Tamiya 1/48 Douglas F4D-1 Skyray

Kit #61055                    MSRP $43.00                  $32.25 from Roll Models
Images and text Copyright © 2016 by Matt Swan

Developmental History
       In 1947 the Navy started looking for a rapid response type of interceptor to knock down high altitude Russian bombers. Douglas built on the previous work of Alexander Lippish and presented the delta wing Skyray so named after its resemblance to the manta ray. This powerful single seat interceptor never saw combat and only served for a short period of time but did hold several interesting footnotes in history. It was the last aircraft produced before Douglas merged with McDonnell Aircraft, it was the first carrier launched aircraft to hold the world's absolute speed record and was the first Marine or Navy aircraft to reach and maintain Mach 1 in level flight. On top of all that it could go from wheels up to 50,000 feet in five minutes. All in all a very cool looking aircraft with some exceptional performance capabilities. The aircraft had a short operational life entering service in mid-1956 and being withdrawn from operations by 1964 and never saw combat duty. While many did refer to it as the Ford it was officially designated Skyray. In 1962 it was redesignated F6A and a future Mach 2 development of the type was assigned the name Skylancer but that one never went into production. No matter what else it was one bad-ass looking bird.

The Kit
       This is really a classic Tamiya kit in the standard top opening box made from light duty cardboard. The artwork is striking and colorful. The parts are all very nice with no flash or injector pin markings. As with most of their kits I found very light mold separation seams running along the parts but nothing out of the ordinary and all very easily cleaned up. Surface texture was good and general parts fit was good. Instructions consist of a basic four-page accordion fold-out with a basic color chart. Decals come as two sheets, a large sheet with markings for the classic AW(VF)-3 with stars on a blue background and a couple of Marine variants. A secondary half sheet includes walkway markings and unit markings. When using the decals, I found they were reluctant to come off the backing sheets. I basically had to soak them in tepid water until they actually floated free on their own or risk tearing the decals. As it was I had to piece a couple larger ones back together. They did respond well to the Squadron setting solutions I like to use.

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       This thing spent a long time on my bench, over a year. That was not because it was a difficult build, it was not. It was mostly due to the mundane world intruding on my personal time. Okay, maybe a week on the beach at Daytona Beach was better than a week closed up in my studio but seriously - a year! 97% of this build went together just fine and dandy. I did run into some issues with fit of the intake faces. The right fit pretty much perfect but the leftt had a huge step. No matter how I fiddled with it there was going to be a step on the top or bottom seam. I elected to go with the top and then shaved it down. After a little wet sanding it looked good. Due to my own negligence I worried about this being a tail sitter and added lots of weight before realizing there was a small tail wheel that would ensure it sat right all the time. I guess that is an endorsement of being certain to read the instructions completely before building.
       I did all the painting and detail work to the main aircraft before adding the underwing load-out. Painting was straight forward with the color coat being sealed with Future prior to applying a sludge wash to highlight the panel lines and add some age effect to the finish. Decals were pretty much a pain in the a** because as I mentioned earlier, they don't want to lift off the backing, they were fairly brittle and some, like the red engine warnings, did not fit well or cover the area as they should have. The red markings are mostly hand painted and the wing walks required a fair amount of touch-up. Getting the national insignia on the wings cut right was a small task; I trimmed the decal very close to the screening then held it in place to mark my cuts. It seemed to work well. Decals on the wing tanks needed several coats of solvent to settle down completely along with a couple of stress release cuts to help around the compound curves. Overall there were no serious single issues with the build but by time it was complete I was quite glad to have it off the bench so I could move on to something else.

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