Sunday, April 10, 2016

Making It Easy, Something You Have to Do, Son of Yellow Peril, Civilian Invaders, How Bad Can It Get?, and A Pair of Shooting Stars


Give Me Your Money, Please

Not me, ya'll. I don't want your money, but I'll bet I got your attention, didn't I? Now that I've got it, let's talk about the guys that really do want your money---the folks who produce those plastic kits that we all enjoy so much.

They come in two flavors, those guys that produce the kits; the ones that only sell what they design and make themselves, and those who will market pretty much any plastic kit they can get their hands on, because money is money and tooling ain't cheap. That those guys in the second group use the business model they do can be a good thing for the consumer, but it can also be a trap of the highest magnitude for the unwary. Allow me to explain.

A whole lot of plastic kits have been released by companies all around the world since the dawn of the hobby, and some of those kits were pretty darned good in spite of themselves---the recently Internet-maligned Hawk F4U-1 Corsair comes to mind in that regard since it was, for many years, the most accurate of all the 1/72nd scale "Hogs" available to the serious scale modeler---while others, such as the original 1/72nd scale Revell P-51D of the early 1960s, was a dog when it was new and has remained a dog ever since. When we factor in the reality that a few of those older kits were the only ones of a particular subject ever released in polystyrene (or the only accurate ones in terms of shape and outline), then the industry practice of buying or leasing someone else's molds to produce "new" models makes perfectly good sense on a number of levels and is, in fact, a good thing, at least up to the point where you're misled regarding the contents of a given kit's box.

One case of that sort of thing is presented by Revell, who happen to own the old Matchbox tooling and occasionally release the kits they mold from them in shiny new packaging, with little or nothing on the box to indicate that the modeler is purchasing a kit originally designed and tooled in the early-to-mid 1970s. That's almost an ok practice as far as we're concerned, since Revell's prices have always been reasonable in the extreme and many of those Matchbox offerings are the still the only ones available to us of certain subjects. (Don't believe me? Go find yourself a Siskin or Heyford in polystyrene, from permanent tooling then. I dare you!) It would be nice if they told you what was really in the box like they once did in their heritage re-releases, but it's still ok; those kits are inexpensive enough and generally good enough that little harm is done.

The higher-end kits can be an entirely different kettle of fish, however, because of economic impact (both perceived and real) to the modeler. Take, for example, that Czech company that recently went through a tremendous amount of angst over the release of a Second World War German fighter that wasn't quite the end-all and be-all it was advertised to be. In addition to their own kits, said Czechs also re-box and market other people's kits as limited editions, and they generally do an excellent job of that, providing as they do decals of superb quality and aftermarket accessories of their own manufacture, both of which are generally done to an extremely high standard. I mention that particular manufacturer as an example only, because the high end is capable of creating problems all their own---those guys recently released a Vietnam War-era A-4E/F kit that included the excellent Hasegawa A-4E/F, an excellent decal sheet, photo-etch and masking materials from their existing accessory line, and a resin ejection seat, at a US retail cost of some ninety bucks. I bought that kit and don't feel badly used for having done it because I knew what was in the box when I did it, but for the price there could've/should've been more included, like maybe some aftermarket ordnance for that kit of an attack bomber that spent its combat career carrying same. I was also funded for the purchase so it wasn't that big a deal to me, but for some folks it would've been.That high-end thing gets even worse when the re-boxed kit being offered was a dog in the first place (that A-4 wasn't, thank goodness) or was good when it was originally released in the 60s or 70s but has suffered from the passage of time since its salad days.

The point I'm trying to make here is a simple one. I think it's perfectly fine for manufacturers to re-issue other people's kits, but I really wish they'd tell us where the kit came from if it's older, or maybe what's really in there and where the plastic originated. That's not unreasonable, and I truly believe it's a way for everybody to walk away with a smile on their face.

Wasn't that strange;
Wasn't that strange 
Indeed?

Now give me your money, please!

WHY Do They Do It Like That?

It's no secret that I read everything I can about our hobby, and that I go to a bunch of those scale model-oriented web sites almost daily in search of both wisdom and inspiration. In the course of that searching, I've read a great many descriptions of misery submitted by people who attempted to build, and were ultimately defeated by, the Eduard Bf109E in 1/48th scale. I happen to like the kit, inaccuracies and all, and I also happen to think it's easy to build, but that's probably because I don't follow the instructions to any great degree when it comes to sticking the engine in the model---that's because all the internet-borne complaints about the upper cowling not fitting correctly are 100% true! Fortunately, it's also a condition that's easy to fix. Read on:

European modelers, and more than a few American ones too, seem to enjoy opening up the various access panels on their models to display the wonders that lie beneath them, often doing this to excess. It seems that the guys at Eduard bought into that whole notion with certain of their kits, their Fw190s, Bf109Es, and Bf110s coming to mind in that regard, and the resulting over-complication has probably frustrated a lot more modelers than it's pleased, particularly among those who are still developing their skill sets. The 1/48th scale Eduard Bf109E is particularly tricky in that regard: The instructions tell you exactly what needs to be done and how to do it, but not clearly enough to make sure everybody understands what's required if you want to build your model in a buttoned-up state with the cowling installed. I lucked out and figured it out for myself when I built my first one (of three so far), but I also happen to think those instructions can be substantially improved upon. How? I thought you'd never ask!

I tend to build the Eduard 109Es in a modular fashion---the design of the real airplane and Eduard's treatment of the kit makes this extremely simple to do which in turn makes it really easy to make things work out the way they're supposed to. The first thing you want to do is omit everything that goes on the top, back, or sides of that engine, then install the pieces on the front that are necessary for the attachment of the propeller. Next you'll need to take a coarse file or sandpaper and put a bull-nose on the upper front of the engine block, and I mean a severe bull-nose, extending it well back towards the rear of the engine. Once you've accomplished that you'll want to lock the exhaust stacks in place, preferably with tube glue, Tenax, or something else equally strong, and then leave everything alone and let the plastic cure out overnight. Install the stuff for the oil cooler into one side or the other of the fuselage (it doesn't matter which one), but don't cement the two halves of the lower cowling together yet. Things will be a little easier if you leave off the upper fuselage deck until later but I didn't do that and everything worked out just fine anyway, so that choice is yours. Just remember that all you have to do is be patient, be gentle, and take your time when you stick the engine in there. If those are things you can't or aren't willing to do, you might want to forego the Eduard kit in favor of one from Tamiya or Airfix! (Remember, though; if you do it the way I'm describing in this article, you run a modest risk of destroying your model too. It ain't my fault if you break something! Forewarned is fore-armed, etc, etc.)

After those exhausts have thoroughly cured, gently spread the nose apart and work them into place in the openings provided in the cowling for them. They're a tight fit and even the thinnest coat of paint will tighten things up even more, but it can be done! As I mentioned in the previous caption, this is easier to accomplish if you leave off the upper fuselage decking until after the engine is installed but I didn't think of that until it was too late to do it and it honestly didn't make that much difference to the process---yes; I'm repeating what I said a minute ago, but it's really important that you know this! Just take everything slow and easy and it'll all work out!

Once the engine's safely in place, all that's left to do is mate up the halves of the lower nose and flood the seam with the liquid cement of your choice, then let things dry and do your final bodywork. As you can see, I chose to do all of this after the fuselage was painted and decalled---it meant there was a little bit of touch-up on the paint, but only a little bit because I took my time in getting everything to fit and was careful when dressing the resulting seam. Once all of that was done the upper cowling dropped into place and fit perfectly, and all that detail that Eduard provided for an opened cowling display was never missed.

Once upon a time I thought the Eduard kit of the Bf109E was the way to go in the wonderful world of Emil-dom, but I've since changed my view in favor of the substantially more accurate, if somewhat more difficult to build, Airfix kit. That said, I wasn't inclined to throw away the extra Eduard kit I had sitting on the shelf, and this simple modification to the assembly process made everything far easier than it would otherwise have been, at least for me. This method is honestly best avoided by the novice and the clumsy, but it's also a good way to accomplish something that can otherwise ruin a fine, if moderately inaccurate, kit and is a good way to grow as a modeler and add to your skills.

You Gotta Do This!

That's right; we're back on Hasegawa P-40s for a minute, and we're about to reinforce something you pretty much have to do to the kit if you want it to be accurate. That "something" we're referring to is the nasty little clipped forward corner present on the canopy of all of Hasegawa's 1/48th scale P-40 kits. We've discussed this before, I know, but it's a topic that can certainly stand repeating since the correction for the problem is simple and will give you a better finished model for an absolute minimum of effort.

Here's as graphic an illustration of the problem as we can present to you. Take a look at the canopy on this model, and allow your eyes to shift to the far left-hand side of said canopy. See that white triangular-shaped piece that's sitting there? That's what you have to do to correct the canopy on the Hasegawa P-40s, because they're all clipped in that corner whether the kit be an E, an M, an N, or some flavor of Kittyhawk. They're like that because Hasegawa didn't understand that the triangular doubler at the aft base of the P-40's windshield was just that; a doubler that rested outside of the canopy per se when everything was buttoned up, and they took things from bad to worse when they clipped the canopy corner to make it "fit" said misunderstood doubler. This photo pretty much duplicates one we showed you on a P-40E a couple of issues ago, and once again shows how to fix the problem, but this time on an "N". All that's necessary is to add a triangular-shaped piece of styrene sheet or strip, blend it into the canopy, and paint. That's it, nothing else, and you don't even have to remove the doubler under the windscreen if you're building an N.


And here's what you end up with after sanding and painting. Don't forget to paint the inside of the lower canopy frame too, even if you don't paint anything else inside there, so you don't have the garish white plastic you used to fix the problem staring through at you This model is almost finished and only needs an antenna wire and a little more weathering (and some of that ubiquitous last-minute touch-up!) in order to be called Complete. Doesn't it look better with the canopy corrected?

Texans in the NAV, The Yellow Years

There are certain things that are seminal if you're a scale modeler of a certain era, and chief among those things for those of us who happen to be children of the 1950s are the Aurora AT-6 and SNJ Texan kits in more-or-less 1/48th scale. The SNJ kit was particularly appealing to a kid (or at least to me!) since the box art, and the plastic contained within said box, were yellow, while the AT-6 was molded in a boring and mundane silver plastic. It was the same kit, of course, but offered two different ways, and the simple act of building it established a love for yellow airplanes that extends until this very day, and causing a subsequent search for pictures of yellow Texans of any flavor. Helping in the quest, Doug Siegfried over at The Tailhook Association was kind enough to provide some photography of a few SNJ-5s in that particular livery and what he's provided is really something, so let's take a look!

OK, it's not yellow, but it's a good way to start this piece anyway. The SNJ and sibling T-6 were confirmed ground-loopers, and would perform that particular bit of magic at the drop of a hat. They were also a little touchy when taxiing, which made a taxi trainer for the type an extremely good idea!This particular specimen was operated out of Corry Field in the early 1950s and is resplendent in what we presume to be yellow and red checkerboards, with a green anti-glare panel. Note the skids under the wingtips, placed there to prevent damage during the inevitable SNJ ground loop festivities, and the wheel just aft of the propeller that was placed there to help the novice Texan driver avoid a prop-strike or headstand if too much power was applied to the aircraft during taxi. The wheel covers are painted with a design we can't quite make out, (surely they aren't some sort of commercial wheels, are they?), and the unlocked tailwheel has castored around and is now sitting "backwards" on the aircraft.   NMNA via The Tailhook Association

You may recall, at least if you read our quick guide to the T-6/SNJ variants several issues ago, that the carrier-capable SNJs were designated by the appendage of the letter "C" to their designation. This SNJ-5C is taxiing out at NAAS Barin Field in 1954 and shows a degree of wear and tear we don't normally identify with naval aircraft of the period. BTU-5's BuNo 51842 is absolutely filthy and reflects the hard and constant use experienced by the type in service. The anti-glare is matte black on these aircraft, while the canopy stack remains unpainted and is in natural metal as are the wheel covers. It would be extremely difficult to duplicate this finish on a scale model, but what a looker it would be if someone could do it correctly!   Roger G Smith via The Tailhook Association

Another BTU-5 Barin bird, this SNJ-5C sits on the ramp during 1955. She's a whole lot cleaner than Modex 113 immediately above, and has a green anti-glare panel and yellow-painted canopy frames. She's also lacking wheel covers of any kind, and the wheels have been left in natural aluminum. Those TraCom SNJs were well-used and you can see evidence of that around the aircraft's tailwheel and arresting hook, but overall 122 is a clean machine.   The Tailhook Association Collection

This Texan is from an earlier era and was assigned to NAS New York during the late 1940s. She's a straight SNJ-5, not a -5C (note the lack of arresting gear) and carries a modest amount of service wear, but she's far from worn or dirty. 51776 also carries her original-fit tall antenna mast, a throwback to an earlier day. The anti-glare panel is black and the wheel covers are in natural metal. Those orange bands on her fuselage signify her status as a Reserve bird, along with the "NEW YORK" identifier under her "NAVY" fuselage marking.   Dick L. via Rich Dann via The Tailhook Association

NAS Pensacola has long been a hotbed of naval aviation in this country, as typified by the section of SNJ-5s in flight near that facility. In all likelihood the photo dates to the early 1950s, while they aircraft are assigned to the Instructor Basic Training Unit (IBTU) there. The airplanes are clean and carry natural metal canopy framing, along with that by this time archaic antenna mast. What beautiful airplanes!   The Tailhook Association Collection

And another beautiful SNJ-5 from P'Cola. 85077 may or may not be from the IBTU but she's gorgeous, although we can't imagine any radial-engined airplane remaining that way for long! Note that here normal antenna fit has been supplemented by a whip aerial aft of the cockpit. The tailwheel strut and tailwheel are in natural metal, a point to pay attention to if you're planning on modeling this particular aircraft.   Mike Kolasa/Warbird Resources via Rich Kolasa via The Tailhook Association

Up close and personal, SNJ-5 85090 formates for the camera near Pensacola. The T-6 family was always flown from the front seat if only one aircrew was present due to center-of-gravity limitations for the type, although you can see part of the bag for instrument work folded up under the aft-most canopy. Of special interest is the under-fuselage antenna fit and the stencilling evident under the vertical stab. It's hard to imagine there was ever a time when an American military airplane wasn't covered in stencils, but the T-6 family were simple airplanes in simpler, and less highly-regulated, times.   Mike Kolasa/Warbird Resources via Rich Kolasa via The Tailhook Association

Here's an SNJ-5C on the boat, in this case from BTU-5 at NAAS Barin Field, during the 1954-55 time period. She's working hard on one of the NAV's CVLs doing carrier qualifications and is absolutely filthy, a classic reminder of just how dirty those round engines could be during periods of extensive usage. Modex 110 is chocked and running up with her flaps deployed prior to taxiing forward for a launch, and it's not at all difficult to Walter Mitty ourselves back to a time ten years earlier when the Fleet was filled with radial-engined airplanes fighting in The Big War. Note that this particular aircraft has yellow wheel covers and unpainted canopy framing. and that the side number is repeated on the lower lip of the cowling.   The Tailhook Association Collection

Side number 637 from a CQTU out of Barin Field shoots a touch and go aboard the USS Monterey providing us with yet another way the SNJ could appear in squadron service---in this case she's got open wheels (no covers) and no landing gear covers, while her canopy framing is yellow. She's also carrying the full antenna suite including that early Texan antenna mast just forward of the canopy. Neither this aircraft nor any of the other SNJ-5Cs we've seen today were armed; time was rapidly passing the SNJ by and the NAV's one-time advanced trainer had become a basic trainer inching her way towards final retirement. 637 is another dirty bird and will remain that way until the conclusion of the CQ period, after which she'll receive a much-needed cleaning.   Jack Cook via Warbird Resources via The Tailhook Association

Here's how it looks when you do it right: One bird from CQTU-4 out of Correy taxis away from the wire on the USS Saipan during quals in the Fall of 1956 while another SNJ-5C rolls in to recover. THIS is how you're supposed to do it.   The Tailhook Association Collection

And this is how it looks when things go wrong! This shot was taken aboard the Monterey during 1956 and shows one SNJ-5C after recovery and prior to taxiing forward while another takes a wave-off. Since nobody seems particularly excited we have to presume that what we're seeing is all part of the day's festivities, but carrier quals during the 1950s could be hairy enough that this episode just wouldn't rate very high on the drama meter since no sheet metal ended up getting bent---we may never know!   Robert Lawson NAM Collection via The Tailhook Association

CarQuals were a never-ending cycle, and these spotlessly clean SNJ-5Cs are en route to another CQ period, in this case aboard CVL-26 (USS Monterey) in 1955. The airplanes are from NAAS Barin Field, flown in some instances by instructor pilots who had cut their teeth in the shooting war that had ended only ten short years previously.   The Tailhook Association Collection

It's worth remembering, as we look at these wonderful images of The Yellow Texans, that a great many of the student pilots shown training in these aircraft would be engaged in yet another conflict less than eight short years away. Things were already beginning to heat up in SouthEast Asia and those guys would be ready when the call came to launch for real. That's something worth remembering---let's raise a glass...   The Tailhook Association Collection

When People Bought Them Cheap

That's a relative statement, of course, but there was a time when it was possible to purchase a used, or even brand-new-still-in-the-crate, World War II-vintage airplane for next to nothing. (All those P-51Ds the RCAF surplussed out, still in their original packing crates, for $1200 USD each during the late 1950s/early 1960s come to mind in that regard). Those days are long gone, and the present cost of purchase coupled with horrendous operating expenses combine to make warbird ownership an expensive proposition indeed, but there was a time, long ago and far away, when a modified warbird was a great way to get yourself a corporate aircraft on the cheap. Take, for example, these images from the Bill Burgess collection and provided to us courtesy of Mark Nankivil and the Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum:

Here's how they all started out. N5426E started life as a TB-26C-45DL before putting on her glad rags as a civilian bird in 1968, and it doesn't take particularly sharp eyes to detect her previous identity as painted on the aft fuselage and vertical stabilizer. The Invader experienced wing spar failures during the latter stages of their military use in SEA, but few private pilots would ever abuse them the way they were wrung out in combat, and a great many of them survive until this day.   RA Burgess via Mark Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

N6840D could easily be the poster child for civilian conversion of the A/B-26 family; she's extremely typical of the breed as used for executive transport. There was a time (this photo was taken in 1972) when it wasn't at all unusual to see an Invader parked on the ramp of a municipal airport, awaiting her next business trip. That's a sight you don't see much nowadays, because the airplane, as with all warbirds, has assumed a mystique that's guaranteed an astronomical value on the re-sale market. There was a time, however...   T Gibson via Burgess Collection via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

Here's what 44-34624 looked like after the Confederate Air Force painted her to to resemble the A-26s used in the ETO during the Second World War. Built as a B-26B, she was registered as N6101C when she posed for this photo in 1972, a rarity in the world of flyable Invaders because of her pseudo-military plumage. The paint job was a mediocre representation of the real thing, but gave the public a rare chance to see a classic airplane fly.   RA Burgess via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

In contrast, here's the first of a pair of A-26s flying as executive transports during the same year; 1972. First up is N240P in a classy blue and white scheme...   T Gibson via Burgess Collection via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

followed by N142ER, also photographed during 1972. The heck with your turbofan-powered 21st Century executive jet; I want one of THESE!   T Gibson via Burgess Collection via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

Kraft Metal Products had N256H on charge the following year, shown here torn down for maintenance. It wasn't particularly easy, nor was it inexpensive, to keep a twin-engined Air Force attack bomber in flying shape, but those who made the investment thought the expense well worth while.   T Gibson via Burgess Collection via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

N320 was another survivor on the books in 1973. The Invader was quite a step up from the other aircraft flying as executive transports during the early 70s, and several were damaged or lost in accidents. The A-26 was, and still is, a hot ship.   T Gibson via Burgess via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

It's not often that an airplane gets to star in a major Hollywood motion picture, but a few years back the Invader was center stage in the movie "Always", flown as a fire bomber. That movie role mimicked real life to a great degree since the A-26 has seen extensive service in that roll, even if the producers didn't understand quite how airplanes actually work. That said, here are a few examples to illustrate the type's service as a fire bomber:

B-26B/N9402Z, May, 1967, RA Burgess via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

B-26B 44-35552/N5544V, June 1972.   T Gibson via Burgess Collection via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

B-26C 44-35562/N7954C, February 1974.   T Gibson via Burgess Collection via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

B-26B 44-35497/N3426G, June, 1976.   BR Baker via Burgess Collection via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

And our last fire-bomber for the day, Lynch Air Tankers' B-26B, 44-34121/N4805E, sitting on the ramp during 1977.   K Buchanan via Burgess Collection via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

If my childhood hero "Sky King" had owned this "Bluebird" instead of his UC-78, there's no doubt the entire show would have been somewhat faster-paced and a whole lot classier to boot! 44-35562/N7079G was photographed on a civilian ramp in 1974 and was almost certainly the best looking airplane there! The Invader was, and is to this day, a darned good looking airplane!   T Gibson via Burgess Collection via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

This is the part where you get to humor me while I indulge in a passion for red airplanes! 44-34165/N9146H was a CalSpan-modded bird and was as pretty as they get (and as clean!) when she was photographed in March of 1977. She's a fitting bird with which to conclude today's essay on the civil Invaders!   D Ostrowski via Burgess Collection via Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

Many thanks to Mark Nankivil for sharing these wonderful images from the RA Burgess collection with us!

Courage on the High Seas

Every once in a while we get a photograph that is remarkable for its depiction of courage and dedication. This is one such photo:

When I was a kid my dad would on occasion (very rare occasion) tell me about his experiences during the Second World War in the Pacific. One such experience involved a typhoon he rode out on a troop ship while en route to the Philippines. This shot may or may not be from that particular storm, but it shows us that the Japanese weren't the only enemy that had to be faced in a war that proved terrible for all who fought in it. These F6F-5s are identified as being aboard the USS Kwajalein and those guys from the V1 Division could provide us with a definition of guts. Check out those weather conditions and that sea state if you don't believe me; it's dangerous enough to dump an airplane over the side by hand when the ship is sitting in an anchorage in calm water. To attempt it in that sort of weather could define the courage of a generation. It had to be done. They did it. Think about that for a minute, because their sons and daughters, and their sons and daughters, are still out there, in all weathers and all conditions, bucking the odds so we can lead the lives we have. Call it courage. Call it devotion. Call it guts. I do believe some thanks are in order...   Rocker Collection

And while we're thanking people, Bobby Rocker has spent a lifetime collecting images of the American military, largely during the years of the Second World War. This incredible image is from his collection and says it all in a way simple words cannot convey. Thanks for sharing it, Bobby.

A Couple of Classy Shooting Stars

Back a few months ago, when I was hip-deep in building that Monogram F-80, Doug Barbier sent along a couple of photographs that I've been meaning to run but have never quite gotten around to. Today's the day I do it, folks, and I'm going to let Doug explain what's going on in the photos:

P-80A 44=85041, #5 (really an upside down "2") is shown at the 1949 Cleveland Air Races. That single digit unit code on the tail tells you it is from the HQ flight, even though it has the 61st squadron badge on the nose. A dummy practice bomb is hung on the wing tip - that was a weapons station too, not just for fuel. Nose, fuselage band, winged pilot's name stripe and tail stripe are red. Squadron badge has a medium blue background.   Barbier Collection

Fox Able 1 P-80A 44-95242 is from the 63rd FS and still has the red nose and fuselage band. There's a blue tail band and the tip tanks are red forward and blue aft - GLOSS - paint. Note that both the wing tips and horizontal stab tips are also painted. But what really shows here is the yaw stripe on the anti-glare panel on the nose. All T-birds and P-80s had a yaw string that was attached at the front end of the stripe - no need for an instrument on the panel when all you had to do was look out the front. Lots of big screws around the upper plenum doors on the fuselage and you can see the spring loaded "suck in" doors as well. At high power settings on the ground, the air intakes were not large enough to feed the engine, so they put spring loaded aux air doors on the upper side. Not exactly sure what the red dots on the upper main wings were, but note that the fuel tank fillers did not have the red circle at this time. You can also see where a tail number has been stripped off and a new one painted on the vertical fin. All of the squadron markings, etc, were hand painted and there were wide variations in sizing and colors. The 56th FG emblem was usually, but not always, carried on the right side of the nose. Ditto on the sizing of the flags which were painted on in Germany. Tiny little JATO hooks, no "bang" seat and a couple of funky VHF antennas right in front of the speed brakes were the order of the day.   Barbier Collection

All of the 56th FG Racers arrived in the Lockheed "pearl gray" but it weathered poorly and they had a work party one weekend and stripped all of the a/c down to bare metal and then repainted all of the markings. Back in the day, there was no EPA and all of the stripper, thinner and paint just went down the drains, which is why the base is an EPA 'hazmat' hazard and commercial developers want no part of it anymore...   

Thanks for sharing those images with us, Doug. Now, if we only had a modern, state of the art kit!

The Relief Tube

Not today, folks! Once again I've allowed myself to get to the point where it's time to stop writing and publish, and that's what we're going to do!

Be good to your neighbor, and we'll meet again soon!
phil



Sunday, March 13, 2016

Another Look at the Eduard Dog, They Should've Been in TraCom, Another SpAD on a Deck, Shooting Stars, When Air Force One Had Class, and a Phew More Phantoms



Uncle Bobby

Those of you who follow this highly irregular publication with any degree of regularity (did he really say that?) will recall that I've had enough time in grade to be what we shall call older than dirt. In translation, that means that I've been both privileged and, on rare occasion, cursed, by the fact that I've known a lot of people in the hobby, but today we're going to take a positive spin and talk about one of that privileged variety, a fellow we're going to call Uncle Bobby. (That's actually his nickname in real life, too, but we're not going to use his whole moniker because so many people are sensitive about such things nowadays---he'll know who he is but you'll have to guess, so just roll with it, ok?)

Right, then; so what about Uncle Bobby, and why do we want to talk about him? The answer to that one is easy and, as always, there's a point to be taken from the discussion.

Uncle Bobby first showed up on the local modeling scene in 1969 or so, a transplant from Houston with an interest in aviation and model airplanes. He appeared one fine day at our local IPMS chapter meeting, introduced himself, and pretty much set us all on our collective ears with the model airplane he'd brought along to help establish his street creds.

Do any of you remember that year: 1969? Airfix, British Revell, and Frog were pretty much at the top of the heap in terms of kits of plastic model airplanes, with those Japanese upstarts Tamiya and Hasegawa steadily nibbling away at the established structure of the hobby (a veritable repeat of what Honda, et al, did to the British motorcycle industry of the era, but I digress). There were perhaps a dozen or so producers of aftermarket decals, one of which was the recently-emergent MicroScale, and a handful of people produced enamel paints specifically for the model airplane guys, although mix-your-own was still pretty much the order of the day way back then. The good modelers, or at least the ones who thought they were good, were all buying airbrushes (usually a Binks Wren B or a Paasche H) and attempting to use them and then, as now, there was an "in" crowd who defined the local definition of The Hobby, or who at least thought they did, and also, then as now, there was an established pecking order, and everyone pretty much had to conform to it or be cast out. Well, maybe not quite everybody...

When Uncle Bobby walked into that meeting room one fine Sunday afternoon back in 1969 he brought a recently completed Airfix TBD Devastator with him. The assembly work on that model was impeccable, with nary a one of the kit's thousands of rivets sullied in the process of assembly and finishing, and the completed airframe was a thing of beauty. The paintwork, pre-War silver and Yellow Wing, was superb, absolutely flawless, and the decals appeared to have been painted on the model. It was, for the time and place, quite a revelation. It was also more than a little disturbing to that "in" crowd we mentioned, because the superlative paint job had been done by hand, with a regular hobby brush, using paint from those little square Testor bottles, and adding insult to injury by utilizing the decals included in the kit! (Everybody knew that kit decals were absolutely worthless, even back in 1969.) Think about it, ya'll: A virtually stock kit using kit decals and painted with a generic hobby paint rather than something aimed at the discerning aircraft modeler, and using kit stickies. The heresy of it all! The horror! The horror...

And that, friends and neighbors, brings us to The Point, if you will. Think about what I just said up there: This new guy came in and, without an airbrush, aftermarket decals, or overpriced paint intended specifically for plastic model airplanes, and with a somewhat difficult kit to boot, knocked our collective appendages in the dirt, and did it all with grace and good manners. That TBD he'd brought along wasn't just better than what the rest of us were doing, it was a jump to a whole new level. It was a revelation.

Time marched on and Uncle Bobby eventually bought an airbrush, and somewhere along the line he began using aftermarket decals as well. Both of those things raised the bar that much higher for everyone concerned and, quite frankly, made him virtually unbeatable on the local contest circuit for as many years as he chose to compete.

Change up to Today, right now this minute, and look around you. Most "serious" modelers have airbrushes, some quite expensive, and aftermarket decals and specialty paints are the order of the day. Photo-etched and resin aftermarket parts have been added to the contemporary mix over the last 30 years or so, and it's gotten to the point where the actual kit is often the least-expensive thing in the scale modeler's bill of materials for any particular project. You have to have those things if you're going to be taken seriously in the hobby. That's the contemporary definition of The Game and everybody knows it, yet every once in a while somebody steps out of the woodwork using a basic kit, an old-fashioned paint brush and kit decals, throws in a little bit of scratch-building but minimal if any aftermarket, and just blows everyone out of the water with the results of their labors. Check out the completed model photos on all those other the modeling boards if you don't believe me!

Way back When, many years ago when I was racing motocross, it became evident that it wasn't necessarily the guy who had all the expensive and cool stuff who was the rider to beat. It was the guy who knew how to ride the damn motorcycle and wasn't afraid to try that ended up in the winner's circle and that, my friends, takes us right up to today's point, to wit: If you want to be good at something you need to jump in and actually try to do it. None of the fancy stuff will help you if you don't acquire the skills first, and sometimes it takes an Uncle Bobby to teach us that embarrassing lesson. Think about it, ya'll...

It ain't what you do; it's how you do it.
J Geils Band

The Eduard "Dog" Revisited

In many respects we've already beaten the Eduard P-39 kit into submission on more than one occasion, but yet another one is in the works here at the ranch and we'd like to re-visit and hopefully clarify a couple of the things we previously discussed.

Any P-39 kit, by any manufacturer, holds the potential of becoming a tail-sitter unless adequate care is taken to properly ballast the thing prior to joining the fuselage halves together. This is one of those "picture worth a thousand words" kind of deals, so take a look. Not all Airacobra kits are quite this ballast-friendly, but the Eduard 1/48th scale offering provides us with more than enough room to accomplish the task.

This view explains things a little better, and also shows how that carb intake splitter works. Those BBs I stuck in the nose aren't necessary at all, but sticking them in there made me feel better about the whole thing. The pair of .36-cal round balls proved to be more than enough weight for the job, although in retrospect a .44 and a .36 might have been better!

I stuck in this photo to show that everything closes up properly if you do things the way I just mentioned. This "Cobra" will grow up to be a P-39D so I'm using kit part A8 to cover that hole in the top of the nose. It has a nasty round boss underneath it, left there as part of the molding process, and your life will be easier if you trim that unfortunate blivet off of there---it probably didn't matter back when Eduard provided pre-molded ballast with the kit, but now that they've cheaped out and omitted it from their current P-39 offerings, you're going to want a place to put your weights. If you choose to add a roof to the wheel well and ballast the way I did it, that pesky boss will prevent the nose cap from fitting properly. A word to the wise!

At this point you're probably all thinking (quite possibly hoping?) that you've seen the last of the Eduard P-39 on these pages, but it seems as though I learn something else every time I build one, so it's fairly safe to say we're not done yet! Stay tuned...

A Movie You Need to See

OK, everyone reading this blog who likes airplane movies, raise your hand! Wow; that many of you? Let's try a different approach, then: Everyone reading this blog who's seen Angels One Five, raise your hand! Anybody? Beuller? Beuller?

Actually, that was kind of a set-up in a way, since most people have never even heard of Angels One Five, much less actually seen it, but it's one of those must-watch kind of movies if you're an aviation buff. Why's that, you might well ask? Well, for starters: It's a 1952-vintage black and white British film about a fighter squadron just before and during the Battle of Britain, and it features two real Hawker Hurricane Mk Is and a Mk IIc from the RAF and Hawker respectively, and five Mk IIc Hurricanes loaned by the Portuguese air force, along with a cameo performance by a real Bf110, which airframe was scrapped shortly after the completion of the film. The "Hurris" weather out beautifully as the movie progresses and the flying sequences are pretty darned amazing when compared to most other aviation films (and that includes aviation films from any era!) because real pilots of the era are flying the airplanes and there's virtually no "enhancement" of any of the images.

The cast does a better-than-average job, the action is properly understated, and the movie was filmed at RAF Kenley so the location smacks of realism. The plot is far more believable than most such endeavors can offer, and the movie is absolutely amazing on every level. It's available on DVD nowadays but can also be found for free on Amazon Prime (presuming you're a member) or really and truly for free on YouTube. It's a must-see even if your tastes don't normally run to that sort of thing. Recommended.

Just Another Hack

Or maybe not. I was looking for something a little bit different for this issue and Rick Morgan was apparently reading my mind---the photos you're about to view arrived literally within the past hour. They're of a subject familiar to most of us---the North American T-39 Sabreliner, but they're somewhat unique in that most of them represent aircraft in service with line squadrons rather than the far more ubiquitous TraCom birds. Let's take a look:

150969 was the station hack at P'Cola when Rick took her portrait at NAS Chase in March of 1979. The T-39D was a useful airplane and a highly capable one too; 0969 found a brief career in the civilian world after her service with the NAV was done. She was written off on 2 June, 2003, when the hangar she was stashed in collapsed during a windstorm in Laredo, Texas, a sad end to a beautiful airplane.   Rick Morgan

The RAGs needed hacks as much as anyone else did, and this T-39D from VA-122 was a beaut! BuNo 150970 was normally stationed at NAS Lemore, where the squadron was in full-time residence, but was at Pensacola on 14 August, 1978, while the squadron was working out of that facility. "Blip III" wears 122's trim better than the "Fruit Flies"attached to the squadron at the time. (And no; to the best of our rarely-certain knowledge Lt Gary Morgan is not related to Rick!)   Rick Morgan

Not to be out-done, VA-174 had a T-39D of their own, albeit one not quite as pretty in terms of its paint job. 150982 was photographed on the ground at P'Cola in February of 1980 while she was providing support for the RAG while they were there on a brief det. She went into storage a few short years later, but was in her prime here.   Rick Morgan

Shortly after her assignment to VA-174,150982 spent some time as a VIP ship, attached to the Commander, Caribbean Joint Task Force (CCJTF) and stationed at NAS Key West. We like these markings a little better; if only there was a decent injection-molded kit to represent them on! As an aside, it should be noted that the CCJTF was established during the Carter administration, leading at least one naval aviator to comment:  "The Soviets put a brigade of combat troops in Cuba and we responded with an Admiral and staff in Key West. That'll show them!"   Rick Morgan

150989 was another T-39D, but her squadron or any other significant information about her is lacking---she was photographed at Whiting in October of 1978 but that's about all we know regarding this shot. Her paint job, and more specifically its resemblance to some sort of generic corporate scheme on a civilian aircraft, coupled with its lack of national insignia on the fuselage, could well lead the conspiracy theorist down the rosie path. You're perfectly willing to follow that path too, since neither Rick nor ourselves know much of anything about the aircraft. (Answers, or even educated guesses, are encouraged. The address is replicainscaleatyahoodotcom, which is spelled in that goofy manner in hopes that I can avoid the rash of spam that normally accompanies any such mention of an addy in print!)   Rick Morgan

Let's close out this feature with a shot of 203 (BuNo unknown), which is a more-common TraCom bird assigned to VT-86---Rick shot her to illustrate what happens to a fiberglass radome when it's attached to an airplane that's been flown through a hail storm! We don't often think of such mishaps but they're not that uncommon in the world of military aviation; many years ago I got a surprise phone call from a young Ensign Rick Morgan, who'd lost the nose cap of a TA-4J he was soloing due to a bird strike near Randolph AFB. No naval aviators were hurt in the course of the adventure, the NAV fixed the "Scooter" the next morning, and Rick and I spent a pleasant evening talking about airplanes and looking at slides as an unanticipated result of the mishap. Military aviation accidents don't always have such benign endings, however, and not every loss occurs in combat. It's not a job...   Rick Morgan

The Sabreliner was once a common sight in the American military, and we've got other shots of it hiding around here someplace for their debut another day. Until that time, many thanks to Rick for providing these fascinating examples of the type in Navy service.

The Unsung Heros

Shortly after publication of our January issue I received an e-mail from Steve Birdsall, who commented regarding the folks on the flight deck who make it all work:

Phil, I really enjoyed the Skyraider photos. I share your admiration of the “unsung heroes” . . . I tried to capture something of that with the attached photo. It was taken late one afternoon in January 1967 on the flight deck of Ticonderoga on Yankee Station. That’s VA-52’s #311, Bu No 142023. I didn’t get the lighting quite right and it’s never been published, but I still like it.


And we like it too! Steve's photo captures the time and the place perfectly. Built as an AD-7 (an A-1J in the post-McNamara days of the Vietnam War), 023 was subsequently transferred to the USAF as 52-142023. Note the wear on the tips of her prop blades---that particular wear pattern was not uncommon on the Skyraider but is rarely illustrated in photographs or depicted on scale models.   Steve Birdsall

Thanks, Steve!

Plain and Simple

Aerospace has progressed by leaps and bounds over the past 50 years or so, which makes it worthwhile to take a look back at simpler times. Thanks to the generosity of Jim Sullivan we're going to do that very thing today!

If you're going to fight, sooner or later you'll have to learn to shoot, and 49-0506 was a Lockheed F-80C-10-LO assigned to the 3525th Aircraft Gunnery Squadron. Photographed in Wilmington, NC, in 1950, she typifies the simple day fighter that even then was rapidly disappearing from the inventories of the world's air forces.   Sullivan Collection

This image provides us with a better image of 0506, and in particular shows the details of the 3525th AGS' emblem on the nose. Sometimes basic is better, and we happen to think the F-80 is one of the prettiest of the fighters ever operated by The Silver Air Force. Your mileage may well vary, but that's our story and we're sticking with it!   Sullivan Collection

Not a bad way to earn a living! 45-8521, an F-80B-1-LO, is captured in its element over Colorado during 1954 while serving with the 120th TFS/Colorado ANG. None of the early turbo-jet-powered fighters employed by the USAF and Guard during this period possessed very much in the way of range, making external fuel tanks an absolute requirement. The lessons of the Korean War had been taken to heart and this aircraft is carrying a pair of Fletcher tanks on its wingtips, while those bumps projecting from the aircraft's wing leading edges contain cameras. We aren't at all certain why that might be and invite reader comments!   Sullivan Collection

The Guard knew how to fly! This four-ship is from South Carolina's 157th FIS and was photographed in flight near McEntire ANGB during 1954. Fletcher tanks are once again in evidence, and those simple markings suit the F-80 to a T! 44-85110 was originally built as an F-80A-1-LO and had been upgraded to F-80C-11-LO standard by the time this photograph was taken. 45-8603, 8643,  and 8487 all left the Lockheed factory as F-80B-1-LOs, In today's Air Force and ANG aircraft from mixed block numbers within the same unit can create significant logistics issues, but the F-80 was an extremely basic airplane and the differences between the block numbers didn't make a whole lot of practical difference. It was a simpler time...   Sullivan Collection

The F-80 was a ground-breaking airplane in its early days, and it only stood to reason that Lockheed would develop a dedicated photo-recon version of the airframe as time went along. 44-85449 was one such aircraft, purpose-built as an FP-80A-5-LO but redesignated as an RF-80A by the time this photograph was taken on the ground at Wilmington, NC, in 1949. The airplane is nearly devoid of markings but the stencilling and warning placards on the wing tanks are worth a second look. Note that the aircraft appears to be painted in overall silver.   Sullivan Collection

And here's an RF-80C under tow to close out this particular photo essay. Originally built as an FP-80A-5-LO, she had been up-graded to RF-80C standard by the time this photo was taken at Wilmington, NC, in 1950. It wouldn't be long before the RF-80 found a lasting place in the history of the Korean War, but she was still a peace-time bird in early 1950.   Sullivan Collection

One more thing before we go---do any of you hold images of American F-80s, either USAF, ANG, or Navy, in your photo collections? If so, we'd sure like to see them! That e-mail address is
replicainscaleatyahoodotcom .

An Airplane for the Big Guy

There was a time, not all that long ago, when American military transports had reciprocating engines, generally of the radial variety. They were noisy, their engines leaked oil like there was no tomorrow, and they were state-of-the-art until Boeing changed everything with their 707 (and derivative) family of transports. Mark Morgan was going through the photo archives at the AMC history office a while back and came up with these images of one of the most gorgeous transports ever built:

VC-121A 48-0610 had a somewhat unique history, being used by Dwight Eisenhower during 1952 when he was President-elect of the United States. Named "Columbine II" during that time frame, the aircraft still exists and the present owners are reputed to have intentions to returning the aircraft to flying status. We hope they're successful; nobody ever built a prettier transport than Lockheed's Constellation, and her return to the skies would be fitting indeed. Let's cross our fingers!   AMC via Mark Morgan

Here's a nose-on shot of "Columbine", along with her crew, during 1953. We don't normally keep up with Air Force One around here but we'd be willing to guess that the aircraft presently used for that mission has a somewhat larger crew!   AMC via Mark Morgan

Finally, here's a shot of a "normal" C-121A. 48-0616 led a relatively uneventful life with the USAF prior to her sale to Ethiopian Airlines, in who's service she crashed to destruction in 1957, fortunately without loss of life. It was a sad end to a proud bird.   AMC via Mark Morgan

USAFE Bugsuckers to End the Day

A few months ago we were pleasantly surprised to hear from a reader who also happened to be an old friend from the 1980s; Scott Wilson. Scott was a blue-suiter when we met him, and his time in the Air Force gave him ample opportunity for photography. As a result of that opportunity he sent us quite a bit of McDonnell Douglas Phantom imagery to share with you, and we've got a handful of photos to start the ball rolling today. You've already seen his photography here, but this issue begins an ongoing look at the F-4 in service with USAFE. Let's see what Scott's got for us!

You may recall a photo essay we did quite some time ago on the 86th FG in Germany immediately post-War, flying P-47Ds. Today's feature provides a linear progression of that article, with the then-86th TFW flying F-4Es out of Ramstein AB in the Federal Republic of Germany. 68-0401 provides a fine, if somewhat plain-looking, example of the type. The Cold War was very much in progress during the '80s and those AIM-7s and AIM-9s are the real McCoy; 0401 is loaded and ready for Bear (pun somewhat intended). She was assigned to the 86th when Scott took this photo in August of 1983, after which she served with the 108th TFW of the New Jersey ANG. She was subsequently transferred to the RoKAF, where we presume she finished out her days. Originally built as an F-4E-38-MC, she was a fine example of the type in USAFE service. Scale modelers note that her camouflage is of the wraparound variety, a fairly common practice by the mid-80s.   Scott Wilson

Being a maintenance type on an active flight-line provided an excellent opportunity for photography, and Scott took full advantage of it during his stay in Germany. In this classic shot we see 68-0440, another F-4E-38-MC, being pushed into an alert barn, once again loaded and ready to rumble. She's fitted with a TSEO pod on her port wing and is wearing the red and black checkerboard of the 86th's 526th TFS on her vertical stab. The airman riding the brakes as she's parked has his race-face on, as well he should. All of the USAFE tactical units were on the sharp end of things back then and would have been among the first units to face Armageddon should that disastrous event have ever occurred. They took the mission seriously.   Scott Wilson

Here's another bird from the 526th. 68-0465 was an F-4E-40-MC, and Scott took her portrait on 19 September, 1985. She's not armed, but this angle shows her to advantage, as all those old-time magazine editors used to say. Her camouflage is once again of the wrap-around variety, and that red and black spiral on her pitot is a particularly nice touch, we think. She survived her time with the 86th to end up on a pole at Jefferson Barracks ANG Base at St Louis, Missouri. We liked her better the way she was back in '85 but at least she was preserved, a dignity not provided to the vast majority of her sisters.   Scott Wilson

Finally, here's an example of an F-4E-41-MC with the 86th's 512th TFS on a TDY to Zaragoza AB in Spain when photographed on 13 July, 1983. Our sharp-eyed readers will note the yellow and black spiral on her pitot, or at least they might once they get past that big honkin' sharkmouth she's wearing. Note how the brilliant Andalusian sun changes the hue of her camouflage colors, and in particular the perceived shade of the FS 30219 Tan. We hate to continually state the obvious, but there are no absolutes when it comes to colors on an airplane---if anyone tells you there are, feel free to tell them that the guys at Replica in Scale said it's time to lighten up, Moriarty! 68-0506 went to the Hellenic Air Force in 1991 and eventually wound up on display at Larissa AB.  Scott Wilson

We have quite a few images from Scott's collection that we'll be sharing with you in the months ahead, so stay with us!

Another Movie You Have to See!

And we're going to give you the link to it right here, so you don't even have to go to the theater, buy a DVD, or do any of those other things we normally associate with such adventures! This particular film is from the collection of the Australian War Memorial and provides us with an eleven-plus minute look into RAAF operations out of Milne Bay during 1942.

https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/F03628/

The film was originally shot as a home movie and is in color, but sans sound. There is narration, however, and the film is absolutely remarkable for both the aircraft shown (including some USAAF P-39s) and for the graphic depiction of the horrible operational conditions those guys faced every single day in the Southwest Pacific. Bobby Rocker found the video for us and sent along the link, for which we are grateful indeed! Thanks, Bobby!

The Relief Tube

We don't have much in the way of comments or corrections today (where are you guys?), but we do have a comment or two to share:

First, from Rick Morgan concerning that photo essay we did on the Hasegawa P-40 last issue:


Phil- Love the piece you did on Hasegawa P-40s last blog. Always appreciated that aircraft and the P-40E specifically. Although few fighters looked better with sharks teeth (maybe the F-4E) I’ve never built one marked for the AVG (too “average”). I’d much rather do the 49th or some other obscure outfit- my last one was for the 11th FS in the Aleutians without the tiger head. Tillman, myself and a couple of others were waxing a couple of years ago about what was the “Best of the Second Best Fighters” of WWII. The P-40 is way up there; higher than a Hurricane I’d say (quite a few Desert AF units converted from Hurris to Kitty Hawks as I recall) and the Warhawk is certainly way up there in the “Valiant” column. The only other aircraft I’d say might rank higher was the F4F. Certainly nothing Russian; while the Luftwaffe didn’t fly anything I’d call “second best”.   Rick

Thanks for your kindness, Rick, and for the opportunity just presented! Folks, re-read what Rick said regarding The Best of the Second Best World War Two Fighters and think about it for a minute. On a personal level, I'd have to say that the theoretically outclassed Polikarpov I-16 family both could, and in many cases did, hold their own in aerial combat against the Luftwaffe in the early days of the war in the East, which adds them to the list in my mind if no one else's. That's my opinion; what about yours? If you've got a horse in this race, please drop us a line at replicainscale at yahoo dot com (but take out the spaces or all you'll get is frustration!) and let us know your opinion. It's not a contest and there are no prizes of any sort---there's also no right or wrong answer---but we'll publish what you send in and, since we aren't any of Those Other Guys, your submissions will be treated with dignity and respect!  Let's have some fun, ya'll; what do you say?

Rick, thanks to you and Barrett for a great idea! Let's see where it takes us!

And also related to the P-40, here's a comment from John Mollison:

Phil - Thank you. P-40s are beautiful airplanes…they have the shape, the style and the mission that embody whatever a ‘romantic’ writer wants. Your model makes me want to invent time travel and work with the tool…   John Mollison

For those of you who aren't aware of the fact, John runs a wonderful aviation art web site, a link to which is provided on this blog. If you haven't been there to visit we strongly encourage you to do it at your earliest convenience. It's well-worth a few minutes of your time to drop in and see what he's been doing!

Finally, we occasionally receive comments that take us back to the earlier days of the project, either correcting a caption for us or adding additional information. Erik, from the Netherlands, has done both in this comment regarding an AV-8 shot we ran back in 2010:

Hi Phillip. In your blog at 30 august 2010 you have a photo of an AV-8A with the text: "Mystery Meat. I know absolutely nothing about this shot, but it gives a neat perspective on deck operations with the AV-8A, so here you are. Note that the IFR probe has been removed in this photo. US Navy".  I had a closer look at the photo. - the model is an AV-8C because of the strakes on the gun pods, the retractable dam between the pods and the formation lights. - the photo was not taken on a US ship but a British ship, most likely the HMS Hermes. - The Sea King in the back and and the dress of the sailor are typical British. - Furthermore the extension of the deck and the lines / markings are for Sea Harrier operations (the so-called tram lines). Take a look at this picture: 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bd/INS_Viraat_(R22)_Malabar_07.jpg 

The AV-8C is most definitely on the spot of the first Sea King. Note as well the box on the edge of the deck in both photos. I never heard before of AV-8A/C cross decking on the HMS Hermes. Maybe you could post that question on your blog. Best regards, Erik

OK, guys, what about it? Does anyone out there know anything further regarding the photograph in question? Drop us a note at replicainscale at yahoo dot com (once again, without the spaces and with an at sign (@) and a dot (.) in the appropriate places, and help us solve this mystery!

Thanks for writing in, Erik!

And that's it for today, ya'll. Be good to your neighbor, and with any luck we'll meet again soon!
phil