Fouga’s little Magister was a very successful jet trainer despite its unorthodox butterfly tail, being used in both the trainer and light strike roles by numerous air arms.
The Magister has always appealed to me as a modelling subject, and I built the Airfix example some years ago. It proved to be a quite well executed little kit, mainly requiring some refinement with its thick undercarriage doors. I recently acquired the Heller kit which is a completely different tooling despite Heller and Airfix being co-owned by Humbrol until recently.
In my opinion the Heller kit has a slight edge, although there’s not a lot in it. Both have fine raised surface detail, reasonable interiors and are generally delicate in their execution. The Heller kit however has much finer and better detailed undercarriage, and offers a choice of tip tanks. I suspect both may be a little inaccurate around the engine cooling vents on each side of the rear fuselage. There are subtle differences in outline between the two, particularly the windscreen; but I have no idea which is the more accurate overall. Frankly I don’t care that much as they both look like Magisters, and can even sit adjacent to each other in the display cabinet without real problems of obvious difference.
Both kits build about the same with no real problems and generally good fit. As with my Airfix model, I chose to add seat belts, throttles, oxygen tubes and prominent red canopy release toggles (at least that’s what I think they are) to the cockpit. As with the Airfix kit, the thick canopy distorts viewing these efforts, and really only seat-belts are warranted.
Having finished my Airfix kit in the stereotypical scheme of the Patroulle de France, I felt my Heller kit should offer a contrast. A very good French email friend of mine, Marc Chiabaud, came to the rescue by mailing me his Max Decals sheet of Magister schemes to New Zealand. The sheet offered all manner of choices for aircraft from a dozen or so nations. I chose the Irish Air Corps option as I have always liked the scheme, and the opportunity to add a less common air arm to my modelling cabinet. The decals proved to be excellent, and settled well onto the Xtracolor Gris Aluminium which provided the main colour.
I can recommend either the Airfix or Heller Magister kits, but would choose the Heller if confronted with a choice.
© Mark Davies, 2007