Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sometimes You Have to Take a Little Breather, A Turkey, That Wulf, Turkeys of a Different Feather, and A Different Kind of Cat

OK, Where the Heck IS He?

I'm right here, ya'll, and everything is just fine. There's a massive amount of personal stuff going on around the place these days (all good, I might add) that's been keeping me busy in spite of my best efforts to get out another blog. To the new folks who've just started looking in on the site, Fear Not! I generally do a weekly edition of this thing and have every intention of continuing to do so, at least when I can! And for those of you who have been around a while (some of you from the very beginning!), a word of thanks and a promise to keep on chooglin' with this project. The fact is that I hate missing an issue, and in this instance I've missed two (shades of the orginal RIS; we used to call ourselves an "occasionodical" back then (I made up that spelling, by the way...) because of our somewhat ethereal frequency of publication), but between Significant Family Events, the rigors of Continued Employment (for which, in this day and age, I am extremely grateful), and working out the damage caused to a somewhat-tweaked Miata by an incredibly brave (read "stupid" here) white-tailed deer, I've been kept busy of late. The Good News is that, much like a bad burrito, this too shall pass. It's just a matter of time or, to put it another way; patience is a virtue. Please bear with us!

A Belated Thanksgiving Greeting

Or, in other words, we've got a few "Turkeys" for your perusal and viewing pleasure. These unique images are, once again, from the remarkable collection of Bobby Rocker and show us a side of the TBM that we rarely get to see. Let's get started!

When we think of the Grumman Avenger we most often think of aircraft carriers too, since the type was originally designed as a carrier-based torpedo bomber, as illustrated by these TBM-3s sharing the deck of CV-6 Enterprise. The shot simply abounds with detail, and would make an excellent starting point for a diorama if the modeler were so inclined. Keep this image in mind; "Turkeys on the carrier".  Rocker Collection

Although designed as a torpedo bomber (and achieving a measure of fame in that role at Midway and in the attacks on the Yamato and Musashi), the TBM spent the greater part of its wartime career dropping bombs. These "Turkeys" are overflying Makin Island following a bombing strike there; the formation they're flying is an indication that the island is no longer well-defended and isn't much of a threat. Not all missions fell into that category...  Rocker Collection

These guys are heading off on one of The Rough Ones, a strike launched out of Piva and bound for targets at the Rabaul complex. That's not an aircraft carrier, but it's how The Corps knew the "Turkey" for most of the war. The TBM was highly adaptable and its operational conditions didn't seem to matter very much; it got the job done from June of 1942 until the end of the conflict, and then survived into the 1950s to participate in yet another war in Korea. The "Turkey" got around.  Rocker Collection

The original of this shot is captioned simply "Marine TBMs at Munda", but the photo provides a unique set of marking details not generally seen. Check out the difference in national insignia presentation between airplanes and the faux gun ports on the leading edges of the wings of the nearest aircraft, which is also equipped with flame dampeners on the exhausts. The hard-edged camouflage demarcation wasn't at all unusual on the TBM (and TBF), but wasn't always the norm either.  Rocker Collection

This "Turkey" is identified as being with Command, 7th Fleet, and was photographed on the ground at Cyclops Drome. The airplane is fairly typical of the breed as seen when operating from ground stations; the airplane is filthy. The Jeep and the ground echelon provide graphic proof of the Avenger's size; it's easy to forget how big the airplane was without something to provide a sense of scale.  Rocker Collection

And here's a unique color shot of a TBM-3 on the ground at Dulag Airstrip on Leyte. Every time we've shown you photographs of American aircraft serving in the Pacific Theater we've commented on the operational conditions, which were generally poor to grim and remained that way until the last days of the conflict. Those operational conditions were lousy, and the enemy was both skilled and determined. There were easier ways to make a living...  Rocker Collection

Sometimes you just had a Bad Day. Lt. George Unoble had one when he bellied this bird into the Renard Bomber Strip in the Russell Islands. The landing was almost text-book, and we presume it was one of those things everybody walked away from.  Rocker Collection

Sometimes the landing was almost business as usual. This TBM-3 experienced an over-run on the Dulag strip at Leyte, and was another walk-away. The nose number presentation (it's there, but you'll have to look for it) is of interest.  Rocker Collection

There are air-to-air photographs, and then there are air-to-air photographs. This is one of the latter; a section of Marine TBMs climbing out over Green Island and providing us with a superb insight into the military aviator's life. Look at this photo long enough and you can almost feel the camera ship bumping gently in the ground turbulence. Some days you could almost forget the war. Almost.  Rocker Collection

The Return of the Big Bad Wulf

Or maybe it's not so big, but last time I mentioned that we'd take a look at that finished Eduard Fw190A-5 when next we met. There's no doubt in my mind that everybody's been holding their breath in anticipation of this stellar event, so here we go:

And here you are; "Bully" Lange's Fw190A-5 from the 1/48th scale Eduard kit. This view shows the port-side wing gun bay cover pretty well, a noteworthy thing because no putty was used there at all. It also illustrates the results of that masking technique we talked about; both the swastika and the fuselage cross had to be touched up---the touch-up operation took around five minutes to do, and no decals were harmed during the adventure. The camouflage pattern is a best-guess sort of thing; the pattern of the two greens has been moderately well-documented in photographs, but the published artwork depicting the airplane can be pretty loose in defining the tan overspray that resides on top of those greens. This model was painted using the several existing photographs of Lange's airplane as reference, and the tans are a best-guess representation of the "pattern" used. One more thing to note; there's a fairly well-known color photo of Black 7 that shows two blotches of a slightly different shade of green on the port side of the airframe. One of them is roundish, while the other could be construed as heart-shaped if you squinted your eyes and held your tongue just right, which has caused a fair number of people to presume that they represent overpainted insignia. That could be true (and very possibly is), but that shot makes them look as though they're just another set of blotches. That's mostly the way I painted them, but the fuselage blotch is sortof heart-shaped. It's a foot in both camps, so to speak...

And here's the starboard side. There's also photography that shows this side of the real airplane and those "badge blotches" aren't there, so they weren't done on the model either. Those of you who have been following this project all along probably remember how raggedy-tailed the demarcations on the swastika and fuselage cross were in the earlier photos of the model. They were fixed using the "post-it note" method of masking that we discussed and came out ok, I think. The It's-Gotta-Be-the-Exact-Color folks out there might want to take a look at the tan on the rudder; it was painted on a different day than the rest of the airplane and came out substantially darker than the tan you can see everyplace else. It's the same paint from the same bottle, just painted on a different day, and there's a substantial difference in hue. Real airplanes are like that too---it's something to remember.

Here's another view of the right side. I ran this one so you could see the slight mis-match in the way the cowl is attached. I'm not entirely certain why that is, which is the excuse I'm going to use to justify building yet another Fw190A from JG54---I will de-bug this kit! In the meantime, it's germaine to this project to note that it took most of two Saturdays and part of a Sunday to arrive at a finished model from this particular Eduard "Wurger". The kit was a standard offering so it included photo-etch for the cockpit, most of which I actually used. The wing guns are all from a Hasegawa aftermarket set which are turned brass and are in consequence much better looking than the guns that Eduard give you; the pitot is from the same set. There's no other aftermarket on the kit, and the only additional item is the stretched sprue radio antenna. I'm beginning to think that the secret to building any of the Eduard Fw190s is to build several of them so you can learn the kit's quirks. It's rapidly becoming my favorite "Wurger" kit, warts and all.

A Goofy Little Modeling Bonus Technique

A week or two ago I mentioned that I painted the lower wings of my models prior to assembly in order to simplify masking. Here's an example of that for your consideration:

And here's what I meant. If you paint the area around the wheel wells before you begin construction you'll end up with virtually no masking to perform in that area. You can even take things a step further if you want to; the Bf109E (which is where this wing comes from) left the factory with leather liners in the wheel wells. I'm going to flip the wing over and airbrush that wheel well from the back side using a light leather tone---it's easy to do and will be a whole bunch easier than trying to hand-paint that area after everything else is painted, at least for me! As an aside, this particular Tamiya "Emil" is being converted from an E-3 into an E-1, which is why the bulges for the ammunition drums have been removed from the wing surface. In the interest of accuracy I should move the shell ejection ports too but I'm not going to, opting instead to just not show the model to any of the half-dozen or so people who would actually pick up on that sort of laziness. Scale modeling is what you make it, and I try to make it easy when I can. Life's just too short...

That Other Turkey

There was a time, not all that long ago, when the name "Grumman" was synonymous with the term "naval aviation". Those days are now long behind us thanks to mergers and force downsizing, but the company from Long Island designed and built some of the best tactical aircraft the Navy ever had. It became customary after the end of the Korean War for American Naval aircraft to acquire nicknames, some of which were less than flattering, which in turn leads us to today's F-14 feature.

The immortal F-14 was one of those aircraft who's unofficial moniker was, shall we say, somewhat less than dignified. The Tomcat's on-board computers caused her horizontal stabs to move around quite a bit during carrier approach, making her arrival somewhat less that glamorous most of the time. That activity gave her the name she carried in the Fleet until her final retirement: "The Turkey" so, in keeping with what could be a Thanksgiving theme, we're going to pay homage to The Belle From Bethpage, aka the "Turkey".

So why, you might ask, was the F-14 called the "Turkey" in the Fleet? All you had to do was watch one on short final and you'd understand the reason why; the airplane was rock steady in the approach but the horizontal stabilators would be dancing around like they were possessed of St Vitus' Dance. It was, with no doubt about the matter, a sight to behold. Rick Morgan shot this unidentified F-14A coming aboard the "Connie" on 12 December, 1986, stabilators all a-flutter. The original caption reads "Whoa, Big Fella!" We think it's appropriate.  R Morgan

For the first third of her career, way back in the days before the advent of TPS,  the "Turkey" wore fairly gaudy paintwork. 158984 was with VF-1's "Wolfpack" when Lee Bracken shot her on the ground at Bergstrom during April of 1976. Built as an F-14A-70-GR, she was struck off charge for unknown reasons in 1997 but was at the height of her career when photographed here.  L. Bracken

1976 was America's BiCentennial year, and a great many of our military aircraft were appropriately marked in consequence. VF-14's 159014 was no exception to the phenomenon, acquiring these understated yet effective markings during the course of the adventure. The aircraft was built as an F-14A-75-GR and survived naval survice, ending up in the boneyard at DM in 1994. Her squadron markings extend to the centerline gas bag; the NAV knew how to paint an airplane, ya'll!  L. Bracken

While the Tomcat wore a number of what could only be described as gorgeous paint jobs during its lengthy career with the Navy, it always started out as a Plain Jane. This unidentified example was photographed at Bergstrom during December of 1977 an illustrates the aircraft as it left the factory; the modex on the nose is the only indication that the airplane has been assigned to a squadron. We suspect the situation didn't remain that way for very long...  L. Bracken

This is a whole lot more like what we're used to! The aircraft is from VF-32 and was built as an F-14A-85-GR. Like most Tomcats 159601 moved around a bit; she was assigned to Fighting 32 when Lee Bracken took her portrait in November of 1977, but was flying with VF-142 when she went into the sea while attempting to recover aboard the Eisenhower on 6 March, 1980.  L. Bracken

VF-213's "Turkeys" wore simple yet effective markings during the 1970s. 159861, an F-14A-90-GA, lasted longer than some but was lost in a crash on 3 September, 1980. If you're on the outside looking in, naval aviation is a glamorous way to make a living. It's also a highly dangerous one, even in peacetime.  L. Bracken

By the end of the 70s the Tomcat's plummage was as colorful as that of anything flying in the NAV. 160681 (an F-14A-100-GR) was all painted up for Fighting 51 when Bob Burns shot her at Andrews on 27 January, 1979. It's becoming increasingly obvious why Navy aircraft of this era were termed "Easter Eggs", isn't it? 681 survived a lengthy career with the Fleet, being struck off charge in 2000.  Burns via Kerr Collection

Here's another shot of 681 on the same day, showing the modelers among our readership a great deal of detail on the aft end of the aircraft. Note in particular the tones of the various alloys of bare metal around her exhausts, and the way the leading edges are presented. These are areas that are frequently misunderstood by modelers, which makes this shot particularly valuable.  Burns via Kerr Collection

The year was 1980, and 161862 was with VF-32 when photographed at Carswell by Mark Morgan. The sharp-eyed among our readers will note that she's not in grey over white, but in overall 16440 instead; a transitional scheme in use as the NAV was beginning to transition to TPS. Intially built as an F-14A-130-GR, the aircraft was later converted to F-14B standard, ending her days at the AMARC. This photo was taken in her youth, on 27 April 1980.  M. Morgan

VF-101 was the East Coast RAG for the F-14 in 1980, and their aircraft wore moderately plain markings as a result. 160409 was an F-14A-95-GR and was lost in a crash on 12 September, 1988, with both crewmembers killed. She was in her prime when this photograph was taken in 1980. Did we mention that NavAir is a tough way to make a living?  J. Dienst

When most people think of the F-14, the first squadron that comes to mind is VF-84. Here's a classic example of one of their aircraft on the ground on 20 October, 1980. Built as an F-14A-110-GR, she was TARPS capable and was unique in that she was slated for preservation at NAS Atsugi, Japan. Note the F-4S in the background of the shot; the NAV was an interesting place in 1980!  T. Ring

The NATC was a prime user of the type throughout its service career, and 158626 was one of the Tomcats assigned to the center. Built as an F-14A-65-GR, 626 was photographed at a public airshow at Pax River on 26 September, 1981. While we much prefer the markings worn by the active duty F-14 squadrons, there's no doubt that the birds flown by the NATC were colorful!  T. Ring

But this sort of paintwork is far more to our liking! 161142 was built as an F-14A-110-GR and survived squadron service to be struck off charge in 1995. The original notes on the slide say that she was with VF-33/VF-101. Morgo, can you 'splain this one, please?!  R. Morgan

It's time to end our tribute to the Easter Egg "Turkeys", at least for a while, so we're going to finish up this piece with a few shots of the F-14 in its element. The place is NAS Corpus Christi, and the date is 7 May, 1989. I was attending an airshow at the station that day and was able to photograph most of the flying demos from the control tower catwalk, which is the vantage point used to catch this VF-124 bird (F-14A-135-GR, BuNo 162589) taxiing in after a solo performance that had the crowd cheering.  Friddell

124 was the West Coast RAG for the F-14, and they were proud of the fact. 162589 was wearing these tail markings on that overcast day in 1989---the RAGs weren't noted for being overly-colorful during the 80s, but these markings easily rivalled anything seen on the Fleet birds.  Yowza!  Friddell

Designed and built as a polymorph, the Tomcat was quite a performer in both the low and high-speed flight regimes. In this shot, 589 was displaying the F-14's high-speed capability and was whistling right along. She was a definite crowd-pleaser!  Friddell

Remember that part where we said the F-14 was capable in all sorts of flight regimes? Here's a picture to prove that point; 589 was doing a slow flypast with everything hanging when her pilot tossed her into a dirty slow roll, finishing that part of the demo by cleaning up the aircraft, popping into AB, and climbing out of sight. When the Tomcat finally left the inventory she was a tired airplane, beginning to show her age and becoming a little bit of a maintenance pig in the process. When she was in her prime there wasn't an airplane in anybody's air arm that could touch her. We prefer to remember her when she was young...  Friddell

The power and the glory---Fly Navy!!!  Kerr Collection

Hold That Tiger!

We didn't start out to do it that way but today's edition has turned into a Navy sort of thing, so we're going to go ahead and finish up with that theme. Here's a different sort of Grumman cat for your edification; the F7F Tigercat.

The F7F was designed and built as a long-range fighter that could take on the best the Japanese had to offer during the waning stages of World War 2, and a handful of them actually made it to the Pacific prior to the cessation of hostilities. This F7F-2N was assigned to VMFN-533 when she was photographed in Shanghai post-War. The Tigercat was quite a beast, and a handful to fly in some flight regimes. She was also one of the prettiest aircraft to ever grace the ramps of a naval air station, and was fully carrier-capable to boot. She was quite a bird!  DW Lucabaugh via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Nankivil

The Tigercat was your basic Clean Machine in most of her variants, which led to an interesting post-service career for 80503. She was built as an F7F-3P but ended up as a racer, with several stopovers in the civilian world along the way. The F7F has enjoyed a higher survival rate than many WW2 types, and is still impressive to this day. To steal a tired old saying, the name Grumman on an airplane is like Sterling on silver.  WE Scarborough Collection via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Nankivil

In many respects the F7F-4N was the ugliest of the Tigercats, but it's also the variant that most fascinates modelers and enthusiasts today. 80610 was a prime example of the type when photographed during the late 1940s. Her subsequent fate is unknown but we presume she was ultimately converted to pots and pans, a fate that overcame so many aircraft of her era. Modelers might want to pay careful attention to this photo; it shows a great deal of wing-fold detail.  William Peake Collection via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Nankivil

Happy Snaps

Are you guys tired of "Turkeys" yet? Good, 'cause we aren't either!

The year was 1984, and Rick Morgan was with VAQ-139 off the "Connie" for the greater part of that year. He shot this air-to-air of one of VF-21's Tomcats over the Pacific on the 9th of August; the aircraft's tail codes are worn on the insides of the vertical stabs and aren't visible in the photo. Note that the F-14 is trimmed for low-speed flight. The Tomcat looked good from any angle!  R. Morgan

The Relief Tube

We're having trouble with e-mails today (it's always something, isn't it?) so we're only going to run a couple of entries in the Relief Tube today. First, would the B-45 driver who wrote in asking if we were interested in some photography please try again? We attempted to send a return message to you but it was blocked, and now (at least for today) Yahoo isn't letting us open the messages in our "in" box. We're definitely interested in talking to you!

Finally, remember those VB-17Gs we ran a few weeks ago? Don Jay had a couple of post-War "Forts" in his collection and passed them on to us to share with you. First is a VB-17 from the Korean war era:

Those VB-17Gs got around! This one is fascinating because it appears to have a name of some sort written on the nose, but we can't quite make it out. Reader comments are invited ( ).  Jay Collection

A lot of folks don't know it, but the Coasties operated the B-17 (as the PB-1G) for quite a while post-War; in fact, the last operational B-17 belonged to the Coast Guard and wasn't retired until 1959. This example is hauling a lifeboat and has nose art to boot. Maybe some day all those resin guys will stop making Me109 cockpits and start giving us things like PB-1G conversion sets. Maybe...  Jay Collection

And that's what we know this time around. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon. We will---I promise!

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