by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Still serving in the Brazilian Navy on the carrier São Paulo over 50 years after its first flight, and only recently retired by the Israeli Air Force, the diminutive delta-winged Douglas A-4 Skyhawk is a true aviation classic.
Platz have released a new-tool 1:144 model of the A-4E/F, featuring the 'F's avionics hump on the fuselage spine (later retrofitted to A-4Es). The kit is a 2-in-1 set with parts for a pair of aircraft. Arriving in a sturdy little end-opening box, the kit comprises:
66 x grey styrene parts
2 x clear injected canopies
Decals for 4 x colour schemes
The moulding is excellent, with no sign of flash or sink marks on the crisply detailed parts. The surface finish is very impressive, comprising beautifully fine engraved detail which I actually think some designers of larger-scale kits could learn a lesson from.
The breakdown of the parts is straightforward and a quick test fit of the major parts is very good. The full span upper and lower wing surfaces clip together neatly, with boxed-in wheel wells, and slot into the fuselage with a nice tight fit at the wing roots.
The top of the nosewheel well forms the cockpit floor, but there's no other interior detail beyond the ejector seat. The undercarriage is very good, with separate mainwheels and a finely detailed one-piece nose gear-leg and wheel, while the undercarriage doors are detailed on their inner surfaces.
The canopy is crystal clear and nice and thin so, if you do decide to add more interior detail to the "office" it won't be wasted.
The holes for the centre pylon are already open, while those for 4 x underwing positions are flashed over. The stores provided are a bit meagre; a pair of drop tanks ready-attached to their pylons are included, but the centre and outboard pylons are empty.
Instructions & decalsThe assembly guide and painting instructions are basically all-Japanese, but names of colours are repeated in English. This, combined with the kit's simplicity and the clearly drawn diagrams means there should be no problems whatsoever, and the kit is suitable for modellers of all abilities.
The painting guides are printed in B&W on the instructions sheet and repeated in colour on the back of the box, and a nice touch is that FS numbers are quoted. Gunze Sangyo and Model Master paint matches are given. Decals for four schemes are included:
1. A-4E Bu 150060, VA-195 Dambusters
2. A-4F Bu 154998 VA-192 Golden Dragons, 1968
3. A-4F Bu 154186 VA-192 Golden Dragons, 1967
4. A-4 Skyhawk "Gate Guard", NAF Atsugi, Japan. This features artwork for VA-192 on one side and VA-195 on the other, but beware: the full-sized machine is not fitted with an avionics hump, so can't be depicted accurately with the kit parts.
The decals themselves are really excellent. They're custom-printed by Cartograph with perfect registration and thin, glossy items on a crystal clear carrier film. As usual with Platz models, the design is quite novel and, rather than build up layers of overlapping elements (which would very obvious in this tiny scale), items like the fin/rudder numbers and artwork, or the safety stencils beneath the cockpit sills are combined onto a single decal - something that's only possible thanks to Cartograph's printing accuracy.
ConclusionPlatz's Skyhawk is another great kit in this company's growing range of exquisite 1:144 aircraft. It's simple enough for beginners, but with enough detail to satisfy experienced modellers. Highly recommended.
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