Training Scooter: 1/48 TA-4J Skyhawk (Hasegawa and Classic Air-frame)
As a child I only wanted to do one thing in life from the earliest age up until early adulthood and college graduation. That one thing was to be a “Naval Aviator” flying jets off of carriers in the US Navy. This desire and goal was ingrained way before “Top-Gun” hit the movie theater. It was mostly the result and influence of my Dad who was a Navy Patrol Bomber crewman during WW2. The incredible and wonderful stories he would share regarding his experiences, and bragging about how the Navy pilots were the best firmly molded my ambitions and interests. I knew everything there was to know about how I would become a Naval Aviator and the aircraft I needed to master in order to win those “Wings of Gold”. Besides checking out in a T-34C Mentor, and the famed T-2C Buckeye, I needed to master the advanced jet trainer; this was the McDonald Douglas TA-4J Skyhawk. The TA-4J became one of my favorite aircraft especially when dressed in the NATC Orange/Red and White scheme.
Upon graduating from college I took the next step in my quest. I enrolled in the Navy AOCS program, became a commissioned officer, and started basic flight in the T-34C Mentor. I demonstrated solid airmanship and obtaining good grades but was struggling physically. That is every ride was like a “vomit-comet” for me. My body and inner-air raked havoc on my soul and after many attempts to adjust to this new and challenging environment I could not get over becoming air-sick, as well as, struggled with severe sinus issues. Long story short is I needed to drop out of flight school for being medical disqualified. My career was over before it ever got started. Oh well, I survived and look back at it as one great adventure which molded who I am as an older adult today. I never did loose my love of aircraft though and still admired the TA-4J Skyhawks.
As a modeler for the longest time we did not have any TA-4Js in 1/48 scale. I built plenty of A-4 single seats but never the Navy trainer version. There was an old Monogram release of the USMC 2-Seat Skyhawk used as a FAC and Observation variant, but not the TA-4J. Also the Monogram release left a lot to be desired compared to today’s top modeling mold standards. After a long wait the limited-run company Classic – Airframes released the 1st 1/48 true TA-4J model. Having built models from this company previously I knew I would have my hands full, as with most limited run company offerings. They could be crude and unpolished but contain lots of neat Photo-Etch and resin details. I purchased it right-away but waited until the right motivation hit me to start the build. If it was a Hasegawa or Tamiya I would not have waited. During this long wait I was again happily surprised when Hasegawa also offered their version of a TA-4J. This was very exciting b/c it would not be a limited run kit and hopefully would live up to that company’s high standards and modelers expectations. Of coarse I purchased that kit ASAP! Now the problem was which one to build? Upon close examination of both kits I was able to weight the pros & cons of each. As expected the Hasegawa had sharp, clean moldings with what appeared to be top engineering when it came to the included plastic. The surface detail was excellent. The Classic Airframe kit’s plastic did not appear as sharp and clean and the surface detail was a little dull compared to the Hasegawa kit. It also appeared the overall fit of the plastic would not be perfect and the construction somewhat fiddly in places. Again being a limited run production that was to be expected. But this company offered great detailed pieces to include lots of resin parts which exceeded the detail level and molding available in the Hasegawa kit. It also included a lot of Photo-Etch. I built this kit some years ago so I apologize that I just don’t recall all of the details of the build and exactly what parts I used from each but I did engage in a true kit-bashing exercise and combined the best parts from both within reason. I was satisfied with this process and gave this model all I had to in-order to re-create the TA-4J from my days in the Navy Air Training Command (NATC). I used a lot of advanced modeling techniques for the 1st time with this build. I was rewarded with a very nice model for my efforts and it became my favorite build for many years as it took the lead in my display case. That was a few years ago. Then one day I was offered a good amount of money for this kit ,which I really needed, and yes I did agree to sell it. Actually it was not only my favorite model but was the 1st model I ever sold. This actually lead to the concept that I could make a little extra money engaging in my favorite hobby. So ever since that 1st sale I have been selling my models and selling everyone at common auction sites, or built custom ordered from customer requests. I actually really enjoy this concept because my models no longer sit in some back room, or basement, in my house, but are instead viewed and enjoyed by model collectors all over the world. This gives me great satisfaction and I do not miss them as a result.
I apologize for the poor photographs but b/c I sold this model all I have left is these pictures. I tried to clean them up the best I could with editing software so I could share them on this site. I hope you enjoy my TA-4J as much as I enjoyed building her. I am due to build another soon. As always all comments are welcomed.
27 additional images. Click to enlarge.