Thursday, November 29, 2012

That Unknown Fruitfly, Cry Havoc, and Another 109

Charlie the Fruitfly

Every family of military aircraft has at least one member in it that nobody really wants. In the case of the LTV A-7, that unwanted family member was the Charlie; the Navy's A-7C. An interim type that fell between the A-7A and B and subsequent E in the production cycle, the Charlie-model was essentially an Echo with the older TF-30-P-8 turbofan fitted in place of the E-model's definitive TF-41 powerplant. The NAV ended up with 67 Charlies while awaiting the arrival of the A-7E, and the type saw combat before ultimately being converting to E-models (or TA-7C models) themselves (VA-82 and -86 off the America).

A handful of Charlies survived post-war to be utilized in test and evaluation squadrons, and some 36 of them were subsequently converted not to A-7E but to TA-7C standard. Today we're going to look at those Tail-End-Charlies that weren't converted to anything and managed to remain C-models until the end of their service lives, except, of course, for 156777, which did become a TA. See how we are? Oh yea, and we don't apologize for that horrible play on words about Tail End Charlies. It was there, just sitting and waiting for us, and we  had to do it!

156797 was serving with the Naval Air Test Center when David Balcer photographed her in September of 1979. She survived a service career to end up as a museum exhibit in California, at the Naval Weapons School in China Lake. Few people ever model the NATC birds, which is a shame. They certainly don't lack for color!  David Balcer

Most of the Charlies were subsequently brought up to Echo standard by virtue of the installation of the A-7's definitive TF-41 powerplant, but a handful remained as straight C-models. 156777 was serving with VX-5 when photographed at a public air show in January of 1980, shortly after which she was converted to become a TA-7C. You might want to take note of that filthy weather---military aviators regularly fly in that sort of clag. It's not a job; it's an adventure.  David Balcer

In stark contrast to the photo immediately above, the sun was shining and there wasn't a cloud in the sky when this photo was taken at an airshow in October of 1981. It became the norm to remove the outboard stations on the A-7 during the 80s, but it's early enough in the decade in this photo and 772 is still wearing hers.  Tom Ring

We'll end today's brief essay with yet another airshow bird, this time at NAS Pt Mugu during 1984. 156797 was assigned to Pt Mugu and was carrying a full load of dumb bombs for the public when this shot was taken. (The type could do that in the Real World too, but it couldn't go very far with all that weight and no extra gas!) The bird ended up staying on at Pt Mugu and is currently on display there.  M Morgan

Cry Havoc!

Attack Squadron, that is. The Douglas A-20 was a key element in the success of the AAF in the Southwest Pacific. In theory the type should have been limited by her lack of range, but in practice her versatility, coupled with her performance, made her the ideal platform for low altitude attack as envisioned by General George. Here, thanks to Bobby Rocker, are some images of the A-20G during the final days of her service. Most are identified as being from the 417th, but a couple are not. We expect to hear from Gerry Kersey shortly...

When we think of the A-20 we all tend to think of it roaring over the jungle, or maybe the ocean, at minimum altitude with guns blazing, and the airplane most assuredly did her share of that sort of thing. She could also function as a "normal" bomber, however, and that's the role she was performing when this photo of "Sack Time" was taken. Note the way the bomb bay doors are positioned when opened; this is a detail most modelers miss.  Rocker Collection

She's named "Sally" something-or-other, but we just can't make out that other name. Aside from that, this shot illustrates both the bomb bay doors and pilot's canopy in their opened positions. Notice how light the covers on her mains are; we're guessing they're in squadron colors but have no way to be certain. It's time for somebody to write in and tell us what's going on here; that address is .  Rocker Collection

There are famous A-20s, and then there are famous A-20s. "Green Hornet" was one of the better-known examples of the type, thanks in great measure to the inclusion of her markings in the Matchbox kit of the A-20G. This photo shows those famous markings to good advantage, and also illustrates how tight and cramped the A-20's cockpit was.  Rocker Collection

The Havoc wore her share of ribald nose art, as illustrated by the 417th's "Amorous Amazon". The airplane is fairly beat up but the nose art is pristine. It was all a matter of priority...  Rocker Collection

"Georgia Bull Dog II" was a little more restrained, but the nose art was extremely well-done by any standards. We suspect that's Charlie Weir in the cockpit; like all of his breed he was young, and yet so very old. There were few easy days in the SWPAC.  Rocker Collection

Here's "Milly" of the 3rd Attack. She's beat to snot and is carrying another name (look just in front of the skeleton's face) that we can't quite make out. We don't know the details of this shot, but those guys sure look a lot alike! Maybe they're brothers? We hope they both made it home in one piece, but there were never any guarantees of safety in the 5th.  Rocker Collection

There's nose art and then there's nose art. We would tend to put "Contented Lady" in the latter category, but maybe that's just us. The airplane is obviously well-used and has, to be somewhat blunt about it, been through the wringer, but the mission markers and nose art are pristine, as is the paint beneath them. You did what you could...  Rocker Collection

Sometimes you might have time to get everybody together for a family portrait.  Rocker Collection

That's when you'd get everybody in the same place at the same time, all in their best uniforms, and pose in front of the airplane.  Rocker Collection

Sometimes you'd take the same shot a couple of times, just to make certain it was right.  Rocker Collection

It could be just a few guys in front of the airplane.  Rocker Collection

Maybe just the ground echelon.  Rocker Collection

Or maybe it would be a whole bunch of guys on the airplane.  Rocker Collection

You hope you put the right name on your ship, because there are people out there who want to kill you and every little bit helps.  Rocker Collection

Because at the end of it all you're going to have to go again, and it's as easy to buy the farm on the last day of a war as it is on the first. Let's lift a glass...   Rocker Collection

Under the Radar

Voodoo Warriors, The Story of the McDonnell Voodoo Fast Jets, Group Captain Nigel Walpole, Pen and Sword Aviation, 2007, Hardbound, 303pp, illustrated.

McDonnell's F-101 Voodoo was a seminal aircraft for the USAF. It was intended to be a long-range penetration fighter and also had quite a career as an interceptor, but its main claim to fame was a brief and violent career as a recce bird in the skies over Southeast Asia. Group Captain Walpole flew the type as an exchange pilot, which means he knew both the Voodoo community and its people intimately, which in turn made him uniquely qualified to write this book.

The volume is well-written and highly readable, and is as technical as anyone could want. The technicalities are well balanced by well-told accounts of the "One-O-Wonder's" operational history and the two facets put together provide a remarkable history of this often-neglected aircraft. A bonus is the selection of photographs, a great many of which are previously unknown to us; they lend greatly to the story told. We found the book to be impossible to put down and read it cover to cover in one sitting. You may not choose to do that yourselves, but we strongly suspect you'll spend more than a little time absorbing it. We consider this book to be an essential volume if you're interested in the topic and recommend it without reservation.

Enter the Eduard "Emil"

Those of you who were with us Way Back When, in those halcyon days when Print was King, probably remember that we had an editorial stance regarding Things Luftwaffe. We've mellowed considerably since those days and have rediscovered the heraldry and, therefore, the interest we once had in modeling things with black crosses on them, and in consequence we've built quite a few WW2 German fighters over the past several years. That renewed interest takes us to the sort-of new Eduard Royal Class Bf 109E offering in 1/48th scale---we recently obtained one, were suitably impressed, and thought we'd share our enthusiasm for the kit with our readership.

Let's start out by mentioning that Eduard's 1/48th scale "Emils" (their Royal Class kit accomodates all of the major variants of the type, all of which will ultimately be offered individually) are more or less an offshoot of that company's star-crossed 1/32nd scale offering of same, but not really. That big 109E had, and, by and large, still has, more problems than you can shake a stick at, and getting a decent replica out of it is a difficult chore at best. By contrast, its smaller-scale siblings offer far more detail, more logical assembly, and far fewer problems to deal with. They're what Eduard should have done with the 1/32nd scale kit but didn't.

So what do you get if you buy one of the new Es? We'll qualify our response to that particular question by stating that we lucked into a Royal Class boxing of the model, which comes with more bells and whistles than you can imagine; two kits with three sets of wings (so you can build an E-1, an E-3 or -4 with modified E-1 wings, or straight E-3/-4/-7 wings), multiple canopy sets, substantial photo-etch, Eduard's own "Brassin" wheels, stickies for 12 different aircraft, a 1/4-scale Bf 109E instrument panel, and a metal coffee cup. There's a lot of stuff in that box.

That said, let's get down to business. The basic kit (by which we mean the plastic parts for the airplane and nothing else) is close enough to dimensional accuracy to be acceptable without undue Modeler's Angst, and surface detailing is both engraved and petite. It's well-detailed in terms of cockpit area and landing gear, and it comes with a nicely detailed DB601 engine and cowl gun suite, of which more later. It also comes with a gas bag, bombs, and all three associated stations to hang them off of. One of the windscreens (there are 3 different ones in the kit) accomodates Adolf Galland's famous telescopic sight (which is also included), even though we doubt many people will chose to build that particular airframe. Both spinner styles are included, and all the kit is really missing are the Fiesler air intake mod and extended wings to allow the construction of the Bf 109T-2; otherwise you can build every 109E variant from this kit and do a great job of it in the process.

As for problems, there are two that actually bother us; that funky bulge that was in the upper fus of the 1/32nd scale kit, just aft of the cockpit opening, is still there, albeit less-obtrusively done, and the wing slats are still marginally too wide, but just barely. (We'd also like to have seen a cover for the tailwheel well included with the kit since some Es had that, and because everything else you could possibly want seems to be included in the basic kit!)

That's just the basic kit, you understand, with no aftermarket. Since Eduard also includes really nice instrument panel decals (or at least they do in the Royal Class iteration of the kit) you honestly don't need much more than a set of belts and harnesses to be able to produce a really nice model straight from the box, which makes the inevitable "Weekend Edition" kits the bargain of the century should your taste run to early 109s.

As for the "candy" that comes with the model, the photo-etch is done to excess, or at least it is in our opinion. If you want to build an "Emil" that's hard down for maintenance you might be able to use all that stuff, but we suspect most people will leave the vast majority of it on the frets. The same thing applies to those "Brassin" wheels and tires; they're nice, but so are the kit items, right out of the box. You pays your money and you takes your choice...

Construction of this uber-kit is actually quite simple, but that's with a couple of caveats. First, this isn't really a very good model for the newby or ham-fisted. Many of the parts are petite, and more than a little bit of care is required in order to get things together properly. Secondly, as just as important, is the fact that the modeler is going to have to out-guess the instructions in a couple of critical areas. It's easy if you want to build a model with everything hanging, but if you intend for your airplane to be buttoned up you'll become Fast Friends with Step 15, which tells you how to put things together with the cowling closed and the engine and gun deck suitably modified to allow same. Breech those instructions and you'll end up with a frustrating mess that you'll probably condemn to the trash heap.

The rest is all downhill, as they say. Painting instructions are more than adequate, and the kit decals, at least in the Royal Edition boxing, are absolutely superb and among the best we've ever used. We like this kit, and we recommend it.

Here's what you end up with if you've got a little experience under your belt. Both models are from the Royal Edition issue of Eduard's Bf 109E, and both were built entirely from the kit, although the JG5 bird utilizes decals from one of those Kagero books on the Luftwaffe. We managed to break the pitot tubes on both models while removing them from their sprue, but replaced them with items scratched up from plastic rod; no harm, no foul! Tires and wheels are kit stock, not "Brassin", and virtually no photo-etch was used, mostly because it really wasn't necessary for completion of the models.

Almost, but not quite, the same view. We're including this shot so you can see the leading edge slats better, since they're a little bit too wide. They didn't bother us enough to make it worth our while to fix them, but if you can't live without doing that you can easily cut off the offending section of the slat and use it as a filler for the wing opening, after which you---what else---put the modified slats on the airframe. We didn't, and still don't, think it's noticeable enough to mess with, but the choice is yours.

One thing Eduard still hasn't fixed is the bulge that they put on the upper fus just behind the canopy. It's always possible it's supposed to be there, of course, although we doubt that. At any rate, it's only noticeable if you paint your model in the "high demarcation" Battle of Britain scheme and then look down at your model from directly above. Otherwise, you just can't see it, so we didn't worry about ourselves about it. You can fix it if you want to, but then you'll have to put those really petite rivets back on the fuselage, which is honestly a whole lot more trouble than it's worth, at least to us. You pays your money, you takes your choice...

So here's the Bottom Line: The 90s-vintage Tamiya and Hasegawa kits are still very nice and perfectly buildable, and the new Airfix offering is quite a bargain at the price, if somewhat clumsy in comparison to its competition. On the other hand, Eduard's new kits are, at least in our opinion, the new Gold Standard for the type and are easily our kit of choice which it comes to modeling any variant of the Bf 109E. Follow the instructions, learn the kit, and you'll be absolutely amazed at the results.

The Relief Tube

We received a really interesting question from Pablo Zielger, one of our Argentinian readers, that we ended up deferring to Marty Isham and Doug Barbier regarding the fitment of an AIM-9B on an F-102A:

Here's the photo that started it all, which originally appeared in the forum over at ARV and was submitted by Grant. The original photographer is unknown to us at this time.

Mr. Phillip Friddell,

My name is Pablo Ziegler, from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I'm a regular
reader of your blog and a fan of the work you perform from Replica In

I've been following your excellent articles on F-102 Delta Dagger, and
it becomes clear for me your interest in this wonderful airplane.
Since I am trying to find information on a particular bird, I dare to
write this message, which I hope is not a nuisance!

Some time ago I found a curious picture of the F-102A 61016, through
the forum of Aircraft Resource Center. This is the link:

It really surprised me to observe the installation of AIM-9B missiles
in an F-102, and I would like to both make a model of that plane and
necessarily find out a little more about it. Beyond the information
given in that thread, I could find little or nothing about FC-106,
except brief notes about the units in which it operated (*). Nor could
I find more photos with this installation, or a precise date for it.
So, I have not clear, for example, if this aircraft was equipped with
the IR Ball, or some other characteristics of the airframe or the
scheme in that moment.

(*) USAF 318th FIS, at McChord AFB, WA. / USAF 325th FIS, at Truax
Field, WI. / USAF 48th FIS, at Langley AFB, VA. / Arizona ANG 152nd
FIS, at Tucson APT, AZ. / 10/1969: Transferred to the Greek AF. /
114th Wing, at Tanagra AB, Greece.

I know that the search is complex, but I dare to share these questions
with you, hoping to have a "clearer picture" of this aircraft.

I thank you in advance for your time, and I'll follow your excellent
work through "Replica In Scale".

By the way, If you need any information of your interest about
argentine aviation, be sure to contact me!

Warmest regards from Buenos Aires,


That simple request got the ball rolling. Your humble editor had nothing in the archives with which to answer Pablo's questions, which in turn resulted in an e-mail to Mr. ADC himself; Marty Isham. Marty wasn't too sure either, and forwarded the request on to Doug Barbier, who had this to say about the "mod":

Marty & Phil,

My 'real' computer', which has all the a/c data cards for all of the deuces on it is sitting on the floor in the bedroom in pieces, so you'll have to wait a bit for the assignments, but the AIM-9 in the photo is definitely a "dummy" or captive version & it is certainly the early external pylon, so with the Buzz number present, we'll call it c.1965. Don't know if that jet is also the one with the refueling plumbing & IR, but that would have made it '65'-66 again..... but it really brings up some interesting questions - not the least of which is just exactly HOW they got that launcher hung on the pylon? The early deuce pylon / tank combination was basically a 'one piece' affair, so they would have had to break one apart (which was easy enough to do), and they did NOT have the "standard" 28" lug spacing (although the later one did), so it must have been a very jury rigged affair. Second, although you really only need 28VDC to launch an AIM-9,  the wiring in the deuce was certainly NOT capable of handling any missile on the pylon - you'd have had to have added a seeker head 'uncage' capability, wiring to get the the aural tone to pilot earpieces, etc, etc - not to mention finagling some sort of weapons selection, seeker head uncage & trigger capability.

     Remember, in those CV jets, what was a "trigger" in every other a/c, was a "pilot consent switch" in the delta's - which is to say you were simply allowing the computer to shoot when IT was ready, NOT when you pulled it. In fact, if you pulled & then released the "trigger" before the computer was ready to launch a missile, nothing happened at all. This isn't to say that it would be particularly difficult to do, but it would have required some seriously extensive rewiring and a 'one of a kind' test bird would certainly have never been assigned to a tactical squadron - esp one as far away as a Guard unit in Hawaii. Tyndall, Edwards, White Sands, OK. Guard unit? Nope. Enroute to SEA? Far, FAR reaches of "maybe". Jack Broughton talked about trying to get the AIM-9 on the SIX but HQ USAF wouldn't hear of it & TAC hated that jet. So I'm guessing it was a gag. Heck, we loaded not one. not two, but FIVE gun pods on one of our F-4's - wall to wall Vulcans. You might have been able to fly with them, but there was no way you were ever going to shoot all of them - but it sure looked impressive on the ramp! BTW - if you look really closely on that bombed up Six in Korea, the MER is mounted BACKWARDS on the pylon - apparently that was the only way they could get it on. That's my 2 cents worth.


Thanks for your question, Pablo, and thanks to Doug for that detailed response. There's yet another model to add to the bucket list...

Here's a comment from someone we know Back in the Day. Those of you who have been at this hobby for a while may remember Gordon Stevens, if not by name then at least by his company, RarePlanes, who were reknowned for producing some of the best vacuum-form kits around. Gordon recently read one of our F-51H pieces and had this to say about it: 
Dear Mr Friddell -
Just checking out your July blog on the elusive P-51H and enjoying the many
pictures. A couple of times you had bemoaned the lack of a model kit of this
version of the Mustang, yet I seem to remember seeing a 1:48 kit - was it
Aurora - way back in the 1960s. I am more sure about a 1:72 scale vacform
from the RAREplane stable of just the fuselage which was to be mated to
modified P-51D wings and I also know that several thousand of them reached
the USA between 1970 and 1990. One result is shown in my picture where I
used the wings from an M-News P-51H Mustang injection kit, but rejected the
fuselage - because it was actually a plain P-51D - and used the vacform
fuselage instead. But the M-News kit had a decal for 484481 'Ahm Available'
which allowed the colourful banding on my model.
Sincerely -
Gordon Stevens
Poole, England
Boy, does that photo ever bring back memories! We built a couple of RarePlanes kits Way Back When and, in point of fact, had the remnants of one (a Dewoitine D.510) on the shelf until just a few years ago. The folks raised on Tamiya and Hasegawa probably won't understand, but there's a lot of satisfaction to be gained from building one of the oldtimers, particularly if it's a vacuum-form kit. Oh yeah, and we built that Aurora kit about a hundred years ago, and got another one a few years back thinking we might make something out of it---no joy, as it were. Thanks, Gordon, both for your comments and for triggering an interesting walk down memory lane!

And finally, from Joe Vincent:

Just joined your blog and am now catching up on past issues. Presently on 12/18/2010. You were wondering what “DNIF” in the name of a P-47N nose art meant. In case no one else has come forth, DNIF is USAAF and USAF-speak for Duties Not Involving Flying. If you were grounded for a bad head cold you “went DNIF.”
Enjoyed the issue on Dibbles. I used to go cross-country to SAT, and always made it a point to visit Dibbles.
Love the blog, especially the photos. I used to have a copy of all of the paper RIS. Can only find a few now. I’ll try to send you some photos when the honey-dos slack up. Some of my buddies at FedEx let me copy their Kodachromes from the 50s (F4U-5N, RB-57A, etc.)


Thanks, Joe, and we look forward to seeing your photography, which leads us to an entirely shameless plug to our other readers who might have photography they'd like to share: Please consider scanning it and sending it on to . Full credit will be given for all photography used, and we'd all love to see it!

That's about it for this time and Yes; it really is 2 blogs in 2 days. We figured we owed you after that long silence!

Be good to your neighbor until next time---we'll see you again real soon!

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