Review

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The de Havilland Hornet & Sea Hornet - A Detailed Guide to the RAF & FAA's Last Twin-engine Fighter
Airframe Album No.8 - Valiant Wings Publishing
by Richard A. Franks
ISBN 978-0-9930908-0-6
Published: August 2015
Reviewed: December 2015
Available from: Valiant Wings Publishing
Price: 18, US$26, EUR24, AU$37
The de Havilland Hornet & Sea Hornet - A Detailed Guide to the RAF & FAA's Last Twin-Engine Fighter is the eighth title in the Valiant Wings Airframe Album series.

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

The de Havilland DH.103 Hornet was a twin-piston engined fighter aircraft that further exploited the wooden construction techniques pioneered by de Havilland's earlier Mosquito. Entering service at the end of the Second World War, the Hornet equipped postwar RAF Fighter Command day fighter units in the UK and was later used successfully as a strike fighter in Malaya. The Sea Hornet was a carrier-capable version.

The softcover, 146 page, A4 format, colour contents are broken down into the familiar 5 sections common to the Airframe Album series:
  1. Introduction - 16 pages providing a brief narrative of the development and operational use of the Hornet and Sea Hornet by the RAF and FAA (Fleet Air Arm).
  2. Technical Description - an impressive 81 pages detailed coverage of construction and equipment
  3. Evolution - Prototype, Production and Projected Variants - 10 pages of 3D Isometric views by Wojciech Sankowski showing all prototype and production airframes illustrating difference between variants
  4. Camouflage & Markings - 21 pages of colour profiles and camouflage detail by Richard J. Caruana including side profiles, notes and photographs
  5. Models - 14 pages of listings of all Hornet kits, accessories and decals produced in all scales plus builds of the Trumpeter (1/48) and Special Hobby (1/72) kits.
The introduction section provides us with a relatively short, but informative and easily readable, narrative on the circumstances surrounding the genesis, development and ultimately deployment to active service of the Hornet and Sea Hornet. One feature of the Airframe Album series that I particularly like is the heavy use of photos throughout. As a modeler I find myself drawn to the period images as they provide food for modeling inspiration.
In common with the other books in the 'Airframe Album' series, section 2 is broken into 7 groups:
  1. Fuselage - Cockpit Interior, Canopy & Forward Fuselage, Main & Aft Fuselage, Fuel, Pneumatic, Hydraulic & Oil systems and Electrical, Radio & Radar Systems
  2. Wings - Wings & Radiators, Ailerons, Flaps & Control Linkage
  3. Tail - Tail
  4. Undercarriage - Main Undercarriage, Tailwheel & Arrestor Hook
  5. Engines, Cowling & Propeller - Engine & Propeller, Cowling & Exhausts
  6. Weapons - Armament, Ordnance, Sighting, Drop Tanks, Camera
  7. Miscellaneous - Access Panels, Covers & Picketing, Miscellaneous
Being billed as a 'technical guide' its not surprising that section 2 with its 81 pages accounts for the majority of this book. The illustrations, many taken directly from de Havilland manuals, are accompanied by period photos which the author has painstakingly obtained from varied sources such as the BAe Heritage Trust, de Havilland and British Crown copyright.
Despite the obvious age of much of the source material it is all printed with excellent clarity. Photos are clear, exposure and contrast is properly reproduced on the glossy paper found in the book.
Much of the information included highlights the internal construction used by de Havilland in the construction of the Hornet. Cutaway diagrams and photos are used to logically explain the inner workings of the aircraft. Probably more detail than most modelers will need but incredibly interesting nonetheless.
The book contains no shortage of closeup photos that show detail modelers will find invaluable. The wing fold detail shown here will be very handy when I break open my recently purchased 1:48 Trumpeter Sea Hornet kit.
By referencing the original de Havilland operation manuals we get an excellent insight into not only what the parts of the aircraft look like but also how they operate, something that we don't really need to make our models but inside every modeler is an aviation enthusiast who loves these little tidbits of information (well I do anyway).
For those that wish to take their model to the next level, there is more than enough detailed reference material for even the most picky super detailer. A good example is the 22 images (photos and drawings) that cover the Rolls-Royce Merlin 130-series engine fitted to the Hornet.
Evolution of the Hornet during its development and service career took the form of 4 prototype configurations (including the testing/conversion to 'handed' engines, resulting in the propellers rotating in opposite directions) and 4 major production variants (F Mk 1,3,4 and PR Mk 2) of the RAF Hornet and 3 major variants (F Mk 20, NF Mk 21 and PR Mk 22) of the Sea Hornet.
The book documents each of the variants, plus minor/specialised variations, with twenty-four 3D isometric drawings which include captions and callouts to highlight and explain each change.
The Camouflage and Markings section is quite a technical coverage of the assorted schemes applied to the Hornet/Sea Hornet. Detailed information is provided for the Prototypes, Fighter UK-based, Fighter Far East, Photo-Reconnaisance and of course the Sea Hornet schemes.
Very specific information is provided for each scheme covering the appropriate types of roundels (B, C etc) and fin flash markings used. Likewise the correct colours are specified using BS numbers which is very helpful as most of the period photographs are in black and white.
Over 30 colour side profile drawings are provided as well as top and scrap views. Each image is accompanied with written details about the aircraft and its usage in service.
One of the stated goals of the Airframe Album series is to cater for the scale modeling community. As with previous books in the series, section 4 provides two fully documented builds. The first is in 1:72 where Libor Jekl models the Special Hobby NF Mk 21. The second build in 1:48 by Steven Evans is of the relatively new Trumpeter F Mk 1 kit.
One thing I noticed in this book compared to the earlier Arado Ar 196 book I reviewed was the significantly larger 'in-progress' photos in the modeling section. This is a very welcome change as it's much easier for other modelers to grasp what is being done from a photo than a written description.
As with the rest of the series the model photography is excellent, being well lit and in focus. Each modeler provides insightful information about their builds. Being a 1:48 modeller myself and having the Trumpeter F Mk1 kit in my stash I was most interested this build. As we have come to expect from Trumpeter their otherwise excellent kits are often marred by basic mistakes which thankfully, as Steve Evans points out, are quite fixable. One simple example that Steve points out is the "truly dreadful fabric effect for the control surfaces. Not only is it utterly hideous to look at, it's also completely spurious as the Hornets controls were all metal."

Verdict
Much like its siblings in the Valiant Wings 'Airframe Album' series, this book provides a one-stop-shop of information for modelers looking to not only build an accurate model of the Hornet but also to understand about its history and operation with the RAF and FAA. I'm a big fan of books like this that cover one particular aircraft in detail and I have no hesitation recommending it as good value for money.