Monday, September 6, 2010

The Road Goes Ever On, Those Ryans, The Falcon, A Noisy 'Vark, 'Varks on the Prowl, Token Rhinos, and a Spiffy Hoover

The Only Thing That Stays the Same is Change

Some of us (not all of us, unfortunately, but some of us) are lucky enough to have a Neighborhood Hobby Shop, and those of us who are extremely lucky have that rarest of rarities, a Really Good Neighborhood Hobby Shop. I must've been living right, because I've been blessed with two of the latter during the past 40 years; one in San Antonio and one in Austin.

The one in San Antonio was a classic Mom and Pop kind of deal, and Mom and Pop were really special people who, among other things, understood their customer base and molded the shop to reflect their customer's interests. They eventually decided to retire and sold the business and, although it still exists and is apparently still thriving, it just ain't the same place. Times change, I guess (remember that guy who said "you can never go home"?), and shops change to reflect the new owner's interests. That's a Good Thing by and large, unless of course the aforementioned new owner's interests don't happen to parallel your own, in which case it can be a Bad Thing.

The shop in Austin was, and still is, a family business, but very much one in change at the moment. I suspect the economy is largely to blame since it's wreaked havoc with discretionary income at almost every level, but other things seem to be changing as well, including the focus of the store. That's not entirely bad either, but it's uncomfortable to us Old Guys, who tend to get spooked when Things Are Different. Change can be Bad when you have a little seniority on life...

So, what's it to you? I've got a thought on that too (I've always got a Thought On That; it's how I am!), but it's not what you might think.

It would be easy to presume that I'm about to complain about the perceived (and it's probably my own perception and nobody else's) change in things at the little shop that resides in Babylon on the Brazos, but that isn't it. It's more primal, and more universal, than that.

Let's cut right to the chase for once, and yes; I know that's not my style. Let's do it anyway, though, and let's talk about all the Mom and Pop hobby shops out there, not only the ones I have or have had a personal stake in. The simple, sad fact is that those nameless people who created our present economic mess managed to nail the lid on a whole lot of small businesses in the process, and among those small businesses have been more than a few Mom and Pop hobby shops. Disaster looms large in the future of a great many small businesses at the moment, and that takes us to the moral of today's story. If you're lucky enough to live near one of the surviving M and P shops, please support them to whatever extent you can. The hobby will be a far lesser place without them, and a really nifty part of our culture will be gone forever. In the end, we'll all lose.

And with that bit of seriously morose journalism behind us, let's move on to something that's a whole lot more fun!

Goin' to School

Everybody who flies had to learn how to do it, which without exception involved some sort of trainer. This country has produced some of the world's best, but a lot of people have forgotten the Ryan STs. Let's try to stir up a little bit of interest in them today!

First, is there anything we can build if we want to model one of these things? The answer to that one is a resounding "Well, sortof." since there have only been a couple of kits of same; an elderly but perfectly usable PT-20 from Hawk and a couple of offerings by the 1/72nd scale Czech folks. My own personal interest lies in that Hawk kit, but I'm hoping the following images will stir your personal interest no matter which scale you happen to prefer.

Ryan decided they needed an entry in the competition for a primary trainer for the AAF, and came up with this beauty; the first YPT-16 (39-717). 15 aircraft were built, with this example was most likely photographed near San Diego; all 15 airframes were initially operated by the Ryan School of Aeronautics at Lindbergh Field, where aspiring military aviators underwent a 12 week primary course before passing into the Army Air Force training system. Check the deflection on that rudder!  Ryan 1430

Beauty! The PT-20 was next in line, with 40 or so being built. This classic study could define what flying's all about. An external longeron running beneath the cockpits was the primary difference between the YPT-16 and the PT-20.  Ryan 2301

The retrofitting of a Kinner R-440-1 into the PT-20 resulted in this bird; the PT-20A, and a total of 27 airframes were so converted. Most operational Ryans had those gorgeous landing gear fairings, and the spinner,  removed during service. That external longeron is really visible here.  Ryan 2999

The installation of a Kinner R-440-3 132 hp engine transformed the PT-20A into the PT-21. Note the evolution of the landing gear fairings and wheel pants. Of particular interest in this shot is the beautifully-laminated wooden prop.  Ryan 4154

In many respects the PT-22 Recruit was the ultimate Ryan trainer. Up-engined yet again with a 160 hp Kinner R-540-1 engine, the PT-22 offered significant performance advantages over the Ryans that preceeded it, and all were delivered sans landing gear covers and wheel pants. The Navy got into the Ryan picture too, and ultimately bought 100 PT-22s, designated as the NR-1. My personal preference is for the inline Ryans, but the radial-powered PT-22 family sired most surviving airframes. This is another one of those "beauty of flight" photos!  Ryan 5224.

The Netherlands ordered 25 Ryans as the S-T-3, and some were outfitted with floats. With the advent of war the order was taken over by the Army, who designated the aircraft the P-22A and added it to their training fleet. If memory serves there are a set of floats (and maybe Dutch decals) in that 1/48th scale Hawk kit...  Ryan 3135

Most aircraft-producing nations had a crack at building an airplane out of non-strategic materials during the course of the war. Ryan took a shot at it with the PT-25, which had an airframe largely made from plastic-bonded wood---it was in essence a totally different aircraft from the Ryans that preceeded it. 5 were built but the type wasn't accepted for production. Not exactly what you'd call "pretty", is it?  Ryan 6912

This 1943-vintage shot shows a PT-25 in flight. The airframe was substantially cleaner than that of its antecedents, but it just doesn't look right somehow.  Ryan 7146

Timeless beauty. A PT-22 sits on the Purdue ramp, giving us an excellent view of the unfaired landing gear and the aircraft's minimal rigging in the process. A large number of Ryan STs ended up in civilian hands after the war, and more than a few still survive. Just the ticket if you wanted to own a practical warbird!  Friddell Collection

An Unexpected Curtiss

Everybody knows about the 1920s-1930s Curtiss Hawk pursuit family, and a couple of you are probably even aware of the Curtiss O-1, a series of Hawk-based observation aircraft briefly used by the Army Air Corps during the 1920s, what what about the attack version of the O-1 Falcon? Here's a photo of one for all you Golden Age folks:

Here's an October, 1927 shot of the Curtiss A-3A Falcon attack bomber, looking every inch like a Great Big P-1! A grand total of 76 A-3As were built, and 5 ended their days as dual-control trainers. A further 78 aircraft were constructed as A-3Bs, those aircraft incorporating significant structural components from the O-1E observation aircraft. Armament was sketchy in those days; the A-3A had two .30 caliber Brownings in the cowling, with two more in the wings, while the B-model improved on this with an additional pair of wing-mounted Brownings. The type was capable of delivering a whopping 200 pounds of bombs. It was probably a Very Good Thing that we weren't involved in anything more serious than the Banana Wars during the late 20s!  US Army Signal Corps T-3514

How to Have Fun at an Air Show

I know, I know; there's no way to enjoy an air show with all those people hanging around the airplanes cluttering things up, which is why Jim and I always went the day before whenever we could. (It's amazing what press credentials can do for you!) Our next shot was taken during one of those forays:

A Cannon-based F-111D from the 27th TFW taxis to its parking slot on 19 May, 1990, the day before an air show at the Late, Lamented Kelly AFB. Soon-to-be prematurely deaf civilian personell assist in the parking chores as Jim and I shoot the festivities from a strategically-placed B-4 stand. Those inert AIM-9s made the whole thing worthwhile and yes; we were wearing ear protection. Crazy we were; stupid we weren't!  Friddell

On a Somewhat More Serious Note

Friend and former co-worker Tom McDonald was a KC-135 co-pilot during the latter stages of the Vietnam fracas, and managed to take a few photos during his operational chores. Here are a couple to illustrate a somewhat more serious side of the F-111:

The 347th TFW flew F-111As out of Korat during the 1974-1975 time frame. Tom caught two birds from a 4-ship as they formated on his starboard wing while the other section was passing gas. Note the fully-extended wings and loose formation.  Tom McDonald

Suck it in for the camera! There's more separation than meets the eye in this photo, but those guys are still pretty close, and flying darned good form to boot! The pylons are empty but the gun probably isn't. Tom McDonald

The early F-111s were good; the last ones were simply incredible. This is one airframe that deserved a better fate than it eventually received---the late F-111s had capabilities that would make you stand up and say Mercy!  Tom McDonald

Last Chance! A No. 6 Sqdn RAAF RF-111C (A8-146) holds at Last Chance during RAM '88. The Aussie 'Varks are gone too, victims of budgets and a lack of spares. The 6 Sqdn guys I talked to at RAM loved 'em! (How do you spell "LOUD"?)Friddell

And While We're at Last Chance

Let's look at a couple of RF-4Cs going through that pre-launch thing.

Let's leave this particular part of our day the way we came into it, with noise! This is another Last Chance shot taken at RAM '88. It was taken during a particularly heavy launch cycle and I didn't note the unit, although I'm thinking it may have been the Birmingham Guard. Maybe. You guys shoulda been there with me---the ground was shaking when I took this one!  Friddell

Finally, a Token Gray Airplane

A while back we ran a couple of shots that Rick Morgan took at the end of Operation Desert Storm. So far we've looked at Tomcats, Intruders, and Prowlers in this series. Now it's time to check out The Mighty Hoover!

The S-3 community was transitioning out of the submarine-hunting business during the Desert Storm fracus, but that didn't stop them from having great nose art! Here's "Eyes of the Storm", S-3B, BuNo 159743 from VS-24, to prove you don't have to be a fighter guy to have great nose art!  R. Morgan

A shot detailing the markings on the front of the airplane. The nose art didn't last too long, but it was pretty cool while it was there; a morale-builder, as it were!  R. Morgan

And the back end. I really like that tail-code presentation! Sharp eyes will detect a pair of F-14s in the pattern at the top left of the photo. Fly Navy!  R. Morgan

And a reason to for me to never build a "modern" S-3: Boring, boring, boring! They don't all look like this, but enough of them do to make me lose interest in a Great Big Hurry. Howzabout you?  Friddell Collection

And Finally, The Relief Tube

Here's today's installment of corrections, additions, and Stuff That Just Doesn't Fit Anywhere Else:
  • First, here's a link to a site Mark Morgan found that gives us an idea of the sort of stuff that used to be at the MASDC facility at Davis Monthan. Watch out, gang; you can get lost in there! http://www.dhc/- (If it won't load put .html at the end of the string!)
  •  From Mike McMurtrey, who helped design the recent Squadron UC-78 kit and who's now working on a book about same comes a request regarding a Bobcat that's upposed to be at the Shooting Star Museum in Devine. I'm going to roadster down there when it gets a little bit cooler (South Texas has two seasons---Summer and January), but in the meantime do any of you guys have info on this? Maddog; this sounds like your kind of deal!
  • Another question, this time from reader Stacy Baird regarding what may have been an aircraft munition but which is a total mystery to me: In 1970 when I was in Vietnam out of Camp Evans in I-Corps, I saw some rounds lying on the ground that I had never seen before or been able to identify. They had gear teeth as if to spin the round. (They were) maybe one to one and 1/2 inches in length, had a blue tube-like thing that appeared to be made out of aluminum. Does anyone have a picture and knowledge of this item - Probably an Air to ground cannon of some sort. Can anybody help Mark out with this?
  • I got an e-mail from an old friend yesterday asking about VMF-113 during their WW2 and Korean days, specifically asking if Navy wings were worn on the squadron's G-2 jackets during those time periods (the ones that werestamped on a piece of fabric along with the pilot's name). A simple view of period photos could explain this one, but I know you guys have more information than just that! What about a tutorial, Navy guys?
  • Last time around we ran a couple of Phantom Certificates from Mark Nankivil. He's sent another to round out the set:

And that's what I know for a Monday. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon!

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