Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Who Likes Invaders?, P-2 Redux, While We're Looking at Big Stuff, How About a Fighter?, The Liftowheel, A SpAD, and A Big P-40

Just Can't Get Enough of The A-26!

With any luck you feel the same way about what is arguably the prettiest attack aircraft ever built. Mark Nankivil sent in a nice set of photos from the Tulsa Air and Space Museum's archives, highly appropriate since the Invader was built in Tulsa after that plant shut down production of the SBD and A-24. As is the norm around here, we'll let the pictures do the talking.

If you know anything about me at all you'll remember that I'm a sucker for aircraft under construction. Here's a fascinating view of an early Invader being built; it's mostly an airplane at this point but completion is still a couple of weeks away. The nacelles appear to be OD 41, making this A-26B an extremely early example of the type.  Tulsa Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Round and round we go, as 44-35281, an A-26C-30-DT, scrubs away all the rubber on it's port mlg tire! At first I thought we were looking at compass alignment here, but have since changed my mind. Maybe. Whatever they're doing, it would seem that quite a few airplanes have been down that road before,  at least if all the rubber in the middle of the apron is any indication of same. There's a placard on the nose of that bird that says Iron Project, and I have no idea what that signifies either; I've been through every resource at my disposal and can find nothing by that name. Nada. Zip. I even checked the Highly Unreliable But Everybody Goes There Anyway internet; still no joy! If any of you can shed some light on whatever this is, please drop us a line at the usual address. Please.  Tulsa Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

If you're going to build it sooner or later you'll have to fly it. Here's 43-22254, an A-26B-5-DT, on a test hop out of Tulsa. Check out that nose; there are no guns and apparently no provision for them either; that's an extremely atypical proboscis we're looking at. There also appears to be some sort of funky antenna sprouting from the fuselage just aft of the pilot's window. Mystery Meat, as it were!  Tulsa Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Can't Get Enough of Those Oddball Neptunes

Those goofy SEA P-2s we ran a few days ago have stirred a bit of interest, it seems. Mark Nankivil took another look in his collection and came up with a few more photos that I think you'll enjoy. Who knows; you may even start buying up some of those unloved but highly-buildable Hasegawa P-2s for some conversion work. I know I'm sure getting tempted!

Here's a better shot of one of those green OP-2Es from VO-67. I'm particularly fond of this perspective because it gives a clean view of the underwing hardpoints---those appear to be TERs hanging off them. Note that this bird has far less green overspray on the national insignia than did 128416, which we looked at last time around. This photo was probably taken at either DaNang or CamRahn Bay in February of '68.  Bob Burgess via Mark Nankivil

And another 1st Radio Research RP-2E as operated by the Army in 1968. Although deployed to VietNam, Republic of, at the time, this aircraft is shown taxiing out at MCAS Iwakuni in Japan. Given the overall cleanliness of the aircraft I'd guess she's a recent arrival, probably en route to theater when this photo was taken.  Tom Doll Collection

Blackbird Singin' in the Dead of Night

Here's something a little bit different to round out our selection of Big Navy Airplanes for today. Enjoy!

You may have seen photos of this airplane before---I know I have, but not of this quality! A-3B BuNo 144847 was shot at NAS Alameda in May of 1967, immediately prior to her deployment to Places West. Note the deployed crew hatch just aft of the nose gear, and the insignia red warning trim around the gear doors. Tom Doll Collection

Now here's something you don't see every day! 149673 was also photographed at Alameda in May of 1967. The full-sized full-color national insignia, BuNo, and "NAVY" legend on the aft fuselage compromise the camouflage somewhat, but Holy Cow---what a neat looking airplane! 673 was a P-3A, but backdating the 1/72nd scale Hasegawa P-3C to this configuration would be a simple proposition, and those markings would be a breeze for anyone with a decent stock of decals on hand. Beauty!  Tom Doll Collection

If We're Talking Vietnam There's Only One Fighter Bomber

And that would be the legendary Republic F-105 Thunderchief, affectionately known as the "Thud" by former aircrew and aviation enthusiasts around the world. The 105 flew the majority of early and mid-war USAF strike missions over North Vietnam and suffered accordingly; the attrition rate for the type was nothing short of horrendous. If you're interested in such things, former "Thud" driver Jack Broughton wrote two of the best first-person accounts of F-105 operations in Vietnam; Thud Ridge and Going Downtown, both of which I highly recommend to you. The Thunderchief was heavily photographed during her combat career, but high-quality wartime photos can be difficult to find, which makes this one something special:

"Big Kahuna" was an F-105D-20-RE assigned to the 357th TFS/355th TFW during 1969. Note the red trim on her gear doors and the extensive damage to the paint around the wing pylon and gas bag, as well as the strake in the area of the over-run hook which allows the yellow Mil-P-8585 zinc chromate primer to show through. Like so many of her breed, 61-0109 ended the war in a heap of twisted metal outside of Hanoi. She was shot down on 2 March 1969, with her pilot MIA.   Bob Burgess via Mark Nankivil

Of course, some of the F-105 fleet managed to survive the war, finishing up their days in AFRES or ANG units. Here's an interesting example of one of those airframes.

Remember that MiG-17 Mike McMurtrey photographed outside a Texas antique store a few months ago? Here's a companion for it! "Rebel Rider" is an F-105D-5-RE that went to MASDC in 1981 after a career with the Guard and now resides behind an automotive repair shop in St Louis! She appears to be largely intact and a good candidate for restoration as a display aircraft. Restoring her to flying condition (and supporting her maintenance requirements and thirst for JP-4) would be a different matter entirely!  Fred Harl

And here's her nose, or more properly; fuselage, art. Judging from those punctures "Rebel Rider" may have served as a BDA airframe at some point after retirement from active status. Anybody have any shots of her when she was flying?  Fred Harl

It's Not An Airplane, But It's For An Airplane...

We don't shy away from the unusual around here---if it has anything to do with American military aviation there's a good chance it'll end up on these pages sooner or later. In that vein here's something a little out of the ordinary  for your viewing pleasure; the Republic Liftowheel!

So there you are, taxiing along in the F-105 of your choice, when BANG, you get a blowout! (Or maybe HISSSSS, you get a flat; it's all the same for the purpose of this discussion!) Do you call Triple A? Do you reach in the trunk and pull out your lug wrench and jack? NO! You call for a Republic Liftowheel. Frequent contributor Mark Nankivil sent along this shot along with some commentary:

One item of curious interest was the Republic Liftowheel. I have never seen this before and the owner claims to have not found reference to it in any manuals related to the F-105. If you look at the main landing gear doors for the Thud, at the bottom is a square panel that can be detached. This allows access to the back of the wheel axle and is where the Liftowheel is physically attached to the wheel/axle. In the event of a flat tire, this panel is detached and the Liftowheel slipped onto the back of the axle. What's interesting is that the axle point of the Liftowheel is eccentric and is a wheel within a wheel of the whole unit. Once mounted, the aircraft can be rolled away with the Liftowheel taking the load of the flat tire. Very interesting! Ever seen this before or know of reference material for it?

Not me! How about it, readers? Anybody out there have anything to say about this? Maybe a T.O reference? If so, you surely know the drill; the address is . Bring it on!

Another VNAF SpAD

The VNAF were a gutsy bunch, no doubt about it. Their A-1 Skyraiders were frequently ridden hard and put away wet but never failed to perform, and the courage of their pilots is well-known to all.

Gettin' ready to go find Charlie. This 23rd Tactical Wing A-1H, formerly BuNo 135322, taxis out for another mission on 20 May 1968. The aircraft is minimally loaded, carrying only a quartet of Mk 82 GP bombs and a full load of 20mm. Note the Gull Grey canopy frame, and the natural metal areas of the cowling. Of particular interest to modelers is the extensive exhaust staining on her fuselage. Operational Skyraiders were generally dirty Skyraiders!  Bob Burgess via Mark Nankivil

As Finished as It's Likely to Get

I've had a little bit of extra time here lately, and have in consequence been able to get a couple of long-term projects completed. One of those was the Hasegawa P-38G you saw a few installments ago--the one where I installed the props the wrong way (and am I ever glad to get that one done---no more P-38s for this buckaroo for a while, by Golly), but I also managed to complete that 1/32nd scale P-40N we were looking at. Here are a couple of photos to show how it came out:

All done, and an easy date in every respect. In spite of its modular fuselage breakdown and Hasegawa's undeserved reputation for making such things difficult, the kit pretty much built itself with little need for filler or profanity. The sliding portion of the canopy has an odd sit to it which I just noticed, but it's not attached to the airplane and can be easily tilted back into position. There's an antenna running from the main wire to that white insulator that's between the antenna mast and the position light, but it's really thin and you can barely see it here. There's a tiny bit, and by that I mean not much at all, of Eduard in that cockpit, mostly placards and a set of belts---all the big stuff is from the kit. A set of QuickBoost exhausts might be nice (I don't know if they make them for this kit or not, though) but that's about the only area that could stand significant improvement in my rarely humble opinion. It's a good kit, ya'll.

That canopy sits a little better in this view, and you can see that other antenna wire too! Sometimes a photograph will show something that's not easily noticed in real life, such as the light silvering around the fuselage national insignia decal! The stickies are by Zotz and are of excellent quality, but I have to admit to struggling a bit with those stars and bars. That seems odd to me since the nose art, which by its nature has quite a bit of clear decal incorporated into it, went on without a hitch. The stars were another story entirely, and this one will have to be fixed; no doubt about it. The white theater markings aren't actually white but rather a whitish grey, which I think looks better. You pays your money...

And this star's ok. The demarcation of the white theater markings on the tail is provisional; it's a typical treatment often seen on 7th FS/49th FG P-40Ns during the time period modeled (1944), but as far as I know there's no profile photo of 00 (or 10, which it was before it became 00, a fact that could give you another option for that nose art) showing the empennage. A nod's as good as a wink to a blind horse, I suppose...  Those spoked wheels come with the kit as an option, although my boxing (the famous 15,000th P-40) wants you to use the P-40E wheels that are also included with the model. That's because of the wheel cover markings on that particular airframe; if you're building any P-40N except for that one you'll probably want to use the smaller diameter spoked wheels seen on most operational Ns. I stuck a gas bag under the model because I like the look of that tank down there, but by the time 00 was flying combat ops a 500lb GP bomb (also included in the kit) would have been just as appropriate. All the photos I've seen of this airframe show it to be fairly clean, so weathering was kept to a bare minimum on the model. Sometimes that's The Right Thing to Do.

A lot of people buy Zotz decals because of their exceptional quality. A lot more people buy them because they do some of the best nose art around; this presentation is unquestionably the best scale representation of "Milk Wagon Express" ever offered to the modeling public. Panel lines that run through that artwork were lightly accentuated by scoring along them with an extremely sharp #3 artist's pencil, a trick I learned from Austin modeler Brad Perry. One thing about those markings; Zotz provides the thin white striping that appears on the nose of the real airplane, but they terminate it as an open "square". It's my opinion that the striping is actually the edging for a color, which I think was dark blue---photographs of the nose art appear to show a darker area forward of what I'm presuming was a trim line for said color. If I'm correct (and it ought to be pretty obvious that I think I am, since I built the model that way) then the color and its white trim most likely go further back than the decals provide for, terminating in a point. That sort of thing would be in keeping with pre-War AAC/AAF practice and makes a great deal of sense to me. Comments are welcomed.

The 49th had a long-standing history of putting different nose art on each side of its P-40s regardless of the variant. Most of us first became aware of the bawdy side of the 49th way back in the mid-60s when Len Morgan published Ernie McDowell's P-40 monograph which included several shots of the 7th's late-War N-models. That, plus subsequent publication of Squadron Signal's often-underated 49th FG title (also by McDowell) led a lot of us to believe that "Daddy Please" and "Milk Wagon Express" were two different airplanes, a misconception not helped by the fact that this particular airframe wore the same nose art with two different side numbers at different points in its career. A couple of things stand out in this photo: You can see once again how that cheat line goes back under the nose, and you can see that I never managed to get a clean demarcation on the tip color of that spinner! I tried, gang; Lord knows I tried, but I gave up on my 5th attempt. Sometimes I'm really good at that kind of stuff but sometimes I'm not, and painting concentric rings on a spinner can be a Puppy of a Different Persuasion under the best of circumstances. I did what I could...  Speaking of that prop and spinner, that gap you see is a direct result of using the kit-supplied poly cap for attachment. Omission of the cap and hard attachment by cement might be a better way to go. Finally, quite a few of the 49th's P-40Ns had white gauze filters inside those nose grills. I considered adding them after I'd drilled out all those holes in that panel but ultimately decided against doing it. Such is life.

The Relief Tube

Last time around I think we only had one entry in this ever-popular portion of our modest effort. Today we have a few more than that, so let's begin.

First out of the gate is one of the P-47Ns in our last installment, an airplane named "DNIF". In that piece I admitted I didn't have a clue what that meant. A couple of our readers did know and came to the rescue for the rest of us as noted here:

Interesting that you should run the Jahant P-47N images this weekend. I was searching for images of any 58th FG P-47s, and came across a collection of photos from Ie Shima posted by "saipanbolt". In his photostream of the 318th FG were a number of images from the 507th FG, also on the island, and there was a great shot of the starboard side of Chataugua with the same Indian princess facing forward and the name on the fuselage, too. That's a new one on me---thanks!!! pf

Also, "DNIF" is an acronym used frequently in the USAAF/USAF by we medical types, meaning Duty Not Involving Flying", i.e., you're grounded until medically released. It was only obscene to the pilot hearing those words or reading that stamped image.  Frank Emmett

And from contributor and aviator Keith Svendsen:

DNIF is a duty restriction imposed by the flight surgeon: Does Not Include Flying/Flight. Sick and shouldn't fly? You're DNIF!  Keith Svendsen

We recently ran some early FJ-3 Furies on these pages, leading Tommy Thomason to write:


 If you noted that the later FJ-3s had a hard wing (no slats and a fuel tank) and that it was retrofitted, I missed it. Attached is a picture of one. (Unfortunately, I couldn't open the attachment. We'll run some shots of hard-edged -3s another day. pf) Note that the little leading edge piece on the ammo bay door is missing...  T

Thanks Tommy; I'm pretty sure that note was omitted! And speaking of notes, if you aren't already doing it you need to check out what Tommy's doing over at .

Reader and old friend from our days at Misawa, way back in high school, Jack Dusenberry provides clarification on a photo we ran of his dad last time. 

I was tickled to see the picture of my dad and the mules on your blog. I decided to throw that one in to show how young he was . He says that one reason for his survival was that he had "old timers" as pilot and copilots(29 and 30 years old) . I also think there was more than a little bit of luck involved and his crew had good luck rituals that were strictly adhered to .He carried a lucky rabbit's foot ,some carried four leaf clovers ,and one crew member insisted on urinating on the same rock before each mission . The fellow forgot to perform his task before getting on the truck before one mission and the entire crew demanded that he be taken back to perform his task !

The picture of him and his crew (which we didn't run because of that copywrite thing. pf) appears to have come from Russell Strong's First over Germany  (long out of print) and Dad has an extra copy that he has promised to give to me but keeps forgetting to do so .I have seen copies on the internet with prices as high as $180.00 ,so I hope he remembers at some point.  Jack   What a treasure! Thanks for sharing your dad's memories with us, and give him our best. pf

Finally, here's a note from Don Jay that some of our younger readers may not quite understand.

After Dec 30, Kodachrome will be no more. Dwayne's Photo of Parsons Kansas is the last place to develop the film and they will stop this Thursday. For those who grew up with this iconic staple, it's demise has forced a change on us-like it or not.

I will mourn the loss of one more link to our manual, analog past. Twitter, Facebook, and email do not replace handwritten letters. Texting is not a phone call. MP3s and CDs cannot duplicate the richness of vinyl. The internet is not a newspaper. A blog is not a diary. And digital photography does not reproduce film's qualities.

Easier is definitely not always better and I fear these small losses of reality as we digitize ourselves are lessening us in some intangible way. Apr├Ęs moi, le deluge. dj

By way of explaination for those of our readership who might know only digital photography, Kodak's Kodachrome was the world's leading transparency (read "slide" here) film for decades. The stuff started out as K10 at an extremely slow ASA 10 rating, then morphed into the K25 and K64 that most of us knew and loved. Other manufacturers tried to equal it over the years but nobody else ever managed to get the same resolution, crispness, and color saturation of Kodachrome. I can only surmise how many thousands of frames of the stuff (mostly K25) were cranked through my Nikons while I was still shooting, and how many more thousands of frames were exposed by the folks who's work you regularly see on these pages.

Kodachrome was special. Just ask Dave Menard, Tommy Thomason, the Morgan Boys, Mark Nankivil, Maddog Kerr, Jim Wogstad, Keith Svendsen, Don Jay, or any of the other photographers who's names you've read on photo tag lines both here and other places over the years. To steal (or maybe paraphrase) a line from an old John Wayne movie: "It was a way of life. It was a good way." RIP, Kodachrome.

And that's what I know. Have yourself a happy (and safe and reasonably sane) New Year's Eve. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again real soon.

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