Modellers across the world (of plastic kits, not catwalks) instinctively know of Airfix, a brand that has become so synonymous with the hobby that even kits made by other manufacturers are routinely referred to as “Airfix kits”. But when owner Humbrol’s plant was abandoned in 2006, the company’s Hawker Hunter mascot was left out in the cold.
Humbrol Limited was founded as the Humber Oil Company in 1919, but by the 1950s had begun to diversify into the production of scale plastic model kits and the archetypal 14 ml tins of enamel paint. With its signature brand Airfix cornering the scale model market for generations, the placement of a retired Hawker Hunter F.6 aircraft on a plinth outside the factory was extremely appropriate.
But Humbrol went into administration when parent company Heller collapsed in August 2006 and the famous factory in Kingston-upon-Hull was closed. And as is often the case, the boarded windows, unkempt verges and general abandonment beckoned the local vandals to bring forth the factory’s arson with impugnity.
The top two images show the extent of the onslaught levelled against the 1957 fighter aircraft, with the ubiquitous graffiti, panels stolen and canopy smashed open to access the cockpit which, assuming it had a compliment of instruments, has probably since been stripped. But the story had a happy ending thanks to a group of enthusiasts who saved the Hunter by moving it to Fort Paull, Yorkshire’s only remaining Napoleonic fortress. Their fine efforts and the robust airframe have once again proved this Hunter to be a true fighter, and rescued it before it was turned into this.
This article would not have been complete without a model version, so here it is! Admittedly this Hunter is built from an Academy kit rather than an Airfix, but there’s every chance that it was painted using Humbrol! Humbrol, incidentally, was acquired by Hornby Railways in November 2006, which has since re-launched the brand. So despite the turmoil of the last few years, it’s good news for the name and its vintage fighter mascot.
Advances in aviation technology have leaped forward since the Hunter’s tenure in the 1950s and ’60s. It is seen above next to its modern day equivalent, the Eurofighter Typhoon, which now presides over the air defence role in the UK. But there’s still one thing you can do with a Hunter that you can’t do with a Typhoon – buy one and fly it! Many retired military fighter planes are available for public purchase, albeit as stripped out shells. Few are permitted to be flown, but the twin seat training version of the Hunter shown above is one of those exceptions to the rule. All you need is a pilot license and the appropriate qualifications…