Harrier modeller Graham James tells us about his hobby…

At the March 2018 meeting I brought along some of my scale model collection following a request from Frank Rainsborough to see my interpretation of Harrier GR.5 ZD402 (the aircraft used for the Pegasus 11-61 trials, as many of you will no doubt already know). A few people viewing the models asked me why did I build Harriers and other Hawker aircraft. Now that my Harrier collection can be seen on the web, it made sense to provide some background and Chris Farara has kindly agreed to include this article in the newsletter.

Where did it all begin? I started model making as a young boy - which is where most model makers start of course - and built mainly aircraft, primarily modern (at the time!) jet fighters and airliners. Living under the flight path for Heathrow ensured an interest in the latter. I also dabbled in tanks, F1 cars, ships and WW2 fighters. Other interests as a teenager soon meant the hobby was all too quickly forgotten, though I did retain an interest in military aviation and even considered a career as a pilot in the RAF. I ended up in information technology and as a result got nowhere near aircraft.

The Harrier In 1/48Th Scale - Part 1

Toptop toptop

Around the end of 2009 I had my "James May Moment” - where you revert to your childhood - and decided to build a model or two to see if I could rekindle my old interest in the hobby. A 1/72nd scale Spitfire, Harrier and Mosquito quickly followed and I was hooked. Knowledge, techniques and skills were certainly rusty, but the fires of enthusiasm had been re-lit. Around the same time, and not entirely coincidentally, I had begun volunteering at Brooklands Museum, working as a steward in the Wellington Hangar, the home of a certain jet aircraft that will be very familiar to many of you. It was all part of a half-formed idea to change careers and see if I could get a job somewhere in the aviation industry. This idea came to nothing in the end.

An early decision when re-starting the hobby was not to build anything and everything but to have a project focus (work habits die hard) and thus began a few weeks of looking at what was available and more importantly, what clubs or interest groups could help with research materials and support. The Harrier was high on the initial lists of possible subjects as Ive always been interested in it and it so happens that there was a very active IPMS (International Plastic Modellers Society) SIG (Special Interest Group) dedicated to the Harrier. The aircraft was also still in service, so I could take my own photographs (another hobby) for research purposes. And of course there was Brooklands and G-VTOL and XP984.

A decision was quickly made and some kits bought before I could change my mind and create the beginnings of every model maker’s wife’s nightmare - the “model stash”. In case this is an unfamiliar term, this is the little boy part of the hobby where we begin buying and storing every kit that we think we want to build, irrespective of whether we have the time or the interest to do so, at a later date. Before we know it, we have a loft full of non-standard loft insulation that will rarely see the light of day and will probably be recycled for less money so that other kits can then replace them. It does however give us bragging rights with fellow model makers - “my stash is bigger than your stash” etc., if my experience of listening to conversations at model clubs and shows is anything to go by. I chose 1/48th scale because I think it’s a nice compromise between size (not too big, not too small) and aesthetics. It is also better for failing eyesight in old age and oversized fingers and thumbs.

I decided that the scope of my project, based on current kit availability, would be to build an example of each Harrier single-seat variant that served with each service. Using my knowledge at the time and some artistic licence, I chose this group: RAF - GR1, GR3, GR5, GR7, GR7A, GR9, GR9A; RN - FRS1, FA2; USMC - AV-8A, AV-8C, AV-8B, AV-8B NA, AV-8B Plus; Indian Navy - FRS51; Spanish Navy - AV-8S, EAV-8B, EAV-8B Plus; Italian Navy - AV-8B Plus; and Thai Navy - AV-8A. As I began building, the correctness of what should have been included became academic as I started building others outside of this group! The bug has truly bitten.   To be continued.