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Revell 1/72 CH-54A Skycrane Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review May 2010 Manufacturer Revell
Subject CH-54A Skycrane Scale 1/72
Kit Number 1258 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Long overdue reissue Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $19.95

First Look


The Sikorsky CH-54A Skycrane is a novel design at heavylift helicopters as it is essentially a CH-53 that has been turned into a rotary-winged skeleton. Gone is the weight of the enclosed cargo compartment and the width to accommodate different loads. Instead, the spine serves as the main airframe structure onto which an exposed engine and power train are mounted, at the rear a tail similar to the CH-53, and up front, an enclosed cockpit pod large enough for three people - pilot, co-pilot, and load operator/flight engineer. The main landing gear wings are set out far enough for the aircraft to straddle virtually any load.

The CH-54 could carry a specially designed pod which could be changed to suit different missions. One pod would accommodate troop transportation while another served as an air ambulance/patient transport. For this purpose, four winches held the pod to the airframe, and the pods could be landed or lifted while the helicopter remains in a hover.

For the heavy loads, the CH-54 had one central heavy hoist which could sling load supplies, field artillery pieces, tactical vehicles, and even the M551 Sheridan tank. Because of its unique configuration, the CH-54 is one of the two largest conventional bombers in service (the other being the C-130) as these were the only two aircraft that could loft and drop the BLU-82 'Daisy Cutter' 15,000 bomb. The CH-54's main drawback was its ability to carry troops (in the pod) or a sling-load, but not both. The CH-47 Chinook received power train upgrades to take up many (but not all) of the tasks performed by the CH-54.

Revell continues with its SSP (Selected Subjects Program) where it periodically reissues kits that have not been on the market for some period of time. At one point I believe, selection of some of these kit subjects was based upon popular demand, including those kits that were starting to get pricey on the collector's market. One of those kits that hasn't been available for a while is the CH-54A Tarhe (or Skycrane).

Molded in dark green styrene, the kit comes on four parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts. The molds appear to be in really good shape as the detailing remains crisp and there is no sign of flash on this example. As with kits that were developed several decades ago, the CH-54 has raised detailing on its surfaces including lots of small rivets on the airframe.

Given the small size of the airframe, I would recommand the following:

  • Remove the transmission from both fuselage halves including the tail rotor shaft
  • Use a green scrub pad to remove the rivet detailing, buff the airframe smooth with fine grit sandpaper, rescribe the panel lines (be careful with the molded-on hydraulic lines unless you want to replace these as well)
  • If you have a vacuform machine, consider using the kit windows as masters (with a little tweaking) and replace the transparences with your own vacuformed windows which will look much clearer (less distorted)
  • Reinstall the power train and use some online reference photos to detail out the various filters, braces, and additions to the power train

One eye-catching detail on this kit are the exposed engines. Many people simply paint these silver and call it a day. Anyone that has seen well-used engines know the coloration that appears on the 'silver' finish. Consider using some of the Alclad II metalizer shades to create the basic engine colors, then using the colored oversprays like the new 'exhaust manifold' shade that goes over any metalizer base color. There are several shades available to create the violet, blue and other colors that appear on heated metals. In short, with a little attention, the engines alone could be the show-stopper of this model.

The kit provides one of the cargo/passenger pods which can be posed with its loading ramp down (but you'll have to detail the inside as it is empty in there. The kit also provides an artillery piece that can be used as a sling load option if you'd like.

The decals include marking options for four examples:

  • YCH-54A, 64-14205, demonstrator aircraft
  • CH-54A, 66-18437, Pennsylvania Army National Guard
  • CH-54A, 66-18409, 1st Cav Div
  • CH-54A, 66-18459, Nevada Army National Guard

This was one of my favorite rotary-winged subjects and is unfortunately the only styrene kit I am aware of for this aircraft any any scale. Out of the box, the kit will be a simple build, and with some work, could be a nice masterpiece, especially with the attention paid to the engines and even add a BLU-82 on the main sling. You're on your own to scratchbuild a 1/72 BLU-82 though...