The Gazelle was a utility aircraft capable of holding light armament. It was an helicopter that achieved world wide recognition for it’s capabilities and characteristics. It’s a very unique and distinguished looking aircraft, that has survived it’s era (unlike some contemporaries) and is still in active service across the world. It saw joint productions by Westland Aircraft in the United Kingdom, being further developed by both countries. It saw licenced production in multiple countries including by the Arab British Helicopter Company in the Egypt and SOKO in Yugoslavia.
Below you can see the Gazelle Display Team in action.
The kit I procured is from Airfix and came in a plastic bag. It was re-boxed a few times, but the kit remains the same. It comes with a few sprues, and is a very simple but effective kit. A word of warning in advance; this is a kit that is delicate to balance. It’s a tiny kit so requires little weight, but I would strongly recommend dry fitting with tape and weights to make sure it isn’t tail heavy.
I built my kit in rather a rush. It was built for Telford Scale Model World 2016 as we didn’t have many helicopters, and I thought this was something I could just fit together at one of my local model club evenings and then do the decals at home. Overall I spent probably 2 hours on this from start to finish (excluding time for paint and glue drying).
The kit has very few parts. In fact, the cockpit probably took longer to fit together than the main body. Normally 1/72 means that cockpits can mostly be hidden, but seeing as half the front of the aircraft is clear prevents this to quite an extent. I didn’t work on the clear parts at all, meaning they are not as clear as they could have been and they didn’t age all too great.
I did have a few broken parts in my kit – a disadvantage of buying cheap from a sale box at a model show. However, it wasn’t much of a problem. This was my first helicopter and I knew it wouldn’t be perfect. Overall I think I got an okay finish; this was prior to moving to an airbrush too.
I used decals from Lift Here to create a Yugoslavian version of the little bird. The decals are very colourful and well presented with several variants (meaning I can build a few more from the set too). They have great integrity so do not fall apart when being moved around, and they maintain their brightness despite the dark base colour of the aircraft. The decals I got were bought on Ebay, and were relatively cheap for what they are – only costing me about €7.
Lift Here are a Serbian company and make a wide array of decals for Yugoslavian and former-Yugoslavian nations. The Gazelle decals were no different, helping you create models throughout the Westland/SOKO Gazelle’s lifespan in the nations of the area. I’d definitely recommend these if you want to build a Gazelle which is a little more unique than the normal French and British variants you see around.
Overall I really enjoyed building this kit. It was a really lovely little subject and it was nice to just do something in such a small time scale. As I didn’t weight mine down, I ordered some cheap flying bases on Ebay too (it was about €2 for a small set of them) and made it a flying version instead. It doesn’t look as bad as I thought it would. Though next time, I’ll take more time and plan a bit better.
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What a lovely little build. This particular bird has an interesting story – during Slovenia’s short independence war in 1991, one of our Gazelle pilots and one techincian stole it from Yugoslav Army and defected to our side. Yugoslav markings were immediately removed and Slovenian markings applied. It was basically the first military aircraft of our newborn country and served for quite a few years until it was damaged in a non-fatal crash. It was recently very nicely restored and put on display in a military museum.
Here’s my conversion of airfix Gazelle to Gama – Yugoslav attack variant with Sagger anti-tank missiles and Igla MANPADS. http://i45.photobucket.com/albums/f99/DoktorTomcat/makete/SA342%20Gama/17.jpg
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That’s really fascinating! Thank you for sharing!