Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Falcon Tub, How to Do It, A Hornet For Once, A Couple of Colonel Neel's Boys, A Forty-Niner, A Goofy Scooter, And Some Mystery Meat.

What About the Kids?

Every once in a while it's good to think outside the box, plastic kit wise, and this past week was one of those times for me. I've been on a Korean War binge of late and have, in that vein, been enjoying the magic of one of my two remaining bottles of Floquil Old Silver in the creation of the required weathered natural metal finishes, an activity which led me to consider building the relatively new Eduard Spitfire Mk XVI. My chosen subject was a late example of the type, a post-War example in overall silver from 601 Sqdn RAF, and the build was what can only be described as pleasurable, although I'd be more than a little remiss if I didn't mention that Eduard's choice of landing gear attachment did cause me to utter what that old-time cowboy song termed a discouraging word (or two).

Let's use that landing gear, all draped in colorful epithets, as the starting point for today's ramble. It occurred to me while arguing with its attachment that other people had complained about it too, so it wasn't just my inherent ineptitude that was causing the problem. It was the way those parts were designed to fit together and it was a challenge, although it wasn't the end of my own personal polystyrene world by any means. I eventually figured out how Eduard meant for things to go together and everything turned out just fine in the end. The thing that got me thinking wasn't the gear installation itself, though; it was the fact that I've been doing this stuff since 1956 and have, for the most part, learned enough tricks of the trade to cope with almost any sort of plastic foolishness a manufacturer could come up with, and this kit threw me a curve.

What's the point, you may well ask yourself. That Friddell guy had trouble with the Spitfire, but so what? I probably won't---to use yet another set of old cowboy song lyrics he'd probably use to describe his misadventure, "it's your misfortune and none of my own". Ok then; maybe you won't, but what if you happen to be ten or twelve years old and the proud owner of an Eduard kit of almost any flavor, or maybe someone a little older who has developed an interest in the hobby and decided to buy that first kit and try things on for size? In a case like that, Eduard's landing gear could easily be the deal-breaker that pushes the novice right out of the hobby (that's presuming all the teensy-tiny detail parts included with almost any Eduard kit don't do the job first).

It's not just an Eduard problem either; I mention them because I happen to like their kits and build a lot of them. I've also been doing this stuff for a while, so most of my problems regarding the hobby are self-induced and I fully understand that phenomena. When I mess something up I take a deep breath and go back to figure out where I went wrong so I can fix the problem. You probably do a variation of the same thing but your typical Newbie won't, particularly if he or she happens to be on the youngish side.

We could easily make the point that a rank beginner shouldn't be starting off with a kit such as the Eduard "Spitty", but quite a few people new to the hobby buy kits based on box art and price. A Profi-Pack Eduard Anything is going to cost fifty bucks or more, but their Weekend Edition of same will start in the twenty to thirty-dollar range, which is affordable for some kids. Let's consider the consequences.

Junior Newbie wants to build plastic model airplanes because he's interested in both history and flight, and he's read about the legendary Supermarine Spitfire. He's hooked, and he wants to build a model which will, of course, come out looking just like all those models he sees on the Internet. He finds himself an Eduard "Spit" of any flavor and it's a Weekend Edition so he can afford it if he puts off buying that new video game until next week. He plunks down his money and takes it home, excited and ready to build a model of his favorite airplane, and reality sets in when he discovers he can't get past the cockpit or wheel wells. His new treasure is an unmitigated disaster and ends up in the trash can, while he goes back to playing video games. We lose another aspiring scale modeler but in the grand scheme of things we, as a hobby, lose a whole lot more than that.

Most plastic kits of recent design are intended for the modeler who's been at it a while, and said kits tend to cater to the high side of the standard. Some are unnecessarily complicated, and many of the limited-run specimens are virtually impossible for the novice to successfully complete. All of these things conspire against the kid (or novice adult) who's infatuated with model airplanes and wants to get into the hobby. They give a model an honest shot but, quite by accident, purchase something that's intended for the guy or gal who's got the chops to deal with what we're going to call severe polystyrene idiosyncrasies and they fail. They walk away from the hobby but that's no big deal, right? WRONG!

A great many of us are a rapidly aging demographic as far as this hobby is concerned yet a whole bunch of the newer kits are aimed at us; the Old Guys (relatively speaking, of course) who can afford the initial purchase price of our toys and have achieved the skills necessary to turn them into the models we want them to be. Eduard could be the poster child in terms of the production of the models we want to have, because they listen to what their customer base have to say and they act on what they hear. They don't always get it right in terms of accuracy but you can't fault their kits as kits---they're superb! The problem is; they're also largely unsuited for beginners.

This is a discussion that could go round and round, but in simplest terms you and I have a mission when possible; a duty, if you will, to help The New Guy or Gal, or The Young Guy or Gal, pick out kits they can actually be successful with if they decide they want to experience the magic of this hobby of ours. Hobby Boss has a range of kits intended for the relative newcomer to the hobby, as do a few other manufacturers, and there are still simple kits being boxed and marketed that were originally designed in the 50s and 60s and are pretty easy to assemble. That means the kits are out there, just waiting for someone who's new to the hobby to discover the magic we've enjoyed all these years. Maybe, just maybe, you ought to help the Newbie pick out something they can be successful with. It's the right thing for them because it will let them get the results they want with a whole lot less angst than they might otherwise have to endure, and it's the right thing for all of us because it helps fill the pipeline with aspiring modelers as we graybeards inevitably age out of the hobby, thus ensuring that there are still quality kits and accessories around for the remaining serious scale modelers to enjoy in years to come. Today is truly the Golden Age of plastic modeling and Today is likely to last for a few more years but, inevitably, the brand spanking new wonder-kits we're able to purchase now will begin to dwindle away as fewer and fewer modelers buy them because the folks that produce the kits aren't altruistic to any great extent. If they can't make money they won't produce new kits and at the end of the day we'll all suffer for it.

What do you say, then? Are you willing to help the novice modeler choose kits he or she can actually complete? Are you willing to help steer them through their first few models so they'll stay with the hobby, thus ensuring new and better kits for us all? Are you ready to do that? Can I get an Amen?

Think about it, ya'll; it's most assuredly the right thing to do!

Speaking of Getting Older

It seems like only yesterday that the F-16 Fighting Falcon entered the inventory but it has, in fact, been substantially more than a few years since that event and the Electric Jet has now achieved a certain seniority on life that rarely registers on those of us who have been around a while. Just to put things in perspective, here's a shot you may not have seen before of a B-model with a really neat paint job:

Here she is, folks; 83-1172, an F-16B Block 15S from the 412th TS of the AFFTC recovering at Edwards in November of 1998. By tactical standards she was an old airplane but one that was still more than capable. Her paintwork is typical for aircraft of the AFFTC during that period and would make for a really pretty model as well. Modelers might want to note the single gas bag mounted on the center station, a fairly typical fitment for the aircraft when operating with the test center.   Robert Kennedy via Kerr Collection

THIS is How It's Done!

We're greatly privileged around here because we're read by quite a few of the heavy hitters in our hobby. A lot of our discussion with those guys occurs over the telephone, but we still receive a bunch of e-mails as well. The following images came to us via the internet and from one of those aforementioned heavy hitters, Pat Donahue, who's polystyrene skill-sets are to be envied. He sent these photos a couple of months ago and they, plus shots of the completed airplane, have long since appeared on several of the plastic modeling web sites, which means they aren't exactly brand new to most of us. They are, however, excellent depictions of a project in work by someone we consider to be a master of the craft, so let's take a look at what we've got.

One of the things I admire most about Pat's work is the fact that he's tidy! His models tend to look better while still under construction than most people's do after they're completed. Take this 1/48th scale Tamiya Me262A for example. It's well-built, nicely-detailed, and the paint job is something worth writing home about. It's sitting on one of his assembly fixtures awaiting the next step in its construction and is looking pretty darned good, I think!    Pat Donahue

You might have noticed that there was no engine nacelle on that first photo---that's because Pat was busy with the scale Junkers Jumo powerplant that would normally go in there. Here's a shot of the almost-completed engine, not overly detailed (read not fanatically detailed here) but detailed enough to convey what we're going to call the proper perspective. It's got just enough of the right stuff in the right places to be convincing and what's there is supposed to be there!   Pat Donahue

Here's what we'll call the infamous Other Side, showing how the nacelles look when they're mounted. Note how clean and precise everything is---both are a hallmark of Pat's work---and how well the airplane presents itself. That paintwork is superb!   Pat Donahue

And here's our final shot of this project. Note that the leading edge slats have been hung, a fairly normal thing on the real Me262 but one not catered for in the Tamiya kit, and the gun covers are now resting in place. We probably ought to mention that paint job too, since it's extremely well done and, to head off letters complaining about that bright green color, extremely accurate as well. The lighter of those two greens, the really bright one, is RLM 25 Light Green and is supposed to be that color. Yes; it looks funny the first time you see it. Yes; it's accurate for that particular airplane. Comments about the model are welcomed (at replicainscaleatyahoodotcom) but please don't condemn the colors. They're right!    Pat Donahue

And that's it for this particular essay. Pat did finish the model, as we mentioned up there in the introduction, and you can see how it came out over on Hyperscale and, I suspect, a few other sites as well. Many thanks to Pat for the images and the opportunity to share them with all of you!

Something Rarely Seen

At least on this web site! We almost never run photography depicting any airplane in service after the very early 1990s, but this shot is really pretty and we need to share it with you:

We've commented on Mark Morgan's photography more than once around here, so you should all know that we're fans of his work. This shot typifies why. The airplane is a rarity for this project, an F-18C, and it's sitting on the ramp immediately after arrival at an airshow on 25 July 1997. It's a CAG bird from VFA-115 (BuNo 163439) and its paint scheme rivals the very best we've seen from the NAV's classic "Easter Egg" era. Yowza!

Thanks as always to Mark for sharing the photo with us.

Those Guys Liked the "Jug"

Yes they did. In point of fact, you could probably say the guys in the 348th FG loved the airplane once they figured out how to properly employ it in combat. There's a fair amount of photography out there depicting the group during their days with the P-47D, but it's sometimes a little difficult to come up with something that everyone hasn't already seen. In that light we're guessing a few of you may have seen these images before, but they're new to us and they're something special!

La-deez and Gentlemen, allow us to present, on this stage for one war only and in all her OD and Neutral Grey glory, "BROWN EYES"! Or, to put it another way, holy cow, Ya'll! Some of the WW2 stuff we've had submitted to us over the years has amazed us more times than we care to remember, but this image is pretty spectacular even by those standards. The airplane is a fairly late (note the underwing racks) Republic P-47D "razorback" and it's from the 348th. The white wing leading edges and empennage are typical for the theater, and the name on the cowling is probably in yellow. Five kill markings can be seen under the windscreen, and the airplane is little short of spectacular, at least to us!   Gerry Kersey/3rd Attack

You might think "BROWN EYES" would be a tough act to follow, but if that's what you're thinking you might not have seen "Rootle Lee Doo"! She's another 348th bird, and the theater ID demarcation line on her vertical stab would make her fairly moderately unique all on their own, but check out those kill markings and the way they're displayed under the windscreen. It's entirely possible there's some nose art above and below the name on the cowling as well, but the photo is just too darned murky to make out much of anything there!   Gerry Kersey/3rd Attack

Please note that I had originally attributed these photos to the collection of Bobby Rocker. I had mis-filed the original images when I received them and the rest, as some folks say, is history! That said, there truly aren't enough superlatives to adequately describe Bobby and his ongoing dedication to the preservation of those images of a remarkable time in our history and we'll show you a photo that actually is from his collection in a minute, but first let me apologize to Gerry Kersey for the mistake I made when I captioned these photos. Gerry's another one of the Good Guys who deserves credit for preserving the history of the the greatest generation, and we most assuredly want to give credit where credit's due. Yes; these photos could be better quality (and probably were, once upon a time), but the airplanes they depict, and the attitude and sacrifice of the men who maintained and flew them, are a significant part of our aviation heritage and their preservation is both remarkable and appreciated. Time hasn't been overly kind to those photos but they're here and, because of Gerry, Bobby, and so many others like them, we can all treasure them for the irreplaceable record they are. Thanks, guys, for everything you do!

Just One More

From the Rocker Collection, that is!

Here you are, straight from the 7th FS/49th FG at 14-Mile Strip, Port Moresby, New Guinea, in 1943. The aircraft is a P-40E or K and she's carrying the nick-name "honie" on her lower nose, although the legend painted above her exhaust stacks, "Parson Posten's Piss Poor Pilots" may be of equal interest. A couple of things worth noting regarding this photo: First, we think the name immediately behind the aircraft number 11 is indeed "honie", but there could easily be another letter hiding behind the guy standing on the left. We can't see it and we just don't know. Second, there's a well-documented P-40K, also from the 7th FS,  that has "Nick Nichols and His Nip Nippers" painted over the exhausts in the same place, and with the same sort of presentation, as the aircraft in the photo. That strongly suggests, to us at least, that those names may well reflect flight leader's aircraft. We find that notion tantalizing and are open to comments and corrections at replicainscaleatyahoodotcom if you've got anything to add. (Photographs backing up that theory would be just outstanding, thank you!)   Rocker Collection

Thanks once again to Bobby Rocker's kindness, both for the photograph and for the enigma it presents to us!

A Different Bobby

You remember Maddog John Kerr, right? Well, way back in what constituted the beginning of The Publishing Day for me, I spent a lot of time in his home looking at airplane slides, a fair number of which came from a fellow named Bob Burns. Bob's photography stood out in John's collection, both for the uniqueness of its subject matter and for its exceptional quality, because Bob had ramp access at Pax River and used that access to the max. Here's an example of the sort of thing we're talking about:

The A-4M was primarily a Marine aircraft, an A-4 variant that never saw active service with either the Fleet or the Navy Reserves, but the type did manage to show up at the NAV's test pilot school at Pax River. BuNo 158148 was an early "Mike", one of the first if not the first of the production A-4Ms built, and ended up on display at the Quonset Air Museum in Rhode Island once the Navy was done with her, although she was very much in her prime when Bob Burns took this portrait of her. Can you say fastidiously clean? What a neat airplane!   Robert Burns via Kerr Collection

We Wish We Knew

Not about the airplanes---we can pretty much figure that part out. No; the confusion part comes from the photographer of these images. They reside in our collection but we don't have a clue, not the first idea, who took them! (Well, actually we do---we're guessing Rick Morgan to be the culprit here...) We don't know when or where they were taken either, which makes them Mystery Meat par excellence, but lack of information never stopped us before and they're a really good way to end this edition so, without further delay:

154971 was an A-4F used by VFC-12 in the adversary role. You would think that grey paint would make her stick out like the proverbial turd in a punch bowl in an air-to-air encounter, but maybe that was the point. The color makes for a really neat airplane whatever the reason was.  Friddell Collection

Here's a view of another VFC-12 "Scooter"; A-4F BuNo 154200. The photo shows just how glossy that dark grey paint was, and how radically different those two A-4s appear due to the effect of ambient lighting during the shoot---the paintwork is the same on both aircraft.   Friddell Collection

 She's a "Scooter" tub and we think she's a TA-4F, but we're not sure. We don't know the BuNo either, but she's a seriously good-looking airplane in that dark grey paint job! She's another VFC-12 bird, but once you get past that we honestly don't know diddly about her!    Friddell Collection

Now it's time to really get into the swing of things around here! We don't know if she's an A-4E or an A-4F, we don't know the BuNo, and we don't know what squadron she's assigned to either. (Thanks to Rick Morgan we actually do have the squadron; she's from VF-126.) We do know that whoever took this shot knew their way around a camera, though, and that's good enough for us!    Friddell Collection

How about an idea for a modeling diorama, folks? We think (subject to correction) that she's a VA-75 bird and we can't make out her BuNo, which seems to be a constant as far as this piece is concerned! The aircraft is unremarkable in many ways, but the photo does provide us with an understanding of the goings-on when a tactical jet is being prepared for launch.   Friddell Collection

TPS looks better on some airplanes than on others. We were never all that fond of the system when it was applied as a monotone and this VA-174 A-7E illustrates why that is. The "Fruitfly" was always one of our very favorite Navy jets, but even the A-7 can look bland when there's only one color of grey involved in its paint job. Don't blame 158011 for it, though---it wasn't her fault!      Friddell Collection

Finally, here are a couple of shots of VF-102 F-14A Tomcats to round out our homage to The Mystery Photographer:

Gettin' ready for the boogie! This TPS-clad VF-102 F-14A is being directed to the taxiway prior to some NavAir fun and games. The Tomcat was a big airplane, and that size really comes across in this image, but she possessed plenty of agility in the right hands. Designed as a Fleet defense interceptor, she had the chops to hassle with the best of them when she was in her prime.   Friddell Collection

Here's the same bird rounding the corner and heading out. She was big, and she was heavy, but she was also mission-capable. The F-14 left some big shoes to fill when she finally left the Fleet...   Friddell Collection

And one last shot of a VF-102 F-14 to end our essay. The scale modelers among our readership may want to note the position of the wings and the configuration of their flaps and slats shown here. We mention this because Tamiya has just released a new 1/48th scale kit of the early F-14A and there's been quite a flap (no pun intended!) over it on certain of the internet modeling boards because the aforementioned flaps and slats are depicted closed on the model. We'd like to humbly suggest that the folks doing that complaining might want to reconsider their grievance against Tamiya, because the slats and flaps were normally in the retracted position, as depicted by Tamiya, unless the airplane was in the process of launching, recovering, or was hard down for heavy maintenance. And no; taxiing didn't count---the wings were swept then too! F-14s on the ground were normally parked and taxied with the wings in their over-sweep position, period. (If you've got photographs that prove otherwise we'd love to see them, of course! Please e-mail them to us at replicainscaleatyahoodotcom.)   Friddell Collection

And that's it for today's Mystery Meat! (Would the real photographer please stand up? Beuller? Beuller?)

And it's time for a correction already, a mere five hours after I originally posted this particular photo essay. Rick Morgan sent in an e-mail which is of interest, I think:

Phil- Nice work, as always, but none of those Navy shots are mine! VFC-12 used overall gloss dark engine gray as a standard paint scheme for years for some reason. It certainly doesn’t look bad either. Those shots all appear to be at their Oceana home. The brown camo A-4 is from VF-126; picture is obviously at Miramar. While both of the Oceana adversary units (VF-43 and VC/VFC-12) had “house” colors in their later A-4 days, the West Coast units (VF-126, VA-127) painted practically all their aircraft differently. Very few of them were alike.

 The Intruder is definitely VA-75, also home at Oceana. If the last two digits are “96” as they appear, that makes it about four possible aircraft… another classic example of how TPS’ grays melted into each other over time. Not a problem on, say, that Black Falcon KA-6D off to the right.


Many thanks, Rick! Now then, would the guy who shot the airplanes in this piece please get in touch with me so I can properly credit the images? Please?

Happy Snaps, and Under the Radar

Not today, folks. Things have been absolutely lunatic crazy around here for the past couple of months and I've really had to push to get this issue out so you wouldn't think I'd forgotten about you! With any luck those departments will be back with the next issue.

The Relief Tube

We honestly weren't prepared to run a Relief Tube this issue, but an hour or so ago I received a couple of comments from Doug Barbier that I felt needed to be published:

Phil, Another great blog - as usual! I really liked the opener about the graying of the hobby and helping out the newcomers, as well as the internet types who generally have no factual knowledge of the actual aircraft that they are raving/complaining about. I have sent a couple of e-mails to both xxx and xxx (internet modeling websites that I'm choosing to keep anonymous. Editor) about factual inaccuracies in reviews that would lead the unknowing the wrong direction and were unjustified in the face of the plastic/resin in question being accurate, and have received dead silence in return. Or when I tried to answer a couple of questions that were asked on the discussion forums---people did not want to hear a factual answer, they were more interested in flaming someone who did not see things "their" way. So I simply quit participating there rather than spend the time and effort just to get flamed - I have plenty of other things to keep me busy...  I feel sorry for the poor guy who initially asked an honest question...(This) is a sad state of affairs, because I have more than a fair amount of knowledge that I could share - and there are plenty of misconceptions and fallacies out there.

Doug, I couldn't agree more! The things you describe are 100% of the reason we don't run an open forum on this site. And for our readers: Doug's comments are part of an e-mail discussing something else and have therefore been heavily edited by me, but they're so germane to what we try to do around here that I thought they needed to be published. Your comments regarding this particular Relief Tube entry are welcome and encouraged as long as they're civil, polite, and on-topic!

Now we're done! Be good to your neighbor and we'll try to meet again real soon!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

That British Shooting Star, Mustangs at the End, An Odd One, Bound to the Ground, and Some Eagles

So You Actually Saw It, Right?

Which is, in a somewhat direct and quite possibly blunt way, a challenge to us all; a thought that I've been considering for quite some time now. The premise is one of those obvious things that we all should see but choose to ignore, to wit: The new Doomaflatchy Mk 39 kit has just been announced/released (pick the one that best fits your thought process) and Boy; is it ever a pile of junk! I looked at the pictures of the pre-release CAD screen shots and it's obvious that (fill in the blanks here). The kit's awful, a complete and total waste of plastic and my time!

That's one variation of the theme, but it's got a corollary all its very own: Why do you want to build that kit of the Whatever It Is? Everybody knows it's junk. It's a complete and total waste of your time! You really need to build the Whatever It Is That I Prefer instead.

Those statements aren't anything new in our polystyrene world, but consider this if you will: To some extent our hobby is as much an art form as it is an engineering exercise, and in point of fact a couple of my friends have been tagging modelers as either artists or engineers since the late 1960s, an identification that might lead us to believe that our hobby is somewhat subjective which, in point of fact, it very much is! Yes, the component pieces of those plastic kits we build are pre-defined since they come out of a specific set of hard tooling (unless you happen to be scratch-building, which could take us to a whole new level of subjectivity although that's not a discussion we're going to have today), but what happens to them after you open the box is up to you as much as it is to the kit.

There are, of course, a considerable number of informed people out there who know a lot about aviation and, in particular, aviation as it applies itself to those high-fidelity (in theory, at least) plastic models we build. Those folks are somewhat learned in the subject, albeit informally, and their perspectives and opinions are quite often valid. They are not, however, absolute. When we start discussing that side of the equation, we quickly find ourselves talking about two separate but equal (and often equally frustrating) situations. The first is the discussion, often damning, of the new kit that's going to come out but hasn't been announced yet, a discussion that's sole basis is the pre-release information provided by the kit's manufacturer, maybe in the form of an artist's rendering or maybe by the more contemporary CAD data (that stands for Computer Assisted Design, in case you were wondering) that's become commonplace in our hobby. Either one might be spot-on accurate and could well and truly define the kit we're going to get. Then again, it might not.

The other half of the discussion is the trashing of older kits based more on opinion than upon any sort of fact. It's certainly true that some of those kits we all define as dogs well and truly are, and you can hear them barking when you look at the box on the shelf of your hobby shop. It's equally factual, however, that there are more than a few of those polystyrene canines that aren't all that bad and can be made into excellent scale models with just a little bit of extra work. The term Old Kit does not in and of itself translate into Bad Kit no matter how much a vocal minority of the internet experts think it should.

I have a couple of thoughts on that whole thing, of course; don't I always? The first thought is this: I don't think you can truly judge anything that hasn't been released yet until---Ta-Daa---it's actually been released and is available for examination and critical review. Until that happens, all we've got is speculation and nothing more.

The other thought applies both to things that haven't been released and to things that have been around for decades, and it's a simple choice. If the kit is massively bad either fix it, live with the problems, or pass it by and wait for something better to come along. At the worst that new kit/old dog provides an opportunity for you to improve your modeling skills, and how else will you ever get better at the hobby if you don't step up and try things you haven't done before? (How many times have I said that over the past several years?) The guys and gals building those beautiful models we see in the surviving print magazines and on the internet didn't start out building replicas to that level; they learned how to do it through an ongoing evolution of their skills, and that evolution includes correcting inaccuracies in any given kit every bit as much as it does pre-shading, having the latest and greatest aftermarket, or anything else you may think you have to have in order to build a "good" model, whatever that is.

At the end of the day any kit we buy is a starting place and nothing more. It's a KIT. It might be an easy one or it might be damnably hard but at the end of the day it's still a kit, and it's an opportunity for you to improve your skills unless, of course, it's a really really bad kit, in which case it's an opportunity for you to exercise a little will power and buy something else instead. For example, and using as our star attraction a forthcoming model of an airplane that a great many of us truly want to have---it would be nice to have a Tamiya-quality P-40B available out of the box in 1/48th scale, and I think we'll probably come close when Airfix finally releases their new kit of same later this year, but the world won't come to an end if the kit turns out to have some minor issues and we have to use a little elbow grease in order to get to that exalted place.

We're all humans and it's in our nature to complain about things. It's my view that we should save those complaints for things that are actually worthy of same, and not go jumping on any old bandwagon that comes rolling by. Get the plastic in your hands, research the kit, check the dimensions, and evaluate the detailing, then make a pronouncement as to its accuracy. After all, Bad is a relative thing, even when you factor in the notion that it's as easy to design a good kit as it is to design an inaccurate one. At the end of the day it's a kit. It's a canvas for the artists among us, or a set of components for the engineers. On a personal level, I wish that new Merit kit of the Grumman Duck was better than it is, but I can fix the problems and I'm willing to do it. I'm not interested in fixing the Hobby Boss F-80 although I really do wish we had a state of the art kit of the airplane; the old Monogram kit provides a fine starting place for that airframe and in my view the HB kit offers no advantages to outweigh its proven inaccuracies. That's what we call a personal choice, I think. One kit is worth the extra effort to me but another isn't, and it all works out at the end of the day.

Maybe, just maybe, we should wait a while and see what those new, yet-to-be-released kits actually look like before we start bashing them and maybe, just maybe, we should evaluate the older stuff with a more objective eye? Maybe...

One We've Been Waiting For

Once upon a time, several years ago, there was a manufacturer of plastic model airplane kits called Classic Airframes. They were a small company with big aspirations and their claim to fame rested primarily on their propensity for releasing 1/48th scale kits of aircraft that nobody else would touch with a ten-foot pole, although they did occasionally venture forth into the realm of kits that the mainstream manufacturers should have done but hadn't. Their kits were obviously a labor of love but were distinctly of the limited-run variety, containing lots of resin bits and component pieces that were of the some-modeling-skills-required variety. You could easily build a show-stopper from those kits and a great many people have done just that, but the talent required to successfully complete one meant that not all that many got built. They were for the most part, and still are, what we can accurately describe as a tough date.

One of the kits they released from the category of Things The Mainstream Guys Should've Already Produced But Didn't was the Gloster/Armstrong-Whitworth Meteor. In point of fact they didn't produce just one kit but several later variants beginning with the F.4 and their "Meatbox" family, in theory at least, filled in a major gap in our collections of post-War jet fighters. Those kits could be built and looked good when completed, but it's fairly safe to say that it took some skill and extra effort to do it. The world was ready for a good 1/48th scale Meteor that most any moderately accomplished modeler could build, and none of the Classic Airframes kits filled that bill. We needed something better.

Then, late last year, the guys at the revitalized Airfix made a whole bunch of us jump for joy, and I mean quite literally in my case, when they announced that they would be doing a 1/48th scale Meteor F.8. The real airplane was one of those gorgeous fighters from the 50s that was blessed both with a myriad of attractive schemes and a combat record. It was, and is, an excellent choice for Airfix as well as a boon to anyone who builds jet aircraft from that era.

There are a number of reviews of this kit on the internet already so I'm not going to bore you with yet another one. My intention here is simply to pass on a few observations which I feel qualified to make since I've got said kit far enough along in the building process to discover some things you might want to know.

Keeping uppermost in our minds that this is not a review, here's where I was with the kit several days ago. It took a week or so of building for maybe an hour a day to produce what you see here, and that week was a pleasurable one. A whole bunch of people have been saying extremely nice things about the re-born Airfix and I have to agree with them---I've begun awaiting the arrival of each new Airfix kit with the same sort of excitement I had for their products way back in the 60s. Good on ya, Airfix! Keep it up!

One of the first things you'll notice about this kit is the instruction sheet, and those of you who are easily intimidated may well cringe from the fact that it numbers 98, count 'em; 98, separate and distinct assembly steps. There's nothing to be alarmed about, however---those entirely pictorial steps are all linear, well-illustrated, and leave virtually nothing to guesswork or chance. The sheer number of steps comes from the fact that they treat a great many subassemblies as separate items when they could just as easily have combined them, there being a separate step for each horizontal stab, each aileron, each elevator, each engine, and so on and so forth. Very few of those steps contain more than one thing for you to do which makes them both simple to follow and somewhat voluminous in total quantity---the point I'm trying to make here is that you shouldn't be concerned by a kit from this manufacturer that has 98 assembly steps, at least in this case, because Airfix presents them in such a way as to make your life considerably easier, not more difficult.

Those instructions contain a couple of options for you to consider such as wheels up or wheels down, external fuel tanks or not, and extended air brakes or not. The kit also provides the option of early or late engine intakes, both early or late canopies, the "Australian" ADF fairing, and a set of camera windows, none of which are defined in the instructions. Said instructions are quite specific as to what parts go where but you're going to have to figure out what you want to build from the kit before you start and, for the most part, stick with it. You can, and this is the reason I'm so excited about the kit, build an Australian F.8 out of the current boxing even though there's nothing anywhere on the instructions or box art that says so. Everything you'll need is already there except for rocket rails and a modified instrument panel, and there are flashed-over holes in the wings for the rockets. (I honestly doubt that anybody except possibly Red Roo will cater to that instrument panel change but who knows; maybe somebody will. My guess is that not one modeler in a thousand will ever notice the difference regardless of which panel is in there, but maybe I'm wrong about that.)

Several people have already come out with custom stickies for the kit and Red Roo has offered Korean War 77 Sqdn RAAF markings since the CA kit became available, while the kit's own decals are more than usable if you like the airplanes offered. You can also steal the excellent decals from either of Classic Airframes' Meteor F.8 offerings. I mention this primarily because a lot of American modelers may not be aware that some decals are already out there although everybody knows more are coming---I suspect most of our modeling friends resident in the Former Empire are aware and are ready to rock and roll.

The kit is molded in that soft, light-blue Airfix plastic of yore (that means the plastic they used a long time ago) which I like a lot, being a modeler who's also of yore. It cuts easily, sands easily, and is therefore both easy to work with and equally easy to mess up if your talents run towards clumsiness, definitely something to watch out for. Surface detailing is more than adequate and component detailing sits in the same boat. My kit suffered from a short-shot on one of the horizontal stabs, a malady I can't recall being mentioned in any of the reviews I've read so far. It's no big deal but it's there, which means it might be on your kit too and is therefore worth knowing about.

The infamous short-shot! If you discount the time it took the putty to dry it took far longer to write about this problem than it did to fix it. It's no big deal and is barely worth mentioning; I do so primarily to benefit the newer modeler who may be put off by this sort of thing. It's well and truly no big deal.

Speaking of that plastic, one thing that most assuredly is worth mentioning (and constitutes my one major gripe regarding this kit) is the surface texture of the plastic, which requires sanding or polishing prior to the application of any sort of finish. Airfix apparently used the EDM process (Electrical Discharge Machining) to create their tooling and there's plenty of reason to do it that way, since the process can be faster, less expensive, and produce molds that are easily as detailed as old-fashioned milling. Unfortunately, EDM generally leaves a surface texture that requires polishing out, which equates to More Money in the grand scheme of things. It would seem that Airfix didn't perform the final polishing which, in turn, requires that the modeler do it themselves. That's honestly not much of a deal but it's still surprising that they would do things that way when the rest of the kit is so exceptionally good.

One of the things I've read regarding this kit, and several others recently released by our re-emergent star from Perfidious Albion, is that you've got to be careful with your assembly work so things will fit properly. That, my friends is true. Several parts on the kit are done to extremely tight tolerances but they'll all fit as intended if you do your part of the job. In that vein I've read several reviews where the modeler commented on gaps at the wing roots. My kit wanted to have those gaps too, but the problem when away when I ran a little Tenax into that joint to properly set the wings to accommodate the necessary dihedral on the outer wing panels. It's an easy kit to build if you're pre-fitting as you go along and that's something we all do all the time, right?

Other things you might want to know about include the interior tub, which is pretty darned good right out of the box, although you might want to steal the bang seat from that suddenly-obsolete Classic Airframes kit you've been hording, and the landing gear. We all know there's got to be a way to do those accursed mud-guards besides molding them in two halves, integral with the struts, but maybe that's too expensive to tool for in the grand scheme of things (he said, tongue firmly in cheek!). A lot of folks will probably want to replace the kit's wheels and tires with the inevitable resin aftermarket once they become available, but you should know that the kit's items are perfectly usable if you don't want to go that route. Still, the landing gear is interesting in that it's simply designed yet manages to convey the complication of the real thing without using a gazillion small parts to do it. I'd anticipated issues with the mudguards, always a trial on models of this family of aircraft, but a little sanding took care of that whole Look-At-Me-I'm-In-Two-Halves thing. You'll want to be extra careful when you fit those two x-shaped retraction mlg assemblies into the wheel wells and they're easiest to install if you insert the outboard ends first, then the inboards. Like almost everything else on this kit they pretty much snap into place once you figure out how to install them. The learning curve is the tricky part.

Airfix provide you with passable engines too, which you'll want to install whether you're leaving the cowlings unbuttoned or not since you can see the whole front of said powerplants through those intakes. You'll also want to sand and paint the wing spar, which lives in front of the engines, before you do much in the way of assembly.

A final note, at least until I get this model completed: Airfix provide you with both small and large-bore intakes. This is of great interest to anybody contemplating a Korean War Australian bird and you'll want to lock down which intakes you need fairly early in the game. Fortunately, that's fairly easy to do and there's a saving grace to that whole deal since the intakes were easy to change out in the field in real life, which gives the modeler some theoretical leeway. Those among us who want to do a 77 Sqdn bird may also want to know that the smart money says that Australian Meteors from s/n A77-851 and up were delivered with large-bore intakes. As always, photographs are your friend!

Here's where we are after ten hours or so of extremely pleasant modeling. A couple of modeler-induced problems are evident (and are in process of being corrected!), but the kit itself is a treasure! It probably isn't a good choice for the absolute novice but anyone else can achieve an excellent result from it---just follow the instructions, fit twice and glue once, and you'll be really pleased with the results! The decals, by the way, are from Red Roo sheet RRD4830 "Boring Old Silver" and are for the 77 Sqdn F.8 (A77-859) flown by Ted Jones and nick-named "Darky Jones". They're of superb quality and definitely compliment the kit if you're interested in an Aussie bird.

That pretty much wraps up what I think I know about this kit at this point. It's been an absolute pleasure to work with and has totally removed the somewhat cranky Classic Airframes offering  from consideration as a viable kit, although I'll caveat that by saying it served well in its day; it's just that its day is over. There's no doubt that Airfix have other variants in the works off this basic kit too, which is definitely something to look forward to. In my world the kit is a definite Win. Way to go, Airfix!

Oh, and Mr. Airfix: May I have a Hunter in 1/48th scale too, please? Please...

A sight you don't see every day---a restored Meteor F.8 photographed by Rick Morgan in Avalon, Australia, in 2013. The airplane is painted in the markings of A77-851, "Hale Storm", which was a MiG-killer. It's a fitting way to end today's essay on the Meteor, I think!    R Morgan

Late in the Game

The date is 12 August, 1945, just two days away from the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay. The place is Ie Shima, a tiny island adjacent to Iwo Jima where the 110th TRS is in residence. This shot from the Rocker collection defines a poignant moment in the conflict; the squadron has essentially stood down but the war is still in progress and adding an air of uncertainty to the lives of those tasked with its conclusion.

These photo-Mustangs of the 110th TRS are lined up and parked and the canopies have been covered with canvas to protect them from the elements. The war is over for all intents and purposes but there's still no formal surrender and it's to the point where the waiting is harder than the combat. In just a couple of short days these airplanes, along with their pilots, ground crews, and support staff, will have become superfluous; the personnel will be going home while the gorgeous airplanes will, in very short order, go to the scrap heap. I'm pretty sure those pilots and ground echelon were glad to see them go, and even more glad to get back to the Land of the Big PX to try to restart their lives. It's all glamorous and exciting in the movies. The reality is a different story. Let's raise a glass!   Rocker Collection

Thanks as always to the generosity of Bobby Rocker, who makes these images available to us issue after issue.

Is It Supposed to Look Like That?

The Morgan boys, Mark and Rick, get around a bit. That's a really good thing for us because they share a lot of photography with the project, quite a bit of which is unique. Take this photo, for example:

Ok; so it's just a KA-6D from VA-52 (BuNo 151819) sitting in the hangar deck of the Carl Vinson in February of '97. There's nothing hanging under the wings (including racks) and nothing to make her noteworthy, not one stinkin' thing of interest. Oh, wait---what about that paint? Yikes! All right then; that's enough of being silly. Here's the deal: By 1997 VA-52 had been gone for two years or so. This particular KA-6 was in all likelihood a "blocking dummy", used for training in such disciplines as fire suppression and deck spotting and a fine example of just why we all insist on having a photograph on hand of the aircraft we're modeling. The airframe is quite obviously Light Gull Grey over Insignia White, the old "Easter Egg" scheme that was once the norm, but her radome is from a different aircraft and is in an interpretation of TPS. It's not an attractive paint job, or at least I don't think it is, but it is an extremely interesting one. In addition to that nose, a couple of other panels are also done in some variety of the tactical paint scheme, and then there are those checkerboards on the canopy framing. All in all this is a unique airplane and would make for a great model, painted up like that and sitting on a section of flight deck in a training scenario. Anybody got a detail of that emblem on the tail? If you do, the e-mail address, somewhat obfuscated to confound the spammers, is  replica in scale at yahoo dot com  with everything run together and a real dot where I used the word "dot" instead. Darned spammers!    Mark Morgan

What a Neat Idea!

There I was, walking around the ramp at NAS Corpus Christi's annual air show back in May of 1991 trying to get in a little last-minute photography of the things I'd missed arriving from the day before, when this caught my eye:

It's a commonly-known fact that most of the people who go to public air shows like airplanes. It's another commonly-known fact that a great many of those very same folks occasionally day-dream about being fearless, adrenaline-soaked fighter pilots. A couple of enterprising and extremely clever guys were inspired by that and got themselves a nose section off a scrapped out LTV F-8A Crusader, refurbished it, made a stand for it, and started showing up with it at selected air shows where they'd clap a surplus flight suit and helmet on anyone who was interested and take a cockpit shot of them sitting heroically in their very own jet fighter. It was a really neat and, in this case at least, well-executed idea but apparently didn't last very long on the airshow circuit. That's unfortunate, too, because it appeared to be Fun with with a capital F.    Friddell

Here's what the setup looked like in action! The intrepid young pilot is a blood relative of your editor and was having a bang-up good time that day, which was the whole point of the thing. I don't know what happened to either the nose section or to the guys who were taking it around the show circuit that year, but it was definitely a hit with kids of all ages. Long ago and far away...    Friddell

One We Haven't Looked At Yet

Those among you who are constant readers will note that we've never run anything on the McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Eagle during the time we've been in operation. There's no prejudice against the airplane here, mind you, but it hasn't been very high on our list of things we've wanted to publish. Today's the day when that changes---I recently found a pile of slides that I'd socked away without labeling or properly filing and have been going through them this morning trying to make sense of the ensuing mess. The up side of that are the images, which are excellent in and of themselves and provide us with an excellent view of a legendary American jet fighter. The down side, and unfortunately there is one, is that several of the slides came to me un-labeled. I suspect they're from one of the Morgan boys and my personal money is on Rick, but I'm honestly not certain who the culprit is in those instances. If anybody knows who actually took them I'd love to hear from you!

**And in late-breaking news, those mystery shots didn't come from Rick Morgan. Will the real photographer please stand up?!

Let's start off with an image that I've got the photographer's ID on: 73-0130 was an F-15A-20-MC that was serving with the 49th TFW out of Holloman AFB in November of 1985. She went into storage in the early 90s but was ready to rip when Rick Morgan shot her back in '85.    R Morgan

Here's another one with definite provenance; 84-0001, an F-15C-37-MC. She was with the 33rd TFW out of Eglin in late 1985 and also ended up at DM where we presume she still sits. While our personal preference has always run towards the aircraft of The Silver Air Force, we have to admit that the Eagle has something about her. Maybe it's the fact that every inch of the airplane screams "Fighter", but whatever it is we like it!   R Morgan

 The 1st TFW, operating out of Langley, has had F-15s forever. 82-0030 was a relatively late addition to their fleet and was built as an F-15C-34-MC. She went into storage in 2010 but was standing tall when this photo was taken. Note the "sit" of her horizontal stabs; they're deflected in an up attitude on this bird, down on the Eglin F-15 immediately preceding, and in a neutral position in our lead photo. Modelers take note!    Friddell Collection

The 48th FIS was an old ADC unit that kept their mission through the transitions to ADTAC and later to Air Combat Command. Their markings are pretty no matter what you want to call the parent organization that owns the airplanes nowadays, as illustrated by the 48th's 76-0100, an F-15A-17-MC. Don't be fooled by those blue flashes up on the intake trunks; those are flexible intake covers and not painted trim!   Friddell Collection

Here's another Forty-Niner for you; 77-0079 of the 8th TFS/49th TFW. An F-15A-15-MC, she ended up in storage like so many of her sisters. In this photo she's preparing for launch in a two-ship---in the early days of Eagle operations a favorite PR trick was to launch, clean up the airplane, and immediately pull up into a vertical climb to altitude. We suspect that sort of behavior is somewhat less-tolerated these days, at least in the ZI, but you never know. Those danged fighter pilots...   Friddell Collection
The Air Force began trimming down during the 1990s, thus accelerating the transfer of state-of-the-art fighters to the Guard. 76-0058, an F-15A-16-MC of Massachusetts's 102nd FS provides us with a prime example of that practice. We're not certain of the location of this shot nor the year in which it was taken, although the 102nd was normally based out of Otis. The 102nd was the first ANG unit to operate the F-15, a point of pride with the unit.   Friddell Collection

Our final shot is of an F-15C from the 325th TFW out of Tyndall, taken in November of 2000 at Kelly (nee Lackland) AFB. The airplane's design dates back to the end of the war in Southeast Asia and the Eagle still looks menacing! 83-0022 was built as an F-15C-35-MC and is presently in storage in the desert, but she was very much alive and kicking when this photo was taken!   Paul Bigelow via John Kerr

And that's it for today's look at Mac-Air's iconic Eagle, but it's definitely not the end of the type on these pages because we've still got a whole bunch of photos of the airplane to share. That's a project for another day, so stand by!

Happy Snaps

Today's Happy Snap is from Mark Morgan, who spent some premium time aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln back in 1998:

It's February of 1998 and Mark Morgan was standing in Vulture's Row aboard the Abraham Lincoln doing one of the things he does best; photographing airplanes. The EA-6B is 161347 from VAQ-129, the Prowler RAG, and she's about to execute a text-book trap for the photographer. She was in ICAP I configuration that day in February, but was scrapped out and cut up in 2011, a sad end to a proud bird.   Mark Morgan

The Relief Tube

Nobody's been correcting or complaining, so there's nothing to put here this time. As much as I'd like to think we're perfect around here I know the truth of the matter all too well, so please keep those electronic cards and letters coming. The messed-up-to-fool-the-spammers address is replica in scale at yahoo dot com so drop us a line one of these days! (We're also constantly on the lookout for new photography, just in case you're interested in helping with that too...)

**Shortly after I published this edition of the blog I received a message from Rick Morgan clarifying a couple of things I'd just published:

Phil- ‘Fraid those USAF shots aren’t mine; don’t recognize them. (and God forbid I ever let slides go somewhere unmarked!). The ramp appears to be Tyndall; suspect it’s a William Tell competition; Mark might be able to recognize the location. Strongly suspect the A-6 you posted is a “blocking dummy”; a non-operational airframe used for training on the ship. (typically fire fighting or qualifying tow drivers and yellow shirts). It appears to be missing several important items and 1997 is about 2 years after VA-52 disestablished.      Rick

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

Saturday, May 28, 2016

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

Perfect in Every Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fabulous Thunderbirds

One We Always Forget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That Magnesium Cloud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Come It Worked So Well For Them?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes the Old Ways Are Best

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Snaps

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

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

Thanks for this great shot, Morgo

The Relief Tube

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

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

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

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