Gannet AEW.3: Wheel Wells, Wings and Wingtip Lights

When we last left the Gannet, the fuselage was detailed and all buttoned up. That’s where she sat for a long while as I worked on the Sikorsky S-38. But, once the S-38’s fuselage was closed up, I switched back to spend some quality time with the Gannet.

OK, so I have a hard time finishing anything. At least the A-3, F-106 and Fokker Triplane aren’t visible here…

The wings and horizontal tail were the next stage. I started with the tail; the stabilizers are provided in upper and lower halves. After trimming them from the sprues and cleaning them up, I cemented the first set together – and then realized they were handed, and that I’d glued two top halves together! I pried them apart and re-glued them, feeling lucky to have caught my mistake.

Next came the finlets. I found that on each stabilizer, one finlet – the top on one, the bottom on the other – didn’t really fit well. They all required repeated filling and sanding, to be honest, and then I needed to re-scribe the finlets. Between the original Gannet AS.1 and the AEW.3, Fairey had decided to add de-icing equipment to the finlets, so scribing could not be overlooked. Photos of the real plane showed a distinct dark panel boundary between the de-icing panel and the rest of the finlet.

As I was re-scribing, I noticed that the panel detail on the horizontals was different. I dawned on me: I had caught my error, then repeated it. Twice! After much blue language (said with a British accent in order to maintain the authenticity of this build), I realized that prying the halves apart was no longer an option. Instead, I sanded the detail off the top of one stabilizer and off the bottom of the second, and re-scribed the detail to match the opposite side. This was slightly difficult with the finlets in the way, but I accomplished it and happily set the horizontals aside for later.

Before I could add the wings, I needed to detail the wheel wells. The kit provides three sides for each well and a center bulkhead; the fourth side is the side of the fuselage on this mid-wing aircraft. These parts were all added to the upper wing, and the fit was not bad. Hunting for photos was a challenge – I found images strewn all over the internet of AEW.3s in Arizona in the U.S. and Yeovilton, Newark, Yorkshire and Gatwick in the U.K.  No one set captures the entirety of both wheel wells, so some mental jigsaw puzzling was needed to figure out where details went.

Basically, the wheel wells featured a ribbed plate (smooth in the kit) that covered a circuit box. Wiring runs led up the front side of the wells and fanned out toward a bus mounted against that center bulkhead. Other hydraulic lines and some woven bundles of wiring continued along the other sides of the inner wells. The detail here varied from side to side. The outer wells, where the strut retraction mechanisms were housed, were essentially the same, but mirrored, with an assortment of struts and hydraulic lines.

The right inner well had a large blue tank for nitrogen (I believe) mounted against its front corner, with and assortment of circuit boxes placed in sequence behind it. The left inner well had some significant ducting and couplers against it. In all, it’s a very busy area. By the way, the Gannet AS.1 and AS.3 have wheel wells that are much, much less crowded – don’t make the mistake of using an AS.1 well (or, maybe, trying to use Eduard parts intended for the AS.1 or AS.3) as the template for the AEW.3’s wells!

This was a lot to replicate. I did it in steps: first I added ribs to the plate at the center of the inner wells, then started in with the wire runs. These were made with fine lead wire; with careful folding, I could get five wires that bent at the same angles. A bit of thin CA in the back of the wires held them together, and they were secured inside the wheel bays. Initially, I mis-interpreted the runs that fanned out to the bus and later realized I had bent them 180 degrees in the wrong direction! Luckily, I was able to fix my mistakes and keep going. These runs also received retaining brackets made from flattened solder. The woven wire runs were made from fine copper wire that was twisted together and cut to shape. It was added where appropriate.

With the lower wing test-fit, the detail in the left inner bay starts to come together.

Preliminary work – note the ribs on the panel and the copper cable run.

The fuselage bulkheads were the trickiest part – none of the detail added here could impinge on the detail under the wing when the wings were added. Before I added any detail, I noticed the inner walls of the bays had very visible rivets. Using a rivet tool and Dymo label tape as a guide, I added rivets to the inner walls of the wheel bays.

The inner walls of the wheel bays were riveted and detailed as appropriate. This detail had to mesh with the detail on the upper wing.

Detailing started with the nitrogen tank, which was made by sanding a nub of .040 styrene rod round at the ends, then wrapping with short lengths of flattened lead wire. Styrene “valves” were added and the whole thing was glued into the wheel well corner. Circuit boxes stolen from HO train details and other boxes cut from styrene completed the detail on the left side. The right side received the valves and hoses for the fuel system, which were made from thicker lead wire, plus three more electronics boxes made from styrene strip.

Wheel bays looking back-to-front. Note the blue nitrogen tank.

The outer bays, featuring the retratction mechanisms, were detailed with lead wire, followed by some styrene rod for the various struts, one of which stands proud above the detail above it in the bay. The whole mess was then airbrushed medium gray, followed by careful detail painting of the brownish fiberglass ribbed panels, the blue tank, the orange fuel system fittings, and a few other items. A heavy wash followed and once that was dry, I dry-brushed with a lightened shade of gray. I added a couple of square data placard with a .005 black rapidograph pen, and decided to stop there.

Wheel bays viewed front to back

The lower wings snap into slots; the top wings rest atop these. I found that my detail fit together very well, although the wings themselves needed some sanding and filling – and shimming – to attach to the fuselage and stay in alignment to the rest of the model. The panel lines I obscured on the wings were replaced, with a scribing template and a sharpened thumbtack coming in handy for the square panels with rounded corners.

Note the wing root – styrene shims and Apoxie Sculpt helped blend in the wings.


The lights on the wings were treated somewhat carelessly. The landing lights have clear covers, but there’s no bulb inside them. The position lights on the wingtips are simply not there. I sanded a notch in each wing tip, then cut pieces of clear sprue and sanded a right angle into each to fit the notch. A tiny hole was drilled into each light and clear red and green-blue paint was inserted into the holes to represent the light bulbs. The styrene was CA-glued into the notches in the wingtips and carefully sanded to the original contours, then polished to transparency. The landing light openings were cleaned up and boxed off with .050 styrene; they would be painted gray later after the model was painted, then equipped with MV lenses and covered by covers made with clear packing tape.

The left wing showing the boxed-in landing light bay and the position light. If you look closely, you can see the red “bulb.”

The wheel wells aren’t totally done – the trailing interiors of the outer bays have vertical stanchions that I’ll add only after masking and painting – but at this point the wings are on and aligned, which a pretty good step forward from where the model was art this time last year.

Next, I’ll add the tail, the windscreen and the exhausts for the turboprop engines – and then, the plane will be ready for paint!





1 Comment

  1. Chris, I am gld to know that I’m not the only one who makes mistakes like gluing, two tops and two bottom halves together. 🙂

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