Friday, May 15, 2015

Better Than You Thought, A Couple From Eniwetok, Some Door Art, Phollowing a Phantom, Classy Dogs, and Voodoos in The 'Nam

Everything Old is New Again

I think I've said that before but, if I haven't, I should have. After all, most things in life are repetitive, and whether or not they're new to any of us really comes down to our own personal perspective on things---the title of an old Byrd's song, Funny How the Circle is a Wheel, comes to mind in this context. That circular evolution, to coin a phrase that somebody else probably came up with long before I ever thought of it, can explain a lot in The Big Picture of Life. It can also explain quite a bit in regard to The Far Smaller Big Picture of Plastic Modeling.

Take, for example, the ubiquitous Messerschmitt Bf/Me109 family of Second World War fighters, a collection of aircraft variants about which everything there is to know is known. We've figured that one out, and we've got all the bases covered, or at least we thought we did. Just a couple of weeks ago, back towards the end of March, several of those ubiquitous scale modeling boards I'm always mentioning discovered a Brand New 109 Variant; the Me109K-6. It's an airplane that looks like the far-more-common Me109K-4 except that it's carrying a 30mm cannon buried in each wing, along with a permanently-installed gun camera. That's right; a late-war 109 built with a pair of cannon inside the wings rather than slung underneath in gondolas. It was a revelation!

That revelation came to light in a photograph of American GIs sitting on the hulk of one of the aircraft, and the news of that photo spread far and wide and being disseminated somewhat faster than a speeding bullet, to steal an old expression. That dissemination was rather quickly followed by an illustration of the sub-type, a 3-dimensional inboard profile that showed the location of the significant components of that variation to include the somewhat astounding wing gun installation, which in turn caused the expenditure of a great many electrons as both common folk and authorities pounced on The New 109 Variant with both feet. A New 109 Variant! Shazbot!!!

Or is it really new? The gun installation in those wings was uncomfortably familiar, as was the drawing that was offered in a forum or two as corroboration of the installation as a "standard" feature, projected or actual, in the never-produced in quantity (as far as we know) Me109K-6. That discomfort led me to the bookshelves, to a 1973-vintage Monogram Aviation Publications work by Tom Hitchcock entitled Messerschmitt 'O-Nine Gallery. There, residing in all its splendor on page 49 of that once-cherished but now largely debunked study, was the same 3/4-view inboard profile of an Me109K-6 (and, to throw a little fuel on the fire, a follow-on Me109K-8 to go with it!). We'd known about that "new variant" since 1973!

It's pretty normal these days for certain segments of those who reside within our hobby to discredit the older works that live out there in Reference Land. Often that's for good reason, since nowadays we all have information at our fingertips, via the Internet, that only the most hard-core collector, scholar, or enthusiast had at their disposal Back in the Day. Anybody can go on the 'net nowadays and glean information that was impossible for most of us to access a mere 20 years ago (presuming, of course, that said information is accurate in the first place, but that's a topic for another day...), which in turn means that a lot of the information that was published way back then is considered suspect by a great many enthusiasts, particularly the younger ones. The "Thorpe Books" come to mind when we consider that point, as do several other volumes that were once standard references but are now largely ignored by most modelers. It's a mistake to do that.

Consider this if you will: Serious research did not lie fallow for decades awaiting the invention of the Internet to come along and legitimatize it, and the foundation of a great deal of the information now available to us all came about as the result of the labor of a great many historians and authors who only had printed references to work with, and often had limited access to those. While it's true that a great many of those older publications were, and still are, flawed to some extent, that was never for lack of trying and, contrary to contemporary popular opinion, a great many of those older and now ignored references actually do have something to offer. Take that old Hitchcock 109 reference, for example. It's true that a lot of what's in it is flawed, but it's equally true that a lot of what's in there isn't. Funny how that works, isn't it?

Should we all run out and buy every old aviation book we can find, then? No probably not; the newer stuff truly is better in most respects than anything that came before. What we should do is be a little less quick to jump on the old stuff as worthless, because a great deal of it is far from that, and almost all of it laid the foundations our modern researchers and writers use every day as they create the new references we look on with wide-eyed amazement. Think about it and, while you're at it, think about Thomas Hitchcock, and John Beaman, and Don Thorpe, and all those other guys who led the way with the references they had available at the time. Long ago, in a faraway land...

That Other Wildcat

When most of us think of the Grumman Wildcat family, we tend to think of F4F-3s holding the line in those Bad Old Days of early 1942, or of F4F-4s clinging to a muddy Henderson Field and doing the best they could against overwhelming odds. Those things are an essential part of the Wildcat story, but they're far from being the only part of it. The last of the American service variant of the type was intended to be built as the F4F-8, but ended up being constructed by General Motors and named the FM-2 instead. It was a pip of an airplane too; slightly lighter than the F4F-4 and with a bigger motor and a paddle-blade propeller to go with it (and a larger vertical stab to offset torque). Its gun suite was reduced to the F4F-3's original two guns per wing, which offered both reduced weight as well as the opportunity to carry more rounds per gun, and it was plumbed for a pair of 58-gallon auxiliary tanks right from the factory. It was in every respect the best of its breed, and thanks to Jim Sullivan we're going to take a quick look at it today.

The FM-2 was painted in a variety of camouflage schemes depending upon the theater of operations. It made its operational debut in the Pacific in what we now call Tri-Scheme, as typified by this aircraft from VC-14, sitting on the flight deck of the USS Hoggatt Bay (CVE-75) in November of 1944. This particular aircraft is almost a Plain Jane but not quite; note the nickname "Judy" painted on the cowling. The FM-2 often operated without the wheel covers so prevalent on the F4F-3 and -4, and its silver-painted spoked wheels are well-illustrated in this image.  Sullivan Collection

Here's another example of the FM-2 in Tri-Scheme, this time sitting on the deck of CVE-30 USS Charger in November of 1943, presumably working up prior to delivery to the Fleet. Note the delivery numbers chalked on her cowling and vertical stabilizer, the plated-over fuselage windows, and the wheel covers. This photograph was almost certainly taken during carrier qualifications and provides us with a fine example of an early, and almost brand new, FM-2.  Sullivan Collection

Here's an FM-2 that's most assuredly not on carrier trials! The aircraft is assigned to  Gambier Bay's
VC-10 in June of 1944, and has apparently done a bit of a headstand on the flight deck. In some situations the damage would have been deemed repairable, but by mid-1944 there was no shortage of fighters aboard American aircraft carriers and it would appear that B19 is on her way over the side. Note her missing canopy and the various panels removed from the fuselage and wings, although the engine and prop are still on the airframe---the engine would have required a complete inspection and overhaul after a prop strike and the effort just wasn't worth it, so she's taking the plunge with her powerplant installed. The NAV had a lot of airplanes in 1944!   Sullivan Collection

In 1944 the Navy changed the paint scheme of its tactical aircraft to overall Glossy Sea Blue, as exemplified by this extremely faded example sitting on the ramp at NAS Whidbey Island that same year. While the Grumman F6F Hellcat often featured national insignia applied as white on GSB, that practice was never done to the FM-2. This photo provides an excellent example of that; a full Insignia Blue and Insignia White star and bar applied to the fuselage and wings in textbook fashion. The aircraft has obviously seen better days but is still in service, at least for a while.   Sullivan Collection

In this photo we get to see an FM-2 from Rudyard Bay's VC-96 illustrating the way GSB appeared when it was relatively new, and it shows off the national insignia to advantage. The shot is useful to the modeler in a number of other respects as well. Note the under-wing rocket stubs, and the white-painted 58-gallon gas bags---the Tri-Scheme FM-2s had white aux tanks, and a large number of those found their way onto GSB-painted aircraft when the Fleet repainted its fighters in GSB. The wheel covers are worth a look as well, as is the tailhook, and the badly-weathered propeller is certainly worth a second take. We consider this bird to be well worth modeling!   Sullivan Collection

Whoa, Nelly! This VC-70 aircraft is coming aboard the USS Salamaua during flight operations, and is giving its driver quite a run for his money. Drama notwithstanding, the photo is once again worthwhile for the details it offers to the modeler; the white-painted gas bags, rockets mounted to the zero-length launching stubs on the wings. silver-painted spoked wheels, and white arrestor hook. The FM-2 was in its prime as a secondary fighter when this photo was taken.  Sullivan Collection

This FM-2 appears to be on a flight deck somewhere in the Pacific during 1945, but appearances can be deceiving! She's actually sitting on the training carrier USS Sable and is operating in the Great Lakes. Judging from those bent prop blades her pilot, Ensign John Hood, has just successfully performed an aviator's headstand and survived the experience. There were no easy days, even in the training command.   Sullivan Collection

The FM-2 spent its combat carrier operating off the escort carriers and was effectively obsolescent at the end of the war. A few aircraft managed to survive a few years into the post-War era, as typified by this battered example sitting on the ground in 1948, but most were dumped over the side at the end of the war or scrapped out shortly thereafter. It was a sad end to a great airplane, but a handful of examples have survived and are showing the folks what the Last of the Wildcats could do on the airshow circuit. If you ever get a chance to see one in the flesh you need to do it. Take a long look at her, and think back to her glory days with Taffy Three. She was quite an airplane!   Clay Jansson via Sullivan Collection

Old Hose-Nose Again

Bobby Rocker's been sending us some interesting photos of late, two of which are presented here today. Let's go to Eniwetok Atoll in mid-1944 and take a look at the goings-on there.

These Corsairs are from VMF-113 and are undergoing maintenance on Engebi Island at Eniwetok. The aircraft are F4U-1As, and appear to be perfectly normal, right up to the point where you start looking at their paintwork. Those birds should be in either Tri-Scheme or maybe, just maybe, in GSB, but their fuselages at the least appear to be in the old non-specular blue-grey over light grey, a paint job that they should most assuredly not be wearing! Your guess is as good as ours as to why they're painted like that, and the e-mail channels are open at . Drop us a line if you know what's going on here!   National Archives via Rocker Collection

This is a little more like we'd expect---a Glossy Sea Blue Corsair sitting on the ground at Engebi. The airplane is interesting, of course, but take a minute and look at those Marine pilots standing beside her. Combat in The Pacific was a Tough Date right up until the shooting stopped, and it's guaranteed that at least a couple of those guys never made it back to the ZI to celebrate the victory. They answered they call and they went to war knowing full-well the possible consequences. They were a special breed. Let's raise a glass!

Thanks as always to Bobby Rocker for these images; his collection never ceases to amaze us and we're extremely grateful for his participation in this project.  Thanks, Bobby!

So Where's the Rest of It?

Sometimes we find photos that prompt us to look for other photos, and this is one of them:

We were going through some old F-4 shots the other day (imagine that!) and found this image of the gear door art worn by F-4D 66-7515 of the 507th TFS. John Dienst shot the artwork and, we presume, the aircraft it was applied to, back on 02 June 1983, but we've got a problem! We've got a photo of this artwork but nothing, nada, zip, of the entire aircraft. We can tell you that she went to Davis Monthan for storage in 1987, and that she was scrapped out in 1989, but we can't show you a picture of the whole airplane, so if you've got one, well; you know the drill:  is the address and we'd love to hear from you!   John Dienst

They Rarely Stay in Just One Place

It's a common misunderstanding regarding military aircraft, I think. A lot of people have it in their heads that an airplane leaves the factory, gets itself assigned to a squadron of some sort, and stays there until it's either pranged, shot down, or sent off to the scrapper to become pots and pans. The truth of the matter is quite a different story---those airplanes move around from unit to unit much like their pilots do. Even the trainers bounce around a bit, and the tactical aircraft tend to go from unit to unit far more frequently than you might imagine. Reader Scott Wilson has been sending us a great deal of photography lately (a practice that we strongly encourage, I might add), one group of which tailed a specific F-4C-18-MC from its service with Kelly AFB's 182nd TFS/149th TFG to its final duty station with Oregon's 123rd FIS/142nd FIG. Scott's documentation effectively followed her tracks throughout her post-USAF service with the Guard and thus provides us with an interesting look at one of our favorite airplanes.

63-7517 was rather obviously contracted in FY 1963, but our essay skips her active-duty USAF career and picks her up with her assignment to the Guard at Kelly AFB in July of 1981. In this view, she's painted in the conventional SEA tactical camouflage and is part of a three-ship, taxiing out to go move some sand dunes at the Matagorda Island bombing range, a normal activity for the 182nd TFS during the time they operated Phantoms. 7517 must have recently left corrosion control, because she's absolutely spotless in this photo. Then again, the 183rd always took good care of their airplanes...    Scott Wilson

1983 saw a change in mission as well as station. 7517 spend a portion of the early 80s at Ellington AFB outside of Houston, where she served with the 111th FIS/147th FIG, one of the complement of Phantoms that replaced Ellington's now-famous F-101Bs. Her tactical scheme had changed to the overall "ADC Grey" (Aircraft Grey) worn by the Guard's interceptors, and there were no more trips to Matagorda. Once again she was a Clean Machine, although those SEA-camo'd F-4s behind her would seem to indicate a recent visit to the paint shop that the other ships in that lineup had yet to experience.  Scott Wilson

By July of 1989 she'd reached her final station, being transferred to Oregon's 123rd FIS, and her paintwork had changed once again, reflecting the Air Force's painting directives of the era. Her subdued greys looked just fine, thank you very much, but didn't have quite the snap of her previous clothing---it's really tough to make an assortment of flat greys look pretty. Still, a Phantom's a Phantom no matter how she's painted, and old "Double Ugly" was an effective, if aging, platform right up to her final days of service. 7517 retired to the desert shortly after this photo was taken, a sad, if normal, end to a fine airplane.   Scott Wilson

There's one more thing we should mention prior to leaving this particular piece; Scott moved around quite a bit during his time with the Air Force and the Guard and rather obviously knows how to use a camera. There's a lot more of his photography where this came from, so stay tuned!

Just Can't Get Enough of Those Iron Dogs

Particularly not when they look like these do. At first glance our next photo looks pretty normal, and we suspect most of you have seen at least one of these airplanes before. What you haven't seen are the way they're marked, so sit back and get ready to be amazed!

OK, so what's so new about these airplanes, you might rightly ask yourself. After all, everybody has seen at least one photo of the 82nd TRS' P-39Ns, and everybody has seen "Little Sir Echo/Texas", so what's the Big Deal? Well, don't go getting all uppity on us and we'll explain, and for your part you can prepare to be modestly amazed! First things first; there are indications that "Little Sir Echo" might have bagged a pair of Ki-43s at some point in its career which certainly makes it worth a second look, but that ain't all! Let's start with the obvious; those beat-up gas bags, pretty normal except for the sharkmouth on the one "Echo" is carrying. As you marvel at that somewhat aggressive-looking drop tank, shift your eyes slightly to the right and check out the main landing gear doors. Shazbot! Those doors are scalloped in the best tradition of 1930s American air racers! Holy cow; who would've expected that! And that's not all! Slide your glance over to the aircraft on the far left, because "Ruthie II" has the same treatment on her doors, although in a lighter color. (She also carries the earlier, small diameter nose wheel, but that's a story for another day.) Holy Cow! We told you we'd be impressed!  Rocker Collection

Maybe you're smarter than we are and knew it all along, but those scallops are news to us. As nearly as we can recall we first saw a photo of "Little Sir Echo" (named after Bing Crosby's 1939 song by that title) sometime back in the late 1960s, and we'd never noticed those scallops until just recently. That proves something about the fine art of paying attention, we think, and it also reminds us once again how fortunate we are that Bobby Rocker has spent the better part of his adult life collecting photographs of American military airplanes!

It Was Big and It Was LOUD, But the Polka Dots Were All Covered Up

And, up until it was replaced by its more effective younger brother, the RF-4C, it was also the best photo recce platform the USAF had ever possessed. It was big and it was heavy, and it most assuredly wasn't much at turning, but by the time McDonnell had gotten around to the Charlie variant of its RF-101 family they'd pretty much figured out the photo recon thing and the Voodoo was the perfect airplane for the mission. The RF-101C was available and in service in the Far East when the United States first began air operations over Laos and the Republic of Vietnam, and was heavily involved in the Able Mable operations begun by TDY Voodoos of Misawa's 45th TRS and operating out of Thailand during December of 1961.

By the time The Big War had begun, the 45th had changed stations and moved from its long-time home on Northern Honshu to Tan Son Nhut AB in Vietnam. Photographer Rick Burgess spent some time at that base, and we're privileged to share some of his photography from those days courtesy the kindness of Mark Nankivil and the Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum.

It's March 20, 1968, and 56-0061, an RF-101C-65-MC, touches down at Tan San Nhut after a sortie. Those gas bags slowed her down a bit and the added weight and drag of her paintwork didn't help things either, but she was still fast. Simple speed wasn't enough, though, and Voodoo losses were significant throughout the type's use in theater. It's hard to imagine how things would have worked out if the 45th had taken the 101's immediate predecessor, the Republic RF-84F, to war instead.  RA Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

May 22nd, 1968, saw Rick Burgess beside the active at Tan Son Nhut once again, catching aircraft as they recovered from missions to Points North. This time the aircraft was 56-0061, an airplane that proves a point of sorts. Modelers should note that none of these 101s are particularly weathered and are obviously well-cared for, even though they're in the middle of a shooting war. The Insignia Red interiors of the speed brake and landing gears wells are worth a second look too.  RA Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Although nose art was no stranger to the Air Force of the Vietnam era, it was officially discouraged for a fair part of the war. The sharp-eyed reader will note that only one of the aircraft illustrated in this essay carries any sort of nose art at all, and 56-0071 illustrates that point to a tee. It's not that the aircraft of the 45th never had nose art, because there was a point in their SEA career when a great many did, but there was a substantial period of time during their service there when their aircraft went largely unmarked. One more thing to note about this shot (aside from that interesting B-57 parked behind 0071); Most of the Air Force's second-generation fast jets had aircraft-specific boarding ladders as part of their ground support equipment, and the one for the Voodoo is well illustrated here. That may seem mundane at first glance, but a picture's worth a thousand words to the scale modeler.   RA Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

And here's 0041 taken on the same ramp during June of 1968, just a month after 0071 posed for her photo. This shot is similar to the one immediately above but the lighting on it is different, which gives us a chance to look at the way the camouflage paint was applied. Notice how the demarcation of the greens over the tan appear to have been sprayed separately? It's almost as though these were big model airplanes rather than the real thing! This method of paint application gives those modelers known as Paint Pedantics something else to obsess over when they get together and talk about airplanes. Beauty!   RA Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Our next three shots are all pretty much the same photo from some perspectives, but they're all interesting in and of themselves so we're going to run them all. If you don't particularly care for RF-101s this might be a good time to skip to a different part of the blog!

Our final three images were all taken at the same spot beside the active on 26 June, 1968, and all show Voodoos of the 45th in the act of recovering from a mission or missions up North. We're guessing there was some sort of drama going on with 0047 during this particular landing since her barrier arresting gear is deployed, but we have no idea what that drama might have been. There's one thing for certain, though; there were no easy days up North.   RA Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum.

Here's 0071 again, this time returning from a mission. Like all of its Century Series stablemates, the RF-101C was equipped by a drogue chute, which is shown deployed in all of these recovery shots, but it was common to perform the first part of the landing evolution with the aircraft in a fairly steep nose-up attitude in order to take advantage of aerodynamic braking.The Voodoo was big and she was heavy, and needed all the help she could get on a short runway!   RA Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

We'll finish up our photo essay today with this shot of 56-0083 touching down. Note that she appears to have a name of some sort painted on her nose, but it's small and we have no idea what it might be. Drop us a line if you know what it is!   RA Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

And now it's Bonus time here at Replica in Scale, at least for the modelers among our readership. If you're interested in building your very own Vietnam-era RF-101C you might have an interest in the next couple of images.

If you're a modeler and want to build yourself a Voodoo from the SouthEast Asia Wargames, sooner or later you're going to want to paint it. Here's something to help you do that---the appropriate page from T.O. 1-1-4. Our copy is dated 19 January, 1967, and is therefore appropriate to a 1968-vintage RF-101C (not that the paintwork changed all that much once those early experimental schemes had been left behind). Keep in mind that variations will exist from aircraft to aircraft when painted in the SEA camouflage; it's highly doubtful that any of the Voodoos illustrated on these pages conformed 100% to the painting directives!

Here's something for the detail freaks among us. Sargent-Fletcher manufactured gas bags, pods, and various and sundry other under-the-airplane thingies during the golden age of the Silver and Vietnam-era Air Force. This illustration is from one of their early-70s catalogs and provides us with details of the 450-gallon aux tanks used by the Voodoo. It may or may not be of interest to you, but we like it so we're sharing it. Feel free not to use it if you don't care about such things.

Here's a scan of a real, honest to Goodness 45th TRS patch I bought at the base exchange in Misawa during 1964 for your edification. I kept it all those years just so I could show it to you today!

And that's it for today's look at the Voodoo, but we're a long way from done with the type. Stay tuned!

Under the Radar

Since we haven't talked much about books lately (or much of anything else, for that matter), we probably ought to get back in the groove before you begin to think we no longer know how to read! Today we're going to look at not one, but three---count 'em, THREE---volumes, because they're essentially one book, and we're going to say right from the start that you'll be doing yourself a considerable disservice if you only read one of them. It's a continuity thing if you will.

Invasion Rabaul, Zenith Press, 2006 and 2014, 270 pp plus notes and indices, illustrated. Bruce Gamble is a retired NFO with a passion for history, and his three-volume treatise on the struggle for the Japanese Fortress at Rabaul is without question the definitive work on the subject. This first volume, originally published in 2006 as Darkest Hour and republished under its current title in 2014, covers the Australian base at Rabaul and its loss to the Japanese during January of 1942. This particular volume has relatively little coverage of aviation because the Australian forces at Rabaul had virtually no air assets to speak of prior to the Japanese assault, but rather addresses the creation, activities, and loss of Lark Force, the under-manned and under-equipped garrison sent to Rabaul and left hung out to dry there by the Australian government of the time. Readers of this blog may not be particularly attracted to this volume since it's so thin on aviation, but we advise reading it before reading the other two books because of the background and perspective it puts on the entire campaign.

Fortress Rabaul, Zenith Press, 2010, 350 pp plus notes and indices, illustrated. Of the three volumes of this history, this one is the one most likely to be acquired and read by enthusiasts, since it covers the 5th AF's and Navy's operations against Rabaul up until April of 1943. Those air operations are covered in considerable detail and the "classic" ops against the Japanese bastion are explained in such a way that a complicated and easily misunderstood aerial campaign becomes simple to understand. This volume made me pull down and start an Accurate Miniatures B-25D...

Target: Rabaul, Zenith Press, 2013, 362 pp plus notes and indices, illustrated. This volume covers operations against Rabaul from March of 1943 up to the end of the war, and continues in the same scholarly yet reader-friendly style employed by Gamble in his first two volumes. Once again air operations are the star of the show, but this book also provides a great deal of detail regarding the fate of those Allied airmen (and soldiers, since there were a handful of Lark Force survivors at Rabaul as well) unfortunate enough to fall into Japanese hands as prisoners of war. In point of fact all three books of this remarkable work detail the plight of the Allied POWs and their brutal treatment by their captors; this volume ties it all together for the reader and helps to provide additional insight into one of the many facets of the bloodiest aerial campaign of the Pacific War.

We purchased these books together and read them in sequence over a period of a couple of weeks. We recommend that you do the same, because the three volumes are essentially one book that's broken down into three manageable parts. They are, without question, essential to any library that focuses on the air war in the Pacific. Bruce Gamble is a remarkable and gifted writer and we can easily see these books remaining the go-to references on the subject for a great many years to come.

Not Quite a Happy Snap

Every once in a while we receive a photograph that we know had to come from some sort of official source rather than one of our readers, but that fits into our Happy Snaps section anyway. This is one of those shots:

We had to take a severe second look at this photo when we received it from Mark Nankivil a few months ago. It's unusual, it's remarkable, and more importantly, no naval aviators were harmed in its making, unless you count damaged pride, of course! It's a fitting way to end this edition, and we hope you all enjoy it. We sure did!

The Relief Tube

It's been 5 weeks, give or take, since last we met, and most of our letters have been of the "where are you and why aren't you publishing" variety so once again we're going to slide right past offering anything in the way of corrections. On the other hand, there are a lot of photographs up there for you to look at, which means there are many opportunities for me to make a mistake! That address once again is . If all those spam dudes can find the address then so can you, so don't be shy!

And that's it for today. Be good to your neighbor and with any luck we'll meet again soon!


Sunday, March 22, 2015

That Modular Thing Again, Hogs, A Ragged Hun, Tommy's Lightning, Two More From Biak, and a Voodoo or Two

So What's the Point?

It's been tough to get motivated lately, at least in terms of building something, which in turn made me think about why such things happen. For me it's a pretty easy equation since at the end of the day it all comes down to one of two things; laziness (the usual suspect) or general disinterest in Things Plastic at that particular point in time. It's a transitional situation at its worst and generally passes fairly quickly, but thinking about it got me considering other reasons why people don't finish models, which in turn reminded me of someone I used to know a very long time ago which, also in turn, brought me to the point of today's mindless ramble: The Perfectionist.

I used to know a guy a long time ago, back in the 60s, who was working on a 72nd-scale F-4 of some sort. (For the purpose of understanding this essay it's important for us to remember that, back in those days, there were only a handful of choices if you wanted to build a Phantom; the Airfix B-model that was later morphed into an E, the Revell B, and the Hasegawa J. Those kits were, and it's important to keep this in mind, the primordial 1/72nd scale F-4 models in our hobby. They were the first of the first, and they all were released before Monogram raised the bar beyond measure in 1967-68 with their 1/72nd scale P-51B and F8F-2.) He was, if memory serves, working off the Hasegawa kit, which was poor in the extreme and best described as a Tough Date, but it was available, kindof, and was therefore the starting place for a great many F-4J and F-4D models of the era.

There were a couple of different ways we approached the accuracy part of scale modeling way back then, in those primordial days before the existence of aftermarket. One way was to ignore the warts and just build the darned model, while the other way was to make an attempt at gathering accurate references so we could correct whatever kit we were working with and build something worthwhile. Most of the people I knew back them opted for an amalgam of the two philosophies, fixing what they could and ignoring the rest, but there was always that one guy who wanted his model to be a 100% nuts-on accurate replica of the Real Thing, to include every panel line, every piece of landing gear linkage, and so on and so forth. In short, That Guy raised his own personal bar so high that the F-4 could never, ever be finished, not by the hand of mortal man and certainly not in the allotted lifespan of any representative of homo sapiens.

It should be obvious from reading the above and taking the somewhat glaring leap of philosophical faith regarding That Guy's approach to scale modeling that the F-4 never was completed. The project may still exist for all I know, sitting in a box someplace because there's just too much work in it to throw it away, but it's an absolute certainty that the thing isn't done and never will be.

Let's jump forward to Right Now, a time and place where new kits can be every bit as inaccurate as the ones we fought with Way Back When but are far more frequently released and are of increasingly esoteric subjects---it would seem that every major aircraft type (except, of course for the FJ-3) has been, or is about to be, released as a kit by somebody or other. Since most of those kits aren't as good, accuracy-wise, as the kits Monogram was beginning to issue way back in 1968, there's a certain temptation to do a little correcting of the plastic, and that brings us to The Point, with apologies to Harry Nilsson.

Most days I'll spend at least a couple of minutes looking at the scale modeling boards I frequent, and at least once a week I'll see somebody's model on one of those sites that is so well done and intricately detailed as to make the casual observer think he or she is looking at The Real Thing rather than a scale representation of same. There are, and there's absolutely no doubt about it, some truly amazing modelers out there; people that are so incredibly good at what they're doing that you'd think scale perfection has actually been achieved. That's what you'd think, but at the end of the day the only way anyone is going to achieve 100% fidelity is to own a real airplane, or AFV, or whatever the object of that particular modeler's desire might be, and on top of that; to own one that's totally unrestored to boot. Scale modelers are, by inference and to an extent by definition, masters of illusion. Yes, the work that the masters of our hobby produce is amazing almost beyond belief, but at the end of it all there will still be places in the best of models where something was omitted, simplified, or glossed over in order to achieve the proper effect. The best we can do is pretty much the best we can do, regardless of how good we are. The guys who are really good at this whole scale modeling thing understand and appreciate that fact for the most part and, most importantly, they work with the skill-sets they've got. Yes, they aspire to do better on the next model; that's the nature of their approach to the hobby, but, unlike our friend That Guy from the beginning of this essay, they actually finish their projects and display them. They understand and accept limitations and deal with them. They finish things.

The reason I'm saying this is a simple one. Remember that part where I said that I read the boards most days and that I often see amazing work displayed on said boards? Well, there's a corollary there, because just as often I'll read a post from someone who's bemoaning their lack of skills and blaming that perceived lack of ability for not attempting to build whatever kit it is that they want to build but won't, all because they don't think they're good enough. Those folks won't stretch out beyond their present skill sets because they don't want to mess something up, and they blame it on that supposed lack of skills which honestly won't ever improve if they don't stretch out a bit and try something that's a little more difficult than they think they can accomplish. I'm privileged to run with a group of scale modelers that possess far greater ability at our hobby than I have ever had or ever will have, and I have yet to hear one of them ever say that they'd absolutely nailed a model and that it was perfect. What I have heard them say is how they could have done better on this thing or that thing, and how they learned from  a mistake, and how the next model will be better because of it.

That Guy never finished his Phantom, and he never will. I've finished most of what I've started throughout my scale modeling career, and for the most part I'm happy with what I've done because I enjoyed whatever the kit was and, more importantly, I've learned from the experience. Real Good is possible and achievable, as is Excellent. Perfect, generally speaking, is not, so there's no point in putting off the building of something because you don't think you're good enough to do it. You will have learned from the experience even if you gome things up, and your next model will be better as a result of your efforts, so lighten up and enjoy our hobby.

I rest my case.

An Easier Way to Do It

Our regular readers are probably all sick to death of hearing me say how easy it is to build any given aircraft model in a series of modular components, but that's the truth of the matter, in my world at least. Here's yet another example of How That Works for your edification:

The object of our affection today is Hasegawa's 1/32nd scale Me109F-4, representing the aircraft of Ofw. Eberhard von Boremski of 9/JG 3 as flown during late May or early June, 1942 time frame, after the aircraft had been picked up during a unit re-fit in Germany and flown to the Soviet Union for combat. In this view, the airframe has been roughly painted and decalled. The tailwheel has been permanently attached but those main mounts are just pressed into place to allow me to gain an idea of how the completed model will appear. They were removed minutes after this shot was taken so I could go back and finish the paintwork---that may seem suicidal since the aircraft is already decalled, but having the markings in place really helps in refining and "tightening up" things up. Those stub mounts for the wings that Hasegawa puts on their big 109 kits ensures proper dihedral and the wings fit like the proverbial glove if you've been careful with your assembly---note the painted and assembled, but not yet installed, starboard wing resting under the aircraft's empennage. Some kits just invite you to build them this way, and the big Hasegawa 109s could be the poster children for that philosophy.

Here's what it looks like when the big pieces start to come together. The wings will be removed so the paintwork can be accurized and trimmed up, and then permanently re-installed. There's still quite a bit of work to go, but the model is definitely beginning to take on the character of Boremski's "Maxi" and is looking pretty good, at least to my eye. Aftermarket on this one consists of a set of Aires 109F wheels and some Eduard belts and harnesses. Decals are from Eagle Editions and paint is my personal favorite and highly ubiquitous Testor ModelMaster enamel. A lot of airplanes can be built in subassemblies if you think your way through the process prior to starting and then take your time fitting things up once you begin to put things together.

With any luck this project will be completed by the next issue so you can see how it turned out. In the meantime, why don't you consider this assembly philosophy for yourself? Not all kits lend themselves to it, but most modern ones do, and it will simplify your scale modeling life beyond measure. After all, you'll never know if you can use the technique or not if you don't try it!

That Bent-Wing Bird

Every once in a while we manage to come up with just enough photography of a particular topic to make us wish there was more, in order to allow a more complete photo essay to be prepared for your viewing. The trouble with that sort of thing takes us back to the essay we began this issue with---if we wait until we've got what we want there's a fair chance we'll never show you what we've got! With that said, here are a few images of Chance Vought's immortal Corsair sent to us many months ago by way of the Tailhook Association. They're somewhat of a hodge-podge, but are well worth your time! Let's take a look:

Let's start with an F4U-5 as seen at the NATC during testing in 1948. The aircraft is very much a Plain Jane although its armament, and that propeller treatment, make it well worth modeling. The 5-inch HVARs under the wings and the three gasbags under the aircraft's center section encourage a second look, don't they?   Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Newer members of the Corsair family were very much in evidence in the NAV and the Corps by 1949, but at least one older variant was still very much in evidence. These aircraft are F4U-4s from VMF-323, taken at MCAS El Toro during 1949. It's worth noting that the overall finish on these aircraft is somewhat the worse for wear, perhaps reflecting the austerity imposed on America's armed forces during those pre-Korean War days. The paintwork on those rocket rails is worth a second look too---we don't ever see that particular representation on a model, do we?   Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

By 1953, VMF-323 had traded in its F4U-4s for AU-1s, a type far-better suited for the Corsair's air-to-mud role during the Korean War. This particular aircraft is carrying a full load of 500 and 1,000-lb GP bombs and is thoroughly ready to rumble. We suspect the target for the day is fairly close to the airfield since there seems to be no requirement for external fuel.   Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

The AU-1 managed to become the last of the Corsairs in US service, lasting until 1957 in the reserves. 129411 was one such survivor, shown here on the ground at NAS Glenview during her final days with the Corps. Note the GSB drop tank on her center section; it was scarcely necessary for all the paint to match by this point in the "U-Bird's" career.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Here's a nose-on view of 129411 to end our day with. The AU-1 was optimized for ground support, thus necessitating all of those under-wing stations. By 1957 the Corsair's survival in a "real" war would have been highly problematical, but she was just the ticket for the conflicts she found herself employed in. Those guys at Chance Vought knew how to design and build an airplane!   Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Still a Pretty Girl

Some airplanes look great in camouflage, and some don't. At the beginning of the Vietnam War North American Aviation's F-100D Super Sabre, aka the "Hun", was TAC's workhorse, the USAF's first true supersonic fighter, and PACAF's all-around cowboy, an aircraft assigned to a myriad of Pacific air bases and performing virtually every task the command required of a single-seat aircraft.

By mid-War, the F-100 had largely been relegated to the role of mud-moving, as exemplified by 56-3191, an F-100D-75-NA who's peacetime silver had long-since given way to a coat of wartime camouflage.

November 25, 1967, saw 3191 assigned to the 309th TFS/31st TFW operating in South Vietnam, heavily engaged in tactical air strikes on enemy forces in that country. This superb photograph graphically illustrates how the then-new SEA scheme weathered out in just a few short months of operation. The paintwork has burned off her aft fuselage, as you might expect on an F-100, but there are other signs of severe weathering as well, such as the large area of Mil-P-8585 primer evident on her canopy frame. The 15" national insignia on her fuselage is badly stained, and her upper-surface paintwork is rapidly becoming a patchwork quilt of various shades of green. Two other things are of particular interest in this shot. First, it's still early enough in the conflict that she's carrying the original F-100 afterburner rather than the F-102 burner that was fitted later on. She's also wearing silver pylons under her wings, an anomaly often observed, particularly in the early stages of F-100 camouflage in theater. 3191 survived the war to be converted into a QF-100D drone---she served right up to the end!   Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

They Aren't All Public Domain

World War II Photographs, that is. A great many shots from that conflict were in fact taken by our government in the operational areas, but many others were taken by the people flying and working on the aircraft. These images are, we believe, two of those that were taken by an average GI with a camera. They're from Bobby Rocker's collection, and we hope you'll enjoy them.

Tommy McGuire's "Pudgy" is legendary among P-38s, and has been well-represented over the years. Bobby sent us these images a while back, and they appear to have come from someone's private album rather than the National Archives, a fact that makes them unique enough to run today. Our first image is apparently of "Pudgy II" and something significant stands out in this photo, at least to us: The prop tips are not done in Insignia Yellow per regulation. It wouldn't be that unusual early on (look at any number of P-39 photos, for example), but it's fairly late in the war on Biak and most of the 475th's Lightnings were painted as called for by the regs. If you're a modeler it's all in the details!   Rocker Collection

Farther on down the road: Here's a detail of "Pudgy IV's" scoreboard, complete with pilot and crew names. As a general rule we crop our photographs in order to eliminate the white borders, but in this case we've left them as-is so you can read the legend on the shot: "Our ace of the air". Like so many of the top-scoring American pilots in the Pacific McGuire didn't survive the war, but his exploits were the stuff of legend. Let's raise a glass!   Rocker Collection

And While We're At It...

Our contributors often send photography to us in multiples, as is the case in this instance. We were obviously excited to receive the two shots of Tommy McGuire's "Pudgy", but were equally excited by the other two images that accompanied them. Let's take a look!

This particular P-40N is from the 49th FG's 8th FS, and was on Biak when the photo was taken. The aircraft provides us with an excellent example of the way aircraft weathered out in the SWPAC, and wears some interesting artwork as well. She's carrying bomb racks on her wings and is, all in all, a fair representation of the way the 49th's N's looked towards the end of 1944. All we need now is a shot of her tail!   Rocker Collection

And here's another 475th P-38L, this time at Mokmer Strip on Biak. "Mary" doesn't have the notoriety achieved by "Pudgy IV", but she provides us with yet another glimpse into life in the 5th Air Force. That may (or may not!) be her pilot on the left, but we're almost certain that's her crew chief standing on the right side of the photo. Take a look at their faces: "Pride" is a word that comes to mind!   Rocker Collection

Early Witchdoctors

If you're a fan of The Silver Air Force, then you're by default a fan of the McDonnell (not McDonnell Douglas!) F-101 Voodoo family of tactical aircraft. A couple of weeks ago we were having one of those electronic conversations with Mark Nankivil and the subject of F-101s came up. I asked if he might have a few images to share and he said Yes, after which the in-box became the object of affection for a veritable flood of Voodoo images. We're sharing a few of those, but only a few, with you today. Stand by, though; there are most assuredly more to come!

In the beginning, more or less. McAir was building aircraft for both sides of the street during the 1950s. Here we have an early (and still GSB) F3H Demon performing a tanking exercise with 53-2425, an F-101A-5-MC. Both types would go on to fame and the undying interest of the world's aviation enthusiasts, but only the Voodoo would see combat. Both aircraft were cutting edge platforms in their day, but the Demon turned out to be a dead end, although it managed to sire one of aviation's most enduring legends, the F4H Phantom, before its passing. The F-101 was a far more versatile platform from the very beginning and ended up performing three distinctly separate missions in three different air forces before its ultimate demise. Who do that voodoo that you do so well?   Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Early days for the photo-recon 101. 54-0150 was one of two YRF-101A-10-MC recon birds built (54-0149 was the other). The placard in front of the airplane describes the type's use in Operation Sun Run, a 1957 speed record attempt by the 363rd TRW's RF-101Cs. The Voodoo was nothing if not fast, a trait that would come in handy a few short years later over Southeast Asia.   Rick Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

By 1964 the Voodoo had seen the tiger; RF-101Cs of the Air Force's Able Mable project had been stationed in Southeast Asia and had begun limited combat operations over Laos during 1962 utilizing aircraft from both the 15th and 45th TRS. The early attempt at camouflage illustrated here managed to make it to the war, and your editor can vividly remember seeing two different camouflaged RF-101s on the 45th's ramp at Misawa during early 1965. RF-101A-30-MC, 54-1514, is shown here wearing a version of the new camouflage at an open house on the McDonnell ramp. As an A-model, 1514 didn't make it to the war but was lost in an accident near Franklin, NC, during 1966, a grim reminder that peacetime operations could be ever bit as deadly as those taking place in a conflict. It was never a safe occupation.   Rick Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

The Air Defense Command got into the Voodoo game too, with the two-place F-101B. 56-0232 was the prototype for the variant, an F-101B-35-MC. She's shown here taxiing in after a flight in August of 1962. The F-101 never really made it as a heavy fighter, but her speed, adaptability, and relatively long legs made her ideal for the photo-recon and interceptor roles. We'll see more of her next issue!   D Ostrowski via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

And that's it for this issue. March has proven to be an extraordinarily busy month for us and we've barely had time to accomplish much of anything in the way of aviation. With any luck we'll make it all up to you next time.

Meanwhile, be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon.


Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Plastic Dog is Done, Echo Uglies, The Last Thing You'd Expect to See, and Some Arachnids

So Whaddaya Want, Egg in Your Beer?

A few days ago I was performing my daily ritual of scanning the various scale modeling boards I visit, reading those forums I steadfastly refuse to put in this project, when I came upon a link to the soon-to-be released, brand spanking new Not A Copy of Anything Else 1/32nd scale Fw190F-8 from Revell. Luftwaffe aircraft that served on the Eastern Front are a specific aviation interest of mine so I clicked on that link with great anticipation and was greeted by a color photograph of a nicely-built ground attack Wurger. The model in that photo looked pretty good to me, especially since its real-world retail price would be less than half that of its only competitor in the scale, the Hasegawa kit. You could say it got my interest.

There were no comments tacked on to the entry at the time I read it; I must have come in right after it had been published. OK, then; nothing else to read here so let's move on to something else, which is what I did. Several hours later it was time for lunch, and I'd chosen to eat at my desk that day so I clicked back into that forum so I'd have something to read while I ate. Scanning down the list of recent posts, I found the Focke Wulf review again, but by then several comments had been appended to the original post, one of, if not the very first of which, was bashing the kit for having undersized bulges and an incorrect hinge line on the cowling. That post was followed by one defending the kit, which was in turn followed by a series of point/counterpoint rebuttals.

That made me start thinking about the whole deal. The kit had just been announced, an appealing photograph of a nicely-built model had been released to the public, and the drama had begun---it was the initial release of the Eduard Me109G-6 all over again! Then again, maybe it wasn't. Presuming the kit doesn't have any other major flaws, and presuming those bulges really are drastically undersized, all we really have is an opportunity. My guess is that any number of resin aftermarket companies are waiting in the wings, anxious to get their hands on a kit so they can release a resin correction set for however much of the cowling is gomed-up. Let's presume that the cowling is the only thing we have to contend with, and let's take a look at what some folks might call the worst case.

Let's say that cowling really is messed up, and those bulges and that hinge really do require fixing. Let's take the next step and say that somebody creates and release a resin correction set for same, and offers it for sale for ten or fifteen bucks. What do we have at the end of the day? Let's consider:

The Hasegawa 190 kits in this scale that I've been seeing for sale of late were all in the $75-100 USD range.The new Revell kit will likely go for 1/3rd to 1/2 of that if they follow their normal pricing structure. Add ten bucks or so for the inevitable replacement cowling and you're still saving a bundle by buying the Revell kit. Finally, consider that you bought the kit to build it, and modeling is modeling whether you're using the component supplied in the kit or a new one of resin. It all works out pretty much the same when all's said and done.

When we look at it that way, what's all the fuss about? As far as I know, nobody's ever released The Perfect Model Airplane kit, and I seriously doubt anybody ever will. In my world, fixing or replacing that cowling just adds to the fun of the thing. I build for fun, and I'll bet most of you do too. It's just my opinion, but I think that those of us who are interested in building a big FockeWulf ought to buy the kit, build it, and enjoy the experience presuming, of course, that there's nothing else so significantly wrong with the kit that fixing the cowling becomes pointless. I'm looking forward to it.

Enough said!

Iron Dog Revisited

When last we met, we discussed at some length the way to eliminate that nasty step between the canopy and fuselage on the Eduard P-39 family of kits. The photos you saw in that thrilling installment of the project could have been a big old hint that there was a model in the works, which there was. It's rare that I ever actually finish a project these days, but I managed to more or less complete that P-39, so here it is in all its Eduardian splendor!

Although most of us tend to think of the 49th FG when we think of The Bad Old Days of 1942 in the Pacific, the simple fact of the matter is that the 8th FG was the first to get to New Guinea, initially to Milne Bay and then to Port Moresby, where they held the line against the Japanese alongside Australia's 75 and 76 squadrons, who were flying P-40Es. The first American kill in New Guinea was scored by a pilot from the 8th; Lt Donald "Fibber" McGee, who accomplished the feat in a P-39D that was still wearing its pre-War corcardes on the wings and fuselage. He was flying 41-6941 when he scored that victory, and as luck would have it his airplane is relatively easy to model. The completed kit is the same Eduard P-39 we looked at last time around, with decals scrounged from here and there. The only tough markings to source were the nickname ("Nip's Nemesis") that was painted over the exhaust stacks and that letter "Q" on the nose. Fortunately for the sake of this project, the late-but-not-necessarily-lamented AeroMaster did a 1/48th scale P-39 sheet that included the markings for McGee's "Nip's Nemesis II". With the name and the aircraft-in-squadron letter in hand, the rest of the model was a piece of cake.

This photo shows the other side of the airplane, and provides us with a graphic illustration of why everybody says the wings on the Eduard P-39D are too thick---they are, although they're not so thick as to keep the finished model from looking good. Of more concern, at least to me, is the way the kit represents the wing guns. I didn't do anything about them on this model but probably will on the next one. And yes, Virginia; I know I haven't weathered the landing gear or gear doors yet. Patience!
Whether you like the way it looks or not is a matter of personal taste, but it was done with pastels no matter which way you lean regarding that subject. The interior is 100% stone stock with the exception of a set of belts and harnesses, although Eduard's Profipak version of the kit can provide you with all the bells and whistles if you need them for your own P-39.

So here's the bottom line, folks. The "Eduard Step" in their P-39 kit doesn't really exist, and whether it appears on a completed model or not is entirely a function of how well you perform your initial assembly when you're building the kit. To take things a step further, the kit provides us with the raw materials necessary to build a model that looks like a P-39, thick wing notwithstanding. Some modeling skills are required to get to that point, to be sure, but those skills are minimal in this instance. Finally, with Hasegawa kits being priced the way they are at the moment, the Eduard Airacobra suddenly becomes the deal of the day, so to speak. I've seen non-Profipak offerings of the basic kit for as little as $15 from time to time, and the average price for a full-blown Profipak offering seems to hover around thirty bucks or so, while the slightly better-detailed and far newer Hasegawa kits seem to go for around twice that. All the Eduard offering requires is a little elbow grease and TLC and you're there. It seems like a no-brainer to me!

Double Ugly Strikes Again!

I've been running a lot of F-4s lately, and the reader response that's been coming my way suggests that more than a few of you are enjoying the show. Rarely one to give up on a good thing, I've decided it's time for a few more Phantoms for your edification and entertainment. This time around we're going to look at a few E-models, with no rhyme or reason to the selection of the images shown other than that they're all post-Vietnam era. Let's see what we've got!

72-0140 was assigned to the 422nd FWS, 57th FWW, when Bill Peake shot her on the ramp at Nellis in 1980. She's in classic SEA warpaint in this view and the shot illustrates the ground activity that makes up such a significant portion of a tactical fighter's life. Later converted to QF-4E status, 0140 managed to survive two Air Force careers to join the US air show circuit after the turn of the last century (and boy; does it ever feel funny saying that!). As far as we know she's still around, a proud survivor of her species.   William Peake

The time was June of 1981 and the place the 57th FWW's ramp at Nellis. Every once in a while photos show up in the collection sans provenance (that means I don't know who sent the picture to me!), and this is one of those. I strongly suspect Marty Isham to be the culprit in this instance, but whoever the Mystery Photographer is, he needs to identity himself so I can properly credit the image. In the meantime, let's enjoy a ramp full of F-4s when they were in their prime!  Friddell Collection

Conversely, I do know who shot this photo! John Dienst was out doing what he does best, prowling an Air Force ramp with a camera, when he snapped 67-0327's portrait. She was assigned the 347th TFW in May of 1984, and had assumed the grey and greens camouflage so representative of the Group during that time frame. Check out that red star on her splitter plate---she popped a MiG-21 over North Vietnam in September of 1972. Most F-4s didn't survive the smelter, but 0327 ended up on public display in a park near Luke AFB. That's fitting, we think!   John Dienst

By 1984, the 57th FWW had partially gone Lizard, as depicted by 66-0379, shot by Kirk Minert on the ground at Nellis in September of that year. She ended up with the Turkish Air Force in 1987, but was in her golden years with the USAF when Kirk took her portrait here.  Kirk Minert

The F-4E was a fully-capable fighter-bomber by the mid-80s, and could carry a wide selection of weapons and their associated pods. 68-0373, of the 347th TFW's 68th TFS, was photographed carrying a Pave Spike pod at Nellis in April of 1986. She was one of the unlucky ones that succumbed to an operational accident---she took a bird strike over the Oconee Swamp in Georgia in October of that year and went down, taking one crew member with her. Military aviation has never been safe...    Rick Morgan

Although we're primarily covering USAF "Echos" in this edition of our ongoing salute to the F-4, Mark Morgan was on the 110th TFS/131st TFW's ramp in St Louis in December of 1986 and shot a couple of birds we just had to share with you today. 68-0528 is our Plain Jane of the shoot, as long as you consider a Phantom wearing a big honkin' sharkmouth to be a Plain Jane! She's podded and carrying Mk76 practice bombs on her TERs. Later in her life she was transferred to the Turkish AF and in 1991 she crashed to destruction, taking her pilot with her.   Mark Morgan

68-0338 was also a MoANG bird, but is wearing a tasty outfit of ACM greys along with that sharkmouth. A close look at her splitter plate reveals a surprise; one MiG kill painted with another going on while our intrepid photographer was there. Both kills were scored over North Vietnam during 1972, and the airplane ended up being a display aircraft for the Missouri Air Guard after her retirement.   Mark Morgan

Here's a close-up of 0338's scoreboard detailing her kills. The paint was scarcely dry on that lower kill when Mark shot this image, illustrating either the skilled professionalism or unbridled insanity of the typical aviation photographer! We're kidding about that, of course---Mark is one of the most accomplished and professional aerospace photographers we know, and we're delighted he took this shot. This is an "Echo" well worth modeling, we think!   Mark Morgan

Wing commander's aircraft tend to be on the pretty side, as exemplified by this 37th TFW F-4E taxiing in at Nellis in October of 1987. There's a lot of color on her tail but it would barely compromise her ability to hide at speed and at the altitudes she'd most likely be flying in a combat scenario. We'd like to tell you more about the airplane, but there's no serial number visible so we can't! If you've got more information on her, please drop us a line at and let us know a little more about her. It's the right thing to do!   Marty Isham

Here's a wing commander's bird that is identified! 73-1184 was assigned to the 4th TFW in October of 1987 when Marty Isham snapped this gorgeous portrait of her on the ground at Nellis. She survived her stint with the regular USAF to become a QF-4E drone, and was still extant as late as 2011.    Marty Isham

Many moons ago we showed you a black-and-white of an unidentified F-4E I shot on the ground at Bergstrom during the RAM 88 photo recon meet. She wasn't a participant but was just passing through, but her overall Mil-P-8585 primer coat, totally unadorned with any other markings, insured that she stuck out like a sore thumb! You don't see this sort of thing very often, do you? Anybody out there care to build a unique model of a Phantom?   Friddell

Let's end today's "Echo" Essay with this Air Force shot of the 57th's 68-0358 dropping bombs over the Nellis range. She ended up with the New Jersey ANG in 1990, and then on to South Korea in 1991. This photo of her while she was in her salad days is as good a way as any to end our day with the F-4, but stand by; there are more "Bugsuckers" to come! It's just a matter of time!    Isham Collection

What's He Doing Here?

It must seem like I'm always bragging about the photography that comes our way thanks to the generosity of Bobby Rocker, but the simple fact of the matter is that his collection is filled to the brim with unique and seldom-seen images. Take this one, for example:

In our Last Thing You'd Ever Expect to See category, we have this Culver  TDC-2 Cadet, come to grief in MAG-45's area on Falalop Airfield at Ulithi Atoll late in the War. The aircraft was originally designed as an aerial target, although it's difficult to imagine a need for "domestic" aerial targets in an operational theater full of the real thing. Still, someone thought it necessary to get at least one of them out to the AO; I wonder if one of the short-run Czech model manufacturers would consider kitting this one!   Rocker Collection

Shiny Scorpions

A few years back, John Kerr dropped me an e-mail to ask if I'd be interested in "a couple of neat airplane pictures" he'd come across. Anybody who knew Maddog also knew that his idea of a "neat" airplane picture could be be well-worth looking at, so I jumped at the chance and told him to send them on. He did, and I indulged in the appropriate oohs and ahs when they arrived. Then I filed them away and promptly forgot about them until earlier this week, when I re-discovered them. Here's what I found:

The F-89 family once held the fate of the United States in its slow and unwieldy hands, a sluggish and poor-performing interceptor that was the best we had to offer until the advent of Convair's deltas and their incorporation into the ADC. 53-2599 was an F-89D assigned to the 23rd FIW's 74th FIS, operating out of Thule AB in Greenland during the mid-1950s. "My Mommie II" is a gorgeous example of the type, and illustrates why the F-89 has such an appeal to aviation historians and modelers.   Mike Martinolick via John Kerr

Here's what the other side of the airplane looks like, shot as she taxis out at Thule. The front half of the F-89D's wing tanks served as a repository for an arsenal of 2.75-in FFARs, which explains the staining behind that big star on the front of the tank; 2599 has recently expended a load of rockets. If you're building a Scorpion and are interested in weathering it, that tank is one of the few places where such a thing would be appropriate.   Mike Martinolick via John Kerr

A four-ship of the 74th looks pretty for the camera aircraft over Thule. The aircraft in the foreground shows evidence of rocket firing, which adds additional detail to the staining not found in the photo of 2599.  As an interceptor the F-89 was a dog in the truest sense of the word, but it sure looked neat!   Kerr Collection

Although you might think this is yet another shot of F-89s over Thule, you'd be mistaken. 52-2152 is an F-89D from the 59th FIS and is not from the Kerr collection, but it's a pretty shot and it fits right into the them of this essay. The Scorpion was a big airplane, and the best we had for several years in terms of bomber defense, but it was always an interim interceptor at best. Its looks definitely obscured its lack of performance!   Smart via Isham Collection

And Another Thing...

I was in Hill Country Hobby in San Antonio a couple of weeks ago and found a Tamiya Fw190A-8 on the consignment shelves for what could only be described as an outstanding price. Since the kit is basically accurate once you get past the wheels, landing gear, and wing root gun access covers, and since I like that sort of thing (FockeWulfs, that is), buying it was a no-brainer. While I was paying for the kit I mentioned to Gary, the owner of that fine establishment, that the model was an easy weekend sort of project because everything fit so well on it, which led me to think some more on the subject while I was driving home. Here's the result of that rare burst of creative thought on my part:

This is an almost stone-stock 1/48th scale Tamiya Fw190A-8, but with a couple of minor improvements. The pitot tube and guns have been replaced by brass units courtesy of Master, while a set of Eduard harnesses grace the pilot's seat. The biggest change, and the one that made the most difference to the appearance of the model, was the addition of a set of late-War smooth-tread wheel/tire assemblies taken from a donor Eduard FockeWulf kit. That simple addition improves the kit's "sit" immensely, and makes the completed airplane look a look more like a real Fw190. The best part is that I didn't have to buy them since I've got several sets in the spares bin! There's also a stretched sprue antenna wire on the model, done in the droopy, no-retraction-reel-on-the-canopy late War Fw190 style.

The model represents an Fw190A-8 from JG-6 on the Eastern Front at the end of the War. The paint is my favorite ModelMaster enamel (the paint line so often discredited by the internet "experts"), and the decals are from wherever I could find them in my decal collection. More to the point of this ramble, the kit was begun on a Saturday morning and completed on the following Sunday---the entire project took approximately 7 hours from start to finish. I still need to paint the tip of the pitot tube, of course, but those of you who have followed this blog from its beginning know that there's always something left over for me to do before the model's actually completed. That's how I build things!

Anyway, the point is this: Every once in a while I get the bug to just build something and get it on the shelf. Most any recent Tamiya kit is a slam-dunk sort of thing, which makes a true weekend build an easy thing to do; instant gratification, as it were. The end result of this particular effort was an attractive (to me, at least; your mileage may differ) model of an airplane I wanted to add to my collection, and it took virtually no effort to get there. In my world it's good for the soul, and I thought I'd share the philosophy with you.

And now, it's time to get back to sanding seams on that Academy F-4J!

Happy Snaps

We're going off in a different direction with Happy Snaps today, thanks to an image sent to us early last week by Rick Morgan.

When Rick sent this photo he captioned it "And the boss said: Stand by to start jets!", a line often heard by Rick during his days in the NAV and an image appropriate for those of our readers who have recently experienced the severe winter weather that's graced portions of the northern and northeastern United States of late. The photo was taken during a NorPac cruise on the Coral Sea during 1983 and illustrates a facet of daily life aboard an aircraft carrier that we rarely get to see.   Navy via Rick Morgan

The Relief Tube

A funny thing happened on the way to the Blog. I was getting ready to begin extracting comments for this section and my e-mail started acting goofy, which caused me to shut it down immediately. I doubt it was being compromised but you just never know, and I'm a Better Safe Than Sorry kind of a guy so there you go; no Relief Tube today!

And then again, maybe there will be, sortof. A couple of hours after publishing this edition of the blog I received an e-mail from Gerry Kersey over at 3rd Attack.Org reminding me that the white OA-10A shot I'd run last issue and credited to Bobby Rocker's collection had actually been photographed by, and was from the collection of, Fred Hill. Apologies to Fred, Gerry, and Bobby for the gaffe, and the correction has been made! Thanks, Gerry, for your patience!

That said, we're going to stick a fork in this edition and call it Done. I've been receiving some really neat material of late so stay tuned---there's some Good Stuff to come. Until then, be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon.