Piaggio PD.808 – Aero Jet Comander – Hawker Siddeley HS125-1B

These little jets go by a few different names; business jets, corporate jets, executive jets and more. Their main role is to carry a handful of passengers at the same speed and similar distances, and probably greater comfort, than standard jet airliners. They have been around since the 1950s and are now commonplace at the world’s airports. They convey a sense of prestige and exclusiveness because they are the domain of the rich and well connected. Here are three that first flew in the space of three years in the early 1960s.

Hawker Siddeley HS125-1B in 1/72 by Airfix
The Hawker Siddeley HS125 was designed by deHavilland as a replacement for its 1940s deHavilland Dove light airliner before that companyw as taken over by Hawker Siddeley. They remained in production from 1962 to 2013 and over 1,700 were manufactured in a series of increasingly sophisticated versions. The HS124-1B was the first production model and was flown in Australia by Qantas as a training aircraft for its pilots and by the Department of Civil Aviation.

This model was made from the ancient Airfix kit that was first published in 1968 but re-released in their ‘Vintage Classics’ range in 2020. It was, and remaines, a very basic and fairly crude kit with features that including separate control surfaces which might have been great at the time but are now a great inconvenience in trying to make a decent model. There are better kits of the HS125 but they are of later versions so the Airfix kit is your only option if you want to make this early version. That kit comes with RAF decals but one of the members of the Airliner-Civil Aircraft Group made decals for the HS125 flown by the Department of Civil Aviation which he was kind enough to give me (I was keen to make this model as I had the opportunity to fly in this aircraft around 1966).

Aero Jet Commander in 1/72 by Aurora
After making a popular light twin piston engined aircraft the Aero Commander company began work on a light jet powered aircraft and the prototype flew for the first time in January 1963. Deliveries began in early 1965 but around that time Aero Commander was acquired by North American Rockwell and the Jet Commander was sold because if competed directly in the market against the Rockwell Saberliner. The Isralie company IAI bought the rights to the aircraft which it renamed the Westwind and subsequently improved in several ways.

This Aurora kit is now very rare and no doubt a kit collector somewhere is indignant that I had the temerity to take it out of the box and built it. Apparently Aurora tried publishing a line of civil aircraft around 1968 that was not very popular so they didn’t make very many. Then, when they sold the moulds, they were destroyed in a train crash so no more were made. You can read a little more about this kit and see what it looks like here. It was not a difficult kit to make but the decals had reached their expiry date by the time this kit came to me so I found a photo of a Jet Commander in a livery that I was capable of replicating. The process of achieving that was more difficult than making the model itself.

If you can’t find or afford this Aurora kit, and you are really desperate, Broplan make kits of three versions of the Westwind that you might be able to convert back to a Jet Commander. However, Bropan are mainly vacform kits and one beat me soundly, so good luck with that.

Piaggio PD.808 in 1/72 by Sky Models
This aircraft began as plans by the American company Douglas to make an executive jet for the US Navy capable of landing on aircraft carriers. Douglas selected Piaggio to make a a civil version of the aircraft but when the US Navy went cold on the project Piaggio was left with the aircraft and little interest in it. The Italian air force came to the company’s aid and ordered 22 of them.

I’ve always liked the look of this aircraft with its engine pods close to the fuselage and its big bulging cockpit. I managed to track it down as a resin kit through the Aviation Megastore which always has some interesting and obscure kits in its catalogue. This kit may well now be even more difficult to find than the Aurora Aero Jet Commander and the modelling websites only give it, and Sky Models, the briefest of mentions. Which is a pity because I think this one of the most attractive of the bizjets.

Let my experience with the Jet Commander and Piaggio kits be a lesson to you. If you see a kit you think you might want to build in the future buy it when you see it. You never know if you will see it again. And if you don’t get to make it or lose interest you can always sell the kit on to somebody else.