Tom-M 1/72 Resin Sopwith 5F1 Dolphin
The Sopwith 5F1 Dolphin was a departure for the Kingston-on-Thames company, all of their previous scout designs had made use of the rotary engine. The Dolphin was to change that, it was powered by the Hispano-Suiza V-8, and had closely spaced and back-staggered wings through which the pilot's head stuck out of the centre section. The wings were placed in this fashion to allow for an unobstructed view upwards. However this engendered the fear of imminent decapitation in the vent of overturning, and was viewed with much suspicion, if not alarm, by those who were detailed to fly it.
Despite this, the Dolphin was to become one of the best fighters at the front, specializing in high-altitude missions and was the first multi-gun fighter with its twin Vickers and Lewis guns. Although most had the Lewis guns removed, or just one mounted on the centre section, No.87 Sqn fixed two of them outboard of the propellor arc on the lower wings for added firepower. However they were unable to be reloaded in flight.
Only four squadrons, Nos 19, 23, 79 and 87, reached the front before the armistice on 11 November 1918. However many others were in the process of forming, including No.1 Sqn Canadian Air Force, and had the war continued into 1919, the French were also planning to replace their aging SPAD XIIIs with the improved Dolphin III.
And for those readers of the Bandy Papers, this is the aircraft in which Major Barthelomew Bandy flew in volume three .. what more recommendation is needed?
Ever since I first came across the Dolphin in the Bandy papers I have been intrigued by this aircraft, so much so that I scratchbuilt one in 1/72 scale many years ago. However I always regretted not picking up one of the Pegasus kits when it was out. With the release of the Tom-M resin kit, I can now remedy that and have another Dolphin in the collection.
The kit is cast in a medium grey resin and consists of approximately 40 pieces. I could only find one air bubble in the rudder. Some of the surface detail will need to be cleaned up as there is a little 'softness' in some of the stringers and panel lines, however the wing ribs/riblets are well done, and the radiators have a very nicely done grill effect to them. The fuselage includes the basic frame cast into place, as well as separate fuel and oil tanks and Hispano-Suiza engine.
Instructions consist of an exploded drawing, a three view drawing as well as notes in Czech and English. Markings are provided for the 12-victory Dolphin ace, Capt JW Pearson (no relation that I know of) and appear to be ALPS generated.
The decals are the only weak point to this kit as they lack the rudder stripes while the font used is a commercial one, rather than that actually used in Sopwith serials. However many aftermarket replacements will come in useful here.
With a little cleanup and some new decals the Tom-M Dolphin looks to be a nice straight forward build, with no real difficulties forseen beyond the two bay rigging .. but hey, I did it once already..
My thanks to Lubos Vinar for the review sample.