Douglas A1-H Skyraider
by Ian Robertson
Among its many roles in Vietnam the A1 Skyraider was used by the USAF to escort and provide cover for rescue helicopters, an assignment which carried the call sign "SANDY".
I built Tamiya's 1/48 A1-H Skyraider in the markings of "Little Annie Fanny". Apart from AeroMaster decals and etched brass seatbelts from Reheat the kit was built out of the box.
The kit I used was for the Navy version (the first version released by Tamiya), hence my use of aftermarket decals. Tamiya has since produced a USAF version with expanded ordnance*..at a substantial price hike. The weaponry that comes with the Navy version of the kit was consistent with pictures I have seen for some USAF Skyraiders.
A number of minor additions to the antenna configuration were required for the USAF search and rescue aircraft. I added the whip antenna that was used to establish contact with ground troops, as well as another radio antenna (the white fin directly in front of the vertical tail). The latter piece is included in the kit as a spare part.
The kit provides the option for lowered flaps although none of my references show parked aircraft with flaps down. The dive flaps were attached in the closed position for the same reason.
For ordnance I used the fuselage and wing drop tanks, four FFAR rocket pods (red tips), and six cluster bomb dispenser tubes. The small red flags on the ordnance were made from strips of paper and attached with CA glue.
My primary motivation for tackling this project came from the April 2000 edition of "Wings" magazine which contained color images of SANDY Skyraiders that showed just how heavily stained with exhaust smoke and oil these aircraft were under combat conditions. Skyraider engines leaked oil profusely under normal use, leading to heavy staining on the centerline fuel tank and lower cowl. This was so characteristic of the aircraft that pilots reportedly refused to fly them if the centerline tank was not covered with oil!
I painted my model with Polly Scale Acrylics. The upper surfaces were painted Dark Green (RAF green), US Tac green and Tan, while the underside was painted light gull grey with a touch of light blue (RLM 76) to match the color in photographs. Thinned black paint was sprayed unevenly over the upper and lower surfaces to simulate a worn and dirty appearance. The tires were painted dark grey and weathered with thinned neutral grey and sand.
Oil stains on the cowl were initially sprayed using thinned black paint and oil black (which has a slight sheen). To achieve the appearance of dripping and smeared oil stains I placed small drops of oil black paint on the model and then carefully blew clean air from my airbrush over it, causing the paint to run. In some cases I smeared the paint with my finger or with a brush. Photographs in the "Wings" article showed that oil stains were often smeared along the length of the fuel tank, apparently from attempts to wipe up the mess.
The heavy exhaust stains, which are characteristic of Skyraiders, were achieved using thinned black paint applied in numerous coats.
The Skyraider presents a great opportunity to practice weathering techniques without much worry of overdoing it.
If you take on this project I strongly recommend the "Wings" article as a painting guide.
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Model, Text and Images Copyright © 2000 by Ian