Friday, February 4, 2011

Stoofs Around the Boat, a VX-3 Hog, When Ignorance Isn't Bliss, Tamiya's Big Spitfire Mk VIII, Another Rough Day at the Office, An FJ Kind of Day, and a Turkey

 Down to the Sea in Stoofs

In this edition of our ongoing Stoof Extravaganza we're going to take a look at the Tracker in its intended environment; at sea. The S2F was a good airplane around the boat in any of its variations and was well-liked by those who crewed her (or at least I've been completely unable to find any former "Stoof" aircrew who didn't like her) except for the noise which was deafening in that airplane, both figuratively and literally.

Here's what it looks like when you own a whole bunch of "Stoofs" and have to find someplace to park them! At least 8 VS-25 S2Es are shown sharing the flight deck with VMF-223 Det Tango A-4s. The photo was taken aboard CV-10 Yorktown and provides us with a graphic illustration of why most jet-era naval aviators preferred larger decks. Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Ambush Three-Niner, an S-2E from VS-25, is tensioned and ready for the cat shot in this dramatic photo. She may be heading for some air-to-surface work judging from the LAU pod hanging off her starboard wing---control of the sea lanes was a secondary mission for the "Stoof" throughout her career.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Another "Stoof" waiting for the cat. 152841 is from VS-38 and is shown here as she gets ready to take the last S-2 cat shot in 1975. This photo provides a graphic illustration regarding the need for that tail bumper. There are some interesting lumps and bumps on that bird!  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Providing ASW for the Fleet was the primary reason for the S2F family's existence, as graphically illustrated in this shot of a VS-25 S-2E overflying the Yorktown with 'dome and MAD boom deployed. In The Real World that airplane would be just the least little bit further away from the boat, but it still makes for a nice picture!  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Here we are in the cockpit of another VS-25 S-2E, lined up on the center ball and ready to trap. It looks really easy in this photo, doesn't it? I'm told on very good authority that it sometimes isn't really that way; there's a reason those naval aviators are such good sticks.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Even the good landings can be a little sporty, as depicted by this VS-25 "Stoof" caught in the act of trapping aboard the Yorktown. There's another S2 in the racetrack; let the games begin!  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

The flying's done for a while and it's time for a little R and R. USS Bennington is making a port call, with a VS-38 S2F-1 spotted next to the island. We've mentioned it before but it bears repeating; the Peacetime Navy of the 1950s and early 1960s was, by and large, a clean Navy, airplanes included. Modelers take note! Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

We're not out of "Stoofs" yet, so join us next time for another chapter in our S2F essay when we take a look at a couple of unusual Trackers, some Reserves, and maybe even a little drama. Don't touch that dial!

All Beat to Snot is What It Is

Rick Morgan sent along this photo of a VX-3 Corsair a while back and I'd been holding off running it, but today's The Day. It's a post-War bird and is a little different from the norm. Let's check it out.

VX-3 is, and pretty much always has been, a test and evaluation unit. In that role they've flown a wide variety of aircraft, and it's never been unusual to find multiple types within the unit at any given time, which makes this F4U-4 the norm rather than any sort of exception. What is exceptional is the overall condition of the airframe which is, not to put too fine a point on the matter, just all beat to pieces. There's no doubt the airplane is in excellent condition mechanically, but there can also be no doubt that bird has been used, and used hard. Anbody want to step up and build a model of that one? (If anybody does, please send a photo of the results!)  R. Morgan Collection

A Missed Opportunity

OK, ya'll, here's another of my seemingly endless There I Was stories to amuse and astound you but, if your own personal take on that sort of thing is that it's yet another boring tall tale from that Replica guy, feel free to move on. In my world it bears repeating because of the lesson learned and the opportunity missed and I think it worth sharing, but to each their own.

Way back yonder, in 1972 or so, the American Fighter Aces Association held their annual convention in San Antonio, a city in which I was resident at the time. The local IPMS group had committed to put on a display of relevant model aircraft, and I'd volunteered to work said display. How could I go wrong? Lots of aces, lots of stories, and a chance to show off some models---in 1972 it didn't get much better than that as far as hobbies went!

Anyway, there I was, standing by one of our display cases minding my own business (more or less), when these two guys walked up to the case that contained our paltry collection of Vietnam-era jets. They were both a lot younger than the WW2 and Korean War aces we'd been talking with all day, so there was no doubt they were just a couple of passers-by who held an interest in model airplanes. Still, they were interested.

They looked at the display for a minute, then the more outgoing of the two turned to me and asked "Do you have any 17s here?". 17s? OK, his dad must've been 8th AF or something during The Big One, right? "Yep, sure; there's a B-17 over there in that corner case." He grinned at me and said "No, not those old bombers. I mean MiG-17s. Do you have any models of a 17 here?" "No, I'm sorry; there's a kit available but nobody here's built one yet. There's just not enough information on the North Vietnamese air force out there, and that's what most of us would want to build."

The Outgoing Guy got an even bigger grin and said "I've seen a bunch of 'em. You could probably just paint the model silver and you'd be ok." I stood there for a minute letting his remark soak in, but obviously not letting it sink in enough since I just wasn't snapping to what he'd said about seeing NVAF MiGs. The conversation went on for another minute or so, small talk mostly, and The Quiet Guy (he being the one who hadn't said anything yet) said "Thanks for showing us the models. It's a neat display, but we've got a meeting to go to and we need to leave." I said thanks and opined that I'd been rude and hadn't introduced myself. I told them my name, and The Outgoing Guy stuck our his hand. "Randy Cunningham. My friends call me Duke". The Quiet Guy chimed in: "Willie Driscoll." Then they left.

There's a lesson to be learned here, something to do with open-mindedness, a character trait I haven't always possessed. I missed a golden opportunity to talk to the Navy's only Vietnam ace and his RIO because I was so down-and-locked about model airplanes and I never got a second chance at it, at least not with those guys. Like I said, it was A Lesson Learned, but it wasn't the only lesson I learned that day. NosirreeBob; when I'm on a roll, I'm on a roll! Let us continue.

There I was yet again, same day/same place, shaking my head and wondering if I could somehow physically manage to kick myself really hard for the opportunity I'd just blown, when an older gentleman walked up and went straight to the case that held all the representatives of the Pacific War. He stood there with his hands behind his back, obviously thinking about something as he looked at the model of an Australian Spitfire Mk V in the case. OK, I thought to myself; this guy speaks my language. Maybe he was there. I'll go say hello.

So I marched myself right on over there to say hello to the guy. He smiled and returned my greeting, his accent immediately identifying him as being a member of The Former Empire. That should have been a clue but, as usual, I was pretty clueless, presuming that he was British because of that accent (never mind the Aussie Spit he'd just been looking at). I guess I figured that I'd impress him with my worldliness (read "abysmal ignorance" here) because I asked him which part of England he was from, a question that prompted an immediate and somewhat impassioned response regarding the British, Great Britain in general, and his opinion of anything that could even remotely be tied to that distinguished group of islands. He then informed me that he was Australian and had been a P-40 and Spitfire pilot during the war. He was in a hurry to get somewhere too, but was gracious in his leaving and held out his hand. "I'm sorry, I've been quite rude. My name's John Waddy."

John Waddy. Holy cow; John Waddy. Waddy was one of the RAAF's high-scorers, in case you didn't know, and a legitimate person to look up to if your interest runs to personalities of the 2nd World War. He was also (and still is) one of my personal heros, which was probably why I suddenly lost the ability to coherently say my name in reply to his introduction. John Waddy. Holy cow...

So there you are; two really good reasons to listen instead of talk when you meet somebody new. It's a lesson I haven't fully learned even now, but it's a pretty good lesson nontheless; You can't listen when you're talking. Some day that may sink in, but somehow I doubt it...

Everybody Needs a Spitty, Right?

If you build 1/32nd scale you've probably already seen the series of late Merlin-engined Spitfires recently released by Tamiya. To this point we've seen a Mk IX, a Mk VIII and, most recently, a MK XVI, and I'm guessing there will be more to come since the kit's component breakdown easly lends itself to the accomodation of a large number of variants.

It's a good kit too, in any of its several iterations. Think of those big Tamiya Zero kits, and then think of anything good (or maybe even superlative) you've ever heard about a Tamiya kit, and it's all there in spades. Detail, fit, overall accuracy; it's all there and there's relatively little needed that's not already in the kit (although I personally found an Eduard Zoom offering for the Mk VIII to be a tremendous help in the cockpit).

Anyway, this isn't a review, or anything close to one, but it does tie into the editorial immediately preceeding this missive. I've always wanted to build an Australian Spitfire Mk VIII, but not the ubiquitous sharkmouthed MK VIII from 457 Sqdn which is, I suspect, what most folks will want to do with this model. (It's a sharkmouth, right? And, in all fairness, a sharkmouth looks really good on the Spit. I just didn't want to do one on my model.) That said, I pretty much jumped right out and got myself a Brand Spanking New Tamiya Spitfire Mk VIII as soon as they were released, and got started on it a couple of weeks ago. Here's where we are with it as of today:

It took about 2 weeks of pretty steady work to get to this point, but that's mostly because this is a kit you want to be careful with. It's expensive, of course, but it's also really good and you'll want to do it justice. As with most big Tamiya kits, there's a lot on this airframe that could be considered to be gimmickery, at least if you're like I am. All the control surfaces move, the landing gear is positionalble through the magic of optional components, and there's that now-famous series of magnets to allow the easy removal of the cowling, thus allowing us to display the amazingly well-detailed Merlin engine. On my model everything has been rendered inoperable except for the prop which will, I suppose, turn once it's added. I tend to break things with lots of working features; always have, probably always will. On the other hand, all the gun panels are separate items, and all fit flawlessly, absolutely flawlessly. The kit-supplied photo-etch is really good too, with the pilot's armor plating being particularly noteworthy. It gives a scale appearance that's just amazing when installed. One other thing; as complete as it is, the kit doesn't provide any of the cockpit wiring, electrical conduit, control cables, or placards that reside in the genuine article. Eduard has the placards and the rest is easy enough to cobble together if you want to, and you might go ahead and decide that you do indeed Want To, because the cockpit will look a little bare if you don't. And, for the record, I much-preferred the Eduard instrument panel, et al, in the cockpit. It spiffed things up a lot more than I thought it would.

Here's what the other side looks like. The decals are a mixture of kit (the fin flashes), Victory Productions (the roundels), and the decals found in Kagero's Top Colors 18/Supermarine Spitfire Mk VIII, which includes a whole bunch of RAAF Spitfire markings including the ones you see here. I've only seen photos of the left side of this particular airplane and have no idea if the squadron codes really infringed on the fuselage roundel that way, but it's the only way they'll fit and it's how Kagero shows it, so it's how I did it. If it's wrong we can always look at the other side instead! For what it's worth, all the decals except Tamiya's worked flawlessly and we're waiting for everything to cure out a bit before weathering the beast. The Tamiya decals were a surprise because they were stiff and didn't really conform very well to anything---that's not the norm by any means and maybe it was just me, but this time I'm going to say it wasn't. You might want to invest in some aftermarket stickies if you're going to do an Aussie Spit; the Victory sheet ("Aces of the Empire", or something like that) provides a sharkmouthed 457 bird as well as Clive Caldwell's aircraft, while the Kagero set has ten or eleven (I forget which) different offerings including "Avagrog" as done here, "Hava Go-Jo", "Sweet as a Song", and "Hal-Far", among others. I consider both to be essential if you're going to do a Spitfire from Down Under. One other thing about those decals before we go: I still don't care for the notion of squirting floor wax on my models and usually perform the pre-decal glossing ritual using either Testor Metalizer Sealer or Testor clear laquer, but I also really thin my paint (60% or so) and tried something different this time around. The undersurfaces of the wings got the usual coat of Metalizer Sealer, but the upper surfaces were lightly polished with an old cotton tee-shirt; no polish, just the shirt. That activity produced a really nice eggshell finish and all the decals went down flawlessly with no silvering. I just may start doing that all the time.

And a view of the bottom. Preliminary weathering has begun, and I still have to add the bomb racks; the model represents A58-526 "Avagrog" from 79 Sqdn as seen at Morotai in mid-1945, when the squadron's duties consisted primarily of moving mud. That 30-gallon aux tank is a nice touch and is removable---the kit also provides a 60-gallon tank if you're so inclined, and the Morotai ships often went on ops with external tanks in place---they needed the gas. Paint is the ubiquitous (over here, anyway) Testor Model Master (RAF Ocean Grey, RAF Dark Green (faded), and RAF Medium Sea Grey, with dingy off-white for the ID bands on the leading edge of the wings, while the weathering has all been done with pastels. Those Morotai Spitfires were well maintained but looked really beat up, providing an interesting challenge in terms of weathering. I don't know if Eduard produces a "regular" photo-etch set for this family of aircraft or not, because I bought a Zoom set for the interior, but as complete as this kit is there are a couple of smaller details that are missing. You're probably sick of hearing it, but good references are a necessity, even with a Tamiya kit. You'll definitely want photo references for your exterior too; most of the Australian Spitfires operating out-of-country in 1945 were heavily weathered and duplication of same will be a challenge without them.

There's not much left to do on this one and it ought to be finished in a few more days, at which time we'll reconvene and see how it came out. Up to this point I'm really impressed with the kit. It's every bit as good as everybody says it is and sets the bar pretty high.

The SpAD Was a Tough Old Bird

Most of those old American prop planes were pretty darned tough, and could survive a tremendous amount of battle damage. That could be attributed to good design, good materials, simple systems (and not many of them), and, sometimes; luck as well. Here's an example.
There are any number of ways we could caption this photo, but I think the grins may say it all. This A-1 has just recovered with a substantial chunk of its port aileron hors de combat courtesy of the NVA. The airplane's broken, it's raining, and those guys are pretty darned happy. They've probably both been down this particular road before, in Korea and maybe in World War 2 as well. Every man a tiger...  USAF via Paul Jahant

The Fury Around the Boat

It's been a while since we've done anything with North American's FJ Fury, and there are still a whole bunch of pictures we could look at. Today's as good a day as any, so without further ado:

Steam catapults really add a mystic appearance to the flight deck, I think. This section of FJ-3Ms from VF-84 are in the process of moving up to the cat for hookup and launch. The Deck Division is scrambling, although a couple of airdales off the nose of 202 give things a business-as-usual aspect. Some of those guys are wearing cranials and ears, but more than a few aren't. Those flight decks were incredibly noisy...  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

If it launches it recovers sooner or later. Usually.  This is, dare we say it, a picture-perfect approach by one of Fighting Twenty-One's FJ-3Ms. The speedboards are out and everything's hanging as 204 prepares for what appears to be a perfect trap. Note the closed canopy.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

207 gets ready to take the wire. The landing gear is at full extension and looks somewhat odd in consequence. Those early jets weren't happy around the boat because of their distinctly disadvantageous thrust to weight ratio, compounded by the fact that the early engines were slow to spool up. The price for a missed approach or sloppy landing could be high indeed.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Sometimes you know there's going to be a problem ahead of time, which is when you rig the barrier a little further aft. The driver of this unidentified FJ-4 is having a bad day, but it could've been a whole lot worse. Some carrier accidents could best be termed horrendous, but this is more of an incident, declared in advance and worked according to procedure. Still, things were probably pretty sporty in that cockpit for a while.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

We Almost Never Run Pictures of F-14s Around Here

And that's a shame, considering what a neat airplane it was.

If any airplane picture could be considered a classic photo, this one would surely be in the running. An F-14A from VF-111 poses for his wingman while flying CAP somewhere over the Pacific. There's not much to be said here except that it's the perfect way to end a day.  Nankivil Collection

Happy Snaps

Last time around we discussed the possibility of a new section devoted to the contributions of our aviator readers called "Happy Snaps", and here's our first installment of same. If any of you are interested in contributing, here are the ground rules:

1. The photo needs to be air-to-air, preferably but not necessarily of a military airplane.
2. You had to have taken the picture yourself---nothing from official sources, etc.
3. If you didn't take it yourself, you need to have been there when it was taken.

Pretty easy, huh?  That said, here's our first official entry in the Happy Snap Department:

I don't know about you, but I think this is a pretty amazing way to lead off a new department. It's an F-5, sortof, but it's a special one. Let's let contributor Kolin Campbell explain: Here's an aircraft you may not have seen. It's the 'shaped supersonic boom demonstration' test aircraft, a modified F-5E. When NASA finished their tests, our squadron was tasked to lead the aircraft during its ferry flight to Florida, due to its avionics fit. The photo was taken near Palmdale, CA. I did not take this particular photo (I'm in the F-18D), and cannot recall who did. You can credit it to 'USN'. I have some other pictures that I took during the ferry flight, but don't have easy access to those right now. Break out your balsa wood and see if you can't carve up a model.    Kolin

Pretty cool, I think. Thanks Kolin! Anybody else have some happy snaps they'd like to share with us?

The Relief Tube

Tommy Thomason's been following our "Stoof" series, and offers a link to some interesting tests involving the type.

And while we're talking about "Stoofs" and Tommy, here's another photo that may be of interest:

The Author as a Young Man. That's Tommy in the middle, taken in front of a VS-21 S2F-1 at Sangley Point, PI, Way Back When. Thanks for sharing, Tommy!
The whole reason we run The Relief Tube is to correct mistakes. Every once in a while I manage to drop a real clanger, as pointed out by sharp-eyed reader Grant: Thanks for your write-up on Monogram. One small point that you already know, it was the USS Pueblo Crisis in 1968 that sent the F-106s to Korea, not SS Mayaguez in 1975. Yikes! I'm embarassed over that one, having watched the whole "Pueblo" thing on TV!

Grant also had something to add regarding that last B-50 piece we did:  Interesting comments on the B-50. One aircraft that doesn't get enough attention. 46-0005 should be a B-50A. I am an ex-airborne weather equipment repairman, though the B-50 was before my time. Bernie Barris, ex ARWO is a fount of knowledge on weather aircraft. He said that the weather marked B-50As were trainers and not fitted with weather equipment, so it should be TB-50A if redesignated at all. 310 is now at the Air Force Museum and the non-standard modifications (small camera window on the nose and small scoop before the prop warning line) along with the missing AMQ-133 Psychrometer on the left nose has thrown an error into some WB-50D profiles. I believe that it flew out of Panama before being flown to the Museum and vaguely remember that it was concerned with upper atmosphere or space radiation. If you wish to discuss weather aircraft, Bernie can be reached through the AWRA Homepage. Thank you for the pleasure of reading your blogs.  Grant

And thanks to you, Grant, for both the correction and the additions to the B-50 piece, and thanks for helping to keep us honest!

And that's what I know. Thanks for dropping by, and we'll see you again real soon. Meanwhile, be good to your neighbor.

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