Gallery: Douglas SBD-3
Chuck Hamilton’s Dauntless dive-bomber
Chuck Hamilton’s Dauntless dive-bomber
First competing at the 2017 Top Gun Scale Invitational, Chuck Hamilton of Bremen, Indiana, flew his impressive Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless in the Pro-Am class. Chuck came back in 2018 for the 30th annual event, and again flying his Dauntless, he placed eighth in the Expert class. For many scale modelers, the SBD Dauntless is an impressive choice for a project because the full-size dive-bomber played such a recognized role in the Pacific Theater of World War II.
In some way, every model Chuck has built ties back to his father, and this Ziroli-designed SDB-3 Dauntless is no exception. He and his father,
Lloyd Hamilton, were at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo in Michigan when they acquired the original aircraft on which this model is based. While looking over the Dauntless, which was recovered from Lake Michigan (with all the lake growth still attached), his father told him the story of his best friend being an SBD rear gunner during WW II. At that moment, Chuck knew he had to build one.
The SBD has traditional balsa-and-plywood construction and is nicely powered by a Zenoah GT80 twin-cylinder gas engine. The model has a wingspan of 100 inches, is 78 inches long, and has 1,750 square inches of wing area. It features scale Robart retractable landing gear and a fully detailed cockpit. Chuck uses a Spektrum DX18 radio system for guidance, and he has been flying his model at local fly-ins and events for more than four years. Chuck says the love for modeling goes back to his father, who was involved during the infancy of RC. The love of military aircraft and scale modeling has kept them close.
We had a chance to speak with Chuck about his beautiful warbird and here’s what we learned.
MAN: Tell us about the finish on your Dauntless. Chuck Hamilton:
I used latex household paint to paint the model, including the aircraft markings. The various washes and surface detailing was all done with latex.
Why did you choose the Dauntless?
I generally build all my aircraft from the 1935 to 1945 time period. As a kid, I built rubber band– powered free-flight models and scale plastic models of the SBD.
How long did it take to build, finish, paint, and detail it?
It took about two years. For the base finish, I used Zap Finishing Resin and fiberglass cloth. For the rivets, I used glue drops, and I burned in the flat screw heads with a modified soldering iron. The panel lines are done with pinstriping tape in the primer coat. Zap CA adhesive and CA kicker were used throughout the construction, and I used a cockpit detailing kit from Dynamic Balsa.
What do you like most about the Dauntless?
It’s a great, solid-flying platform. The Zenoah GT80 provides abundant power, and overall, there are a lot of things happening for fantastic detail opportunities. The flaps and dive brakes are a classic part of the design, and they work really well on the RC airplane. Also, the dive and bomb drop is a popular part of its flight routine.
When did you first become involved in the hobby?
My father was involved in RC from the escapement days, but I didn’t get started flying RC regularly until 1998.
What were your first model airplane, radio, and engine?
I learned to fly on a scratch-built 36-inch-span Fokker D.VIII that my father built for me. It was powered with an Enya .15 glow engine.
What’s your favorite airplane—full-size or RC—and why?
I just love anything from WW I to WW II. I enjoy all the different design philosophies of those eras and the creative thinking involved.
Which do you prefer: flying or building?
It’s about 50-50. I really enjoy all the new things I learn when I build, such as mold and pattern making, vacuum-forming, etc., and now that I fly in competition, I find that making the aircraft look real while airborne is quite challenging.
Who most influenced you at the beginning of your RC involvement?
Hands down, my father. He was a WW II vet and just loved aircraft. Every aircraft I build has some tie back to him and our shared love for aircraft.
What keeps you excited about the hobby?
It’s just about the airplanes. I hope to live long enough to build all my scale favorites!
THE MODEL HAS A WINGSPAN OF 100 INCHES, IS 78 INCHES LONG, AND HAS 1,750 SQUARE INCHES OF WING AREA. IT FEATURES SCALE ROBART RETRACTABLE LANDING GEAR AND A FULLY DETAILED COCKPIT. CHUCK USES A SPEKTRUM DX18 RADIO SYSTEM FOR GUIDANCE.
On the runway at sunset with a great-flying airplane, Chuck poses for the camera after a day of tough competition.
Chuck Hamilton’s Dauntless is beautifully detailed both inside and out, and the weathering is just the touch needed to add to its amazing realism.
Coming in for a low and slow “dirty pass,” the SBD Dauntless is well behaved, even at low airspeeds and with flaps and gear extended.
The cockpit detail in the Dauntless is well done and adds a lot to the model’s appeal.
The underslung bomb works great. A little secret here is that the scale trapeze shown is there only for looks. A conventional release mechanism is built into the wing.
The dive brakes are both scale and very effective.