1/72 Aurora AH 56A Cheyenne

by Jeff Vail



Lockheed’s AH56a Cheyenne gunship won the Army’s Advanced Aerial Fire Support System (AAFSS) competition in 1964.  The pusher prop design was technically very advanced and presented many development challenges to Lockheed.  Ultimately most of the issues were overcome but the contract was cancelled in 1972 due to lack of political support, interservice rivalry, rising costs and the protracted development schedule.  Aviation enthusiasts still debate the aircraft’s merits and whether the decision to cancel the program was the right choice.  As an army pilot I was always impressed with the aircraft’s potential and would have welcomed an assignment flying the Cheyenne .  

I’ve had the Aurora kit sitting on the shelf for years and finally decided to build this antique and say the heck with the $100 it would have fetched on EBay.  The Aurora kit is typical of most from the late 60s.  While it’s no Tamiya “shake and bake” it went together fairly well.  I made a few mods to suit my “what if” finished version and to correct a few inaccuracies.  

I substituted a three-bladed square-tipped prop for the kit’s very inaccurate pusher prop.  Looks Ok but a little too slender span wise, especially at the root.  Left the prop boss intact (my choice).  Also, I should have trimmed the length of the blades just a bit because if it actually spun it would hit the T/R’s arc.  

The kit’s landing gear is molded with the oleos fully extended as they would be in flight.  This causes the model to sit too high on the ground.  I cut all three gear legs to better represent the almost slightly nose low attitude on the ground. 

Click on images below to see larger images



I filled the sensor turret with clear glue, and cut the pilot’s pedestal down a bit to lower the overall height.  

I installed a “hot end” turbine wheel in the engine compartment to fill the empty exhaust hole.  It’s mounted fairly deep in the aircraft at the approximate location where the engine would be so you can’t see it without a flashlight.  

The major mod is to the main rotor head (MRH).  The kit’s MRH is an oversized hunk of plastic that approximates the first MRH configuration with the unique “spider” control rod assembly and the overhead stabilizer bar.  This design never worked satisfactorily.  The stabilizer was apparently both overwhelmed by inputs from the MRH and also induced feedback to the MRH.  

A much improved “Advanced Mechanical Control System” (AMCS) was developed with a low mounted stabilizer below the transmission cowling.  The AMCS was much more compact and I tried to capture this look.  Ultimately my very limited modeling skills resulted in a RH that loosely approximates the look of the AMCS.  My main purpose was to slim down the kit’s RH and the final version at least accomplishes that.

This “what if” version is finished in the 1960s/70s Army Field Drab worn by the Vietnam era helos with operational decals of the period.  The wing stores are what I had in the spares box, and includes Hellfires (I didn’t have TOWs), and a fictional load of Bullpup style stand off missiles.   

Imagine the aircraft getting ready for an interdiction mission against a bridgehead, with the Bullpups to destroy the bridge and the Hellfires to blunt the armored advance.  After I built it with this load out I could quickly see why the Air Force felt threatened, given the aircraft’s overall performance.  It would have compared fairly well with the A-10’s!!   

With apologies to the expert modelers and IPMS “rivet counters”, I think this vision of what might have been came out looking pretty good and I welcome your comments.  Thanks for your interest.


Photos and text © by Jeff Vail