A real Squirt: Saunders Roe SR.A-1 takes off!
Like any aircraft design, the unusual Saunders Roe SR. A-1 is a compromise of various prerequisites and technical conditions on the one hand and ideas and conceptions on the other. Rarely, however, does this compromise result in such an extravagant design as this water fighter, which almost went into series production!
There are three ideas in particular that determine the appearance of the SR. A-1: on the one hand, inspired by successful Japanese designs, a flying boat fighter was to be created that only needed a piece of calm water in the coastal area as a base of operations. This could protect areas beyond the range of land-based aircraft. Idea number two follows on from this: any performance deficits due to the bulky flying boat shape would not be a disadvantage due to the above-mentioned circumstance: in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king! The third idea can be found in the form of the propulsion system: recognising that the age of jet engines had dawned, a turbine engine was demanded as early as the invitation to tender in 1943.
The technical conditions at that time seemed to allow a quick realisation of the required turbine seaplane, despite all the challenges. Two Metropolitan Vickers (MV) F-2 turbines with 17Kn thrust were chosen for the engine, and in Saunders-Roe a successful aircraft manufacturer was found who had already made a good name for himself in the field of innovative seaplanes.
The three prototypes built performed very well in flight testing. Well thought-out features such as seamlessly retractable lateral support floats in addition to a careful aerodynamic design, which gave the aircraft an astonishing performance potential, or the weapon set of four 20mm Hispano-Suiza Mk.5 machine guns installed in all three aircraft already indicated that these were not just project studies, but that the step into series production could lie in the not too distant future.
However, the first flight in July 1947 took place at a time when defence budgets were being cut back and the very specific mission of a seaplane fighter no longer enjoyed high priority. So it was not surprising that after the severe setback of the two tragic crashes of TG271 and TG267 in 1949, the entire project was put on ice for the time being. An ice that was only to thaw briefly at the time of the Korean War: with the first prototype TG263 shown here, flight testing was resumed and even the US Navy showed credible interest in the SR. A-1. Against the background of the rapid development of land-based jets, however, the new enthusiasm did not last long; the surviving prototype was still taken out of flight testing in 1951. It survived and today bears witness to the highly innovative British aviation industry of the time: TG263 can be admired as a well-maintained exhibit at the Solent Sky Museum in Southampton.
At the end of this short summary, I would like to refer those interested in the eventful history of this "last water fighter" to my article on the first SA. R-1, well, this "dynamic" aircraft shown here is not the only SA. R-1 in my display case!
About the kit and building process
Like every aircraft model, this scale Roe SR. A-1 is a compromise of various conditions and circumstances on the one hand and ideas on the other.
So, as soon as I saw this new Xtrakit offer, I had three ideas: firstly, I would build at least two models, on the one hand to show the mighty and so unusual SR. A-1 "dry" on land and on the other hand also connected with its element water. The second idea follows on from this: this machine should not lie still in the water, but plough through the water as dynamically as possible. The third idea dealt with the pilot. I liked how, as can be seen in original pictures, he had his head in the wind, sitting high in the cockpit! If I interpret these pictures correctly, you can even see the mop of hair being coiffed by the speeding airstream. I liked this posture, without a helmet and maybe not even a flying cap: that's exactly how I wanted to do it!
The kit demands a lot from the experienced modeller. Above all, it gives plenty of opportunity to practise spackling and sanding skills, which does not have to be unpleasant and is not unexpected for such a "short-run" kit. The equipment is clearly great: besides the plastic parts, which do not fit too well, but are very well formed, you will also find masking tape, a small etched board and - what a pleasant surprise - a set of 3D decals for the cockpit.
I built the water base as a "sandwich" of foam board, a layer of clay kneaded to a wave-like shape with my fingertips and a final glaze of AK's transparent water gel. The clay, which took about a day to dry, was painted with various shades of blue and green from the Gunze range of acrylic paints, after which the water gel was applied on the same day. The "spray" is made of twisted or plucked white cotton wool.
I am very pleased to be able to conclude and present with these pictures the entertaining and informative double project on SR. A-1 with these pictures. I was able to implement my original ideas as well as possible; only the pilot had to do without the blowing head of hair, as will not have escaped the attentive observer.
Xtrakit cannot be praised enough for kits like this, which make it possible to build such interesting witnesses to aircraft history!
22 additional images. Click to enlarge.