Gas Bobcat 52 – Part One

During the jet age, i.e. that post war period where aeroplanes with propellers found themselves relegated to fire practice and gate guardian duties, a new breed of pointy-nosed fire breathing aeroplanes took centre stage. Our Gloster Meteor and DH Venom preceded the swept wing Supermarine Swift and the Hawker Hunter, whilst the Americans and Russians got busy mating German wing technology with Whittle's gas turbine, arriving at a similar solution with their F-86 Sabre and MiG 15 respectively. Speeds rose almost daily during the rush towards supersonic flight and one iconic British design, the DH 110 - later to become operational as the Sea Vixen – undoubtedly provided the inspiration for Bob Violett's original BVM Bobcat. The de Havilland 110 prototype disintegrated over Farnborough during a display in 1952, killing 31 people, including the aircraft's test pilot, record breaker John Derry (who conceived the 'Derry turn') and Tony Richards who occupied the second seat - a tragic episode in aviation history.

So why would Mr Violett choose an age-old British aeroplane as the catalyst for a sport jet? Well, working on the basis that if it looks right, it usually flies right, this one's generous wing area, long tail moment and huge combined fin area pretty much guaranteed success. And indeed, with a turbine up its chuff the Bobcat certainly cuts the mustard in the R/C jet world. But how might it fare with a prop strapped on the back?

PSEUDO JET
To a jet aficionado, putting a fan on a beautiful aeroplane like this is a bit like bolting a turbine to a Sopwith Pup. But hold fire before you come over all precious and delicate, for in this instance sticking a prop on a jet makes a lot of sense. Those twin booms allow the Bobcat to hide its propeller away at the back of the machine, leaving that beautiful streamlined nose unmolested, unlike the plethora of prop hauled F-16s and the like, which never look right. Of course, the noise is going to be all wrong and unless you fit a really powerful lump, it most certainly ain't going to pull 250mph like the 'real' Bobcat. But then, neither will it absorb the thick end of five grand from your shopping budget. This then, is precisely the thinking behind the Gas Bobcat, a concept which provides a tasty looking model that handles and flies like a jet, sans the limitations and costs of turbine operation. Seen in that light, it's a winner in my book and given the immediate popularity of this model, plenty of others seem to agree.

TOP DRAWER
Right then, let's take a look at the kit and find out how big a bang you get for your buck, for as we all know, ARTFs range from superb to downright dangerous and awful. Happily, this one sits at the right end of that scale, indeed I was immediately taken with its superb, beautifully painted, glass fuselage. Moreover, it's a cracking shape that suggests speed and efficiency from every angle. The wings are two-piece plug-on panels of lightweight built-up construction, covered in a polyester film, a system that's been replicated on the equally nice tailplane and elevator set. The canopy is a cool looking smoked orange affair with painted frames and, all in all, the whole is an impressive looking package that includes decals, instructions, and a hardware pack, i.e. tank, wheels and so forth. A small point: given that the film had gone all baggy and bubbly, my pre-assembled surfaces looked terrible when extracted from their polythene wraps, yet the material responded very well to the iron and I soon had them looking pristine. As this can also happen to the very best of film covered models during transit, I guess it has to be more of an observation than a criticism.

I have, over the years, put together (well you can't call it building can you?) around 150 ARTF kits, and almost without exception the first hundred or so had very serious shortfalls. Horns and clevises fashioned from recycled ice cream tubs, piano wire that had the mechanical integrity of overcooked toffee, bizarre thread forms that fitted nothing, and funny nuts and bolts that didn't mate with any spanner in the known universe! The covering materials on many were hopeless too, with poor adhesion and lousy shrinkage. Oh, and let's not forget the glue joints. Undercarriage bearers and firewalls were the usual victims here, suffering glue starvation to varying degrees. Has anything changed? Well, yes and no. Here, the instructions are the usual scant and sketchy sheets of blurred photographs, allied to minimal written content, and the hardware is pretty lame too. That said, the covering material, the construction, and the general quality is not half bad. In addition, Plane Nutz include their own set of addendum sheets to help less experienced punters get their aeroplanes together in a workmanlike fashion, realising that not everyone will have years of experience to fall back on.

HARDWARE HOO-HA
Now then, since this rather tasty looking model has the potential to punch holes in the sky, I strongly recommend that you change all the supplied hardware and go for something decent, such as the Pete Tindal carbon and alloy link sets that I used. These give you everything you need in the way of horns, rods, clevises and the like. Oh, and while you're at it, forget the nuts and bolts and take a look at Modelfixings.com. As always, both companies came up with a belt 'n' braces Stevie D ARTF repair kit, the Modelfixings version comprising a set of T nuts and cap screws for the engine mountings, a bag of hex drive servo screws (which are also handy for canopy fixings), and finally, some longer bolts for the tailplane.

Okay, we're all set to start the build, which I'll cover in Part Two.

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