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ICM 1/35 scale Sikorsky CH-54A Tarhe plastic model kit review

Good fits make building this big model a joy
Kit:53054 // Scale:1/35 // Price:
ICM (Sample courtesy of mfr.)
Excellent moldings; good fits; great detail
No seat belt; only two marking options
Injection-molded plastic (gray, clear); 739 parts; decals
Developed as a heavy-lift helicopter, Sikorsky’s twin-engine CH-54 could hoist a 20,000-pound payload. Used extensively by the U.S. Army in Vietnam, the versatile aircraft was called upon to deliver equipment, reposition artillery, retrieve downed aircraft, and even transport boats. Retired from military service in the 1970s, this workhorse, adapted for civilian use as the S-64 Skycrane (later built by Erickson Air-Crane), still serves today for heavy-lift duties and firefighting.

Although there have been a couple of 1/72 scale kits of the Tarhe, ICM has produced the first 1/35 scale Sikorsky CH-54A. That size — the finished model measures 28 inches long — means plenty of parts. In fact, there are more than 700 spread across the 15 parts trees packed into the box, along with a small decal sheet for two Vietnam-ere Tarhes.

The 36-page instruction book illustrates 208 mistake-free assembly steps. However, I needed a magnifier to see some of the finer detail. Study the parts carefully because many look the same but are slightly different.

The cockpit and the rear-facing crane operator’s cabin are detailed with control panels, including an overhead console and joysticks and collectives, but little else. The result looks a little empty and would benefit from seat belts. The front section closed perfectly around the interior subassembly. I appreciated that the clear parts go in from the outside.

The main fuselage builds as a box, and careful alignment of the internal frames ensures the outer surfaces fit like a glove. Delightfully, the fits throughout the build were flawless, and I never needed to use filler. Just be sure to eliminate attachment points that may interfere.

Deviating from the instructions in steps 51, 57, and 62, I left the landing gear off until later for ease of handling. Step 95 gives the option to cover the landing gear plumbing with fairings, but be sure to fit all of the pipes because some of them will still be visible.

Small parts on the transmission, engines, intake air filters, crane hooks, and ladders fit perfectly, but this is one of those places where a close examination of the parts is essential. I had to remove and refit a couple of parts because I failed to notice subtle differences.

Excellent drawings, including inserts, made it possible to assemble the six-blade blades loose — they slip effortlessly in and out of place — reducing the overall width to 13 inches and making transportation and display easier.

Choosing the 101st Airborne Division chopper from the marking options, I painted the airframe Tamiya NATO Green (No. XF-67) mixed with a few drops of Khaki (No. XF-49).

Except for a tendency to curl, the decals performed well without silvering. To counter the curling, I slid the decals on with a little Microscale Micro Set. There’s no indication of where Decal 13 is supposed to go, but there were six of them, so I assumed they went on the rotor blades and attached them near the hub.

ICM’s CH-54A is hands-down the most complicated kit and the best detailed and realistic aircraft I have ever built. Despite that, the 65 hours I spent on it were thoroughly enjoyable, thanks to the exceptional parts fit. About the only thing it needs to make it even better are seat belts. I can see this being used for many terrific dioramas — just imagine the possibilities!
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