Sunday, July 15, 2012

Paint It White, More Hotel Mustangs, A New Department, T-Stick 2, and Gasbags for the F-51

It Just Ain't That Tough, Ya'll
Painting things white, that is. Or yellow, or red, or any of the other bugaboo colors that give so many modelers fits when they try to apply paint to a new project. We've personally never had much of a problem with any of those colors, so with that as a point of reference, let's talk technical for a minute.

First, let's define the sort of paint we're going to be using. Your humble modeling editor (as opposed to your humble photographic editor) has been around the modeling world for a while and has developed a distinct preference for enamels and lacquers as opposed to the acrylics more and more people are using nowadays. It's not that we haven't used acrylics before; Floquil Poly S (the original formulation, thank you), Tamiya, and Gunze have all passed through our airbrushes, along with a home-brewed concoction of artist's acrylics thinned with tap water and a little isopropyl alchohol. All of the above worked just fine, but certain colors just never behaved the way we wanted them to.

We've also worked with the hobby-based lacquers and enamels; Humbrol, Pactra, Frontier HQ, Imrie-Risley, Floquil, Official, Testor, et al, and have found most of them to be far more user-friendly and easy to use, particularly for a novice. That statement sets the tone. We're going to be talking about enamels in this missive. Why don't you get your ventilation going, put on your respirator, and let's play with paint for a few minutes.

White is one of the Big Three in terms of the colors most novice and intermediate modelers have difficulty with, so let's start with that one. The challenge presented by white is simple; how do you get decent coverage without a huge build-up of paint, or runs, or that gritty sandpaper-ish finish we've all experienced at one time or another? The answer is simple, although it may not seem so at first glance.

One answer is so blatantly obvious that everybody ought to blush with embarassment if they haven't already thought of it: Use a good grade of paint. Floquil is great; lots of coverage even when thinned, fast-drying, and easy to manipulate. Testor is right behind it and that's Testor in any flavor of enamel, either the classic Little Square Bottle or the ModelMaster line. In stark contrast Humbrol, which used to be one of the best hobby paints you could buy, is presently made in China (or at least the last tin we personally bought was) and is, in a word, useless crap. That said, we're going to presume you're using something from either the current (modern) Floquil line or ModelMaster. You're on your own for anything else.

The second component is also simple, although it runs counter to what a newby's conventional wisdom might suggest: Thin your paint! We normally thin everything we use a minimum of 30%, and 40 to 50% is more the norm. We use multiple thin passes (just like you'd do if you were painting a real airplane or car) and we let the color build up---the color is thin so you aren't building up a thick, hide-every-detail layer of paint. The beauty of doing things this way is that you can allow your base coat to show through in places if that's what you need to do, for instance if you were replicating the white leading-edges of a mid-to late-War PTO aircraft and wanted to show a little weathering and fade.

Here's an example of painting with a really thin white. In this particular case the paint (Testor ModelMaster enamel) was thinned some 45% and the paint was applied in multiple thin coats. Coverage was just fine, thank you, and it only took 3 or 4 light passes with an airbrush to achieve this effect. The upper surfaces were done the same way, which allowed a little bit of the original grey and green camouflage to show through in places. The end result was a replica of a well-used but not overly beaten-up RAAF Spitfire Mk VIII.

That takes care of painting with white, so here's what we've learned: use good-quality paint and thin it. Learn how to paint with it, which means practising with an airbrush, not just squirting paint everywhere with it hoping things will work out for you. In short, learn how to master your material!

So how about painting with yellow? If you're moderately bright you've already figured that one out for yourself---painting with yellow is just like painting with white only using a different color, and a decent quality of paint is essential to your success. You can brighten things up a bit by applying a coat of white to your model first, but that really isn't necessary; we routinely paint FS13538 prop tips by masking and painting directly over the black prop blades.

They call it Mellow Yellow (Quite Rightly!). The under-cowl Gelb 04 ID panel on this FockeWulf has been painted with Floquil's Reefer Yellow directly over the model's tan plastic, with no undercoating of any kind. If memory serves we used some 4 or 5 light passes to achieve this effect. This is how we do our fuselage stripes and cowlings too; it's really easy to show traces of the original camouflage on a given model, if that's the effect you're going for, by appling light colors and manipulating the paint with technique. Practice is your New Best Friend!

That leaves us with everybody's favorite modeling color; red. By now you should have the drill down pat, and already have it in your head that you're going to be using multiple passes of paint to achieve the effect you want. There's one big difference to red, though---if you want a really bright red that just pops out at you (a tonal variation that's pretty much too much for most scale models, by the way), then undercoat with white first. The thing most folks don't understand about red is that it's just another paint and it'll behave that way if you don't let it spook you.

Red over dark green. We always try to do this sort of thing the way it was done on the real airplane, which in this case meant Testor ModelMaster Gloss Insignia Red directly over the camouflage color, with no undercoating of any sort. It took 4 or 5 light coats of that red, thinned some 40%, to get this effect---we originally gave thought to undercoating with light grey (as opposed to white) but that proved to be unnecessary. We like how it came out, but you don't have to do it that way if you happen to think it isn't very good. You pays your nickle...

So where does that leave us? With any luck at all, you can now go straight out to your modeling desk, prep some paint, and apply a contest-winning coat of white, yellow, or red, to the model of your choice. Just remember that practice does indeed make perfect and you'll be ok. Once again, that's our story and we're sticking with it.

A Few More Shots of The Fastest Mustang
We ran a few shots of the fastest and most capable of all the Mustangs, the under-dog F-51H, a few issues back, but we had others we didn't run in that essay; time and The Great Move of 2012 got in the way and we just didn't accomplish what we'd set out to do. Old and valued friend Marty Isham had loaned us a great many color shots (which we ran) and a batch of black and whites (which we didn't, because we didn't have time to scan them before everything got boxed up); thanks to Marty here's our feature photo essay for the day.

Most F-51Hs ended up with the Guard, but a few made it to the regulars too. 44-64256 was built as an F-51H-5-NA, and was assigned to the 1100th ABG when this snapshot was taken in the early 50s. The H-model differed substantially from the more-familiar Ds and Ks, and the airplane lost most of its classic lines in the process. The Hotel was, however, the most capable member of the Mustang family. The dawn of the Jet Age did her in.  Isham Collection

Here's 44-64290, another H-5-NA from the 1100th. The airframe appears to be painted silver, while the spinner is in natural metal and the fabric-covered control surfaces are in silver dope. If you look closely you can detect an antenna wire running from the tip of the vertical stab to a pointon the right side of the fuselage just behind the opened canopy (and not to those antenna masts!). The devil's in the details!  Isham Collection

Taxiing out. 44-64633 is yet another 111th bird, and this shot illustrates that antenna wire placement to what some folks might call good advantage. Note that all of these aircraft have operating tailwheel doors; by this time most D and K models had had their tailwheels permanantly locked down, based on the USAF's experience with muddy airfields in Korea. Most of the H-models had retractable tailwheels right up until the end of their careers.  Isham Collection

The 56th FG operated F-51Hs for a short while, an irony of considerable proportion considering their wartime success with the rival P-47 Thunderbolt. "Ah'm Available" (from the 62nd FS) is one of the very few H-models to carry any sort of nose art; the airplane was never spectacularly marked while in service with either the regulars or the Guard. Those wing stripes are kind of tasty, though... (And the tailwheel on this bird is, but of course, LOCKED DOWN! There just ain't no justice!  McLaren Collection via Isham

This is what we might call a classic shot, were we inclined to do that sort of thing. 44-64319 was from the 56th and was photographed sitting on the ramp at Selfridge in 1948. Note the missing tailwheel doors and absence of antenna wire. Zero-length rocket stubs are visible under the wings.  Isham Collection

44-64572 was built as an F-51H-10-NA and was pulling duty as a target tug when this photo was taken at Selfridge in August of 1949. This study offers a tremendous amount of detail to the modeler, although there's no worth-while kit to use it on---the configuration of the rocket stubs is of particular interest.  William Balogh via Menard via Isham Collection

New Jersey's 119th FS was one of the many ANG units that operated the F-51H for a short period of tiem. 44-64322 was another H-5-NA and was captured while participating in a public air show in the late 40s. Like most F-51Hs, she's a Plain Jane as markings go, but this shot provides some useful details of the area under her canopy decking.  L Paul via Isham Collection

A great number of F-51Hs ended up in New England, as typified by this gorgeous example from Massachusett's 101st FS. 44-64478 was photographed in 1951 sporting a pair of command stripes. The H-model would've torn 'em up in the skies over Germany or Japan, but was too late for the war and never saw combat.  John Antaloci via Pack via Isham Collection

In 1953 Vermont's 134th FG was a prime user of the F-51H. This evocative shot illustrates a small part of their ramp. Note the missing tailwheel doors.  Bill Green via Isham Collection

This remarkable photo simply screams Air Guard! 44-64496, an F-51H-5-NA, was captured amidst a pack of T-6Gs during August of 1953. Note how the antenna wire runs to the right side of the fuselage, a modeling detail not to be overlooked if we ever see a decent kit of this aircraft!  Bill Green via Isham Collection

One of our first memories is of being a small boy during the early '50s while our dad was stationed at Limestone (later Loring) AFB and seeing rows of Mustangs parked along airport fences when we drove around New England on weekends. Here's a fine example of that particular childhood memory; Vermont's 134thlight up preparing for flight on a sunny day in 1953. Times were simpler back then!  Bill Green via Isham Collection

The shape of things to come! Vermont's 44-64377 sits on the ramp next to T-33A-1-LO 52-9458. The nation's hottest piston-engined fighter's performance had just been eclipsed by that of a jet trainer. The end was in sight.  Bill Green via Isham Collection

New York's 139th operated the Hotel for several years. The paintwork on these aircraft is somewhat unusual; notice the treatment of the leading edge of the vertical stabilizer and its accompanying strake. The F-51H could never have been called an Easter Egg (with the exception of a couple of target tugs we ran in our last installment) but these come close to fitting that bill.  Francillon Collection via Isham

Our final shot of the day is a real doozey; Illinois' 169th FG all lined up and sitting pretty. No, they weren't the most attractive of their breed, and they didn't wear classic paint jobs. They never fought in a war or fired a gun in anger, but they were there, ready if needed. Your collection of 1950s American aircraft is not complete without an example of the fastest Mustang. If only we had a kit!  Menard via Isham Collection

Under the Radar

We haven't added any sort of new department since the installation of "Happy Snaps" some months ago, so it must surely be time to do it again. Our Brand Spanking New section is going to be called "Under the Radar" and will be an infrequent review or announcement of things new, either plastic or published, that seems to have been ignored by the rest of the modeling world. There are a ton of people doing homegrown publishing on the internet so duplication of effort may well (and probably will) exist, but with any luck most of what runs in this space will be new to you.

With that as a premise, let's go right to our Very First Edition of "Under the Radar":
Glory Days; The Untold Story of the Men Who Flew the B-66 Destroyer Into the Face of Fear, Wolfgang W.E. Samuel, Schiffer Military History, 2008, Hardbound, 429pp, illustrated.

It's been some 40 years since the conclusion of festivities in The Southeast Asia War Games, and you'd think that by now every airplane and every unit involved in said activity would have been covered extensively in print. In some instances that's the truth of the matter; just go looking for books dedicated to F-105 or F-4 ops in that unfortunate conflict and the point will be well-proven. If, however, you have an interest in the "lesser" players in the air campaign of that struggle, you'll be hard-pressed to find much of anything that's worthwhile.

The B-66 Destroyer family falls handily into the latter category. It's electronic warfare variants were a constant in SEA air ops from the beginning of combat missions over the North until the last unit left the theater in March of 1974. Jay Miller's AeroFax title has long been the standard reference on the airplane (albeit a nearly unreadable one because of the tiny size of the type face employed) but it's long on technical description and short on operational history, which is where Glory Days comes into the picture.

Wolfgang Samuel was a B-66 pilot, a retired colonel, and his personal history of life with the B-66 is both engaging and highly informative. It's a personal narrative with the history of the aircraft interwoven into the story, so the reader shouldn't expect the abundance of technical information that makes Miller's effort so valuable to the historian, but the narrative fleshes out the operational side of the B-66 story much as Jack Broughton's books perform that function for the F-105. The airplane's strengths and weaknesses are explored in considerable depth, as well as its developmental and operational history, all in sufficient detail to enable the reader to understand just why so many of those photos of USAF strike missions over the North included an EB-66 in the shot. The B-66 was critical to the mission; not the optimal platform but what was available, and its combat crews performed superbly in a high-threat environment. It's not just a history of the type's service in Vietnam, but provides a fascinating look into the world of one of the Air Force's most underappreciated combat aircraft.

Originally published in 2008, the book has gone largely unheralded in the aviation community. That's a shame, because it's definitely worth acquiring; it belongs on the bookshelf of any historian or enthusiast with an interest in the Cold War or the air war over SEA. We recomend it highly.

After the War Was Over

Republic Aviation's F-105 Thunderchief won its spurs in a combat environment it was never intended to fight in, and a large percentage of the combat force was lost as a direct result of the fact that it was the best tactical fighter-bomber the USAF had at the time. Everybody knows the story, but a lot of folks don't seem to remember that the "Thud" saw squadron service after the conclusion of hostilities.
The Powers That Be recognized the F-105's failings and an attempt was made to upgrade the airframe into a more survivable combat platform, which in turn gave birth to a mod known as "Thunder-Stick Two". A total of 30 F-105Ds (or 31, depending upon the source used) were modified into this configuration in a program that began in 1966, although few of the aircraft so modified (the distinguishing external feature of which was an enlarged dorsal spine or "hump" added to house the new LORAN gear) saw combat past the assignment of a handful of aircraft to the theater to provide proof of concept. Although some aircraft did see service with regular units of the USAF, most ended up with Carswell's 457th TFS/301st TFW, an AFRes unit stationed in Central Texas.

While we'd love to show you photography of the handful of T-Stick Two birds that were evaluated in SEA, we don't have any (which is a big hint for anyone who might have such images to offer to share them!). What follows is a small collection of aircraft from the 457th. We hope you'll enjoy them.

The tell-tale hump of the T-Stick 2 mod is extremely evident in this shot of 61-0110, a modified F-105D-20-RE of the 457th. Maddog John Kerr photographed her at Bergstrom on 4 August 1979 when she was nearing the end of her life. A rare survivor of her breed, she ended up on public display at Roswell Industrial Air Center in Roswell, New Mexico.  John Kerr

This profile view by John Dienst provides an excellent view of the change in profile to the "Thud's" airframe as a result of the T-Stick 2 mod. There proved to be minimal degradation of performance due to the modification, and directional stability was actually improved as a direct result of the increased side area. 60-0464, an F-105D-10-RE, ended up at MASDC in 1982 but was in her prime when photographed in May of 1979. Note that the port-side gas bag has been converted into a travel pod and features a bright green upper fin.  John Dienst

Lee Bracken was one of the handful of aviation photographers who taught us how to do it, and we hold him in high regard. This gorgeous study of 60-0455 shows why we feel that way. The airplane went to MASDC in 1981 and ended up on public display, first at an American Legion post in Mississippi, then finally in the veteran's memorial park in Dixon, Illinois. She was in her graceful middle age when Lee shot her at Bergstrom in 1979. Beauty!  L Bracken

61-0110 was a well-used example of the breed when photographed by your editor at Kelly AFB on 27 Jan, 1982. She carries a travel pod on her left inboard station and proudly wears the name "Texas Humpbacks" under her port intake. This view is of the same aircraft that introduced this piece, and shows how dramatically a change in lighting can alter the perception of color on a camouflaged airplane---modelers beware!  Friddell

And here's the artwork, presented in the finest tradition of the F-105s who's remains litter the karsts and valleys of the northern half of Vietnam. Of particular interest is the insignia red tip to the interior of that gear door, a paint modification added in an attempt to prevent injury to maintenance personnel. A small painted zap from the F-105 depot at Hill AFB provides additional interest to this shot. "Texas Humpbacks" would make for a great model, but neither the conversion kit nor the markings exist. Dream on...  Friddell

The end of the road. This unidentified specimen sits semi-derelect in June of 1984 awaiting her fate. A handful of "Thuds" ended up on public display and more than a few ended up as BDR hulks. We aren't certain about this one but we do know it was a sad end for a noble airplane. Long ago and far away...  Kerr

Where You Gonna Put That Extra Gas, Mister?

By the end of the Second World War most of the planet's air forces had learned the value of range extension via use of external fuel tanks. North American's P-51/F-51 family had a far better-than-average unrefuelled range to begin with, but the addition of auxilliary tanks allowed her to fly virtually anywhere in western Europe, and to perform butt-killing missions to Japan with the 20th AF. Since the Mustang family survived well into the post-War era, and since so many kits are available of the aircraft, we figured our readership would enjoy having a little bit of additional information regarding this often-overlooked aircraft component.

The Sargent Fletcher company was a major player in US military aviation for a number of years, producing a great number of aircraft-specific external tanks and pods for all sorts of airplanes. The following images are from their one of their 1970s-vintage catalogs and provide dimensions and specifications of two different tanks with application to the P-51D/K/H.

This page depicts the 110-gallon jettisonable fuel tank built by Sargent Fletcher. The tank could be used by the P-38, P-47, P-51, and P-61, and was found well into the post-War period. Modelers will have to do a little math but the distance between suspension lugs is well-defined in this view.  Sargent Fletcher Corp.

This tank is most often associated with the post-war F-51D/K/H family, but could also be employed by the F-47N. We've often seen the tank in photos of ANG F-51Ds and Ks; it's a natural for modelers of the post-War era and provides a classic example of one of the earliest Fletcher aux tanks.  Sargent Fletcher Corp.

Happy Snaps

When last we met we told you we'd be back with another Happy Snaps entry this time around. A promise is a promise, so here you go!

Most folks tend to think of the Middle East when they think of Grumman's EA-6 family in a combat situation, but the earliest member of that tribe, the EA-6A, saw combat use in SEA at the hands of the Marine Corps. This study of an otherwise-unidentified EA-6A of VMCJ-1 was taken by retired Marine Lt Col Ted Herman and provided to us by frequent contributor and retired Naval Aviator Rick "Boris" Morgan. The aircraft are carrying ALE-32 jamming pods on stations A and B and are apparently en route to work on a typical day in The Nam. The paintwork is a well-worn example of the Navy's classic Easter Egg Light Gull Grey over Gloss White---modelers take note!  Herman via R Morgan

The Relief Tube

We don't know how you feel about things, but it's a definite relief to us to have a "real" issue in print again! That said, here's a small accumulation of comments we've piled up over the past several months. We did some significant picking and choosing here in the interest of keeping things brief because we've had a LOT of comments. Here's a sampling of them:

About a hundred years ago we ran some photos taken by Rick Morgan depicting a nose art contest held aboard the Theodore Roosevelt while she was en route back to the CONUS in the wake of Desert Storm. Matt Norton was one of the folks responsible for the application of that nose art, and he had this to say about it:

Mr. Friddell,

I am the guy in the green shirt. To fill you in a bit, headgear (cranial) is not required on the flight deck when NOT under flight operations. The artist has his cranial on because he was working on a ladder much of the time. Yes, during flight ops, headgear is mandatory.

I was there to assist the artist by mixing the paints and look after the paint guns and air brushes. We had a lot of fun applying it and a sense of pride when done. VAQ-141 was one of the few squadrons on board that took advantage of the opportunity to apply nose art.

Unfortunately, I do not remember the artists name and there is not a good shot of his face here. My memory would be sparked if I could see his face. May have a better clue packed away with my Navy things.

Matthew S. Norton
Night shift Corrosion Control supervisor

Thanks for the clarification, Matt, and apologies for taking so long to publish your comments!

And from Dave Menard regarding our first F-51H installment:

Loved the H Mustang stuff and well recall them overhead in the early fifties and getting into fur balls with Navy reserve Corsairs and Bearcats out west of Chicago! Now, straight and level only.
Here is a civvy H taken in East St Louis in the spring of 1971. When she cranked up, sounded like a sewing machine. Use if you desire and I took it! cheers, dave
Beauty, and a type rarely seen on the Warbird circuit.  Thanks, Dave!  Menard

And here's one on that wooden B-26 Marauder model we showed so many months ago, from Tom Sanders:

The B-26C is a Strombecker Recognition Model originally manuactured in 1942. It is interesting that Strombecker used the dimensions of the "prototype" (first constructed) for the dimesions yet marketed it as a B-26C (Omaha, NE Martin Plant). It is in 1/72 scale that was originated as a standard in the UK. The landing gear, doors and package guns are add-ons and should be kept (in my opinion) as they are vintage to that particular model. Steve Remington at just posted one of my Strombecker B-26 models under the "Strombecker Story" about 3/4 down the page.

Thanks, Tom! It's great to have that information available.

And there's more; so much more, but we've quite frankly run out of steam for today. Here are a couple of further comments from the editors (us/me) to wrap things up:

We've recently heard from several of our UK-based readers informing us that the screen formatting of RIS over there has been an issue of late. We've asked some of our friends around the US to see if they've been having problems too; so far it seems to be confined to our friends in Britain. We'd like very much to hear if any of the rest of you have experienced any issues with the site.

In that vein, we frequently do that copy-and-paste thing when we run the Relief Tube, an action that seems to wreak havoc with Blogger's software in terms of font and type size. That's why these Relief Tube entries tend to wander all over the place in terms of different sizes and font presentation---we are, as we've said so many times in the past, dumb as the proverbial post when it comes to computers, so bear with us. We just may get this all figured out someday (although nobody here is holding their breath on that one!). Patience is a virtue.

Finally, and in the best tradition of not letting a thing go until we've worked it to death, we've been informed by people we trust of the identities of a couple of the folks who have been playing fast and loose with our photography. That means, in simplest terms, that we now KNOW WHO YOU ARE, so cut it out! For those of you of an honest nature (which would be most of our readership), please feel free to right-click and save to your heart's content; just give provenance if you reproduce the images anywhere.

That's it for now, so be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon.

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