Kit: No. K41
Manufacturer: Hasegawa, distributed by Marco Polo Import, 532 S. Coralridge Pl., City of Industry, CA 91746
Comments: Injection molded, 79 parts, decals.
Edward Heinemann, designer of some of the best aircraft ever produced (Dauntless, Skyraider, and Skyhawk), considered the Douglas A-3 Skywarrior to be his greatest achievement. Designed with long-range, carrier-based, nuclear-strike capability in mind, the jet was destined to be the largest and heaviest carrier aircraft routinely operated by carrier air wings.
Hasegawa's A-3B fills an important gap in 1/72 scale collections. Molded in two shades of gray styrene (plus clear), it features petite recessed panel lines and exquisite detail. My sample showed uneven plastic around some panel lines, though. Out of the box, the kit becomes an early A-3B without the in-flight refueling probe, but features the "chisel" nose and "dovetail" aft fuselage. I wouldn't be surprised if Hasegawa issues more versions.
The interior comprises a cockpit floor, aft bulkhead, seats, and instrument panels and consoles with decals. There are ejector-pin marks and flashed-over holes inside the fuselage halves and on the radar operator's console.
The cockpit looks appropriately "busy." The forward instrument panel shouldn't touch the side consoles. If it does, it'll protrude from under the glare shield when the fuselage is assembled. I had to trim the upper edge of the aft cockpit bulkhead slightly to get the fuselage halves to fit.
When assembling the fuselage halves, align the cockpit area so the canopy fits evenly on both sides. While my parts were warp free, the opening for the wing is larger on the right fuselage half, so putty was required at its aft edge. Something's out of kilter in the aft fuselage; some panel lines don't line up and a step is created at the rear when the halves are assembled.
The detailed tail bumper would look better if extended rather than retracted as the directions specify. The crew entry hatch has steps and detail molded in, but it should be smooth with recessed steps as it was used as the crew bailout chute.
The instructions indicate neither a large nor a small fuel vent should be used, but the small one (E32) should be mounted to the bottom of the left horizontal stabilizer, about a third of the way toward the tip.
The kit wing is slightly incorrect for this early A-3B, as it represents the later cambered-leading-edge modification with air-loaded slats inboard of the engines. The upper surface is molded in one warp-free piece. My wing mounted slightly off to the left on the fuselage so I used a little filler at the aft right edge.
The engine nacelles have beautiful detail on their hot sections, so be careful sanding the bottom seams to avoid obliterating them. The central oil coolers inside the engine intakes should be more bullet shaped. Ejector-pin marks and assembly seams inside the intakes are difficult to remove, and the intake walls are thin so there's little mating surface to glue.
Hasegawa's rendition of the main gear and wells is well detailed. The nose-gear strut and wheels, however, are molded together and ejector-pin marks mar the struts and wheels.
Plan ahead for painting. If I had attached the engine pylons to the wings, it would have been difficult to mask and airbrush the engines and the area between the pylons and fuselage. Instead, assemble and paint both engines first, set them aside, then paint the bottom of the wing white.
The engine pylons fit poorly to the wing. The pylon's locating pins sit atop small platforms, which prevent a snug fit. I cut off both pins and filed the upper surface of each pylon to match the lower wing contour. After a little filling and sanding, I sprayed the top of the wing gray. The recesses for the separate flap hinges and pitot tube are oversize.
There are a few errors in the painting instructions. They call for "off white" for the lower color; it should be gloss white. The light gull gray topside color should be flat for this vintage A-3, and the leading edge of the fin of the VAH-11 bird should be flat black, not red. The starboard wing navigation light should be clear green, and the light at the top of the fin should be clear, not red. The pair of belly anticollision lights are not pointed out, but they should be clear red, too.
Decals are provided for VAH-10 and VAH-11. Data plate decals for the landing gear are a neat touch. The decals fit perfectly and snuggled down nicely.
The finished model measures within a few scale inches of the dimensions in my main reference, Rene Francillon's Aerograph 5, Douglas A-3 Skywarrior.
I spent about 35 hours on my Skywarrior. Despite its size, it isn't complex. To fix the fit of the pylons to the wings will require experience, though.
Finally, a "whale" for my U.S. Navy collection!
- Walt Fink