Friday, February 18, 2011

Requiem for a Friend, Another Couple of FJ Photos, The Continuing Saga of the Stoof, Eduard's Fw-190 Family, and Another Big Spitty

An Overdue Tribute to a Departed Friend

Frank Garcia was a long-time aviation entusisast, a plastic modeler, and a friend. You've seen some of his photography in these pages, taken back in the early 60s when he was a V1 guy on the "Shang" and the "FDR". He loved airplanes and he loved plastic modeling but, most of all, he loved naval aviation.

Among other talents, Frank was one of the fastest modelers I've ever known, being able to crank out a finished 1/72nd scale Name That Airplane over a weekend, starting from the time he took the plastic wrapping off the box until the time the completed model went on the shelf. He wasn't turning out bad models either; a great many of them placed in local contests Way Back When. He pioneered a couple of techniques I still use and, most importantly, he shared with others. Some modelers like to keep things a secret because they think that doing such a thing gives them an edge. Frank thought that sharing what he knew helped everybody have more fun with the hobby and because of that philosophy he never got whizzed off when a model didn't work out. He'd just put it away and start something else.

We shared a lot of miles chasing airplanes together back in the 80s, driving all over Texas, Nikons in hand, searching out military airplanes wherever we could find them. We got sunburned, rained on, snowed on, hailed on, and, on more than one occasion, disappointed when we got to where we were going when it turned out that the airplane we were chasing wasn't there after all. He never complained or criticised (a talent I've often wished I had for myself) but just grinned and kept on going.

Frank died of a massive heart attack back in the mid-1980s. He was a young man, still in his 40s, and his passing was a shock to everyone who knew him. Everyone who knew him respected him, and everyone missed him. His wife and children kept going and eventually moved on with life, but things just weren't the same with Frank gone.

Fast-forward to right-now-this-minute, which is a Friday down here in Sunny South Texas. Tomorrow's the day San Antonio's IPMS chapter has their annual contest ("Model Fiesta" is what they call it) and, unless they've changed things, one of the trophies they'll award will be The Frank Garcia Award, given for best US Navy airplane model. A couple of us decided way back when Frank passed that such a thing would be a fitting tribute, and successive generations of Alamo Squadron members have apparently agreed with the concept. It won't bring Frank back, but it's definitely The Right Thing to Do. Meanwhile, I try to use Frank's notion of Not Getting Overly Excited every time I pick up an X-Acto knife. It's not a bad legacy, I think.

Ever wonder who Alamo Squadron's Frank Garcia Award was named after? Here's your answer. The date is 22 March, 1981, and Frank, his son Frankie, and I are on the ramp at Laughlin AFB shooting the late arrivals before the everything opens up to the public at that year's air show. Frank had fun that day, but then Frank always had fun, and it generally rubbed off on those around him. That's a pretty good legacy, I think. Vaya con Dios, Amigo!

Just When You Thought We Were Done With The FJ

It's easy to develop a fondness for certain things, and airplanes are no exception. One of my special interests has always been the North American FJ series of fighters, mainly because we've never had a decent 1/48th scale plastic kit of an FJ-2 or -3, although the Czechs did a viable FJ-1 a while back, and we now have a buildable FJ-4 from China. The FJ-2 and -3 remain elusive, and it just shouldn't be so!

In the beginning there was the FJ-1. It's a goofy looking airplane, and it's performance is laughable by today's standards, but it was a Really Big Deal when it was first introduced into service. Everybody knew it was just a step along the road, but it got the ball rolling. Fighting Fifty-One got to introduce the type into service as illustrated by this gorgeous example. Squint just a little bit and you can see the F-86/FJ-3 in that airplane.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

You might well ask yourself "Self; how do they practice for carrier landings before they go to the boat?". The answer is simple. You get yourself an LSO, a runway, an airplane, and a lawn chair. Then you practice. This Fighting Sixty-Two FJ-3 is coming aboard at an un-named naval air station during the mid-1950s prior to deployment. Don't you wish you could've been that photographer?!  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Here's why you practice. This VF-62 FJ-3's in the groove coming aboard the Bennington during pre-cruise workup. This is how it looks when you do it right.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Gettin' ready for the boogie. The aircraft are, once again from VF-62, and this time they're playing for real on the boat. Pretty airplane, huh?  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Even More Stoofs

We're now officially in the Home Stretch in terms of our ongoing coverage of the Grumman S2F, but we're not done yet. Here's another collection of photography to amaze and astound:

One of the primary users of the "Stoof" family was TraCom, who operated the type as a multi-engine trainer for a number of years. This example from VT-28 typifies the breed as far as Training Command was concerned; a pretty scheme but one that's seldom modeled. Pity.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

 We all have a Bad Day at the Office from time to time, but I'm guessing none of our Bad Days can rival the one these guys are having! A VT-27 TS-2A flies past the boat with the Number 1 engine ablaze and falling apart some time in 1964. The NATOPs says it's time to Get Out of There Right Now when this sort of thing is going on, but those guys are way to low to do anything but ditch.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Remember back there where I said the airplane was coming apart? The engine's feathered and the nacelle is literally coming to pieces, with chunks falling into the sea. The ultimate outcome of this is not known, at least to this publication, but it looks pretty bad. Sure hope those guys got out of there ok. Nobody ever said military aviation was safe... Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Sometimes it isn't fire that gets you; the boat's a dangerous place in the best of circumstances. This VS-30 S2F-1 was in the process of trapping aboard the Antietam when Things Went Seriously Wrong; she's caught a wire but things aren't looking particularly good at the moment. As far as we know the injuries were confined to Personal Pride, but it was a pretty scary day for all concerned, we suspect.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

The Mighty Stoof was a versatile airframe and had quite a career as a utility type and COD. 136546 is a US-2B assigned to NAS Miramar; the tail markings are particularly noteworthy. When the S-2 left the NAV she did it with dignity!  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Here's what the "Stoof" looked like as a COD. This beautifully-maintained C-1A is off the Constellation, date unknown, and typifies the pride the COD guys took in their airplanes. The logo on the nacelle says it all.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

VS-82's squadron markings were simple but effective as demonstrated by 151671, an S-2E shown taxiing at Davis Monthan in 1974. I think I read someplace that Kinetics was about to release a 1/48th scale kit of the "Stoof"; I can't wait to see it!  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

One could ask if you've ever seen a shark-mouthed S-2 before, but we all know you have because we ran a black and white photo of one a few issues back. Here's another photo for you, and it really shows that marking to advantage, as well as a considerable amount of detail of interest to modelers. Jean, this one's for you!  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

We can't run a photo essay without an air-to-air, can we? This section of Princeton-based S-2Gs were photographed doing a little form in 1975. The S-2 family was liberally covered with lumps and bumps from the very beginning, making it an ideal source of subject matter for modelers. Wonder why we had to wait so long for a 1/48th scale kit?  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

The "Stoof" was a great airplane, but nothing lasts forever. Here's our official Parting Shot depicting a VS-37 S-2G in formation with its replacement, the Lockheed S-3A, this example being from VS-21. The S-3 was (and is) a more capable platform than it's sometimes given credit for, and it's even got a neat nickname in the Fleet ("Hoover"), but at the end of the day it still ain't a "Stoof", is it? Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

And that's pretty much it for our coverage of the S-2F family, at least for now. We're still looking for sea stories and photography, however, so if you've got anything you'd like to share we'd love to hear from you. That address once again is .

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wulf?

Eduard, that consistently amazing company from the Czech Republic, has been issuing a seemingly unending procession of model airplane kits that could only be considered superior by most any standards. They do manage to drop the occasional clanger, as our Former Empire friends are wont to say, but all in all their kits are right up there with the best available.

One of those recent offerings in the Right-Up-There-With-the-Best Available category would be their family of Fw190 variants. They've pretty much covered them all, from the -5 to the -8, with a D and an F thrown in for good measure, and they're all pretty good kits, albeit with a reputation for difficulty of assembly. Your Humble Servant (me) pondered that reputation for a while and decided to go off and build an Eduard Focke Wulf for himself because, simply put, if I can't mess it up nobody can. It was a test of sorts.

Anyway, the model is under construction but not yet photographed, and I'm not correcting the accuracy issues so well-documented by others; the whole purpose of this set of paragraphs is to provide all of you who might want to build one of the short-nosed kits for yourselves the Official Key to the Highway so you can avoid the frustration that's allegedly built into those plastic pieces.

The complaints that I've seen all concern themselves with problematical fit, and the internet is filled with stories of angst and passion written by folks who have struggled with the beast and had to clamp, fill, and sand in order to get said pieces together. Here's what you can do to avoid that particular passion play:

First, there's the wing spar, which is p/n I-16 in the A-8 iteration of the kit. That spar butts up against a little triangular piece (K-20), and you need to install the triangular piece first, then the spar. Make sure, and I mean absolutely certain, that said spar is perpendicular to the wing. Lock it in and let it set up before messing with the model any further. Once that's done, you've ensured that all those wheel well ribs, as well as the wheel well itself, will fit with absolutely no drama and no need for subsequent surgery.

The other Major Bugaboo with the kit is a direct result of the relationship between the cowl gun components and Everything Else, and the proper fitment of same will absolutely make or break the building of the model. Take a look at the kit's instructions when you're assembling the cowl gun deck; the ammunition feed trays/spent cartridge case ejection chutes (parts H-20 and H-21) fit to the front of the bulkhead that's numbered I-4. The rest of the cowl gun installation is built on that, and the whole component section fits into the fuselage in front of the completed cockpit. Install the cockpit first, being careful to align the decking behind the seat with the cutout in the fuselage and also using the mounting tabs inside the fus. If the cockpit is in the right place the cowl gun assembly will go where it's supposed to, mating up with its alignment tabs too. Those subassemblies have to fit the fuselage correctly; if they don't, you'd may as well give up and go do something else unless, of course, you enjoy suffering.

Once you've addressed those two issues you can assemble the completed fuselage to the lower wing, making certain that the two "prongs" that are the spent-cartridge case chutes straddle part number J-18 and align with the appropriate openings in the lower wing. Thanks to proper alignment of the cockpit and gun bay that was a snap-fit on my model so I presume it will be the same on yours too; just be gentle when you do the snapping and all will be well.

If you've done those basic things the cockpit and gun bay details will fit properly without spreading the fuselage in the process, the inboard cannon bays (parts I-14 and I-15) will fit into the wing and alongside the fuselage without any trimming, and the wing assembly will align perfectly with the fus. The only Tough Thing yet to do is install the exhaust pipes (which Eduard supplies a jig for) and carefully fit the power egg into the fuselage.

So, who's afraid of The Big Bad Wulf? Not me, by Jingo! That said, I'm one of those folks who think the kit is somewhat over-engineered and not for those modelers who's skill sets are, shall we say, of a lesser order, so you new guys might want to build a couple of other kits before you tackle any of these. Then again, how else do we learn?

No matter how you feel about the kit, it's perfectly buildable (as is everything this modeler has ever touched that had the name "Eduard" on the box). You just need to give it the respect it deserves while you're sticking things together. Patience is a virtue!

That Spitfire Train Just Keeps On Rollin'

And we're ding-danged glad of it. We are, of course, talking about Tamiya's remarkable series of 1/32nd scale Supermarine Spitfire kits. They first started the ball rolling with a Mk IXc, then a Mk VIII, and now a Mk XVIe, all of which are the definitive kits of there type, and all of which should be in your local hobby shop or favorite mail order house any day now. Through the kindness of Rudy Kline at King's Hobby Shop in Austin we were able to take a look at the trees comprising the parts unique to that new Mk XVIe and were/are suitably impressed.

Here's the biggest change to the kit to allow construction as a Mk XVI. The detail on those parts is absolutely gorgeous, and everything is there to allow us to build the ultimate Merlin-powered Spitty.

Here's the cockpit detail on the inside of those fuselage halves. Everything is on a par with the contents of the Mk IX and Mk VIII kits. For once, the term "museum-quality" isn't being abused!

My lighting makes the transparencies hard to see but you get the idea, right? That canopy has a slight bulge to it, just like the production canopy on the real thing. There's a tiny, almost invisible seam to contend with on the outside of the canopy in consequence, but a variation of that seam is on the canopies on the other two Tamiya Spits as well; it takes about ten minutes to polish it out. It's a small price to pay for that sort of out-of-the-box accuracy.

And finally, here are the parts required to update the gun bay covers, cannon, and landing gear legs. Tamiya didn't miss anything as near as we can tell---their "Spitfire" family just gets better from kit to kit!

We mentioned it before, I think, but the addition of the parts required to make a bubble-canopied Spitfire, plus the parts design of everything else, should enable Tamiya (if we're lucky) or the aftermarket industry to offer up virtually every Merlin-engined Spit ever made from the Mk Vb onwards. Your editor has never been all that much of a Spitfire fan but these kits define the current state of the art and are an absolute joy to build. I'm looking forward to the next member of this growing family (and praying it's a Mk Vc!).

The Relief Tube

First, a comment or two from Rick Morgan regarding the "Stoof":

The STOOF: The ultimate “pokata-pokata” machine. Two T-28s flying formation with a Dempsey Dumpster (or garbage truck, depending on the source). When I was a Midshipman at Corpus for training in 1976 I had a Marine Captain yelling at us, trying to impress upon us what junk the Navy flew- he used the TS-2As on the ramp there as evidence. Neat aircraft- I have about 1.0 hours in them.

There were only four TF-1Qs modified (EC-1A post 1962); In effect these birds were fore-runners to FEWSG, providing fleet EW training from the beach. Two went to each coast. VAW/VAAW/VAQ-33 had 136785, 136788.  The AirPac birds (136783, 136787) started at VAAW-35 (code VV), the North Island based, AD-flying, night attack outfit, moved to VAW-11 (code RR ) , which flew WFs, AD-5Ws and AD-5Qs out of North island.  In 1960 they moved to Alameda-based VAW-13 (VR) which kept them in service into the late ‘60s.  VA-122 picked up 136787 late it its life and, I suspect, used it as a hack and not for its EW abilities (something I’m trying to get confirmation on).  All four were converted back to standard C-1 configuration by the early 1970s;  136787 was lost in a mishap as a COD at Souda Bay Crete in April 1982.  Rick

Thanks as always, Rick and, while we're on the subject, reader Dave Southam is working with the CollectAire kit of the S2F and has a question for us:

I’ve been following your site for a couple of months now and I really like the depth you go to in covering a specific aircraft. I have grown tired of the model sites where the discussion reverts to Bf-109s within three lines.

Do you have any info on the Roll Controls of the Stoof? I have put off building the Collectaire Willy Fudd for lack of a clear direction regarding flight controls.  Cheers, Dave

Thanks for the kind words, Dave. As for roll control on the S-2, I don't have the answer! Rick/Tommy/Doug, do either of you have any insight regarding the topic? (Or anyone else, for that matter. The address is if you can help out or have any "Stoof" photos or information you'd like to share with us.)

Reader and long-time friend John Kerr ("Maddog" to those who know him) never ceases to amaze when it comes to digging things up. He's been doing it for years, first with slides and prints and now, in this Age of Electronic Miracles, on the internet. He recently sent a link to an artist's site that you might enjoy---it's military aviation and it's seriously neat. If you're interested in such things check out . She's doing some spectacular work on Navy aircraft, among other things.

Jim Sullivan sent along a site as well. This one seems to be a virtual Home for Wayward Reciprocating Transports and is well worth a look. The IP address is htp:// . There's some pretty cool Old Iron in there. Thanks Jim!

And finally, I've been doing another friend a disservice, even though it was entirely unintentional. Tommy Thomason runs at least two blog sites that I'm aware of, and I'd messed up the link to one of them in our "Links" section (the site is "Tailhook Topics"), which resulted in one of those Screen-of-Death "you can't get there from here" pages. That's since been fixed, and apologies both to Tommy and to any of you who tried to get to his site from that link!

That's about it for this week. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon.

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