Fleet Air Arm Museum Model Show

DAVE WOOLEY visits the 2010 February event

A brand new exhibition in Hall One highlights 100 years of the Fleet Air Arm.

My first visit to Yeovilton and this model show was in 2009. This event attracts large numbers of visitors from across the UK including many from the IPMS community, but has support and interest from across the whole model making spectrum. The show only takes place on a Saturday, so it is as well to arrive as early as possible. It is officially open to the public from 10am.
Entering the exhibition areas from the lower level allowed me a brief glimpse of the amount of effort that goes into the organisation of this large event. Unlike a dedicated model boat show, the FAA Museum event is multi-faceted, so here there are model boat clubs, IPMS modelling, armour, a flight line for r/c aircraft and a huge vendor input, but sadly no pond for operating model boats.

The FAA museum is without doubt one of the premier military and aviation museums in the UK . The number of exhibits takes your breath away and that’s just the planes, artefacts and models of aircraft carriers which are not just confined to those of the Royal Navy. However, if you have an interest in aircraft, particularly those operated by the FAA, then this is aviation paradise.

100 years of the FAA

Events at a venue such as this you would expect to be well organised and from my point of view, it most certainly was. In 2009 the museum were still in the stages of preparing their major new exhibition focusing on a 100 years of the Fleet Air Arm. On entering Hall One you are now confronted by a magnificent display of RN aviation from the early 20th century to the present day. There is a raised walkway which provides a stunning vista of the aircraft below including an F2A Harrier, Sopwith Pup and helicopters such as the Westland Dragonfly, but I shall concentrate on the model boating element.

Model boat displays

Dispersed amongst the permanent exhibits were the vendors and club stands, but my task was to seek out all that was model boat orientated, either individually or as a club display. For 2010, the majority of boat clubs including the SWA, were concentrated in the Swordfish Centre. The amount of lighting for viewing the models in this section of the museum is better than in the main display halls but the lighting is designed to complement the large aviation displays and not enhance model boats – nuff said! Each model boat club (many were from the south west and south Wales) were competing to win Best Club Stand award and this year that went to the Cardiff Marine Modellers who were displaying a good cross section of models representing their activities and for good measure they won the award for the second year in succession.
The Surface Warship Association (SWA) were displaying many fine examples of their collective interest in all ships painted grey. Particularly interesting was an under construction 1:24 scale model of an MTB by master model maker Roy Skeats. This has many of the constructional features from another of his award winning models, such as the superb diagonal planking to the hull. I would presume to say that this model will be truly outstanding when completed.
Located in the same area, there were two large models on the Ilfracombe and District MBC display built by their club member Simon Forrell, namely of a 1:24 scale model of the VIC coaster Titan 2 and the offshore salvage vessel Sondag Viking. Close by were the Shepton Mallet Drifters, also an active and well supported local model boat club.

Moving on to Hall Two, there was an interesting display by Ferndown District Model Society which involved a thought provoking model by Tony Ansell of the ill-fated battlecruiser HMS Hood, but not as perhaps we have come to know, but as a ‘what if’ build. Tony Ansell’s model is based on a 1:128 Fleetscale hull but constructed as HMS Hood could have been following a post-1942 refit.

More museum displays

Moving amongst the displays and vendors I noticed that Airfix, probably one of the most famous names in plastic modelling, had a dedicated stand which was displaying to an eager audience their latest warship model of a 1:350 scale HMS Illustrious. Tucked away amongst the vendors and exhibits are many of the museum ship models, some of which you really have to track down, but close to the Supermarine Walrus float plane and hidden behind a book stand was a superb model of HMS Furious as she would have looked in 1917 with the single 18 inch gun aft and the sloping flying-off deck forward. This is a real gem of a model.
The museum possesses a large collection of ship models and not all are aircraft carriers. For example there are 1:96 scale models of the Leander class frigate HMS Argonaut and the Type 21 frigate HMS Active, but it’s the aircraft carrier models that really get your attention, none more so than the John Glossop model of HMS Albion after conversion to a commando carrier and set in a seascape so the effect is truly stunning.

Looking around the museum there is a gallery of pictures, many of FAA aircraft but the one that caught my eye was in Hall One and an evocative oil painting of HMS Ark Royal. One person viewing the picture remarked that: ‘It’s so real you can almost smell the scene’.

Having missed out on last year’s flying display, this time I made sure I was ready for the display and I was not disappointed. The models were big, especially the large scale models of the Sopwith biplanes and the low level passes of the jet powered F15 and F16 models was spectacular. All most impressive and the jets sound and perform just like full size ones.

So, if you want a good mix of modelling including a large model boating input, plus the excitement of fast moving flying displays and a top class exhibition all rolled into one, then make a note for February 2011 for the Fleet Air Arm Museum Model Show at Yeovilton and you will not be disappointed.

My thanks to the organisers at Fleet Air Arm Museum for facilitating my visit.