Saturday, May 28, 2016

Another Yellow Airplane, They Wouldn't Let You Do It, Japanese Zippers, and A Trick From An Old Dog

Perfect in Every Way

Well, they've gone and done it. The folks at Eduard, the very ones who had given us the world's best and most absolutely accurate 1/48th scale Me109G-6 a year or so ago have, with minimal fanfare, re-tooled and reissued that tragic kit to a by-now heavily jaded modeling public and it (the kit, not the jaded public) has every appearance of having been re-worked and turned into the edifice that was originally promised to us all those months ago. Hard tooling isn't cheap, and it says a lot for Eduard that they were willing to do the things they've done to correct that model. Most people wouldn't have bothered, and we're truly impressed that the Czechs listened to the wailing and gnashing of teeth coming from the scale modeling community, and that they did what they did to fix things. Way to go, Eduard!

With that statement as an introduction, let's take a ride, you and me, to those fabled days of modeldom past, and let's consider where we are, how far we've come, and how truly appreciative we should be to The Big E.

There was a time, and it really wasn't all that long ago in the grand scheme of things, when the plastic aircraft modeler was literally out in the wilderness, taking and working with whatever kits he or she could find and doing their best to create something decent from them. Let's take that notion and run with it, and see if there's any relevance to what we're discussing today.

Take scale, for instance. That Czech 109 was out of scale in a couple of areas, and it's now been fixed. I can remember building Nichimo's generic more-or-less Spitfire Mk V way back in the late 60s, and being truly happy to get the kit because it had cannon and cannon bulges for the wings. The fact that it was actually 1/70th scale rather than 1/72nd didn't bother me in the slightest---I built the kit and displayed it proudly in my 1/72nd scale collection. That same company also offered a Mitsubishi A5M4 in 1/70th, and I built more than one of those as well. At the same time I was doing that, my friend Frank Emmett was building a Revell F-89D to go with his 1950s USAF collection and no; I don't mean their relatively modern (1990s) Scorpion, I'm talking about their original mid-50s release, which was a whole lot smaller than it should have been to be anywhere close to 1/72nd scale. That said, the kit had one irrefutable advantage when all was said and done: It was available, and if you squinted your eyes just a little bit the size was close enough, because if you wanted an F-89 it was the only kit of that airplane that was even remotely close to 1/72nd scale.

Or how about detail? OK, how about detail? Let's see now...

Hawk was an early manufacturer in the world of scale model airplanes, and for years their F4U Corsair was the best kit of the fabled F4U out there in 1/72nd scale in terms of dimensional accuracy, although there was no cockpit, no wheel wells, and no detail to speak of. The same was true of almost all of Hawk's other kits until the 60s when their P-47D, F8F, and Lysander became available, but even then there were no cockpits and little significant detail anywhere else. Hawk wasn't alone, either, because all the other guys who were making plastic kits during that time were pretty much in the same boat. Detail was highly objective, and the kit manufacturers gave us what they thought we wanted and we were glad to get it, too, whatever it was, because there just wasn't that much available to the serious modeler until things started improving in the late 1960s.

You say you don't like Eduard's 1/48th scale Bf109E? It's definitely got some problems, but there was a time when the best Emil in that scale came in a box that said "Monogram" on the top and not only was it the best 109E out there, it was the only 1/48th 109E for a number of years.(And No, I'm not counting the Aurora "Bf109". You can. I'm not.) If we wanted an Emil in that scale, that's the kit we built. We tried to figure out what the interior looked like, and then tried to fix it. Some of us tried to detail the landing gear, and a few intrepid souls attempted to put in wheel wells. We sanded off rivets. We did everything we could, with varying degrees of success, to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse, not just with that kit but with almost every kit we had available to us at the time.

Or maybe take things a step further. One of the Chinese manufacturers released a couple of kits of Grumman's Cougar a year or so ago. The pieces in those kits don't fit together very well, and there are some accuracy issues too, but there's an old close-enough-if-you-squint Revell F9F-6 sitting in my storage building (the one Jenny calls The Hangar) at this very moment. There was a time when it was waiting to be combined with a Monogram F9F-5 Panther to produce what would hopefully have been a decent replica of Grumman's seminal swept-wing naval jet fighter. Now it's just sitting out there, a fine example of a first-release Revell Cougar, and I can look at it and remember the days of my childhood instead of arguing with it in an attempt to build a decent model. With that for a perspective the Kittyhawk F9F-8 doesn't look quite so bad, does it? (Maybe you'd like to go kit-bash yourself a Cougar. I'd rather not, thank you!)

And the list goes on and on. Technology truly has evolved by leaps and bounds, and there's now precious little reason for any manufacturer with decent funding (a significant caveat, that) to produce an inaccurate model airplane. They can mostly do better than they presently do, and that's what they should do. In the meantime, nobody's making any of us go out and buy those kits. I'm not saying we should be grateful for any old piece of horse poot that gets itself put in a box and called an authentic scale model, but I am saying that it's possible to raise the bar so high that very few horses can jump over it.

We live in a culture of instant gratification and that's what makes scale modeling such a neat hobby, because we have to put a little bit of ourselves into each model we build if we're going to end up with anything worth having, and if we're going to grow and become better modelers. If something about a kit bothers or offends you, don't buy it, and with that statement we've come full circle.

When Eduard released that first Me109G-6 I took a close look at it and decided the pain wasn't worth the gain although I did buy a "Royal Edition" of that kit, but only because I collect that series. I've seen the newest Eduard Gustav and the difference between the two kits is night and day, although I'm more than certain someone will eventually find something to complain about in the revised issue. Let's put a positive spin on it, though. There was "something to complain about" with that original kit; in point of fact there was a lot to complain about, and Eduard listened to the modeling public, spent a lot of money, invested a lot of time and effort, and fixed the kit. That's virtually unheard of in our hobby, at least on such a significant scale, but Eduard did it and my hat's off to them for having the moxy to do it.

In the meantime I'll continue to build, continue to comment when I think something is worthy of same, and cross my fingers that all of the manufacturers will man up and take Eduard's approach to things when there's a significant issue with a new kit, although we all know that probably isn't going to happen. At the end of the day, I truly hope I can remember that this is a hobby, and that I can have the good sense to build what I think is worth building and ignore what I think is not. It can't all be the kit, ya'll. At some point the modeler has to do their part as well. It's the singer, not the song.

Takin' it too easy,
Takin' things for granted...

The Fabulous Thunderbirds

One We Always Forget

It's always easy to forget the trainers (unless, of course, you happened to actually train in one) and it's particularly easy to forget some of the less-glamorous examples of the species. That's the fate that's generally befallen the Beechcraft T-34B Mentor, a late 1940s design of Walter Beech's originally done as a private venture since the immediate post-World War 2 American military wasn't particularly interested in funding a new primary trainer for the Navy. Logic and, perhaps, a smattering of good sense dictated that the NAV couldn't keep the increasingly-dated SNJ series on line as their primary trainer forever and the T-34B was eventually accepted for the task, going into service in 1955. Operated primarily out of the Navy's 1950s training facilities, the piston-engined T-34 Bravo stayed in service through the early 1970s.

Last issue we took a look at some yellow SNJs. This time around we're going to examine some yellow T-34Bs. We think you'll agree that it's an airplane will worth our interest.

The date is 2 November, 1955, and the place is NAS Whiting Field, where BTG-1 is accepting their T-34Bs in the type's commissioning ceremony there. Mentors rarely wore a whole lot in the way of colorful markings (unless, of course, you happen to consider an entirely yellow airplane to be colorful) and this one is particularly plain, without even normal wear and tear to sully its pristine paintwork. That's soon to change...   National Archives via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried
. The yellow

NAS Pensacola's ITU was operating the Bravo Mentor by September of 1955. This gorgeous air-to-air shows 140676 in flight near the field. Modelers; take note of the pristine finish, the natural metal canopy framing, and the way the shoulder harnesses are stowed in the aft cockpit. To the best of our knowledge there's only one main-stream kit of the T-34B available, Hasegawa's early 1970s 1/72nd scale offering. It's a good kit, mind you, but it's still the only kit and there's nothing bigger out there at the moment. There's something wrong there, we think!   National Archives via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Here's where it all begins. Our fledgling brown-shoe is walking out to the airplane for a flight out of Whiting in December of 1955. Flight gear is minimal, but then so is the airplane. Repeat after me: It was a simpler time!   National Archives via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

You could be forgiven for thinking this shot was taken at a civilian flying club, but the early and mid-50s were in many ways the last gasp of the Second World War naval aviator. A simple cotton flight suit, brown shoes, and the most basic of flight helmets accompany the 1940's vintage parachute worn by these fledgling airmen. The T-34B didn't look like much but was actually a competent trainer, well-suited for its purpose. The Whiting Mentor's all belonged to BTG-1, and the yellow paint was appropriate to the mission.   National Archives via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Then as now, the military aviator lived by the check list, as depicted in this obviously staged but entirely typical pre-flight being performed on BTG-1's WC 303. There's not a whole lot to go over prior to flight in the T-34B, but it's an essential process that ensures that both instructor and pupil are more likely than not to return to earth in the airplane rather than under a parachute. In aviation it's the little things that kill you, nine times out of ten. Reducing those odds is what it's all about.   National Archives via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

In its original form this photograph was captioned "stud on the wing", a description that could certainly suit the occasion, but the shot is also a fine example of the NAV's practice of having aircrew wear their helmets when manning up. Wearing that helmet may or may not make any difference on a sunny ramp at Whiting, but it could mean the difference between a successful boarding and launch and a painful disaster on the deck of a pitching aircraft carrier. In the American Navy you train for what you're going to have to do.   National Archives via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

The Mentor was based on Beechcraft's civilian Bonanza family of general aviation aircraft and it's not a particularly large aircraft, as this photograph of our intrepid aviator sliding into the cockpit well illustrates.   National Archives via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

This shot is for the scale modelers among our readership and shows us that not all markings were as crisply-painted as the aftermarket decal manufacturers and Internet Experts would have us believe. That's a point worth noting if you're at all serious about your model building.   National Archives via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

This photo shows a young Tony Longo climbing into NAAS Saufley Field's station weather recce bird back in 1956. Those black and white stripes are somewhat uncommon on the T-34 and would make for an interesting model.   Tony Longo via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Here's another view of Ensign Longo standing in front of that Saufley weather aircraft, showing a few more of the aircraft's markings and Tony's flight gear to advantage. Note that on this aircraft the canopy framing is yellow, not natural metal, and the anti-glare paneling is in flat black. Of further interest is the surprising amount of stencilling on this bone-simple aircraft.   Tony Longo via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

The heroic on-screen antics of the cast of Top Gun have influenced the way most people see naval aviators since the day that movie was released, but this photo is considerably closer to reality. Here we see a young Ensign George Shattuck re-flying a mission in true fighter-pilot style, an activity indulged in by military aviators of all experience levels since the dawn of powered flight. Up and at 'em!   George Shattuck via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Here's one for the folks back home. If you're a naval aviator you'll totally understand this picture. If you're not, you might do well to consider that in a very short time the capabilities of these young men will far exceed the confidence shown in this photograph. This photo and the one immediately preceding were both taken at NAAS Saufley in 1959, quite literally the last days of peace before the opening rounds of Navy involvement in Southeast Asia. Thanks to men like George Shattuck the NAV would be ready.   George Shattuck via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

It's hard to believe nowadays, but there was a time when American military airfields were literally choked with airplanes. These T-34Bs from VT-1 on sitting on the ramp at Saufley in 1959, a reminder of simpler times.   National Archives via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

TraCom still possessed a few T-34 Bravos as late as 1984, as defined by this VT-5 bird (144090) taken at an air show at Randolph AFB in May of that year, but somehow it just wasn't the same without that yellow paint!   Friddell via Replica in Scale

This was a more likely fate for the Bravo by that late date; a T-34B of the Navy's recruiting service used for preliminary evaluation of candidates for flight training. 140818 was based out of a hangar at San Antonio International Airport in October of 1984, and was photographed at a CAF air show in Hondo, Texas, later that month. Those eval aircraft carried pretty paint jobs but, like the red and white ones remaining in active service, it just wasn't the same...   Friddell via Replica in Scale

Our parting shot is of a T-34B from BTG-1 at Whiting Field in December of 1955. In our view, no further caption is needed!   National Archives via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

In so many ways the T-34A and B would make the ideal private airplane, presuming your druthers ran towards F4Fs and F4Us rather than Cherokees or Acclaims. They would also make ideal subjects for large-scale model airplanes, but it's highly doubtful we'll see a kit anytime soon!

That Magnesium Cloud

If you happen to be interested in American military airplanes of the 1950s, you've got at least a passing familiarity with Convair's B-36 Peacemaker. They were immense, they were powerful, they were complicated, and they would have been, in all probability, meat on the table for the various designs of the MiG Bureau that would have attempted to counter them in any sort of shooting war.

Designed in the dark days of the Second World War, when the United States presumed that it would end up fighting the Axis alone, the airplane was highly impressive but also obsolescent the day it went into service. It was, in every respect, an anachronism, but the USAF had a bunch of them and they held they line until the far more modern, not to mention capable, B-47 and B-52 phased into the bomber fleet in the early through mid-1950s. In spite of that they were America's "big stick" for several years, and they served in Curtis LeMay's Strategic Air Command, thus falling under restrictions as to what could and could not be photographed by service members---that's the reason we see so few photographs of operational B-36s. We were going through the archives the other day, looking for something entirely different (which, of course, we didn't find!), when we came across these images. They tend to be more evocative than informative, but they're worth a look because of their relative rarity.

Your editor was privileged to live on a SAC base operating the B-36 when he was a young child; our family was among the cadre that opened Limestone AFB (later to become known as Loring AFB). That meant that B-36s were part of our daily life, although General LeMay's security directives insured that precious few of them were ever photographed by anybody actually stationed at the base. We mention that because this image is how most of us can relate to the B-36; as an airplane on public display. 51-13730, an RB-36H, was static at Chanute when John Kerr photographed her in August of 1983. She's huge and she's impressive, but she's also dead, a display piece to remind us of the Air Force's role in the Cold War.   John Kerr

This view, although relatively poor in quality, shows the B-36 in her salad days as an operational bomber. This one is being de-iced on the ramp at Thule AB in July of 1953---SAC had several bases outside the Continental United States from which the B-36 could operate, and all of them were chosen for their ability to launch aircraft that could strike the Soviet Union in a shooting war. There's a better than average chance that 1078 is bombed up and ready to go, the primary reason why photography of the type in actual service was so severely restricted. We aren't familiar with the circumstances of this photograph but can almost guarantee you that it was a happy snap, taken surreptitiously by the photographer.   Robert Burns via Kerr Collection

Depending on who you know, it's entirely possible that this sort of thing is the way you'll see an operational Peacemaker captured on film. This photo was taken out the window of a taxiing transport (maybe a C-47?) at Andersen Field on Guam, date unknown, but it captures both the aircraft and the mission to perfection. Note how relatively plain the aircraft's markings are; SAC was not a gaudy command while Curt LeMay was in charge!   John Kerr Collection

Another B-36 taxis out at Andersen as our unknown transport rumbles past a parked B-17. No, it's not much of a shot, but we're darned lucky to have it given the Strategic Air Command's security policies during the 50s.   John Kerr Collection

Many thanks to the late John Kerr for spending a lifetime actively pursuing images such as these, thus adding tremendously to our knowledge of American military aviation.   John Kerr Collection

How Come It Worked So Well For Them?

We don't know the answer to that question, but the simple fact of the matter is that the Japan Self Defense Force was a prime operator of the Mitsubishi F-104J Starfighter for a great many years, and were one of those nations who not only got all of the performance originally promised by Lockheed out of the airframe but also did it with an enviable safety record, that latter being a feat not often accomplished by air forces using the once-berated "Widow Maker".

A complete operational history of the type in Japanese service is beyond the scope of this occasionally humble blog, but a collection of photography isn't. Toshiki Kudo, a long-time friend of contributor Rick Morgan, provided Rick with the majority of the images you're about to see back in the 1980s, while one of them was supplied to your editor by a retired blue-suiter many years ago. Let's take a look:

By the 1980s camouflage paint had become the order of the day on the F-104J, but natural metal finishes were still very much in vogue when Carl Brown shot this 203 Sqdn bird on the ramp at Misawa in May of 1970. Much has been made of the Starfighter's limited abilities as an operational aircraft, but apparently no one ever told that to the Japanese. The 203rd operated out of Chitose AB, way up on Southern Hokkaido where the weather can be, to put things mildly, deplorable. Dedication and professionalism made the "Zipper" work in that environment, just as it eventually worked with all of the other air forces using it. Sensationalism in the popular press was every bit as rampant back then as it is now...   Carl Brown

In spite of that comment regarding the weather around Chitose, there were sunny days up there in the north country! Toshiki Kudo shot this 203rd Sqdn aircraft on the ramp there back in the early 80s, by which time the squadron had transitioned to an overall grey with white wings and horizontal tail paint scheme. 36-8535 is carrying a LAU-3 19-shot rocket pod, illustrating the F-104J's value as a multi-role fighter. Some airplanes get a bad rap early in their careers and never quite manage to lose it. The F-104 had one of those lousy reputations, but it was entirely capable of getting the job done once the J-model arrived.   Toshiki Kudo via Rick Morgan

The F-104J did it all in JSDF service. In this view, a pair of "Zips" from 204 Sqdn sit on the ramp at Naha configured for the air-to-air mission. It's certainly true that long range intercepts in poor weather could scarcely be called the F-104's forte, but the airplane was still entirely capable of effective point-defense when required, and the Japanese most assuredly knew how to fly the mission.  Toshiki Kudo via Rick Morgan

76-8706 taxis out at Naha in July of 1980, configured for the air-to-air role with a pair of inert Sidewinders attached to the under-fuselage stations. It's a little-known fact, but an un-refueled F-104 of any flavor had longer legs than the F-4 Phantom, but you could never say the aircraft was blessed with exceptional range and those gas bags on the wing-tips are going to be worth their weight in gold in the JSDF's normally operating environment, which includes a lot of flight time over a large and unforgiving ocean. The paint is essentially a variation of Aircraft Grey.   Toshiki Kudo via Rick Morgan

Here's a side view of 46-8625 of 207 Sqdn, also taxiing out at Naha in July of 1980 but this time sporting a natural metal finish. The Japanese Starfighters operated in a fascinating array of camouflage schemes, making the type a natural for the scale modeler.   Toshiki Kudo via Rick Morgan

By June of 1982 some 207 Sqdn F-104Js had adopted a paint scheme similar in concept to that of the American F-15 and F-16. The unit and national insignia presentation pretty much negate any benefit this paint job would have offered in the way of concealment, but they could both be toned down in a matter of minutes with a can of paint and a spray gun. Like the other 207 Sqdn aircraft we've seen so far, 46-8616 is configured for the air-to-air mission.   Toshiki Kudo via Rick Morgan

It's July of 1985 and this silver-painted 207 Sqdn bird (76-8693) is coming over the fence at Naha. This shot provides us with an excellent view of those AIM-9 stations hanging off the belly of this bird.   Toshiki Kudo via Rick Morgan

Here's another shot from July of 1985, this time showing the 207th's 76-8693 taxiing, but this aircraft is a bird with a difference---can you spot it? That's right, folks; 8693 is wearing a really tasty shark-mouth on her nose. You don't often see that sort of thing on the Starfighter which is a shame, because it really looks good there!   Toshiki Kudo via Rick Morgan

Our final F-104J shot drops back to December of 1979, when the JSDF's 46-8614, assigned to the APW, was working out of Naha. She's painted in silver lacquer and really looks good that way, we think.   Toshiki Kudo via Rick Morgan

One thing we didn't mention in any of our photo captions, but something that very much is worth mentioning, is the appearance of the sheet metal covering the afterburner section of all of the aircraft shown here. We've seen quite a few scale models depicting this area in every color under the rainbow, but the reality is somewhat different. Just sayin'...

Many thanks to both Toshiki Kudo and Rick Morgan for making it possible for us to share these images with you.

Sometimes the Old Ways Are Best

Or at least I think so. You don't have to buy into the concept, of course, but there was a time when we didn't have aftermarket anything and detailing necessitated a substantial amount of scratch-building, and we honestly weren't all that badly served by having to do things that way. Take, for example, a colored (or clear; it really doesn't matter) cover for a wingtip navigation light. Nowadays a lot of model companies provide them, almost as a matter of course, but some still don't.

There are a couple of reasons for that state of affairs, all of which are rational and make a great deal of sense. On the most basic level there's cost to the manufacturer, a piddling amount in the wide wonderful world of tool and die making but an extra cost nonetheless since a certain amount of design time is involved in addition to that whole tool-making thing. Then there's size; sometimes those lens covers are just too tiny to make their incorporation in a kit worthwhile, since not all modelers are sufficiently skilled to deal with installing itty-bitty parts and the companies who sell the kits want everybody to be successful with them so they'll continue to purchase such things. That philosophy is why you'll often see the positions for those wing-tip lenses scribed into a given kit's wings, leaving it to you, the modeler, to paint them or otherwise make them look like what they're supposed to represent.

We've discussed the reasons; now let's discuss the options available to apply to a wing that's got the wing-tip nav lamp covers represented by lines scribed into the solid plastic of same.

The easiest thing to do is to simply paint the appropriate area of the wing silver, then over-paint it with a clear acrylic such as that sold by Tamiya (Clear Red, Clear Green, etc.). That actually works pretty well if the lens cover is colored on the real airplane, but on most airplanes those covers are clear with the bulb underneath being the thing that makes the lamps flash red or green (or, in some cases, blue), which in turn means you're still going to have to deal with some sort of lens that isn't solid plastic, or at least that's what you're going to have to do if you want the cover to appear the way it's supposed to on the real airplane. If that doesn't matter to you then you might want to stop reading at this point, although the skill we're about to discuss is one you really ought to have in your bag of tricks anyway, just in case.

So we've just dismissed The Easy Way. What's next? The answer to that question ought to be obvious: Let's cut out the opening for those pesky lamp covers with a razor saw, or shape them out with a jeweler's file, making certain in either case that we've got a properly-sized and cleaned up opening, one that's in scale (which the manufacturer's scribed opening might or might not be, by the way), and then put something in there to simulate the plexiglass that generally covers such things on a real airplane. I've read in other places that some people actually go to plastic supply houses and buy pieces of real plexiglass in order to simulate those covers, but that's not necessary. Think about the problem for a minute, with an eye towards what you can use, and neat things will happen!

One material should jump into your mind almost immediately, since your authentic plastic scale model airplane will probably come with a canopy if it's modern enough to also have navigation lamps built into the wing-tips, is clear sprue and that canopy comes on clear sprue---all you have to do is cut a piece of it that's long enough and file it to shape on two sides so it will fit into the opening you've just put in the wing-tip, then cement it firmly in place, let it dry thoroughly, sand it to shape, and polish it out.

What if the covers are colored instead of clear? What do we do then? Well, for starters you could just over-paint the clear covers you just made with some of that Tamiya clear paint we discussed a minute ago or, if you don't want to go that route, you can cut and install tinted plastic, and old toothbrush handles can be a fine source for that. My personal favorite material, however, and the one that we're about to show you, are the colored pegs that come in those Hasbro Lite-Brite sets that have been around since at least the mid-1960s if not before. Here's what I'm talking about:

Here's a shot of the pegs we'll be using on a brand-new Airfix Meteor F.8. The kit offers to-scale scribing for the nav light covers and it would be easy to deal with them just by painting with an appropriate color of clear paint (Tamiya acrylic or similar) after final painting of the airframe. Yep; you can do that, or you can lay a little Old School on the problem. Any guesses which road we're going to take?

This particular technique is simple in the extreme, and will help the appearance of your finished model no end if you do it correctly. The first thing you'll want to do is cut out the shape of the cover. In this case Airfix provide scribing that's very neatly to scale, which means about a minute's work with a knife, saw, or file. Once you've got that bay cut out (and please be careful when you're doing it, both for the sake of the finished model and for your fingers!) you'll need to put a couple of flats in the plastic you're going to use for the covers so it'll fit the wing. Be careful with this because it needs to fit snugly, with no gaps. After you're satisfied with the shaping of both the lamp bay and the cover, attach said cover with the cement of your choice making sure that you've got a good bond. It's a really good idea to use a strong cement for this because you're going to be doing a fair amount of shaping and polishing and the goal is to keep the cover attached to the airplane while you're doing it---it's easy enough to make another one if you have to, but why not head that whole problem off at the pass and do it right in the first place?

This is what it should look like after you've glued that block of plastic in place. Pretty nasty, huh? Ok, now that you've got that out of your system, go do something else for a while (like maybe 24-hours worth of A While) and let everything cure out properly so you can do that heavy-duty sanding we talked about. This is as good a time as any, I suppose, to mention that I think cyanoacrylates (that product often known as "Crazy Glue") are a bad idea for this kind of work. They're really good in tension but their shear strength is lousy no matter who makes the stuff, and you want those covers to stay put while you're working on them. Yes, Virginia; this is the voice of experience speaking...

There's shaping and then there's shaping. In my own personal view of that particular evolution we'll need to sand the cover to shape with fairly rough sandpaper but allow it to stand just a little bit proud of the wing surface to ensure that we don't accidentally change the contour of that component. When you get things down to what you're seeing here, or pretty close to it, switch over to 600-grit wet or dry (or the equivalent) and finish off the sanding process. You'll know when you're finished because you'll have a smooth wing surface with a clear green (or red, or maybe even just clear) nav light cover embedded in it.

Sort of like this! Everything's smooth and flush, and without any gaps, and all that's left to do is final polishing. Too easy, GI!!!

And that's all there is to it! You could, if you wanted to and if the airplane you were modeling had a clear cover with a colored bulb, vacuum-form that cover and put a colored "lamp bulb" under it, using a piece of stretched transparent red or green sprue or, if the scale were large enough, one of the tinier MV lenses, or maybe just drill a hole in your solid lamp cover and stick a piece of colored sprue up there. There are all sorts of ways to skin this particular cat, but the one we've just discussed is exceptionally easy to do and works extremely well on 1/48th or 72nd scale model airplanes, although you'll probably want more detail if you're building in 1/32nd or larger. This particular Old Guy tip is pretty useful for the smaller scales, though, and I think you'll like the results if you try it. Just take your time...

Happy Snaps

It's been a while since we've had a Happy Snap, hasn't it? Let's end that particular drought with a photo I like a lot:

If you're an American, and if you pay any attention at all to what passes for the news nowadays, you're probably well aware that the media have gotten themselves all excited because the Russian Air Force has resumed making low passes over warships from time to time and flying close to the borders of various and sundry nations that could fall into the category of  potential adversaries in a conflict. We're guessing those folks must have fairly short memories or maybe be on the youngish side since overflights of that sort (by everyone concerned, and not just limited to the aircraft of any one specific nation) were once the norm, way back during those halcyon days of the Cold War. This photo, taken by Rick Morgan while on a WesPac cruise in August of 1985, illustrates that point to perfection. The aircraft is a Tu-95 "Bear B" of the then-Soviet Navy (at least I think it's a "Bear B", but I'm not all that good with Tu-95 variants!) and it's cruising serenely near the boat---note the tail-guns, which are un-manned. It wasn't unusual for the opposing aircrew to wave at one another back in the Old Days, or take each other's photos if the aircraft were close enough to allow it. We consider this to be a beautiful photograph taken by professional aviators of an aircraft flown by aviators equally professional. Hi, Ivan!!!                          R Morgan

Thanks for this great shot, Morgo

The Relief Tube

Yep, we actually have something to add to an older article today (look for "Not Bored With Fords" in our archives), submitted by a reader known only to us as Big Red Lancer:

VF-154 F8U-1s were on their maiden cruise in 1958, aboard USS HANCOCK, not USS Hornet... Photo is from Hancock's 1958 cruise book... 

Thanks for the correction, Lancer! Folks, keep us honest over here---if you see something you know to be wrong, drop us a line at replica in scale at yahoo dot com (run all those words together, but you already knew that, right?) and let us know about it!

That's it for today, ya'll. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Making It Easy, Something You Have to Do, Son of Yellow Peril, Civilian Invaders, How Bad Can It Get?, and A Pair of Shooting Stars

Give Me Your Money, Please

Not me, ya'll. I don't want your money, but I'll bet I got your attention, didn't I? Now that I've got it, let's talk about the guys that really do want your money---the folks who produce those plastic kits that we all enjoy so much.

They come in two flavors, those guys that produce the kits; the ones that only sell what they design and make themselves, and those who will market pretty much any plastic kit they can get their hands on, because money is money and tooling ain't cheap. That those guys in the second group use the business model they do can be a good thing for the consumer, but it can also be a trap of the highest magnitude for the unwary. Allow me to explain.

A whole lot of plastic kits have been released by companies all around the world since the dawn of the hobby, and some of those kits were pretty darned good in spite of themselves---the recently Internet-maligned Hawk F4U-1 Corsair comes to mind in that regard since it was, for many years, the most accurate of all the 1/72nd scale "Hogs" available to the serious scale modeler---while others, such as the original 1/72nd scale Revell P-51D of the early 1960s, was a dog when it was new and has remained a dog ever since. When we factor in the reality that a few of those older kits were the only ones of a particular subject ever released in polystyrene (or the only accurate ones in terms of shape and outline), then the industry practice of buying or leasing someone else's molds to produce "new" models makes perfectly good sense on a number of levels and is, in fact, a good thing, at least up to the point where you're misled regarding the contents of a given kit's box.

One case of that sort of thing is presented by Revell, who happen to own the old Matchbox tooling and occasionally release the kits they mold from them in shiny new packaging, with little or nothing on the box to indicate that the modeler is purchasing a kit originally designed and tooled in the early-to-mid 1970s. That's almost an ok practice as far as we're concerned, since Revell's prices have always been reasonable in the extreme and many of those Matchbox offerings are the still the only ones available to us of certain subjects. (Don't believe me? Go find yourself a Siskin or Heyford in polystyrene, from permanent tooling then. I dare you!) It would be nice if they told you what was really in the box like they once did in their heritage re-releases, but it's still ok; those kits are inexpensive enough and generally good enough that little harm is done.

The higher-end kits can be an entirely different kettle of fish, however, because of economic impact (both perceived and real) to the modeler. Take, for example, that Czech company that recently went through a tremendous amount of angst over the release of a Second World War German fighter that wasn't quite the end-all and be-all it was advertised to be. In addition to their own kits, said Czechs also re-box and market other people's kits as limited editions, and they generally do an excellent job of that, providing as they do decals of superb quality and aftermarket accessories of their own manufacture, both of which are generally done to an extremely high standard. I mention that particular manufacturer as an example only, because the high end is capable of creating problems all their own---those guys recently released a Vietnam War-era A-4E/F kit that included the excellent Hasegawa A-4E/F, an excellent decal sheet, photo-etch and masking materials from their existing accessory line, and a resin ejection seat, at a US retail cost of some ninety bucks. I bought that kit and don't feel badly used for having done it because I knew what was in the box when I did it, but for the price there could've/should've been more included, like maybe some aftermarket ordnance for that kit of an attack bomber that spent its combat career carrying same. I was also funded for the purchase so it wasn't that big a deal to me, but for some folks it would've been.That high-end thing gets even worse when the re-boxed kit being offered was a dog in the first place (that A-4 wasn't, thank goodness) or was good when it was originally released in the 60s or 70s but has suffered from the passage of time since its salad days.

The point I'm trying to make here is a simple one. I think it's perfectly fine for manufacturers to re-issue other people's kits, but I really wish they'd tell us where the kit came from if it's older, or maybe what's really in there and where the plastic originated. That's not unreasonable, and I truly believe it's a way for everybody to walk away with a smile on their face.

Wasn't that strange;
Wasn't that strange 

Now give me your money, please!

WHY Do They Do It Like That?

It's no secret that I read everything I can about our hobby, and that I go to a bunch of those scale model-oriented web sites almost daily in search of both wisdom and inspiration. In the course of that searching, I've read a great many descriptions of misery submitted by people who attempted to build, and were ultimately defeated by, the Eduard Bf109E in 1/48th scale. I happen to like the kit, inaccuracies and all, and I also happen to think it's easy to build, but that's probably because I don't follow the instructions to any great degree when it comes to sticking the engine in the model---that's because all the internet-borne complaints about the upper cowling not fitting correctly are 100% true! Fortunately, it's also a condition that's easy to fix. Read on:

European modelers, and more than a few American ones too, seem to enjoy opening up the various access panels on their models to display the wonders that lie beneath them, often doing this to excess. It seems that the guys at Eduard bought into that whole notion with certain of their kits, their Fw190s, Bf109Es, and Bf110s coming to mind in that regard, and the resulting over-complication has probably frustrated a lot more modelers than it's pleased, particularly among those who are still developing their skill sets. The 1/48th scale Eduard Bf109E is particularly tricky in that regard: The instructions tell you exactly what needs to be done and how to do it, but not clearly enough to make sure everybody understands what's required if you want to build your model in a buttoned-up state with the cowling installed. I lucked out and figured it out for myself when I built my first one (of three so far), but I also happen to think those instructions can be substantially improved upon. How? I thought you'd never ask!

I tend to build the Eduard 109Es in a modular fashion---the design of the real airplane and Eduard's treatment of the kit makes this extremely simple to do which in turn makes it really easy to make things work out the way they're supposed to. The first thing you want to do is omit everything that goes on the top, back, or sides of that engine, then install the pieces on the front that are necessary for the attachment of the propeller. Next you'll need to take a coarse file or sandpaper and put a bull-nose on the upper front of the engine block, and I mean a severe bull-nose, extending it well back towards the rear of the engine. Once you've accomplished that you'll want to lock the exhaust stacks in place, preferably with tube glue, Tenax, or something else equally strong, and then leave everything alone and let the plastic cure out overnight. Install the stuff for the oil cooler into one side or the other of the fuselage (it doesn't matter which one), but don't cement the two halves of the lower cowling together yet. Things will be a little easier if you leave off the upper fuselage deck until later but I didn't do that and everything worked out just fine anyway, so that choice is yours. Just remember that all you have to do is be patient, be gentle, and take your time when you stick the engine in there. If those are things you can't or aren't willing to do, you might want to forego the Eduard kit in favor of one from Tamiya or Airfix! (Remember, though; if you do it the way I'm describing in this article, you run a modest risk of destroying your model too. It ain't my fault if you break something! Forewarned is fore-armed, etc, etc.)

After those exhausts have thoroughly cured, gently spread the nose apart and work them into place in the openings provided in the cowling for them. They're a tight fit and even the thinnest coat of paint will tighten things up even more, but it can be done! As I mentioned in the previous caption, this is easier to accomplish if you leave off the upper fuselage decking until after the engine is installed but I didn't think of that until it was too late to do it and it honestly didn't make that much difference to the process---yes; I'm repeating what I said a minute ago, but it's really important that you know this! Just take everything slow and easy and it'll all work out!

Once the engine's safely in place, all that's left to do is mate up the halves of the lower nose and flood the seam with the liquid cement of your choice, then let things dry and do your final bodywork. As you can see, I chose to do all of this after the fuselage was painted and decalled---it meant there was a little bit of touch-up on the paint, but only a little bit because I took my time in getting everything to fit and was careful when dressing the resulting seam. Once all of that was done the upper cowling dropped into place and fit perfectly, and all that detail that Eduard provided for an opened cowling display was never missed.

Once upon a time I thought the Eduard kit of the Bf109E was the way to go in the wonderful world of Emil-dom, but I've since changed my view in favor of the substantially more accurate, if somewhat more difficult to build, Airfix kit. That said, I wasn't inclined to throw away the extra Eduard kit I had sitting on the shelf, and this simple modification to the assembly process made everything far easier than it would otherwise have been, at least for me. This method is honestly best avoided by the novice and the clumsy, but it's also a good way to accomplish something that can otherwise ruin a fine, if moderately inaccurate, kit and is a good way to grow as a modeler and add to your skills.

You Gotta Do This!

That's right; we're back on Hasegawa P-40s for a minute, and we're about to reinforce something you pretty much have to do to the kit if you want it to be accurate. That "something" we're referring to is the nasty little clipped forward corner present on the canopy of all of Hasegawa's 1/48th scale P-40 kits. We've discussed this before, I know, but it's a topic that can certainly stand repeating since the correction for the problem is simple and will give you a better finished model for an absolute minimum of effort.

Here's as graphic an illustration of the problem as we can present to you. Take a look at the canopy on this model, and allow your eyes to shift to the far left-hand side of said canopy. See that white triangular-shaped piece that's sitting there? That's what you have to do to correct the canopy on the Hasegawa P-40s, because they're all clipped in that corner whether the kit be an E, an M, an N, or some flavor of Kittyhawk. They're like that because Hasegawa didn't understand that the triangular doubler at the aft base of the P-40's windshield was just that; a doubler that rested outside of the canopy per se when everything was buttoned up, and they took things from bad to worse when they clipped the canopy corner to make it "fit" said misunderstood doubler. This photo pretty much duplicates one we showed you on a P-40E a couple of issues ago, and once again shows how to fix the problem, but this time on an "N". All that's necessary is to add a triangular-shaped piece of styrene sheet or strip, blend it into the canopy, and paint. That's it, nothing else, and you don't even have to remove the doubler under the windscreen if you're building an N.

And here's what you end up with after sanding and painting. Don't forget to paint the inside of the lower canopy frame too, even if you don't paint anything else inside there, so you don't have the garish white plastic you used to fix the problem staring through at you This model is almost finished and only needs an antenna wire and a little more weathering (and some of that ubiquitous last-minute touch-up!) in order to be called Complete. Doesn't it look better with the canopy corrected?

Texans in the NAV, The Yellow Years

There are certain things that are seminal if you're a scale modeler of a certain era, and chief among those things for those of us who happen to be children of the 1950s are the Aurora AT-6 and SNJ Texan kits in more-or-less 1/48th scale. The SNJ kit was particularly appealing to a kid (or at least to me!) since the box art, and the plastic contained within said box, were yellow, while the AT-6 was molded in a boring and mundane silver plastic. It was the same kit, of course, but offered two different ways, and the simple act of building it established a love for yellow airplanes that extends until this very day, and causing a subsequent search for pictures of yellow Texans of any flavor. Helping in the quest, Doug Siegfried over at The Tailhook Association was kind enough to provide some photography of a few SNJ-5s in that particular livery and what he's provided is really something, so let's take a look!

OK, it's not yellow, but it's a good way to start this piece anyway. The SNJ and sibling T-6 were confirmed ground-loopers, and would perform that particular bit of magic at the drop of a hat. They were also a little touchy when taxiing, which made a taxi trainer for the type an extremely good idea!This particular specimen was operated out of Corry Field in the early 1950s and is resplendent in what we presume to be yellow and red checkerboards, with a green anti-glare panel. Note the skids under the wingtips, placed there to prevent damage during the inevitable SNJ ground loop festivities, and the wheel just aft of the propeller that was placed there to help the novice Texan driver avoid a prop-strike or headstand if too much power was applied to the aircraft during taxi. The wheel covers are painted with a design we can't quite make out, (surely they aren't some sort of commercial wheels, are they?), and the unlocked tailwheel has castored around and is now sitting "backwards" on the aircraft.   NMNA via The Tailhook Association

You may recall, at least if you read our quick guide to the T-6/SNJ variants several issues ago, that the carrier-capable SNJs were designated by the appendage of the letter "C" to their designation. This SNJ-5C is taxiing out at NAAS Barin Field in 1954 and shows a degree of wear and tear we don't normally identify with naval aircraft of the period. BTU-5's BuNo 51842 is absolutely filthy and reflects the hard and constant use experienced by the type in service. The anti-glare is matte black on these aircraft, while the canopy stack remains unpainted and is in natural metal as are the wheel covers. It would be extremely difficult to duplicate this finish on a scale model, but what a looker it would be if someone could do it correctly!   Roger G Smith via The Tailhook Association

Another BTU-5 Barin bird, this SNJ-5C sits on the ramp during 1955. She's a whole lot cleaner than Modex 113 immediately above, and has a green anti-glare panel and yellow-painted canopy frames. She's also lacking wheel covers of any kind, and the wheels have been left in natural aluminum. Those TraCom SNJs were well-used and you can see evidence of that around the aircraft's tailwheel and arresting hook, but overall 122 is a clean machine.   The Tailhook Association Collection

This Texan is from an earlier era and was assigned to NAS New York during the late 1940s. She's a straight SNJ-5, not a -5C (note the lack of arresting gear) and carries a modest amount of service wear, but she's far from worn or dirty. 51776 also carries her original-fit tall antenna mast, a throwback to an earlier day. The anti-glare panel is black and the wheel covers are in natural metal. Those orange bands on her fuselage signify her status as a Reserve bird, along with the "NEW YORK" identifier under her "NAVY" fuselage marking.   Dick L. via Rich Dann via The Tailhook Association

NAS Pensacola has long been a hotbed of naval aviation in this country, as typified by the section of SNJ-5s in flight near that facility. In all likelihood the photo dates to the early 1950s, while they aircraft are assigned to the Instructor Basic Training Unit (IBTU) there. The airplanes are clean and carry natural metal canopy framing, along with that by this time archaic antenna mast. What beautiful airplanes!   The Tailhook Association Collection

And another beautiful SNJ-5 from P'Cola. 85077 may or may not be from the IBTU but she's gorgeous, although we can't imagine any radial-engined airplane remaining that way for long! Note that here normal antenna fit has been supplemented by a whip aerial aft of the cockpit. The tailwheel strut and tailwheel are in natural metal, a point to pay attention to if you're planning on modeling this particular aircraft.   Mike Kolasa/Warbird Resources via Rich Kolasa via The Tailhook Association

Up close and personal, SNJ-5 85090 formates for the camera near Pensacola. The T-6 family was always flown from the front seat if only one aircrew was present due to center-of-gravity limitations for the type, although you can see part of the bag for instrument work folded up under the aft-most canopy. Of special interest is the under-fuselage antenna fit and the stencilling evident under the vertical stab. It's hard to imagine there was ever a time when an American military airplane wasn't covered in stencils, but the T-6 family were simple airplanes in simpler, and less highly-regulated, times.   Mike Kolasa/Warbird Resources via Rich Kolasa via The Tailhook Association

Here's an SNJ-5C on the boat, in this case from BTU-5 at NAAS Barin Field, during the 1954-55 time period. She's working hard on one of the NAV's CVLs doing carrier qualifications and is absolutely filthy, a classic reminder of just how dirty those round engines could be during periods of extensive usage. Modex 110 is chocked and running up with her flaps deployed prior to taxiing forward for a launch, and it's not at all difficult to Walter Mitty ourselves back to a time ten years earlier when the Fleet was filled with radial-engined airplanes fighting in The Big War. Note that this particular aircraft has yellow wheel covers and unpainted canopy framing. and that the side number is repeated on the lower lip of the cowling.   The Tailhook Association Collection

Side number 637 from a CQTU out of Barin Field shoots a touch and go aboard the USS Monterey providing us with yet another way the SNJ could appear in squadron service---in this case she's got open wheels (no covers) and no landing gear covers, while her canopy framing is yellow. She's also carrying the full antenna suite including that early Texan antenna mast just forward of the canopy. Neither this aircraft nor any of the other SNJ-5Cs we've seen today were armed; time was rapidly passing the SNJ by and the NAV's one-time advanced trainer had become a basic trainer inching her way towards final retirement. 637 is another dirty bird and will remain that way until the conclusion of the CQ period, after which she'll receive a much-needed cleaning.   Jack Cook via Warbird Resources via The Tailhook Association

Here's how it looks when you do it right: One bird from CQTU-4 out of Correy taxis away from the wire on the USS Saipan during quals in the Fall of 1956 while another SNJ-5C rolls in to recover. THIS is how you're supposed to do it.   The Tailhook Association Collection

And this is how it looks when things go wrong! This shot was taken aboard the Monterey during 1956 and shows one SNJ-5C after recovery and prior to taxiing forward while another takes a wave-off. Since nobody seems particularly excited we have to presume that what we're seeing is all part of the day's festivities, but carrier quals during the 1950s could be hairy enough that this episode just wouldn't rate very high on the drama meter since no sheet metal ended up getting bent---we may never know!   Robert Lawson NAM Collection via The Tailhook Association

CarQuals were a never-ending cycle, and these spotlessly clean SNJ-5Cs are en route to another CQ period, in this case aboard CVL-26 (USS Monterey) in 1955. The airplanes are from NAAS Barin Field, flown in some instances by instructor pilots who had cut their teeth in the shooting war that had ended only ten short years previously.   The Tailhook Association Collection

It's worth remembering, as we look at these wonderful images of The Yellow Texans, that a great many of the student pilots shown training in these aircraft would be engaged in yet another conflict less than eight short years away. Things were already beginning to heat up in SouthEast Asia and those guys would be ready when the call came to launch for real. That's something worth remembering---let's raise a glass...   The Tailhook Association Collection

When People Bought Them Cheap

That's a relative statement, of course, but there was a time when it was possible to purchase a used, or even brand-new-still-in-the-crate, World War II-vintage airplane for next to nothing. (All those P-51Ds the RCAF surplussed out, still in their original packing crates, for $1200 USD each during the late 1950s/early 1960s come to mind in that regard). Those days are long gone, and the present cost of purchase coupled with horrendous operating expenses combine to make warbird ownership an expensive proposition indeed, but there was a time, long ago and far away, when a modified warbird was a great way to get yourself a corporate aircraft on the cheap. Take, for example, these images from the Bill Burgess collection and provided to us courtesy of Mark Nankivil and the Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum:

Here's how they all started out. N5426E started life as a TB-26C-45DL before putting on her glad rags as a civilian bird in 1968, and it doesn't take particularly sharp eyes to detect her previous identity as painted on the aft fuselage and vertical stabilizer. The Invader experienced wing spar failures during the latter stages of their military use in SEA, but few private pilots would ever abuse them the way they were wrung out in combat, and a great many of them survive until this day.   RA Burgess via Mark Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

N6840D could easily be the poster child for civilian conversion of the A/B-26 family; she's extremely typical of the breed as used for executive transport. There was a time (this photo was taken in 1972) when it wasn't at all unusual to see an Invader parked on the ramp of a municipal airport, awaiting her next business trip. That's a sight you don't see much nowadays, because the airplane, as with all warbirds, has assumed a mystique that's guaranteed an astronomical value on the re-sale market. There was a time, however...   T Gibson via Burgess Collection via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

Here's what 44-34624 looked like after the Confederate Air Force painted her to to resemble the A-26s used in the ETO during the Second World War. Built as a B-26B, she was registered as N6101C when she posed for this photo in 1972, a rarity in the world of flyable Invaders because of her pseudo-military plumage. The paint job was a mediocre representation of the real thing, but gave the public a rare chance to see a classic airplane fly.   RA Burgess via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

In contrast, here's the first of a pair of A-26s flying as executive transports during the same year; 1972. First up is N240P in a classy blue and white scheme...   T Gibson via Burgess Collection via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

followed by N142ER, also photographed during 1972. The heck with your turbofan-powered 21st Century executive jet; I want one of THESE!   T Gibson via Burgess Collection via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

Kraft Metal Products had N256H on charge the following year, shown here torn down for maintenance. It wasn't particularly easy, nor was it inexpensive, to keep a twin-engined Air Force attack bomber in flying shape, but those who made the investment thought the expense well worth while.   T Gibson via Burgess Collection via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

N320 was another survivor on the books in 1973. The Invader was quite a step up from the other aircraft flying as executive transports during the early 70s, and several were damaged or lost in accidents. The A-26 was, and still is, a hot ship.   T Gibson via Burgess via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

It's not often that an airplane gets to star in a major Hollywood motion picture, but a few years back the Invader was center stage in the movie "Always", flown as a fire bomber. That movie role mimicked real life to a great degree since the A-26 has seen extensive service in that roll, even if the producers didn't understand quite how airplanes actually work. That said, here are a few examples to illustrate the type's service as a fire bomber:

B-26B/N9402Z, May, 1967, RA Burgess via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

B-26B 44-35552/N5544V, June 1972.   T Gibson via Burgess Collection via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

B-26C 44-35562/N7954C, February 1974.   T Gibson via Burgess Collection via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

B-26B 44-35497/N3426G, June, 1976.   BR Baker via Burgess Collection via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

And our last fire-bomber for the day, Lynch Air Tankers' B-26B, 44-34121/N4805E, sitting on the ramp during 1977.   K Buchanan via Burgess Collection via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

If my childhood hero "Sky King" had owned this "Bluebird" instead of his UC-78, there's no doubt the entire show would have been somewhat faster-paced and a whole lot classier to boot! 44-35562/N7079G was photographed on a civilian ramp in 1974 and was almost certainly the best looking airplane there! The Invader was, and is to this day, a darned good looking airplane!   T Gibson via Burgess Collection via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

This is the part where you get to humor me while I indulge in a passion for red airplanes! 44-34165/N9146H was a CalSpan-modded bird and was as pretty as they get (and as clean!) when she was photographed in March of 1977. She's a fitting bird with which to conclude today's essay on the civil Invaders!   D Ostrowski via Burgess Collection via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

Many thanks to Mark Nankivil for sharing these wonderful images from the RA Burgess collection with us!

Courage on the High Seas

Every once in a while we get a photograph that is remarkable for its depiction of courage and dedication. This is one such photo:

When I was a kid my dad would on occasion (very rare occasion) tell me about his experiences during the Second World War in the Pacific. One such experience involved a typhoon he rode out on a troop ship while en route to the Philippines. This shot may or may not be from that particular storm, but it shows us that the Japanese weren't the only enemy that had to be faced in a war that proved terrible for all who fought in it. These F6F-5s are identified as being aboard the USS Kwajalein and those guys from the V1 Division could provide us with a definition of guts. Check out those weather conditions and that sea state if you don't believe me; it's dangerous enough to dump an airplane over the side by hand when the ship is sitting in an anchorage in calm water. To attempt it in that sort of weather could define the courage of a generation. It had to be done. They did it. Think about that for a minute, because their sons and daughters, and their sons and daughters, are still out there, in all weathers and all conditions, bucking the odds so we can lead the lives we have. Call it courage. Call it devotion. Call it guts. I do believe some thanks are in order...   Rocker Collection

And while we're thanking people, Bobby Rocker has spent a lifetime collecting images of the American military, largely during the years of the Second World War. This incredible image is from his collection and says it all in a way simple words cannot convey. Thanks for sharing it, Bobby.

A Couple of Classy Shooting Stars

Back a few months ago, when I was hip-deep in building that Monogram F-80, Doug Barbier sent along a couple of photographs that I've been meaning to run but have never quite gotten around to. Today's the day I do it, folks, and I'm going to let Doug explain what's going on in the photos:

P-80A 44=85041, #5 (really an upside down "2") is shown at the 1949 Cleveland Air Races. That single digit unit code on the tail tells you it is from the HQ flight, even though it has the 61st squadron badge on the nose. A dummy practice bomb is hung on the wing tip - that was a weapons station too, not just for fuel. Nose, fuselage band, winged pilot's name stripe and tail stripe are red. Squadron badge has a medium blue background.   Barbier Collection

Fox Able 1 P-80A 44-95242 is from the 63rd FS and still has the red nose and fuselage band. There's a blue tail band and the tip tanks are red forward and blue aft - GLOSS - paint. Note that both the wing tips and horizontal stab tips are also painted. But what really shows here is the yaw stripe on the anti-glare panel on the nose. All T-birds and P-80s had a yaw string that was attached at the front end of the stripe - no need for an instrument on the panel when all you had to do was look out the front. Lots of big screws around the upper plenum doors on the fuselage and you can see the spring loaded "suck in" doors as well. At high power settings on the ground, the air intakes were not large enough to feed the engine, so they put spring loaded aux air doors on the upper side. Not exactly sure what the red dots on the upper main wings were, but note that the fuel tank fillers did not have the red circle at this time. You can also see where a tail number has been stripped off and a new one painted on the vertical fin. All of the squadron markings, etc, were hand painted and there were wide variations in sizing and colors. The 56th FG emblem was usually, but not always, carried on the right side of the nose. Ditto on the sizing of the flags which were painted on in Germany. Tiny little JATO hooks, no "bang" seat and a couple of funky VHF antennas right in front of the speed brakes were the order of the day.   Barbier Collection

All of the 56th FG Racers arrived in the Lockheed "pearl gray" but it weathered poorly and they had a work party one weekend and stripped all of the a/c down to bare metal and then repainted all of the markings. Back in the day, there was no EPA and all of the stripper, thinner and paint just went down the drains, which is why the base is an EPA 'hazmat' hazard and commercial developers want no part of it anymore...   

Thanks for sharing those images with us, Doug. Now, if we only had a modern, state of the art kit!

The Relief Tube

Not today, folks! Once again I've allowed myself to get to the point where it's time to stop writing and publish, and that's what we're going to do!

Be good to your neighbor, and we'll meet again soon!