Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Little Late But Better Than Never

A Photo By Request

A couple of days ago we ran a photo of an A-4C tanking off an A-26. I'm still looking for details of the test program in hopes that we can do a small feature some day, but in the meantime I've been asked if there are any other photos of that A-26 tanking incongruous aircraft. By the oddest of coincidences (and thanks once again to the kindness of John Kerr) there is one other shot that might be of interest. It's another NATC bird, this time an A3J-1, getting ready to engage the basket. Jim Bates, who posed the question regarding additional photography, tells us that the A-26 was possibly owned by Beech, and that the pod on the Invader  ended up as a production item, most notably being used on the CC-137s of the Canadian Armed Forces. Thanks, Jim, for your input on this one!

Can We Have a Day Without a Scooter?

But of course! Today's not the day, though, just in case you were wondering. There's been precious little progress on the Hasegawa effort presently underway over here, but I've managed to dig up another couple of photos that might be of interest to anybody building (or contemplating building) the model.

Our first shot is another one taken by Frank Garcia when he was assigned to the FDR back in 1961. It's a VA-12 (Flying Ubangis; they have another, extraordinarily rude, nickname, but in the interest of maintaining a site that anybody can visit we aren't going to mention it here) A-4C and the photograph is notable because it illustrates the use of a TER rack on the centerline. Note the date; this is not a wartime bird. FDR was in the Med at the time the photo was taken.

Next up is a shot of an A-4C sporting a load of Mk76 practice bombs. The aircraft is an A-4C of VMA-225, and the photo was taken at Roosevelt Roads in 1963. Of interest is the Corrogard on the leading edges of the deployed slats and the wing station, and the "No Push" lettering on the slat. Note the general level of filth on the wheel. This is an operational aircraft! USMC via Wogstad

Finally, here's a shot of an AGM-12 Bullpup undergoing trials with the NATC.The aircraft is an A-4B (BuNo142837) and the photo shows to advantage the way the missile mounted to the wing station. This bird is somewhat cleaner than the VMA-225 specimen in the photo above! USN via Wogstad.

It's worth noting, and the Bullpup photo shown above is a fine example of it, that the AGM-12 family was based on bombs of the Aero-1A shape developed by Ed Heinemann for the F3D. The family encompassed bombs but the shape also extended to drop tanks and, consequently, the Navy's "Buddy Store" refueling pod. The photo shows this to considerable advantage; the guidance package on the nose is clearly defined, as is the mounting of the fin section aft. The Mk82 bomb shape is extremely evident in the mid-section of the weapon.

A Rough Day at School

I'll admit it; I'm one of those folks who think you can never have too many Zeros on the shelf! (My friend Frank tells me it's bordering on being an obsession. He usually tells me that just before he shows me another 58th FG P-47D that he's finished---I think he's up to Number 15 or 16 now...) In my world the A6M series pretty much has it all: a unique design in many respects, a world-beater when it first entered service, and a sad relic of better days by the end of the war. The aircraft was dangerous in the right hands, but by August of 1945 the danger was primarily to the largely unskilled pilots tasked with flying the aircraft in combat, although some of the Imperial Navy's "old hands" were still around to ruin your day if you got too cocky.

This isn't about the fighters though, but rather about one of the lesser-known variants of the Zeke; the A6M2-K two-seat trainer. The aircraft first showed up as a 1/48th-scale model a couple of years ago when Hasegawa released their extremely limited Zero set, which was comprised of one kit each of every significant A6M variant ever built, including two prototypes and, wonder of wonders; the A6M2-K! Not many people built the kits in that set, prefering instead to set it back as either a Treasured Possession (a Good Thing in my book) or an investment to be sold for an outrageous profit at some yet-to-be-determined time. (Not a Good Thing in my book, but then I've never really understood the collecting mentality either...) You couldn't get the thing by itself, making it a rarity of the highest order.

Then Hasegawa began to release the Zero kits in that set as individual boxings, one at a time and in random order. There was no doubt they'd release the two-seater in that fashion too, since it was part of The Set. It was all a matter of when, not if.

And they did indeed release it. My Favorite Local Hobby Shop in Austin didn't have it on their radar so they only ordered a couple, and they were gone before I even knew they'd arrived. Bummer! Frenzied telephone calls to other area shops revealed that yep; they'd had the kit, but they'd only gotten one or two and they were sold the day they came in. Double Bummer! Well, there was still the internet, but it was a dead-end too. Every single on-line shop that said they had the kit didn't have it anymore, because they'd all sold out almost immediately. Bummer yet again!

So there I was, Triple-Bummed, and visiting my friend Frank. "Hey Phil; look what I found over at (un-named national-chain mega-hobby-shop); a two-seat Zero!" My immediate verbal response was one of kind enthusiasm for his good fortune, but deep down inside I was bummed yet again! Still, I wasn't ready to break up that set to get the kit. It would come when it was time and not before.

Fast-forward to last Christmas. Frank and I are friends, which I suspect I've mentioned a time or two before, and our families always exchange gifts. Frank had one of those "you're really going to like this one" grins on his face when he gave me my present and, without doubt, it was special, because he'd given me his A6M2-K kit! Remember a few entries back when I said that we needed friends in the hobby, and that Frank was one of mine? There's a lesson there, ya'll. Good things happen. It's karma.

Anyway, on to the kit. I've read a couple of reviews of it that suggest that there could possibly be some issues with the fuselage shape and certain details thereof. There may well be, but if they are they're not corrected on my model, nor will they be! The model you see before you was built box-stock except for the usual addition of Eduard Zoom belts and, in this case, a mish-mash of decals to allow the construction of an A6M2-K from the Genzan NAG, who were a training establishment based in Korea and operating a mixed bag of single and two-seat Zeros. The American invasion of Okinawa brought a halt to that, and the unit was largely depleted flying Special Attack missions against the US Fleet operating off the coast of that island.

The two seaters could carry a centerline store as well as a couple of small (60kg) bombs under the wings. The model shows an aircraft with a centerline gas bag and the wing-mounted bomb racks. I'm not entirely certain that the model properly depicts the colors on the spinner and prop blades; by the invasion of Okinawa Mitsubishi had changed over to brown spinners and blades, but there are photographs of A6M2-Ks with the natural-metal prop blade faces and spinners in plenty, and the photos of the Genzan that I've been priviledged to see are taken from too great a distance to confirm anything more than that the airplane I modeled had a light-colored spinner cap on a dark base. I chose to model it with a brown base and yellow cap; it may be correct, but then again it may not be. It was a Best-Guess, ya'll. There was also a small "4" in a circle, both in yellow, on the fin above the aircraft number. I'll add it someday, presuming I ever find a decal that will work, but it's not there now. Life is difficult and then you die...

I like the way the model turned out, though. It looks like The Real Deal, which is what matters to me at this point in my life, and like all members of the Hasegawa Zero family it's an easy date. Who can ask for more?

And that's what I know for today. See you again soon,

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