The RNLI Lifeboat
and the RAF Sea King Rescue Helicopter
Models and Diorama
by Bjørn Jacobsen
The Real Heroes
This diorama shows the main rescue services off the UK coastline:
The RNLI Severn Class Lifeboat and the RAF’s Westland Sea King rescue helicopter.
The Severn Class Lifeboat
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) operates around the coasts of the UK.
The RNLI has 237 lifeboat stations and operates 444 lifeboats and rescued on average 22 people a day in 2015. The Institution has saved some 140,000 lives since its foundation in 1860, at a cost of more than 600 lives lost in service.
The Severn class lifeboat, which is the lifeboat in this diorama, is the largest lifeboat in the RNLI fleet. She was developed in the early 1990s and introduced into the fleet in 1995.
They are stationed at 35 locations around the coasts of the United Kingdom and Ireland to provide coverage up to 50 miles (80 km) out to sea.
The Severn has a sheerline that sweeps down for ease of survivor recovery. She is inherently self-righting and should it be knocked over in extreme weather, it will automatically right itself within a few seconds.
Her propellers and rudders lie in partial tunnels set into the hull that, along with the two bilge keels, provide excellent protection from damage in shallow water.
In addition to her twin engines, the Severn is fitted with a hydraulic-powered bow thruster for improved manoeuvrability.
She is 17 metres (55 ft 9 in) long and has a crew of six. She can carry 12 survivors seated and belted and 185 survivors in total whilst remaining adequate upright stability. She can do 25 knots and has a range of 250miles (400km) at full speed.
The Sea King Mk 43
The Sea King is one of the most successful helicopters ever built and has served in large numbers around the world since its service debut with the US Navy in 1961.
The British Sea King is a licence-built version of the American Sikorsky S-61 helicopter and was initially delivered to the Royal Navy as an anti-submarine helicopter.
In 1969, Westland developed a search and rescue (SAR) version which was sold to the Norwegian and Belgium Airforce.
In UK, these bright yellow aircraft are based at various locations around the UK. Their primary role being that of around-the-clock SAR availability to downed military aircrew. Although in practise far more effort is spent in rescuing civilians.
To ensure the efficiency of their role, the Sea Kings are equipped with some of the most advanced avionics, navigation and flight control system available.
The two Rolls Royce Gnome turboshafts give the Sea King a maximum cruising speed of 225km/h (140mph) and a maximum range of 1.120km (700 miles). It has a crew of four (pilot, co-pilot, radar operator and winch operator) and can take up to 19 survivors.
The Airfix Multi-Kit
The kit i used was a 1/72 multi-kit from Airfix, consisting of both the Lifeboat and the Helicopter in a gift package with paint pots and paint brush.
I do not think that this kit is available any more from Revell and that’s fine, because you will be better off buying the models separately.
The RNLI boat was however a pleasant product, but the Sea King was an old kit (probably from the 1980’s) and it certainly looks and felt like an outdated kit, probably thrown in to make it look like a good gift box!
Nevertheless, the contents in the box was I got and that's what I had to work with.
Building the RNLI Lifeboat
The model featured plenty of details to create an authentic replica of the RNLI Lifeboat.
The moulded was very nice, and the interior and exterior are rather comprehensive and even includes all the seating and other detailing inside the main cabin.
Clear glazing is provided, along with the details on the upper bridge. Deck rails, the inflatable stowed on the cabin roof and the handling crane are all included.
The model I built was to be placed in rough seas on a
diorama base and the propellers, rudder and part of
the keel had to be removed.
The building of the boat was no problem, the
challenge was the painting because there was so
many different parts that needed different colours.
I started with airbrushing the superstructure in orange,
and hand brushed all the rest of the colours.
There were no figures in the kit, so I found some old
1/72 figures and painted them as member of the crew.
The quality of the decals was not very good, but it
gave a choice of building any one of the many Severn
lifeboats operating with the RNLI.
Building the Sea King
This kit was a major disappointment – a really horrible kit! - probably an old tooling which was placed in the kit at a very low cost.
There are much better – and newer - Sea King kits available – also from Airfix.
There was no interior what so ever included in the kit - and a very basic (and “childish”) flight deck.
I was planning to place the Sea King in the diorama, winching people up from the lifeboat.
The side door had to be open and the main rotor blades and the tail rotor should be running.
The interior would more or less be blocked by the winch operator standing in the door opening and the lack of interior details was therefore not a big problem.
I made the tail rotor of a disc of clear plastic on which I painted the rotor blades. This is not an ideal solution, but the best I could think of for this project.
For the spinning main rotor blades, I decided to use an electric motor driven by a small AAA 1,5V battery. I also needed a switch for the motor and mounted one under the fuselage, camouflaged as part of the extensive Sea King equipment.
The problem with this arrangement was that the electric motor had very high revs, which makes the spinning rotors almost invisible. If I had used my head, I would have left the electric motor out, but on the other hand, it was rather fun to make this work, and it did work very well.
To place the Sea King in the diorama, I needed a support, and glued a clear acrylic rod into the fuselage. By drilling a hole in the diorama base, the helicopter could easily be placed together with the boat.
I also needed a couple of guys hanging in the winch. These I glued to a thin wire and let them hang under the helicopter.
Building the base
The base was a 70 x 40cm (28 x 16in) wooden plate which I covered with Papier Mache to sculpt the waves and the wake - and to making room for the boat going through the waves.
When the Papier Mache was dry,
I painted it with acrylic colours, trying to colour the water like I have seen in the English Channel.
To make the water look wet, I used a coat of Woodland Natural Water.
To create the sea spray from the boat going through the waves, I used unpainted white cotton which I pulled thin and placed alongside the boat.
Very easy to do and it gave a rather dramatic – and realistic - effect.
The last I did, was to drill a hole through the Papier Mache and into the wooden base and place the rod with the Sea King in the hole.
For the background, I used a painted cardboard.
And that’s it.
is finished and here is what it looks like:
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