Phil Brandt builds Dynavector's 1/48 scale vacform kit of the big, ill-fated
Skyshark. This article is a must for any modeller wanting to build this high-quality
The Douglas A2D-1 Skyshark was a brutishly powerful turboprop attack aircraft that might
have been a worthy successor to the A-1, had metallurgy of the Fifties been further
advanced. But, it wasn't to be. Inflight gearbox disintegration and the development of a
small jet called the A-4 doomed the project after the first ten production airframes had
come off the line. Various firms have modeled the Skyshark over the years: Airmodel,
Allyn/Microscale and Rareplanes. Now enters Dynavector, with a definitive release of this
intriguing aircraft, and in 1/48, too.....is this a great hobby era, or what?
y n a v e c t o r ' s S k y s h a r k
With six excellent releases over three years, this English company has quickly risen to
the front ranks of today's multimedia kit manufacturers. Noted for his unusual and
desirable subjects, good engineering and molding quality approaching the verybest injected
kits, Taro Tominari's Skyshark continues the winning streak.
u i l d i n g t h e S k y s h a r k
The kit consists of two vacuformed sheets, two canopies, a very complete decal sheet and
about a pound (!) of lead alloy castings. Initial construction is typically vacuform:
scoring, popping out parts and careful sanding. That is, for all vac parts except the
relatively fragile prop spinner segments (spares are included) and landing gear fairings.
The interiors of these first should be coated with cyanoacrylate (CA) or epoxy glue. I did
two CA layers, each sprayed with accelerator just to be sure the plastic wouldn't fracture
when the six circular prop bosses were cut out. Don't use too great a quantity of CA,
though, or the exothermic--hey, I have to use my ancient chemistry degree for
something!--reaction caused by the accelerator will deform or crack the plastic. Use a
fresh No. 11 blade, and back up the work while making multiple gentle passes with the
knife. Even with these precautions I still managed to break out two very thin plastic
segments between the prop boss and spinner edge. After I CA'd the tapered metal spinner
backing plates to the spinner shells, I replaced the missing segments with small pieces of
After sanding the fuselage halves and cutting out the two marked exhaust ellipses and
three air inlets, I decided to make and pre-glue to the upper fuselage a plastic backing
piece for the instrument panel. Since the panel isn't meant to fasten onto the cockpit tub
anyhow, this procedure bypassed a potential problem in the later alignment and gluing of
the painted instrument panel after the cockpit tub had been painted and installed; the
panel would merely rest upon the backing. I also added an additional .030" firewall
backup to support the metal prop shaft and the seriously heavy prop/spinner assemblies.
The vac cockpit tub is typically plain, with added metal side consoles. The consoles have
raised detail but no throttles. Also in metal are the stick--I replaced mine with the
Monogram A-1 item--and an unadorned ejection seat. The overall effect is too sparse for
this fan of 'busy' cockpits, and I referred to Steve Ginter's excellent new Skyshark book.
The seat was detailed by 'Dremelling' three horizontal corrogations across the seatback,
cutting a seatbelt slot in each seat side and then adding photoetched Reheat and Airwave
seatbelts. Fabricated throttles, plastic air cylinders behind the seat and various seat
knobs, appendages and bulkhead panels--again, per Ginter--completed the effect. The raised
details of the cast metal instrument panel and wear areas on the seat were highlighted
with white and silver pencils which I prefer to normal drybrushing. A gentle touch or
three of the sharpened pencil on each instrument, followed by a Kristal Kleer dot does
just fine for a 1/48 panel that is buried under a coaming. Generic photoetched rudder
pedals were glued to the vac 'bumps' on the floor of the tub.
The flanged vac tailwheel bay was glued to one fuselage half, and then both fuselage
halves were permanently joined. Next, the metal prop shaft and exhaust outlets were CA'ed
to the fuselage, and the three vac air inlet 'trays' were glued with Tenax. Next, the
painted cockpit tub was installed, and the finished instrument panel CA'ed to the backing
The one-piece lower wing has pre-molded dihedral. After cutting out marked gear door areas
in this large piece, flanged maingear bays are glued in. Then, rather than using a spar,
four thin (.030" X 0.25") reinforcing strips are CA'ed--NO Tenax or other
solvent glues in this step--on each of the four inside surfaces of the wing. Join the
upper and lower wings together with your glue of choice and move on to the most critical
portion of the model assembly: the wing/fuselage join. Trim the joint areas gingerly, and,
per the Dynavector instructions, make adjustments at the trailing edge/fuselage
intersection. Even using due caution and Tenax, I experienced some gaps which had to be
filled with thin plastic strip--but then, that's why they call me "Bondo". The
properly dried wing/fuselage joint was wet sanded, masked down to a 1/8" strip and
the strip puttied with 3M Blue Acryl.
Proper stabilizer dihedral is achieved with a preformed vac tongue which slips through
cutout slots in the fuselage. I wanted a tight fit here, and the friction between the
tongue and slots tended to pull the fuselage halves together in an abnormal 'pucker'. I
first Tenax'ed the tongue to one fuselage half and allowed the joint to dry overnight.
With this joint now firmly anchored, it was easy to adjust the unglued tongue/fuselage
joint to a pucker-free cross section before gluing. After sanding and joining the upper
and lower stabilizer halves, the inboard stabilizer ends were bevelled with a flat sanding
board, and the assemblies were slipped over the tongue and glued to the fuselage. The
completed outboard and centerline external tanks were Tenax'ed to the lower wing at this
time; the primer and subsequent gloss topcoats help to add a small fillet to the joint.
After the metal props were sanded, painted and decaled, they were inserted through the
previously cut holes in the pre-painted spinner segments and CA'ed to the metal spinner
backing plates--front and rear props are appropriately stamped-- using a clever
self-alignment feature built in to the boss castings. The completed prop/spinner
assemblies simply slide over the metal shaft; no need for glue.
The engraved canopy is formed from a very clear, flexible plastic, but this rubberlike
flexibility makes edge sanding 'adjustments' rather difficult; instead of flying off, the
abraded particles just curl over, still attached, and a knife blade must be used to trim
off the 'fuzz'. Since an open canopy was selected, I fashioned a sheet plastic bulkhead
and floor plate for the aft canopy section. These strengthen the canopy,and allow it to
rest on the fuselage 'deck'. Attachment of these parts to the canopy was by RC 56 radio
control canopy glue.
The model was primered in grey lacquer-filler, and Blue Acryl putty was applied to
remaining surface irregularities. After sanding--make sure you get all the little raised
'dots' used to ensure proper vacuforming--and re-primering, two overall coats of 100%
thinned Model Master Glossy Dark Sea Blue were airbrushed. The advantage of starting with
glossy paint comes at decal time, because I'm rarely able to achieve the same degree of
glossiness over flats, even with multiple coats of Future or any other glosscoat. I've
found it much easier to start out with very glossy color and tone down later with
semi-gloss or flat clearcoat. The air intake areas, exhaust outlets and wheels were masked
and shot with steel non-buffing metallizer per pix of the third production aircraft in
The casting ridges on the metal landing struts were filed, retraction links CA'ed, flat
black paint applied, and then the entire assembly CA'ed to each gear bay floor. Monogram
A-1 wheels were substituted because the kit's cast metal wheels--they appear to be
Monogram clones--were unuseable due to seriously offset halves during the casting process.
Separately painted gear doors were added last.
Dynavector furnishes a very well-printed decal sheet, including what must be every stencil
used on this bird. And, the resolution is so good that all stencils may be actually
read--no jibberish! Unfortunately, the white--and about 99% of the decals are white--is
slightly translucent, especially noticeable in the larger items. I chose to use Superscale
national borderless insignia, and the difference in opacity is obvious. In comparison, the
nearby Dynavector "NAVY" markings look somewhat dingy; think 'Aftermarket'. And,
the font for the large, underwing NAVY seems too "fat". The real heartburn with
the decals, though, is the water-soluble adhesive. No matter how much soaking was applied
to the larger decals, there was an invisible, tenacious 'drag' that often made it
necessary to run a blade under the entire decal and then physically lift it off the sheet
rather than slide what would normally be a slippery decal off onto the desired area. In
surprising contrast, some of the tiny stencils would practically jump off the sheet way
before one would expect the glue to release. Some slight silvering occurred in items with
significant clear areas such as the prominent vertical parallel red turbine warning lines
on each side of the fuselage. Solvaset and judicious pricking of the clear area made most
of the silvered areas disappear. I hope Mr. Tominari will do some serious conferring with
his decal vendor.
After the large underwing "NAVY" decal dried, the locating pins of nine (count
'em) metal weapons pylons were pressed into pre-drilled holes in each wing (all mounting
pin locations are conveniently molded in); I opted not to do the included rockets. Other
various metal pieces such as the large tailwheel arm and strut, guns, catapult hooks, ADF
antenna fairing, arrestor hook and flap hinges were mounted in similar fashion.
Finally, three metallizer shades (exhaust, jet exhaust and burnt iron) were airbrushed
sequentially on the sides of the empennage. Don't spare the exhaust residue; this was a
really dirty area.
'Mean', purposeful airplanes are my favorites; after all, I did spend many hours in the
less-than-lovely RF-4C and Aardvark. My thanks to Dynavector for so successfully tackling
this forgotten fighter.
Austin (TX) Scale Model Society
Article Text Copyright © 1998 by Phil Brandt
Page Created 03 August, 1998
Last Updated 26 July, 2007
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