Sunday, June 12, 2011

An Apology, The Tinker-Toy Tub, A Nifty Surprise, The Governor's Mustang, and Some Nautical Texans

Wipin' a Little Egg Off Our Faces

 It was inevitable, probably. We run a tremendous amount of photography through this site, and we go out of our way to make sure that each and every photograph is properly credited, each and every time. Mostly we've been successful with that sort of thing, and we've even deleted a couple of shots because of our commitment to straight-up integrity. Our track record has been pretty good, but yesterday we discovered a problem with a couple of photos we ran a few months ago. That problem has been resolved, but it was/is a Big Deal to us, so we want to talk about it for just a minute.

First and foremost, we want to offer our sincere apology to Martin Kyburz, who runs an excellent web site called Swiss Mustangs. Those photos first saw the light of day on his site, and were forwarded to us by a reader when we asked if anyone had any shots of post-War P-51s in the Far East. That reader told us up front that he'd found the shots on an internet forum or web site but couldn't remember which one, and we made the decision to run them, attributing them to his collection. It was an honest mistake but a mistake nontheless and, it's important to note, it was our mistake, not the contributor's. We've made the corrections to the credit lines and edited the captions on those photos, which now include additional information since Martin was kind enough to supply us with  comments that further explain the pictures. We're grateful to him for that information, and also for his kindness in allowing us to keep the photos on our site.

 We operate largely thanks to the generousity of our readers, who contribute the exceptional photography that makes us what we are. We encourage that, asking that those of you who would like to contribute scan and send the images that you'd like to share to . Please continue to provide credit lines for your submissions where appropriate, and we'll do our best to make sure everything is done the right way. One final thing: When we received the e-mail from Martin, we immediately went to his web site, Swiss Mustangs. He does a great job over there, and we encourage anybody who's interested in the P-51 or the Swiss Air Force to visit the site. We've added a link to his site so you can check it out for yourselves.

We Finally Figured Out Those Broken Pictures

Over the past week or so you've all seen comments from us regarding the size of the photos we run; if you recall (and how could you avoid doing that, since we've pretty incessantly reminded you of it since that particular deal went down) our photos had begun coming up a whole lot smaller than they normally do. That all started two installments ago, when 50% or so of the photos we ran in our 100th issue came out dramatically smaller than we'd intended. It was what you might term a Very Bad Thing for us since we pride ourselves on providing large, detailed images for our readers to enjoy, and since that 100th edition was meant to be special.

Fortunately, the problem turned out to be an easy one to resolve once we'd figured out what had happened, and we're now back to normal. Both our last issue and our 100th issue have been fixed and that 100th blog  is now as special as it was originally intended to be, with most of the images now popping up to full-screen when you click on them.  A few still won't, but they were smaller scans to begin with---you'll know 'em when you see 'em!  Meanwhile, thanks for your patience with us, and please go back and re-visit our 100th if you get the chance. We think you'll really enjoy the photography!

Rub-a-Dub-Dub, It's the Tinker Toy Tub

We all have Favorite Airplanes, all of us. Some folks are manic about it (think of the guy with a shelf full of nothing but P-51 models) but most of us aren't, and most of us have more than one favorite too, which tends to spread The Madness around a little bit. In our world, a prime contender for favorite favorite has got to be the Douglas A4D/A-4 Skyhawk family. It's a neat airplane with substantial combat use, it's well documented, and there are decent kits for it in just about any scale you can imagine. Those thoughts define today's lead photo essay---it's "Scooter" time, ya'll!

We're going to do things a little differently than might be expected, though, and only cover the two-seat A-4s today. Why, you might well ask yourself, are we going to do that? The answer is simple. Most folks write about the single-seaters almost exclusively, and most of the available kits/decals/aftermarket are for the solo birds as a result. The thing is, when Classic Airframes announced they were going to release a two-seat A-4 a couple of years ago, a whole bunch of folks got real excited. Then, when Hasegawa announced the impending addition of the TA variants to their 1/48th scale Skyhawk family, that same bunch of people went what could best be described as nuts, generating an enthusiasm not surpassed until the recent Tamiya announcement of what we presume will be the ultimate P-51 kit when it's released later this year. That alone would make the two-seaters worthwhile, so without further ado:

Here you go; it's your basic TRACOM TA-4J. This is the way most of us are used to seeing the two-seat "Scooters", and it's a gorgeous scheme. The bird is from VT-25 (it's hard to miss that particular bit of information since it's emblazoned in that really tasty side trim!) and is well-used. BuNo 155087 is in what might be considered "standard" trim for a Training Command A-4; no guns and with gas bags on the wings. Most A-4s assigned to TW-3 had USS Lexington painted on the fuselage because the "Lex" was the boat everybody in the command did their carquals on. It was an esprit sort of deal. This shot was taken the day before an airshow at Kelly AFB, on 19 May 1990.  Friddell

Here's another example of the basic TraCom scheme, this time on an aircraft nominally assigned to Training Wing 3. 158713 was photographed at Randolph AFB in 1989; she's basically a Clean Machine but check out all the grime on her otherwise pristine gloss white paintwork. If you plan on modeling a white bird from the NAV's training command, this is what they generally looked like. Good luck with that grime!  Friddell

The "Scooter" tubs came in three flavors; TA-4J, TA-4F, and OA-4M. The OA was a sortof-different animal and we'll look at it another day, but the Foxtrots and Juliets were almost kissing cousins. The F-model carried and uprated engine and 5 hardpoints, while the J had only 3 stations and a little less oomph. 154311 is an example of the TA-4F in use by H&MS-31 during 1976. She's the squadron commander's airplane and reflects special markings as a result. She's well-used, but the weathering is subtle.  Jim Sullivan

What a difference a few years makes! We're looking at another H&MS-31 bird, this time 154639, but the year is now 1987 and she's lost her Light Gull Grey over White plummage, along with her colorful markings, and has received the full TPS treatment instead. The airplane looks substantially more menacing in this guise, but we miss the Easter Egg treatment of the older scheme.  John Parchman

The "Scooter" became a favorite for the job of adversary in the NAV due to its small size and similarity in performance to the MiG-17, which was still in limited world-wide service during the 1980s. That whole Top Gun thing resulted in a number of Navy squadrons adopting the paint, if not the mission, to their A-4s. 153498 is another TA-4J and is from VFC-12; the overall color appears to be 36118 Gunship Grey, and it doesn't do a whole lot for the "Scooter's" classic lines. It's a little out of the ordinary, though, and is therefore worth a look. This is one of those photos that ended up in the collection without a name on it---if any of you were the photographer of this bird please get in touch with us at and we'll fix the credit line!  Friddell Collection

VA-45 used the TA-4J in the adversary role too. This example was photographed in July of 1990, but we can't quite make out the BuNo. There was quite a bit of variety in the paint jobs found on the "Scooter" during the 80s and 90s; this is one of the prettier ones in our view. The photo is another one without a credit line---if you took it, please let us know!  Friddell Collection

Now here's something you don't see every day; a VF-126 TA-4J broken for engine maintenance. That paintjob is nothing short of gorgeous, and would make 153512 an ideal candidate for a model. Sharp-eyed readers may have already noticed that the nose gear strut has been painted red---that would normally indicate a  component that's not flight-worthy, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. Note the NJ tailcode applied in small letters to the tip of the vertical---this is a neat airplane in every respect! Unfortunately, it's also another one without a proper credit line!  Friddell Collection

Sometimes Things Show Up When You're Least Expecting Them

Which is exactly what happened in this instance. Reader Chris Williamson recently acquired a slide scanner and has been busy. He's sent in some extremely interesting images, two of which we're going to share with you today. We think you'll agree they're something really special.

The Alaska Air National Guard's 144th TFS/176th TFG hasn't been in the fighter business for quite a while, but they were hip-deep in the game in the mid-1950s. Starting out with F-80s, they quickly transitioned to the F-86; 51-2807 was an F-86E-10-NA that was assigned to the unit after it had moved from Elmendorf to Kulis ANGB at Anchorage in 1955. The conspicuity markings are obvious, but check out the black scallop treatment on the nose, along with the black and white gas bags. Then, just when you think you've seen it all, take a look at that black and white striping on the upper fus just forward of the vertical tail and on the fin tip. Hoo boy!  Williamson Collection

There are colorful Sabres and then there are colorful Sabres, but this one just may take the cake! 51-2805 is yet another bird from the 144th, but Holy Cow wouldja look at that paint! Apparently used as a target tug, she's carrying the squadron's black nose and black and white stripes on the tail and fin, but that's about all that's normal about her! The orange paint only covers the aircraft's upper surfaces, and the slat bays are unpainted too, but otherwise she's a sea of orange with a badge in the middle of it all---what a beauty! We really miss the Silver Air Force; don't you?  Williamson Collection

Thanks, Chris, for those marvelous images! Sierra Hotel, Sir!

Sometimes a Politician Was a Hero First

There are a number of benefits to this project that go far beyond what we expected when it began. Take our Links section for example; most blogs have one, and the inclusion of same allows all of us to check out even more sites that cater to our particular interests. The really neat thing about that is that we often get to correspond or meet with the people who operate those sites we link to and learn a little more about them and their work and sometimes, as you're about to discover, it turns up some seriously cool information. Take John Mollison, for example. He operates a  web site called, with the credo: "I interview old guys and draw their airplanes." That credo pretty much says it all, and it in turn takes us to the reason for this ramble.

Joe Foss was quite an aviator; Marine ace over Guadalcanal during The Bad Old Days of 1942, General in the South Dakota ANG, and, later on, governor of that state. Most of us think of Foss as a Wildcat driver, and he certainly was that,  but he also flew P-51Ds while in the Guard. John has produced a fine bit of artwork of that particular Mustang, and has also sent along a photograph to help document the artwork.

Joe Foss' P-51D from the 175th FS, as drawn by John Mollison. If you click on the link to his site you can see not only this art but the progression of sketches that led to it, as well as a video of an interview with the Governor regarding his WW II experiences. Please note that this artwork is copywrited and is used by permission of John Mollison.
And here's a photo of 44-73564, a different bird than the one drawn by John but an excellent source of detail for that squadron marking. It was pretty common within the Guard to omit the national insignia from the fuselage of their aircraft during the late 1940s, and the 175th's badge lent quite a bit of color to the airplane when used in lieu of the star and bar. Modelers may want to note that a great many ANG P-51s operated with the tail wheel locked down and the doors removed, but most if not all of the 175th's aircraft from this period still had the unit operational. 175th TFS via John Mollison

Those Other Guys Flew T-6s Too, But They Didn't Call Them That

Memory's a funny thing, ya'll. I can't tell you what I had for breakfast this morning, but I can say with absolute certainty that the first plastic model airplane I ever built was a molded-in-black Me109-Something-Or-Other purchased from Blair's Supermarket in Canton, Georgia back in 1955. The second kit was an Aurora Zero, and the third was an SNJ by the same company. Those three kits must have impressed your editor to some extent, since the 109 family has become a modeling favorite, and there are presently 11 completed models of various A6M variants sitting on the shelf. There aren't any members of the T-6 family there at the moment, but several are planned, including at least one member of the SNJ family, which in turn takes us back to memories of that bright yellow Aurora SNJ, which in its turn takes us to our next photo section. As is usual around here, we aren't going to include a whole lot of in-depth historical or technical data on the airplane, but we think you'll like the pictures. Let's take a look:

Let's start off with something you just don't see every day; an SNJ in a combat environment. The airplane is an SNJ-3 and is seen in flight over Espritu Santo during October of 1943 while serving with MAG-11. It would be entirely reasonable to presume that the aircraft was used as a group hack, and it was, but that's only part of the story. MAG-11 also used their SNJs for spotting and observation, making the airplane a legitimate combat bird. Colors are blue-grey over light grey with what appear to be black, or maybe red, wing tips. Check out the size of that national insignia on the fuselage!  Jim Sullivan Collection

You don't often see the SNJ painted in what we've come to know as Tri-Scheme, but this bird is almost exhibiting an example of it. The SNJ-4 shown is from an unknown squadron assigned to NAS Moffett Field in early 1944, and exhibits what can best be described as an unusual camouflage scheme---this photo provides our official What's Going On Here shot of the day! At first we thought it was in Tri-Scheme because of the vertical stab/rudder treatment and that demarcation line and apparent use of GSB on the upper port wing, but then we noticed that the airplane is essentially in a variation of Blue Grey over Light Grey, with what is probably a Sea Blue (but maybe not glossy!) port wing. Mystery Meat, as it were. We patiently await clarification: Tommy---are you listnin'? (With apologies to The Who. Sorry, Tommy; we couldn't resist!) Stan Piet Collection via Jim Sullivan

Not all SNJ variants were equipped for carrier ops, but the SNJ-5C was. This unknown Texan settles into a perfect 3-pointer on the Saipan late in 1946, probably during carrier quals. It could have been a student, or it may have been an instructor, but whoever was driving that airplane was a pretty good stick!  Jim Sullivan Collection

The SNJ stayed active in the NAV far longer than many people think. In this dramatic photo, another SNJ-5C apparently takes a wave-off due to a fouled deck (which it technically is) on the USS Monterey in July of 1953. Note, however, that SNJ 106 is chocked, and nobody on that deck or in the LSO platform seems to be unduly concerned about the aircraft apparently taking a waveoff overhead. There just may be more here than meets the eye...   Jim Sullivan Collection (possibly a Bob Lawson photo)

And finally, here's Jim Sullivan's model of that MAG-11 SNJ-4, done from the aging but still excellent Monogram T-6/SNJ kit. Jim has chosen black as the wing-tip color, but it could also have been red. Modelers wishing to build a WW2-era 1/48th scale Texan of their own would be best served by checking out the trade tables at model shows in hopes of finding an original-issue Monogram kit for sale. The kit has been re-issued several times, and can currently be found in hobby shops under the Revell logo, but it's now molded in China and the current releases are decidedly "soft" in detail when compared to the originals. Just a thought...  Model and photo by Jim Sullivan

Happy Snaps

Let's hold this Truth to be self-evident: We really like A-4s around here! We said that before, way up there at the top of this page, but it's worth repeating, and it's also worth taking pride of place in this week's Happy Snaps department:

In 1981 friend and contributor Rick Morgan was Way Out Yonder in The Wilds of the Florida Keys, learning to fly A-3s at NAS Key West. Besides learning to fly the "Whale", he was also taking some extraordinary photographs of the aircraft of VAQ-33, one example of which is this week's Happy Snap. The aircraft is an EA-4F, BuNo 153481, and she was photographed near Puerto Rico on a training hop. From a modeler's standpoint, the only visible difference between an EA-4F and a TA-4F is the inclusion of the letter "E" in front of the aircraft designator, making the building of a replica a snap. Note the red triangles on the wing hardpoints; wing stores were separated by explosive devices, and that inverted red triangle denotes the fact. R. Morgan

The Relief Tube

This is one of those unusual, and very nearly scary, times when we can honestly say that we've received no corrections or comments regarding our last issue. In our world that means that we're either lucky (and we'll certainly take that!) or that nobody payed attention last time around. At any rate, that's it for today. Be good to your neighbor, and we'll meet again soon.

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