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John Griffith

A Mileham resident, John Griffith, has recently donated a model of a BAE Hawk aircraft, which it took him over 9 years to complete, to the Vulcan Experience collection based at Doncaster.

John, a retired Mechanical Engineer, has always had a fascination for aircraft, building simple models in his youth using balsa wood and tissue paper.

As part of his very varied career, John worked at one stage with De Havilland Propellors at Hatfield, followed by a time with Avro Aircraft of Harrow, working on the design of the Vulcan B Mark 2 bomber. As an aside, plane enthusiasts of all ages will probably be interested to know that John is one of the many subscribers whose names appear on the inside of one of the bomb bay doors in XH558 – also known as “the Spirit of Great Britain”.

As John has had a life-long interest in aircraft, he decided that building a model aircraft would be an interesting and absorbing hobby. Following much perusal of the Radio Control Jet International magazine,  and even more careful consideration, he decided to purchase a 1:4.5 scale German Airworld kit of a Bae Hawk.

The term 'kit' can be rather misleading. John's kit included all of the major epoxy-glass mouldings, scale retracting undercarriage, alloy wing tubes, transparent canopy mouldings, cockpit detail and ejector seats, laser-cut liteply formers, 4.5 litre fuel tank, airbrake actuator and some pneumatic control valves and tubing. However, John still had to source and buy a lot of the hidden internal equipment, including :-

• digital servos (for operating all the flying control surfaces)

• compressed air reservoirs

• aircraft radio receiver (and handheld control transmitter)

• lipo batteries

• electro-pneumatic valves (for operating the undercarriage, wheel and air brakes)

• pneumatice tubing and fixed/quick release connectors

• three-core servo cable and connectors

and much more, including the all important power plant. John chose a Graupner G160 engine, which idles at about 35/40,000 rpm and hits 115/120,000 rpm at full throttle, when it develops around 36 pounds of thrust.

This leaves the final specification as follows :-

Secondary flaps – fixed to the top of the main flaps

These parts weren't supplied, so John had to make his own, using 6mm wood dowel for the leading edge, to which were glued a row of aerofoil shaped ribs, each about 25mm long. Finally, both the upper and lower surfaces were clad in 0.5mm thick mahogany veneer, then sanded and primed ready to fix. These pieces alone took three to four weeks of careful work.

Final painting in Red Arrow livery

This in itself became a labour of love. Instead of using a spray  gun and air compressor, John decided to use aerosols. He tracked down a company that were prepared to supply specially made aerosols containing the exact shades of red and blue paints used by the Red Arrows. After much experimentation (and several miserable failures) John developed a technique that met his very exacting standards.

John built a large spray booth in his garage, to provide clean conditions and contain the overspray. How much time was taken on painting and fixing the decals? John says that it felt like an eternity!

Having completed the model, John gave serious consideration to it's future. Although he had originally intended to fly the jet as a radio-controlled aircraft, a number of factors combined to make this neither practical nor appropriate.

In John's own words, “When I completed the construction of the model and was re-considering its future I thought that perhaps Vulcan to the Sky would be interested in using it as part of a promotional display to inspire youngsters to take up a career in engineering. The Red Arrows have, of course, accompanied the XH558 on a number of occasions and I was privileged to see this wonderful and memorable formation on one of the last occasions it took place at Fairford in July 2015.”

“Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to know that my model Hawk could be of positive use to the Trust both now and in future years.”

In light of John's comments it seems very fitting that this scale model has now joined XH558 in its hanger at Robin Hood Airport, Doncaster.

As you will have gathered by now, this is not a small model plane!

The kit did not include a written instruction manual, just a CD with photos of the various stages of construction. Fortunately, expert contributors to the RCJI magazine described their own build of the same model, which helped solve some of the problems during the build. However, John still had a number of engineering problems to keep him busy – here are just three of them :-

Main wheel undercarriage doors

Each main leg has three doors, the largest one being actuated by a double-acting pneumatic cylinder. The intermediate door is fixed to the main leg and therefore moves with it, therefore the outer small door proved problematical. John had to design and build three different versions of the concealed hinge and ball linkage before finally achieving a satisfactory solution – this took six to eight weeks to achieve.


2.4 metres


2.1 metres

Fin height (undercarriage down)

0.92 metres

Dry weight


Landing speed

45/55 mph

Maximum speed (rarely used)