HAPPY VETERAN’S DAY
My next build is the 1/32 scale Trumpeter A-7E Corsair II. The scheme will be that of VA-37 “The Bulls”. This has been a project I have been planning to do for a while. Back in 1982 while serving in the U.S. Navy I checked into my new duty station at NAS Cecil Field in Jacksonville Florida and was assigned to the Attack Squadron VA-37. I spent 3 years with this squadron which included a cruise aboard the USS Carl Vinson CVN-70 during her 1983 maiden deployment and a 6-month deployment to Iwakuni, Japan where we were part of “Team Spirit” in 1985.
As a tribute to my time serving with this squadron I will be making this aircraft number 300 which was flown by my commanding officer CDR R.L. Ramsay. I will be building and detailing this aircraft to match his aircraft as well as illuminating the cockpit, wingtip, fuselage, and landing light using LED’s. It will be on a display base replicating the tarmac at NAS Cecil Field. I will be using Cutting Edge’s decal set. I should also note that this kit comes with its own photo etch, metal landing gear struts, and rubber tires. I will actually be officially starting this tonight so these first photos are setting up to start the build. I will be designing the backlit side panels and the instrument panel which will be illuminated with red LED’s. This is how the cockpit was illuminated at night.
Here is the first week of the A-7E build. Starting on the cockpit, since I am illuminating it, I needed to scratch build the side panels. Using reference photos I started on the starboard side panel. I cut a panel out of thin sheet styrene and scribed in the panel lines. I used styrene round and square rods to make the large knobs and switches. For the toggle switches I am using .25mm and .5mm fiber optic lines. The gauge was made from scrap PE. The panel was then sprayed with a thin flat black coat. I trimmed out the section where the kit panel mounted to and installed the new one. A second panel was cut out and mounted 0.3” below the new panel and I installed two red LED’s to back light the top panel.
For the port side panel I followed the same process. I cut out some holes for the levers and the hose that goes to the ejection seat. I added two PE levers and the kit lever. The panels were then detail painted the various colors like the yellow warning lines, red switch covers and the gray knobs. I mounted two more red LED’s under the panel. Just to note, while some of the panels were drying I started to look at the ejection seat. The early A-7’s used the Escapac IC-2 ejection seat. The later A-7’s used the SJU-8/A ejection seat. This kit has the IC-2 seat. The aircraft I am building requires the SJU-8/A so I ordered a resin accessory from Aires. I also ordered the resin wheels from Reskit. The kit comes with rubber tires but I need solid wheels as the wires to power the lights will travel down the landing gear struts (representing the brake lines) and thru the wheels and tires so they can be routed under the base.
With the side panels completed and illuminated I started working on the main instrument panel. I replaced the kit back panel with a thin sheet of white styrene. I also cut the top housing off the kit piece and attached it to the new piece. The kit comes with a film for the gauges. I panted the radar screens with clear yellow which should give them the more typical orange look. I need to see how the instrument panel fits inside the fuselage so I can make the light box holding the LED’s will fit into the fuselage.
Moving onto the second week I continued working on the instrument panel by building the light box. I am using a 3mm red LED mounted thru the bottom. The front was detail painted for the switches, knobs, and markings. I then assembled, detailed and painted the resin ejection seat. I also made the decals for the seat warning labels. While the instrument panel assembly and ejection seat were drying I was looking over the other areas that will be illuminated.
The recognition lights on many Navy aircraft sit on the nose landing gear. On the A-7 specifically the panel is mounted on the port nose landing gear door. The kit has this panel molded in clear. This made it easier to illuminate. I drilled a 0.25mm hole from the backside halfway into the panel. I then attached three 0.25mm fiber optic lines. On the front side the molded light locations were painted using Tamiya red, green, and yellow clear paints. The fiber optic lines will go to a light box to be mounted later. I did a quick check and the effect worked great.
Next was the belly light. The kit has the light molded into the bottom panel. I cut off the “lens” and drilled out the hole. Using a clear styrene tree I cut, trimmed and shaped a new lens. I then mounted a flashing red LED behind the lens.
Next I needed to detail the main gear bays. Using reference photos I added the lines and hoses to the port side bay. I also added the aircraft ground point and markings. The wire coiled up in the photos will be one of the power wires for the LED’s. This will travel down the strut replicating the hydraulic line and pass thru the wheel and tire to a spot under the display base. I will add the other power wire on the starboard side gear as well.
With all the cockpit assemblies completed I did a test fit into the fuselage. I needed to do some minor trimming of the cockpit tub for the instrument panel light box but everything lined up perfectly. I am now working on detailing the starboard side main gear bay then will need to get the intake and nose wheel bay built and detailed so I can start putting the fuselage together.
Here is a short 2-second video of the flashing belly light: