Monday, October 10, 2011

Some Thoughts On Painting, Some Unusual Intruders, Let' Take a Picture, Visitors At Goose, Early Cats, and Nothing But Trouble

Why Oh Why Does It Look Like That?

Those who know me, as well as those who read what's written here in addition to looking at the pictures, know that I spend a fair amount of time looking at the various internet modeling sites. It's good therapy if nothing else, and you learn from the experience most of the time. It's something to be recommended.

Of late, however, I think I've noticed a trend in paint jobs on some of those models, and it's probably not what you'd call a Good Thing. To wit; I've been seeing otherwise nicely-done models with paintwork that's been flawed by what Oldtimers would probably call orange peel. We've all done that sort of thing at one time or another---each and every one of us has---so those of you who might be laughing at the misfortune of others need to wipe that holier-than-thou smirk off your face and talk about helping to fix the problem. (I'll get off that soapbox now...)

There are lots of reasons for orange peel, air pressure being a prime culprit, but the Biggest Single Reason, and the reason that we're going to discuss today, is simple failure to thin the paint adequately before airbrushing. Don't believe me? OK, then, let's try a little experiment. Go grab a bottle of whatever you prefer to paint your models with, and make sure it's a new bottle that's never been opened or used. (Tester ModelMaster enamel in any flavor would be an excellent choice for the purpose of this discussion.) Shake or stir said bottle until everything is properly mixed, then take your pipette, or eye dropper, or whatever you use to feed paint to your airbrush, and---what else?---feed your airbrush straight from that bottle, with no thinning allowed! Now go paint something, and do it with all the techniques you would normally employ when painting a model. Try to cut in some fine lines. Cover some broad areas. Feather some edges. And maybe, or maybe even probably, look at that pebbling effect that will be exhibited by at least some of the paint. That's what's called orange peel, and you just made some! (Stop smiling; it's not a Good Thing!)

OK, now clean your airbrush, and thin the paint with the appropriate thinner or reducer, trying for an approximate 30% reduction. Make sure it's thoroughly mixed like you did before, and perform the same painting experiment. Most of that granulation is gone now, isn't it? And, as an added bonus, you're probably able to cut a finer line and better control your feathering too. Holy Cow---it's magic!

Or maybe not. The simple truth of the matter is that most paints have to be reduced in order to be used for air painting. They'll never work at their best potential if sprayed straight out of the bottle, period. And, just to complicate things a little bit, that 30% we told you to use as a reduction factor is really just a starting point until you figure out what works best for you. A lot of the stuff I paint with is thinned anywhere from 50 to 60%. Yes, I do second, and sometimes even third coats, but the stuff is really thin so it doesn't build up. Yes, it'll run if you don't know what you're doing; the answer to that particular problem is to practice until you've figured out your technique so it doesn't do that. And finally, yes; some colors work better with extra reduction---it may be my own personal Waterloo but greens can sometimes be a challenge, a problem easily fixed by fooling around with the reduction ratio some more.

There are a whole bunch of other things that will have an impact on your airbrushing as well, such as the distance of the tip from the workpiece, but they're topics for another day. For now, go out and mess with some paint and thinner if you aren't already aware of the magic of that relationship. The results just may astound you!

Bet You Thought We Were Talking About That Other Intruder, Huh?
Say the word Intruder around any gathering of aviation buffs and they're going to know beyond any doubt that you're talking about a member of Grumman's legendary A-6 family unless, of course, you happen to be discussing Martin's take on a certain English Electric product instead. Here are some examples of that to whet your apetite...

Mention B-57 to most folks and this is what they tend to think of---the B-57B. It's the variant most used in the Vietnam unpleasantness and looks a lot like the airplanes used by the USAF's various and assorted DSES squadrons post-War. 52-1584 typifies the airplane; built as a B-57B-MA, it managed to survive an active service career to wind up at the Kalamazoo Aviation Historical Museum in Michigan. Study its lines---it's what a B-57 looks like. Isn't it?  John Dienst

Or maybe you think of this as a little more typical. 53-3834 was a rare Charlie model, a B-57C-MA, and ended up in Pakistan. That billowing cloud of black smoke is typical of the Intruder being cranked by it's internal cartridge-starting system. It looked a lot more dramatic than it actually was.  Picciani Collection

If you happen to be of a certain age, you just may remember the B-57 this way. This section were flying combat in the southern reaches of Vietnam, Republic of, when photographed in the mid-60s. 53-3879 was a B-model and survived the conflict to be scrapped out in 1969, but 53-3833 wasn't so fortunate. Built as a B-57C-MA, she was shot down on 17 April, 1966; both crewmembers survived ejection and were rescued. Both aircraft were with the 8th TBS/405th TFW when this photograph was taken.  Picciani Collection

The B-57 went into the Guard relatively early in life, as demonstrated by this B-57C-MA photgraphed while serving with Nevada's 192nd TRS in April of 1963. The rotary bomb bay is partially deployed in this shot revealing the interior color, a useful note for modelers. 53-3828's markings are understated but classy in their own way.  Lawson Collection via R. Morgan

At the beginning of this essay we hinted that you might see an unconventional B-57 or two---here's what we meant by that. The airplane is an RB-57A-MA and she's seen here, allegedly with the 4758th DSES (confirmation is requested if anybody knows for sure) and coming in on short final at Johnson AB, Japan, in May of 1958. And, while we're asking for confirmation on this bird's unit, we'd may as well ask about those pods hanging off her wings too, since we've never seen anything quite like them before. Feel free to drop us a line at if you can identify them. There's no prize, but it's the Right Thing to Do.  Fritz Frederick via Picciani Collection

 Or maybe your tastes run more to EB-57As. This gorgeous example was photographed by noted collector Ron Picciani at Otis AFB in October of 1969, and gives us an outstanding view of her antenna suite, as well as a single version of that "mystery pod". Bet you didn't think any of those "pudding bowl" Intruders lasted that long, did you?  R. Picciani

Every family has a quiet kid who's always getting into trouble. In the B-57 clan that Quiet Kid had to be the RB-57D. Its capabilities were amazing given its time and place, and it served both the Air Force and the NASA. 53-3982 was unique in that it was built as an RB-57D, subsequently converted to EB-57D configuration, and eventually put on public display at Pima Air and Space museum. She was a well-used example of the type when photographed in 1968. Several RB-57Ds ended up in the air force of Taiwan pursuing what can only be described as Interesting Careers, but that's a story for another time.  R. Lawson via R. Morgan

Let's end today's essay with another photo depicting what most folks think the B-57 ought to look like.
55-4292 was an EB-57E. Initially built as a straight B-57E, she was subsequently converted to RB-57E, then EB-57E standard, in which guise she was photographed in Germany on 20 May, 1977 while serving with the 17th DSES out of Malmstrom. R. Rhys

So you got to see some B-57s today, but we'll bet you're wondering where the black ones were? Are we right? If that's true, and if you'd really like to see a couple of black B-57s, drop us a quick note at and let us know. (Or do essentially the same thing and forward some of your own B-57 shots if you'd like. We'd love to see them!)

A Tough Way to Make a Living

Our ongoing coverage of the air war in the Pacific has included both fighter and bomber aircraft, but up to this point we've neglected some of the unsung heros of that war; the photo-recon guys. Today we're going to put that right, and show you a few Lockheed F-4s from the 8th PRS while flying out of Port Moresby during late 1942 and 1943.

Port Moresby was one of the safer bases to fly combat operations out of, since the Japanese didn't come over all that much after the end of 1942, meaning you only had to contend with bugs, snakes, mud, heat, rain, disease, and butt-killing photo-recon missions. The 8th PRS operated out of 14-Mile Strip for a time, which is where "Eager Beaver II" was photographed. She was well-used, but equally well-maintained.  Rocker Collection

And here's a shot of "Hellzapoppin Hepcat", a name that adequately described the reception the 8th's F-4s received from the Japanese on a great many of their missions. The F-4's speed and altitude advantage made it a natural for the photo recon mission, but sometimes speed and altitude weren't enough.  Rocker Collection

Here's a fine shot of the 8th PRS lined up for their squadron portrait. Close examination of each individual ship will demonstrate the simple truth of military aircraft---no two are alike. This lineup would make a fascinating subject for a diorama, although your editor cringes at the very thought of trying to build this many F-4s (or any other P-38 variant) at one time!  Rocker Collection

Here's "Fainting Floozie II" with her pilot, Alex Gerry. Check out Gerry's flight gear; in the SWPAC you'd suffer from heat exhaustion on the ground, and freeze at altitude. Everything about that war was lousy, from start to finish.  Rocker Collection

Ben Armstrong was the 8th's CO during their stay at 14-Mile. Here's his ship, No. 02, undergoing maintenance on what appears to have been a balmy tropical day (although we doubt anyone actually present would have described it that way). The nose art has a dark surround to it---fresh paint or a contrasting color? At this remove it's hard to tell.  Rocker Collection

Although this photo may help clarify things somewhat. The 8th wasn't overly prone to featuring pinup girls in their nose art, which makes 02 a bit unusual. This detailed view would tend to make us think the dark area is a distinct part of the nose art---it's just too dark to be any shade of color normally found on an F-4.  Rocker Collection

"Limping Lizzy's" artwork is far more typical of that worn by the 8th during the Port Moresby period. We suspect the modern-day Air Force would be preparing an Article 15 for anybody openly smoking in an airplane. We also suspect that nobody at 14-Mile gave it a second thought unless the airplane was actually being fueled. Active war zones have a way of cutting through the defecation...  Rocker Collection

Let's raise a glass to the guys from the 8th PRS; to the ones who flew in a nasty war and lived to tell about it.  Rocker Collection

And to the ones who stayed in New Guinea. It was a nasty little war...   Rocker Collection

Brothers in Arms Out Playing At the Goose

We get so much seriously neat material from contributor Doug Barbier that it's sometimes difficult to decide which images to run, and today's photos are no exception. Doug shot them at Goose Bay while flying F-4s, and had this to say about them:  (Here are) A few RAF Tornado's at Goose. They thought they were safe at 500' and Mach 0.9. We were at 100' and Mach 1.2. They weren't safe. Drove up the middle of their 4-ship rocking our wings. Not sure they ever knew we were there until we pulled up in front of them. After they were dead, of course. To be fair, it was a lovely sunny day. They'd have owned the sky at night or in the clag!

Boy, would we have like to have been guests in the O Club that night! All photos by Doug Barbier

A Different Breed of Cat

A while back, more than a few issues ago, we ran a pictorial on the Grumman F6F Hellcat. One of the images used in that piece showed an F6F-3 launching off the side of the boat, straight out of the hangar deck. Long-time reader Pat Donahue went into his collection and found a couple of supplemental images for us. Let's see what he's discovered:

Coming aboard. This F6F-3 is early enough to still carry the corcarde without the bars, although she's in tri-scheme. Readers unfamiliar with the way WW2 air ops were conducted aboard carriers might be surprised to learn that the air groups were frequently loaded aboard this way, at dockside and before the ship left port. Donahue Collection

And here's a shot of an early Hellcat coming off the waist cat. It was what might be termed a "gutsy operation". Thanks, Pat, for sharing these with us!  Donahue Collection

Things Were Different Back Then

We haven't heard from Mark Morgan for a while, but he's made up for his prolonged absence with a unit patch that's just the least bit out of the ordinary. Let's take a look at what he's discovered:

Regarding that recent AM-1 , see the attached VA-735 emblem out of NAS Grosse Ile (which, coincidentally, is the subject of my next "The Way It Was" article in the winter edition of The Hook). At least in this instance, Mabel seemed perfectly able but oh my, that patch would never "fly" in our modern Navy. Like we said, things were just the least bit different back then...

Happy Snaps
Today's Happy Snap comes from Mark Williams and dates back to his days in the KC-135. We'll let him explain the shot:

I was a KC-135 crew chief on E-models in the Tennessee ANG, then went to the Ohio ANG on R-models, then on active duty on the R-model and the occasional T-model (former Q-model originally built for refueling the SR-71) from March, 2000 to March, 2007 when I became a C-130E/H Flight Engineer. In fact I just retired as a Master Sergeant on September 1, 2011. One thing I missed about flying on the KC-135 was the opportunity to take photos like this one. About the only thing I got to photograph from the Herk was other Herks, and interesting things on the ground! This photo was taken by me when I was stationed out of Grand Forks AFB, ND as a KC-135R Flying Crew Chief. This particular group of Hornets was taken in March, 2006. We picked them up in Japan, flew down to Guam, then to Hawaii where we promptly broke our boom fuel return manifold! A KC-10 took these Bugs back to the states, and my crew got a free week at Hickam! Well, the aircrew did, I had to help fix the plane when we got the parts in! Enjoy!  Mark Williams

The Relief Tube

Let's start today's relief tube with a comment from Mark Williams regarding that F-106B air-to-air from Marty Isham that we ran a week or so ago:  Hi Phil. I saw the question in this week's Relief Tube about that F-106B photo from Marty regarding the aircraft he took it from. It's a KC-135, and I ought to know. I worked on them long enough! As a matter of fact if I had a nickel for everyone of my photos with that same wingtip in the lower left corner of the frame, well, I'd have a bunch of nickels! Mark

And from Marty himself:  G'day...Waited a while to see what might show up about your/my pic. The 119th FIS F-106B was shot from the starboard porthole from the back of a KC-135E of the 150th AREFS on the way to the Six Out at Atlantic City. "Gordie" Cooper was the GIB. I was one of the guest speakers; boy, were my knees shaking! Date of the pic was 9 June 88.  Cheers, Marty

Mark Morgan has some more information for us regarding that Jet Mentor from our last issue: 

Phil - Concerning the 2 Oct 11 blog, the Kansas Aviation Museum on the west side of McConnell, north of the Boeing and Spirit plants, has B73 Jet Mentor N134B on display, only one I'd ever seen and I fully expect the only surviving example. The museum's in the original Wichita Muni terminal, brick and sandstone complete with tower, and is an outstanding work in progress, well worth a visit for anyone who's in the vicinity. The collection also includes one of the few remaining Beech Starships, N199FE. MK  Thanks, Mark---sounds like a road trip may be in order!

And now for a couple of comments on one of those GAF "Zippers", plus a correction on the "Guppy" supplement. First, we'll hear from Rick Morgan:  Phil: Fascinating shots of the USAF/German F-104Gs; I don’t recall ever seeing any with color on them. At the risk of pointing out the obvious, the yellow/red/black colors are from the German flag. I flew a TA-4J into Luke in very early 1980 out of Alameda. The ramp was full of 104s; both of us marveled at how lovely they looked and how much fun they must’ve been to fly. The Seafire shot is tremendous- can’t say how many color shots of that aircraft I’ve ever seen! Small point- the T-2C F305 is from Pensacola’s VT-4 vice 9 (Meridian). Rick

OK, then---you're now to the point where you're probably wondering what happened to the rest of the comments that were here yesterday (presuming, of course, that you were here yesterday!). The answer's simple; we normally splice a lot of stuff from a lot of different formats into The Relief Tube, and yesterday's blog took things A Format Too Far, or so it would seem. There were problems with font size, the font itself, and some other oddball stuff that, quite frankly, drove us absolutely nuts! That's why you're now missing comments from Hubert Pietzmeir, Dave Menard, and Jean Barbaud. We took them out to try to fix things, but tonight's not the night we're going to do put them back in. Watch this space next week for an attempt at a re-run. Meanwhile, be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon.

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