Friday, April 16, 2010

Happy Snap Friday, A Book Review (No Foolin'), and Some Serious But Non-Profound Thoughts

Must Be a Friday Thing

Here we are, Friday afternoon, and we're all dressed up with no place to go. How shall we pass the day? Howzabout looking at a couple of photos, mostly random but, I suspect, also of interest. Sounds good to me---let's do it!

Most of you know Jim Sullivan as Mr. Corsair, a title he's more than earned over the years by virtue of a number of publications he's authored or contributed to on the immortal Hog. Maybe some of you don't know that he's an exceptionally good photographer as well---Jim's always had a passion for military aviation and it shows in everything he does. Our first photo was taken by him at NAS Patuxent River on 12 November 1973, and shows A-7A BuNo 152647 in her full high-conspicuity NATC markings. Of particular note is the shade of primer inside the opened fuselage access panel and her generally weathered condition. This airplane is being used!  Jim Sullivan

An absolutely gorgeous study of A-6E 159314 as she appeared on 22 April 1977 while serving with VMA(AW)-121. Judging from the pilot's rank and the aircraft's side number, I'm guessing this one was nominally assigned to the squadron commander. What a classy set of markings. This one's for you, BallPeen!  Jim Sullivan

Here's one from the other side of the fence. The airplane is a B-57E (AF 55-4274) from the 363rd TRW at Shaw on final approach in October of 1972. I still think this is an airplane that looks best in black, but these markings aren't too bad either...   Jim Sullivan

A Book Review; Holy Cow

Yep, I know I said I wasn't going to review stuff here, but every once in a while something really exceptional catches my eye and makes it worth doing. This is one of those times.

Aero Detail 32 Kawasaki J.I.A. Fighter Ki100, Giuseppe Picarella, 2010.

Remember that line in "Rocky" where one of the actors utters that memorable and oft-quoted line: "I coulda been a contendah."? That very statement could certainly apply to the Ki-100, one of those late-war compromise aircraft that ended up being far greater than the sum of its parts. Never the fastest fighter over Japan but certainly one of the most difficult to contest in air-to-air combat, the Ki-100 more than held its own against what could only be considered to be impossible odds during the last days of the war. It was quite an airplane.

Although a fair amount has been written about the type, particularly in the past few years, there's never  been a good one-stop reference on the airplane until now, and this book goes a long way towards filling the void in available Ki-100 information. Comprised of 70 pages, the book goes into the technical structure and detail of the aircraft, making extensive use of photographs taken prior to and during the restoration of c/n 16336 presently held at RAF Hendon. Those photographs are accompanied by a series of absolutely superb technical drawings by the author and will allow the modeler to put any level of detail he might desire into a replica of the aircraft. (The author is, by the way, the senior technical artist for Flight International, and is also Japanese aviation consultant to the RAF Museum at Hendon, both of which go a considerable way towards explaining the exceptional quality of this volume.)

Colors and markings are briefly addressed through a series of captioned side-views, and tantalizing if unfortunately brief mention is made of the alternate charcoal gray scheme used on some Ki-100s. One aircraft identified as being in the gray scheme is side number 22 of the 59th Hiko Sentai/3rd Chutai, which is illustrated in a photograph that shows a Samurai's helmet on the landing gear doors, but this detail is omitted from the color drawing of the aircraft. Even though the technical data is augmented by 6 pages of photographs of operational aircraft, this relative paucity of operational photographs will disappoint some readers. Keep in mind, however, that the book makes no pretense of being a work on colors, camouflage or markings; the title "Aero Detail" pretty much says it all, I think.

The only down-side to this book is the price, which is around $40 here in south Texas. That's a little bit steep for 70 pages and in our present economy that price may well keep the book from being purchased by some who would otherwise be inclined to buy it, but color printing costs money and most of the work, to include a great many of the technical drawings, is in color. In my world it was well worth the price.

Mr. Picarella has created a tour de force on the Ki-100 that could easily become the standard reference for the aircraft. It's difficult to imagine anything better on the structures side of things. We can only hope that someday we'll see a volume this good on camouflage and markings for the airplane!

I'm a cynic at heart and rarely give a whole-hearted endorsement to anything. This book probably the best thing we're going to have on the structure of the Ki-100 and I seriously doubt anyone will improve on it anytime soon. If you're into Japanese military aviation you'll probably want it. It's that good.

A Nice Fringe Benefit

This new iteration of Replica has been going for a couple of months now, and the feedback from our growing body of readers has been simply great. I've also been hearing from quite a few of the folks who were so vital to our success back in The Old Days and with whom I'd lost touch, and that's been pretty cool too. What I didn't expect to happen was something  that occured last night.

On the face of things it was simple enough; an e-mail (to , just in case you're inclined to write) with a name that was familiar. Turns out the message was from one of my best friends during my days at Misawa; he'd stumbled onto the blog, recognized my name, and then read through the 2-1/2 months of postings until he found reference to the fact that I'd been in Japan at the same time he'd been there. In my world that's what's known as a Special Thing.

That Special Thing works on more than one level, although I'm certain that Jackie never knew it back when we were hanging out; I know I didn't. You see, I've been attempting to build plastic models since I was 6 or so, and was just beginning to look seriously at the pictures in airplane books and magazines when we arrived at Misawa. I had no idea what any of the colors in those pictures were, or what most of the markings meant, but I tried to duplicate them as best I could. It was usually a pretty feeble effort on my part, but I tried.

Jackie built plastic model airplanes too, and between us we made quite a dent in the base hobby shop's stock of 1/72nd scale Revell kits. Shortly before Jackie's dad PCSd back to the ZI I went to an off-base hobby shop and bought some Lord-only-knows-what-scale-it-might-have-been Japanese-made kit of a generic Bf110. Somewhere along the line I also found reference to something described as "splinter pattern camouflage". That sounded pretty neat to me, that "splinter pattern" thing, although I didn't have a clue what it was, William Green notwithstanding. (You can say something like "pay attention" if you want to; I wasn't!) What I did next could have been easily anticipated, I think---I took several Testor colors (the ones in the little square bottles) and proceeded to make up my very own version of a "splinter scheme". You can imagine the results if you want to, but I'm not going to describe them to you; it's just too embarrassing to remember even at this remove.

Anyway, I bought the kit. I built it. I sort-of painted it. Then I showed it to Jackie and another friend, a relatively new arrival at the base named Mac and a guy who also liked airplanes. Mac took one look at my splintered Zerstorer and asked "why'd you paint it like that?" It seems that Mac had paid attention to those pictures where I hadn't, and actually had some idea of what a Luftwaffe "splinter scheme" might look like. I was mortified. I was embarrassed. And I started paying more attention to what I saw in pictures.

Fast-forward to October of 1965, when we left Misawa for Texas. I found a hobby shop that catered to the guys who were serious about building those little plastic airplanes and met Frank Emmett, who belonged to something called IPMS and who knew about things like splinter schemes. My course was set.

Anyway, let's get to a point before this ramble gets too far out of hand. I'd always loved models and modeling, and I got a wake-up call in Japan one day in 1964. Then, in 1965, I met a guy who had The Secret Decoder Ring, and who introduced me to that boon to the scale modeler, Serious References. It was an epiphany. Those three guys helped me to get a whole lot better at what I was doing and it happened pretty quickly too. Why do I mention it? That's easy; I think you should do the same thing for somebody you know. Don't be a jerk about it and don't be overbearing or unduly authoritative, because that sort of silliness only hurts our hobby in the long run. Be helpful. Be kind. Who knows; maybe you can help somebody the way my friends helped me. You could do a lot worse.

And that's what I know for a Friday. Be good to your neighbor and we'll see you next week.

No comments:

Post a Comment