The Airfix 1:72 A-4B Skywawk (A03029) is the first Skyhawk I’ve done since I was a kid – and that one, some 44 years ago, was also an Airfix, the ancient-tool original! I’ve wanted to add those classic Douglas lines to my display case for a long time, and the new Airfix seemed an inexpensive place to start.
This is a nice kit to put together for the most part, but can bite you here and there. Alignment is generally fine but there were gaps at the wingroots and intakes. The former I dressed using white glue and capillary action, which seemed to work quite well, while the latter received traditional filler, though the repair is by no means invisible. The canopy fit is fair but can wander around in terms of seating the windscreen, while the main hood is too deep – it stands high at the rear hinges, as if designed to be displayed in the open position. There are delicate and fiddly parts, the landing gear especially, and I had to take a few days break to let my frustration settle down before resuming the job. The secondary strut on the nose gear snapped on the sprue and was simply omitted, in the interests of sanity.
Paintwork is MM Acryl Gull Gray over Tammy flat white, with Microscale Satin for the lustre. The decals are very good, but large ones grabbed very fast, resulting in the loss of one of the large NAVY titles – I’ll replace it next time I do one of these kits. Areas where multiple markings lie close together are served by single decals, which is a good idea, except that with the grab of these thin, lovely printings I dare not even try them – I cut away the modex numbers from the front insignia and applied them separately. The same would likely work for the rear flank decals – separate the elements and maybe they’ll slip better.
There are a number of omissions in this build – mine, more then the company’s. There is no decal for the “barbershop pole” effect on the arrester hook, and after attempting to cannibalise strip decal, which shattered at the first attempt, I dropped the hook into the receiver without glue so I can come back to it at a later date if the means comes to hand. Likewise the red edges of the gear bay doors are ignored – way too hard to freehand paint and I’ll need strip decals of some sort (reliable ones…) before I try. The intake warning markings are painted freehand around the curve (the sheet provides straight decals for them, which must be some sort of hobby company joke), and masking the correct narrower area for brush painting simply did not work. So it was brushed up to the adjoining panel line, and that was as good as it was going to get.
I’m more or less amazed that the landing gear is actually strong enough to hold the model up, but it seems to be. I had visions of its collapsing once the tanks were on, but superglue seems to have pinned everything up well enough. The Eduard masks for the canopy were their usual breeze to use, and their usual frustration when they pulled up both paint and decals as they came off. There are times I wonder why I bother to use them when the result is so shoddy -- then I imagine trying to hand paint canopy struts and I remember why.
Overall, a good model that looks the part on the shelf, but I’m reminded yet again that 1:72nd scale is a real trial, and I prefer 1:48th – so long as there’s somewhere to put the finished article. While doing this one I had the urge to grab a late-tool F-16 in the larger scale and just do it, but sense prevailed. Until that fabled new display case puts in an appearance, I must restrain my urge to build bigger!