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Last Update: 3 Feb 2009

Airfix 1/144 Handley Page H.P. 42 "Heracles"
(Almost) built in 24 hours for a 'BlitzBau'
John Ratzenberger

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This is the Airfix 1/144 scale Handley Page H.P. 42 kit of 1960's vintage.

I decided to build it for the Un-official Airfix Forum / Classic British Kits SIG 2009 "BlitzBau", which is a challenge to build a kit in 24 consecutive hours. There was, fortunately, an option to break the build in two parts just in case there was a need to accommodate real life. I chose to take that option, calling it the "senior citizen option", because I knew I'd never make 24 straight hours and in fact might even reach a point where I no longer remembered what I was doing ... If you recall, I did one of these last year, building the Airfix 1/144 Pan Am Clipper - that article is also on our website.

This will not read like a "normal" review -- it's more a series of snapshots in time, corresponding to the postings I made on UAMF. There may be some comments which don't seem relevant but they would if the entire thread, with other's comments, were read. Nonetheless, if you decide to build this, I think you'll find some useful suggestions.

I officially started at 1200 EST (12 noon civilian time), 25 January 2009 and officially finished at 2128 (9:28pm) 26 January. I went 11 hours, 12 minutes the first day, took a break and came back to do 12 hours, 48 minutes the 2nd day. I did not, as you will see, finish the project in 24 hours.

After a brief history (pretty much paraphrased from the Airfix instruction sheet), you can read the gory details following.

The H.P. "Heracles" and "Hannibal" class airliners were the world's first practical four-engined airliners and for a decade made an outstanding contribution to commercial aviation. The prototye flew in 1930 and the fleet of eight aircraft went into service the following year. The H.P.42 had a span of 130 ft, length of 90 ft, and was powered by four Bristol Jupiter engines each of 550 hp, giving a max speed of 128mph and a cruise speed of 100mph.

Two types of H.P. 42 were constructed -- four of them as HP42(E), the Eastern or "Hannibal" class and four of them as HP42(W), the Western or "Heracles" class. Externally the aircraft were identical, but while the HP42(W) carried 38 passengers, the HP42(E) only carried 24, leaving more room for mail and baggage. The HP42(W)'s served Europe and part of the India route, while the HP42(E)'s flew out of Alexandria to karachi and Lake Victoria.

In service they were successful and popular. Not fast, it was exceptionally comfortable with full catering service of multi-course meals and drinks served from a trolley. The underslung cabin not only afforded good visibility but also ensured a quiet trip. Despite it's unusual construction (note the Warren Truss struts, un-rigged), it had an exemplary safety record, with nary a passenger ever injured. Each aircraft flew over 12,000 hours and the fleet over 10 million miles. Within the first two years of WW2, they were gone. Air travel will never be the same again ...

1200 EST Sunday 25 Jan 2009

Well, I'm off. I'll follow on last year's build with another Airfix 1/144 classic airliner -- this time the HP42. At least I don't have to worry about 3 colors this time. As usual, I'll probably take the "beloved senior citizen" (aka wuss) option and break my build -- but I will see if I can get through in one sitting. As with last year, I have waited until SWMBO went off to "quilting camp" to avoid distractions.

In my photo below, you will see a pile of kit parts -- I actually have bits from 3 kits. Only one came in a box, the other two in bags and there are a lot of loose, broken, missing parts. I have more than one of some out because of the part # tags on the struts. Only one set of decals is useable. At least I have one complete set of parts -- last year I had to "repair" two props.

In the build I think I'll try two enhancements:
· rigging: the Warren Truss on the wings means most the work is in the tail section and can be representative.
· sand down the wing ribs: the fuselage corrigation is liveable, but the fabric sag is simply too much. I think that'll only take a couple-three hours.

I decided not to try an interior, although I might do something other than black hide-it paint ...

[article image] What else, well - there's the coffee mug; the Guinness will come out later. Not shown, but on the periphery, are a few of my other projects that I might whack at while waiting on something to dry -- Eduard 1/48 Lizzie, Tamiya Spitfire being made into K5054, Combrig 1/700 Dreadnought, Resicast Rolls Royce Armoured Car. Oh, yes, the music machine is charged up with a thousand or so Bluegrass and Cajun tunes.

[article image] The cell phone is my official time-piece - the photo on it is my grand-daughter, a year old this week. I regret the only clock (shown here) meeting UAMF "standards" is inop, despite my spending an hour winding, lubricating, and applying percussive maintenance yesterday. I can see I'm going to have to do something about glare on the cell ...

My "plan" is to:
· primer the flying surfaces so I can see contrast better when sanding down ribs.
· work on fuselage while primer drys.
· sand flying surfaces.
· finish it somehow (plan gets fuzzy here) ...

1300-ish EST Sunday 25 Jan 2009, 1 down, 23 to go

[article image] Flying surfaces white primered & dry -- I'll start on tail 1st as that fits to fuselage and is in line with instructions (yes, I read 'em) ...

Interior hit with a red-brown spray -- call it nice mahoghany paneling. The I got (??) idea to cover inside of windows in very thin white brushed vertically to simulate the curtains I've seen in some pix ....

And in a repeat of last year, I started work on the stand, to be done in Tamiya Metallic Black ... looks nice that way ...

1500-ish EST Sunday 25 Jan 2009, 3 down, 21 to go

[article image] The rib sanding takes more time than I thought - mostly trying to be careful to get 'em all down about the same amount. The tail pieces are done. I had to fill a few pin marks, almost left 'em as inspection panels, but then my conscience took over.

I have a couple different pix and drawings of the tail rigging, including the box art. I'm going to do something close to most of them -- see exacting drawn sketch ... broke two #79 drills in the process. Anyway, I'll start tail assembly next.

Meanwhile, I got another (??) idea to paint fuselage exterior before assembly. Then I'll only have to lay a strip of masking tape over the windows rather than do each one separately after I close it up and need to hide the evidence.

1900-ish EST Sunday 25 Jan 2009, 7 down, 17 to go

[article image] Not going well at all -- the rib sanding is taking way longer than I thought it would.

Anyway, the tail pieces are sanded down, drilled, and have a coat of paint on them, I can start assembly now.

The upper wing is sanded down, re-primered, and is glued together. Time to tackle the lower wing - fortunately there is much less work to do there.

The windows are in the fuselage and it is glued together. My attempt at window gauzy window treatments was terrible and I reverted to spare glass.

The stand is looking nice.

Food ! Beer !
Back later.

2300-ish EST Sunday 25 Jan 2009, 11:12 down, 12:48 to go

[article image] I am so tired of sanding - I can skip going to the gym tomorrow, I've had enough upper body work. There is dust everywhere, some of it is the type plastic. I have the effect desired, sort of ....

Anyway, both wings have ribs taken down and are glued together. Tomorrow I clean up the join and paint.

Tail assembled. If you do this model, I suggest changing order of steps to 7, 6, 9, 8 - and use the upper tailplane as a jig when doing step #7. My rigging holes going thru the rudders & trim tabs aren't in perfect alignment.

Fuselage is together & part painted. I have a seam and a fingerprint to take care of.

Struts (sorted in the green thing). All of 'em have seams. I scraped & sanded. Some still have seams. The Z-shaped struts are delicate, I've broken two already. One of my other struts was broken. Repairs are done, but .... Anyway, I can get a coat of paint on them when I do the wings and start assembly.

And that's it for tonight, I'm fried (see sanding above) and something has come up that I have to take care of. I'll try to be back at the bench by 0800 tomorrow.

Thanks for looking and see you tomorrow.

0840-ish EST Monday 26 Jan 2009, 11:12 down, 12:48 to go

[article image] Back again, I was unable to get organized enough to start at 8:12 and make this easy. My deadline is thus 2130 tonight. Picture should be the same except the clock to show I wasn't feverishly working at it all night.

I did ensure the coffee cup was back for Paul to see.

Clean wing joins.
Paint wings & struts.
Fix fuselage issues & repaint. Probably should add tail on here also.
Build wing structure and touch up paint.
Got to remember 4 engines & gear & things are part of this.

Music restarted, off we go...

1340-ish EST Monday 26 Jan 2009, 16:12 down, 7:48 to go

[article image] Progress has been an important byproduct of this exercise.

Wings & struts are now painted, so assembly can proceed.

Engines, props, etc, are painted.

Tailplane mostly rigged. I figured a way to correct the mis-alignment and it'll be fine, although it has been somewhat of an adventure. If I can get 3 more pieces of wire in without knocking out some other one, it'll be fine. I think I'll mount this to the fuselage, add a couple supports under the tail, then paint the back section all at once.

The fuselage has been a problem and with the clock ticking, I have decided the real HP42 had a nice seam running along the underside. I've made 3 tries and it still won't go away and frankly I don't know why. I have no more time to screw with it.

Almost 8 hours left but I'm going to burn one of them by walking away and not touch anything for a while, let it all be real dry before I move on ... But I do need to clean up the landing gear pieces so they're ready when needed ...

1744-ish EST Monday 26 Jan 2009, 20:14 down, 3:46 to go

[article image] I've test fit the lower wing, the two upper fuselage panels, and the canopy -- looks fine and won't require filler or repaint.

Engines & props painted, ready to put on last ...

Gear & wheels cleaned & painted, except tires, which I'll get shortly.

[article image] Tailplane done -- all rigged & painted, next comes assembly to fuselage.

Starting wing assembly, following very nicely explained procedures, not just a bunch of wild arrows & such that we get in so called "modern" kit instructions. I do suggest that in the first step, gluing down struts 26/27, that you use the drying time to just test fit how they go in the upper wing. I had to do some fancy rework that I think will save grief later. Also note the join of these two struts into the nacelle is just ugly -- I did a quick CA fill, quick sand and then over painted -- I won't be taking any pix of that mess ...

Next post will probably be the last one approx 2130 ... success or failure ...

2128 EST Monday 26 Jan 2009, 24:00 down, 0 to go


[article image] Actually, defeat was inevitable at 2010 when I sprayed an aluminum hairball all over the rear fuselage. Although "repaired" there went all my drying time before final assembly and decal application. Even if that hadn't happened, I probably would have, at best, been trying to declare victory with wet decals and no sealer overtop.

The fault is, of course, mine for not sticking to an OOB build. I grossly underestimated the time to bring down the wing ribs then ran into additional work cleaning up seams on all the struts - not hard work, but they are delicate. Rigging up the tailplanes by itself didn't contribute to the failure. In fact I'm kind of happy about the way they turned out. [article image]

Other then the seams on the struts, it really is a nice kit. The instructions and the little jig make wing assembly fairly easy. When you start, you need to pay attention to alignment. I had it straight at the start but as time shrunk I let the wings get a bit out of alignment -- didn't help that I was using CA & accelerator on everything to try & beat the clock.

Everything else is done -- engines & props are ready to install. Landing gear is ready to install. Once I slide the wing in, the two fuselage sections will drop in and the canopy, which needs painting, will also drop in. Then it's just decals and a semi-gloss coat to seal everything.

[article image] I'll finish it in next couple days. I want to see if I can fix the wing alignment issue.

Next year, I'll try to remember this little lesson ....
In fact as a reminder, I won't clean my coffee cup.

1600 EST Sunday 1 Feb 2009, several days later, a post mortem.

Here's the finished shots, I didn't crash & burn on it.

I managed to get the slight twist out of the wings so the heading edges are parallel, roughly.

When I mounted the wing module, I noticed a slight but obvious back-stagger. In retrospect, I must have switched hands when installing the first two struts (26,27; see 1744-ish report) and in my haste I simply didn't notice it. With me accelerating CA through the rest of the struts, I didn't have a chance ...

Then I noticed the tail seemed to be canted back a bit. That, if true, is a kit issue. Seems to me there should be a wedge between the tailplane unit and fuselage to level it out.

Anyway, on to the decals. My one "good" set of three wasn't so good - they came loose with milky film floating about and when laid down looked like they had dirt underneath. I found I could rub that out, but I didn't finish cleaning it off the wing surfaces. Next morning I went down and found it had stained/etched the paint !!! Glad I didn't put my fingers in my mouth .... I could not get the stain off with water and then tried thinner but saw more paint than stain coming up so I quit. Please note carefully chosen photography angles to avoid full shot if upper wing.

And as a grand finale, the stand doesn't fit tightly in the fuselage slot so I either have to glue it in (which I do not want to do) or figure out how to tighten things up.

On the plus side, the big IMPERIAL under the fuselage does a great job of hiding the seam.

Anyway, here it is, late but finished, with enhancements.

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It's not a bad kit -- it is definitely a bit tougher than the Clipper I did last year. I'm not upset I didn't finish in time, I'm upset that I so badly underestimated the time it would take me to sand down the wings -- in the end it was well worth it, but not in a time-crunch build. That caused me to get a bit hasty in other places and the flaws are visible.

I don't think I have enough good parts to do another of these -- if I want another one, I'll have to drag my Contrail 1/72 vac-kit out of the stash ...

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