Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How Many's a Lot?, Another Round of Invaders, The Other Half of the Story, Some Fireworks, and A Couple of B-25s

A Good Idea or a Throwaway?

This particular Good Idea being the almost new 1/48th scale HobbyBoss P-38L Lightning, and the throwing away part; well, you'll find out soon enough. Leave us continue...

If any of you have ever built a P-38 in any scale, and that includes such classic kits as the ancient Aurora offering, you know how difficult it is to get all the big pieces lined up properly. The Lightning's basic design guaranteed a clean airframe but the real aircraft was moderately difficult to build and somewhat of a pig to maintain, even though it proved to be an ace-maker par excellence once it got into combat. Until very recently all of the plastic kits of the type exhibited  a tendency to allow art to imitate life and mimicked that difficulty to build to a tee. Consider the facts: An airplane with lots of pieces going in lots of directions, with each and every major sub-assembly needing to be in perfect relation to its mates. An airplane that looks wompy-jawed and awkward if any significant component is out of alignment. An airplane that resides in few collections as a finished model, primarily because of the complexity of the design and the PITA Factor involved in the construction and finishing of anybody's kit of the type. In short, there's got to be a better way.

This is the part where you might reasonably ask why there needs to be a better way; after all, it's just a plastic kit, so how hard can it be? The answer is pretty ding-dang hard! Check it out, gang: There's two of all the big pieces in every kit we've seen to date, once you get past the center section and cockpit, anyway. Two engine nacelles, two booms, two vertical tails, two outboard horizontal tails, four radiator bathtubs mounted on the sides of the booms, and to top things off the airplane has tricycle landing gear, which means you've got to ballast the nose so it will sit on its gear. That's a tall order for the experienced modeler, and the newbie or barely competent guy or gal doesn't stand much of a chance. Remember that part where we said there had to be a better way?

Well, it turns out there is one, and it's the exclusive domain of one of those Chinese companies we all love to hate; HobbyBoss. A couple of months ago they unleashed their 1/48th scale P-38L on an unsuspecting public, and in one fell swoop they did away with most of the bugaboos that makes built-up P-38 models of any flavor such a rarity. Yep; in one giant leap outside the old Lightning box they went where no other manufacturer had ever gone before and eliminated all of the bugaboos formerly associated with constructing the P-38. The did this by the simple expedient of molding almost all of the airframe in two great big honking pieces. The fuselage/wing/boom assemblies are provided as a top and a bottom, to be assembled (with added details) into an airframe! The horizontal stab, both inboard and outboard, is part of that top and bottom so there's no way to misalign the parts. Ditto for the booms and outer wing panels. The landing gear wells are molded into the lower component, and the kit is engineered in such a way that even the most ham-fisted of modelers would have to work, and we mean really work, to screw things up. The modeler will have to add the vertical stabs and the forward sections of the engine nacelles and attach the radiators, but that's about it for the airframe. It's simple. It's an example of superb engineering, and it works! Somebody should have done it this way a long time ago, but they didn't. Kudos to Hobby Boss for an engineering job will done.

That's the Good News, but I'm sure you're all waiting for the other shoe to drop, so here you go: The tire and wheel assemblies are awful, and need to be replaced. The L-model has landing lights in the leading edges of the wings, but there are no transparencies for them. The "lips" on the oil cooler inlets at the front of the nacelles are too sharp. The booms are squared off instead of being oval in cross section. The doors on the radiator tubs are gomed up beyond salvation and need to be replaced. The polished oval aluminum panels that live on the inside of the nacelles are supplied as circular transparencies. The Christmas Tree rocket launchers are heavy handed and need to be replaced. There are prominent seams in the gas bags that shouldn't be there. Finally, the windows in the canopy sit much lower than they should. That's the Bad News.

Ok, then; what do we actually have here? In my opinion, which is worth exactly whatever credence you're willing to give it, the kit is somewhat frustrating but can be saved with aftermarket and a little bit of sweat equity. That canopy will be somewhat of a tough date and the cross-section of those booms may be something most of us end up living with, but the kit can get you there if you're willing to put  some effort into it. And, if those European resin guys who churn out aftermarket (often unnecessarily) for models of Mr. Hitler's  Luftwaffe both ad infinitum and ad nauseum can manage to divert a little bit of their effort into parts for this kit, we'll all be in a win/win situation.

The point we're trying to make here isn't about this kit specifically, even though that's what we've been spending most of our time talking about. No, it's about the philosophy involved in kitting this beast. The guys at HobbyBoss took a giant leap away from anything that had come before and came up with a real winner, flawed in detail but absolutely brilliant in concept. There are a bunch of little things wrong with the kit, and it can be frustrating because of that but at present there's no faster way to get to a 1/48th scale P-38, and the way they engineered the kit makes a P-38F/G/H entirely possible utilizing those beautifully-engineered big pieces. We can only hope they'll make the effort to fix the things that are wrong with the kit if they decide to do that. In the meantime, way to go, HobbyBoss!

Things Were Different Then

There was a time when the United States was the world's self-proclaimed Arsenal of Democracy, a time when our aircraft factories rolled out military airplanes of all types by the thousands. Nobody can afford to do that sort of thing nowadays, which makes this issue's first photograph special.

The place is Randolph Field, Texas, shortly before the beginning of the War, and the aircraft are North American Aviation BT-9s. We haven't attempted to count the airplanes on that ramp, but there are a whole bunch of them there, with more to come. This photo is neat in other ways too; check out the leading edge slats, the corrugated sheetmetal on the vertical stab, and that enormous radio antenna mast for starters. If somebody would stop kitting 109s for a few minutes maybe someday we could see a decent short-run model of this important type...   Rocker Collection

Thanks once again to Bobby Rocker for his continuing support of our project.

Gotta Love Those A-26s!

We do, anyway, and thanks to the kindness of John Horne we've got another group of them for your enjoyment today:

Miho AB, Japan, was a humming place in 1951 and a fitting start for today's look at the Invader. This Charlie-model has just arrived from the ZI and has yet to be assigned to a unit. Note the DF gear mounted to the windscreen frame and the red plastic caps on the wing-mounted .50s. The airframe is painted silver with black anti-glare panels and weathering is minimal, although that won't last for long. Note also the open bomb bay doors; both the gunner's compartment and the cockpit were accessible through the bomb bays, while the bombardier of the C-models had a dedicated door in the nose of the aircraft.  Snow via John Horne Collection

"NEV'A HOPP'EN" was another Miho bird, this time assigned to the 728th BS. She was an A-26C-45-DT, and was beginning to show signs of a combat career when this photo was taken; note the weathering and chipping evident in this photo.  None of the Korean War Invaders stayed pristine for very long.   Stoner via John Horne Collection

One advantage Japan had over almost any base on the Korean Peninsula was the ready availability of hangars. "Laverne", a B-26C from the 452nd BW, is enjoying the relative shelter of one of Miho's hangars during 1951. Korea is a far colder place than Japan in the winter, but Cold can be a relative thing, as seen by the field jackets worn by the ground crew in this photo.   Snow via John Horne Collection

Iwakuni AB in southern Japan was no stranger to the A-26 either. 44-34535, a C-model of the 731st BS, carried the name "Noop Gnat II" when photographed there early in 1951.The "Gnat's" in relatively pristine condition but that will change. 44-535 was one of the more interesting A-26s; originally built as an A-26B-61-DL, she was sold to Portugal after the war, and subsequently transferred to Angola. A strong rumor persists that she ended up in Cuba but there's also dispute regarding whether or not she ever carried a glass nose (she certainly did in this photo!). Comments are invited at replicainscale@yahoo.com  .   Macklin via John Horne Collection

"Black Panther", an A-26C (44-34966) from the 731st, sits on the ramp awaiting flight. We don't know much about the history of this one but we like that nose art! The natural metal propeller blades are of particular interest; they would provide a distraction to the pilot during night operations and it's more than a little bit surprising to see them on this aircraft.   Neff via John Horne Collection

They don't get much shinier than this! She's wearing both a new paint job and pristine nose art ("Marian B") in this shot. She was one of the lucky ones; 44-34520 survived the war to be sold into the civilian market. She's still around, living in Arizona these days and a proud reminder of her time over Korea.   Snow via John Horne Collection

"Black Jack", another 731st Charlie model, shows that you don't get to stay bright and shiny very long in the combat zone. This photo provides us with a somewhat fascinating enigma since the aircraft appears to have the blister normally associated with an AN/APQ-13 navigation radar installation sitting immediately aft of her nose gear doors. She doesn't have any of the other ECM fit of the RA-26C variant, however, or at least none of it is evident in this shot. We'll sit back and wait patiently for the letters to arrive...   John Horne Collection

Thanks again to John Horne for sharing his collection with us. We hope you're all enjoying those Invaders because there's more to come---stand by!

What the Captain Meant to Say

We're willing to bet dollars to donuts that a considerable portion of our readership were in diapers, presuming they were even alive and on the planet, during The Late, Great Southeast Asia War Games, but suffice it to say that conflict supplied the aviation community with quite a few catch phrases and expressions, a great many of which would tend to be unintelligible to those of relatively few years. "What the Captain Meant to Say" is one of those phrases.

It seems that for a considerable portion of that nasty little war the Air Force held a daily press briefing for the edification of the journalists who were attempting to make sense out of things so the folks back home (that would be us) could better understand the conflict. Veracity (another word for "truth") was sometimes in short supply in said briefings, which caused them to acquire the nickname "Five O'Clock Follies", which in turn led to an immortal story involving the Young Captain (it was always a young Captain) who'd just returned from a mission to some particularly nasty locale; say, Hanoi or the Dragon's Jaw. The press would ask the Young Captain how things were up there and he would respond with things like:

"It was awful up there! You could walk on the flak and there were MiGs everywhere! They shot the crap out of us! I'm lucky to be alive."

At that point the PIO conducting the briefing would step in and pronounce: "What the Captain meant to say was that opposition was somewhat heavy..." You get the picture, right?

Anyway, this isn't then and this article isn't about the Vietnam War, although that classic aviation joke does provide us with a nice lead-in to our next story.

If you recall, we ran a piece last issue about an F-4E from the 57th FIS that managed to launch out of Keflavic with its wings folded and was able to return to base reasonably intact. We didn't know much of anything about the incident so we asked one of our constant readers and contributors, an aviator who'd actually flown out of Kef back during The Day, to provide us with an education, which he promptly did. We published the piece and sat back wondering what folks would think about it. As things turned out we didn't have to wonder for very long, because we promptly received an e-mail from one of our readers, who turned out to be The Guy Who Was There When It Happened and Was Crewing The Airplane. Thanks to the kindness of Gerry Asher we've got the full story on that incident, and a little more besides. We're going to run the story but not today, because we've somehow managed to corrupt the PDF he sent us and we can't get it to load to the site!  We're going to run the photos today, though---we're really excited about this one and want to get it published. Please be patient with us while we struggle through the dark corridors of Computer Land. We will get this document untangled and readable, we promise! Gerry, we apologize for our total lack of computer competence, but we'll get this thing done! In the meantime:

Here's the star of our show; a young Gerry Asher, recently out from The Land of the Big BX and assigned to his dream slot---a maintenance gig in an interceptor squadron. He doesn't look like the kind of guy who would provoke the higher ups but that's what he did (selectively), and we're proud of him! We think you'll be proud of him too, and here's why:

The Air Force tends to be a little fussy about their airplanes, and often have the unreasonable attitude that their ground echelons shouldn't go painting things on them. That point of view ran contrary to Gerry's view of things, which led him to create the somewhat magnificent sharkmouth you see proudly painted on the nose of F-4E 66-0330. Gerry liked it, and his line chief liked it. Most of the folks who were actually involved in maintaining and flying the airplanes liked it too, but there were those further up the chain who didn't. You'll need to open and read that PDF in order to get the full story, but this photo ought to get you interested in doing that once we figure out how to get the darned thing loaded!

Here's another 57th bird, this time resplendent in SEA camo, and fully adorned with the squadron's knight's head and checkerboards. Those 57th FIS Echos had class, didn't they?   Gerry Asher

Here's the photo that started it all, a grainy shot taken by a Kodak Instamatic camera from the Whizzo's cockpit of another F-4E. The 57th's birds generally had at least one camera aboard so they could document The Bad Guys when they intercepted them. In this case the camera captured a little more than was bargained for!

Here's a different air-to-air of 66-0304 to compliment the one we ran last issue. This is what happens when you forget to lock the wings on a Phantom prior to launch! The date was 01 August 1978, and the crew were Capt. Gregory Harrison, pilot, and Capt. Dennis Dolphin, WSO.

And here's what it looks like on final (a really FAST final at 230 knots plus!

Over the fence and home! You have to imagine that there was just the least bit of excitement in that cockpit, but the Air Force has a tendency to train highly proficient aviators. That's probably a Very Good Thing, since this particular Bent Winged Bug Sucker managed to launch with three full gas bags on a 3-ship 2 v 1 flight to practice for the upcoming 1978 William Tell competition. The airplane shouldn't have been able to launch in that condition, and one of our resident Phormer Phantom Drivers drivers assures us it can't happen, but it did happen, at least this once. Yikes!

And here's a painting Gerry did to commemorate the event. It depicts 0304 just as she's breaking ground and is entitled "And I Was Having Such a Good Day!" As it happens, Gerry's both an excellent writer and an exceptionally good artist too. All we really need to make this piece complete is the story we'd planned on running today, but it's forthcoming! Apologies to Gerry for our lack of computer savvy and to our readers for the same!

More Munitions

If you're a constant reader, or if you've taken the time to read your way all the way back to the beginnings of this blog, you'll remember that we used to run excerpts from an old Navy Aviation Ordnance Manual, NavAir 00-80T-65. It was a fine tradition and we're not entirely certain why we stopped doing it, but today's as good a day as any to bring it back to life. Without further ado, then...

Here's an extremely basic overview of the pyrotechnics that were available to the NAV during the 1950s and 1960s. None of them provide a precise sense of scale, unfortunately, although the lengths are approximately defined, but they do define the shapes and tell us what they are. It's a start!   NavAir 00-80T-65

Here's an overview of one of the pyrotechnics that could easily find a place on a scale model; the AN-M46 photoflash bomb. This one could add new meaning to that old expression: Let there be light!   NavAir 00-80T-65

And here's a cutaway of a Mk 5 aircraft parachute flare. It doesn't look like much in this drawing, but it was a highly effective munition in its day. Nobody much uses this sort of thing any more; time and technology have passe it by. There was a time, however, when this was as good as it got!   NavAir 00-80T-65

A Mitchell Here, A Mitchell There

We've got a few more photos to share with you from the Rocker Collection---a handful of B-25s that don't seem to quite fit any other way. They aren't related but are interesting nonetheless, so let's take a look at what we've got:

"Educated Death" is an early strafer from the 100th BS/42nd BG. She appears to still have a bombardier's position in the nose, but those package guns mean business. Anybody got a shot of the rest of the airplane?   Rocker Collection

Here's "My Buck", a strafer from the 17th RBS. We're guessing she's brand spanking new, straight from the factory, but she won't stay that way for very long! Yes; we're always talking about the ever-present mud to be found on most airfields in the SWPAC. It was a fact of life, folks, and it was a condition that was rarely absent from operations.   Rocker Collection

Sometimes the 5th did get to operate off a solid surface such as Marston matting, as shown by this 17th RBS B-25J. Her package guns have been removed, but the 8 .50 cals remaining in the nose are more than sufficient for the job at hand. Those strafer Mitchells were really something, weren't they?  Rocker Collection

Here's the 17th's ramp at Lingayen. It's relatively dry, although Marston matting could be a joy all its own; just ask any AT-28 or A-26 driver who flew off the stuff in Vietnam!   Rocker Collection

It's never all that easy, though. This unidentified Mitchell sits burned out on Wakde, a reminder of how bad things could get even at the Home Drome. It wasn't always the enemy that got you.   Rocker Collection

Thanks as always to Bobby for unselfishly sharing his collection with us!

Under the Radar

We suspect the vast majority of our readers to be sufficiently young to have never experienced the 1960s in a first-hand sort of way, which provides us with a really great lead-in to today's book review. Way Back When, some 50+ years ago, we weren't nearly as well supplied with decent (read "serious" here) reference materials as we are nowadays. Aero Publishers was one of the big dogs in American reference books back then, although their approach was for the most part of the lightweight variety. One of their titles stood out, however, and we think it's stood the test of time fairly well.

The Republic F-105 "Thunderchief", Robert D. Archer, Aero Publishers, 1969, 80 pages, illustrated.
The war in Southeast Asia was still raging when this title was first released in 1969, and the F-105 was still very much a part of that war. It's 80 modest pages are crammed with a highly-readable and accurate text covering the development, technical details, and operational deployment of what can arguably be termed one of the best fighter-bomber designs of all time. Photo captions are brief and concise, and the book includes such revolutionary (for the time) items as a serial number list, pre-SEA camo markings specifications, and a list of F-105 MiG killers. The illustrations include color as well as black-and-white photographs, profile drawings, and a 5-view drawing of Paul Douglas Jr's "Arkansas Traveler". The book was a literal one-stop reference for the type, and holds up well today as a valid reference book on the "Thud". Often overlooked because of the era in which it was produced, it's well worth acquiring should you come across a copy. Recommended.

Happy Snaps

Here's one you don't see every day; A T-33 from Michigan's 191st FIG formates with one of the unit's F-4Ds and Yes, Virginia; that Phantom is carrying operational AIM-7s. A lot of folks used to write off the Guard as weekend wonders, completing ignoring the fact that most of their pilots were high-time professional aviators. The mission was a serious one, and the pilots took it that way. It's something to remember next time you think about dissing the ANG!   Doug Barbier

The Relief Tube

Nope; not today. We're going to spend the time trying to figure out how to run Gerry Asher's F-4 piece for you! In the meantime, be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Day of Dogs and Cats; Uh-Oh, Long Ago and Far Away, A Hellcat, A Nifty Boat, and A Bunch of Other Stuff!

Long ago and far away (or long ago, anyhow), your editor had hair, and said hair was not overrun with the silver and grey so indicative of an increasing seniority on life. You could buy a hamburger for a quarter at Burger Chef, and another quarter would get you fries to go with it. You could, in fact, have a meal for less than a buck if you stuck to the basics. You could buy a new Volkswagen Beetle for $1,200, give or take, or a Corvette for under $7,000. Everybody knew who the Beatles were, and you could still buy a real Coca Cola without having to import it from south of the border. Times were simpler.

Plastic kits of model airplanes were far less prolific in those bye-gone days, and the Scale of Choice for most people was 1/72nd. Airfix and Frog were co-Kings of the serious plastic modeling world, with Revell's burgeoning 1/72nd scale lineup a serious challenger to the throne and a couple of upstarts from the Far East called Hasegawa and Tamiya waiting in the wings. People built Revell B-57s and put them in 1/72nd scale collections claiming/hoping that they were "close enough" to the scale when they were, in reality, far too small. The same thing happened to the by-then ancient Revell F-89D which, in a similar vein, offered the opportunity to possess the only Scorpion in town outside of the tiny one offered in the Monogram Air Power set. Lindberg issued a small series of poorly-done Luftwaffe subjects in the scale and people snapped them up as fast as they could find them. Any kit was better than no kit at all.

Aftermarket didn't exist in any form other than a sheet of styrene, presuming you could find one for sale, and a tube of DuPont Spot and Body Glaze, aka "Green Stuff", was the modeler's best friend. Custom decals were limited to the offerings of ABT, HisAirDec, and a handful of others, and were stiff, thick, and often inaccurate. Testor, Pactra, and Floquil were the paints of choice, with the difficult-to-obtain Scalemaster, Frontier HQ, and Official lines offering slow-to-dry and dubiously tinted colors as "serious" alternatives to the more mainstream offerings. Airbrushes were generally Binks or Paasche single-action units and few people owned them. Weathering was limited to exhaust stains and heavily-overdone gun streaks if it was done at all.

All of the "good" scale modeling periodicals came out of Great Britain back then, with America's Scale Modeler offering a distant third or fourth-best Colonial alternative, and various IPMS/USA chapter publications offered the only serious insight into the potential of the hobby.

Things began to change in the late 1960s, with the arrival of Monogram's 1/48th and 1/72nd scale P-51Bs, kits that are laughed at nowadays but were ground-breaking in their day; their arrival was equal in stature to the buzz created by the release of Tamiya's recent 1/32nd scale F4U-1. Better and better kits followed apace and we eventually arrived, year by year and product by product, at the present time. Airplanes we never thought we'd see kitted are now being kitted, and we've got aftermarket, kits, references, decals, and paint quite literally coming out of our ears. We're inundated. Swamped. And, for the truly serious scale modeler, we aren't that much better off than we were way back in 1968.

Consider this: Those of us who build in 1/48th scale have waited years for a decent kit of any Grumman F9F-6 through -8 variant, and now we have a Cougar tub, with promised single-seaters to follow. We've wanted a single-seat McDonnell Voodoo of any flavor in that scale for just as long, and now we've got one. One of the major players recently decided to do the ultimate mid-war Me109G for us, and we got it too. All of those kits were highly anticipated, and all of them were major let-downs when they arrived; the F-101 and F9F-8T were both difficult to build and inaccurate to a considerable degree, while the much-bandied 109 was just too darned big for its scale, in addition to possessing some accuracy issues of its own. Given what came before, all three of those kits should have been as near to perfect as a plastic model airplane could be, but they aren't nearly as accurate as the kits Monogram was beginning to produce back in the late 1960s and are often as difficult, if not more so, to build in terms of fit. Where's the improvement? We certainly can't see one.

The point is simple. Those of us who were building back in The Day were ecstatic to get any new kit, no matter how poor it might have been (and a great many of them were damned poor), because that new kit gave us a shot at building something we couldn't have built before. The same thing could have been said about each new decal sheet or new manufacturer jumping into the game. We were grateful! We probably should be grateful for that big 101 we just got as well, and really grateful for the two-seat Cougar, except that after 45+ years those kits should have been a whole lot better than they are, and they're so far from the standards that Monogram, among others, set back in the aforementioned late 60s that some of our more knowledgeable friends won't even buy certain of  the new kits, much less build them. Time marches on, technology improves the breed, and we're still getting kits that in some respects can't play on the same field with models the boys from Morton Grove were producing four decades ago. It is, if we accept the premise that there's a learning curve that should have been imprinted a long time ago, time for certain plastic model manufacturers to get with the program, if you catch our drift.

Funny how the circle is a wheel...

How Do You Spell "Potpourri"?

We don't know either, but it's been a long time since we've published anything and we've accumulated a fair amount of stuff over the past few weeks, some of which is pretty neat, so we're going to temporarily deviate from our normal format and publish a few of the better things we've received of late, plus some airplane pictures. We hope you enjoy the show!


Rick Morgan found this one while surfing the internet and passed it on. It's pretty remarkable in and of itself and yes; it's a real photograph, not photo-shopped, of a real airplane that really did what the picture illustrates.

How do YOU say "Oh Schmitt!"? Rick had never seen this photo before, and we certainly hadn't either, so we asked our Resident Authority on Things Icelandic if he could provide an explanation. Said RAoTA jumped right in with the following comment:

Well, there is only one way to do it and that is to forget to lock the wings after they have been folded down. Unlike the USN Phantoms ( I think), the USAF versions could not fold and lock the wings from the cockpit, it had to be done by the ground crew. We frequently put 3 jets together in a shelter at Selfridge - you stopped short, they folded the wings and you taxied in with about 18" on either side - almost like parking on a carrier. When you pulled out you stopped, they unfolded the wings, locked them (separate step) and off you went. The only indication that the wings weren't locked was a small pin (think half the length of your index finger and about the same diameter) that stuck up just inside the fold line. It was supposed to be painted red. That was it. No warning lights, nothing else. In the one I know about from Kef, both pins were painted gray - the same color as the wings - which made them very hard to see. The ground crew folded the wings down but forgot to lock them, the WSO did not see the pins sticking up (you couldn't see them from the front seat) and as they rotated for takeoff, both wings folded up from the air load. That was the saving grace - if only one had folded it would have been all over. But double ugly being the brute it was, the pilot just delayed the rotation a bit and they went flying. Since it was a maintenance test hop, they weren't loaded with the 3 external fuel tanks they normally carried, which was another very good thing as they would undoubtedly have exceeded the tire limit speed before they got going fast enough to fly with that much weight.They launched a chase ship to see what was going on, which was where the pictures came from - cameras were required on all alert jets to photograph the "opposition" and the WSOs were used to taking photos- burned down gas, did a controllability check to see what speed they were going to have to fly on final and landed. The only other photo I have seen was taken from underneath and behind the jet. I am "assuming" that it only happened once, but will have to find that other photo to see if they were carrying CAP-9s. It would be sad if they managed to do it twice! BTW---most of the ground crew at Kef had never seen an F-4 until they got to the Island. Most were C-141 or SAC guys getting their "required" remote tour and they showed up knowing absolutely nothing about the jets. Ditto for the T-birds. The mx chief on them had assembled them from crates but the other guys had never seen one before, which was the reason my 2 piece T-33 tailpipe became a "shorty" in flight - with the aft end of the exhaust pipe sticking out the rear end and the middle resting on the bottom of the fuselage - they remembered to bolt it to the engine but forgot to bolt the two portions together in the middle. When it fell apart in flight, it was not conducive to providing the jet much in the way of thrust and did a very good job of lighting up the overheat warning light - at 4,000' and 85 miles out over some very cold water - it took 83% rpm to maintain level flight and the overheat light went on a 82%. We dumped all the chaff to lighten it up, set the power at 82% and had a hundred feet or so of altitude left coming over the coast line, straight-in to the east-west runway... You learned to preflight!
Doug Barbier

And who'da thunk it?  Thanks, Rick and Doug!

It Ain't Like It Used To Be

Back in the days of The Silver Air Force, each May saw every Air Force base worth its salt holding an open house in honor of Armed Forces Day. Constant reader Norm found one of those air shows on You Tube and sent us this link. Sit back, grab a Cold One, and take a gander at the stuff some of us grew up with!


The way we were, in a manner of speaking.  Thanks, Norm!

A Spiffy Cat

Old friend Jim Sullivan seems to have taken yet another sabbatical from Chance Vought's immortal F4U to produce an interesting model of another Navy fighter from the Second World War. The markings are unique, and Jim provided a photo of the actual airplane to go with it.

"Lolly", sitting on an airstrip Somewhere in the Pacific. Jim didn't have any information as to unit, time or place, so all we know for sure is that she's an F6F-3 and she's wearing some highly unusual conspicuity markings.   Sullivan Collection

Here's a photo of Jim's model, based on the much-maligned but actually quite good late 90s Hasegawa 1/48th scale kit. Here's what Jim had to say about it:

It's the 1/48th Hasegawa F6F-3 and was a pleasure to build. When I saw the photo of the actual plane, the markings were quite unusual and I just knew I had to build it. It's from a Navy squadron that was island-based out in the South Pacific in 1944. Although I've tried, I have yet to nail down the actual squadron it was assigned to. My thanks go out to Pip Moss and Joseph Osborn who made possible the custom decals for the plane and pilot's name. It's pretty much an OOB build with the exception of the Eduard instrument panel and the TD weighted wheels and vac canopy. It's airbrushed with MM enamels. A fun build for sure and I hope you like the way she turned out.

Here's a photo of the other side of the model. We really like the way it turned out and are tickled to death that Jim chose something so unique to model, and have to wonder if Mssrs Moss and Osborn shouldn't go into the custom decal business!

Not One You See Every Day

You may be familiar with the various flying boats produced by the American aviation industry prior to the United State's entry into the Second World War. They were large, most of them, and designed to span the oceans of the world. The Pan American station at Wake Island, as well as those in other places in the far reaches of the pacific, were established to support a facet of air transport called "Clippers" (a PanAm term that apparently took off, no pun intended, and was generically applied to the whole gamut of aircraft which fell into the trans-Pacific flying boat category). That terrible war accelerated the development and employment of the big boats and the end of the conflict saw them relegated to history, but they were something when they were in their prime. Thanks to Bobby Rocker, we have an opportunity to view one of those clippers, but not in the guise you might expect.

And here's the star of our show, a Boeing 314 in warpaint. Several "Clippers" were purchased by the War Department and operated by PanAm crews on transport duties throughout the war. This example is shown moored off NAS Alameda and is carrying an N-number rather than Navy markings. She's also wearing a large American flag on her nose, implying that the photo was taken very early in the war. That camouflage is something special, and we even have a kit to apply it to---the old (late 1960s) but still viable Airfix offering in 1/144th scale. We're not going to begin to guess at those colors, but it ought to be easy to get there in a "close enough is close enough" sort of mode. We smell a project!!!            Rocker Collection

It's All in the Details

Which is as good a way as any to describe our next photo.

The place is Funafuti in the Ellis Islands, and that OS2U Kingfisher is in the process of being beached. Several details make this photo well worth the running (and well worth wishing we had other views of it!). First and foremost are those enormous national insignia---we suspect those on the upper surfaces mimic them, which makes the lack of a side view of the aircraft particularly frustrating, since we think, but have no way of knowing, that the fuselages corcardes are on the largish side as well. Of equal interest are the red and yellow stripes on the face of the prop blades. The blades themselves appear to be black, and those red and yellow tip stripes should be complimented by one in blue, but that doesn't seem to be the case in this instance. Finally, the aircraft is armed with a pair of 100-pound GP bombs painted yellow (that's a standard Navy treatment for the early war years, so don't go writing us telling us they're practice bombs, ok?). This is the sort of photo that makes us long for an up-to-date 1/48th scale kit of the Kingfisher!  Someday...
USMC via Rocker Collection

Size Counts

It's no secret that we've got an interest in the events and aircraft of The Great War, and we've even built a few models of them for the collection, including several examples of that most graceful of First World War German fighters, the Albatros. The boys at Eduard made a great deal of their reputation for manufacturing superior plastic kits off their renditions of the Albatros DIII and DV, and those kits have been in production for quite a few years, which makes it odd indeed that both are possessed of significant problems concerning their undercarriage.

Of the two aircraft, the DIII has the simplest problem in terms of fixability (a word I sort-of made up on the spot, although I think the hot rod guys use it quite a bit too). Its wheels are too small in diameter, which makes the whole airplane look a little odd as a result. The solution to that particular problem is a simple one; call Roy over at Barracuda and ask him to sell you a set of his Albatros wheels. They're the right size and offer more detail than the kit parts to boot---it doesn't get much simpler than that.

That's the fix for the DIII. The DV, our personal favorite of the pair (of course!) has an issue far more profound. Here's a photo that explains it far better than we can with words:

Here's the photo---can you spot what's wrong? It's pretty obvious, we think, but in case you can't figure it out, check out the length of the undercarriage struts on both models. The one on the right is bone stock, 100% as Eduard delivered it into our waiting hands, and those struts are too short by a whopping 3mm or so on each leg. That gives the kit a sort-of Low Rider stance once it's built, and it makes the finished model look seriously goofy. The model on the left has had its struts lengthened by the requisite amount and now sits as it's supposed to. It's an easy fix if you've got a little bit of experience under your belt, but it's something the serious scale modeler shouldn't have to contend with in 2014!

You can buy a set of replacement struts from the really nice guy who runs Pheon over in England, should you be so inclined, but he's frequently out of stock on the item. We've been trying to persuade an American manufacturer of resin bits and pieces to work up a replacement for them and that may or may not happen---we have no way of knowing. What we do know is that Eduard seems to have no plans to replace those struts any time soon. The kit sells well as-is, so why should they, right? (Wrong!)

Anyway, if you're going to build an Albatros DV or DVa for your very own collection you're going to have to fix those struts if you want it to look right. Just sayin'...

A Tale of Lost Love

It's Rocker Day around here, we suppose, but Bobby's recently provided us with a whole slew of photos from the SWPAC and we figured we should share a few of them with you. for example:

"Shirlee" belonged to the 35th FG and was sitting in the mud on the ramp when she posed for this photo. The nose art says it all---"Shirlee" is crossed out and replaced by the poignant expression; "She Couldn't Wait". It may seem odd to make more than a passing mention of the significance of the name, but far too many GIs and sailors ended up losing sweethearts and wives while they were off fighting. That's just one more thing to add to the rain, mud, mosquitos, heat, disease, and Japanese. Did we ever mention that it was a crummy war? A really lousy, crummy war.     Rocker Collection

And While We're on the Subject of Mud

Here's another image from the Rocker collection to show how bad things can be, even when they're good.

The F-5s belong to the 8th PRS, and their ramp is at Dulag in the Philippines. They've got Marston matting, electricity, ground vehicles, and proper support equipment. They've also got standing water, mud, mosquitos, and malaria. Sometimes things stink even when you've got it good!   Rocker Collection

And here's another view of having it good when things are bad, or maybe having it bad when things are good! Either way this 17th PRS F-4, sitting on the ramp at Henderson Field, illustrates the same thing in a different setting---real maintenance stands and Marston matting, albeit with the same water, mud, mosquitos, and associated tropical diseases included in the deal too. Note the design on the nose-wheel cover; we can't quite make out what it is, but it adds character to that haze-camouflaged airplane.   Rocker Collection

Contrast that with the maintenance conditions surrounding "Shrimp", a P-39D undergoing engine work at the 4th Air Depot in Townsville. There's not an inch of matting in sight nor any sort of ground support equipment although, in all fairness, the simple removal of panels wouldn't require any. Check out the footwear on the mech closest to the camera. It could be that he was styling for the cameras, although those could also have been the only shoes he had (those socks are awfully white, though). Either way, the working conditions are pretty lousy.   Rocker Collection

In addition to all the other problems associated with performing maintenance in the SWPAC, there was one potential situation that was always present, particularly in the early days---the prospect of an assault by Japanese ground troops. This 7th FS/49th/FG P-40E was based near Darwin, Australia, during The Bad Old Days of 1942. Darwin underwent a number of air raids during 1942 and the early part of 1943, but in the event neither the town nor its associated bases were assaulted by ground forces since none ever made it to Australia. That wasn't taken as a given during 1942, however, and there are a number of sidearms, plus one M1 Garand, present in this shot. There were few easy days in the SWPAC.   Rocker Collection

More Invaders

Reader John Horne sent us a bunch of A-26 Invader photography a while back (a practice that we whole-heartedly encourage; that address is replicainscale@yahoo.com ). While we've already run a few of them, there are certainly more to go so without further ado...

"Sayonara"/"Jamee"/"Figmo", an A-26B of the 6th TTS, sits on the ramp at Clark in 1957. There's some nose art on her that we can't quite make out, but she's also trimmed out in yellow which is colorful enough for us!   Olmsted John Horne Collection

And here's a detail of that 6th TTS squadron emblem. It's easy to ignore the various USAF squadrons of the 50s that did such mundane things as towing targets, but their job was essential to the training of the guys flying the combat aircraft. It's interesting to note that this aircraft once boasted a the early six-guns laterally-displaced nose.   Olmsted via John Horne Collection

Here's another target tug, this time from the 4th TTS out of Ladd AB, Alaska, also during 1957. Although she's unadorned by names or nose art, she's an interesting (and colorful!) bird because of the arctic conspicuity markings applied over her target tug paintwork. 44-34184 was rebuilt as an A-26K in 1964.   Menard Collection via John Horne

Here's a color shot of the 4th's "Stinky" to prove the point about that color. Bright paintwork was the norm when an aircraft was a dedicated rag-dragger, and this shot of 44-35254 certainly lived up to the reputation. The Jet nacelles and cowlings definitely added to the beauty of the scheme, although we're not so sure about the white that trimmed the vertical stab!    Menard Collection via John Horne

"Involuntary" flew during the Korean fracas and is seen here on the ground, most probably in Japan. Her yellow trim, name, and mission markers stick out like a sore thumb but would have been all but invisible at night unless illuminated by a searchlight or flare. She was one of the ones the Bad Guys missed but she bought it just the same; she crashed to destruction during takeoff on a 31 August, 1951, mission, with no survivors. She was serving with the 731st BS/3rd BW out of Kunsan at the time but was on the ground at Iwakuni when this image was taken.   John Horne Collection

"No Sweat" was another aircraft from the 731st at Iwakuni. The opened bombardier's hatch appears to be finished in a battered rendition of Jet in this photo but is could also be/should be Insignia Green instead. Note that some of the red stencilling on this airframe appears to be somewhat crudely applied. It wasn't all that unusual to see that sort of thing on the A-26s operating out of combat zones, another note for modelers to remember.   John Horne Collection

And here's a nose shot of "Los Angeles City Limits", also from the 3rd. In her case the Insignia Red stencilling prevalent on the nose of "No Sweat" is missing entirely, either due to a repaint in the field or, quite possibly, to a nose swap. There's that Jet bombardier's hatch interior again; it sure looks black to us!   John Horne Collection

Let's end this essay with a shot of an RB-26 from the 11th TRS/67th TRW being prepared for storage at Clark Field during 1957. The light-colored streaks you see are preservative, not some funky paint job. What's interesting about this particular aircraft is her antenna suite and the presence of a dorsal turret (sans guns). At first glance she still has her ventral turret as well, but that's actually a cover for part of her electronics fitment. Do any of our readers have a schematic of those antennae?   Olmsted via John Horne Collection

We've still got a few shots from John's collection yet to run, but we're saving them for another day. If you can't wait until then and need another A-26 fix right now this minute, might we suggest that you sashay over to Gerry Kersey's 3rd Attack.Org site, which we link to on this blog. Gerry's doing a great job of preserving the heritage of the 3rd and his site is well worth the visit. Tell him Replica in Scale sent you!

A Warbird You Don't See Every Day

A couple of years ago we showed you a Pilatus P.2 trainer, formerly of the Swiss Air Force, undergoing restoration near Liberty Hill, Texas. She's complete now, and here's what she looks like:

If you ever get a chance to look inside this one, take it! Besides being a rare bird in the extreme---she's one of only two in the United States and the only one flying---her interior bears more than a passing resemblance to that of the Bf109E, a type operated by the Swiss Air Force during the Second Great Unpleasantness. Her ground handling characteristics are similar as well, although she certainly doesn't have the performance of the Teutonic fighter she was built to emulate; her Argus engine sees to that. Still, she's a neat old bird, shown here as Simon Diver, a key member of her restoration team and also her pilot for the delivery flight to her owners in Southern California, formates with a camera ship to celebrate the occasion. Her trip from South Central Texas to The Sunshine State was, for the most part, uneventful, and Simon is now without an old airplane to restore. Anybody got a derelict warbird laying around that needs to be rebuilt?   via Simon Diver

Long Ago and Far Away

Although Greenland is a relatively long way from anywhere, it's also approximately halfway to everywhere, or at least it is if your idea of everywhere coincides with the distance between the United States and Western Europe. Back in the 50s it was normal for American fighter units to stop there when transiting between the two continents. An example of that is shown to us today thanks to the kindness of Mark Morgan.

One of the 20th TFW's T-33As sits on the ramp taking a little gas while transiting through Sondrestrom. There's no snow on the ground but Desolate and Barren is still Desolate and Barren, snow or no snow. This sort of thing was all part of the job, and still is to this day. Oh, and check out the F-80 tip tanks on that bird!   USAF via Mark Morgan

Goose Bay isn't Sondrestrom, but it's almost as desolate and every bit as barren. Our friend TR-005 (from the photo immediately above) is first in line in this shot as the 20th TGW's "T-Birds" taxi in on their their way across the Pond. F-80 tip tanks are the norm within the Wing, which in theory makes this deployment of 1952-1953 vintage. Mark?   USAF via Mark Morgan

Happy Snaps

In keeping with today's theme (a little bit of this and a little bit of that), here's a bit of photography that could have been termed gorgeous had we not defaced it in order to deter The Picture Pirates from stealing it to publish elsewhere:

A section of VAQ-139's "Cougars" formate high over the Pacific during one of Air Wing 14's many deployments to the region. Military aviation is fraught with adventure and often times danger, but there are the quiet times too, when the guys in the airplanes can reflect on the beauty of it all. Thanks as always, Morgo, for this outstanding shot!   R Morgan

The Relief Tube

Of which there isn't one today, except to say that we've decided that, effective this issue, we're going to run any photograph we know for certain to be of official origin sans (that means "without", in case you're a Picture Pirate and don't know what the definition of that word is) watermarking. We think it's the right thing to do.

On the other hand, we're going to continue to watermark anything we receive from any contributor that has been either photographed by them or is from their collection. Those of our readership who have grown up with the hobby in our contemporary age of Right Click and Save probably don't have much of a perspective on that whole provenance thing, but those of us who earned our spurs in print can tell you how difficult it is to search out the guys with the photography and, oftentimes, persuade them that it's ok to allow their photos to be copied and put into print, electronic or otherwise. Citing provenance is the right thing to do, and stealing (as opposed to copying for one's own private collection) is not. Just sayin'...

And that's it for this time. We had what seemed to be a non-stop series of personal events going on over the past six weeks or so which contributed in great measure to our present delinquency, but we'll try to do better in the future. Then again, we've made that promise before, haven't we?

Anyway, we're going to try! In the meantime, be good to your neighbor. We'll do our best to see you again soon!