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1/48 A-1H Skyraider VA-65 Cuban Missile Crisis

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This is a build of the 1/48 Tamiya A-1H Skyraider for a client specifying the airplane flown by his father while embarked on the USS Enterprise with the VA-65 Tigers during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

 

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In 1/72 scale Hasegawa has a kit that would have fit the bill perfectly (save for the BuNo and cowl number)…

 

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… but 1/48 scale was strongly desired, which points squarely to the Tamiya kit.

 

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So, there will be some custom artwork required to replicate BuNo 35322 and other VA-65 specific markings. This is the only photo of that specific aircraft that I have been able to find, although it is from a slightly later date while the Tigers were embarked on the USS Intrepid.

 

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The artwork has been roughed out in Adobe Illustrator and will be printed on a laser printer a bit later. The fuselage thunderbolts will be airbrushed with the use of custom-cut stencils (more on that later).

 

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One thing that I needed to address early was the client’s desire to have a helmet sitting in the cockpit, waiting for the pilot to arrive. The kit includes a seated pilot (seemingly rare nowadays) but the helmet details are indistinct and won’t really impress if displayed separate from the pilot. (Besides, the pilot’s head would have to be drilled out of the helmet… yeck!). To get an acceptable helmet I designed a rough APH-6 helmet in CAD and printed it on an SLA printer (FormLabs Form 2).

 

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Although it’s hard to photograph (it’s so TINY), the details look great and really pop with white primer and a gloss white base coat. 

 

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There are white thunderbolts on each side of the helmet, so the plan is to cut stencils to mask the white before painting the helmet an overall coat of FS32246 Navy Torpedo Orange. The white stars will be applied via decals. I’ll return to the helmet later…

 

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One question for the hive mind here: The AD-6 / A-1H had nose flaps that could be closed to isolate the engine in cold weather conditions and permit a faster warmup when the engine was first started. In this photo the nose flaps are closed:

 

48923690642_ba545f131c_b.jpg

 

But this next photo is the actual configuration that I am recreating albeit with the client’s custom markings. It appears to me that the nose flaps are open in this photo, and I see that the cowl flaps are also open which – I believe – would require that the nose flaps be open.

 

48923690717_32ed922263_b.jpg

 

This question of nose flaps open / closed is important because it significantly alters the appearance of the aircraft (the engine cannot be seen when the nose flaps are closed). 

 

Would anyone here know if the nose flaps were REQUIRED to be closed while aircraft were parked & chocked as shown in the photo? Or was it possible that the nose flaps and cowl flaps could both be open while parked at rest, as the photo seems to indicate?

Edited by Downen Scaled Replicas

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Very good  question and would like to read the answer as well.

 

Doing a Skyraider from VX-5 and don't want to hide the engine. I know it's my model, and I can do what I want to with it, but I'd like to display it as it would normally sit. Out here in the desert heat though, I would think they could have left them open, or removed them all together, but hopefully someone can shed some light on that.

 

Cheers

 

Larry

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I've had feedback offline that seems to indicate that if the cowl flaps are open, the nose flaps will also be open, exposing the engine. In my last photo posted above, the cowl flaps to appear to be open. So I'll proceed with having the nose flaps open AND the cowl flaps open, and with the plane sitting on the deck being prepped for takeoff.

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I've had feedback offline that seems to indicate that if the cowl flaps are open, the nose flaps will also be open, exposing the engine. In my last photo posted above, the cowl flaps to appear to be open. So I'll proceed with having the nose flaps open AND the cowl flaps open, and with the plane sitting on the deck being prepped for takeoff.

Yes - there’s also an indicator pin that sticks out of the cowl. See http://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2011/10/ad-skyraider-modeling-notes.html

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Thank you for all of the feedback. I really appreciate it. I'll return to the helmet when I'm ready to spray the orange colors on the airframe.

 

Paints for the cockpit have not yet arrived so I’m breaking tradition and keeping myself busy by starting on something other than the cockpit! Ordnance…

 

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Twelve (12) 250 lb bombs under the wings, two drop tanks and a 500 lb bomb on the center pylon. I forgot that the kit does NOT include the 500 lb bomb, but fortunately I had a resin set from True Details in my spares box. I’m sure that a coat of primer will reveal a number of areas that need more attention, so there’s probably still work to be done here.

 

I used the Aires landing gear bay set which required that the upper wing skin be thinned A LOT to fit in the gear bay. Even still, I had to carefully work the wing leading and trailing edges to get them to close around the gear bays. It’s a tight fit, but the detail offered by the Aires set is fantastic.

 

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I also worked on the gear doors. Painting the red trim around the door edges has always been the bane of my existence. I even skip it occasionally if I know that I’ll only ever display the model on my shelf and no one else will ever see it! But here I need to do it, and I tried a new method using a Copic marker. If you’re not familiar with these markers, they’re high-end art markers that have a brush-like tip and use a fairly opaque ink. Working carefully around the gear bay doors, I managed a passable red line. Just stand back a couple of feet – don’t look too closely!  LOL

 

 

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And finally, I did some work on the propeller as well. I made a simple jig from a piece of scrape insulation foam and masked off the propeller tips to paint the white and red bands. I prefer to paint the bands since I typically have trouble getting decals to wrap around the edge of the prop to give a convincing appearance.

 

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The end result still needs some work at the edge of the black; tomorrow I’ll sand that edge and touch it up to give a smooth, uniform appearance. Then some metal chips at the leading edges and decals…

 

 

48933349307_ffe0decbaa_b.jpg

Edited by Downen Scaled Replicas

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Very nice. I must use the wrong markers for trim. Every time I apply gloss or flat I get a great amount of bleed. Always end up painting with a fine tip.

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I agree with you 100% with the red trim on gear doors. Here's what I used on my A-6E doors, a friend of mine suggested this tip and it worked great, except for my shaky hands.

Remarkable work your doing here, keep it up.

Steve

 

edited-image_zpsgdev5l2w.png

Edited by A-10 LOADER

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Very nice. I must use the wrong markers for trim. Every time I apply gloss or flat I get a great amount of bleed. Always end up painting with a fine tip.

 

Phantom, I didn't think to mention, but I did gloss coat the doors with Alclad Aqua Gloss, which is acrylic. No problem with the red color bleeding or running. The Copic markers use an alcohol-based ink which also permits rough edges to be cleaned up by rubbing with a cotton swab (Q-Tip) wetted with Windex (which also has some alcohol in it). I really do like the effect.

 

 

I agree with you 100% with the red trim on gear doors. Here's what I used on my A-6E doors, a friend of mine suggested this tip and it worked great, except for my shaky hands.

Remarkable work your doing here, keep it up.

Steve

 

Steve, I see that you're using a marker intended for Gundam kits. The Copic markers are also Japanese and originally developed for Manga artwork. I'm guessing that the Gundam marker uses a similar ink (?)  Interesting how the Japanese come up with such useful tools for this hobby! They take this market seriously, and boy am I glad that they do!!

 

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Nice work. I'm digging this project, the research, the custom markings. Looking forward to seeing it finished.

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On the point of research, I do believe Carrier Airwing Six had the tail code "AF" during October of 1962. She returned from her first cruise on October 11, 1962 only to be called back out to sea a few weeks later in response to the Cuban crisis. Photos from the First Cruise cruise book indicate "AF" on her aircraft. In 1963, the embarked  Airwing did have "AE" as its tail code.

 

Here is a link to Navy Cruise Books for a look:

https://www.navysite.de/cruisebooks/cvn65-62/152.htm

 

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And a look at the "Starfighter" decals 1/350 scale Airwing Six sheet from 1962.

 

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Also, if anyone has a copy of it, Fine Scale Modeler did a fantastic three page spread several years ago as a special "Colors and Camouflage"  segment covering the airwing of CVN-65 during the Cuban Missile Crisis showing them with "AF" tail codes.

 

Also, if anyone has it, Aeromaster did a sheet with VA-65 markings from 1962 on it:

https://modelingmadness.com/scott/decals/aero/am48530.htm

 

Edited by 82Whitey51

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Hmmm... I'm glad that you pointed that out. I saw "AF" from the photo above of the S/N I'm modeling when embarked in 1963 on Intrepid, but thought that "AE" was correct for the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis onboard Enterprise. I'll dig deeper so that I get the correct markings. Thanks!!

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Hmmm... I'm glad that you pointed that out. I saw "AF" from the photo above of the S/N I'm modeling when embarked in 1963 on Intrepid, but thought that "AE" was correct for the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis onboard Enterprise. I'll dig deeper so that I get the correct markings. Thanks!!

That photo from Intrepid is previous to 1962. Airwing Six's previous boat was Intrepid...they then of course transferred to Enterprise. Airwing Six changed to the "AE" tailcode in 1963 (Hasegawa kit box photo).

 

Link to the 1963 Cruise Book: 

https://www.navysite.de/cruisebooks/cvn65-63/index.html

Edited by 82Whitey51

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I am indebted to 82Whitey51 for saving me from a significant and very embarrassing error that would have had me sanding and re-painting tail codes very late in the game. Yuck!

 

I see my error: I’ve been using Ginter’s “Douglas AD/A-1 Skyraider Pt 2” exclusively as reference for the Air Wing Six tail codes. On pp 13-14 it states “A ship and tail code change occurred in late 1962 when VA-65 was assigned to the nuclear powered Enterprise. CVG-6’s new tail code became “AE”. Four A-1H deployments were made aboard CVN-65. They were from: 3 August to 11 October 1962, 19 October to 6 December 1962… [snip] … The second cruise was the emergency deployment due to the Cuban Missile Crisis where they participated in the blockade of Cuba.” This led me to believe that the tail code change occurred at reassignment to Enterprise and was in effect during all four cruises in 1962.

 

I recommend the short but excellent article in the February 1993 issue of Finescale Modeler where Paul Boyer reviews Air Wing Six’s markings during that second October cruise. He states on p. 40 “In 1962, the code for Air Wing Six was AF, a carry-over from the Wing’s previous carrier, USS Intrepid. Early in 1963, Air Wing Six’s tail code was changed to AE.”

 

Indeed, several photos in the 1962 Enterprise cruise book confirm the “AF” tail code applied to Air Wing Six during her cruises that year.

 

My mistake entirely in relying too heavily on the Ginter book and not cross-checking with other sources. Whew…

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I am indebted to 82Whitey51 for saving me from a significant and very embarrassing error that would have had me sanding and re-painting tail codes very late in the game. Yuck!

 

Oh, man, I just like geeking out on researching a subject. The "AE"/"AF" thing I recalled from that Paul Boyer article, and him stating that the easy fix to backdating the markings was simply snipping of that lower leg of the "E". Boom! done.

 

Glad I could help.

Edited by 82Whitey51

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Andy, you are such a naval aviation GEEK!  S/f, Dutch

Guilty...

 

😎

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And Downen, very nice work thus far. I applaud your custom decal design and printing.  Keep calm and carry on!

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And Downen, very nice work thus far. I applaud your custom decal design and printing.  Keep calm and carry on!

 

Thank you. I appreciate that.

 

Last night I installed the latest OS "Catalina" on my Mac and inadvertently rendered all of my Adobe software inoperative. Catalina does not support the last non-subscription based version of Photoshop and Illustrator, so before I can post anymore update photos here I have to figure out if I'm willing to shell out nearly $60 per month for a version of the Adobe products that works with Catalina (I am not) or if after 25 years I switch to something else. Ugh.

 

Meanwhile, I'm actually working on the Skyraider cockpit... Visualize it in your mind. Lots of levers and switches. Lots of dark gray shades and black switch panels. Dials on the instrument panel. Seat belts...  LOL   This really stinks...

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Troy,

As Andy mentioned earlier, Aeromaster did a decal sheet for the markings you are wanting to do.  I have a spare set of these markings in the stash.  Let me know if you are interested.  Here's a link to a review of this sheet.

http://modelingmadness.com/scott/decals/aero/am48530.htm

Edited by Drifterdon

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On 10/25/2019 at 7:43 PM, Drifterdon said:

Troy,

As Andy mentioned earlier, Aeromaster did a decal sheet for the markings you are wanting to do.  I have a spare set of these markings in the stash.  Let me know if you are interested.  Here's a link to a review of this sheet.

http://modelingmadness.com/scott/decals/aero/am48530.htm

 

Drifterdon - thank you so much for the offer. I have pushed on ahead with my own decals and masks at this point, but you're extremely kind for making the offer.

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At last I’ve solved (temporarily, at least) my issues with having photo editing software. So onward with the build documentation!!

 

How about we wrap up those landing gear first, since the gear bays are painted? The gear were entirely straightforward; I used SAC’s metal replacements since I wanted to ensure that the struts would be robust in case they got knocked around a bit by the client. I used some 26 gauge copper wire for hydraulic brake lines and, if you can see it in the photo, a Molotow “liquid metal” marker to paint the shiny metal oleos. (Those markers are awesome! Get one!)

 

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While I was in the neighborhood of the gear bays, I went ahead and tacked the gear doors in open position using some poster putty (not visible in the photo) and glued the delicate resin door hinges from the Aires set to the doors (you can see the yellow resin hinges in the photo). I removed the doors from the wing, went back with the airbrush to carefully paint the hinges white, and then set the doors aside. The entire time I was wondering how long it would take me to knock those hinges off the doors and lose them to the Carpet Monster!

 

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Now it’s time to turn to the cockpit. Although the Tamiya kit overall is beautiful, the cockpit could use a bit of improvement so I picked up the Aires resin set. I’ve never had an aftermarket cockpit set behave as a “drop-in” replacement for the kit parts, and this set is no different. I thinned the interior of the kit’s fuselage in the cockpit area to the point where light could be seen through the plastic (!!!) yet the fuselage halves still only barely close around the resin cockpit tub (which was also trimmed on both sides). Oh well, it looks great once installed.

 

I was a fool and forgot to take photos before I installed the tub. Here I try to make up for that by taking awkward photos of the installed cockpit tub:

 

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See that putty on the nose? That’s 100% due to the Aires tub not permitting the fuselage halves to join at the nose.

 

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Well, trust me that it was worth the investment. But be prepared to chisel, file and sand plastic and resin to tissue-paper thinness to get it to fit.

 

The engine… where would we be without an engine? (On the ground!). I confirmed that the nose flaps were often open on the ground even if the airplane was not prepped for immediate flight. So I got out the 26 gauge copper wire again and started to add ignition wires to the kit’s plastic engine. This is the BEFORE photo…

 

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And here is the plumbed engine as I set it aside to wait until it would be installed as one of the very last steps of the build.

 

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Closing up the fuselage halves and mating the wing was virtually a non-event. This Tamiya kit fits together like a… Tamiya kit!  LOL

 

Fitting the Aires cockpit tub in the fuselage caused the only fit problems, but if you work it carefully you can prevent the fit problems from cascading elsewhere, like causing problems with the fit of the cowl to the nose.

 

I like to use Tamiya Gray Fine Surface Primer in the spray can. No problems revealed…

 

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Next up: Painting & Weathering.

 

Edited by Downen Scaled Replicas

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Thanks SakisG! I've not known much about Skyraiders prior to doing the research for this build. Turns out, they're great airplanes!

 

While that primer is setting up, a quick look at the helmet. Recall that I 3D printed an APH-6 helmet because the client wanted the helmet displayed in or around the cockpit, but did not want a pilot displayed with the airplane. There is a pilot figure included with the Tamiya kit, but the helmet on the figure did not have much detail. So even though I considered cutting off the little guy’s head and drilling out the face (yuck), instead I went the way of a quick design in CAD and a 3D print using my FormLabs SLA printer.

 

A coat of white primer prepped the surface for a glossy coat of Tamiya TS-26 Pure White. The actual helmets were orange with what appeared to be white lighting bolts and stars. Just recently I’ve learned that those two details were actually decals made of reflective material and placed on the helmets to aid in search & rescue efforts if the pilot had to bail out over water.

 

48922953643_3ddf5142df_b.jpgA1H Build 08 - Helmet Thunderbolt by Troy Downen, on Flickr

 

I determined that the orange was likely FS32246 Navy Torpedo Orange, and also that – lucky for me! – Tamiya TS-12 Orange is a dead-on match to my Federal Standard paint chip. I prefer to airbrush details because it gives me better control over where the paint goes and how much goes onto the surface. So, I decanted TS-12 into an empty Tamiya paint jar.

 

49431057933_68be2489c7_b.jpgA1H Build 20 - Paint Decant A by Troy Downen, on Flickr

 

The essential components are the jar with a cover over the opening and two holes cut into the cover (which is tape). One hole will be for the straw spraying the paint, and the second hole will be to allow gasses to escape from the jar during the decanting process. I take the spray head off the can of paint and dig out the little nozzle, replacing it with a coffee stir straw that I superglue into the hole in the spray head. Note that this will destroy the nozzle, and the spray head will be disposed of after the paint is decanted. Should you wish to not decant the entire spray can, you’ll want to keep old spray heads from empty cans to use for this purpose in the future.

 

49431057853_b9606a85ab_b.jpgA1H Build 20 - Paint Decant B by Troy Downen, on Flickr

 

Point the straw into the jar and spray away! Then set the jar aside without a lid (just keep the tape in place) and let the decanted paint outgas for a good 24 hours. There will be a LOT of gas compressed into the liquid which needs to vacate the premises before you attempt to airbrush the paint. But once it’s ready to go, you’ll have paint which needs no thinning and is perfectly airbrush-ready.

 

I designed and cut some custom vinyl thunderbolt decals for the helmet to preserve the white area, and airbrushed the orange. Below you can see two efforts with the thunderbolt masks placed differently. I did the helmet on the right first and realized that I had the thunderbolt tips pointed inward. The left helmet is my second try with the thunderbolts correctly placed.

 

49431535331_be0f733fcc_b.jpgA1H Build 19 - Helmet A by Troy Downen, on Flickr

 

I experimented with ways to represent the stars on the side of the helmet, but the detail was just WAY too tiny for paint masks, and the best I could do with white decals were white circles; not very convincing. So, I just ignored the stars… LOL

 

I did just a bit more work brush painting some details in black, and you can see the final result below. I was experimenting with placing a pair of gloves next to the helmet but decided against it after consulting with the client.

 

49431535271_0f6ec60d26_b.jpgA1H Build 19 - Helmet B by Troy Downen, on Flickr

 

Okay, next time we starting painting the airplane itself!

Edited by Downen Scaled Replicas

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Downen, Thanks for that spray can decanting trick.  Should prove useful very soon!  Excellent detailing sir.  R/ Dutch

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