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:
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:
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.
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.
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!
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!
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
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.
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!
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!
email@example.com and let us know a little more about her. It's the right thing to do! Marty Isham
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:
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:
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:
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!
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.
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.
Sunday, January 4, 2015
The Dog That Won't Lie Down, A White Cat, Stormy Weather, A Tropical Herc, One November Day, and Look at That Jug!
Waited All These Years
It's a cause and effect sort of thing, don't you know; one of those things that we do in life that we don't like or aren't particularly proud of that's there, right out in front for the whole world to see. One of those things that won't go away. One of those things that's embarrassing for everybody concerned.
On a personal level I've had quite a few of those moments. Some were highly public and full of drama, like the time I had that runaway horse in San Antonio's Fiesta night parade while representing Fort Martin Scott's reconstituted Second US Dragoons (an adventure not helped in any worthwhile fashion, and in point of fact instigated, by the University of Texas' marching band's drum line), while some were not. Today's reconstruction of another of the mis-steps of a sordid past isn't going to be one of those high profile adventures like that parade, but it's an embarrassing moment nonetheless, one not helped in any significant way by the passage of time.
Those of you with long memories, and perhaps a seniority on life similar to my own, may recall that Jim Wogstad and I did a couple of print monographs back when we were working together during the final days of Aerophile. That experience made me want to do a monograph of my own, outside the Aerophile name, and I got the chance after we finally decided to shut that project down for good. I'd been gathering photographs and information one one of my favorite airplanes, the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, for a number of years, and it seemed that the time had come to do something with all that material. I wasn't quite ready to do a full-fledged book, but a small monograph was well within my capabilities so off I went in search of a publisher.
Nowadays it seems as though there's a Publisher of Things Aeronautical on every corner, but back in the waning years of what I'm going to deem The Culture of Print there were only a few, at least in the United States. I approached one of the big ones, an outfit who'd made their reputation doing monographs, and told them that their current title concerning my favorite airplane was getting distinctly long in the tooth and needed replacing. They agreed with me and we came to terms. The die was cast.
To skip ahead a bit, the completed book sold well enough to be reprinted a couple of times, but I was never really happy with it. My original text was considerably abbreviated, which caused portions of the text to make little or no sense, and my photo captions were significantly edited. The book that was published wasn't the book I had written. I wasn't happy with it at all, and was embarrassed to have my name on it because I knew that my aviation-minded friends would all buy a copy of it and wonder what happened.
Over the course of years I'd told a few friends the story of that particular adventure, but I'd never gone out of my way to say anything about it publicly because there was an enormous extenuating circumstance surrounding the creation of that book; the project's editor, a friend of mine and someone I respected a great deal (and still do) was fighting a terminal disease and was attempting to get my book published before the final curtain came down on his life. He won that particular battle, as witnessed by the publication of my "Zipper" book, but he lost the war shortly after publication.
So why am I telling you this now? To make things brief, my Better Half brought me a recent internet review of that old title a couple of days ago, a commentary in which the writer had wondered out loud why the book could have been so bad when the original RIS, as well as this modest project, had been done to a somewhat better standard. Said Better Half was considerably annoyed that someone had the temerity to criticize "my" book, but the criticism made (and makes) perfect sense to me, because I agree with every word that was written in that review. As far as I know, that one review is the first time anybody's ever given my F-104 piece an accurate critique, and I'm delighted that the writer stood up and did it.
I'd decided long ago that I wasn't going to ever explain that project in public unless somebody slammed it in a truthful review, at which point I'd say something. Today's the day; the review is there, the comment has been made, and here's my take on the whole deal:
That book, as originally written, was far better than it turned out to be when it finally saw print, and I was disappointed in it when I first saw it (and for that matter still am). More significantly, though, a friend of mine, one who most assuredly had more important things to contend with than getting my monograph to press, devoted his efforts and ever-decreasing and precious time to make sure the thing got published. He was successful and, if I'm not mistaken, my book was the last one he edited and produced. I'm proud of that, thankful and flattered beyond words that he made the time to get me in print. My embarrassment's a small thing indeed when compared to what he did to help me.
Maybe someday I'll go back and do the F-104 book I'd meant to do way back then. Until that day comes, if it ever does, I'll live with what I did because I know how it came to be what it is. No; I'm not proud of that book, but I'm damn proud of the dedication that went into producing it. Now you know, and there's really only one more thing to be said---thanks, Nick!
You Can Get There From Here
"Here" being defined as the semi-old 1/48th scale Eduard P-39 of any iteration, and "there" being a completed model. That P-39 kit was a revelation when Eduard first released it; delicate, petite, and looking every inch an Airacobra when finished, at least mostly. The kit was, and no doubt about it, a significant improvement on the 1969-vintage Monogram kit that constituted The Only Game in Town up to that time, but the Eduard offering had flaws of its own that placed it squarely into the category of being a tough date.
To be specific, there were two major areas that posed a considerable problem to the dedicated scale modeler. First off was the thickness of the wing which, although it didn't really look too bad on a finished model, was in fact far thicker than anything Larry Bell had ever designed for one of his airplanes. The other issue was the fit of the canopy and windscreen to the fuselage because "fit" was a term that seemed not to apply to the model---placement of the canopy on a completed fus guaranteed a significant step between said fuselage and the canopy, which in turn ensured that you couldn't build the airplane with the separate cockpit doors in the closed position and have the result end up looking like a closed door on a P-39. A great many of the completed Eduard P-39s we've seen have featured those two problems to a greater or lesser extent, so it's an endemic sort of thing, albeit one related to the amount of attention paid by the modeler during construction. There are some other issues too, such as the shape of the vertical stab and rudder, but we're not going to address them today---get yourself a decent set of plans and a piece of sandpaper if that bothers you!
You can do something about the fit of that wing simply by sanding away some of it's thickness from the inside of the mating surfaces prior to assembly, but you've got to be careful if you do that because it has the potential to mess up the relationship between the wing center section and the nose gear well; a trade-off, if you will. That's why we tend to leave the wing thickness alone and not look at the completed model from head-on. Yes; it's a problem and it's a noticeable one too, but it's one that an old stager like us can live with.
That step in the canopy fit is another matter entirely. It makes the completed model, no matter how exquisitely finished, look like it was done by a rank newbie. We've got a Soviet P-39Q sitting on the shelf as this is written that exhibits the issue and we've seen many others as well, some of which have appeared in well-known scale modeling periodicals. It's common knowledge in our hobby that Eduard's canopy and doors don't fit on their P-39 kit in any of its iterations. Or do they?
We've often puzzled over why Eduard allowed that particular clanger to get itself into kit form. We could (and still can) understand the wing-thickness thing; the model was released very early into Eduard's rebirth as a manufacturer of world-class plastic kits and we suspect there may have been tooling limitations involved (read "money" here) that impacted the process. the canopy was another story since it simply didn't fit properly to the rest of the airplane.
Then it hit us---a literal scale-modeling epiphany! Lots of other Eduard kits have well-publicized fit issues too (their Fw190 and Bf109E families come to mind) but almost all of those could be addressed by actually following the instructions and doing a little bit of trial fitting prior to assembly. Could the same thing apply to that P-39 canopy? There was only one way to find out!
Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye
Many years ago a movie was released called The Longest Day. Contained within that movie was a small scene where an exhausted RAF Battle of Britain survivor played by Richard Burton uttered the classic line, "The trouble with being one of the few is that we keep getting fewer". That statement could be applied to any number of situations in life but it's truly only suited for one thing. It's a commentary on the loss of a friend. Today, in a somewhat belated report, it's our sad duty to comment on the loss of another of our number. It happened some six months ago and some, perhaps many, of you have already received the sad news. We found out last night in an e-mail from Rick Morgan and thought we should share.
A big smile and a warm handshake started it off for me, along with an invitation to go shoot the ramp at Randolph during an upcoming Armed Forces Day celebration. The shoot was a good one and a great way to kick off a budding career in aviation photography but it was far from uneventful, primarily because our new-found friend, a retired blue-suiter, had the temerity to tell a security policeman to go peddle his papers when said official asked to see our credentials (we were wandering the ramp unescorted at the time). That was the first time we saw him in action, but it was far from the last. He wasn't shy and he didn't suffer fools lightly; old non-coms are like that, you know.
We went over to his place after the shoot and met his family. It wasn't long before we felt like we were part of that family, and a pleasant evening looking at airplane slides put the icing on the cake, partially because our own collection consisted of about 50 slides at the time. When it was time to leave that first evening, we were handed a box full of duplicates and told to take what we wanted since we were just starting out in the profession. That was it, no questions asked; just take what you want.
That evening led to a great many trips together chasing airplanes, and the opportunity to shoot with someone who knew how to do it greatly improved our own photography. There was skill to be learned from him, as well as graciousness and humor. He was a fine companion, a man with the unbridled enthusiasm for life of someone half his age.
He suffered too, although few people got to see that side of him. He'd been one of the first Air Commandos to go to the Southeast Asia War Games and the experience had left its mark. That side would come out occasionally, usually prompted by substantial consumption of a good Scotch, but it never lasted for long. He was far too exuberant to let anything keep him down for long.
The time came when he moved away, and the distance meant we spoke less and saw each other even less than that, but he was still a friend and was as generous as he had ever been. Somewhere along the way he started a web site, publishing a picture a day of some sort of military airplane or warbird from his collection, sharing what he had with others for free. It says something about him that several of his friends chose to keep the site going after his passing.
It's never easy to lose a friend, and it's particularly tough when that friend was also a mentor. Finding out about his passing several months after the event did nothing to lessen the blow. Fair skies, Maddog, and may your new road be an easy one. Thanks, John Kerr, for all you did for us and for so many others. Let's raise a glass...
That Others May Live
I received a text message from Frank Emmett yesterday, a missive in which he explained a temporary absence from Things Friddellian as being an unfortunate side effect of building a Monogram PBY. On a personal level, that's one kit I've never been inclined to argue with (most of my projects end up being arguments, if anybody out there cares about such things), but Frank did it, which got me thinking about PBYs, OA-10s, and similar. I've run photos of plenty of PBYs in the past, with more to come at some point in life, but OA-10s have been somewhat scarce around these parts. That said, Frank's e-mail gave me reason to take a look in a file I'd recently received from Gerry Kersey. Here's what I found:
Riders On the Storm
The date was 21 May, 1983, and I was on the ramp at NAS Corpus Christi, photographing airplanes prior to the facility being opened to the public at 1000 hrs. The weather was beyond awful, with intermittent rain showers and solid clag; CAVU wasn't a term that applied that day. Still, the weather at Corpus wasn't as bad as it could have been; North Texas was under a severe thunderstorm alert and the prognosis for San Antonio, the city I'd recently departed on this particular adventure, wasn't much better. It was, in short, a lousy weather day.
In spite of all that the show ramp filled up to the brim with spectators the second the gates were opened to the multitudes, many of whom were dragging along lawn chairs, coolers, and small children, all in anticipation of a promised display by the Blue Angels later in the day. A great many of those spectators had just settled in when the sound came, that howling thunder that was once the hallmark of the McDonnell Douglas F-4. It wasn't the sound of one Phantom either, but of several, a cacophony that was soon augmented by the sight of four SEA-camo'd F-4Ds overflying the field, looking for a place to light.
That flight of F-4s wasted no time getting down; a quick inquiry of my escort (who was carrying a brick and was therefore in communication with both the tower and the folks at transient alert) identified the newcomers as a flight of F-4Ds from Carswell's 704th TFS/924th TFG caught out in the miserable weather and diverted to Corpus while severe storms passed through the DFW area. That wasn't the amazing part, though. No; the Amazing Part was reserved for what happened after their arrival, when they were directed to taxi through the perimeter of the crowd and parked in a largish slot in the display line, thus providing Grandma, Grandpa, and the previously-mentioned small children with a whole new element of airshow entertainment and personal participation! It was, for a brief period of time, a sight to behold, but at the end of it all no children or lawn chairs were ingested into the maws of hungry turbojet powerplants and all was well. The birds had landed and parked safely.
That whole sideshow started while I was in a hangar and ended before I could get into camera range, so no photographs of their arrival mayhem were taken by me, but I was able to do some shooting as they cranked and departed a couple of hours later. Here are a few shots from that afternoon for your enjoyment and/or amazement:
Yep, it was quite a day, the 21st of May, 1983. What must have started out as a wasted sortie for the 704th turned into quite a public relations event, with the taxpayers present on the ramp that morning getting a fine look at what they were paying for. It all happened 32 years ago this Spring and I'm still pumped by what I got to see during the course of that day! There are worse ways to make a living!
You Just Never Know
Once upon a time, about a million years ago, your editor had limited ramp privileges at Kelly Air Force Base. The aircraft you're about to view was a bird that was shot there during the late 1970s, an L100-30 (the stretched civilian version of the Hercules) of 31 Squadron, Indonesian Air Force.
Many thanks to the guys at Ventura Manufacturing and the transient crew at Kelly for letting me photograph this gorgeous airplane so many years ago!
It Looks So Peaceful
It's a new year now, 2015 to be exact, which means that last month those of us who are both aviation and historically-minded took a few moments to reflect on the Japanese attack on the American naval and army installations at and around Pearl Harbor. It was a simpler time, although that would soon change, but the United States was still at peace in November of 1941.
A Famous T-Bolt
A while back we ran a shot of John Wayne sitting in Neel Kearby's P-47D-4, "Fiery Ginger IV", while The Boss, Col. Kearby himself, looked on. That photograph, plus the recent (for us, anyway!) release of one of Nor Graser's excellent Thundercal decal sheets that included the aircraft as a subject, ensured that we wanted to build one. We had a Tamiya "razorback" kit laying around, along with a set of Loon Models early P-47 cowl flaps, and an Eduard Zoom set for the interior, all sitting on the shelf just waiting to be built into an airplane. Those Thundercals provided the catalyst and the die was cast!
Before we go, let's discuss a couple of notes on the way the model was finished. Most OD over Neutral Grey AAF aircraft serving in the SWPAC were beat to snot from the sun and elements, and their finish showed it. We didn't paint "Fiery Ginger" that way because Kearby was both the 348th's group commander and a recent Medal of Honor winner and we're guessing that she was fairly clean when the photo was taken of her showing all 22 of his kills. Also, check out the "white" on the model's vertical tail; it illustrates the way all of the white looks on the finished product, including those shiny leading edges. That brilliant white on the wings is neither white nor brilliant on the model itself, but the lighting makes it look that way. There's a lesson there, I think.
One final thing before we go: Check out the star design on the aircraft's wheel covers. At least a couple of Kearby's Thunderbolts carried it, and a great many of the 348th's "Jugs" had some sort of personal decoration down there. It's something to watch for if you decide to build an airplane from that particular group, and Nor thoughtfully included the marking on his decal sheet---Thundercals is a Class Act, ya'll!
Many thanks to Nor Graser for the Thundercal samples and, more importantly, for producing his exceptionally high-quality line of 1/48th scale Pacific theater P-47 decals. Now then; would anybody care to make some 77th Sentai markings for the FineMolds Ki-43-II?
Under the Radar
Nowadays we're it seems as though we're choked with reference publications, but it wasn't always so. Way back in the dark ages of plastic scale modeling, serious reference works were few and far between, and often difficult to obtain when they did exist. All of that changed forever back in the mid-60s, with the advent of a modest series of references that ended up filling the gap for an entire generation of scale modelers and enthusiasts.
In point of fact, the Profile series helped to define an entire generation of scale modelers, and the importance of those modest publications to our hobby cannot be overstated. No, they're not impressive to look at now, but they quite literally set the stage for everything that followed. They were truly a landmark in the world of scale modeling, and we're continually amazed at everything they did for the hobby back when the series was in its prime. They're still worth picking up, and are usually not very expensive when they can be found for sale. You probably won't be able to get away with paying fifty cents for one anymore, but you ought to have at least one of their titles in your collection. They're that important to our hobby.
It's been a while, so here's a really tasty air-to-air for you courtesy of Rick Morgan, shot back during his days with Air Wing 14.
The Relief Tube
It's been so long since we've run a Relief Tube that some of our newer readers may not be aware that we do it. We've got some entries that are long-overdue for publication, however, so it's time to crank it up again!
First up are a couple of comments regarding that VAQ-33 EF-4J who's portrait we published a few issues back. We'd mentioned the airplane was pretty much an ordinary F-4J, but we were wrong! Let the games begin, first from noted aviation photographer and Phormer Phantom (and Tomcat) driver Jan Jacobs:
Phil, the VAQ-33 EF-4J wasn't really a "run-of-the-mill F-4J" It was in the first batch of F-4Js made, and served as Blue Angel #6 for a while. Along with the others in its block, it had J79-GE-8 engines installed with the short burner cans, instead of the usual -10 engines with the longer cans. It never had a radar set installed, hence its use by VAQ-33 as a missile simulator. Jan Jacobs (Retired managing editor, The Hook magazine, former editor of Smoke Trails, and former Phantom and Tomcat puke) Thanks, Jan!
And then from Rick Morgan, who took the photo in question and was assigned to VAQ-33 at the time:
Phil: Concerning GD11, the EF-4J you posted, as usual, there’s more to the story. VAQ-33 had at least five Phantoms at various times although never more than three were on-board at any one time. The first three were F-4Bs, one of which (GD9, 153070) was formally re-designated EF-4B. The two J-models weren't exactly standard as they were from early lots before the J got the ‘big’ motor; note the F-4B style afterburner can on her. GD10 (153076) and 11 (153084) were both redesignated EF-4J and are the only two I know of to get that title officially. GD11 was also a former Blue Angel as well; They carried a threat simulator in the nose in lieu of the normal AI radar and were used for very high speed anti-ship missile presentations. Both were retired in 1980 due to high flight hour costs and, according to more than one source, because the CO really didn’t like fighters (I’m not making this up!). Among the F-4 pilots we had was the legendary LCDR Joe “Hoser” Satrapa who was but one character in a squadron full of them. Rick
And while we're discussing the F-4, here's former USAF and ANG Phantom Driver Doug Barbier's comments regarding that out-of-shape missed approach 149th bird who's photo we ran an issue or so back:
Phil, betcha that 149th F-4 sideways on the go-around was the result of the back seater trying to land the airplane. Several of our high time WSOs could do formation takeoffs and landings very proficiently. Landing from the back seat of an F-4 was challenging, to say the least, esp if the airplane had the RHAW gear installed - that blocked up one of the two small "holes" you could look through to see out the front. You hoped for a crosswind so that you could look out the side instead of seeing nothing but the back side of the front ejection seat. If there wasn't a crosswind, you were sorely tempted to fly sideways down final anyway, just so that you could see something---like concrete... If you had to go straight at it, you could not see the runway until you were about 10 feet in the air. You had a couple of seconds to use your peripheral vision to check that you had runway on both sides of you. If not, you had a very short period of time to get both throttles fire-walled and get it headed skywards again! Doug
Thanks to all those military aviators out there who write in to keep us honest. It's an education each time/every time and we really appreciate it!
We've been pretty remiss in publishing anything of late, and as a result several of our newer readers have contacted us regarding certain of our older issues. This comment is in regard to the FJ-4B as fitted to carry the Mk 7 Special Weapon and comes from reader Dennis Brown:
My research shows that the lack of guns and the odd ports on the port side were done when carrying nuclear bombs. The gun bay was used to carry a standby generator that was used for the low altitude bombing system (LABS). The LABS replaced the normal gun sight. I've included your photo and an excerpt from an article about the FJ-4B I've come across, as well as the web address of the article for your confirmation (not run in this issue, Ed). Sincerely Dennis Brown
P.S.- I sincerely hope this helps someone that may choose to recreate this in a scale model.
Thanks, Dennis. As it happens, we did run a correction in a later edition, but your comments are very much appreciated---keep 'em coming!
Most of the time we hear from Pat Donahue regarding the superb models he builds, but the photo of that Grumman Goose we ran a few issues back prompted him to show us a whole new side of things:
Phil, I always enjoy your blog; here are a couple of Goose mods that have occurred over the long history of the machine. The first is a 4 engine job that was built by McKinnon the second is a G-21G that had the 2 P and W R-985 450 HP engines replaced by 2 P and W PT-6-27 715 HP, McKinnon also did this conversion. As you can see the lines of the old girl were dramatically changed! I flew this Goose for a number of years and it had quite good performance, and preformed quite well on one engine, McKinnon also upped the take off weight to 12,500 #. Pat Donahue
Finally, it's been a while since this blog has been published. It's all my fault for letting Life get in the way of a highly erratic publishing schedule, but that sort of thing happens when you're a one-man show! This letter from one of our readers in Greece sums the whole thing up, and illustrates why I continue this project---I firmly believe I've got the best readers in the world. Thanks to each and every one of you!
Dear Phillip, It has been almost 3 months that I've been reading your blog with great interest. Very good information (a Pandora's box!) and lots of fun (I love the way you're writing) I've been reading your posts from 2010 and getting towards 2014-I'm at 2011 now- checking occasionally for the newest posts. I noticed that your latest post was on October 17th 2014. Is everything OK? I hope you and your family are all right. I wish to all of you good health, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Looking forward for a new post from you. Keep up the good work and May The Force Be With You. Best wishes, Elias Trapezanlides
And thanks to you, Elias, for both your concern and for your loyalty to the project! I'll try to do better in 2015!
That's about it for today, folks. I've got a few more entries for the relief tube including a set of photos from Norm that I'd like to share with you, but that's for another day. Until that time, be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon!