How to Build an RC Jet – Part 2

Let’s talk about resources and documentation for Scale Competition for a minute…

on-kapowIf there is anything debated in scale competition, it sure seems to be scale documentation. 😉  I say this only from the standpoint that there’s really no one right way, or one right answer when it comes to a documentation book.  It’s ultimately how well you prove your model matches your documentation.  Also, I bring this up at the beginning of this build because, without a good solid documentation book, it’s very difficult to be competitive in a scale competition setting (static score is HALF of the total score).  Plus, if you are building your competition bird, it’s necessary to have a clear vision of the project from the start.

First of all, it’s important to know the rules.  For this bird, I will be primarily competing in the Scale Masters competitions, and so have gone through those rules numerous times (as well as have competed several times previously).  USSMA also has a decent aid on their website for how to put together a quality documentation book.  So, before starting, know what is necessary to present to the judges and have sufficient documentation for your aircraft.   From the start, a good 3-view resource is necessary so that one can ensure the shapes of the model match the drawing.  The paint scheme can evolve as the build progresses as sometimes you may have something in mind initially, and in the research process you may come across something you like more and/or can document color and markings better.

For me, I love the research and will typically buy whatever books I can find (it’s kind of a sickness that my wife gives me a hard time for) and spend numerous hours searching the internet.  For the Skyray, there are two definitive books that are absolutely a must for any Skyray fan and are listed below.  Also a must is a plastic kit (if available) as it helps to visualize shapes three dimensionally and help with some of the details you may not be able to find otherwise.

  Killer Rays: Story of the Douglas F4D Skyray & F5D Skylancer (Specialty Press), by Mark Frankel
  Douglas F4d Skyray (Naval Fighters), by Steve Ginter
Tamiya Models Douglas F4D-1 Skyray 1/48 Scale Model Kit
(best skyray kit around for the price.  There are more expensive resin kits, but this does the job well)

If you can find it (Ebay is the best bet), there is also a Koku-Fan book, Famous Airplanes of the World No. 12 – Douglas F4D Skyray, which is decent for pictures, but the multi-view drawing is inaccurate.

For the multi-view drawing, I have a Douglas drawing that came from Mark Frankel that originates from a Douglas drawing used to show the placement of difference aircraft components.  It has been published in a few magazine articles written by Mark and is probably about the best Skyray drawing out there for outline shape to the full size given the original Douglas source.  It is also the basis for the design of the model which is ideal for competition.  Unfortunately, most Skyray drawings out there lack accuracy, most notably with respect to the nose shape.  Most characterize the nose shape with some droop to it which is wrong.  The Tamiya plastic kit even incorrectly includes this into the model.  So, know your airplane and know your model.  Ultimately it comes down to the shapes that are documented in the documentation book (not necessarily the full size airplane in some cases unfortunately).  There’s a good discussion about this over at Tailhook Topics.  The Mark Frankel drawing is available below.

Douglas F4D Skyray multi-view drawing.  Source, Douglas Aircraft

Douglas F4D Skyray multi-view drawing. Source, Douglas Aircraft

In addition to the above, it is hard to beat a simple google search for the subject aircraft.  Also, adding “walkarounds” to the search string can usually land a decent selection of detail shots of the aircraft (assuming there are some in existence).  There are a few websites around that feature these types of walkaround pictures which are great.  Also, if you can find an airplane in a museum close by, then take a trip and take a complete photo profile of the airplane top to bottom.  For me, I am fortunate enough to have one of only a few Skyrays nearby at the “Flying Leatherneck” museum at Miramar MCAS.  Needless to say, there has been many a trip there so far with more in the future I’m sure!  It helps that my kids find the museum fairly enjoyable…most days.  I have a huge amount of detail pictures that I will try to figure out how best to make available for those that may be interested (I don’t have the bandwidth to host on this site currently).  I’m thinking that a simple CD for $7 plus shipping may be simplest.  Otherwise, here are a couple sites with walkarounds that I came across.

Lastly, for paint schemes, an easy start is a google image search (along with searching the pictures in the books) for the subject aircraft as well as a search of some plastic model review websites (my regulars are listed below, they are all plastic model sites).  Having multiple pictures along with a sheet of plastic model decals of the desired paint scheme is ideal.  The key is to be able to show every aspect of the color and markings sufficiently through pictures and decal placement drawings.  I can easily spend hours and hours in this stage because it’s fascinating to me what can be found and sometimes you find that one picture hoping to find decals or vice versa.  The deeper you dig, the more you can find in many cases.  Also, once you found something you like, then start searching for the squadron, the bureau number, etc.

For this project, I chose an aircraft from VF-13 that was on the USS Shangri-la during 1962.  I came across the following “Fast Fords” decal sheet from furball designs (out of print, Ebay is the best bet) and found pictures on Flickr of that very aircraft.  The appeal was the candy striped elevons and the rudder colors…for some reason, I have a thing for checkerboards and stripes (check out the Action Shots pages and you’ll see what I mean. 😉 )

fast fords sheet 1

The above is intended to be an overview of what I go through at the start of a competition project.  There are significant amounts of hours rolled up in these few words, so ultimately, you get out of it what you put in.  Also, the research is ongoing throughout the build with references continually checked along the way.  Physically building the documentation book is another story which I will get into when the time comes.  So, pick an airplane and research away!  You might be surprised at what you find!

Leave a Reply