Saturday, October 18

HK Models 1/32 Meteor given the stamp of approval by it’s former pilot!

Not many model makers get a chance to become properly connected with the people that flew the aircraft originally. Didier Thomas made the HK Models Meteor MKIV recently in 2nd scale and he has had some contact with the original pilot of his Meteor – Luckilly for us cameras were on hand to experience the meeting in an interesting story…

HK Models Meteor F.IV
1/32nd scale kit
From the box - including Xtradecals markings
Model by Didier Thomas

You might remember that some time ago, we brought you the 1/32 HK Models Gloster Meteor F.4 that Didier Thomas built. With the help of Xtra Decals, he was able build a Belgian Air Force Meteor, flown by Sgt. Harry Saeys in 1949.
A few years ago, an interesting 52-page book was published on the Meteor F.4 in service with the Belgian Air Force. In it is the story of one of the first pilots to fly the aircraft: Sgt. Harry Saeys. I had the pleasure of meeting Harry when the book was released and from that meeting came the idea to model his kite….

Photolegend: Sgt. Harry Saeys, wearing a hat, sits on the wing of a BAF Meteor, together with fellow pilots in 1950.
Harry boards the cockpit for a training mission

Only a few weeks after the HK Models Meteor became available, Xtradecals released a set including a Belgian Air Force Meteor. Imagine my surprise when I noticed that it was for the aircraft of the very same pilot: Harry Saeys. Nothing was left to stop me from building the kit, using the Xtradecals and have the model signed by the pilot.
Having met Harry a couple of years ago, yours truly proposed Didier to get together with the former pilot of the Meteor he built. With the help of Didier Waelkens, president of IPMS Belgium, a rendez-vous was arranged in the Brussels Air Museum.

The modeller met the pilot in front of the museum’s Meteor F.8 – ther aren’t currently and F.4’s preserved in Belgium – but both men were enthusiastic to meet up. Harry because he saw a nicely built, large scale model of “his” Meteor and Didier because Harry agreed to meet him and to sign his kit.
For the photos, a spot next to the Meteor was chosen, behind the museum’s barrier. Offering to help Harry to cross the barrier, he stopped me saying “That’s all right, I’m not that old!” Harry just turned 90 the week before...

Harry inspected the Meteor thoroughly and was impressed with the details and the finish of the kit – a nod of approval to the model designers..
After this, the former pilot, young at heart, placed his signature on the kit’s wing. Of course, stories were told, memories came back. Upon leaving the Meteor to have a cup of tea, Harry passed the Museum’s Spitfire F(R).14 and tapped it on the wing. He looked at me and said: “I was the last pilot to fly this Spitfire. When I came back from a training flight, the undercarriage didn’t drop and I had to make a gear-up emergency landing. It worked well, but it was decided not to repair the aircraft back to flying condition. Instead, it was restored for the museum’s collection.”
Harry signing the Meteor on the wing...
Didier, who was listening to the story and nodded. I guess chances are that one of his next builds will be a Spitfire...

Harry and Didier in front of the Meteor F.8 with Harry’s Spitfire in the background.

Thanks to Didier Waelkens for helping with the meeting