Sunday, October 16

Read n' Reviewed: The Fairey Firefly - A Detailed Guide To The Fleet Air Arms Versatile Monoplane Airframe Album No.18

Valiant Wings Publishing's new books are the benchmark for an "All-in-one" title for modellers. Covering history, evolution, colours & models & accessories, this latest book on the Fairey Firefly caught Gary's eye. See what he thought about it in his review...

The Fairey Firefly
A Detailed Guide To The Fleet Air Arms Versatile Monoplane
Airframe Album No.18 - Valiant Wings Publishing

by Richard A. Franks
ISBN 978-1-912932-28-3
Product Link on the Valiant Wings Website
The Fairey Firefly - A Detailed Guide To The Fleet Air Arms Versatile Monoplane is No. 18 in the Valiant Wings Airframe Album series.

The Airframe Album series are all built around a consistent format and "offer everything that modern modellers want when they are tackling a specific subject and will include period diagrams; data from flight manuals; data from spare parts catalogue; walk-around images of preserved examples; fully detailed 3D isometric views of prototype and production machines; full colour profiles and concise camouflage and marking notes."

This eighteenth book in the series contains 162 pages and will be an essential reference for any FAA enthusiast tackling the Trumpeter (1/48), Special Hobby or older kits in 1/72nd scale, it will be an ideal companion to the other Valiant Airframe Album titles covering the Hawker Sea Fury and de Havilland Sea Hornet.
This softcover, 162 page, A4 format book is organised into five major sections:
-Introduction - A brief narrative history of the development and operational use of the Firefly by the FAA, as well as those used by other nations.
-Technical Description - Detailed coverage of construction and equipment
-Evolution - Prototype, Production and Projected Variants - 3D-isometrics illustrating differences between the variants
-Camouflage & Markings - Colour side profiles, notes and photographs
-Models - A build of the 1/48 Mk.I from Trumpeter by Steve A. Evans

I found the Introduction chapter, of some 28 pages, to be an informative and interesting summary of the life of the Firefly. As modellers, we sometimes tend to dive straight into the details without ever understanding the bigger picture of the subject we are modelling. 
For this reason, I like to take the time to 'get a sense' of the role the aircraft played and the men who operated it. I found Richards writing style to be engaging enough as to make ever the driest of subjects worth understanding. This chapter gives an overview of the different variants and operators of the Firefly over its service lifetime.
As you might expect,, the bulk of this book (53 pages) is contained in the Technical Description chapter. Filled with the usual generous quantity of pictures and engineering drawings taken from maintenance and flight manuals, this chapter peels back the skin of the Firefly and lets us see (and understand) what makes it tick.
By breaking the contents into 8 sub-sections (or groups) the author has made it far easier for the modeller to locate that one small detail they are chasing. 
The text which accompanies each photo is short enough so as not to encroach on the sizes of the pictures and yet long enough to explain the relevance of each photo and what particular features it contains.
Like any piece of technology, aircraft designs rarely stay static and new enhancements and modifications are incorporated over its lifetime. Special variants are also quite common, as are modifications to allow aircraft to operate in different climates and weather conditions. 
Chapter 2 focuses on the Evolution of the Firefly as it passed from Prototype to Production and even explores the project variants that never came to be.
Easily the most colourful part of the book, Chapter 3 Camouflage & Markings provides us with bucket loads of inspiration and ideas. As the author points out is a tricky task to interpret accurate colours from only black and white photos and he has made the effort to consult historical sources to increase the accuracy of the information provided. It is in this chapter (page 134) that we are provided with the only scale drawings of the Firefly. 
I was a little disappointed that more scale drawings were not provided, but I guess for his style of book (which is not modelling focused) this is fair enough.
Unlike some of the other Valiant series, this Airframe Album only contains a relatively small chapter dedicated to modelling the Firefly. Here we have a single build of the much maligned Trumpeter 1/48 Mk.I by Steve Evans. The build with photos and text only gets allocated 6 pages, so in the scheme of things not much. In the end Steve makes a nice model and along the way he explains the good, the bad and the ugly of Trumpeters effort. 
I would have like to see a similar build of the Special Hobby 1/48 kit (in any variant) as a comparison.
Several appendices are provided at the very end of the book which catalog all the known Kits, Accessories & Masks and Decals across all scales. Someone has done a lot of work indeed to compile this catalog.
CONCLUSION - The Fairey Firefly - A Detailed Guide To The Fleet Air Arms Versatile Monoplane
Much like the other titles in the Valiant Wings 'Airframe Album' series, this book truly provides a one-stop-shop of information for modelers and enthusiasts looking to not only build an accurate model of the Firefly but also to understand about its history and operation. I'm a big fan of reference books like this that cover one particular aircraft in great detail and I have no hesitation recommending this one.

Gary Wickham

Thanks to Valiant Wings for sending this book to us to read and review. You can purchase or find more about these books on their website...