest Far East toolings and restores ones slightly shaken faith in Airfix as a serious player. They have also reinforced that feeling with their very latest new releases but unfortunately they still try and sell us other kits that were moulded over 50 years ago and these are virtually unbuildable by serious modellers these days. There is, of course, a nostalgia factor in this and I am as swept up in that as most others of my generation, but let's hope they continue to release new kits of the current quality and they will win many new fans.
But in the meantime, keep the 1/48 Lightning in production as long as you like, Airfix - its a beauty!