1/72 Khee-Kha Vacuformed WACO YKS

Gallery Article by Gabriel Stern on June 29 2010


   Another carefully crafted vac kit from Khee-Kha Art Products of Alaska, the WACO YKS is a welcome addition to the growing line of bush planes kitted by this talented manufacturer.
   This iconic biplane, of which still many cross the skies today, has the same mythical power of the Beech Staggerwing.
   Many WACOs rode on floats, and many were modified to accomplish certain tasks; that aside the many models and marks that the factory itself delivered.
   For that reason it is a good idea before construction to select the actual plane you want to model and get some references, to be able to pint-point details, colors, markings and so forth. Research is an exciting part of the building process, and usually prevents the commission of mistakes regarding appearance, mistakes that are more difficult to correct after the model is built and somebody points them out to you.

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   Construction started by separating the parts and sanding them according to the instructions. The molds have very good surface detail, be careful not to obliterate it. Some lines are a bit faint, so mark them to be able to score/cut/sand at the right place. By the way, those instructions are extensive, detailed and well written –image also included in this article-
Fuselage windows were open at this time too.
Construction followed by scratch building some accessories for the cabin: a tool box in 1/72, a 143 pages hand-written pilot’s journal in 1/72, a soda bottle –half full- and a ham sandwich with lettuce, tomato, egg, mustard and mayonnaise (in 1/72 too of course). Unfortunately all these will be hidden once the fuselage is closed. The 1/72 bread baked to make the sandwich can be seen in one of the accompanying photos.
I opted to represent a plane that had another engine (Continental), so I put aside the neat resin one that came with the kit (another images depict the well cast and detailed resin bits included in the kit (engine, two props of different style, instrument panel/dashboard, tail wheel, control column, transparent material for the side windows and the two –one spare-windshield).
Advised by Khee-Kha’s owner I also modified a few details that slightly differed from the “6” variant in the landing gear area. This informs you about the adaptability of the kit, since with little tweaks you could expand the range of machines that can be represented. Being Khee-Kha’s owner a fan of bush planes, he of course offers aftermarket resin floats and decals for other versions that you can purchase separately.
Wings and stab halves were joined, locking tabs glued to the fuselage halves and the interior parts cut from the backing sheet and built-up. I had a pair of suitable white metal wheels so I put aside the vac ones provided. The wheel pants were glued and refined to accept the wheels at this stage.
I had to scratch the control wheel/pedestal, but that part is now included in the kit as a resin bit.
Once the interior was finished and painted, I joined the fuselage halves, and had to do a little shaving on the cabin floor and instrument panel to have a comfortable fit.
I was a bit enthusiastic while sanding the cowl opening, so had to glue a pre-curved flat styrene rim on the cowl mouth, to restore proper shape.
Once the fuselage was set I started to locate spars for the wings and stabs, as seen on the photos. I departed a bit from the kit’s instructions since I feel comfortable with my own method, but the kit instructions give you a very good way to deal with the issue.
The horizontal tail actually got the spar where it should be, and a connecting piece that united the halves at the front, lodged in the fuselage cutouts for the variable incidence as the original. Later on the elevators were separated from the stab and given a relaxing angle.
The windshield transparency was carefully trimmed and set aside for the moment.
The side windows were patterned as per their openings, cut and adjusted to fit; as you can see in the photos I added some thin rubber padding to a pair of tweezers after getting fed-up of marring transparencies. This allows the clear part to be held and proceed with minor sanding preserving the surface of the part.
Other details as per photos were dealt with (exhaust pipes, carb intake, nav lights, rudder control horn, bottom wing linkage fairings, fuel gages under the upper wing, etc).
As you make progress on the building start to think about your decals since they don’t come with the kit (as said, an option can be purchased from the manufacturer separately for one machine).
In order to further expedite construction I replaced the kit landing gear and wing struts for Contrail (plastic) and Strutz (brass) material. I also added a lower fuselage fairing where some landing gear reinforcement struts go.
The upper wings were glued to fuselage, via a metal tube spar previously inserted after its dihedral was given to it.
The model needs a few struts, but fortunately no other rigging than tail bracings and control leads for the rudder horns.
Home made decals were printed and a custom paint mix prepared for the model representing NC31663.

   Now, remember the part where I said you have to check your photos? Well, I missed until the almost very end that the windshield on my selected WACO was of a slightly different type. I received help from the National WACO Club, which kindly provided information on an alternate livery. Nevertheless, given the fact that it was quite complex and would have needed the dreaded ALPS-printed decals, I was reluctant to say the least to embark on a poll for a decal provider among those suffering ALPS printer owners whom many times before came to the rescue already.
That left us with the following options: rip off the carefully glued and faired windshield (yeah, right) and create a master to vac a new one; rip off other offending parts (such landing gear) and re-do them to accommodate a suitable candidate (sure); fly the model and kamikaze it into the trash bin (pfff)...or live with it. Guess what...
You Only Model Twice
Again, my thanks to the National WACO Club
Khee-Kha’s website is here:

Gabriel Stern

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Photos and text © by Gabriel Stern