by Tommy H. Thomason

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

AD-5 versus AD-6/7 Main Landing Gear

The AD-5 main landing gear wheel well reverted to the earlier configuration that had no main landing gear doors. The forward facing fairing was also different from the one that accompanied the fully housed landing gear. The catapult hook was also relocated to the main landing gear strut as it was on the earlier AEW Skyraiders (necessary to clear the radome) but made standard for all AD-5s.

The following picture of the AD-5 main landing gear wheel well was cropped from a Jim Robbins photograph of a suspended EA-1F (AD-5Q). On the AD-5, like all ADs, the gear strut, when retracted, was actually below the wing and not in it.
Note that the gear actuator well is symmetrical from side to side but the forward facing fairing is not.

The AD-6/7 wheel well was open from the aft side of forward wing spar (the gear actuation mechanism was attached to its front side) to the aft wing spar.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Douglas F4D Forward Fuselage Profile

Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?

During the F4D mock-up review in March 1949, it was determined that the over-the-nose visibility of the specification, critical for a carrier-based airplane, was not adequate for a tailless airplane. The nose of the mock up was therefore cut off ahead of the windscreen and angled downward for a followup review a few weeks later.

Although it looks like the nose of the production F4D is angled slightly downward, I have maintained that the bottom of the forward fuselage is actually flat. The appearance of a downward cant, in my opinion, was an optical illusion created by the angle of the radome's attachment to the fuselage. This was buttressed by a very good Douglas general arrangement drawing (not definitive like a lines drawing would be, but it had clearly been done with care) and a close examination of pictures. This is an example from my post on the F4D,

However, I was prepared to eat crow after looking at some fairly high resolution F4D pictures recently. There seemed to be a small but nevertheless downward tilt of the bottom of the nose that began at the forward end on the nose landing gear wheel well.

This one had the least clutter in the background and the appearance of the droop so I used it to once again examine the flatness of the nose profile using Illustrator (you can maximize the size of either picture by clicking on it; then double-clicking on the result and selecting view image, which results in an image with a magnifying glass for a cursor; and then clicking again).

I put a fine red line along the bottom of the fuselage as precisely as I could, copied that and pasted it as fat white line just below it, and then inserted identical red circles between the two lines. There may be a droop there, but it's pretty subtle.

Friday, April 22, 2016

AD-5W Belly Detail

Yet another surprise...

The basic AD-5 retained the belly dive brake of the three that were on single-seat Skyraiders, retracting into a well in the belly the same way.

Note how the bottom of the fuselage at the trailing edge of the wing curved into the well.

Since the AD-5W did not need a dive brake, I had assumed that it would have had a panel covering the well (the AD-5Q does). It turns out that the dive brake was removed but the well itself was now the bottom of the fuselage.

Ed Barthelmes, my go-to guy for Skyraider stuff, sent me pictures showing this area and maintenance manual information.

Note that there is an access door in the forward end of the well. This was standard on the AD-5 for "kit conversion and (access to the) electronic equipment compartment".  Note also the dark rectangle. This was the cavity to accommodate the retracted dive brake actuator since provisions were retained on the AD-5W for installation of the dive brake.
For more on the AD-5W and the wide-body Skyraiders in general, see: (this one has a side-view drawing showing the changing depth of the well)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

New Airfix Sea King

Jodie Peeler is back with an inbox evaluation of Airfix's fresh redo of the Sea King for its potential to be converted to a U.S. Navy SH-3. Note that this kit is different in detail and vastly superior to the original, relatively crude Sea Kings from Airfix. The first issue, the HC.4 Commando, featured the stub landing gear, while the sponson-equipped HAR.3 is the subject of the second release. This is the box art you'd be looking for:
Jodie writes:

My quick notion, having worked with it this afternoon: it's the best Sea King in 1:72 I've yet found, and converting it to an SH-3 is going to be easier with it than with any other kit. Airfix has given us a winner.

The kit itself is sharply molded and shows intelligent breakdown and satisfying molded detail. There is no representation of rivets, but panel lines are recessed and nicely defined. The parts are molded in a slightly soft gray plastic that cuts easily, and they are detailed enough inside and out to satisfy most builders. In quick test-fitting, the kit shows the hallmarks of the new-tool kits Airfix gives us these days: the parts go together beautifully and not much filler should be needed, if at all.

This kit is as far removed from the old Airfix Sea King as you can imagine. The HAR.3 has five gray parts trees and one clear parts tree. Certain parts with windows, such as the big starboard side door, are molded in clear plastic. The cockpit greenhouse is made up of three clear parts with appropriately delicate framing - a far cry from the big, clunky cockpit cab of the old kit.

The mushy intakes of the old kit are replaced by sharply rendered individual intake pieces and there's even an ice/spray shield.

Since the kit is based on a Sea King in modern configuration, it includes a lot of features that may need to be removed depending on your intentions. These features include a prominent doubler at the cabin/tail fuselage join, a long strake along the port fuselage aft, and several other raised features. As a Westland-built aircraft, it also includes the bulge on the port fuselage beneath the rotor head; unlike the Cyber-Hobby kit, this is molded in and will need to be ground off, filled, and a couple of panel lines rescribed. For an SH-3, you'll also need to fill in the observers' windows in the aft fuselage and the forward cabin window to port. On the other hand, in places where Cyber-Hobby molded several open mounting holes that need to be filled, Airfix has recesses on the inside of the fuselage where you can drill through as needed, which is much more thoughtful.

The well in the lower fuselage is molded with a cover in place, so that will need to be opened for an SH-3. Actually, the entire lower fuselage piece will need surgery to remove molded-in features and plug some mounting holes; fortunately, the plastic cuts easily, and most of these parts can be shaved right off with only a little finish sanding needed. None of the features of American SH-3s are included in the kit's components, or on the parts trees, so you'll have to scrounge up or scratchbuild the fairing beneath the cockpit and the ADF fairing on the tail. There are also no weapons shackles or mounting points, so you'll have to get creative there.

Like the Revell-Germany kit, the Airfix kit comes with composite rotor blades, which retain a constant chord until an abrupt taper at the root end.

It would not be difficult to modify them into metal blades through careful cutting and sanding, but if you want an easier route, replace them with blades from a Cyber-Hobby or Fujimi kit

 On the other hand, Airfix provides both five and six-blade tail rotors. You also get options for a folded tail and stowed main rotor blades, although the outboard blades may need a little adjustment to sit at the proper down and out angle when stowed. The rotor head is a little bare and will benefit from some detailing.

The interior is okay for the kit subject's purposes, but as the basis for an SH-3, it'll need help. You'll have to come up with your own equipment racks and sonar array. However, the sling seats are nice (slice a four-seat section off and you're all set for a recovery helicopter's guest seating) and the cabin floor is the most detailed I've yet seen. The "broom closet" is included for behind the cockpit. No internal cabin structure is represented, but there's actually a cabin ceiling piece!

The cockpit itself isn't elaborate, but the basics are correct (and unlike the Cyber-Hobby kit, the collectives are on the correct side in both pilot positions). The seats may need to be modified for an SH-3; during my build I will examine some options there.

Where does it stack up with the other worthwhile Sea King kits in 1:72? Fujimi's kit is plentiful and offers many variants, but as a 35-year-old kit it is basic in many ways and doesn't seem to capture the Sea King's shape anywhere as well as the Airfix kit.

The issues with the Cyber-Hobby SH-3 kits have been documented elsewhere, including my build report from 2013 (see Having worked on them both, it's my belief that converting the new Airfix kit into an SH-3 is much easier than salvaging the Cyber-Hobby SH-3, which itself is more Westland than Sikorsky. Both kits need some of the same additions to become SH-3s, but the Airfix kit is much less trouble to convert, more user-friendly to build, and is around half the price of the Cyber-Hobby kit.

The Airfix kit compares most directly to the 2000-era Revell-Germany Sea King kits, which also depicted Westland-built aircraft with composite rotor blades. Revell's otherwise lovely Sea King is undone by its anemic sponsons (about 20% underscale). As with the new Airfix kit, you must also deal with removing molded-in features and scrounging up the bits that Sikorsky used but Westland didn't. In a choice between the two, the Airfix kit gets the nod for several reasons, notably its more in-scale sponsons.

Although Airfix could well surprise us with a dedicated SH-3/HSS-2 down the road, the breakdown of this kit indicates all Airfix Sea Kings will likely be Westland variants. That, however, is no real cause for concern to me because the basic kit looks terrific. It looks more like a Sea King than any other 1:72 kit I've seen, and given the ease of assembly that has become a hallmark of new Airfix kits, it should be an enjoyable build. I plan to document mine and share the results here.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Halcyon Days

USS Intrepid (CVA-11) Genoa, Italy November 1961
Robert L. Lawson Collection via Angelo Romano

I enjoy taking a close look at pictures of air groups like the one above, examining the details for items of interest. (Click on it to see a bigger version).

In this case, there were several. Starting at the bottom and working clockwise around the edge of the deck, the side number on the F8U-1E (note the radome for a visual-assist radar provided on this variant) in the foreground consists of two naughts, indicative of its assignment to the air group commander, Cdr J. L. Holbrook. His name and rank are painted on the fuselage side below the canopy sill. However, the airplane has the yellow trim color of the second squadron, in this case VF-33. Later on it became fashionable to have one CAG airplane in each squadron, assigned the side number X00 and trimmed with a "rainbow" of the colors in the air group.

One feature I hadn't noticed on the early F8U-1s was a yaw vane on the nose just ahead of the windscreen (protected by a red cover on these F8Us). It isn't present on later models. It was clearly a vane initially and seems to have changed to a probe before it disappeared.

An F8U-1P, side number 913, is parked next to CAG's airplane. Note that the tail fin is marked with a logo resembling a film strip. It has black stripes bounding a maroon center with white stars. I have yet to get a handle as to when the trim color for the 8th and 9th squadrons became maroon.

The VA-65 AD-6 Skyraiders at the stern of the ship are trimmed in international orange (not red as it sometimes appears to be on some illustrations) as assigned to the 4th squadron. However, I had thought that the AD squadrons were generally the 5th squadron, with the 3rd and 4th squadrons being light attack.

The third squadron, VA-66, appears to be trimmed in dark blue, whereas the standard color was light blue. Note that these appear to be factory fresh A4D-2Ns with dark gull gray anti-glare panels in front of the windscreen. By contrast, the fifth squadron, VA-76, is flying the older A4D-2s, which, having probably come from a Navy depot following overhaul, have black anti-glare panels. Their green trim appears to be both darker and faintly metallic compared to the light green standard, but it should be apparent by now that those were guidelines. The A4Ds from both squadrons still have the gray rudder rather than a white one, which was a subsequent change to the original gray/white scheme.

The F4D Skyrays in the center of the pack are the 1st squadron's, which was assigned red for a trim color. VF-162, however, has trimmed its Fords in black accented with gold stars. Note that the closest one has a refueling probe extending from its left external fuel tank, a kludge unique to the Skyray.

I had thought that the 1st squadron was generally assigned day fighters and the 2nd, all-weather fighters. However, this doesn't appear to be a rule. As it happens, in those halcyon days when new fighter types were being delivered to the fleet almost every year, an air group generally had three fighter squadrons assigned, although only two went out on a deployment. The one left behind was typically transitioning to a new type and not ready for prime time...