Monday, March 17, 2014
Heading Off a Relief Tube Entry at the Pass
Sometimes we do really bone-headed things around here; the Best Laid Plans, etc, etc. That was the case in this instance, when we completely gomed up (or, with the rag-draggers, simply didn't insert) the unit identifications for those A-26 photos you'll see below. If you're looking at this issue for the first time it really won't matter, so you can just pretend you never read this. If you did read it before you might want to read it again, because we corrected the photo captions which, in our minds, precludes any necessity for putting an additional correction here. Many thanks (and sincere apologies!) to John Horne for pointing out our errors!
Put a Little Love in Your Heart
We've all seen it. With any luck we haven't actually done it ourselves (or, more importantly, to others!), but we've all seen it in action far too many times. It's unkind. It's rude. It's arrogant. And it's entirely unnecessary to life as we know it.
What am I talking about this time, you might logically ask. What's got me up on my soapbox again, ranting and raving for all to see? Why, it's The Arrogant Internet Know-It-All, of course! You've seen it before (but hopefully not on these pages) and, unfortunately, you'll probably see it again. Let's discuss the situation.
In the pre-Internet world most publications had a letters-to-the-editor section so readers could write in with their comments or opinions on things a given periodical might have put into print. Back in those days letters got reviewed by an editor, who checked them over not only for grammatical and spelling errors but also for content and also, somewhere in the process of editing, chose which ones would find their way to ink on paper in the next issue. The Internet isn't like that, by and large, because a whole lot, maybe even most, of the e-zines and blogs out there allow their readership to voice their opinions by means of a forum of one sort or another, generally moderated by someone connected in some official manner with the site in question. Said moderator gets to be the referee, for want of a better term, and gets to try to keep things informative and relatively civil. Unfortunately, since there are generally a whole bunch of people writing in and just one or two moderators, things can sometimes go off in a direction entirely unintended by the staff of said site.
On any given day I probably drop in on a half-dozen or so modeling-related boards to see what's going on in the polystyrene world. It's a good way to learn new techniques, gain a fresh insight into things I thought I had figured out a long time ago, and just have some enjoyable time reading the comments of people I don't actually know but have come to look on as electronic friends because I enjoy reading what they write. I think that's what the folks who put forums on their sites intended when they did it, and I applaud their efforts and good intentions.
Unfortunately, those good intentions are often run aground by the efforts of a class of folks we'll call The Dreaded Internet Experts, those people who know everything and want to make certain that you, along with everyone else, know that they know it. Their expression of thought ranges from comments as simple as "we discussed that 3 pages ago (Weren't you paying attention, Dummy?!)" to out-and-out accusations of whatever it is the accusations are about this time ("Hey, everybody---look at me! I'm really smart but that guy's a moron!").
Here's the deal, or at least the deal as I see it. People who don't know things write into those web forums to ask questions so they can learn. Sometimes the questions don't seem too well-founded, it's true, but it's fair to presume that somebody didn't know something and thought somebody on whatever-forum-they're-reading could help them with the answer. That seems fair enough to me, and I honestly can't see belittling such people or jumping down their throats when they commit the unforgivable transgression of asking a "dumb" question; all that sort of thing does is make the person making the comment look bad in the eyes of their peers. They might be right in what they're saying, and their comment might be well-founded, but it's also rude. It's probably better to not say anything than to jump down the throat of a total stranger because they didn't know the answer to something.
Why, you might say, does this matter? To me the answer is simple: Every year we get more and better kits, and decals, and references, and on and on it goes, but a lot of that is because those of us who grew up with plastic models have aged to the point where we can afford at least some of those increasingly expensive toys. Sooner or later we'll age to the point where we can't see well enough to model anymore, or no longer have the eye-to-hand coordination that's necessary for such things. One way or another we're all going to leave the hobby, and I'm not convinced there are all that many people coming up who care about plastic scale modeling the way a lot of us do. With that as a premise, why would we want to risk driving people away from the hobby because we can't control our egos on an electronic forum? Wouldn't we want to help those folks out so they'll become more involved, and maybe bring in a friend or two with them? Wouldn't increasing numbers give us a shot a more new kits, and references, and so on and so forth, while we're still able to enjoy them?
I think there's an obvious lesson to be learned from all this, both in scale modeling and in the other aspects of our lives. A question you don't like doesn't have to be a challenge, and an answer you don't agree with doesn't have to be an affront to your very being. It might be easier to just try to get along with the other guy.
I rest my case.
Some Different Invaders
Some things are seminal in our lives; people, places, things, or events that bend a twig and shape a future. For us, one of those seminal instances was a Thing, the Monogram B-26 Invader (Kit # P6 or PA6 depending on how old you are). "Lil Nell", as was boldly emblazoned on its nose, was The Big M's first plastic model airplane kit, originally appearing in 1955 and staying in production until 1970 or so. We built it for the first time in 1957 and were, as were so many kids of the 50s, immediately stricken by the airplane's appearance. That model triggered a personal love affair with the A-26 that's lasted to this very day. We're guessing that a lot of our readers share the same passion, and maybe even for the same reason. There's a caveat, though. There always is.
In this case the caveat is the mission the airplane was used for; the A-26 (later B-26, after Martin's medium bomber of the same designation had left the inventory shortly after the conclusion of the Second World War) being primarily thought of as an attack aircraft and bomber. That was, after all, its designed role, and it's how the vast majority of them served in three wars. That's why those of us with a specific seniority on life fell in love with that Monogram kit, right? Right!
OK then, consider this point, if you will. The Invader served from the waning days of WW2 right up through the greater part of the Vietnam War as a light bomber, an attack bomber, and an interdiction platform, but the basic airframe was a versatile one that lent itself to tasks other than those we most often associate with the type. In later years, while in service with the ANG, it sprayed mosquitos over American cities and served as a fast VIP transport. From the end of the Second World War until the final days of its career it served as a target tug and, for a brief period of time during the Korean War, as an electronic warfare platform. Thanks once again to John Horne, we're going to spend a few minutes exploring those particular missions as they were flown by the Douglas A-26. Let us proceed:
email@example.com . Campbell via J Horne Collection
Before He Was a Governor
Joe Foss led a long and distinguished life, Governor of North Dakota, first president of the American Football League, president of the NRA, a general in the Air National Guard, and a broadcast announcer on television. Those accomplishments, taken all by themselves, would qualify him for lasting fame, but there's more to the story than that. Joe Foss was a Marine aviator during the Bad Old Days of 1942 and flew with VMF-121 out of Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. The 26 kills he achieved while there won him the Medal of Honor, while his stay in the Solomons gave him a case of malaria and a trip back to the States. He was back in the saddle again by 1944, commanding VMF-115 out of Emirau, where he relapsed into a second case of malaria. He was the Real Deal, an all-American boy doing his duty in a crummy war and thriving on the experience, and his exploits, both on and off the battlefield, are the stuff of legends.
Many thanks to Bobby Rocker once again, and a special thanks to the guys who stood up when the going was toughest. We owe them.
That's not how North American Aviation's B-25 Mitchell started out, but by early 1943 the aircraft had morphed into a strafer of the highest order. The concept began with the operators in General George's air force, who required more punch than existing bombardment types could provide given the 5th Bomber Command's evolving mission as a low-level strike force. Those early field mods eventually led to the production of dedicated strafers straight off the production lines. The photos you're about to view chronicle a brief capsule of that evolution, with aircraft provided courtesy of the 405th BS, 38th BG.
J Watson Collection
Such a Simple Idea
As you've all been reminded far more times than you would like, I've been building plastic model airplanes most of my life. My progression of skill sets has probably been the one most of you have followed as well; glue-smeared rough assemblages of parts replaced by tidier assemblages of parts, which in turn were replaced by tidy assemblages of puttied and sanded parts. Those puttied and sanded assemblages, which more or less resembled an airplane to one extent or another prior to painting were, at one point in our modeling careers, the arrival point, the goal, the end game. Everybody knew, and most people still know, that you build up a model, than paint it, decal it, weather it, and put it on the shelf. That's the way you do it (although you don't get money or chicks for free). That's the way I used to do it too, but not any more. I've had an epiphany, if you will, and I'd like to share it with you.
It all started during a visit to Frank Emmett's place a couple of years ago. The spouses were safely ensconced in Frank's living room doing whatever it is spouses do when they're ensconced someplace, while he and I were back in his airplane room talking about, what else---airplanes---when I noticed Frank's project of the moment sitting there on his workbench. At this remove I honestly can't remember what he was building, although that really doesn't matter. What does matter is the way he was building it.
Remember that part way up there in the first paragraph where I said that we all learned to build up a mostly homogeneous airframe before we began to paint and decal. Well folks, Frank wasn't doing it that way. Nope; he had a fuselage all built up, painted and decalled and sitting next to a wing assembly in the same approximate condition. I noticed what he was doing and the light bulb went on!
Back in those prehistoric times us old guys sometimes refer to as "The Day" it was necessary to build up a kit into something that more-or-less represented the finished model before we could begin any sort of finishing processes such as painting. It was a defense mechanism, since most of those older kits didn't fit worth a damn and a fair amount of sanding and puttying, followed by even more sanding and puttying, was pretty much the order of the day. That all began to change back in the 90s, and today's modern kits, the mainstream ones anyway, generally go together pretty darned well. Think about that for a minute. How many kit reviews have you read where the writer said he or she didn't use any putty and did very little sanding? The answer, increasingly, is A Lot, and that answer takes us to my epiphany. Think about it for a minute---it's often easier to paint and decal a fuselage by itself, without other big pieces stuck to it to get in the way, and since most of the big pieces on a great many kits now go together with little need for bodywork, the next step is obvious: Build the thing in modules!
The point is this: You will have to be extremely careful doing your final assembly and be prepared (and brave enough) to do a little touch-up if necessary once everything's together, but you'd probably have to do that anyway. It's a given in our hobby. Not every kit is well enough engineered to allow you to use this technique, but most of the newer ones are. A great many of Hasegawa's kits, as well as Tamiya's and Eduard's, tend to fall together without much hassle if you're careful when you do your initial assembly, which makes the technique viable in the extreme. You probably won't want to try it with very many of the current crop of Chinese kits (although they're getting better with every new release) and you definitely can't do it with the short-run stuff, but there are a whole lot of kits out there where the technique works just fine. You really ought to give it a try some day. You just might be amazed at how things turn out.
Oh yeah; we'll tell Frank you said thank you!
Or not, but any way you cut it it's a fact that the Late Lamented McDonnell Aircraft Company/McDonnell Douglas used to name their fighters after ghostly apparitions and other scary things. We're big fans of Things Naval around here, and therefore fans of those McAir fighters by default. That makes it an easy jump into today's last photo essay. There's no rational here except that Mark Nankivil recently sent in a couple of really neat photos and we wanted an excuse to share them with you!
firstname.lastname@example.org . Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil
Since we're already doing a Navy thing today, let's crank in a product from the Grumman Iron Works for our parting shot:
The Relief Tube
It's been at least two issues since we last ran this part of the blog, so it's probably time to get back into the game. We're only going to run a couple of things this time since we're essentially playing catch-up, so without further ado:
A couple of issues ago we ran a photo of an A/F-18F submitted by Kolin Campbell and identified the place as being a cold, wintery one, probably because that's how the weather was around here. In fact we were about as wrong as wrong could be, as explained by Kolin:
Although the F/A-18F photo makes it appear cold out there, it sure wasn't! Photo was taken during the early summer, which at China Lake means hot. The white areas on the ground are desert minerals or salts. The 'lake' visible is Searles Lake, located near the town of Trona, CA. China Lake airfield is to the west, not visible in the photo. It can get cold in the winter, though. Kolin
And finally (we told you this would be a short Relief Tube!), here's a photo to end the day with. It's from The Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum courtesy of Mark Nankivil, and we're running it in an unadulterated form (that means no watermark) as a special treat for our readers.
And that's it for this issue. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again real soon!
Sunday, March 2, 2014
A Waste of Money?
Or, Why in the World Do We Buy All That Aftermarket, a Conundrum in Various Parts. That's right, Aftermarket; all those photo-etch sheets, resin bits, vacuum-formed transparencies, and other doohickeys that we all just can't seem to live without. It's a thriving and often helpful market that caters to the more advanced (read Not an Absolute Novice) scale modeler. The whole concept feeds into a notion that our hobby likes to call AMS, which is short for Advanced Modeler Syndrome but which could just as easily be known as Additional Model Stuff, which could also morph into AHUMS, or Additional and Highly Unnecessary Model Stuff. I fully realize that I'm flying right in the face of conventional scale modeling wisdom here, but stay with me for a moment if you will and I'll explain why I'd advance such a heresy.
Ever since there's been plastic scale modeling there's been an ongoing quest for better, more accurate kits. It's been a constant struggle since, with each passing year, technology has allowed the cutting of finer and more accurate molds (presuming, of course, that the data used to cut said molds was correct in the first place), which in turn resulted in better, more accurate kits. Still, the kit manufacturers could only do so much in the way of what they offered because tooling costs had to be kept reasonable in order to allow the production of kits that you and I could actually afford to buy. There was, still is, and probably always will be room for improvement, and that's where the aftermarket guys come in.
There are three different ways aftermarket serves our hobby. One is that of the correction set which, in theory at least, fixes known problems with a specific kit so those of us who want the thing to actually look like what it's supposed to can get there without having to resort to scratchbuilding. Another is the conversion set which again, in theory if not always in fact, allows us to convert a given variant of whatever-it-is-we're-building into a different (and hopefully accurate) variation of same. The third kind of aftermarket, and the one we suspect most scale modelers use most often, is the simple detail set of either the resin or photo-etch variety. All have their place in our hobby but all have their pitfalls as well.
There are two essential problems that we confront when we use, or want to use, aftermarket. The first is simple accuracy---there are correction/conversion/detail sets out there that are no better than and, in many cases are actually worse than, the kit parts they're trying to correct. The second is modeler's greed caused by advertising---the siren call of those bagged chunks of detailed resin or color printed photo-etch that just sit on your local dealer's shelf calling out "Buy me, I'm cool!". That call is often hard to resist, even though the parts in question may not be all they should be.
Then there are another couple of issues that really sully the water. First, the modeler has to have skill sets that will allow proper use of said aftermarket but skill sets come with experience, and a lot of new modelers buy into the whole aftermarket thing a little earlier than they might really want to given their level of expertise. It's a learning experience and there's no better way to learn than to do, but doing that can sometimes be frustrating for the New Guy or Girl. The second thing is so obvious and basic that it's almost laughable, except that so many folks can't quite figure it out---it's quite often impossible to even see all that extra detail that went into the kit once the aftermarket has been added! You know it's there, and your friends will all shake their heads knowingly saying things like "that's really cool" while they're actually thinking "I can't see a darned thing in there!". It's a "what's the point" kind of deal.
I know people who actually buy every bit of aftermarket they can find for any given kit they may be working on and incorporate it into their model whether they need it or not (and, more importantly, whether it's actually accurate or not). It's a norm and it's automatic. I used to do that too, until I discovered that Aftermarket wasn't always the salvation it was cracked up to be. My first epiphany came when I was building a 1/48th Tamiya Bf109E-4, using an Eduard Zoom set to spruce up my cockpit, and discovered that they'd printed all the colored cockpit panels in what amounted to a shade of Baby Blue instead of the presumed RLM66 dark grey. The second epiphany came when I was working with another Eduard product, their 1/48th scale Bf109E-4 plastic kit, which came with an instrument panel decal that looked every bit as good as the optional photo-etch they'd provided for the same part. The final blow came from the folks over at QuickBoost, who's replacement cowling for Eduard's Fw190 family of kits theoretically simplified construction but didn't address the incorrect (read nonexistent) slope on the top of said cowling. Since the kit component is easy to construct in the first place and the new cowling didn't actually fix the problem, it was a piece of aftermarket that served little purpose.
So what's the Bottom Line? Is there a point to all of this? The simple answer is Yes, there is, but it's with a caveat. It's my firm belief that Aftermarket still has an important place in our hobby and I continue to buy it, but I try to take a long hard look at what I'm buying first. If it's not an actual improvement on a kit component, or doesn't improve the appearance of the finished model or isn't accurate, then it really isn't worth having. AMS isn't, in my world at least, a justification for throwing away money.
What Happened to the Blog a Couple of Weeks Ago?
If you're a regular here, and if you were on line at the right time a couple of weeks ago, you may have seen a blog installment briefly appear on your confuser, only to disappear again a few moments later. Here's what happened. I had written an opening editorial, but only that, and was in the process of saving it when I apparently (I don't think I did it but then again I must have) hit the "publish" button instead of the one that says "save". Once I realized what I'd done I went back into the blog to undo the mischief, which resulted in a false indication that something had been published---in truth something had been, but I deleted it almost immediately. My gratitude is extended to the several readers who contacted me to let me know there was a problem; it seems we're beginning to turn into a family of sorts and I appreciate that sort of feedback. Thanks, ya'll!
Some Decals You Might Want
If you've been in the hobby for very long you know Nor Graser, even if you don't think you do. Back in what we might call The Day he was the guy who created the artwork and instructions for our friends over at MicroScale, making it a better than even shot that you've got some of his artwork residing on several models in your collection right now this very minute.
That was then. Nowadays Nor is manufacturing his own line of decals called Thundercals and dedicated to, what else; the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt in WW2. They're done in 1/48th, they're printed by Cartograph, and they're exquisite. Let's take a look.
Accuracy is a high point of all of these decals. Nor is a P-47 scholar of sorts and holds extensive photo files on the type, which means that all of the aircraft covered are well documented in pictures; there are no conjectural schemes presented here. The schemes presented are all colorful and desirable from a modeler's point of view, and their production by Cartograph ensures that they're thin and well-printed. It helps to have your own references for the markings you choose to use, since some of the smaller decals don't have placement instructions (and placement instructions are important because you can actually read those decals---put a glass on them if you don't believe us!)
As a final note, I liked the decals enough to start a P-47 of my own, Kearby's "Fiery Ginger IV" (one of several "Fiery Ginger IV"s and the one he met his death in). It's presently far enough along to have its paint and decals applied and it's turning out quite nicely, thank you---I'm very happy with the results and am now a fan of Thundercals! (One thing you ought to know about "Fiery Ginger IV" that's covered on the decal sheet but bears repeating anyway: The real airplane was a P-47D-4-RA, which means she had the original "square" cowl flaps all the way down both sides of the cowling. The Tamiya kit only provides the later style of cowl flaps so you'll have to do a little bit of scratch-building (not all that hard) or turn to aftermarket for the correct pieces. If you go the aftermarket route you have two choices; QuickBoost and Loon. Of the two, the QuickBoost component is marginally too short when installed on the model and is tricky to fit, while the Loon offering is a simple and accurate drop-fit with no issues. You pays your money...)
We don't know what's next from Thundercals, but we really hope it's more PTO "Jugs". Whatever it is, we anticipate the product to be well worth your while. These sheets certainly are.
A Few More Invaders
Last time around we ran a batch of A-26 shots from reader John Horne, who's Invader collection just may be unmatched in terms of content. Coincidental to that, Doug Barbier sent along a group of A-26 images he'd recently uncovered and that nicely complimented the shots John had provided. We're going to feature those A-26 images today. They were all taken by Robert Lubic, a gunner in the 13th BS's "Miss Chadwick", and provide us with an interesting look into a bygone era.
We've got more A-26s yet to come, so stay with us if you're interested in the type. (And somebody make sure to tell Maddog John Kerr that we're featuring his favorite airplane for the next couple of issues. We promise he'll thank you!)
Under the Radar
Or in this case not really, but we're going to look at a couple of long out-of-print titles you really ought to have in your collection if you happen to be a student of the SWPAC, or if your interests run to the JNAF or IJAAF. The younger members of our audience will be excused for the inevitable comments they'll have regarding these titles but both were seminal in their day and raised the bar considerably in terms of Japanese aircraft camouflage and markings of the Second World War.
First, let's talk about what these books aren't. They were both considered definitive studies when they were first released, with the JAAF title achieving almost mystical status from the moment of its release, but both are lacking by today's standards. There are a lot of omissions and a fair amount of accurate information that's incomplete because of the amount of information that's available to the contemporary researcher. For a brief time both were considered to be the standard references for their particular topics, but a single visit to the J-Aircraft website will show even the most casual of readers how dated the books have become. That's the bad news.
As for the good news, there's plenty of it. Don Thorpe was interested in Things Japanese long before most western aviation enthusiasts caught the bug, and he was methodical. We actually read where somebody on one of those I-know-everything-there-is-to-know-and-I'm-going-to-tell-you-about-it modeling boards commented that the books were worthless because they didn't include the latest iteration of whatever it was that individual was interested in. That person obviously didn't have a clue, because before The Thorpe Books there was virtually nothing on Japanese aircraft camouflage and markings in the English-speaking world. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Don Thorpe put it all together, the best he could, using the resources that were available to him at the time. Those paper-bound volumes literally contained all there was to know about Japanese colors and markings at the time of their publication, and they set the tone (and the bar) for all that was to follow.
So what's our point? It's a simple and basic one; by researching, writing, and publishing these two volumes, Don Thorpe surpassed all that had come before and set the standard for all that was yet to come regarding the topic. The world has changed significantly since 1977, when the second book in this set first saw publication, and it's true that neither title would be considered a go-to reference nowadays. Their influence cannot be underestimated, however; nor can the contribution to the scholarship of Things Japanese. The photographs published in both tomes have become old hat, but they were mostly exciting and new way back then. The color profiles included in both volumes are crude by today's airbrushed standards, but they set the standard when the books were published.
There are some books you need to have in your collection just because you need to have them. These books fall into that category. They don't show up all that often any more, but if you can find a set you might want to consider getting them. Once you've done that, get yourself a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and enjoy what was once the Best of the Best. Somewhere in there you might consider tipping your hat to Don Thorpe too. He set the pace for a lot of what we now take for granted, and he set a pretty high standard in the process.
Last time around we ran a photo of a really spiffy F/A-18F courtesy of Kolin Campbell.That Super Hornet was one of several shots Kolin shared with us. Here's another:
The Relief Tube
Of which we aren't doing one this time around. I know, I know...
Thanks for dropping in, and we'll see you again soon. In the meantime, be good to your neighbor. It's the right thing to do.
Sunday, February 2, 2014
A Rebirth of Enthusiasm
Have you ever been stuck in a rut? More specifically, have you ever been stuck in a rut of the modeling persuasion and, more specifically than even that, have you ever been stuck in a modeling rut and not realized that you were? Well, folks, that's where we, or more specifically I, spent most of last year. Two Bf109Es, an Me109F, and a quartet of Fw190s, all from the Eastern Front, managed to add themselves to the collection during the course of 2013---all Luftwaffe aircraft and all representing operations in one specific geographic location. I had a great deal of fun building them and was, for the most part, happy with the way those models came out, but there was a catch; to wit:
It was pretty obvious that my modeling world was narrowing down considerably. It's true that I started that T-6 a while back, but it's been languishing on the shelf, ready to go into Corrosion Control for a paint job, for the past 8 months or so. There's a mostly completed A-4E that's been sitting there a whole lot longer than that (I started it way back when I started this blog!), and that Albatros DV I keep mentioning that only needs a little bit of touch-up and rigging to be complete, but none of those things are sitting on the display shelf at the moment. They're all works in process. What actually did get done, and all that got done, was a bunch of Second World War German stuff. I was in a rut.
Late last year, while in the throes of looking for yet another Eastern Front German aircraft to build, I had an epiphany (today's word) and drug out the fairly recent Hobby Boss FJ-4B kit, which resulted in the articles you've been following for the past couple of issues (you have been following them, right?). It got itself both built and finished (mostly, since I never completely finish anything), and is sitting on display as I type these words. That inspired me to drag down a Hasegawa F-104C kit and start on it, which resulted in a SEA "Zipper" from the 479th TFW being added to the collection---all it needs is to have the canopy painted and attached and a little bit of touch-up and it's done, and that particular project caused me to venture into the out-building Jenny likes to refer to as The Hangar and drag out a Monogram F-4D that I built way back in the 1980s and begin restoration work on it, which in turn caused me to pull out the Academy F-86F kit and begin work on it too. I was, and am, on a roll---all of these things have transpired over the course of the past three weeks! I managed to loft the front wheel out of that rut, to use a term from my motocross days, and move on to Other Things, specifically American jets. (That's where the original Replica in Scale hung its hat, if you recall, which means that the project has come full circle, sort-of.)
There's something else to be considered here too. A couple of months ago Doug Barbier was chiding me about mostly building shake-and-bake Japanese kits of recent manufacture instead of the tougher, but often more interesting, kits of the 80s and 90s---specifically the classic Monogram "Century Series" kits. He was right; those Hasegawa and Eduard Luftwaffe birds were easy dates in the truest meaning of the word. I could've built them in my sleep. The Fury was a lot tougher than those kits, and Some Modeling Skills were definitely required. The F-104 was a slam-dunk, of course, but the F-86 is causing me to clean out the cobwebs and remember how we used to do things back in The Good Old Days when there was more to modeling than careful assembly, and the restoration of that Phantom has become a minor challenge all its own. And you know what? I'm having some serious fun with all this! I had to drag decals out of the spares box for the FJ and deal with a very slight mod of the basic kit, and it was fun. It's been forever since I've built anything that was representative of USAF involvement in The Late SouthEast Asia War Games, so I had to mix the two greens since we live out in the country a great many miles from the nearest hobby shop and I wanted to paint the airplane in colors I didn't have on hand---so mix the two greens I did, and it was fun. I'm correcting small things, adding details where needed, and polishing the airframe on that F-86 so I can make it all shiny and silver, and that's fun too.
Fun. Isn't that why most of us got into this hobby? That's the reason I started doing it, way back when I was five or so years old; because it was fun. Fun's why I've stayed with it all these years, and fun's why I still do it, except that I wasn't having nearly as much of it as I used to (remember that part way up at the beginning about being in a rut?). A simple change of focus made things all better for me, and made the hobby fun again. I'm really digging on those jets, ya'll!
So what's really going on here? Did I simply change out my hobby fixations and move from one area to another? No; I don't think so, because I've also been arguing with the AmTech Hs123 which is, if you recall, the old Esci offering reborn. It's on hold at the moment because I'm building American jets instead of German fighters and fighter-bombers but I'll get back to it some day, just like I'll get back to doing some more airplanes from The Great War. I think the point to be taken is that we should all move around a little within the hobby and do things that aren't necessarily a primary interest for us. Look on it as a hobby within a hobby, if you will. It worked for me, so there's no reason it shouldn't work for you too---it's definitely worth a shot and I'll bet it ups the Fun Factor for you just like it did for me.
You can thank me later.
None of It's Safe
"It", of course, being military aviation. As enthusiasts and modelers we all tend to look at the glamorous side of things but rarely, if ever, give a thought to the more mundane side of the picture. A lot of us tend to read about, and build models of, fighters and fighter bombers, bombers, and other related examples of airborne death and destruction, but it's a rare modeler indeed who spends much time messing around with the far more mundane military transport.
With that as a premise, we're going to rely on the good graces of historian Mark Morgan and share some official USAF images of transports with you today. You'll notice a trend to those photos right away, but we've never been shy about stating the (extremely) obvious so we're going to let the cat out of the bag and tell you that all of them depict what happens when things go wrong in aviation. It's worth remembering that the guys who fly and crew the transports and tankers have a job that's every bit as risky as that performed by the ostensibly more glamorous fighter jocks. Let's take a look.
Easy to Overlook
It's often been mentioned, both by ourselves and by others, that we're living in a Golden Age as far as our hobby is concerned. There's no doubt that adage is true, but all the new uber-kits we've seen over the past few years should really be taken with a grain of salt---while it's true that some of them are absolutely amazing in terms of buildability and and detail, that doesn't mean that the older kits available to us should be ignored. Take, for instance, the Academy F-86F, the very same one I mentioned up there in our opening editorial.
Academy isn't the first company that generally comes to mind when experienced modelers think of accurate and easy-to-build model airplane kits, but that's a reputation that isn't entirely correct. While a great many of their offerings leave a little bit to be desired, it can honestly be said that some of their kits are as good as anything out there, requiring a minimum of work to produce an outstanding model airplane. Don't believe me? Well, then; take a look at this:
As with any model, the kit has a couple of minor issues that really ought to be corrected, and you can only get a hard-winged bird from it---it's molded with a decent representation of the 6-3 wing, while most of the available aftermarket decals are available for slat-winged Sabres, but there are ways around that. Stay tuned...
We LIKE the P-39
That's right; we have to admit to a considerable fondness for that beautiful but flawed little Bell fighter. Part of it is because "flawed" is a relative concept that traces back to an American (and British) combat career that was less than stellar to say the least. The exact same fighter, flying in a different operational environment by aircrew who understood the aircraft's limitations and worked around them, proved to be the mount of choice by a great many Soviet pilots, in who's hands it became an ace-maker. In other words, it ain't what you do, it's how you do it. That notion takes us to the study of a few P-39 photographs, supplied to us by Bobby Rocker. We're taking a somewhat different approach than we normally do this time around in that we'll be concentrating on the pilots and ground crew as well as the machines. Let's take a look.
They Weren't All From the 3rd
Korean War A-26s, that is. The 452nd BG, a former Second World War B-17 outfit that was reconstituted as a reserve light bombardment group during 1947, in the midst of the budding US Air Force's Wing Base Plan, could have been the Poster Child for that notion. Originally a unit on paper only, the group began receiving aircraft (the Douglas A-26 Invader) in mid-1949, in California. With the outbreak of the Korean conflict the 452nd initially transferred to Itazuke AB in Japan and then to Miho AB, their station until a mid-1951 transfer moved them to K-9 (Pusan East) in the RoK. Always a USAF Reserve unit, they stood down in 1952, transferring their aircraft to the 17th BW prior to transition back to the ZI. Their brief tour of active duty saw them in the thick of things with a sortie count of some 15,000 combat missions, nearly half of which were flown at night.
Several months ago we received an e-mail from one of our Australian readers, John Horne, asking if we might be interested in some unpublished Korean War-vintage A-26 photography. The images you're about to view are from John's collection---we're grateful to him and for his kindness in sharing them with us.
Many thanks to John Horne for these remarkable images!
While we don't do it often, it's not entirely unusual for us to make requests for specific material from time to time, and this is one of those instances. We've had a request for photography of Korean-War era 10th TRS A-26s which we can't fill---we have absolutely nothing in our files for that unit during their stay on the peninsula. If any of you have that sort of thing in your collection and would like to share them with us we'd sure like to see them. The address is email@example.com .
Under the Radar
Ok, ok; we know what you're going to tell us. The book was recently published and is on a mainstream topic. It isn't obscure, and everybody's seen it, so why run it here in our obscure or lesser-known books department? The answer to that one is simple: Although it's a mainstream sort of book and is one that every enthusiast of USAF history should own, we've seen it on relatively few bookshelves and therefore presume that only a few of you bought it when it was new.
While we don't normally consider "picture" books to be essential references, this one is different. For starters, Warren Thompson is an acknowledged authority on the topic covered, as is David McLaren. Almost all of the photography featured in the book is in color and well-complimented by the text, and a great deal of it is of the "rare" variety since it was taken by aircrew. As a bonus, several appendices are included and they're complete and highly usable as references in their own right. The book is, to use an overworked hack term, a goldmine of information, both photographic and textual, and the volume should be an essential component of any aviation library that leans towards the Korean War.
We haven't seen the book for sale in a retail outlet for a number of years but presume that the magic of the Internet will turn up one should you wish to add it to your collection. That's a quest well worth undertaking; the only negative we have regarding this volume is that it points out once again how badly the scale modeling community needs a decent kit of the F-86A, E, and early F (and preferably in 1/48th scale)! Recommended.
Mostly we run photos of older aircraft around here, since that's where our primary interest lies, but every once in a while we receive one of those photos that we just can't say "no" to. This photo is one of those.
The Relief Tube
I'm more than certain there's enough information in the "In" basket to allow us a healthy Relief Tube for this issue, but I'm equally certain that it'll be another week before publication if we wait while I go digging for the stuff and we're late already, aren't we?! Yep; I thought you'd see things our way so, until next time, be good to your neighbor! We'll meet again soon.