1/48 Academy Lockheed TF-33A

Gallery Article by Wlad Franco-Valias on Nov 15 2012

Brazil Republic Day



The Brazilian Air Force (ForÁa Aťrea Brasileira - FAB) operated 58 T-33 aircraft from 1956 to 1975. Their roles ranged from trainer for the F-80C, ground attack and even fighter. The TF-33s replaced the F-80s and Meteors in the fighter role and served until they were, in turn, replaced by the Northrop F-5E Tiger II.

In service they were painted in overall alumilac (aluminum lacquer or dope), though the two preserved examples Iíve found pictures of are in pearl grey. The FAB shifted from using aluminac to grey on their trainers sometime in the late 60ís or early 70ís so it is possible this carried through to the T-33s. This particular example was used by the 1/14 Aviation Group, based at Canoas in Brazil ís southernmost state, Rio Grande to Sul.

I bought this kit on impulse back in 2002. I was looking for decals for a Brazilian P-47 and instead found Microscale sheet 48-0185 which includes two Brazilian T-33s and a Bolivian one. Since I like the plane, I got the whole package.


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This kit shows its Hobbycraft roots, though it is better than the earlier ones (e.g. Spitfire XIV and Seafire XV). I found the thick engraved lines; the indifferent fit of the cockpit and of other parts; the poor fit of the main wheel wells and wing to be very annoying. I ended up with a lot of filler in the wing roots to fuselage join, which caused problems later.

The accuracy of the Microscale sheet was somewhat disappointing as well. The decal for the 1/14 Aviation Groupís blue tail band is too dark, the Southern Cross representation on the band is poor, the red flash behind the air intakes is too short, the FAB stars are of the long type when they should be of the short type, and lastly the legible stencils are all in Spanish: this is fine for the Bolivian version but not for the Brazilian one.

Then I discovered FCM Decals and sure enough sheet 48-04 has a T-33 from the 1/14 Aviation Group. The sky blue tail band is not provided as a decal; instead the Southern Cross stars are provided on a clear background and they look the part. The FAB stars are of the right type, but no intake flash is provided.

Painting was a challenge due to the amount of masking and complications. This was my first try at Alclad so I started with the wingtip tanks and used glossy Tamiya X-14 Sky Blue as a base, waited a week and then sprayed Alclad II Duraluminum. It looked good, then three months later I discovered the Alclad had cracked badly in one tank. After sifting through conflicting reports on the Internet I figured I had sprayed too thick a coat of Alclad. So, off with the paint and on with Alclad II Grey Primer & Microfiller to be safe.

Things were going well until the primer gummed up on the airbrush tip and I sprayed what looked like concrete right into the wing root and fuselage join. Much cursing ensued, followed by a thorough cleaning of the airbrush. Then lots of sanding and buffing of the model, which cracked the filler in the wing join. More putty, more sanding and buffing. I never got the surface to be smooth again and I came close to tossing the model a couple of times.

After this the Alclad went on well, though it peeled off with the primer in a couple of places while I was doing the intricate masking around the air intakes. So I let the kit sit for over a week before I continued masking and had no further problems. The other colors were Tamiya acrylics and I buffed the flat ones until there was a sheen. Any acrylic overspray was easy to clean off the Alclad with a little alcohol. I coated the whole model in Future, decaled, then coated with Future again. I used Future mixed with Tamiya Flat Base for the flat black areas.

I used a mix of the kit decals, FCM for the FAB markings and stencils; and the intake flash from Microscale. The kitís decals and Microscaleís went on great. The FCM decals, on the other hand, were nice and thin but the film was fairly rigid and almost impervious to Micro Sol. They just did not conform into the panel lines and I damaged the finish in two places when I added too much Micro Sol. Then I damaged a decal when I masked and re-touched the tail band. Much fun... a never ending build. Iím happy to note the current crop of FCM decals look to be much better than the first one both in detail and film quality.

Iím glad I finished this model, even though its one to be observed from a distance. My mother thinks the T-33 is the most beautiful airplane ever built and she was thrilled this model stayed with her in the guest room during her visit this year.

So hereís to persistence and to moms who are into aviation. Happy modeling.




Photos and text © by Wlad Franco-Valias