Douglas A-4B/4P Skyhawk
Airfix has been busy lately coming out with newly tooled model kits, and the A-4B/4P Skyhawk continues that trend. The A-4 Skyhawk was a very successful light attack design by Douglas for the US Navy (and foreign buyers) and had a very long and effective career. There are many books that will go into great length on the development and history of this aircraft, so I will only deal with the build of this model kit. 73 parts are molded in a soft gray plastic (two more are clear parts), so be careful and don't sand to aggressively. Some have mentioned that the recessed panel lines are too deep, but what I found on my model was the fuselage lines got less deep towards the top and bottom of the fuselage and I had to rescribe these to match the rest of the fuselage, but it only took about 15 minutes to do so.
The cockpit is assemble first, and since I planned on keeping the canopy down, the decal instrument panels worked fine. The instruction color call outs are in Humbrol numbers. Also, I planned on having intake covers on, so when I assembled the intake duct and forward engine fan I did not worry about fit or finish. One thing I did notice was that you have to take your time in fitting the intakes to the fuselage. The intake trunk (part 25A) and the fuselage form an opening that the intakes (parts 15A & 16A) slip into. On this model, I had to use an X-acto knife to open up this gap to allow the intakes to fit in easily. I also realized that the intake trunk protruded past the fuselage; once I had trimmed the trunk flush to the fuselage, the intakes fit improved.
There are a few areas on this model where punch out marks and seams need to be dealt with. One is the exhaust trunk; others are the nose gear well and the main gear doors. These are easily fixed, especially if you do them before going too far along in the build. My model had some shrinkage on the lower wing at the leading edges due to the thick plastic and these were quickly filled and sanded smooth.
The fit of the parts was generally very good. I did have to insert a small shim to raise the upper wing to get a really tight fit to the fuselage. I only used putty on this model when I had to fit the forward portion of the wing that holds the cannons (parts 6A & 7A) to the fuselage/wing area. Once the fuselage halves were glued together and the wing fitted, I went ahead with priming and painting the model. Airfix has provided a good decal sheet made by Cartograf of one US Navy A-4B and one A-4P from the Argentina services in 1982. If you are doing this version, check the instruction sheet for the few items you'll need to add to make it into an A-4P.
When you seen the photos, you’ll realize that this model is not in a standard US Navy scheme. You are correct; I wanted to make the second A-4B made, which at the time was designated the A4D-2. I wanted to model this aircraft as it appeared in the Edward Flight Test Center Open House in 1959, so I had to make various changes and additions to the fuselage vents and inlets to match the photos, and change the side-mounted refueling probe to the nose position. Instead of the gray/white scheme, this one would be more interesting or colorful. First, I gave it a coat of Tamiya white primer, then masked off the areas I wanted to remain white and painted the rest with Tamiya Bare Metal Aluminum AS-12 decanted from the spray can. Once dried, all the silver areas were masked and the mask on the white areas removed and sprayed with Mr. Color Fluorescent Red (#171).
While I didn't build or finish the model in either marking that Airfix provided, I did build the kit and I found it easy, without any surprises. The only area that I would have a concern is with the 300gal drop tanks – as provided, they have a straight section in the center, where the drop tanks should have a curve throughout their entire length.
I can highly recommend this model kit, as it makes a great A-4B, is an easy build, and is available at an excellent price. I want to thank IPMS/USA and Hornby-America for allowing me the opportunity to do this review.