Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Movie You Ought to See, Adventures With Claude, Pre-War in the North Country, A Gift From a Friend, Huns From the Show Me State, and The Way It Is

Is It a Model or a Replica?

That's a pretty silly question on the face of things, but I recently had the pleasure of listening to another modeler discussing, at a considerable length, substantial volume, and replete with profane expression, all the reasons none of us should be pre or post-shading our models. The performance was on the high side of entertainment and the low side of profundity but it was, at the end of the day, an honest opinion that had more than a little merit to it, albeit with reservations.

The basics are pretty, well; basic! We're taking kits of one medium or another (it ain't just polystyrene anymore!) and assembling them in a manner that results in a scale model that is, we hope, an accurate rendition of The Real Thing. Most of us work pretty hard at it too, because we want our finished model to present itself as a reduced scale version of that afore-mentioned Real Thing. That's the game, that's the goal, and that's what we're all about as modelers. We want realism and accuracy, and we want an attractive model that everyone will ooh and ah over when they see it.

There's a catch, though: Simply building a model usually won't get us to that desired ooh and ah stage very often, so we all learn pretty early in the game to throw in a few bells and whistles to enhance the appearance of things as we build and paint. We enhance detail and accuracy through scratch-building or the use of resin and photo-etched aftermarket components, and we spend a fortune on decals and masks for markings so our latest creation can be a model unique to us in addition to being of a quality worthy of inclusion in any museum's collection. And we buy paint.

Not just any paint, either, but scale paint, with super-fine pigment for a scale appearance on our creations and carefully blended so we've got the exact, very same color that was used on The Real Thing. We want, no; we demand, scale accuracy in our paint. It has to be accurate, and it has to be right! Yep; it has to be both of those things, but that's where it all goes south, a sad truth once we decide to start messing around with color shade, tonal values, and so on. Shading is part of that painting thing too, and it significantly impacts the way the finished model looks regardless of how accurate the colors may have been while still in their bottle,so what about pre and post-shading? Are the techniques useful to us at all? Should we use them all the time, some of the time, or never? Like so many things in our hobby, that depends.

Real airplanes (and that's what we're going to talk about, but you AFV and ship guys can listen in too, if you'd like) are not pre-shaded, nor are they post-shaded. They're painted, period, initially by a factory someplace and subsequently by someone's corrosion control facility or maybe some junior enlisted person on a ramp or in a hangar deck. That paint also gets touched up in-between times if it gets scabby enough to need it and the next visit to an overhaul facility or NARF is far enough away.

In The Old Days we didn't worry very much about that sort of thing. We built the models, we painted them, and the more adventurous of us scribed in panel lines and filled them with with India ink or similar. Tonal variation weren't in anybody's play book until late in the 1970s, give or take, when people began to shade things, and the technique was new, exciting, and perceived to be more than a little bit difficult to accomplish, even though it really wasn't. One thing logically followed another, which eventually took us to the shading we all know and love (or hate) so well today and that, in turn, took us to The Problem and the reason for that guy's rant against such things, because real airplanes almost never look like they've been pre or post-shaded. They look dirty sometimes, especially if they happen to be naval aircraft or are aircraft actively involved in a conflict and therefore having little opportunity for proper paint maintenance, but they never ever ever look like somebody painted all the panel lines with black paint and then lightly misted an appropriate color coat on top of that. They don't. It doesn't work that way for the most part and real airplanes almost never look that way, even though we'll grudgingly admit there are exceptions sometimes.

There are a couple of things I think bear mentioning here. The first thing is that I personally don't think there's anything wrong with shading as long as it's done in moderation. Your eye is a good test of that: If the first thing people notice when they view your model is the way it's been shaded, then you've probably overdone it a bit. Your paintwork should be part of your model. It should never come across that it IS the model. That's one thing.

The other thing, and our point today, is intent. Are you building a replica of the real thing, and doing it as accurately as you can possibly can, or are you building a model? At first read that sounds contradictory, I know, but it really isn't. If your intent is to create a replica of something, your goal should be to re-create that thing in miniature, and it should ultimately look like the real thing you're replicating, just a little smaller. That approach will usually negate the need for excessive shading of any kind---if you can't see it on a photograph of the real thing, then you probably shouldn't see it on your model, either. If, on the other hand, your intention is to produce an attractive scale model that's got a lot of eye appeal, then light or even moderately heavy shading can very definitely be your friend. In many ways it's the difference between a real bird and a piece of Hummel pottery of that same bird, if you catch my drift. Look on it as real life versus art.

Ours is a highly subjective hobby that is based largely on illusion. We're working with things that are tiny when compared with the Real Thing, and we're trying our best to make those tiny things look like they were once big but were somehow shrunk down. Our completed edifices can look awfully plain and even quite lifeless if we don't do anything more than assemble and paint them, no matter how well done they may be, but they can also appear as more than a little comical if we overdo things in the spray booth. Moderation is a usually a very good thing in this case, no matter whether you build replicas or models, but there's another factor to consider as well---who are you building for? At the end of the day it's your handiwork that's on display, and if you're pleased with what you've done then nothing else really matters and that guy we mentioned up there at the top can rant all he wants. Then again, less really can be more. It's all in the eye of the beholder.

Decisions, decisions...

A Neat Movie

There's just no end to the magic you can find on YouTube. We were whiling away some time a couple of days ago looking at airplanes there and discovered this little jewel on The Silver Air Force doing weapons delivery in 1964. It's 22+ minutes of Tactical Air Command goodness you almost can't afford to miss, and even includes footage of an F-105D accidentally bagging both itself and its F-100F chase plane in a low-level weapons delivery sequence gone horribly wrong. (Everyone got out safely so it's humorous rather than tragic!) Enjoy!

Hey Claude, What Took You So Long?

Mitsubishi's A5M family of fighters, known to the west (and the modeling fraternity at large) by it's WW2 SWPAC identification moniker of "Claude", has been one of those seminal airplanes for which we never really had a decent kit in any scale---for years, the Nichimo offering of a 1/70th scale A5M-something-or-other was it as far as available polystyrene was concerned. Things started getting better around the turn of the last century (and Boy; does it sound funny saying that!) when we got decent kits in 1/72nd and 1/48th scales, with a 1/32nd scale offering showing up from Special Hobby four or five years ago. While it's true that none of those kits were anything that would qualify as kit of anybody's year, they were all decent starting places, even though the primo 1/48th scale offering, from FineMolds, wasn't quite as good as it could have been (it was one of their earlier efforts) and was also of a lesser-known variant.

Time moved on, as it usually does, and that very same FineMolds saw fit to give us not one but two new A5M kits late last year, one of the more obscure variants, the A5M2b, and another of the classic A5M4. (There's yet another new kit available in 1/48th as well, from a company called Wingsy, but that one is even more expensive than the astronomically priced FineMolds kits and we're not going to go rattling off on the tangent of distributor greed today.)

Anyway, those FineMolds kits both looked as though they'd be extremely easy to get together, creating an itch that desperately needed to be scratched. One thing led to another, with the result you see before you today.

It's possible to make an argument for taking pictures all along the way when doing a project, and a lot of people do that very thing. I usually think about doing it after it's too far along to matter, but I actually did manage to take a few in-work photos of the Claude---Yay, Phillip--- and I think this shot is of value because it shows how to handle that red tail without creating any unnecessary grief. Everything on the kit fit so well that no putty was required, and there are minimal gaps between the horizontal stabs and the fuselage, which in turn allowed me to mask the tail demarcation and paint the appropriate area red before painting anything else. After that was thoroughly dry, I masked the red and applied ModelMaster non-buffing Aluminum from their Metalizer line of paints. Yes; it's an extremely fragile finish if you aren't careful, and a lot of people don't like it. I happen to like it quite a bit, but that's just me; the point to be made here is the way the masking was done, because it worked like a champ!

We're a little bit further along in this shot, and almost all the stickies have been applied---they're from the kit, and work as well as any water-slide decal I've ever used. The kit offers a low parts count, which is fine from my point of view because almost everything is so well done, but you should know that there are no lap belts included. I happen to think they should be in the kit, particularly since it's US retail is so expensive, but nobody at FineMolds bothered to ask me about it before they released the kit so there you go! One more thing: The sharp-eyed among you will notice a bit of a seam where the port wing meets the fuselage. That was fixed by running a bead of white glue down there and wiping off the excess. No sweat, GI!

Here's where you get to remember your modeling skills from those halcyon days of yesteryear, or maybe learn how the old guys did it back before there was aftermarket. It's entirely possible that someone makes a canopy mask for this kit but no such thing was available when my model was in work, thus creating the need for a little bit of Old School. That's a roll of Tamiya masking tape in front of the model, and a genuine Made In USA/Cut Your Fingers Off If You Aren't Careful Because It's So Stinking Sharp #11 blade in my knife handle. All you have to do is put the tape on the canopy, burnish it down with something or other (I always use a round toothpick), and carefully cut the frame outlines away, which is why you want to have a really sharp blade (just in case you're new to all this and trying to figure things out for the first time). The canopy frames are well-defined on this kit, which simplifies things considerably.

And this is what you'll end up with if you're careful. You can sort-of see the pitot tube in this shot, and you'll notice it's a bit on the clunky side and really doesn't go with the rest of the kit. Everything else is just finer than frog's hair, though, and the kit is a quick builder too; about six hours from the time I opened the box until the completed model went on the shelf.

Here's a final view of the project. Those aileron actuators could have benefited from a little finesse but I didn't do that. I can live with the way it looks, but it would be an extremely simple matter enhance things if you wanted to. Banzai, ya'll!

Some Old-Timers From Way Up Yonder

We were looking through past issues of this project the other day and discovered that it's been quite a while since we've run anything from Doug Barbier's collection. You may not be aware of it but that constitutes a very bad thing for you, because he's got so much neat photography tucked away in his files. At any rate, a quick phone call to Michigan's frozen Upper Peninsula resulted in the images you're about to view, all unique and all very much worth the wait!

There are airplanes and then there are airplanes, but the Snow Owl-marked P-6Es of Selfridge's 17th PS pretty much sum up the pre-War AAC for a lot of people, and this example is a prime reason why. OD with yellow wings and tail, and lots of black and white squadron markings make those airplanes pretty beyond belief even when they're not all tarted up for the National Air Races with talons on the wheel spats. We're guessing this to be a squadron commander's airplane and it just couldn't be any prettier!   Merl Olmstead via Doug Barbier

Here's what they look like when they've been in service for a while! Everything is faded down on this bird, but she's still proudly wearing that Snow Owl on her fuselage band. This shot, and the one immediately above, provide good definition of the demarcation for the maroon anti-glare paint applied to the back side of the P-6E's prop and also shows the later, open-faced, wheel spats to good advantage. The last of the biplane AAC Hawks kept her good looks until the end.   Merl Olmstead via Doug Barbier

And finally, a P-6E from the 94th PS. She's another OD and yellow bird, and those fuselage markings, both the turtle-deck diamond and the command stripe, are red trimmed with yellow if memory serves. The P-6E was somewhat of a failure as a pursuit ship, not particularly fast and nowhere near to as maneuverable as the rival Boeing P-12E, but nobody could top it for looks and, in so many ways, it defined an era. There never were that many of them in the first place and only one original survives today, residing in what used to be the AFM at Dayton. Long ago and far away...   MAGHA via Doug Barbier

Selfridge was a unique installation in terms of the aircraft that showed up there pre-War, as illustrated by this YP-38 in flight over Detroit in 1940. The Lightning must have seemed like something out of a Buck Rogers movie in comparison to the generation of pursuits immediately preceding it---the type's looks were like nothing else flying anywhere in the world, and its performance was simply incredible for the time. The design had a long way to go before it could contest an aerial combat and come out the winner, but all the components were already there in concept if not quite yet in reality.  MAGHA via Doug Barbier

Lockheed's P-38 Lightning  was one of the Second World War's most definitive fighters and its performance was considered little short of amazing even in the earliest variants, but it didn't really become combat-worthy until the advent of the early-war F model. This aircraft is an immediate predecessor, a P-38D from the 1st Pursuit seen on the ground at Beaumont, Texas, during the Louisiana War Maneuvers of 1941. The P-38 was arguably more dangerous to its own pilot than it was to any perceived enemy at this point, but that would change soon enough.   Madison via Doug Barbier

Also present at Beaumont were these early 31st PG P-39D Airacobras. These examples are somewhat the worse for wear and are prime candidates for modeling, from their natural metal propellers right back to the tips of their relatively unweathered empennage. Aircraft number 83 in the foreground is of particular interest---her weathering pattern is so unusual as to virtually guarantee criticism if duplicated on a scale model. A challenge, as it were...   Madison via Doug Barbier

Back home in the Frozen North! This 31st Pursuit lineup at Selfridge shows how simple changes impact the appearance of an airplane. Most operational P-39s from the D-model forwards displayed dark green paint on their landing gear (to include wheels), with silver-painted or natural metal struts being almost entirely unknown, yet this lineup up P-39Cs all display that anomaly---the need for corrosion control of those components apparently came somewhat later in the production cycle. Props are, once again, silver on their faces (but quite likely flat black or even maroon on their back-sides). Those are the sort of things that make this era of American air power so fascinating to us, yet so relatively unknown to most enthusiasts.   Madison via Doug Barbier

The 31st PG did quite a bit of materiel test work for the AAC, and was an early operator of the P-40 in consequence. Aircraft #61 is pretty plain overall, but that diagonal stripe on her aft fuselage provides an interesting contrast to the dull olive drab uppers. The prop blades are in silver, both front and back, and the airplane carries an early gun camera mounted just forward of the windscreen. Those features, plus the unpainted aluminum wheel covers, take this airplane a step beyond the norm and make it an excellent choice for a model.   MAGHA via Doug Barbier

Let's end this photo essay with another bird from the 31st, this time in flight over Detroit. The command stripes are a nice touch, as is the two-toned propeller spinner. We're a little confused by the apparent lack of red stripes on the rudder, although it appears to be slightly deflected and we may just be seeing an illusion caused by the angle of the light striking that surface. Finally, it should be noted that the paint on both this aircraft and on 61 above is dead flat; we would have expected more of a semi-gloss finish but that's not the case in either photo. The devil's in the details!   MAGHA via Doug Barbier

An Unexpected Surprise

Way back when, a very long time ago before the internet was even a dream, there were slide collectors. We were numbered among them, and our acquisition of images came in one of three different flavors: We either took them ourselves, we traded for them with other collector/photographers, or we purchased them from one of the several collectors who made their images available to the rest of us for a small fee. One the the guys who fell into the latter category was Ron Picciani. His collection of 1950s and 60s US military aviation was, and we presume still is, unrivaled, and a great many of us have a fair amount of his photography still nestled away in our collections. So many of us have obtained his photos, in fact, that it's now fairly common for them to show up without attribution on the internet. We've inadvertantly fallen into that trap ourselves a couple of times, and Ron has been kind enough to point it out to us when it's happened so we could correct things.

A couple of weeks ago, Ron dropped us an e-mail and mentioned that he'd found two of his P-47 images on our pages, incorrectly attributed to the late Dave Menard's collection. We're more than a little bit sensitive to that sort of thing around here, so the corrections were made immediately---Ron responded with his thanks, and with a little surprise we'd like to share with you today:

Most of our readership is probably aware that the Lockheed F-94B variation of the Starfire could carry .50 caliber Browning M3 machine guns mounted in pods attached to the leading edge of each wing, two guns per pod.  Conventional wisdom tells us that the installation was relatively short-lived and largely developmental in nature, but this photo proves that at least one aircraft, an F-94A-5-LO from Pennsylvania's 103rd FIS was equipped with them in active service. The Silver Air Force was, and we suspect always will be, a gold mine of unique and interesting aircraft that will keep historians and enthusiasts busy for many years to come!   Ron Picciani

Many thanks to Ron for correcting our original error in attribution, and for providing us with this gorgeous image!

Some MO ANG Huns

In our last issue we ran some civilian P-2 Neptune images from Mark Nankivil's collection for your edification and enjoyment. This time around we'd like to share a few of his F-100 Super Sabre photos, all from the Missouri ANG's 110th TFS/131st TFW.

The 110th has been around for quite a while, and flew P-39s, P-40s, and P-51s in the Pacific during The Big One. They converted to the Jet Age with F-80Cs during 1957, almost immediately afterwards making the transition to the F-84F. They subsequently kept the Thunderstreak in their inventory until the Fall of 1962, deploying to Europe with them during 1961's Berlin Crisis, and then transitioned to the F-100, a type they flew from 1962 until 1978. Sixteen years is a long time to fly any sort of jet fighter, but the 110th's "Huns" only operated the type with two paint schemes during that period. Let's take a look:

Let's begin with a fine air-to-air study of 54-1773, an F-100C-5-NA in the air somewhere over Missouri. The F-100 fleet was well into the transition to silver paint rather than its earlier natural metal treatment, and only the aft fuselage around the engine's hot section is in natural, albeit substantially discolored, finish. A great many ANG D-model "Huns" ended up with F-102 afterburners fitted, but Missouri's Charlie-models kept the original North American AB design; the 102 mod applied only to their Ds. The practice bomb fitment to 1773's outboard pylons is noteworthy; there are two 25# practice bombs mounted per pylon. The F-100's low "sit" in relation to the ground for the most part precluded its use of multiple ejector racks then or later, during the VietNam fracas, which constituted a distinct liability for an airplane who's primary use had evolved into that of a fighter-bomber. Then again, nobody at North American was thinking about the type lugging around a lot of bombs when they were designing the Super Sabre as a day fighter!   Nankivil Collection

The 110th did  operate natural metal F-100Cs for a brief period of time, however, as illustrated by this photo of 53-1742, an F-100C-1-NA, on the ramp at Lambert Field early in the game. Natural metal makes for a beautiful airplane if the finish can be maintained, but that sort of thing can be difficult as best in an operational military environment. Practicality superseded Pretty as far as the Department of the  Air Force was concerned, and those beautiful silver "Huns" went away fairly quickly.   Nankivil Collection

Then again, you don't really need natural metal to have a pretty airplane! This Charlie-model was photographed just prior to touchdown wearing the 110th's classic red and white trim---this particular color scheme was only in use for a short period of time, but it sure was pretty! The C was the first F-100 variant that was actually combat-worthy and was, in many respects, the hot-rod of the family, but it was limited as a fighter-bomber, a role towards which the type was increasingly being pointed. Note the lack of underwing pylons or refueling probe and the addition of the arresting hook just forward of the tail bumper. This photo coincidentally provides us with an excellent view of the antenna for the aircraft's AN/APG-30 gun-ranging radar mounted inside the intake lip.   Nankivil Collection

We really enjoy good tanker shots, and this is one of the best we've seen in quite a while! In this breathtaking photo 54-1891, an F-100C-20-NA, is riding the drogue basket on KC-97F-55-BO 51-0263 as it refuels somewhere over Missouri. Early TAC and TAC-gained ANG air refueling operations could provide the literal a thrill a minute as relatively high-performance fighters passed gas from slow-moving reciprocating-engined tankers---even the eventual supplementation of the tanker's available power with podded jet engines were of little help in that regard. Note the distinct nose-down attitude of the KC-97 in relation to that "Hun" as they both slide downhill during the refuelling process, an evolution required to ensure that the fighter didn't fall off the tanker as its weight increased with the fuel being taken aboard. 1891 was somewhat famous in the F-100 community, having passed a stint with the "Skyblazers" aerial demonstration team before being subsequently passed on to the Turkish Air Force.   Nankivil Collection

Variations on a theme! The 110th kept their C-models long enough to transition them into the Air Force's SEA camouflage scheme. This 3-ship is on its way to the bombing range and includes 54-1948 in camouflage, and 53-1753 and 54-1772 still in silver paint. Those pretty red and white markings are gone, but there's no doubt who's operating the airplanes---one look at the vertical stabilizers gives the game away! 1948 was a C-20-NA that transferred to the Turkish Air Force, while 1772 was a C-5-NA then ended her days at MASDC and 53-1753 was an F-100C-1-NA that also ended up at the MASDC storage facility. Note the bent refueling probes on these aircraft; it's entirely possible and even probable that the 110th's "Huns" operated with the earlier straight probe at some point in their career, yet all of the photographs we've seen to date show them carrying the later, bent probe. Comments, backed by photographic evidence, are encouraged!   Nankivil Collection

A somewhat later photograph of a Charlie-model "Hun" coming up on the tanker. The C-model's lack of wing fences and flaps really show up here, as does the relatively diminutive size of the bird. You could never call the F-100 a tiny airplane, but it wasn't very large either. The lack of outboard pylons is noteworthy, as is the aircraft's relative proximity to the tanker.   Nankivil Collection

Of course, you can always get a little bit closer! Air National Guard units tended to be populated by high-time pilots who knew their business, since most of them joined the Guard because of a love of flying in the first place. It would be a mistake of considerable proportion to think that a pilot was somehow inferior because he or she was "only" in the Guard! Check out the staining on the fuselage of this airplane before we go---that's staining you're seeing, not smudging, which might cause the modelers in our readership to go back up there to re-read that essay on pre and post-shading. Maybe...   Nankivil Collection

The 110th eventually transitioned to the D-model, but this shot puzzles us a bit. We'd originally intended to use 54-1794 to illustrate one of the unit's early Ds, but a quick check of the serial number indicates that she was built as an F-100C-5-NA, even though that vertical stab is definitely the tail of a D-model! We suppose that the later vertical tail assembly could be fitted to the C's airframe, but we're at a complete loss as to why anyone would do that and strongly suspect there's more to the story than we're seeing! Drop us a line at replicainscaleatyahoodotcom (using the correct e-mail format, of course) and let us know if you've got the answer!   Nankivil Collection

This is a little closer to what we'd expect to see! 53-0610, an F-100D-25-NA, ended her life as a QF-100D but was very much alive and kicking in ANG service when this photo was taken. The photo is interesting in that it illustrates not only the evolution of the 110th's unit presentation on the vertical stab (coupled with a largish ANG badge on the fuselage) and a very worn paint job, but also provides us with an excellent view of the F-102A afterburner that was retrofitted to a great many of the Guard's "Huns". It was a substantial improvement both in terms of reliability and performance but was only found on F-100Ds and Fs assigned to the ANG. The mod was never made to aircraft in the regular inventory.   Nankivil Collection

On the ramp at Lambert Field. This photo gives us a good view of one of the 110th's "Huns" (55-3672, an F-100D-25-NA) at rest. The horizontal stabilator droop appears extreme but is not at all unusual for the F-100 once power's off the airplane, and all the gear doors are hanging as you would expect. The slats on this bird, on the other hand, are up. The afterburner, donated from an F-102A, is covered but this view shows us how much shorter it was, overall, than the standard unit found on regular Air Force F-100s. 3672 is yet another proud bird that ended her days as a QF-100D.   Nankivil Collection

Second verse, almost the same as the first---the other side of 3672! We're running this photo primarily to illustrate how faded that SEA camo could become over a relatively short period of time. The demarcation between colors is on the soft side too, not at all atypical of that paint scheme. Note that the airplane is clean, carrying no pylons of any sort. Modelers who want to build a Vietnam-era "Hun" at rest would do well to note the OD-colored covers for the pitot boom and afterburner as well; we're pretty sure those covers, or at least their color, evolved from the unpleasantness in Southeast Asia. The devil's in the details!   Nankivil Collection

At the wash rack, which in this case is a section of ramp adjacent to a water source coupled to a garden hose. You don't see this operation very often if you aren't actually involved in the day-to-day maintenance of military airplanes but they do need to be cleaned from time to time, which presents the modeler looking for diorama possibilities that are a little bit out of the ordinary another opportunity to do something unique. 55-3684 was yet another D-25-NA and ended up being pulled out of storage at MASDC for conversion to QF-100D standard. Mizzou's "Huns" served right to the end!   Nankivil Collection

Here's what a clean-configured F-100 looks like from the front! The slats are drooped and everything's hanging, all in all the way we've come to expect the airplane to look on the ground. Those blast stains around her gun ports tell us she's recently been to the range and it would appear that she's being cycled for another trip there, judging from the placement of the fire bottle and her raised canopy. The airplane is 55-3811, born as an F-100D-30-NA and died converted to a QF-100D.   Nankivil Collection

A section of D-models getting ready to launch for a trip to the bombing range! This image is of interest because both aircraft illustrated are equipped with the "normal" North American afterburner; most of the "Huns" assigned to the 110th were retrofitted with cans from the F-102A fairly early in the game. 2794 was late in the program as far as the 110th was concerned, an F-100D-45-NA was somewhat unusual in a unit populated by airframes from earlier block numbers. This one ended up at MASDC and was eventually scrapped out.   Nankivil Collection

A whole lot of Nasty in one small place! This shot helps define the F-100's role during the 1970s; her days as a first-line tactical fighter and special weapons delivery system were rapidly fading into the past but she was still more than capable of fulfilling the fighter-bomber mission in spite of the inability to carry multiple ejector racks. In this shot we see a live nape can being secured to the outboard pylon of a Missouri ANG F-100D by members of the Wing's A and E section. The "Hun" was no longer ready for prime time but could certainly make life difficult for an opposing force if the conditions were right!   Nankivil Collection

Let's go flying! An F-100F formates with a Missouri D-model for a trip to the range on a typical day early in the 70s. Note the airliner tails in the background---we always enjoyed the concept of tactical fighters and interceptors launching and recovering at a municipal airport during normal operations because of the opportunity it gave average people to see the Guard at work.  Nankivil Collection

If you operated the F-100 you always had a couple of two-seat F-models around for proficiency and familiarization flights (and for causing the occasional TV reporter to toss their cookies in the back seat of a fast jet, although that's a story for another time). Here's a shot of a pair of pilots from the 110th, one of whom is wearing a lot of egg salad on his hat visor, manning up for a toot around the neighborhood, or maybe a visit to the bombing range. Take a look at that boarding ladder for a minute---USAF fighters prior to the advent of the Century Series often incorporated boarding steps of some sort into their design, as did many subsequent designs, but the Century Series all required some sort of ladder or stand in order to get in or out of the airplane on the ground. Those ladders weren't standardized either; almost all of them were unique to one airplane type. Modelers might want to take a look at detail shown on the canopy bow as well. Details, details...   Nankivil Collection

56-3742, another F-100F-5-NA from the 131st TFW on the ground at Lambert. The F-model only carried two M39 20mm cannon as opposed to the four normally fitted to the single-seaters, but was still combat capable, albeit in a somewhat limited manner. She's not going to go very far, or very fast, without a couple of bags of fuel hanging off her wings, but she may not need to depending on the sort of mission she's been fragged for.   Nankivil Collection

In contrast, and to end today's essay on the 110th TFS/131st TFW's use of the "Hun" during the 1960s and 70s, we see "Spirit of St Louis II", an F-100F-5-NA, climbing out from Lambert carrying a full load of external fuel. Say what you will about the "Hun" and her apparent lack of capability when compared to more modern fighters but she was a pace-setter, a high-performance revelation, when she was brand new. It's true that the type was ultimately limited by her design and her engine, and equally true that she could bite you if you weren't careful with her in the air, but she was The Real Deal in her younger days. We've never met a former "Hun" driver who didn't remember their time with the airplane with considerable fondness, and she served the Missouri Air National Guard well during the 16 years they operated her. That's not a bad record, all in all.   Nankivil Collection

Thanks as always to Mark Nankivil for his generosity and for taking the time to scan these images for us!

And Finally...

Those of you have been around this project for a while are familiar with the contributions made to us by Bobby Rocker. Today's photo from Bobby is a little bit different---it's not from the Second World War, and the airplane doesn't wear a propeller. It does, however, provide us with a definition of purpose.

It's dark and it's cold outside but the mission doesn't go away because of a little discomfort or inconvenience, as exemplified by this shot of an F-94B-5-LO doing an engine run and afterburner check in less than pleasant circumstances and in a very dangerous place; 51-5416 was assigned to the 319th FIS and was a participant in the Korean War when this photo was taken. She ended up back in the ZI flying with the New York ANG's 138th FIS, transferring there from Korea in 1955. You can bet she spent more than few nights like this one, and our hats are off to the folks who made it all happen in spite of the conditions endured in the process. How do you spell "sacrifice"?   Rocker Collection

Under the Radar

Today's book is another one you've probably never heard of before, but you'll want it for your library if your interests run towards American military aviation:

U.S. Army Aircraft Since 1947, Stephen Harding; Specialty Press, 1990,  273 pp, hardbound, illustrated.

This book is one that's easy to ignore at first glance---many potential readers will be turned off by the subject matter covered---but the simple fact that the US Army possesses several thousand aircraft at any given time and operates them extensively makes the volume worth the price of admission. The title is an honest one and defines what you get; the book is an encyclopedic coverage of American Army aircraft, both fixed and rotary wing, from 1947 until the 1990 date of publication. The coverage of each type is brief but concise, includes both text and at least one photograph of each aircraft, and is more than sufficient for the intended purpose. It's an older work so a great many contemporary types used by the Army are missing from its coverage but the Korean War and Vietnam years are included, making the book well worth its cost; we found our copy in a used book store, in brand-new condition, for $4.95 USD. It's not a book to read for recreation but can quickly become an essential part of the enthusiast's reference library and is worth seeking out. Recommended.

The Relief Tube

Let's start off
with a trip in the old Replica in Scale Wayback Machine! Reader Mike Sumrell saw one of our older photo essays that included a VIP B-17G being used in the late Korean fracas and sent this:

Mr. Friddell, I came across your blog posts from November 2011 where you were discussing photos of VB-17's in Korea, circa 1954, you had received from some of your readers. I recently acquired a mid-1950's Kodachrome slide which has, I believe, one of the same aircraft you have pictures of on your website. The tail number cannot be seen in my image but I believe it is one of the same planes on your site. I have attached a watermarked version of my image if you would like to include it in your discussions of these aircraft. I did not realize how rare these variants were until I started researching my slide image. Thanks for helping me in my research. Kind regards, Mike Sumrell Fayetteville, NC

Mike, many thanks for sending this photo. The B-17 served in the post-War USAF well into the 1950s, and I suspect it was somewhat more common than we have been led to belief, particularly in the FEAF. It's a topic that has been virtually undocumented, which naturally leads to a request of our readers: Do any of you hold photography on post-War B-17s, B-25s, F-61s, F-51s, etc, that you'd be willing to share? If you do, could you please scan and e-mail them to us at replicainscaleatyahoodotcom? Maybe we can collectively shed some light on the twilight years of some of our more famous aircraft! Need we say that it's the right thing to do!

In a similar vein, reader S. Brouillette sent along this comment regarding another of our older pieces, "A Couple of Early Phantoms":

Phillip,  Ref the early Phantoms. We have one of those first two AF airframes a 2-3 blocks down from my office. Definitely NOT typical RF-4C. The provenance of these two started on the McDonald Douglas line as RF-4Bs (thin, un-slatted wings). Charlie models that started on the line as Cs were called Cs. Pulled off and reconfigured to AF specs. Initially designated RF-110A off the line. LATER designated as RF-4C.

Thanks very much for the additional information! I don't suppose you'd be interested in sending a photo or two of that airframe...

Last issue we ran a photo of a ramp full of 82nd FG F-51Ds and Hs, and were musing about the paucity/near total lack of decent kits of the Hotel variant of the Mustang in any scale. Adam Maas had this comment to add:

There actually is a recent kit of the P-51H in 1/72, from RS Models It's a nice short-run kit with a mix of injection plastic and resin detail parts. As RS is dabbling in 1/48 now, it's quite possible they could scale up this little gem! Adam

Could we be so lucky? Come on, RS Models, and give us that F-51H! Please!

And that's it for this time. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Do We Have to Have Another Mustang, An Odd Mitchell, Neptune's Neptunes, A Fast One, and One We Want

Memories for a Lifetime

The past few years have witnessed the publication of more than a few of these blogs, and during that span of time you've been reminded more than once, or maybe even far more than once, that I began my scale modeling career way back in 1956 or so. You've also endured my rambling on, seemingly interminably, about how much fun the hobby has been, and how much it's enriched my life over all those years. The past was really kind to me in that regard, and I'd like to take a few minutes to share a little bit of it with you, not so much to talk about my own specific polystyrene history but to help remind those of you of a certain age, or at least of a certain mindset, about the way things used to be before The Age of Electrons significantly changed parts of our hobby forever. With our stage thusly set, let's take a fond look back at those long-ago days.

The place to start is probably at the beginning, so let's just jump right into that. My own personal introduction to scale plastic modeling came at the hands of an older cousin, who was a teenager when I was six. I'd seen advertisements for plastic model airplanes in magazines and comic books but Jerry had actually bought and built a few of them, specifically the then new and cutting-edge Revell F-94C and F7U-Something-or-Other. He'd built them, decalled them, and mounted them on their stands so he could display them. He showed them to me and I was hooked!

That's the thing about Scale Modeling as it Was; the timing was right and almost every teenaged American boy and, I suspect, more than a few teenaged American girls, built at least one plastic model of one sort or another to see what it was all about, in turn inspiring those of us the next rung down the ladder to try our hand at it too. Not all of us stayed with the hobby, not by a long shot, but almost every kid I knew had built at least one model something-or-other before they reached the second grade.

Then there were the stores that sold the kits. Yes, there were hobby shops, real brick-and-mortar hobby shops, but those weren't the only places you could buy a model in those days. Drugstores had them. Department stores had them. Hardware stores had them, and occasionally bookstores too. My mom bought my first plastic model for me in a supermarket in rural Georgia, and I saw my very first Aurora biplane, a Nieuport 11, on the shelves of a department store in Wichita Falls, Texas a year or so after that. My parents soon learned that I would disappear as soon as we went into any retail establishment that had even a remote chance of selling plastic models of any kind and I wasn't alone in that sort of behavior. You've hear of Hooked on Phonics? Well, my generation was hooked on plastic!

As exciting as those department stores and supermarkets could be to the aspiring young modeler, none of them could hold a candle to The Real Thing, that holy grail of plastic modeling: The Hobby Shop. The first real hobby shop I ever entered was Huff's Hobbys, in Wichita Falls. It was a place of wonder for a seven-year-old, with stacks of kits for sale and built models hanging from the ceiling and mounted to the walls. That shop had an ambiance that I remember until this very day; it was a place of magic and wonder for me, a place where Sherman tanks named "Black Magic" lived, sitting on the shelves beside boxes filled with impossibly large Aurora B-25s and B-26s. Blair's Supermarket in Canton, Georgia sold me that first plastic kit but the second one, a bright yellow Aurora "Zero", came into my possession via an early visit to Huff's.

I mangled that "Zero" pretty badly while attempting to assemble all nine or ten of those yellow pieces and my dad helped me build (read "built it for me while I watched") my next couple of models as a result; a Revell H-19 and a Monogram Invader, but I was on my own after that. It's possible, just barely, that each new acquisition was built to a somewhat higher standard than those that came before, but I honestly don't believe that's true---I'm pretty sure I plateaued early and stayed there for more than a few years, but those first few years were magic! Monogram C-47s, replete with little paratroopers, the Revell Century Series of fighters (a gift set that I received one magical Christmas), a Monogram Air Power Set, a Revell Space Station, Lindberg's remarkable B-17G and almost any other bit of polystyrene I could get my hands on more than filled my spare hours.

There was a revelation for me late in 1962 when I saw my first 1/72nd scale Revell kit, a Hawker Hurricane (I think), in a local department store. Those 72nd scale Revell kits started coming at a fast and furious pace while we were in Japan and they were dirt cheap too, only 35 cents in the base hobby shop. Those tiny kits turned me from model cars back into airplanes, and Jack Dusenberry and I probably bought at least one or two of every one of those models that made it to the shelves there. It was the beginnings of a Golden Age for Young Phillip.

1965 saw my dad transferred from Misawa to South Texas, where the aforementioned Young Phillip discovered that a hobby shop called Dibble's Arts and Hobbys was conveniently located next to my high school, less than a block away! That happy discovery launched both a budding career as an employee there and friendships that have, in many cases, lasted a lifetime.

Nowadays we have the Internet, of course, and we can find pretty much anything we might want in the way of kits or accessories online. The kits we can buy today are light years away from the stuff we purchased way back when we were kids but they are also, for the most part, far more expensive, even factoring a dose of inflation into the discussion, than they ever were before. That factor has driven off the kids in great measure, and computers and an increasingly flawed concept known as social media has done its share of damage too. When we were young it was cool to build model airplanes. Now it's very much a niche hobby, and one with an ever-aging consumer base that may ultimately lead us to the demise of the hobby as we know it.

The demise is still more than a little way off, though, and we're presently living in a New Golden Age of Plastic Modeling, one in which almost everything we could ever wish for can be found, albeit for a price. True; those old-time hobby shops are, for the most part, a dying breed, but a forty-five minute drive from our house in the country will get me to Dibble's and Hill Country Hobby in San Antonio, and a little over an hour's drive can find me at King's in Austin. In my world The Magic still exists, a fact I'm reminded of every time I go into one of those shops and spend an hour or two talking plastic with my friends, and sometimes with total strangers as well. Yes, the old-time hobby shops are dying off at a remarkable pace, but that only makes the ones that survive more precious to us all.

Thanks, then, to Aurora and Lindberg, and Hawk, and Monogram, and Revell, and to all those other companies too, both domestic and foreign, (a great many of which are sadly now long-gone), for a lifetime of pleasant endeavor, and thanks to Huff's, and Dibble's, and Kings, and Hill Country, and all those other shops and retailers who sold us our polystyrene treasures. Then there are the friendships which are, and always have been, the most precious gift of all that this special hobby has bestowed upon me. There are far, far too many of those to list in the space available here, although a special thank you has to be extended to Trey McMurtrey---it was an e-mail exchange with him a while back that started me thinking about those long-ago days.

So what's the point, you might reasonably ask. I'm not sure there is one, but I'll offer this: The aforementioned Trey McMurtrey has been modeling since well before I met him back in 1967 or 68, and he's still at it today, as has Frank Emmett, another name you hear about on these pages from time to time. There are a lot of other hobbies out there with participants equally as enthusiastic, but this one is the one we've all chosen and I happen to think it's really special.

Everyone should be so lucky...

Ain't Nothin' Wrong With This One

North American Aviation's P-51 Mustang has been an iconic airplane, and the subject of countless polystyrene kits for more years than I can remember. Some have been good, some have been bad, and a few have been horrid, but the airplane is right up there with the Zero, the Spitfire, and the Bf/Me109 as one of those must-have models that the larger manufacturers of plastic model airplanes put in their catalogs sooner or later and there are at least two more new kits in 1/48th scale, this time from Airfix and Eduard, slated for release later this year. Those kits, coming from those particular manufacturers, are definitely something to look forward to. Still, we haven't been all that badly served in years past in terms of 1/48th scale Mustangs. Take, for instance, the occasionally-maligned Tamiya offering:

I probably mentioned it at least once or twice (or ten or twelve times) but I'll say it again: Some kits really lend themselves to a modular construction approach and Tamiya's Mustangs all fall within that category. The kit was one of the first that could be built without filler if you were careful in your construction techniques, which in turn allows you to do things like this when you build! Life is so much easier if there aren't any wings or horizontal stabs to get in the way of masking or decal work...

See what I mean? I had to go back and re-sand and polish the leading edges of the wings---you can see how badly I gomed them up the first time I went over them---but that wing isn't actually attached to anything in this photo so all that was required was to pull it off there, re-sand and polish just the leading edges, and touch up the paint. This is an easy thing to do since Korean War F-51Ds were painted silver; Floquil's "Old Silver" thinned 50-60% makes replicating that finish a snap, and those wing-to-fuselage seams disappeared when the wings were finally cemented to the fuselage!

This view shows the kit nearly finished, with just the wing tanks and rockets to be added. The markings allegedly replicate those of the F-51D flown by Lt. Jim Glessner of the 12th FBS/18th FBG in November of 1950 when he was credited with the destruction of a North Korean Yak fighter. (He actually claimed two kills that day but only one was confirmed.) My personal jury says the airplane may not have possessed those wingtip and tail stripes when the kill was achieved but the references available in my collection neither confirmed nor denied it and it really does look pretty painted up like that.

Here's how it came out. Tamiya's Mustang could be the poster child for an easy kit to assemble; it took some six hours or so to get from opening the box to putting this model on the shelf. There are a couple of things you may (or may not!) choose to correct if you choose to build one for your own collection, but they're relatively minor.

This is where we talk technical about the kit, but there's honestly not all that much to say. A lot of folks have complained about the method Tamiya chose to duplicate the canopy and canopy base on this model, but I've built several of the kits over the past ten years or so and have never had an issue. The key is to carefully remove the clear canopy from its sprue with side-cutters, carefully sand out any imperfections created from that operation with fine sandpaper, carefully polish out the sanded area, and carefully attach the canopy to the canopy base, making certain everything is properly aligned when you do this.

Other areas that need a little help are the interior, which definitely benefits from the application of an Eduard "Zoom" set, and the machine gun muzzles, which beg to be drilled out. That semi-circular internal canopy brace that's molded to the canopy frame has a series of lightening holes in it in real life, and you can add those with a drill if you're ambitious. (I never do that even though I know I should, but you certainly can!) Tamiya apparently had access to somebody's restored warbird when they cut the molds for the kit because they faithfully chose to duplicate a pair of skin doublers/scab patches on the upper leading edge of both wings. I'm sure they're on that warbird but they don't belong on anything else and they have to go! Fortunately, all that's required in that regard is to sand them off and polish out the area you reworked.

You really do need to fix that leading edge doubler, and I can honestly say that I invariably do that, but I don't normally fix the flaps and you need to do that too! Take a look at the photo immediately above and you can see a red circle that shows a notch in the upper surface of the flap's inboard corner. That notch is there so you can model the flaps in the closed position if you want to, but it was normal for the F-51 to have dropped flaps unless it was under power or had just been shut down after a flight and you really can see that notch once you know to look for it. The same thing applies to the "rivet" detail Tamiya put on the surfaces of those flaps. The fact that they wanted to put some sort of detail in that area is perfectly understandable but it's definitely over-stated and needs to be addressed. I didn't fix those things on this model, or on any other Tamiya Mustang I've ever built, but I tend to build this particular kit as therapy, usually after I've just finished something else that's been a struggle for me to complete. It wouldn't take that much additional effort to correct those flaws if you were so inclined.

One more thing regarding the kit: The exhausts aren't all that well detailed and you may find yourself tempted to use the QuickBoost offerings for those components. I've done that and personally prefer the way the kit items look, but it's your model and your call!

That takes us to one of those philosophical moments, where we all sit back and ponder something or other that really doesn't mean all that much at the end of the day. In this case let's consider the need for yet another Mustang kit (or two!) On the plus side a new offering from Eduard will likely include almost impossibly fine airframe and cockpit detail while an Airfix kit of the same thing will probably be fairly close behind and will, in all likelihood, offer a wide range of underwing hangy things plus the one or two components necessary to turn the model into an F-6D photo ship.  A new kit from either one of those manufactures would in point of fact be a Very Good Thing, but at the end of the day the now long-in-the-tooth Tamiya kit holds its age well and is still a viable, and affordable, option. Couple that with the fact that the model is so darned easy to build and you can rest assured that I personally will hang onto the 3 or 4 kits presently sitting in my closet and will eventually build them all. Newer is newer and better is better, but sometimes you can get pretty decent results from Good Enough. (And no; I never did fix that leading edge seam. Next time...)

Newer isn't necessarily better...

You Don't See This Very Often

Bobby Rocker's been at it again, this time with an extremely mundane but oh-so-unusual Mitchell. Let's take a look:

We have to admit a certain fondness for North American Aviation's immortal B-25 around here. The type served both the AAF and Marine Corps in all theaters during The Second Unpleasantness and did so with distinction. Although obsolescent at the end of the conflict, it managed to survive into the post-War world as a trainer and VIP transport. This example, a B-25J, is from the latter days of World War 2 and is sitting on the ground at Alexai Point on Attu during 1944. She was assigned to the 77th BS and, somewhat unusually for the theater, was in natural metal. A couple of things stand out in this shot, the first being those over-sized gust locks fitted to the vertical stabs. High winds were, and still are, pretty much the norm in the Aleutians, calling for unusual measures to secure the aircraft's control surfaces. The other somewhat unusual feature on this bird are the underwing tanks. The Mitchell was configured for the carriage of underwing stores from the beginning, and the J-model was modified to allow the employment of chemical tanks as well, but only a few B-25Js were plumbed for underwing fuel tanks and conventional wisdom tells us that none of those ever made it to a combat zone. The tank hanging off that wing sure looks like the standard external fuel tank used by the P-51D (another North American product) to us, but maybe it isn't. Our money's on it being a gas bag but your mileage may differ! If you can identify those tanks for certain please drop us a line at replicainscaleatyahoodotcom and let us know!   Rocker Collection

Thanks as always to Bobby Rocker, who's apparently bottomless collection has helped this project in so many ways.

Just a Few Final Neptunes

In our last issue we alluded to the possibility of just a few more Lockheed P2Vs for your edification, and today's The Day we do that! These birds are a little different, though---they're all owned by a civilian fire-fighting organization, Neptune Aviation Services out of Missoula, Montana, and to the best of our knowledge they're all still flying. Mark Nankivil was out on a trip West with his family and got a chance to photograph several of their aircraft while they wintered at Alamogordo:

Hi Phil! Loved your posting with P-2s - here's a few from our trip last year when we stopped at the Alamogordo airport and took photos of the Neptune Aviation Service P-2s that winter there... We were fortunate to stop by when we did as one of the aircraft was being used to fly certification flights with the USFS with drops being made up in the mountains. Two turning and two burning on take off makes for a neat sound. Enjoy the Day! Mark

And enjoy the day we shall!

On the ground undergoing a little maintenance. The Neptune's endurance and payload make her an ideal fire bomber, and the folks at Neptune Aviation take full advantage of those attributes. Everything appears to be calm in this shot, but the normal working environment is definitely on the exciting side.   Mark Nankivil

Here we have an excellent view of the bin that contains the aircraft's fire retardant. Having the jets available definitely enhances performance, particularly when the operational environment is hot and high, as is often found in western forest fires.   Mark Nankivil

Here's the opposite side of N410NA, providing us with a different view of that retardant bin. The tanker modifications necessary for the fire suppression mission have ruined the lines of more than a few ex-military aircraft, but they somehow suit the P-2. It's really hard to mess up an airplane as pretty as this one!   Mark Nankivil

Let's go flying! The intake baffles on the jets are opened up, indicating a classic case of two turning and two burning.   Mark Nankivil

Turning onto the active. There's room for all sorts of things in the nose of the Neptune.   Mark Nankivil

N443NA breaks ground on a training hop. This sort of thing is probably a lot of fun for the crews of these aircraft, but the actual mission they perform is most decidedly on the dicey side.   Mark Nankivil

The gear's cycling up as 443 begins to climb out. Note the difference in the tail caps between this aircraft and N410NA above.   Mark Nankivil

Here's an excellent view of the undersurfaces of 443, providing us with details of the retardant bin and the insides of the flap bays. Many thanks to Mark for providing us with this detailed photo---you don't get to see this sort of thing very often!   Mark Nankivil

Pretty country and pretty airplanes too, but we can't emphasize strongly enough how dangerous the job is when these folks aren't involved in training (although the training can be exciting enough in and of itself!).   Mark Nankivil

We can't leave this particular essay without saying a word about Mark's photographic skills, which could well be defined as exemplary. Many thanks for providing us with this window on a world most of us never experience.

Just Hustlin' Along

Everybody knows who Jim Sullivan is, because almost everybody interested in American military aviation has read at least one of his many books, or admired his collection of photography regarding US naval aviation from the World War 2 period. What a lot of people don't know is that Jim's collection spans a far greater period of time than just the first several years of the 1940s and extends to include those guys in the blue suits as well.

B-58A-10-CF, 59-2456, was initially assigned to the 6512th TS from Systems Command and was a record holder, climbing to 29,000+ meters carrying a 5,000 kg payload. She was at Edwards when this photograph was taken in 1961 and was involved in sonic boom tests there. Later assigned to the 43rd BW, she ended up at MASDC in 1969 and was scrapped out in 1977, but she was very much alive and well when this photo was taken.  Sullivan Collection

60-1111 was a B-58A-15-CF and was assigned to the 305th BW out of Grissom, although this shot was taken at McGuire in May of 1969. Keeping the B-58 airworthy was a time-consuming endeavor, although this particular bird is ready to go and is being prepared for launch. Like 2456 above, she was scrapped in 1977, an aging but beautiful aircraft.   Sullivan Collection

Some airplanes look like they're flying at the speed of heat when they're standing still, and the Hustler could have been the poster child for that sort of thing. 61-2058-20-CF, another bird from the 305th, was photographed at Forbes AFB in August of 1970. Time was getting short for her and the rest of her kind, but you'd never have known it then.   Sullivan Collection

Here's a rare one for your perusal. 55-0662 was built as a YB-58A-1-CF. During the course of a somewhat exciting career she was modified to NB-58A configuration testing the J-93 engine intended for the XF-108 and XB-70 programs, then converted to TB-58A configuration to serve as a chase plane for the XB-70. A veteran of the 6592nd Test Squadron, she finished up her active duty days with the 305th before retiring to MASDC for storage and ultimate destruction.     Jim Sullivan

Pretty maids all in a row. This B-58 lineup is sitting on the ground at D-M in March of 1972, awaiting a call to return to service that would never come. A record-breaker from the very beginning, the type could be both difficult to fly and time-consuming to maintain, conditions which translated into Expensive to Operate. Contrary to popular belief, the Hustler was entirely capable at low altitudes, but its operational time had passed almost before it had begun. The airplanes you see in this photograph were all reduced to scrap in 1977, but they were something to see when they were still alive and active.   Sullivan Collection

You've all suffered repeatedly about my reminiscences about the time I spent in northern Japan, but several years previous to that adventure had been spent at Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, Texas. Sheppard was ostensibly a training base, but SAC established a presence there for a short time in the early 1960s, significantly adding to the mix of aircraft to be seen overhead. In 1960 or 61 your editor was outside enjoying a typical Texas afternoon when a single B-58 came whistling and howling over the then-new Capehart base housing area at relatively low altitude and with everything hanging out. It was an impressive sight to say the least, and one that caused me to immediately jump on my brand-spanking new Schwinn Corvette and pedal off to the base bookstore, which also sold model airplanes, so I could purchase an until-then ignored Monogram B-58 kit. The Hustler was a technological marvel of the highest order and was something to see when it was in its natural element, and its science-fiction appearance and all those J-79-related noises only added to the mystique. Would it have worked in combat? I suspect it would have functioned as well as anything else in an end-of-the-world combat scenario, but it's more likely that its primary value lay in making The Other Guys think about what they'd have to do to counter it. In any event, it was a beautiful airplane that was ahead of its time in so many ways. Thanks again to Jim Sullivan for sharing these photos with us!

So Why Can't We Have a Kit?

You may or may not remember the Army Air Force's desire to have itself a lightweight Mustang but that quest, which initially manifested itself in the never-produced P-51F and eventually did come to pass with the limited-production P-51H, resulted in a ship that was both The Best of the Mustangs and the most enigmatic of that family of fighters. A lot of people don't care for it based on its looks which are, we must admit, far from inspired, but that dumpy-looking fighter could out-perform any of its predecessors by a considerable margin and was far and away the fastest of the breed. We've run a number of photographs of the H model in previous issues of this project and would direct you to the "search" function of this blog if you'd like to renew your acquaintance with them---just go to the bottom of this page, locate the barely discernible graphic, and type in P-51H or F-51H---so we're not going to duplicate that photography today. Instead, we're going to share another image from Bobby Rocker's collection with you that graphically illustrates what could have been.

 The northeastern United States seemed to be the ultimate home for a great percentage of F-51H production, as illustrated by this ramp shot of the 82nd FG in the late 1940s, probably in the 1946-47 time frame, when they were stationed at Grenier AFB near Manchester, NH as part of SAC. Most of those late Mustangs were relatively mundane in appearance (unless you count the ones assigned to the 56th FG, of course!), but for a time there were a lot of them flying around that northeast corner of the country. There have been a few kits of the type over the years, beginning (we think) with Aurora's late 50s offering and continuing with the 1/48th scale kits produced by HiPM and, slightly later, by Classic Airframes. (I think RarePlanes also did a 1/72nd scale vacuum-formed kit back in the late 70s and there may have been others too but I build primarily in 1/48th so that's what I tend to pay attention to.) I've seen several nice models produced from all of the kits I've just mentioned, but in every case they were done by modelers of exceptional talent. A straight-from-the-box F-51H that can be constructed and finished by the average scale modeler doesn't exist at the moment. That fact wouldn't bother us either, except that every sub-variant of the Bf/Me109 family has been kitted by now, running from the most produced to the ones existing only as proposals. With that as a premise we think it's well past time for a decent kit of the H-model Mustang (and the F-86H, and the FJ-3/3M, and the B-45, and...). Look at all those airplanes in the picture, ya'll! It's time for somebody to give us a kit of the last of the Mustangs. I'll buy at least two!!!    Rocker Collection

Thanks as usual for Bobby Rocker for plumbing the depths of his collection to find these unique and priceless images!

Under the Radar

Today's volume in this occasional feature covers a book that, perhaps more than any other, fits the bill for having a title and subject matter appropriate to said feature's name:

World Electronic Warefare Aircraft, Martin Streetly, Jane's Publishing Co. Ltd, United Kingdom, 1983; 127pp, illustrated. This book is one of those that is little-known even among enthusiasts, and it shouldn't be. In a classic case of what you see is what you get, it chronicles the development of electronic warfare aircraft from 1945 until its date of publication. It's not a history of EW as a mission, however, but rather a chronicalling of the world's military aircraft designed for or modified to perform that particular mission. The aircraft covered (and we suspect there must be a few missing) are briefly described in text and illustrated with line drawings showing the salient features of the aircraft and, in some instances, a photograph as well. Most of the photographs are honestly too small to be of much use and reproduction isn't of the highest order anyway, but the line drawings are perfectly acceptable and illustrate most of the antennae, lumps, bumps, and other unique changes to the aircraft covered. The drawing captions define the equipment said lumps, bumps, and changes relate to as well, and brief histories of each type of aircraft are provided.

If you decide to hunt down your very own copy you might want to keep in mind that the volume is a basic directory of electronic warfare aircraft and is far from being a definitive history of the subject. That said, the information that's provided for each aircraft covered is more than adequate to the purpose and the work is, to the best of our knowledge, the only book of its kind presently available. We consider it to be a worthwhile acquisition to your library should your interests run in that direction.

A Parting Shot

Almost all of our potential Relief Tube entries for this issue were of the "I really like what you're doing" variety, for which we say thank you all very much! Unfortunately, that means there's no real purpose to running a normal Tube this time around, so how about another photo from Bobby Rocker to end out the day? How about a really unusual photo? Are any of you interested? Ok; we thought you might be...

Here's what we know: It's a J2F-4 Duck from PatWing 10 in 1941 and it's wearing early-War national insignia. There are no unique markings to be found anywhere on the aircraft that we can see. The airframe is well-used but not noticeably abused. Oh yeah, and then there's that temporary camouflage...   Now then; what do do have to do besides find a narrow-chord cowling to put on that Merit Duck kit...    Rocker Collection

Many thanks to Mark Aldrich and Mark Nankivil for identifying the unit, time frame, and temporary nature of that camouflage for us!

And that's all she wrote for this addition---we'll see you again in a couple of weeks. Until then, be good to your neighbor. It's the right thing to do!