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Wings 1/48 O2U Corsair Build Review

By Michael Taylor

Date of Review April 2008 Manufacturer Wings
Subject O2U Corsair Scale 1/48
Kit Number - Primary Media Vac, White Metal, Resin
Pros Unique Subject Cons
Skill Level Experienced Vac Builder MSRP (USD) $42.95


The Navy issued specifications in 1925 for a rugged new observation airplane. Chance Vought Corporation submitted plans that won a contract for two prototypes. Nicknamed the “Corsair,” it was the first service airplane designed around the new Pratt & Whitney Aircraft “Wasp,” air-cooled engine. The Wasp, rated initially at 410-hp, was the first reliable air-cooled radial to match the power of the existing water-cooled Liberty and Curtiss Hispano engines. The Vought Corsair, eventually proved to be one of the most useful and versatile military airplanes ever produced.

The new biplane, designated by the Navy as the O2U-1, proved to be all that was desired, and more. This new Vought airplane was one of the first to have an all-steel-tube fuselage. Features of the earlier Vought designs which were retained included the cheek tank and the method of fuselage streamlining. First delivered in 1926, the new Corsair, although dubbed an observation machine, quickly proved itself equally adroit in many roles. Convertible to either fixed gear, amphibian, or float-plane, it won immediate favor with the fleet and resulted in numerous government contracts for additional deliveries. In short order, the Corsair set four world altitude and speed records and gained such international prominence that foreign governments began placing orders.

With deliveries beginning in December 1927, the O2U Corsair went into immediate service with the Navy and the Marine Corps. In the 1928 Nicaraguan campaign, Marine Corsairs earned further distinctions by being the first planes ever to conduct an unsupported attack against fortified positions. Attacking a force of 1,500 rebels, four Corsairs began low-level strafing and light bombing against well armed positions. In this campaign, Lt. Frank Schilt, USMC, won the Medal of Honor while flying the Corsair.

Using the new Pratt & Whitney 425-hp, air-cooled engine, the Corsair’s tactical flexibility rapidly earned it the reputation as a jack-of-all-trades. They could be flown on wheels from an aircraft carrier as a defensive fighter, catapulted as an amphibian from battleships and cruisers, and land on carriers for re-servicing. For strictly water use, the amphibian landing wheels that Chance Vought designed could easily be removed and stored. (From


One of my main areas of modeling interest is Marine Corps aircraft. The O2U has been on my want list for years and s few years ago I built the 1/72 Alliance kit but as my like is 1/48 it didn’t satisfy my need. I’ve seen this kit on the internet quite a few times and often thought about it but for some reason never got around to it. Recently I bought the kit to wave it under the nose of a long time client with a penchant for golden winged birds. He bit and I had a reason to start cutting plastic.

The kit has been around for years and has been upgraded with metal and resin parts. Builders choice of floats or landing gear-Floats being a USN O2U-1 of VO-3S, aboard USS Raleigh in 1928 and wheeled being the aircraft of Lt. Schilt. I began by taking survey of what I would need to build this kit. I figured I’d need strut stock, seats, a new engine maybe, scarf ring and gun and some interior details.

I ordered some Contrail strut stock from Roll Models (I’ve been looking for this stuff for years having run out during a particularly trying 1/48 AEG build) as well as a set of Ultracast SBD seats with seatbelts. While waiting for these I began by cutting out the major pieces and started making sanding dust. Two fuselage halves, horizontal tail halves and four wing halves all needed to be scored and snapped from the plastic sheet and sanded down to fit.


I mark the waste edge with a marker and sand down till it’s all but gone and constantly test fit. Believe me there’s nothing worse than ending up with an oval fuselage that’s supposed to be circular. To prevent this, I had the kit supplied resin engine that fit into the fuselage front like a plug so I could sand then hold the halves together and insert the engine to see how things were coming.

Everything was going along well and I was just waiting for the answer to the question…Floats or Wheels? Luckily for Marine Corps me, the answer was wheels and I removed the molded in headrest from the rear cockpit that is used on the naval version. This, of course, left a gap that I filled with sheet plastic by fabricating it while the fuselage halves were taped together then used Tenax to secure it to one side.


Since the fuselage was taped I took the time to tack the rudder together along the trailing edge so it could be removed and the slots for the horizontal tails opened up. I then cut out the belly panel under the wing slots to facilitate the locating of the lower wing. These slots were cut gradually with test fitting to get the best fit with the least mount of filling.

I did a little detailing in the cockpit area by laying the supplied “cockpit” in place and marking the location on the fuselage interior on each side. Then I made some details from stretched sprue and used some leftover cockpit placards along with bits of plastic stock for various panels, boxes etc. The instruments are left over from an Eduard kit (I don’t remember which one) and simply placed over the kits panel.


Once the seats arrived they were painted and glued in place and the fuselage halves were joined with liquid cement. If the seats are here that means the strut stock is here also. The struts supplied are roughly cast along with the wheels and seats in a “wafer” of resin. They are crude castings and really unusable. I scanned the “N” struts on my scanner and put multiple copies on a sheet of paper to use as a pattern for the strut stock replacements. Then by merely laying the strut stock over the image I cut the pieces to length and glued them together with Zap A Gap. My tiniest drill bit drilled holes in the ends for floral wire stubs that fit into corresponding holes in the wings.


The landing gear struts received the same treatment but as I looked at photos I could see there was more to be built between the struts. I looked everywhere and finally came to join the Yahoo group Vought Corsair which is moderated by none other than Mr. William Larkins, noted aviation author. Mr. Larkins was kind enough to search his archives and send me photos that show the landing gear more clearly and that allowed me to fabricate the central struts that have a unique configuration with one strut going through the other.


The airfoil section of these struts does not extend all the way to the fuselage they merely come close while the tubular structure actually passed through into the fuselage interior. The interplane struts were just cut one at a time with much test filling and re cutting required. I have a system for setting up the location for my interplane struts. I copy the hole location from the underside of the upper wing onto paper. I then transfer this to plastic sheet-making sure the centerline is marked. I can then glue the struts to the fuselage using plastic cement and place the upper pins in this small, light piece of plastic to set them to the correct angle. This works much better than using the whole wing as this is a large piece that can be difficult to keep in one position while the glue sets.

There’s not a lot of rigging on this plane so only eight holes in the lower wings (total) and 12 holes in the upper with 4 holes in the fuselage, 2 on each side just above the forward landing gear strut. Three more holes on each side of the rear fuselage for the tail control surfaces were also drilled.


At this point I decided it was a good time to squirt some paint. I use an Aztek 470 with a Campbell Hausefeld 5 gallon compressor/tank that I’ve had for 15 years or so. I painted the upper main wing and horizontal tail plane chrome yellow and set them aside to dry for a day or two.

When dry I turned them over and painted the undersides Tamiya Mica Silver. When that was dry I glued the horizontal tail in place, made sure there were no gaps and when dry I sprayed the entire fuselage/lower wing assembly with the Mica Silver.

When that dried in a couple of days (a bit cautious as this Tamiya spray lacquer dries really fast) it was time for final assembly. I tacked the upper wing in place using small amounts of glue applied to the strut holes with a toothpick. (Why the holes and not the strut ends? If you put the glue on the strut ends it will just smear all over the underside of the wing until it seats itself in the hole) everything lined up quite well.


Now for the rigging. I use .005 nylon thread. It may be a bit thin for 1/48 but I’m not that anal about it and it looks fine when done but perhaps some thicker fishing line would do as well. I left the engine off on purpose because it allowed me access to the forward fuselage where the two holes are just above the gear strut I took a long length of thread and started inside here putting both ends through the fuselage from the inside and tacked it in place with some Zap.

These were then passed up through the wing at the top forward part of the “N” strut and passed down through the wing at the rear upper part of the “N” strut continuing through the two holes at the lower wing fuselage area, under the fuselage and up through the wing on the other side where this process was repeated in reverse until the two ends of the thread finished their journey back inside the fuselage adjacent to the starting point. At this point I go along and using a toothpick put some zap in the holes in the lower part of the lower wing and the upper part of the upper wing making sure the lines are tight as I go until finally I can Zap the thread where they pass through the forward fuselage on the inside and trim the ends.


One piece of nylon to do 75% of the rigging for both sides. This adds strength to the structure of the wings. To finish the rigging one long piece was used as well. Starting with the lower forward “N” strut pass the string through this hole so the short end sticks out of the bottom of the wing and Zap it in place on the underside. Pass it up through the upper wing at the forward hole by the front interplane strut. across the top of the wing and down the corresponding hole on the other side, through the lower forward “N” strut hole and then back through the rear lower ‘N” strut hole, up through the rear upper interplane strut hole and across the wing and down the other side until you end up with the end passing through the lower rear “N” strut hole Zap and trim.


Now what you have is thread criss-crossing from holes in the top and bottom wing surfaces that need to be trimmed, sanded and touched up with paint. I had some spare resin SBD wheels lying around so I used those in place of the crudely cast kit supplied wheels. Even larger wheels may be used as the Corsair used in this operation had larger wheels fitted do to the conditions of the area of operations.

The engine was painted with Model Master Exhaust while the front cover was painted with Tamiya Bright Red. An exhaust collector ring was sourced from a Hasegawa Dauntless. Aero Clubs scarf ring and gun were painted with the Exhaust as well and cemented in place. The windscreen was fabricated from the kit supplied piece of clear plastic. The rudder was painted red white and blue and cemented in place. The control horns were made from sheet plastic while the aileron control bar was made from contrail strut stock. The tail skid was made from stretched sprue.


Measurements were taken of the decal numerals so that the red stripe could be masked and painted insignia red. The decals were added-no surprises here the upper black decals for the machine gun access doors came from a black stripe set I normally use for ship waterlines but this width was never any use for that application but worked fine for the Corsair. The “Vought Corsair” script on the rudder is printed in black and white, the modeler needing to cut the appropriate color letters for the position desired.


Now the Eagle Globe and Anchor…Even though I read the instructions carefully when I began, in my fervor I put them on the wrong sides. The instructions state the anchor hooks should face forward. Now maybe it’s just me but I think it looks right the way I have it but I have contacted Chuck at Wings and he’s sending me another set so I can fix it.


So I’ve finally built a 1/48 Scale O2U in Marine Corps markings. I believe I worked on this about a week and a half. Not a “bad” kit but experience and patience are strongly recommended.