Monday, May 2, 2011

There Are Things We Just Won't Do, A Wulf of a Different Color, Some Phine Phifties Photos, and Some Rare Electras

Smoke and Mirrors Don't Fly Around Here, Ya'll

A while back, maybe a year or so, we (that would be me) took a particularly nice photo of an obscure subject and e-mailed it to one of the better-known internet modeling sites, figuring the folks over there would enjoy the picture. Apparently they did, but there was additional fallout that, to be perfectly honest, took our staff (me) by surprise.

So, you might well ask yourself, just exactly what was that surprise? Was it a dispute over historical fact? Was it contradiction of the information provided? Was it some combination of the two? Nope! We can honestly use the expression "none of the above" when describing our amazement over the reaction, because the most notable discussion in the thread, or at least the most memorable, was in regard to ways to manipulate the image to provide someone's perception of "correct" color.

With that thought in mind, let's accept as a working premise the undisputed fact that old color photographs, and in particular old transparencies, can and often do undergo a phenomenon known as color shift when they age. It's a fact of pre-digital photographic life. That said, an essential fact of digital photographic life is the photographer or editor's ability to manipulate virtually every aspect of any given photograph in the computer, thus "improving" it (an opinion at best, and we have our own regarding that) for publication. Color, detail, and basic interpretation are all up for grabs (and change) when that sort of thing is done.

Why are we boring you with this? Simple. We don't like it and, therefore, we don't do it. We will crop an image from time to time, usually for asthetics but occasionally to emphasize some particular detail of a photograph, but we won't, not today, not tomorrow, and not ever, mess with the color or focus of any photograph of a real airplane published on these pages. What you see is pretty much what we started with (with the admitted caveat that your monitor may not see color the exact same way ours does.) We don't use Unsharp Mask to "fix" photographs, and we don't mess with the color balance of vintage photography. You can. We won't, unless it's a photo of a model, and even then we won't do it very often. Let's make sure we're all on the same page here; we don't/won't maniplate anything on any photograph of a real airplane.

That takes us to the moral of this story, if in fact there is one. We've said before that we're big believers in sharing historical photographs, so we don't do anything to keep our readers from saving them for their own collections. We want you to have those images if you want to have them. We do, and it's only fair, put credit lines on everything we publish, and we try to present the best, or most unique (the two aren't always the same thing) images we can each and every issue. If you choose to manipulate those images to try to figure out some point of interest, then Power to you, and we wish you every success in that endeavor. We're going to proceed with our policy of giving you a clean palette to start with by providing unmanipulated photography each time and every time. If the colors have shifted with the passage of time, then so be it. If the original image was softer than we'd have liked, or damaged in some way, then so be it. The images you'll find on these pages are true representations of the images that were presented to us.

We think it's the Right Thing to do.

Something a Little Different in the Way of Well-Known German Airplanes

We all have pet interests as modelers, and the staff here at RIS are no different. There can be no doubt that one of our primary interests lies in the realm of the United States Air Force and Navy, 1945-1975, but we bounce around a lot more than we did back in those Long Ago Days of Print, and our modeling tastes are pretty much all over the place, which takes us to our modeling subject for this issue.

Everybody builds an Fw190 sooner or later, just like everybody builds a Zero or a P-51. It's a rite of passage, if you will, and few aircraft modelers escape it. A whole bunch of folks make kits of the Wurger, and you can start quite an argument by telling a room full of modelers that you prefer this kit over that one, but that's a slim argument if your tastes run to early Focke Wulfs in 1/48th scale; Tamiya pretty much rules the roost as far as the A-1 through A-3 variants of that airplane are concerned, since their Fw190A-3 kit is pretty good, extremely easy to build, and equally easily-modified to A-1 or A-2 standard (or, somewhat less-easily, to A-4 configuration). It's a good kit. Wanna see?

Here you have it; Tamiya's Fw190A-3 in all its glory, but what's up with that paint? The answer's simple, and you'll end up with a unique addition to your collection if you do something like this for yourself. Most of us think of the A-3 variant of the Wurger as a fighter, pure and simple, but it went into service with ground attack units pretty early in the Russian campaign. This model represents one of those, a bird from I./SchG 1 in 1942. The paint's different, there's lots of yellow on the airframe, and the markings are definitely not what you'd expect to see on an A-3. EagleCals sheet EC#129 in 1/48th provides the markings (as well as markings for a winter-camouflaged A-3 from I./JG 51 during the same time frame and two of the more usual Channel Front birds as well) and the quality of said stickies is excellent. The results are pretty neat too, we think, and you end up with something most folks just don't have on the shelf. Too cool!

Here's the other side. The interior has one of Eduard's Zoom kits in place, although you really don't need to add much more than the lap belts and harnesses, and the outboard wing guns have been deleted since few if any of the ground-attack Fw190A-3s carried them. You might want to note that you'll need to sand the bulges off the underside of the wings to correctly depict the aforementioned deletion of those outboard guns, but your friends at The Big T molded that area extra thick so you can sand the bumps away without creating holes in the bottom of your wings in the process. As a further favor to your modeling pleasure, Tamiya even cut the panel lines a little deeper than they needed to, so you won't have to do any re-scribing!

This shot gives you an idea of how colorful the model really is. The yellow under the wings runs from the wingtips to the outside border of the cross, and there's the ubiquitous yellow panel under the nose too. The bomb rack and 250-kg bomb came from an Eduard kit, but remember to cut out the inboard gear doors when you add the centerline rack; those doors couldn't function properly with a store on the centerline and were removed from any Focke Wulf so configured, no matter whether the store was a tank or a bomb. That rack and bomb (and deleted doors), plus removal of those outboard guns, are all that's necessary to turn your day fighter A-3 into a mud-mover, and you'll end up with a model nobody else has. We like it!

Mostly Sabres, Except for the Ones That Aren't

It's been a while since we've run any CONUS USAF stuff, so it must be time to do that again! Here are a few shots from the collection of Marty Isham to get you in the mood---gotta love that Silver Air Force...

OK, so  we said Sabres, and this isn't. We said Silver Air Force, and this isn't that either, but if it doesn't get your heart beating faster nothing ever will! T-6G 51-14337 was a hack for the 75th FIS  out of Presque Isle, Maine, when this shot was taken in 1952. If you're a modeler and you're looking for a '50s USAF T-6 to model, this one could fill the bill. Sure wish somebody would try this scheme on a Warbird...  Isham Collection

How about a Mustang in a Cold Place? This 10th PRG P-51D was shot at Furth AB, Germany, during the winter of 1946. We're guessing that everybody concerned is wishing for an early rotation back to the ZI! Frozen ground crews notwithstandingm, the post-War Air Force flew some interestingly-marked airplanes during the 1945-1949 time frame.  Isham Collection

As long as we're looking at airplanes in cold places...  This P-51D posed for the camera at Stewart AFB during the winter of 1948; kinda makes you shiver just looking at that shot, doesn't it? 44-84390 is a relative Plain Jane except for those buzz numbers---check out the nose and the underside of the port wing. It would appear that there may have been pre-existing low-flying issues up there! Oh yeah, and check out that P-47D in the background too. The USAF was an interesting place in the late '40s!  Isham Collection

Remember last issue when we took a look at a couple of trainers? Here's another one to add to that pile; a TF-51D (44-73204) from Turner AFB's 31st FW, taken in November of 1949. The Mustang hung around for quite a while in USAF and ANG service, with the last one retiring from the West Virginia ANG in 1957. North American designed some pretty good airplanes...  Isham Collection

And speaking of North American airplanes, here's one of those Sabres we promised! 48-0260 had morphed into a JF-86A-5 by the time this photograph was taken at Silver Hill in June of 1974. She's pretty much beat all to snot but is still has that classic F-86 beauty about her. It sounds trite, but we've never seen an ugly Sabre!  Isham Collection

We're going to skip the F-86Es and Fs for right now, and jump straight to the airplane that many feel was the best USAF Sabre of them all, the F-86H. The "Hog" was modified to accept a bigger engine and featured a revised empennage and a 20-mm gun suite that morphed out of the information gleaned during Project Gunval in Korea. It was primarily a fighter-bomber, but was still more than capable in the air-to-air arena even though the type's teething problems guaranteed it a short career in the regular USAF. It hung around longer in the Guard, surviving into the 1980s with several units. 52-5750 was an F-86H-5 assigned to the 474th FBW at Clovis during 1954 and shown here at a public display.  Isham Collection

And another F-86H-5, this time from the 1st FDW. The markings on this bird make it well worth the time, but the Lockheed P2V-7 in the background adds a whole new element to the shot; it's possible and maybe even probable, that the airplane is a straight-up Navy P2V, but the Air Force used the type as the B-69A in the mid-50s, and those just don't look like Navy markings to us. Then again, we've been wrong before...  Isham Collection

You've seen the "Sabre Hog"; now it's time for a "Sabre Dog"! 51-3057 was an F-86D from the 3555th FTW and was photographed at Nellis during December of 1954. Note the deployed rocket tray and the natural metal coloring of the interior of the main gear doors, and the ATC badge on the tail. You don't often think of the F-86D in the training role, but the pilots had to learn somewhere!  Isham Collection

Every man a tiger! 56-3672 was with the 37th FIS when this shot was taken at Yuma in 1957. Bet she carries full Arctic conspicuity markings on the wings too, and that's not to mention the red nose gear door. The F-86D wasn't much of an interceptor, but held the line until the advent of the F-102, and even managed to bag a few foreign sales as the F-86K. All in all it wasn't a bad track record.  Isham Collection

How do you spell "rare"? North American modified an F-86F-30 to a proposed TF-86F trainer configuration during 1953. 63 inches of fuselage length and a relocated wing (slightly forward of its original position) produced what was undeniably the ugliest of all the Sabres, although overall performance was very similar to that of contemporary production F-86Fs. The first prototype crashed to destruction in March of 1954, resulting in the production of the aircraft you see here, TF-86F 53-1228. Note the gun ports in the nose; 1228 carried a pair of .50s for gunnery training, and could also be fitted with underwing hardpoints. The initial prototype carried neither of those modifications. 1228 ended its days as a chase aircraft as seen here at Edwards AFB in 1958.  Isham Collection

As a final note, our in-house slide-scanning capabilities are extremely limited at the moment, although that's in process of changing. In the meantime, sincere appreciation is extended to Frank Emmett for assisting with that chore for this article. Many thanks, Amigo!

We Almost Never Run Pictures of Airliners Around Here

We don't, and that's a fact, but that doesn't mean we can't. Lockheed has never shied away from unconventional design, and in the late 1950s they made an impact on commercial aviation with the introduction of their 4-turboprop L-188 Electra airliner. It was a neat idea that eventually morphed into the superb P-3 Orion family of ASW aircraft, but the airliner itself was plagued with structural failures. Those failures, and a well-publicised argument between an Electra and a flock of starlings that resulted in the loss of the aircraft and all aboard, guaranteed the demise of the type as a people-hauler, although a handful still operate as freighters. Mark Nankivil recently came across some absolutely gorgeous photography of the airplane and sent it along for your enjoyment.

Nowadays you go to a heavily-guarded commercial terminal, go to the gate, walk through a tube, get into the airplane, and go to your seat. It wasn't always so, however. In the Good Old Days you went to the terminal, walked across the ramp to your airplane, and boarded via an external ladder regardless of weather or time of day. N6106A was an L-188 belonging to American Airlines when this photo was taken in September of 1959.  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Here's a better view of the forward entryway and boading ladder, this time on Eastern Airlines N5522, photographed in April of 1959. Although it isn't well-shown here, the Electra was a beautiful aircraft, and a pretty hot performer as well. It could have been, and probably should have been, one of the world's classic airliners, but a string of fatal accidents cut short its career. Its offspring, the P-3 Orion, has enjoyed an exemplary safety record, achieved at least in part because of the hard lessons learned during the development of the Electra.  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Eastern Airlines N5518 taxis away from the boarding area in this July 1959 photo. Check out that parking lot and the ground support equipment---those were the days!  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Airliners flew in foul weather Way Back When, and more than a few payed the price for doing it. By the time this photo was taken of American Airlines N6123A in February of 1961, all-weather flying was pretty much a normal thing. How would you like to have walked up those wet boarding stairs with a handful of carry-on luggage in one hand and a small child in the other? Sometimes the Good Old Days really weren't all that good!  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Where it all began. Lockheed has never shied away from re-using a good name, and this Model 10 Electra from Skyway Air Taxi proves the point. The L-188 could have been a worthy successor, but it never got the chance.  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Happy Snaps

Doug Barbier took some remarkable air-to-air photography during his stint with the Air Force and the ANG, and has provided some more of it for our enjoyment today:

Boyoboyoboy---is this a neat photo or what?!  Please see Doug's comments below for the details.  Doug Barbier

Way back when I was a T-38 IP at Willy, I used to go down to Tucson and fly with the AZ ANG for fun. Flying a low level to the range was a nice break from teaching students... On this particular sortie, we'd headed north to about Flagstaff, jumped on a low level that basically took us on a huge clockwise circle around the state and ended up on what are now the Goldwater ranges in the SW of the state. One shot is letting down to start the low and the other is driving home to TUS at the end of the day. We ran across a B-52 on the east bound leg of the low level and the IP I was flying with wanted to jump him so bad but wouldn't because of the solo student. We had a perfect 90 beam setup as the Buff came south and we were going east.... just waved on the way by. Doug  Doug Barbier Photograph

Many thanks, Doug! And please don't forget, ya'll, that we're always looking for original photography for these pages. If you've got anything you'd like to share with us please scan it and send to . The photographs will be properly credited.

Here's the part of our day where you'd normally see a "Relief Tube" entry, but we either did really well last week or nobody read what was written! However that shakes out, we've got no corrections for this week so, as always, be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon.

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