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Cessna O-2A Skymaster

ICM 1/48 Cessna O-2A Skymaster Build Review

By Fotios Rouch

Date of Review April 2021 Manufacturer ICM
Subject Cessna O-2A Skymaster Scale 1/48
Kit Number 48290 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nice details Cons See text
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $53.99

Build Review

After having done a Mohawk, a Trojan, a Bird Dog and a Huey, I thought it would be fun to do a Skymaster as well for my Vietnam model collection. The ICM kit looks great in the box and I had high hopes that it would go together better than my O-1. I went ahead and got the Eduard photoetch for the full interior because it looked pretty good in the pictures.

The radio rack is amazing in its detail and can be dressed up with some fine lead wire. Putting it together took forever and bending all the tinny electronic boxes was a nightmare! I used photos from the web and I noticed that there were many variations on how the boxes were arranged on the rack, depending on mission requirements, number of transmitters and what not.

Cessna O-2A SkymasterCessna O-2A Skymaster

I also hastily put together the original kit parts for the radio rack to see how they compared. They are not bad at all, much easier to put together and I think that after careful painting and wiring they will look just fine. I fear that after the kit is put together, very little will show through the windows and all my hard work will not be visible.

Cessna O-2A Skymaster

The Eduard photoetch also provides the quilted sound deadening material for the fuselage sides and roof. The photoetch seat detail is pretty nice but very delicate because seat legs have to be secured between the photoetch floor rails and still take some abuse as the model goes together and the photoetch seat belts tug along.

Cessna O-2A Skymaster

Engine detail is good, but nothing will show through the small front opening. This kit does not provide open engine panels and after I went through with the O-1, I think that's a good thing.

Cessna O-2A Skymaster

I chose to do a few small improvements here and there like drilling out the details on the M16s but as I said before, I would be shocked if anything shows in the end.

Cessna O-2A Skymaster

The next step is to button everything up. First attempts at test fitting the fuselage came out pretty negative as there is minor interference from the radio rack and the photoetch full flooring.

Cessna O-2A SkymasterCessna O-2A SkymasterCessna O-2A Skymaster

Work continued on the O-2A with the final detail additions before closing the fuselage. I decided to include the photoetch grill on the rear engine despite thinking that there was a good chance of damaging the part. It took me a whole morning to drill out and carefully cut out the small segments of plastic and to create the opening so I could drop fit the brass grill. It actually worked well, and it does add to the look of the model if you happen to specifically look at that area. While I was working on the part, I also drilled out the rear exhausts.

Cessna O-2A Skymaster

Closing the little egg of a fuselage took me two days of fitting and trimming and adjusting and accidentally knocking off tinny photoetch parts from the cockpit. I cannot blame ICM for the difficult fit until I build another of their O-2As without any added aftermarket parts. As it was in my case, it was a royal pain to get the two halves to close properly and I still needed a little putty here and there.

Cessna O-2A SkymasterCessna O-2A Skymaster

I decided to mount the main landing gear single piece on the lower panel of the fuselage as opposed to fuselage proper because I felt that aligning it and balancing the stance of the model would be easier that way. It worked quite well. I then noticed that the main landing gear strut was suffering from all the added nose weight. The instructions have you add 10 grams. I think that is too much weight, but it was way too late to take some off.

Cessna O-2A Skymaster

The rest of the construction was not too bad, and the wings went on okay with little fuss. I had to adjust the angle of the photoetch belts so the top portion that attaches to the roof was making secure contact since there was no way to glue it place. After the wings, tail booms and stabilizer were added, it was evident that ICM overestimated the needed weight. The main landing gear will be forever overtaxed and prone to failure. I am planning to run cyanoacrylate glue over the lower surfaces of the strut and strengthen it.

Cessna O-2A Skymaster

The Angle of Attack (AOA) decal instructions are very clear that the starboard front VHF antenna piece should not be used. I covered the mounting hole while I was looking in vain for period photos to prove that indeed there was no second front antenna.

Cessna O-2A Skymaster

Olive drab went on the canopy and then a light coat of primer went on next, to see if I had issues that needed fixing. Then the first light coat of gray was pained on. Sadly, this was from an earlier batch of Xtracolor paints. Those were the ones that took forever to dry even though I used their own fast dry thinner. So, three days in and I am waiting for the paint to be safe to handle.

Cessna O-2A Skymaster

The next step in the process was to airbrush the white wing tops. I used True North's Satin White Enamel because I like how well it covers and the final finished look of it.

Cessna O-2A Skymaster

I masked the tail tips for the red paint needed under the zebra stripe decals per the decal instructions and used Testors Red. The photoetch hoist points were added next, and the antennas followed. The instructions emphatically tell you not to use the starboard antenna next to the top observation window. I deleted the antenna but after many hours of looking at Vietnam era O-2A pictures I found only one example where there was only one front antenna. Most examples in the photos seem to have two. The instructions also say that only two of the pylons (inner or outer) were armed with phosphorus marker launcher pods. I found no photos to contradict that. The only time I see full and variable loads under the wings is on modern air show recreation O-2As. Some Vietnam era photos show only two of the four pylons installed. The decals went on next, and they were a pleasure to use.

Cessna O-2A Skymaster

The final pieces were added to include the wheels and the propellers which I had to repaint to show a natural metal rear prop and a front prop with black on the back blade surfaces and natural metal on the front. A final semi-gloss was applied and then the clear parts were unmasked. I made small electrostatic discharge points for wings and tails and longer aerials for the top radio antennas. The navigation lights went on last and the model was completed.

Cessna O-2A SkymasterCessna O-2A Skymaster

I reserve judgment on this build. I like the final result, but I was not thrilled with how hard it was to put together. Maybe if I had not messed so much with adding stuff to the interior, it would have gone together better. I guess I need to build another one with no mods and see how well that goes. I have so many AOA decals left over; I have to build another one!