Sunday, November 14, 2010

Reflections on Disaster, A Couple from Korea, and a few More Demons

Sometimes Stuff Just Happens

There's an old expression not used much anymore that goes "if you're going to make an omelet you've got to break some eggs". I've personally never cared for omelets although I have broken my share of eggs if the truth be known, but this isn't a cooking show and we aren't going to talk about that at all; it was just my ever-wordy means of introducing the Fine Art of Modeling Disaster as this edition's mindless ramble.

There can be no doubt whatsoever that anybody who's ever built a plastic model has messed one up, or had some sort of tragedy/drama/whatever-you-might-want-to-call-it as a result of some ill-advised attempt at building a replica airplane. These disasters come in a wide variety of flavors, and I've got enough seniority on life that I could easily fill several of these columns with There I Was stories, but this time around only a few examples will suffice, I think.

Let's start off with low-key, because that's the most common sort of Disaster and the kind most easily fixed. In my own personal world that sort of thing generally revolves around something easily botched, easily fixed, but ultimately noticed by almost everybody (although not in this case). Our example of this sort of disaster concerns a 1/72nd scale Hasegawa F-15 I built back in the '80s, painted and marked for the 18th TFW. It wasn't the easiest thing I'd ever built (precious few Hasegawa kits from that era were shake-and-bake; that came later) but the airframe actually came out pretty good, and the paintwork wasn't bad either. The decals were ok, and there was a local club meeting coming up, a fine venue to show off my brand spanking new F-15. The airplane was a hit, albeit an extremely modest one (and quite possibly more in my mind than in reality, but what the hey...), and I was hip-deep in explaining the model to a friend when It suddenly came to me: There were no national insignia on the model anywhere. None. Nada. Zip. No stars, no bars, nary one single scale 15-inch reduced-scale national insignia any place on the model. I didn't say anything and nobody ever noticed, giving me the graceful opportunity to go home and finish putting the decals on. I attribute the event to un-respirated exposure to too much Dio-Sol.

After low-key, we get to ratchet things up a little bit to Medium, which I classify as something that's unfixable but never seen by Model-Kind. In my own personal world it involved a 1/72nd scale Lindberg He162, which wasn't unduly bad (or good either, for that matter) considering its 1966-67 vintage. It did, however, have a one piece wing that slotted through the fuselage halves of the model. The fit wasn't all that great but I got it done, and once the bodywork was complete it even looked all right under primer. That was when I made The Terrible Discovery. It seems the leading-edge slats looked a little bit goofy, what with them each being two-piece and one of them being bigger than the other. And yep, you've guessed it; I'd put that wing in backwards, producing a fine version of an unintended swept-wing Volksjager. There was no attempt at salvation---it was straight to the trash can for the tiny futuristic little "People's Fighter".

We could go on and on, running right up through mis-steps and accidents that actually induced physical pain, but I've saved what I think must surely be the best for last. This one far surpasses almost any There I Was story I've ever heard and, for once, didn't directly involve me---I heard it from the guy who did it. And yes, Virginia, it's a true story; Frank Emmett can back me up on this one because he knows the guy who did it and heard the story too (and nobody, and we mean nobody, could have made this up!).

Anyway, Frank and I had this mutual friend who I'm going to call Zeke, mostly because I've never actually known anyone by that name. We're protecting the semi-innocent here, folks! Zeke was a pretty busy kind of guy, working a real job by day, helping out with an established family business by night and sometimes on weekends, and modeling whenever he could. I tell you that because it helps set the stage and explains why Zeke was sitting up late one night in his skivvies (ask an old GI if you don't know what they are) getting ready to airbrush. Like all of us back then, Zeke painted with Floquil, which meant he thinned and cleaned up with DioSol, a solvent/thinner that was a little bit on the hot side. (You can't buy DioSol anymore---that ought to tell you something about its properties.)

So there Zeke was, airbrushing away, when it got to be time to finish up and clean the airbrush. He did that very thing, putting a pint can of opened DioSol on the edge of his modeling desk. He reached for something, moved his arm (you do that when you Reach for Something), and knocked over the previously mentioned open can of DioSol, the contents of which began making that gluck-gluck-gluck noise that liquids make when they're pouring out of a knocked-over can and heading for the floor. The problem was, there was an obstacle to be negotiated between them and said floor, because our skivvy-clad friend Zeke was sitting right smack betwixt and between the two, the aforementioned skivvies soaking up most of the contents of the dumped-over and rapidly-emptying can and ensuring that the anatomical bits underneath said skivvies received full and prolonged exposure to The DioSol Bath.

We were told, Frank and I, that it wasn't much fun, and I expect that Zeke's entire neighborhood got to hear how former Marines recently returned from the Southeast Asia War Games sounded when they were unhappy. I know for a fact the second-hand version that we heard was pretty ding-danged sporty. Thinking about that whole deal still makes me grin...

So next time you mess something up while modeling, or next time you spill that itty-bitty bottle of relatively benign acrylic on the floor, think of Zeke. Things could be a whole lot worse!

More From Korea

Today's lead photo feature is pretty brief, but I think it's something special. Don Jay rediscovered some old photos in his collection and sent them in to share with us. Let's let him tell about it: 

Hi Phil,

Every so often, you run across old photos stuck away in attics or at antique stores, etc. Most of the time we just give them a cursory look and they are gone, forgotten, and disappear forever. I'm sure all of us have misplaced photos over the years or lost track of them somehow.  Attached are some Korean (circa '53) era photos from an old album labeled FEAF HQS that I came across years ago ('90) that I scanned. It appears they were taken at the end of the Korean War in June of 53 and I think (warning) that they are from K-13 which would be Suwon. Anyway, sorry for the quality-remember I said scanned in the early '90s. dj

Somewhere (maybe K-13?) in Korea, a C-119 taxis in this evocative photo. My personal archives don't include a whole lot on the C-119 in any guise, so reader input as to unit, etc, would be appreciated. A great many, if not most, of Korean War Flying Boxcars wore nose art, and this example may well have that sort of thing on the port side of the nose. We'll never know...  via Don Jay

Another "Boxcar", also from an unknown unit, and with the same comment regarding nose art. Sure wish we could take a better look at the Sabres in the background!  via Don Jay

It's a little-known fact that the C-46 hung around PACAF into the mid-60s (I rode in one from Misawa down to Yokota when my dad PCSd back to the States in late 1965), and a number were used in Korea.
Here 44-78027, a C-46D-15-CU, taxis past the camera at a soggy K-13. She didn't last long after the War, crashing to destruction off Hokkaido in February of 1954, killing all aboard.  via Don Jay

The B-17 was another bird that lasted long past her time, and more than a few operated in and out of Korea during the War. This G-model, once again from an unknown unit, sits on the ramp tantalizing us. Note the legend "Ankara Turkey" on her nose, the black paint around the tail-wheel well, and what appears to be black paint aft of her engines. Was that paint just protecting areas that got messy easily, or were they the remnants of a former life? Once again, we may never know.  via Don Jay

I Think We Promised More Demons, Didn't We?

Actually that's kind of a goofy question, since I know darned well I said there'd be more. Without further ado, let's look at some pictures.

We're having a party and everybody's invited! OK, maybe not everybody, but one of the prototype"Banjos" with 500 flights to her name attended the festivities, along with one of the two XF3H-1s after accomplishing her 200th flight. This view doesn't show it particularly well but there's a lot of the XF-88 Voodoo to be seen in the F3H series; it's particularly noticeable from a 3/4 rear view. This airplane must've looked like something from another planet to the folks used to the more conventional shapes of the time.  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil  

I've never been big on prototypes, so we're going to skip way ahead to the grey birds, which are mostly going to be production aircraft. You know, the kind we'd all like to build models of. That means we're also going to skip all the Glossy Sea Blue F3Hs, but we honestly aren't missing all that much from a markings standpoint by doing that.

The F3H series started life with a one-piece windscreen, a technical marvel (it was really hard to make something like that back in the fifties) that was highly prone to bird strike damage. This classy air-to-air was taken on 27 April 1955 and shows a very early production F3H-2N in flight. That big honkin' test boom did absolutely nothing for the airplane's looks.  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Air defense of the Fleet was a primary mission for the F3H, but the technology available at the time made the mission highly problematical. Here's an early F3H-2M dragging a quartet of AIM-7 Sparrows on a test flight. The missiles shown are early Sparrow Is, really limited in performance (but then so was the launch platform). Look on this as a starting place.  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil  

The Demon was a very unconventional aircraft in appearance, but wore squadron colors well and really looked good when she was all dressed up. This F3H-2 from Oriskany's VF-41 proves the point. She's fitted out with a set of pylon-mounted rails for the AIM-9B Sidewinder, and her deployed speedboards should be a treat for modelers.  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

And another F3H-2 with deployed brakes for you detailers. VF-151's birds were pretty Plain Jane during this time (January of 1963) but the airplane still looks neat!  Duane Kasulka via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

I'll guarantee you that the naval aviators in our audience (and there are a few) are looking at this shot thinking "I'm really glad I'm not driving 102 today!". That sea state is nothing to be sneezed at, ya'll! The Demon is an F3H-2N off the Saratoga, ca. 1958. Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil 

One of the things I really like about the F3H family is that the airplane is so busy, making it an ideal candidate for the modeler. This -3M from VF-161 proves the point. Everything that could possibly be deployed is deployed in this January, 1963 shot. By this time the writing was pretty much on the wall for the Demon, though, as those parked aircraft in the background can attest. The marginal performance of the 1950s was about to become a thing of the past.  Duane Kasulka via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Thanks to Robert McNamara's 1962 aircraft designation standardization program the F3H became the F-3. This is an F-3B from Fighting 213 as seen in November of 1963. There are Phantoms back there on that ramp to the far right; the Demon's days were nearly done. She's still a pretty airplane, though. Duane Kasulka via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil 

The Demon left the Fleet in 1964. Unlike her some of her contemporaries she didn't serve with the Reserves, going straight into storage and ultimately the scrap yard instead. If you love airplanes this photo will be somewhat poignant, or maybe even outright sad, to look at. Unlike old soldiers, old airplanes do die...  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

The Relief Tube

I've said some fairly uncomplimentary things about the Douglas F4D-1 Skyray during the course of the last couple of blogs, with a perspective taken primarily from the point of view of its operational capabilities, failings admittedly caused by the avionics and powerplant technology of its day. It was quite the performer regardless of how it worked out in the Fleet, and here's a comment from reader Dave Kochersberger to reenforce that fact:

I was just reading your post last week on the F4D. I loved the article and pictures. However, I'm puzzled by the comment you made, where you said "The Real Airplane wasn't all that hot, but it sure looked good!" I agree that it looked good, but the aircraft was a very hot performer for its day. The original design specifications were for an interceptor that could reach 50,000 feet in five minutes from the scramble signal. The Ford met this requirement easily and looked good doing it. It was the first carrier-based fighter to break the world's absolute speed record and was the first Navy fighter capable of exceeding Mach 1 in level flight. In May 1958, Marine pilot Major Edward N. LeFaivre set five time to climb records in the Ford. The problems with the aircraft had to do with its bad manners in a spin and twitchy carrier landing characteristics. It was a difficult aircraft to fly, but for good pilot that respected its quirks, it was a "pilots dream". Unfortunately for the F4D, the 50's and 60s were a period of rapid technological advancment, so it was quickly outclassed by fighters such as the F8U and F-4 Phantom which not only performed better, but also had more versatility.

Joe Baugher has some excelent notes about the F4D on his website ( ) and the Smithsonian's Air and Space magazine had an interesting article ("Beautiful Climber") in the July 2006 issue. ( )

Anyway, I love the blog. Thanks for posting all the comments and those cool pictures. Dave

And thanks to you Dave, both for your comments and for providing those links.

While I prefer to get comments/criticism/whatever-you'd-like-to-say by way of e-mail at , the blog format also allows for reader comments to come straight in to the site. I don't allow the software to automatically publish those, but we get some nifty comments that way. Here's an addition to the information on the VC-137 we ran a while back, submitted from a reader presently known only as ea757grrl:

That picture definitely depicts a VC-137A in the delivery scheme. (I can't tell, but I imagine it's 58-6970.) Notice the non-fan engines; those were replaced with JT3Ds when the three VC-137As were modified to VC-137B configuration (and repainted) in 1962-63.

SAM 26000 (based on the larger 707-320B airframe) wasn't delivered until October 1962, and never wore the white top/day-glo livery. Even with that, I love the picture.

And I appreciate the commentary---thanks for writing in!

Two final things, neither of which directly involve commentary or corrections but need to be said before I forget them yet again, increasing senility on my part being what it is!

First, Rick Morgan sent me several shots of VX-3 during the early 1950s a couple of months ago, and I've yet to run them. I lost one or two of them in the computer somehow, then mis-filed the whole bunch, and just generally made a mess out of getting them published. We're definitely going to look at them, and we're going to do it soon, but not today. Apologies to Rick, and a promise both to him and to you: We're going to see those photos!

Second, I was working on yet another in a seemingly endless stream of Bf/Me109 models last week, and that led me to drag out my copy of John Beaman's seminal 1973 work Last of the Eagles. It's an amazing effort, and has stood the test of time really well. Subsequent research has produced a small amount of information that John didn't have at his disposal when he did the manuscript and drawings, but that book is excellent, and in my world a must-have if you're interested in the 109. John was a regular contributor to the Relief Tube back in our print days, although I haven't heard from him since (although he's still producing excellent books, but for others rather than as self-published efforts). That 109 tome has been out of print almost from the day it was first published, but if you ever find one for sale I would strongly suggest grabbing a copy.

And that's about all I've got for this time around. Be good to your neighbor, and we'll meet again soon.

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