Pavla 1/72 Douglas O-46A

KIT #: ?
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Carmel J. Attard
NOTES: Short run kit with resin parts


The Douglas O-46A was delivered to the US Army Air Corps in May 1936. A parasol wing designed aircraft, powered by a single-engine Pratt and Whitney R-1535-7. The O-46A was designed to operate from established airfields behind fairly static battle lines as in World War I, however, in 1939 a report was issued on the O-46A that stated it was too slow and heavy to outrun and outmaneuver enemy pursuit planes, too heavy to operate from small, wet, unprepared fields, and too large to conceal beneath trees. This report was a forecast of the future, for World War II, with its rapidly changing battle lines proved the need for light, maneuverable observation aircraft that could operate from unimproved airstrips. The aircraft carried a crew of 2 and armed with two 0.3 cal Browning machine guns, one in the wing and a flexible mounted gun in the observer’s cockpit.

The Air Corps ordered 90 O-46As in 1935. and served with the USAAC as an observation aircraft until 1940. At least 11 saw overseas active duty; two were destroyed in the Japanese raid on Clark Field in the
Philippines on Dec. 8, 1941. Most of the O-46A were transferred to the National Guard The remaining O-46s were declared obsolete in late 1942 and after that were used primarily in training and utility roles. Today there is one O-46A preserved at the USAF museum and is painted in markings of type assigned to Wright Field Material Division in WWII.


This is an injection moulded kit in grey plastic containing 42 pieces and cream colour resin detail parts, 20 items in all. These include engine parts, undercarriage legs, gun items, crew seat main wheels, control panel etc etc. There is a 12 page size A5 instruction containing history, kit parts layout, painting information in Humbrol and Agama Authentic colour equivalent/guide and detail assembly instructions in 18 stages. There are four views for each of the of three decal options given. An O-46A of the 2nd observation Squadron,4th Composite Group USAAC, Clark Field, Philippines, December 1941; another belonging to the 118th Observation Squadron, Connecticut National Guard stationed at Hartford 1938, which apparent carried no external armament. The final scheme caters for an O-46A used as a hack aircraft for the 21st Pursuit Squadron based at the Philippines islands 1941. I decided to build a Connecticut ANG observation aircraft. This was finished in yellow and blue whereas the other two options were overall silver finish.


Starting with the fuselage, this needed a bit of re-scribing and filler at a few localities, but nothing excessive. The tail planes have to be cut at a slight angle at the joining end in order for the elevator hinges correspond to form a straight line. There are two small square observation port holes on the underside that must be cut out and these were glazed using Kristal Kleer. The resin undercarriage legs were first parted from the runner using an Xacto saw. This way I prevented damaging the kit if these were simply clipped off. These were a good fit once a half round smooth file gives the required curvature to match that of the fuselage. Their position on the fuselage was also marked on the kit itself.

The cabine wing struts appear to be identical but the main wing struts have the end joining bit that required careful reshaping to make them closer to the actual and also to an identical shape at the attachment point. Their cross section needs some refining at the edges. The tail wheel required a small amount of reshaping to make it look round. Tail wheel required a locating hole to be drilled.  I preferred to make a metal tail wheel strut as I thought that the one in the kit had a thin section that would break at some time during assembly.  The crew mounting steps, pitot tubes and under-fuselage antenna supports were also replaced with metal pin parts cut to corresponding lengths

The main wing parts that come in two whole wing halves had the plastic runner removed from the back and sanded flat before joining the two wings halves together. The periphery of the wings particularly the trailing edge needed shaping by sanding smooth.

The two rows of radial engine resin parts are first cut and sanded flush so that they fit snugly inside the two piece engine cowling. This will leave just one mm protruding prop hub housing from cowling front. When fitting the radial engine parts one has to ensure the correct position as indicated in the illustration at stage 7 so that the exhaust outlet is at the left side of the cowling.

When fitting the radial engine assembly and is inserted inside the cowling, there is no recess inside the cowling to allow fuselage to fit. It is best to remove 2mm from fuselage forward end so that the cowling can be fixed in front. In doing so the overall fuselage length is brought to the correct dimensions.

The gun ring is sanded at the periphery so that it has a smaller section and will allow to  fit inside the canopy when closed. In my case the gun assembly may or may not be incorporated as it was to be an ANG aircraft.

There is a delicately produced resin air intake to fit on top of forward fuselage and an exhaust outlet pipe to port side of nose. Both needs to be carefully separated from the resin runner to avoid damage using exacto saw.

Two observation windows of square shape were drilled and shaped at the base of the cockpit. Fitting the canopy is best done before the wing is fixed in place. Two canopies are supplied, one being spare. Once cut to required shape it is fixed with white glue. I also found that it was best to airbrush the under wing centre area and corresponding forward fuselage before the assembly was fixed since these were to be in different colour, yellow and blue respectively. 

Ideally when fitting the wings struts, the smaller inner struts are first fixed to the wings at the marked spots. The wing is then brought to fit on the fuselage, carefully aligned and then glued in place. The long struts are then fixed in place when the first stage of wing assembly has set firmly. These long struts may not rest on the exact position marked on the wings but near enough to look correct. Alternatively one may reduce the length of the struts by a little.


Painting was straightforward, and the decals proved to be excellent, needing no setting or solvent solutions over the gloss Humbrol paints I used. I then sprayed a semi-gloss clear to tone down the gloss for the sake of scale appearance.


The underside of the O-46 carries a large DF loop and an antenna array strung between four points. The DF loop was made from stretch sprue which was wound around a former of required diameter while the plastic was still warm. This was cut to size and fitted in place. This loop had quadrants painted in different colours as per instructions. The fuselage and wing-to-tail antenna wire were added from invisible thread. I should explain at this point that Pavla’s instructions point out that the colour scheme I chose was unarmed, but I guess there was no harm in adding the telescopic sight in the event it is used for training practice. Connecticut National Guard must have exercised without guns at some stage; however I added the rear observer’s gun mounting for the simple reason that the cabin would have been a rather empty space at the rear.


The end result was quite surprisingly pleasing, and I have noticed this experience with most of the Pavla kits I have made in the past and hope to complete the range since it offers such a variety of decal options and versions within the same kit. This was a colorful model and should appeal to those keen on ‘between wars aircraft’

Carmel J. Attard

December 2008

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