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An introduction to the 2016 PSSA Mass Build - A4 Skyhawk

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Phil Cooke27/01/2016 22:16:56
2592 forum posts
1824 photos

A little introduction…

Following the success of the 2014 Jet Provost project, the PSSA are running another ‘Mass Build’ in 2016 and we’d like to invite you to take part!

Our aim is to get as many PSSA members simultaneously building from 1st March and flying their new models at our PSS ‘Fly for Fun’ event at the Great Orme, Llandudno on Sunday 11th September 2016. For anyone wanting to take part who’s not currently a PSSA member, drop me a line at and join us, Association membership if FREE!

a-4 flight 2.jpg

This seasons project is to be based on a new plan drawn by myself and Matt Jones, the 1/12th scale McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk. Spanning 36” with a flying weight of 2.2lb, it’s a conventionally built-up PSS model for 2 channel R/C. The prototype (above) was tested last season and the plans are now commercially available through Traplet publications (plan ref MW3775). The model is currently featured in the February and March issues of R/C Model World magazine and Traplet have just released a laser-cut woodpack (WP3775) and vac-formed canopy (CA3775CY) specifically for our use. My sincere thanks go to Kev Crozier, Mal Luff, Barry Atkinson and Tony VanGeffen at Traplet for their support and sponsorship throughout this products development.

The woodpack contains over 80 pre-shaped balsa and liteply parts needed to complete the model, only some additional balsa sheeting and strip stock is required to finish the airframe ready for covering. These packs are available to purchase now, and can be ordered via the Traplet website here;


We’d like building to commence from 1st March 2016 so now’s the time to purchase your woodpacks! Obviously, you can make a start anytime but we’re keen to get folk building simultaneously allowing the sharing of ideas, knacks and lessons learnt via build blogs in this dedicated forum section, aiding other modellers whilst they are at a similar stage of the build. In that light, I’d invite all participants to create their own thread to cover your individual Skyhawk build. The plan reviews in the February and March issue of R/C Model World will also provide a valuable illustrated guide to the prototypes construction.

Building from the plan is straight forward (especially so with the use of the laser-cut parts!) so starting in March will give even the slowest of builders plenty of time to be flight ready by September. For those completely new to PSS or building from plans we encourage you to have a go, this really is one of the main drivers of the exercise! There will be loads of help along the way from others taking part here on the forum – this is a great opportunity to learn some new skills and create a scale model of your own to be proud of! I see it as an exciting and fun way to promote Power Scale Soaring, whilst getting more of our members building, learning or teaching.

mass build logo 750.jpg

At the PSSA Fly-in on Sunday, September 11th, the Skyhawks will be assembled on The Orme for the first time and flown in a number of A-4 specific ‘display’ slots. Many thanks to PSSA member Bob Jennings for our fantastic event logo! There will be prizes for the best finished model, best flown model, best scale/innovative feature and so on… It should certainly deliver a spectacle to remember up on the Orme and give a revised feel to one of our usual ‘Fly for Fun’ events.

If you would like to take part in the PSSA A-4 Skyhawk Mass Build Project please do let me know, email me at to register your participation. Traplet are ready and waiting for your order – order your parts via the link supplied or call them on +44(0)1684 588599.

I do hope you can join us in this project - and like me, you are eagerly looking forward to the mass gathering of A-4 Skyhawks in September!

Matt Jones27/01/2016 22:36:13
1186 forum posts
1 photos
There's no going back now Phil!!

I'm super excited about this and it's another step forward for PSS's footprint in our hobby and I'm looking forward to it culminating in the dedicated event later this year. There have been so many operators of Heinemann's hotrod we have a wide range of schemes to choose from.

If anyone has been contemplating a foray into PSS then now is the time, people often have the impression that PSS only works in 40mph winds with models that fly badly and nothing could be further from the truth
Phil Cooke27/01/2016 23:08:17
2592 forum posts
1824 photos

Thanks for the support Matt. Here's hoping the A-4 project will inspire and help introduce a number of new modellers to the thrills of Power Scale Soaring, like the Jet Provost event did 2 years ago.

I've already been asked what additional balsa is required to complete the A-4 beyond the material supplied in the woodpack. I will take some photos of the woodpack once mine arrives and post them here asap. But knowing what's inside, I was able to create this additional materials list earlier in the week. I hope this is of use.

The following lists the raw materials and hardware required to complete your PSS A-4 Skyhawk in addition to the Traplet woodpack which provides all the pre-shaped (laser cut) balsa and ply parts only.

All balsa listed assumes 4”x 36” and MEDIUM density unless stated.


Wing Spars – 1/8” x 1/8” SPRUCE strip – 4 Off

Wing Skins and webbing – 1/16” balsa sheet – 7 Off

Sub L/E – 1/8” x ½” balsa strip – 2 Off

Sub T/E – 3/16”h x ¼” balsa strip - 2 Off

Wing L/E – 1/4” x ½” balsa strip – 2 Off

Wheel Bays – 5/8” balsa sheet – 1 Off

Ailerons – 1½” x 5/16” T/E Aileron Stock - 1 Off

Wing Dowel – ¼” dia x 3” Beech – 1 Off

Scrap infill required ¼” balsa sheet, 1/8th balsa sheet, 1/8th light ply sheet

M3 torque rods – 1 Pair

6mm nylon wing bolt and captive nut – 1 Off


Fuselage Sides/Intake skins – 1/8” balsa sheet – 4 Off

Decking – ½” SOFT balsa sheet – 1 Off

Decking – ¼” balsa sheet – 1 Off

Doublers – ½” x ½” balsa Triangular – 2 Off

Doublers – ¾” x ¾” balsa Triangular – 1 Off

Scrap infill required – 1/8” balsa sheet, ½” balsa sheet

1 Sullivan type Snake (elevator actuation)


Fin post – 3/8” x ½” HARD balsa strip – 1 Off

Elevator – 1¼” x 3/8” T/E stock – 1 Off

Elevator actuator – M2 pushrod and 5mm dia brass tubing

You will also need a 1/12th scale jet pilot - just a bust as per the plan. No PSS model is complete without a pilot!

Chris Barlow28/01/2016 02:26:17
1904 forum posts
1308 photos

I'm in. Phil, will email you later. laugh

I've seen the prototype/original Skyhawk fly at it's absolutely spot on! If you'd like a scale jet but don't want a screaming EDF or don't want the expense of a turbine then PSS is the way to go! yes

Phil May28/01/2016 07:07:08
1520 forum posts
154 photos

Hmm, cheaper than I thought....tempted ☺

Mark Kettle 128/01/2016 07:18:18
2544 forum posts
1568 photos

Hello A4 Skyhawk. Thank you Matt and Phil for drawing up this fine model and the lead picture sure does look enticing. The A4's service life was long and used over many years by so many air force's around the world.

There can't be ever such a much used aeroplane, it's little wing was so hard working doing a varied amount of tasks and missions. I'm sure you'll find Matt and Phil your model will be as popular in model form on it's slope missions for the PSSA in it's 30th anniversary year.

Mark Kettle 128/01/2016 07:21:57
2544 forum posts
1568 photos

Oh I forgot to say - "I'm excited too" teeth 2

Matt Jones28/01/2016 09:13:06
1186 forum posts
1 photos

We're looking to your unique spin on this one too mark thumbs up

Tim Mackey28/01/2016 10:32:23
20920 forum posts
304 photos
15 articles
Excellent stuff Phil and co. I just want to add that I have enjoyed some cracking days, (and nights ) since joining the PSSA - they truly are a great bunch of folk with friendly attitudes to both flying and "newbies". Unfortunately - due to a large backlog of unstarted and part built models I can't realistically get involved in this one - but having had a flight or two on the prototype heartily endorse all that's been said above. Come on guys and gals get going with this one and I'll see ya on the slopes throughout 2016.
Andy Meade28/01/2016 13:12:21
2772 forum posts
717 photos

As above - good luck guys and let's see some great colour schemes! I've got way too much on the board for this year as it is, so won't be mixing it up with the others in September.

Robert Armstrong 228/01/2016 19:20:30
234 forum posts
23 photos
Posted by Andy Meade on 28/01/2016 13:12:21:

As above - good luck guys and let's see some great colour schemes! I've got way too much on the board for this year as it is, so won't be mixing it up with the others in September.

What if Phil and Matt scaled the plan up to match the A10 ? After all, you will need to fill the new trailer, won't you wink

Phil Cooke28/01/2016 21:38:06
2592 forum posts
1824 photos

I've had my first look today at a production Traplet A-4 woodpack and as promised I've taken a few photos to show you what you can expect to receive for your money. My photos are a little dull in content so lets start with a video, created by Traplet which shows the woodpack content all positioned correctly in 3D space! Clever!


The kit of parts arrived very nicely packaged in a sturdy cardboard box with plenty of bubble wrap inside - all the parts arrived in perfect condition.

woodpack 1.jpg

Laying out the content you can see you get a total of 17 sheets of balsa, light ply and marine ply ranging in thickness from 3/8" down to 1/32". Here's the full kit of parts...

woodpack 2.jpg

Over 80 pre-shaped parts, each laser cut and labelled by sheet number and part number. I took a couple of close up shots so you can perhaps appreciate the accuracy of cut, and clarity of part marking. First, some wing ribs in 1/8th balsa, and a pair of wing tip cores in 1/32" ply...

woodpack 4.jpg

and finally, some fuselage formers and doublers, all 3/16" balsa.

woodpack 5.jpg

The balsa selection looks and feels very good and there is no warping of deformation post laser machining.

Having cut all these parts out by hand on the prototype model last year you can immediately appreciate the saving in time and the improvement in accuracy the laser woodpack certainly provides. Should make gluing all these pieces together a joy when we come to the build from March 1st!

john stones 128/01/2016 23:02:52
11528 forum posts
1517 photos

Could someone give me a link to some flying video at The Orme please, I can only find still photo's


Phil Cooke28/01/2016 23:05:33
2592 forum posts
1824 photos

Sorry John I'm not aware of any video being taken on the Orme in October.

john stones 128/01/2016 23:23:18
11528 forum posts
1517 photos

Cheers Phil, my brain just clicked into gear, found some on you tube yes


Steve Houghton29/01/2016 16:50:28
580 forum posts
429 photos


Which A4 variant does the plan represent? I see that there are several variations of nose length and other details, and we wouldn't want to apply an inappropriate colour scheme!!

Phil Cooke29/01/2016 17:00:13
2592 forum posts
1824 photos

Hi Steve,

The plan shows the A-4E - the longer nose single seat variant without the spine hump and with the original, rounded fin top. I chose this as a 'vanilla' variant - easy to modify with a shorter nose for the earliest marks if you wish, or add the spine hump and alter the fin prfile if that takes your fancy. Part of me really hopes we see some different variants - although saying that the E model alone offers a huge array of colurschemes! One of the reasons Matt and I settled on the type!

Phil Cooke29/01/2016 17:05:58
2592 forum posts
1824 photos

Heres a small scan of the plan as previewed in the mag - showing the A-4E profile as drawn.

a-4 plan 1.jpg

Edited By Phil Cooke on 29/01/2016 17:06:36

Robert Armstrong 229/01/2016 17:43:45
234 forum posts
23 photos

Useful reference?

Some pictures in the book show aircraft identified as A-4E with a hump and some without. The avionics hump was added during the A-4E production run to add ecm gear which could not be fitted into the available fuselage space.

Earlier A-4Es were also retrofitted with the avionics hump, though probably not all of them.

Edited By Robert Armstrong 2 on 29/01/2016 17:52:17

Edited By Robert Armstrong 2 on 29/01/2016 17:58:43

PatMc29/01/2016 18:06:12
4407 forum posts
530 photos

Phil, in the mass build logo the third tail down is in RN colours. As far as I'm aware the RN never operated Skyhawks. Can you clarify for the sake of my curiosity please?

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