AVRO Shackleton

 Kit                                           : AVRO Shackleton MR3
Manufacturer                        : Frog
Scale                                       : 1/72
Paint                                       : Humbrol
Accessories                           : Airwaves set nr AC 72199 Interior
                                                : Airwaves set nr AC 72198 Flaps
                                                : Aeroclub set nr AP 064 (metal propellers)
Reference Material               : Internet           IPMS South Africa.
                                                : Scale Models International March 1993.
                                                : Post-war Military Aircraft nį3 by John Chartres.
                                                : Warpaint Series nį 6 by Alan W. Hall.
                                                : Flugzeug Nr 3/1994 


The Shackleton was designed in 1949 by AVRO as a replacement for the ageing AVRO Lancaster. It was used as a long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft by the RAF and SAAF and remained in service till the end of the 1980ís. 

It was a four-engined aircraft with contra rotating propellers capable of covering a more than 4.000 miles flight.

At least one of them is still kept in flying conditions in South Africa. 







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The kit:

It is an old Frog kit from at least 30 years of age and you can see that it was initially designed as a toy. It has operating bomb doors, flaps, ailerons and rudders.

The British called this aircraft ď10.000 rivets flying in formationĒ and I must admit that the Frog mould makers did a fantastic job by reproducing each and every one of those rivets on the kit. When you touch the body halves or the wings, it is just like a rasp. 

The kitís parts carry a lot of flash and it is sometimes very difficult to cut this flash from smaller parts without damaging them. Interior detail is as good as un-existing and the Airwaves sets come in very handy especially because the MR3 version had big cockpit windows. 




Aeroclub propellers

Airwaves flaps set

Airwaves interior set

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Interior and cockpit:

Each and every part needs cleaning up by filing and sanding. Be prepared to spend more than 60% of your time in doing that on this kit.

Next step, as with all aircraft kits, regards the interior and the cockpit. The Airwaves set provides an excellent PE dashboard, seat harnesses and side consoles. Unfortunately the seats themselves are not replaced and those in the kit form a one-piece part with the cockpitís rear bulkheads. So, cushions need to be made from Milliput, followed by the harnesses. 

Looking at pictures taken from the real thing, I would say that the interior cockpit colour must have been something like Slate Grey. Maybe it was one of the Grey tones used on the outside of some aircraft. I used Humbrol Slate Grey. 

The kit provides opportunity to build it with the back door in the right part of the hull open.

I first wanted to build it like that because the Airwaves set provides a five step ladder but, again, pictures showed that the MR3ís tail, with its tricycle nose wheel undercarriage, was too high off the ground for a five step ladder. Therefore the door was glued in place.

The kit provides some very clear windows in the hull but nothing can be seen trough it and so further building on interior parts was not necessary.


Cockpit and Nose weight






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The old lady needs nose weight and a dry run test showed that no less than 125 grams of lead was needed to keep the nose down. Later on, some more weight needed to be added. 

I had the chance to get my hands on 1/72 scale plans of the Shackleton (or Shak) and comparison of the kitís parts with the plans showed that the kit was almost spot on. Comparing the kitís propellers with those from the Aeroclub set proved that Aeroclub was spot on as well with the props as with the cones. Needles to say that the kitís parts were discarded. 


The engine fronts need to be replaced by the Airwaves set. Those in the kit are very thick and need to be cut away just behind the engine cover. Once done, the old engine radiator fronts can be carefully drilled and cut out. Once cleaned and sanded, the new PE parts can be glued on from the inside.




Engine fronts



Engine nacelles



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Next come both the engine halves with the moulded on exhaust pipes. Those pipes need to be drilled out to get some realism.

The engines find their places on the nacelles hanging from the wings. The inner ones also hold the landing gear housing. Both nacelle halves are glued together and once dry are dry fitted to the engines. A lot of sanding, filing and filling is necessary to obtain a perfect fit of parts. 

The props are painted matt black with yellow tips, the spinners get bright red. The Airwaves prop axles are unusable because they are too short and are replaced by the kitís axles.




Landing gear nacelles




Engine nacelles



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Wing flaps:

The kitís wing halves need to be cleaned up. There is no wheel bay interior and I scratch build a box at the inside of the wing.

The 2 main flaps are replaced by PE ones from the Airwaves set. This goes not as straightforward as expected. I found out that the layout in the set is not clear enough regarding where to bend the flap. The instructions do not mention this or the fact to use some kind of rod to build an upstanding wall at the back end of the flap.

I used my Etch Mate to get a perfect bend and was than able to glue the ribs against it. Airwaves also show that you must use an axle trough the ribs and the flap ends but that metal axle is not provided. A small copper axle was found at the hobby shop. It was put trough one end and slid further and further each time a rib was put in place. That way, you cannot misplace any ribs.

The main spar of the flap is provided in the set but is unusable because it is too thick: no rib will fit over it. This boom was replaced by Evergreen rod.




 Flaps old and new 




PE Flap 



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Tail planes:

This is the part of the aircraft that has the best fit of all with no filler required. The parts need careful cleaning and sanding but come together without problems.

Two antenna wires ran from the rudders to the main hull. I drilled small holes in each of the rudders and put some fine fishing wire trough it before gluing both halves together. 

Fixing of the landing gear and outer engine nacelles:

I started to construct the landing bay interior before fixing the main gear. It is not much, only a square box between the nacelles and the wing but it gives the idea that there is something, not only a hole. 

The main landing gear is constructed as per instructions without retaining the fact that it is retractable. I glued everything fixed because I donít want to see the landing gear collapsing in the box when transporting the model. 

The nacelles have one of the worst fittings I have encountered in the last years. I put them in place without the engine covers or the props. Once you can find their correct alignment, you can glue them on but you will have to use lots of filler to get smooth seems.

The outer nacelles get the same treatment. I used Vallejo filler for this purpose.  

Props and engines:

The props are painted from the start; matt black with yellow tips because I want to build the South African machine. If you want to build an RAF version, you need to paint the tips in red and white striping. Outer spinners get red. 

I painted the engine covers in their respective colour before fixing the props and spinners to them. That way, some difficult spots are already painted. I first opted to position the props in place and to mask them before general painting but I finally decided to construct them in a way that I could remove them if necessary for transport. So, I glued the prop axle rings in place without the axles. That way I could remove the props when needed.  

Landing gear and wheels:

The landing gear legs and wheel hubs are painted light grey Humbrol 147. The two front wheels receive PE wheel disks. A few hydraulic lines are made from copper wire.

Tyres are sanded and flattened and get German panzer grey.

The nose wheel leg needs cleaning up and is drilled in two places. 

The landing gear doors get a bit of attention. They are sanded and receive a few strengthening ribs made from Evergreen rod on the inside.  

Fixing of the body halves:

The fixing of both body halves had some difficulty because there was a bad fit of the bomb bay to the left side. I needed to adjust the bomb bay bulkheads. As stated from the beginning, I didnít want the doors open because I think there is not enough detail provided. The bomb bay doors are adjusted to their respective places and glued on but you will need some careful alignment work. You canít afford that they stick out on the underside. 

Again, you will need a lot of filling and sanding and all of the detail on the top of the aircraft will be lost. The roof top also receives a kit part with 2 antennas on it. These antennas were cut off and their places were drilled out. The part was adjusted, glued and sanded smooth with the roof top. I replaced the antennas by two sewing needles through which the nylon wire from the antennas will run and glued. The surplus wire will be slipped into the body. 

Fixing of the wings and tail planes:

A main spar is provided in the kit and it is most welcome because the Shak is a big lady. However, by constructing the boxes in the main wheel wells, its length could not fully be used. So I had to cut it down in size before gluing it and fixing the wings.

Only a little amount of filler and subsequent sanding was needed. 

Both horizontal tail planes are fixed first and held by tape in a horizontal position. Once dry, the vertical stabilizers and rudders are glued on.


Filler used 




Taking shape 

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Finishing touch:

When all of the above was done (and with good result), I started with the preparation of the kit before painting. The front and rear gunners positions and the cockpit receive their canopies. Once in place they, and the side windows, are carefully masked. 

The kitís decals provide South-African markings for ďPelican 20Ē, registration number 1720.

This machine is actually preserved at Ysterplaat AF base, SA, and a photo shoot session can be found on the Internet. This comes in very handy but it also shows some deficiencies in the kit that need to be rectified.

The most important of all these are:

- adding of a radome on top of the aft body about where the round window in the right side of
  the body can be found.

- adding of two plates on the nose representing the closed apertures of the front machine guns.

- adding of a couple of aerials on top of the body behind the cockpit. Most of them can be
  found in the Airwaves set. They may be a bit thin but their size is good. 

Pictures reveal that the front gunners position needs a bit of attention too. I found a spare seat in the spares box and constructed some sort of gun sight to be fixed in this front cockpit. I suppose the gun sight was used with the front guns or used as a bomb aimers devise. 

The Airwaves set also provides windscreen wipers that are fixed in front of the main cockpit and on the nose windows. 


Construction of this kit meant that most of the raised detail in the form of panel lines and rivets was lost. In one way it was more than necessary to do this, on the other hand, it looked good and more than one fellow modeller did not understand why I sanded away all that beautiful detail.

Everyone who has ever seen this kit will know that all of the rivets were reproduced and that there are a lot of lines representing the different panels. If there are 40.000 rivets, there are at least 1.000 panels. I did not make the effort of re-scribing these lines, it would have done more bad than good. On the other hand I wanted some of them to be seen so that the aircraft could get a used appearance.

So, I opted for pre-shading by spraying most of the bigger panel lines in a fine line of matt black paint using an 0.15 nozzle and very low pressure. 

The inside of the flaps receive interior green.

The main part of the aircraft is painted in PRU Blue and I used, according details provided by IPMS South-Africa, Humbrol 124. Beware because this colour is about to be withdrawn by Humbrol from the market.

The top of the wings, tail planes and engine nacelles receives Humbrol 27.

The top of the hull is painted matt white but not without spraying a coat of Klir (Future) before the white. Once the white paint was dry I sprayed another coat of Klir (Future) over it in order to prevent it from yellowing. 

Props get black with yellow tips, the front propeller hubs get matt red.

There are some doubts about the colour of the landing gear and the interior of the wheel housing. Some pictures let guess that it is mainly in the same colour as the aircraftís undersides. Other pictures show a lighter colour. Basing myself on the pictures in the book Warpaint series 6 Avro Shackleton I must say that they were some kind of light grey. So I opted for Humbrol 147. 


A fellow modeller from my club provided me with the decals of his Modelcraft kit. He intends to build a Mk 2 Shak and didnít need them. (Thanks Luc). So, I was lucky enough not having to use the old and yellowed decals from my Frog kit.

The decals from frog and Modelcraft represent the same machines. 

The most difficult ones are the ďwalk hereĒ panel lines on top of the wings. Their precise positions are not given so you have to guess a bit. The South-African ones are in two languages. I hope I did put them in the right positions: at least they look good. 

One main problem are the nationality markings. South-Africa changed them from roundels to castle types and those from Frog and Modelcraft are the castle types. However, the Frog ones represent the Springbok in two directions and of orange colour. Modelcraft represents the Springbok only in one direction and of silver colour.

According to the photographs, its looks like the silver Springbok is correct but I could not find out if they are applied in one or two directions. So, if my decals should be wrong, it is because Modelcraft is wrong. 


Wow, what a beast, what a challenge.

I am very glad I finally dared constructing this aircraft that has been lying on my shelf for more than 20 years. The Airwaves and Aeroclub after market parts do more than justice to this model, even if they bring along problems of their own.

As said, be prepared to spend more than 60% of your time on sanding, filling and filing but the end result is well worth the effort. 

In all my modelling years I can only remember seeing one single Shackleton at an event. That particular one did not have its rivets removed an the fit of decals was therefore very bad.

My Shak is not of competition standards and I do not think that any Shak constructed departing from the Frog moulds will ever be. So, I will take it to events and present it on my club stand; anxious to see what reactions it will bring along.




Keep Ďm building, 


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