Saturday, November 6, 2010

More F-104s, Return of The Swoose, Some Early Whales, A Nifty Model On The Cheap, Some Fords, and A Little More Banjo Pickin'

Bet You Wondered Where I Was...

Or maybe not; at the end of the day it probably doesn't matter all that much, but we did manage to miss a week (the original "occasionatical" scheduling of our primieval print effort comes somewhat to mind at this moment). I gave that some thought and decided today's installment would be a little bit larger than normal to make up for it! Not much, but a little. To wit:

Zip-a-dee Doo Da

It's possible that there's a limit to the number of times we can look at F-104 pictures on this site, but I haven't found that limit yet and honestly have no intention of ever doing so---I absolutely love that airplane! Don Jay's somewhat fond of it too, and sent these in for our amazement and edification:

In the beginning...  We've all seen 787 before, and we've all seen this particular shot before, but I've never seen it in color. 53-7787 was an XF-104A, and is the one Revell (and probably Comet/Aurora too) based their mid-50s kit on. The short fuselage and original intake configuration is interesting. This bird didn't last long, crashing to destruction on 14 April 1955 following a malfunction of the aircraft's gun. The test pilot ejected successfully, but this could well have been the beginning of the Starfighter's reputation as a coffin-corner airplane. Lockheed via Don Jay

This is for all of you who wanted to see more of that F-104A/M-21/YF-12A combination that we ran a few installments back. 56-0801 was built as an F-104A-20-LO, later rebuilt to F-104G standard and used for weapons trials. Somewhere in-between she flew chase for the A-12/M-21 program. Like most F-104As, 801 has her M-61 gun removed and a fairing installed over the gun port. It took a while to get that whole cannon thing sorted out in the "Zip". Lockheed via Don Jay

We've all seen this photo before but, once again, I can't remember seeing it in color. The aircraft are from the 479th's 2nd SEA deployment in 1967, at Udorn, Thailand. The F-104C didn't do particularly well in that environment, but rarely saw MiGs either. A well-driven Starfighter could leave you talking to yourself, providing you survived the encounter. We'll never know...   USAF via Don Jay

It's About Time, Ya'll!
You could make a movie out of the history of this airplane, and I'm not joking. 40-3097 was built as a B-17D, and was in the Philippines on December 8th, flying as "Ole Betsy" with the 19th BG. She survived the Japanese attack and flew a number of combat missions, basing out of the Philippines, Java, and Australia in quick succession. She was damaged during a combat mission in January of 1942 and then partially re-built, acquiring the name "The Swoose" in the process. After that rebuild she served as the personal transport of General George Brett, then ended the war as a high-speed transport in the United States. She was held in the National Air and Space Musuem's storage facility for a number of years, and  then transferred to the Air Force Museum (I don't think they call it that any more, but I still do---just humor me, ok?) for refurb and display.

Mark Morgan got a chance to photograph her a while back and sent these photos along. Let's see all the  old military guys snap out a highball for her. This one's definitely worth a salute!

OK, when's the last time you saw a real B-17D? My guess is Never, unless you've seen this one; "The Swoose" is the sole survivor of her type, and we're truly fortunate that the Air Force chose to restore her. This shot really shows how tiny the B-17 was, doesn't it?  Mark Morgan

A neat shot that defines the shape of the waist gunner's position on the early 'Forts. Check out the ventral gun tub forward of the waist position; no ball turret for those guys! All those clecos will go away soon, to be replaced by rivets, but there's a fair amount of skin that needs to be renewed on this bird.  Mark Morgan

In myth and folklore the swoose was a legendary bird, half swan and half goose. It's an odd name for an airplane, but I'm not complaining! If only that artwork could talk...

Then There's That Other Famous B-17...
Since we're airplane folk around here, you've probably all seen the 1990s movie The Memphis Belle. Taken as entertainment it was a pretty good film. Taken as an airplane movie (with just about every misfortune that ever befell the Flying Fortress during its combat career included) it wasn't too bad. There is, however, another movie by the same name that you really need to see; the original USAAF film of the same name directed by William Wilder. It was filmed on location, a documentary of sorts, and the star was a B-17F named, what else; "The Memphis Belle". It's what you might call The Real Deal.

The "Belle" got her crew through 25 combat missions over occupied Europe, and returned to the ZI with that crew for a war bond tour. After the war she ended up in a public park in Memphis, Tennessee, where time, the elements, and assorted vandals very nearly achieved the destruction that the Luftwaffe was unable to provide. The Air Force Museum (humor me, remember?) acquired her a few years back and she's under restoration as well. Here are a couple of shots:

There's a lot of rebuilt airplane there, but that nose art is The Real McCoy, preserved for posterity. There's not much more to be said other than Thank You to a superb museum staff who knows when to hold 'em! This one's a keeper.  Mark Morgan

Not particularly neat, and certainly not airbrushed. But it's real. What a treasure! Thanks to Mark Morgan for sharing this marvelous restoration in progress with us.  Mark Morgan

It's a Whale of a Tale I'll Tell You, Lads

We've run a couple of photos of the Douglas A3D Skywarrior in these electronic pages from time to time. It was a really neat airplane, and a long-lived one at that, even if not in its envisioned roll as a bomber. It's history is far too lengthy (and I'm far too lazy) for exploration here, but we'll always run photos of the type when we run across them. Check out this one!

Boy oh boy oh boy; what a photo! A section of AD3-2s from Heavy One taxi pull away from the ramp and begin to taxi out. Based on the fact that the aircraft designator still says "AD3-2" rather than "A-3B" makes contributor Mark Nankivil guess this shot to be of pre-1962 vintage---I concur. The weapons bay doors are open on the two aircraft on the left, and RATO bottles are attached. Note the refuelling fairings on the bellies of the two taxiing aircraft. That crewman in the opened canopy hatch was a normal part of A-3 ground ops. Hey Morgo, how about some "Whale" stories?  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Save a Buck or Two When You Can

I don't know about you folks, but I enjoy building 1/32nd scale model airplanes. I don't happen to have a whole lot of room to display them in, but it's still neat to build them---they have a "feel" to them that the smaller scales often have difficulty capturing. People have been kitting model airplanes in 1/32nd scale pretty much forever, but the past few years have seen the dramatic appearance of out-of-the-box museum-quality models in that particular size arena. There's a ton of good stuff out there, with more kits appearing almost every month.

Of course, most of those spiffy new kits are expen$ive, and building one can become costly indeed if you want to stick in a little bit of candy and add some resin or photo-etch. It's really easy to invest a couple of hundred dollars in a kit and accessories, and that's not including the cost of stickies or references. It can be a big-bucks sort of game. It doesn't have to be that way, though.

First, let's have a perspective of sorts. In my very own personal world I'll spend what I have to in order to buy a kit of something that floats my boat. I've always been that way, with model airplanes and with everything else. (I think there's a Ducati in my future, for whatever that's worth, but for cryin' out loud don't tell Jenny!) Still, why spend a lot of money for a kit when you don't have to? Makes sense to me! Take, for example, this installment's Token Model Airplane.

The 1/32nd scale Hasegawa Me163B was a revelation when it first came out in the mid-1970s, and we said so when we reviewed it Way Back Then. It didn't have many pieces but, when all was said and done, it looked like a Komet, which is all I've ever asked of a model airplane. The kit's still in production and is sometimes pricey depending on the boxing, but you can buy it all day long at vendor tables in model shows for next to nothing, which is what I did here. This particular kit was still in shrink wrap, in its original 70s box, sitting on a trade table at a show in San Antonio for the princely sum of twenty bucks, and I'd always wanted to build one so I snagged it.

I'd remembered it as a pretty good kit, and it was/still is, but an interior that was "really good" in 1976 is pretty much doggie defecation in today's scale modeling environment, causing me to search out An Alternative Interior. King's Hobbies in Austin took care of that with an elderly Grand Phoenix interior, which I think I paid ten bucks for. Another ten bucks bought a decal sheet, but I can't for the life of me remember who produced it, and I already had the paint. Here's what my forty bucks bought me:

The starboard side, which shows what a goofy-looking airplane the original was. It's always reminded me of something from a cartoon, but it was no laughing matter in combat, not that it was particularly effective (because it wasn't) but rather because of the threat it posed. The real thing was short-ranged and dangerous to fly, but when it was under power it was pretty much un-catchable, a threat-in-being as it were. That big Hasegawa kit, on the other hand, is no threat at all and builds easily in spite of its age. It would be a lie to say that everything fits precisely, but it's not especially bad in any particular area. It is missing some detail so you'll want to have good references around, but it's an easy way to add an attractive and inexpensive model to your 1/32nd shelf. 

And the port side. That opened canopy is the reason you'll want to put a decent interior in there, because you can see absolutely everything that is, or isn't, included. While we're here we'd may as well discuss that canopy, because it won't stay attached to the airframe very long if you install it the way the instructions say to do it. Instead, you'll want to use one of those references we all know you've got, and determine where the canopy hinges live on The Real Thing, then drill a couple of holes in the cockpit sill and a matching pair in the canopy, then bend a couple of pieces of wire (I used insect pins, but then I've always use insect pins for that sort of thing) and attach the canopy at whatever time you deem to be appropriate. It's pretty sturdy that way, and you can set the angle of the opened canopy properly. Good pooky all around, I think...

Here's a shot that illustrates how the seat looks. Those straps aren't photo-etch; they're molded into the resin seat. I like the way they came out. On the other hand, I'm not real crazy about the job I more-or-less did installing that quarter-window, but I don't lose sleep over it. This thing has a pretty good presence, I think.

Here's a little bit of the interior to illustrate how good that Grand Phoenix kit is. To paraphrase (or quite possibly lampoon, but in a kind and gentle way) the modern breed of kit reviewers, it's cast from some color of resin (it might've been gray but I can't remember) and is comprised of not very many pieces. There was a photo-etched instrument panel with film instruments too, I think, and I'm pretty sure nothing came pre-painted. That sheen on the airframe was deliberate, by the way. Wartime Luftwaffe paint started life as a semi-gloss or eggshell finish, and I built this on the logic that your average Komet didn't have a particularly long shelf-life once assigned to an operational unit. If your personal philosophy differs, please feel free to weather the snot out of your model. Sometimes I do that too, but not this time... 

And the instrument panel. It doesn't look like much in this photo, but the film instruments (painted appropriately from the back of the film after it was attached to the panel) looks pretty good. As simple as the 163's interior was, there's still room for additional detailing which I didn't do, being lazy and all. The paintwork is all Testor's ModelMaster applied with a Badger 150 airbrush and I had a bang-up good time with those splotches. This was one model that was Fun from start to finish!

The Me163's a tiny airplane, right? Right! But so is the Me109 family, as illustrated here. That goofy-looking whatsit in front of the Gustav's wing is part of my tripod, which I cleverly left in place so you'd think I forgot about it being there. Those of you who are old enough may remember a piece on modeling desks that we ran in the original Replica in Scale way back yonder in the 70s. That desk, those bins, and that drafting board were all in the original photos for that piece, as was that round thingy my brushes live in. I'm not sure what that means...

Helping Out When I Can

There's some pretty neat mail coming in here ( almost every week. Sometimes that mail takes the form of requests, and I can honestly say that we don't get too involved in that sort of thing around here. There are, however, exceptions. A couple of weeks ago I received a letter from a Russian modeler named Anton Kochetkov who was requesting photos of VF-174 F4Ds. He included links to his work which is, in a word, Breathtaking and, even though I don't normally take requests (it's not that kind of band, ya'll), I'm pleased to help out this time.

On the boat. This VF-74 F4D-1 is taxiing up to the cat; note the V2 Division airdale coming to meet the aircraft with a bridle. There are a lot of handlers helping position that aircraft, which says something about the joys of operating the "Ford" aboard ship, I think. Still, that's one sexy little airplane! Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Just sitting and waiting. Skyrays rarely went anywhere without extra gas, mostly because they couldn't go anywhere without extra gas. The AIM-9 rails on the inboard stations are noteworthy, and check out that boarding ladder; what a neat touch for a model. Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

This is what we might call The Money Shot! I can't think of a prettier scheme for this airplane, and the photo makes me want to go out and buy a Tamiya kit or three. The Real Airplane wasn't all that hot, but it sure looked good! Sharp eyes will note that the aircraft designator and BuNo appear both on the nose and the tail of this bird. Beauty!  Tailhook Association via Doug Siedfried

OK, Anton, there are some pictures. How about sending in some photos of your model when it's finished? We'd love to see them!

Other units flew the Ford too. Here's a hint of things to come in future issues. (And check out the nose of the F9F-8 in the background. VF-213 had a pretty classy ramp in those days!) Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Yet Another Portender of Things to Come (Is "portender" a real word?)

The McDonnell F3H Demon family was another one of those Fabulous Fifties Failures; a really neat airframe marred by a terrible engine. It was a beautiful aircraft in spite of its shortcomings, and we now have adequate kits in a couple of scales with the promise of more on the way, which gets me pretty ding-dang excited about building one in the near future. We've got a whole bunch of Demon photos to share with you, but not today. Here are a couple of teasers to whet your appetite until next time:

Beauty and the Beast, all in the same airplane! These VF-14 F3H-2Ns sit patiently on the deck of the Franklin D. Roosevelt prepping for what appears to be an early-morning launch. This photo, taken in September of 1956, shows the unique nose treatment of the airframe. The Demon lasted until the early 60s with the Fleet---can you imagine taking it to war in Southeast Asia? There but for the grace of God...  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil 

Ohboy ohboy ohboy ohboy! What a photograph! BuNo 137033, an F3H-2M from VF-61, launches from the Saratoga in April of 1957. The paintwork's getting a little bit weathered (and makes a good candidate for pre-shading if you like that sort of thing on your models) and she's getting a little bit shopworn, but she's still got her good looks. Then again, looks aren't everything, right! Oh poot! This is a Good Looking Airplane, ya'll! Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

The Relief Tube

Wherein resides the corrections and all the stuff that just doesn't fit anyplace else. First up and, I hope, for the Very Last Time, is a comment from Tommy Thomason about the length of that accursed F2H-2 Banshee:

ACK! F2H reference is still not right. You wrote "the McDonnell F2H-1 Banshee was actually longer than the prototype F2H-2." It's longer than the prototype F2H-1 not the -2. Now I see why this error has so much life. It fights for it. (And how! pf)

The full story is here: and here: than . Attached are the pictures that illustrate the difference. Note that the 1/48 Hawk kit closely resembles the XF2D with prototype tip tanks...

Here's the shot Tommy sent of an F2H-1. I'm almost afraid to say anything about it since my luck with this airplane, at least to this point, has been so extraordinarily poor, but I am going to say that I started converting an Airfix F2H-2 back to this variant when the kit first came out. At this point I think I'm glad I never finished it! via Tommy Thomason

And the XF2D. I think I'm going to take the safe road on this one and say that these shots sure remind me of those Colby books I enjoyed so much from back when I was a kid. And, on a more serious note, thanks to Tommy for pursuing this thing until we got it right. It is right now, right?  via Tommy Thomason

Thanks, Tommy. I hope this puts it to bed!!!

Then there was that shot I ran of the pair of F3H Demons sitting together, one in Glossy Sea Blue and one in Light Gull Grey over Insignia White. In the truest spirit of never denying me the opportunity to completely miss the obvious, let's hear from contributor Mark Nankivil:

Phil, you might want to make a note that the photo of the pair of Demons - dark blue and the gull gray over white - distinctly show the differences in the wing planform of the F3H-1 (the dark blue babe) and the F3H-2 Demon which increased the chord of the wing significantly to increase the wing area to offset the overall weight increase of the aircraft as it morphed into the more capable J-71 powered variant. HTH!

Pay attention to the photos! Pay attention to the photos! Pay attention...  Thanks, Mark.

Next up is a kudo from a reader, presented here not because of the praise ("professional compliments are always appreciated" however, to quote a line from John Ford's "Stagecoach") but because of the exceptionally neat site that's linked therein, very much worth your time and a visit:

Just wanted you to know just how much I’m enjoying your Replica in Scale Blog ! A long time ago I was fortunate, over here in the UK, to get hold of some copies of the original publication from US modelers based at Mildenhall with the USAF and they were, and still are, a revelation on how stuff should be done and I still have them today!

Imagine my complete surprise when I stumbled upon your blog last week and recognised your name; I have been ensconced in it since. I too run a Blog off of my SEAWINGS website – the largest dedicated flying boat reference website in the World – and I have you listed as one of the very few favorites I have. It’s at: .

Do keep up the great work you are putting up; it’s great to see that the ‘Good ‘Ol Days’ are so well represented, and in such detail.

Best Regards,
Bryan Ribbans

Thank you, Bryan, for your kindness. And folks,  I'm serious as can be about checking out Bryan's site. It's excellent. There's nothing more to be said.

And finally, a postscript to one of the pieces we ran last time. I don't think this one needs any explanation.


Fond memories reliving our Del Rio photo shoot (or the "Ride From Hell"). You nailed that event - God's truth! A couple of other details came to mind:

As we listened to the engine coolant cascading to the ground, I remember standing and mumbling "Oh Shit! Oh Smit! Oh Smit! Oh Smit!..." ad infinitum, while you ran 'round and 'round the van muttering the same incantation, then running back down the road to see if Bambi was OK. You've always been a softy for our furry little friends. (That softy thing was to change after nailing one in the CRX, one in the Miata, and five in the F150 but that's a story for a different day and format, and I changed some words to read "smit", not wanting to get yet another letter from the clergy regarding what passes for taste around here...  pf)

Our BNBF originally had every intention of securing the van in his creepy, darkened lot. My feeling was that the van would have no wheels in the morning (or any other accessory) and begged him to take us to San Antonio. He did, but required that he be paid in cash on arrival, so Kay had to go out in the middle of the night to come up with the one hundred plus bucks he wanted (remember, this was in the days before ATMs). My AAA policy would only pay for three miles of towing; but I was able to convince them that the van was in great danger being parked at BNBF's poorly-lighted junk-yard of a lot so close to the border. They picked up the whole tab. Great fun!


Footnote: That was not the last South Texas Whitetail that the Beauville was to score - but that's another story.

It was never a job, ya'll. It was always an adventure. Until next time, be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon.

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