Revell (Monogram) / Hasegawa 1/72 A-1E Skyraider

  

I can't say I find the wide-body Skyraider beautiful, but somehow I really like the A-1E in a COIN-grey USAF livery. On the internet you can find several build articles of the A-1E in 1/48, kitbashing the very basic Matchbox A-1E with the Monogram or Tamiya A-1H (currently, the C&H Miniatures fuselage is a much better option). I wanted to do mine in 1/72, which also required serious kitbashing. The Monogram A-1E is old (1967) and not to today's standards (see an overview of all issues here), but when mixed with the Hasegawa 1/72 A-1H something nice can be produced. But it is not a very easy conversion, a similar situation as in 1/48. Straight builds of the Monogram (Revell) model can be found on Meindert de Vreeze's site and on Modeling Madness: model by Scott Van Aken, model by Nicolai Plesberg and a preview by Frank Tauss.



Something looks wrong, but what?

I bought the Revell-Germany reissue of the Monogram A-1E back in 1992. I assembled the kit with tape, and I did not like what I saw. Something was quite wrong with the model, but I could not point out where things went wrong. The overall dimensions are off (the fuselage should be longer and wider than that of the single-seat version), but the shape wasn't correct either. I tried really hard to find a good drawing of the A-1E, but all I have seen so far are not correct. I later saw two built-up models, and they too looked wrong, too skinny in a strange way. I put the model back in the box for a better analysis later.

These are the dimensional changes compared to the single-seat A-1 versions I found in various references. It is possible that the references copied each others mistakes.

In the mean time the Hasegawa A-1H/J was issued and I bought two, one for a straight A-1H build, and one for kitbashing with the Monogram kit. I planned to use at least the wing of the Hasegawa kit. When I held it to the Monogram fuselage, the combination still looked as wrong as before. Lots of looking and comparing later I found the fault of the fuselage: the wing's incidence angle is wrong. It attaches at about 0 degrees angle of attack, whereas it should have about 3 degrees. This moves the trailing edge down considerably, and thus a deeper fuselage is required. Finally I had a grip on the kit's problems! The engine cowling is another part of the problem: it's slightly undersize and tapers too much. Replacement with the Hasegawa nose seemed the best solution. The conversion shown below does not tackle the problem of the incorrect overall dimensions. I will leave that for someone else.

That 'someone else' arrived earlier than expected, in August 2003, when Lance Braman published his Hyperscale 1/72 AD-5 article. Based on drawings, he reasoned that the distance between the engine and rudder post had remained constant during the redesign from AD-4 to AD-5, to keep the fuselages as identical as possible. That makes very good sense to me, and it gave him the required fuselage extension. He also found that the *whole* rear fuselage was missing about 4 millimeters in depth, and not just the section behind the wing's trailing edge, like I modified mine. He cleverly combined the Hasegawa A-1H fuselage with parts the Monogram fuselage to produce a correct AD-5 / A-1E fuselage. Overall this is the best attempt at producing a correct 1/72 A-1E so far! I don't agree with one detail however: the oil cooler outlet on the lower forward fuselage should have been filled.

Since 2003, kitbashing the 1/72 Hasegawa and Monogram Skyraiders has become more popular. Will Alcott wrote an article about his very pretty Monogram/Hasegawa EA-1F in the February 2005 issue of Model Aircraft Monthly, and Carl Armelin published a how-to article on the IPMS-USA site, also in 2005. A remark on Carl's article: I don't agree about the A-1E never having armor.

The best analysis of the A-1E / AD-5 dimensions and shape is presented in The Widebody Skyraider Redux, posted in 2014 on Tommy Thomason's TailSpin Topics blog. It is an addendum to The Widebody Skyraider from 2009.

Only in 2016 I found the dimensions of all Skyraider versions, when I came across Ryan Crierie's 'Standard Aircraft Characteristics' webpage with hundreds of official documents with the specifications of Air Force and Navy aircraft. Here I found the following data:

Therefore the A-1E is 4.6 mm longer than the A-1H/J in 1/72 scale. I measured my models without the engine and propeller installed, and found 160 mm for my A-1E and 161 mm for the Hasegawa A-1H/J. Therefore it appears that my A-1E is 5-6 mm too short.



A resin conversion set at last (2005)

Late 2005, RVHP from the Czech Republic issued a series of AD-5 / A-1E resin conversion sets:

The set for a USAF A-1E consists of two fuselage halves and some 15 resin cockpit parts, rudder, wheel wells, a vacform canopy, and decals for 602SOS/56SOW (1969) and 4407CCTS/1SOW (1966) aircraft. With a price of 30+ Euros they don't come cheap. Modelimpex has more information. Internet Modeler has a review of set 72136. I briefly checked one of the RVHP sets in the box. The castings looked good, the vac canopy appeared to be very clear, but the decal sheet looker rather simple. I was warned that the fuselage casting were rather thin and should be handled and assembled with care. Two small errors that I noted was the steps and oil cooler outlet were merely engraved on the side of the fuselage, not recessed.

In 2012 or 2013, RVHP stopped production altogether. Fortunately, production was be resumed late 2014, and a new website was opened. In August 2015, the AD-5 / A-1E kits were announced to be in production again, and in October I saw a big stack at the Aviation MegaStore.



Plastic models at last (2014+)

In 2014, the first CAD screen shots of a new Special Hobby model (catalog SH72164) were released on Modelforum.cz. The model was announced as a future issue in the MPM 2007 catalog. More photos can be seen on Photobucket. However, it seems this project did not (yet) proceed beyond the CAD phase.

In 2016, it was reported that Ukrop Models / Skale Wings / Scale Wings from Ukraine will issue a 1/72 plastic injection model of the AD-5W (catalog number SW-VS001), see Britmodeller. Review on Tailspin Topics by Tommy H. Thomason.



Construction

I started packing the wing cut-out with strips of 1 mm card, with a strip behind them to act as a stop for the wing. Still lacking a good drawing, I had to do this whilst comparing the results with photos. I stopped after 4mm of packing at the trailing edge. I added a lot of Milliput from the packers towards the rear of the fuselage, and since the wing had moved so much down, I also added Milliput near the wing root.
This photo shows the first iteration of the modifications. A good indication of the fuselage modification is the following. Take the 'fold' in the upper fuselage (running from the cockpit edge towards and over the horizontal tail) as a reference. The lower edge of the fuselage used to run parallel with the fold, whereas it now the fuselage height tapers towards the rear. Comparison with photos shows the latter to be correct.

I cut off the Monogram nose and replaced it with that of the Hasegawa kit. To make the wing meet with the new nose, I had to add 2 mm card on the front end of the wing cut-out.
Another view of the modifications to reposition the wing. Lots of rough plastic card and Milliput waiting to be smoothened.
A close up of the transplanted nose. As you can see, it looked worrying initially. The fit was quite horrible, largely due to the square cross-section of the A-1E fuselage.
Much better! The same nose after lots of sanding, Milliputting and cutting. The exhausts have been removed to allow for the modifications, and will be replaced later. The carburetor intake ahead of the windscreen has been added and faired in with more Milliput. The shapes you see are very much like those on the real aircraft; it seems that the kit mating worked well.
The second iteration of the lower rear fuselage modification. I discovered a slight kink in the contour. To achieve it, I glued a piece of rod on the existing Milliput, and then added more Milliput. The tail gear bay is a box built from card that was glued in the fuselage. I used a Tamiya 1/48 kit as a pattern.
In the mean time I had also obtained a Cobra Company A-1E interior set, via my modeling friend Eric Verschuur. As usual with resin sets, it did not fit inside an unmodified fuselage. From measurements of the kit exterior width and the tub interior width, I knew that I had to thin both the kit parts and the resin tub very considerable. Because the resin set was quite costly, I decided to cast a copy of the tub and the bulkhead (Cobra Company rest assured, I did not copy the other parts). Now I could sand away without much risk, also because my casting was from a tough epoxy instead of polyurethane. Positioning the tub in the two fuselage halves was not easy, due to a lack of positioning aids, but I managed. The bulkhead was a very loose fit in the tub, and I had to use card on the sides to make it fit snugly.
Overall view of the modifications so far. I also started scribing the whole fuselage, generally using the raised panel lines as a guide. The white Milliput sanding dust makes them visible on the grey plastic. The rather thick Monogram canopy is positioned on the model. This is another problem area, since it is rather thick. But my modeling friend Eric Verschuur came to the rescue (again) with a vac canopy from a Falcon USN canopy set!

The slots for the horizontal tails have to move down 2 mm to bring it in the same position with respect to the top fuselage longeron, as on the Hasegawa kit.
And when I did move down the slots for the horizontals, it quickly became clear that indeed something was very wrong with the rear fuselage. The horizontals were much too close to the lower edge of the fuselage. It was clear that Lance Braman's fuselage modification was right. Out came the plastic card and Milliput again, and the lower fuselage modification was extended right up to the rudder. The rudder's lower edge was moved down some 2 millimeters.
I painted the fuselage light gray at a later point, in order to better judge the new shape. First impression was that it looked quite good. Second impression was that I made it slightly too fat, and I decided to remove a millimeter from the lower fuselage, and reduce the kink behind the speedbrake. I later glued 0.3 mm plastic card on the Milliput, to allow easier scribing.

After another coat of light gray and adding the canopy fitted with strips of gray tape, I again compared my model with photos (especially in-flight photos). My conclusion was that I had captured the A-1E fuselage shape pretty good now.

The only thing missing now is a fuselage extension. I am still doubting whether or not to do that. It will mean a lot of additional work, but it won't be very visible. Another modification that Lance suggested is to give the carburetor intake some slope towards the windscreen. I also noted that the carburetor intake is too short.
Fast forward a couple of years, with a new background color and larger photos. We bought all small sizes of Albion with our IPMS-Zuid Holland modeling club, and I used the 1.2 mm size to make a dummy installation of the engine exhaust tubes on my model. I noted from the photo that the knife engravings to snap the tube are sort-of visible, so I will sand the tube ends the next time.


Markings and decals

There are no decals for COIN-gray A-1E's in 1/72 scale, except for the decals that come with the original Monogram kit. Early 2003, I started to learn making decal artwork in CorelDraw, for subsequent Alps printing (to be outsourced). I haven't decided completely which A-1E I want to portray, so I made decal artwork for two Skyraiders. Shown here are decals for 132668/4 that belly-landed at Bien Hoa, and 132619/B, as seen flying alongside a CH-3 in a photo.

The design of these decals was interesting. It turned out that the large and small serials are in a US Navy font (Longbeach), which I made just a little fatter. The small 'U.S. AIR FORCE' under the tail is in a fat stencil version of Amarillo USAF font. The skull and bones were drawn over a scan of a photo, and 'RAIDERS' is in Amarillo again, with increased pitch (kerning). I am still fighting with the size of the USAF logos for the wings, and recently I noted a Playboy bunny logo on the prop blades of some A-1's. I don't know which unit used them, but I already grabbed the logo from the Russian logo site. Three-digit numbers for the MLG doors are missing from my artwork.
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In the photo on the left, I applied sticker versions of my decals to the model, to check the dimensions. First impressions are that the large serial may be a tad too large, and the skull and bones a little too small. Note that the print quality is that of a 300 dpi inkjet, and not comparable with the final Alps decals.
Most A-1E's had a large number or letter painted on the cowling. I believe the '4' started life as Amarillo, widened, and modified into a stencil version. The model also needs 'USAF' decals for the wings (working on them), and of course stars and bars, which I will take from a commercial decal sheet.
And these are the actual Alps-decals decals, custom printed by Tango Papa decals. I am very happy with the results. The only items missing are the 'RAIDERS' and skull markings, since these will be printed when I have more color decals to print.

In 2008 Mr. Jerry Ehnert Sr. kindly wrote me to reveal the story behind the skull & bones and the Playboy bunny. Unbelievable that this kind of information surfaces after 43 years! Mr Ehnert arrived at Bien Hoa in April 1965. Late 1965 the application of the skull & bones on aircraft started: "I'd been there five months when I went north to Qui Nhon, a small detachment, four aircraft. I and another guy came up with the skull & bones. The 'Raiders' lettering was done at home base we figure. Deal was we traded one aircraft every Sunday, incoming was our target. 132619/B by the Jolly Green copter [as seen in this photo] was the last one, we were told to stop by home base." The Playboy bunny marking was painted on one of the prop blades for a reason: "The bunny was done for maintenance reasons. Prop man had checks to do after each flight. Our perimeter was close so he done this to make the number one blade easy to locate at night. He got permission to continue." During this time the cowling markings were changed: "It was once 1, 2, 3, 4. For whatever reason they went to the Alpha-Bravo. These were the flights." Mr Ehnert confirmed the basic design of the skull and bones decal was correct, just eyes (possibly smaller), no mouth. The markings were applied with very basic tools: "We had stencil paper and a dull pocket knife." Thanks again to Mr. Jerry Ehnert Sr. for writing!



Decals update

Around 2010, or earlier, Wolfpak Decals 72-036 was issued, with decals for the A-1E of Bernard Fisher (serial number 32649). It is reviewed on Modeling Madness.

In 2016, Caracal Decals issued a A-1E / AD-5 Skyraider decal set (CD72053), with seven marking options, five of which are USAF aircraft



Propeller

The Hasegawa propeller has blades with a suspect shape. Solutions were discussed on the Hyperscale forum.



Stores

I may decide to build a napalm-loaded A-1E. The only napalm tanks offered in 1/72 were those by KMC. I bought both sets, 72-7017, BLU-10 and BLU-32 cannisters, and 72-7021, Mk 77 bombs. Both sets were nicely detailed, but it appears that the molds were worn badly, and the parts are on the edge of being unusable. It will be quite a job to assemble one perfect bomb from each set, and make my own copies of those.

All questions about fuel tanks used on the Skyraider are answered by Douglas Low-drag External Fuel Tanks on Tommy Thomason's TailSpin Topics blog. On the Hyperscale forum the subject was also discussed. In 2014, Attack Squadron from Poland issued set 72014 with three resin US Navy 300 gallon Douglas fuel tanks.



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