|Tamiyas 1:72 F4D Skyray
By Chris Bucholtz
Had the Westinghouse J40 engine not been the catastrophic failure it proved to be, the shape of naval aviation might be very different today. Among the planes torpedoed by the balky J40 were the radical F7U Cutlass and the F3H Demon, whose advanced aerodynamics required the thrust promised but never delivered by the J40 to perform at even marginal levels. Two Douglas productsthe A-3 Skywarrior and the modified delta-wing F4D Skyraywere also victims of the J40, but installation of the Pratt & Whitney J57 saved these airframes. The A-3 went on to a long, storied career, but the elegant Skyray served for only eight years before being supplanted by the more powerful F-8 and F-4. Even so, the "Ford" flew with 35 Navy and Marine squadrons, shore facilities and civilian agencies. The U.S. Naval Test Pilots School flew the F4D until 1969, and the schools emblem today is a stylized overhead view of the F4Ds beautiful bat-winged plan form.
The third kit in Tamiyas new series of scaled-down versions of their 1:48 gems, the Skyray is a very welcome addition to the ranks of 1:72 naval aircraft. Until now, modelers felt lucky to have Airfixs 1970s F4D, but the kit suffered from a number of dimensional errors the fuselage was 3/16" too long; the tail cone, pitch trimmers, wing trailing edge and landing gear bays are 1/8" too far aft; the wing fold line is angled too far outboard; the intakes are too small; and the canopy break line is inaccurate.
As a Ford fan and a veteran of the Airfix kit, the first thing I noticed about the Tamiya kit was how much more right it looks! This is no surprise, since its a scaling down of the 1:48 kit. A few shortcuts have been taken, most notably the absence of positionable inboard slats and folding wings, but overall this is a lovely 1:72 kit.
The wings and rear fuselage are molded in upper and lower halves, complete with the crazy-quilt pattern of panels. The NACA intakes are very well portrayed, and the large blow-in door on the left upper fuselage is provided as a separate piece. The nose and cockpit section is split vertically down the middle, with room in the nose for weight to keep the plane on all three wheels. The cockpit includes a tub with built-in side consoles and some detail behind the pilots seat, a three-piece rendition of the Douglas seat, a control panel, control column, and a separated instrument shroud. Unfortunately, the control panel and seat dont go together; the panel has the round radarscope installed in aircraft 134744 and later, but the Douglas seat was replaced by the Martin-Baker Mk. P5 at the same time. The first "factory-to-the-fleet" delivery was aircraft 134777. An aftermarket seat could help cure this inconsistency. A separate windscreen and canopy are provided, as is a bit of structure inside the canopy, but no actuating hardware is provided.
What goes inside this wing is impressive. The nose gear well has ribbing and actuating arms, and the main wells have detail on the tops and inboard sides of the bays. The outer and aft walls are bare, however. An engine compressor fan is molded to a blank-off plate that goes in front of the gear bays and which provides the front wall of the main wheel wells. While problems with the ducting of the intakes are a common complaint with the 1:48 kit, some careful sanding could easily fix this in the 1:72 version.
The tail skid and arrestor hook area is also very well represented. A separate bumper and tail wheel provides an out for those of us who may fail to add weight to the nose, and a separate tail pipe makes painting the exhaust area very easy.
The landing gear struts are nice, as are the wheels, although the mains have two knockout pins on their strut sides, which are devoid of detail. The stores provided are complete: a NAVPAC navigation pod, two AIM-9B Sidewinders, two Aero 1A 300-gallon drop tanks and two six-shot 2.75" folding-fin aircraft rocket pods. The holes for the outer pylons are flashed over, allowing the modeler to easily build a cleaned-up Ford.
The decals are rather thick, though this reviewer has not tried to apply them yet. The markings are for three aircraft, each in the gull gray-over-white scheme: PA17 (BuNo. 139164) of VF(AW)-3, EK3 (BuNo. 134895) of VMF(AW)-114; and VE16 of VMF(AW)-115. The VF(AW)-3 aircraft wears the familiar blue spine and yellow stars scheme; Tamiya provides these markings complete with blue background. The spine, tail and carry-over onto the canopy of this blue field comprise five separate decals; getting these five aligned without leaving visible marks at their borders will be a challenge. SuperScale sheet 72-186 includes this scheme, but lets the modeler paint the blue spine and provides yellow stars and the white PA modex. This seems like an easier approach. (SuperScale 72-186 also includes markings for VMF(AW)-114, VMF-115, VF-74 and VF-213; sheet 72-329 includes markings for VMF-115, VMF(AW)-114, Naval Air Test Center, VF-213 and VF-74.)
Though a little extra detailing in the cockpit and some aftermarket decals would help, this is a splendid little kit. Curling up with this model and Steve Ginters Naval Fighters 13 for a weekend is almost sure to result in a potential show-stopper in the hands of any competent modeler.