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1/48 Airfix EA-6B Prowler w/ Monogram Cockpit
by Mark Dice

 

I built this kit for a buddy that I served with in the USMC. He'd had this kit for years in his attic and never had attempted to build it. I volunteered to build it for him when it came up in a conversation about modeling. My friend wanted the kit built "out of the box" with no major modifications and using the kit provided markings, in other words, no expensive aftermarket junk… Considering that the kit had been stored in an attic, it was in remarkable shape with the decals showing hardly any ill effects of the long storage period.

This is the second time I've attempted to build an Airfix Prowler, the first being the one I built for the Cunningham Museum display we had in the Beaufort Library (anyone remember that???). The kit has many problems with accuracy, fit, and detail!!!
While the overall shape of the fuselage and wings are correct, the fit is poor and will require much filling and sanding with the natural requirement of rescribing the panel lines lost during the process. One of the wings was also slightly warped although I didn't catch this until late in the build.

The cockpits were totally incorrect in layout and lacking detail. There is little or nothing in the way of wheel well and landing gear doors detail, with the landing gear itself being far short of correct. The intake and exhaust ducts require filling and sanding where they join the fuselage and have little detail. The electronic countermeasure pods and drop tanks also lack in fit and detail. I found a lot of the parts to be way too thick for scale, particularly the landing gear doors.

Because my friend wanted the kit built OOB and in a somewhat timely manner, I ended letting a lot of the inaccuracies go… except for the cockpit. There was no way I could let that go without some correcting. I have bought the Black Box EA-6B cockpit for my Monogram Prowler and figured that I could shoehorn the Monogram cockpit (which is 1000% better than the Airfix cockpit) into the Airfix kit with only some "minor" modifications… Yea right!!

First of all, I sanded the Airfix cockpit locators/supports out of the fuselage halves as well as any other molded in flaws. I then started trying to fit the Monogram 'pit into the void.

To get a good fit required much sanding of the forward cockpit tub along the sides (to allow the fuselage halves to meet) and bottom (which was hitting the molded in intakes) and the adding of evergreen stock to the aft cockpit sides and back wall (to fill a gap that was present after getting the forward half squared away). I also had to modify part #24 (the aft cockpit/fuselage fairing piece) by removing the vertical surface and sanding the aft wall of the aft cockpit to fit the remaining piece. The aft wall of the forward cockpit and aft cockpit instrument panel had to be sanded down to fit under part #25 (the piece of fuselage between the forward and aft cockpits). The forward cockpit instrument panel also required some sanding to fit as will the pilot's control stick.

Once everything was sanded/shimmed to fit, all the normal cockpit painting and buildup was done and then the cockpit, fuselage halves, bottom, tail hook well & two top fuselage-fairing pieces (parts # 24 & 25) were all glued together. I left the four ejection seat backs out of the fuselage cause I felt they'd just get knocked out or broken anyway when the sanding started… They're easy enough to install just before the canopies.

Now the wing halves were glued together and glued to the fuselage along with the exhaust fairings. The intake fairings were installed. Some filling of gaps was needed on all of these parts to one degree or another. I used a combination of putty or superglue or both, depending on the gap present… and there were gaps!!!

I scribed the new panel lines, using the existing raised lines as guides with embossing tape as help in a few spots. I didn't rescribe 100% of the panel lines but near more 50-60% or what I felt was the most important details.

Now, the sanding started… this was near two weeks of the project, working almost every evening for 1 to 2 hours each, more on the weekends. All the raised panel lines, seams, ejector pin marks and poor fit issues were eliminated as best I could on the fuselage/wings assy., drop tanks, pods, landing gear doors, landing gear and horizontal stabilizers. Some seams required refilling with superglue and further sanding…

Once I felt everything was good enough, I gave the parts a good scrubbing down and rinse off and set them aside to dry for a day or three… The cockpits were masked off with tissue paper.

The paint finish on this Prowler was going to be a VMAQ-2 Playboy hi-vis scheme from the early 80's. Gull gray over white with a black tail and canopy area. The first color applied was the white. I used Tamiya acrylic flat white because I like the way it sprays, how well it covers in one or two coats and because I've never had real success using enamel whites. The underside of the aircraft/wings, rudder, topside flaps, horizontal stabilizers, landing gear, intakes, landing gear doors, wheels, drop tanks, and pods were all painted and let dry. The engine face detail was painted Model Master steel by brush, let dry and the intakes plugged with tissue masks. The next color, MM Gull gray was carefully freehanded next with any over spray issues fixed with more white. The nose radome of the aircraft and pods were masked and sprayed MM radome tan. Now the areas (on the aircraft, IFR probe, wheels and canopies) that required the black were masked off and painted. After removal of the masking, over sprays were fixed as they were found (it never fails that however much I choose to mask and cover areas, I still manage to always get some over spray…). After a couple of days drying time, I finished all of the oddball detail painting on the landing gear and doors, IFR probe, engine exhausts, etc…

Final assembly was done next with the installation of the ejection seat backs, landing gear, gear doors, drop tanks, pods, and horizontal stabilizers using mostly superglue. Once satisfied; I over coated the aircraft with several light coats of Future and set it aside for about three days to dry.

The EA-6B has gold plated canopies to protect the aircrew from any radiation from the pods when they are jamming enemy radars. The kit canopies were clear and not being able to locate any clear gold paint, I attempted to represent this using a mix of Tamiya clear yellow, smoke, and Future mixed together. I sprayed several LIGHT coats but feel that they came out a little too yellow and when you get close enough the canopies are kind of foggy and a bit harder to see through. It looks okay from a distance (a good "three footer" as Andy would say…). The canopies were also dipped in Future to try and reduce the fogging effect, with only limited success.

The decals were applied next. The Airfix decals were thick but handled well and settled down good with applications of Solvaset. Another couple of light coats of Future was sprayed to seal the decals down. My friend wanted his bird shiny and new looking, so no flat coat or weathering was done. I know this is heresy in the modeling world but when it was done, I kind of liked it!! Even the tires are shiny… like they're armor-alled.

Finally the canopies and IFR probe were attached (this required some sanding/trimming to get a good fit between the front windscreen/probe/and fuselage) with white glue followed by some slight touch up paint.

After a day of sitting in my "just finished model place of honor" and pictures, the model was presented to my friend who was very happy with the results!! And that made all the effort worth the while and reminded me of why I keep hacking away at this hobby. When I build stuff for me, it's something that I enjoy but I'm often too critical of my own errors and goofs, sometimes to the point of taking the fun out of it for me… When I build something for someone else, I'm of course still too critical of those errors and goofs but it's wonderful to see it through someone's eyes that isn't "ate up" with this hobby but is happy to have a nice reminder of a lot of great experiences and memories.