Sunday, October 2, 2011

Some German Zips, More Guppies, Cleaning Out Some Files, and The Marvelous Mitchell

Luftwaffe Starfighters in the States

Just about every aviation buff knows the story of the F-104 in Federal Luftwaffe service, but enough time has passed that some of our newer readers may not be aware of the fact that Luke AFB in Arizona was once home to the 58th TTW, an organization that transitioned German pilots onto the F-104. The facts are pretty simple; the Luftwaffe owned the airplanes but did their transitional training in the clear skies of the American SouthWest. In consequence, those West German "Zips" used to be a common fixture around the United States. Let's begin today with some images of those not-so-long-ago days.

Let's start off with a premise if we may: There's no particular rhyme or reason for the photography selected for this essay---the goal was simply to provide our readers with images of typical F-104Gs from the 58th.
65-12750 is an example of that premise. She was actually built by Fokker, then transferred to Luke. After serving there she went to Taiwan, where she was converted into an RF-104G and was subsequently lost on 8 July, 1991, some 11 years after this photo was taken in 1980. Most of the 58th's "Zippers" looked like this one, with very few unauthorized markings.  K. Minert

63-13266 spent an apparently uneventful life with the 58th before being scrapped out. Bill Peake caught her at Nellis in June of 1980, when she was in her prime. Note the true natural metal finish (not silver lacquer) and white upper wing surfaces. She's carring a full load of gas in this photo too---a clean F-104 had better range than a clean F-4, but that wasn't saying much! She still had short legs and needed all the gas she could get to if she was going to go very far.  Bill Peake

See what we mean about no unusual markings? We don't know a whole lot about 63-16229; she was built by Fokker, then later transferred to Taiwan. She was well-used by the time an unknown photographer snapped her portrait on an equally unknown American base sometime in the 80s. If any of our readers have any further information on this aircraft (or if you know who the photographer was) please contact us at .  Friddell Collection

The 58th routinely sent two specific F-104Gs to the American air show circuit during the 1980s, and 63-13243 was one of them. In this photo she's all dolled up with a set of red, yellow, and black tip-tanks, but we've also photographed her without them. Like a fair number of her sisters she was ultimately transferred to the Taiwanese Air Force, with which service she was lost in 1990.  Friddell Collection

As previously mentioned, the 58th's "Zippers" were an air show favorite during the '80s, although we can't remember ever seeing one fly any sort of demo during one. Here's another view of 13243, this time in clean configuration (no gas bags) at an airshow at Davis Monthan during March of 1978. She would have been an extremely fast airplane in that trim, but wouldn't have gotten very far on just her internal fuel.  D. Kuykendall

We're going to close out this particular essay with a series of shots I took at Bergstrom on 6 August, 1982. The airplane is, once again, 13243, and the photos were taken the day before an airshow.

Taxiing in. The F-104 featured BLC and was a loud airplane inconsequence---anybody who's ever been around a Starfighter in the circuit or on final can attest to all the howling and shrieking coming out of that tiny airframe! Her slats and flaps are still deployed in this shot, and her canopy is open; that's a normal thing for the "Zip" during ground operations. Notice she's carrying as much extra gas as it's possible to hang off an F-104.  Friddell

She's stopped and the pilot is shutting her down. Note the extra paintwork on her nose gear doors, her tip tanks, and her vertical stab. That's a literal riot of color as far as the Luke-based "Zippers" were concerned!  Friddell

It's quiet now, and her pilot has removed his helmet. I took this photo knowing that I'd want to do a photo essay on the airplane in ten or twenty years, and made sure I got a view of the undersides of her stabs.  Friddell

Which is also why I took this shot! I tried to get a B-4 stand moved over to the aircraft so I could see what was on top too, but No Joy; I then asked the pilot about it; his response was that he never looked up there and it didn't matter to him. That's the long-winded way of saying we have no idea what the tops of that stab look like, although we're willing to bet they mirror the undersurfaces. (Anybody out there got a picture?)  Friddell

A lot of folks think that supersonic airplanes are somehow fragile. It just ain't so! In this view 243's pilot has left the cockpit and is inspecting the airplane. Oh yeah, and does anybody remember a few issues ago when we mentioned those accursed light poles that surrounded the ramps at Bergstrom? This photo provides a fine example of the reason we dislike them so much!  Friddell

You'd may as well check out the fuselage while you're up there! Yes; the F-104 was once called "The Missile With a Man In It". No; it wasn't fragile!  Friddell

The ramp van has picked up the pilot and taken him to ops, and the guys on the transient line are securing the airplane. It's a side of military aviation a lot of folks never get to see.  Friddell

And here's our final shot for the day. No; it's not 243. This is 65-12753, photographed on short final going into Bergstrom in April of 1979---everything is hanging, and she's howling like a banshee. If you ever saw a 104 fly you'd remember it for the rest of your life! 12753 is one of the few Luke-based F-104Gs you can still see; she's been preserved in Taiwan, a fitting tribute to The Burbank Wonder.   L. Bracken

The Buckeye Redux

Do any of you remember that part (only last week) where I said that anyone who had trained in the T-2 had a considerable fondness for the airplane? Well, Gang, contributor Rick Morgan spent the requisite amount of time in the Buckeye before moving on to TA-4Js at Chase, and he's sent us a few more shots for our essay.

158869 was assigned to VF-126 as a spin trainer when Rick took this photo in March of 1988. It's interesting to see that tailcode assigned to a "Guppy"!  R. Morgan

The T-2 could carry .50 caliber gun pods and practice bombs, all a part of the budding naval aviator's training syllabus. This shot is of VT-9's 156731, taken while the airplane was on static display at a Pensacola air show in November of 1979. It's odd to see the "Guppy" with guns, isn't it?  R. Morgan

Rick shot this VT-26 bird in October of 1979, once again giving us a look at those gun pods. If memory serves the old Monogram T-28D kit has a pod very similar to this one included in its parts suite; maybe, just maybe...  R. Morgan

If you're going to fly an American military airplane you're going to learn how to fly formation. Rick snapped this shot on a training flight in August of that 1979. The pilot in that "Guppy" was Scotty Stillwell, who had just become a carrier-qualified aviator---belated congrats to Scotty. Fly Navy!  R. Morgan

As the "Guppy" fades off into the sunset...  This evocative photo is a fine way to end our T-2 supplement. Now, somebody go out and build a model of one!  R. Morgan

Sometimes Stuff Just Piles Up Around Here

What follows is an admitted hodge-podge of largely unrelated images. It's taking us longer than we thought it would to put an essay together for each of them, and we really wanted you to see them so, without further ado...

Ever seen a Beech Model 73 Jet Mentor before?  We hadn't either, at least not before Mark Nankivil supplied us with this photo of N134B during trials. She was a capable little airplane, but one without a future. It's a shame she never got built for the general aviation market, isn't it?  Greater St Louis Air & Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

And here's the Model 73 again, this time in a more conventional attitude. She looks like she'd be a fun little ship to own, although we wouldn't want to have to feed here.  Greater St Louis Air & Space Museum via Nankivil

Dave Menard gets around, and pretty much always has. He photographed 44-74850, a P-51D-30, at an airshow back in his younger days. We've got the information for this one stashed in the appropriate file, which is another way of saying we can't find it right now, but we can say that this regular USAF bird has the locked tailwheel and the last three of its serial repeated on the MLG doors. Other than that we're at a loss. Dave?   D. Menard

By now everybody's aware of the occasional "if it goes up it's gotta come back down" photography we run around here. This shot features an F4D-1 from VMF-314 exhibiting the aftermath of what was apparently a somewhat sporty landing at MCAS El Toro in 1960. As emergencies go this one apparently wasn't very bad.  Janssen via J. Sullivan

The Royal Navy was in the Pacific too, and flew Seafires there late in the war. This nearly-pristine example is taxiing in at Clark Field, where she must have raised quite a few eyebrows. A little bit of everything turned up in the Pacific during that war.  Rocker Collection

Martin's AM-1 Mauler was an airplane at the wrong place and the wrong time. Very few of them saw any sort of active service, which makes this example, assigned to NAS Grosse Ile, all the more unique. It's hard to imagine the skies over SEA filled with AM-1s flying SAR...  Balogh via Menard

We recently discovered that the TBD image formerly found here was from the Life Magazine archive. We steadfastly try to avoid any situation that might lead to a violation of somebody's copyright, so we've removed the image from these pages. We apologize both to the original contributor and to our readership for taking this action, but that's how we are around here. We know you'll understand.  pf

It's the Stuff of Legends

You can go almost anyplace and talk to just about any aviation enthusiast of any age. All you have to do is mention the B-25 Mitchell and people start to smile. Everybody knows the airplane, and most everybody knows at least a little bit of its history. Let's take a quick look at the airplane as it was used in the Pacific during the Second World War.

The B-25 made it to the SouthWest Pacific just as quickly as the Army Air Forces could get it there, making it one of those immortals that literally fought all four years of the conflict. This early example, unfortunately from an unidentified unit, is parked under the trees at 14 Mile Strip in the Port Moresby complex of airfields. Things were pretty basic back then.  Rocker Collection

Pappy Gunn got hold of the Mitchell pretty early in the war, and immediately went to work increasing its firepower. The result produced what was arguably the most effective ground attack aircraft of that conflict, here illustrated by a flight of B-25Ds over Cape Gloucester. If the bombs didn't get you the massed guns in the nose would.  Rocker Collection

"El Diablo" was an early strafer from the 3rd BG. She's shown here in her interim markings overflying the air strip at Cape Gloucester. A lot of those early B-25 missions were flown without escort, against the best the Japanese had to offer (the Tainan Kokutai, for example). The Mitchell gave as good as she got, but it wasn't an easy job.  Rocker Collection

The B-25 was a versatile aircraft, as typified by these D-models from the 17th RBS. The type survived the war to become a trainer and served in every theater, but she made her name in the Pacific. This almost etherial photograph says it better than words ever can.  Rocker Collection

Even the recon birds got nose art, as illustrated here by the 17th's "The Mad Mizurian". Take a look at all the boxes of .50 cal ammuntion in the nose. There was a fair chance she'd need it.  Rocker Collection

Here's a shot of "The Vulture's Nest". We don't know anything abut the airplane, but she typifies the breed. Check out the operating conditions that were so obviously vile. It was never easy in the Pacific.  Rocker Collection

A relative handful of cannon-armed B-25Gs made it to the theater, but proved to be poorly suited for the role of bomber against the Japanese. Most of them had that 75mm gun removed, to often be replaced with a pair of twin .50s. Sometimes you just have to use what works!  Rocker Collection

You almost never see photos of the B-25G in the SouthWest Pacific, so seeing three of them in formation is a special treat indeed; these are from the 38th. The G models weren't as hard-hitting as the regular strafers; that 75mm gun was slow to reload and fire (and required a loader as well, not the most enviable position to be in when riding in an airplane engaged in ground attack!). The Gs were, in many respects, the answer to a question that nobody had asked. They didn't stay in service very long.  Rocker Collection

Ground attack in the Pacific could be a sporty proposition. These Mitchells are from the 405th BS/38th BS and are pulling off a target in Hollandia. They were shot at by ground fire and attacked by Japanese fighters, and they sometimes had to battle with horrible weather just to get to the targets. If you were hit and went down anywhere near your target all bets on your survival were off. It was a tough racket, and the aircrews of the 5th did it day after day, week after week. Talk about a gutsy bunch of guys...  Rocker Collection

Here's your test for the day: Find the B-25s in this picture. Need a hint? OK then; look lower than you might expect. A gutsy bunch of guys? Oh yeah!  Rocker Collection

Quite a few B-25s went down in combat at the hands of the Japanese, and a substantial number were lost in operational accidents. Even the ones that survived were at risk; this J-model sits abandoned at Clark Field in the Philippines awaiting the scrapper. It was a sad end for a noble aircraft.  Rocker Collection

Take a look at this guy. He's a B-25 pilot, and he's one of a select group of aviators; he flew strafer Mitchells in one of the war's roughest arenas. More than a few of his brother aviators are still out there, waiting to come home some day. They were a gutsy bunch of guys...  Rocker Collection

Happy Snaps

Suppose you fly with the Michigan ANG, and suppose you're a journeyman photographer in addition to being a pretty good stick. If you fill that bill your last name just might be Barbier, and you might be taking this sort of photograph from the T-33A you're flying. It's a great shot, and also a great way to end our day.  Barbier

The Relief Tube

We copped out on doing a Relief Tube entry last week, which means we've got some catching up to do. Let's get right down to it.

First, let's look at a correction on those MO ANG Mustangs from Dave Menard: Phil, Two of the photos of MO ANG Mustangs were taken by Major Eugene Sommerich, who was a RegAF advisor to the sqdn I believe. He shot 616 film air to airs for years, including of fellow 334th FIS F-86Fs over Korea DURING the war! He was one of the pilots who flew the MIG-15 on Okinawa in late '53 after Collins(who was first to do so) and Yeager got done. He took 473526 and the three ship of 547, 196, & 400.

Did Marty really shoot that view of F-106 149? If so, he was not in a Tub when he did, as a wing tip can be seen that is sure not that of any model Deuce. cheers, dave  That's one for Marty to answer; the info on the slide says Photo by Marty Isham. Marty---can you help us out here?

It looks like we made a couple of mistake when captioning those "Hogs" from the Bobby Rocker Collection. Bobby points out that the F4U-1 from VMF-114 on Pelilieu is actually an F4U1-A, and that Turtle Bay is in the South Pacific, not the SouthWest Pacific as we stated. We also heard from friend and Corsair authority Jim Sullivan, who adds:   Phil, As always, I thoroughly enjoyed the latest addition to the blog. I especially enjoyed the ROCKER Corsairs. I wanted to add just a little more information to a couple of those photos. The F4U-1 #93 BuNo 17450 on Turtle Bay airstrip is from VMF-214, the Blacksheep squadron. The other shot, F4U-1A #25 is BuNo 17736 and the abbreviated story of it is on the lower left of page 2 of my lastest F4U CORSAIR IN ACTION book . The pilot was Lt. Bob Marshall from VMF-216. His patrol was jumped by Zeros over New Britain and two of his squadron mates were lost in that encounter. Bob fought back and was fortunate enough to escape the Japanese planes and although wounded, safely returning to his base on Bougainville. Also, a correction to the aircraft type of the 3/4 LF shot of the Corsair on the latest blog with the numbers 974 on the front landing gear doors...the caption stated it's a F4U-1D but it's actually a F4U-1A, probably 17974. No rocket stubs, not GSB but tri-color, no wing-root's a -1A. Jim Thanks to both Bobby and Jim for keeping us honest, and you might want to consider picking up a copy of Jim's F4U book if you don't already have it--it's excellent!

Rick Morgan is a retired naval aviator who's got a few hours on the T-2C, and he had this comment for us regarding last week's "Guppy" piece:  Phil: Thanks for putting up those T-2 shots; the Guppy is a seriously under-covered aircraft. VF-43 and its west coast counterpart VF-126 both originally had T-2Cs assigned for use in spin training, which was a periodic requirement for pilots as part of their ACM syllabus. As you state, both units also used them as surrogates for jet trainer/light attack aircraft in the dissimilar ACM role as well. In case you haven’t seen it, this video shows a T-2C crashing on Lexington; the solo student on his CQ-1 flight was AFU, stalled out and hit the island. The Air Boss was an old friend; he stayed in the tower directing the fire response through the event.  (Please note that the footage on that YouTube link is from a pair pf plat cameras on the Lex. It's not pretty, but two things are worth noting once you get past the horror of the event. First, note the airdales in the Deck Division---the incident is barely underway and they're running for the fire gear. That, my friends, is what training's all about. Second, think about what you just saw, because it's a risk every carrier-based naval aviator takes every single day they're on the boat. Raise your glasses and offer them your thanks that they're willing to do what they do.)

While we're discussing naval aviation, Rick Morgan pointed out to me (but I don't think I ever ran the correction) that VF-21 became VA-43, and that shark-mouthed Grumman Tiger we showed you a while back was an example of the squadron in transition. Rick also called out the guard for us and came up with the following explanation and photo:

Phil: That’s a great picture of the VA-43 F11F on Indy you have posted. The reason it wears VF-21 markings is because Fighting-21 was redesignated Atkron-43 (VA-43) on 1 Jul 1959. At that time it became the Oceana jet attack replacement squadron with predominantly A4Ds assigned, although it kept a small number of F11Fs through early 1960 to train pilots for AirLant’s only fleet F11F squadron at that time, VF-33. The F4D on cat-1 is from Key West-based VF-101, which was the east coast “all-weather” fighter training unit, with Fords and Demons. Both squadrons were under RCVG-4 at that time. VA-43 later on went on to become Oceana’s instrument RAG and, after Vietnam, redesignated VF-43 and an adversary squadron. Rick

This shot is just too cool for words. Many thanks to Rick and The Usual Suspects for birdogging it for us so we could share it with you today.  NAVA via Doug Olson Collection via Angelo Romano
While we're on the subject of Navy aircraft, here are some thoughts on the T2V piece we ran a while back:

Strictly speaking, the T-33 was purchased as the TO-2 from Lockheed Burbank. The V was used for Lockheed aircraft produced by the former Vega plant, also located on the Burbank airport. (Lockheed took over Vega in 1943.) The Navy finally got around to recognizing, from a designation standpoint, that they were dealing with a single source in 1952 and chose to change all the Os to Vs. Similarly, the Navy initially bought and operated the single-seat Lockheed P-80 as a trainer, the TO-1, with the two-seat designation, TO-2, accurately reflecting that it was a modified TO-1. The TO-2s were an important part of the transition of a generation of Naval aviators raised on propeller-driven airplanes to the very different piloting techniques and flight planning required when flying jets, both basic and in instrument conditions. The T2V took longer than expected to develop, allowing Grumman to substitute F9F-8Ts for most of the requirement that it was expected to fulfill. T
Thomason Collection

Chris Williamson tends to have a somewhat unique and eclectic collection. He sent us this scan of a patch he thought we'd be interested in:

Hello Phil. You showing the original SAC emblem got me to thinking of one I got from the Alaskan Air Command historian way back when. If I remember right, he said the patch dated back to the 1950's.  Chris Thanks very much for sharing this with us, Chris!

Finally, we've heard from several people informing us that the new Special Hobby T-2C kit is actually the old Two Bobs kit in a different box. That's true, to an extent, but Special Hobby was (as far as we know) the original producer of the kit under contract to Two-Bobs. The bottom line is that we're not unduly concerned about how the kit came about---we're just darned glad to have it!

And that's what I know for this week. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon!

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