What a Summer It Turned Out to Be
And why, you might logically ask, is that? The answer is an easy one---we've just seen the release of a 1/32nd scale Tempest V, with another one (from a different manufacturer) in the pipeline. We've got a new 1/32nd scale F4U-1 Corsair, the first "birdcage" Corsair ever released in this scale. One of the Chinese manufacturers has announced a T-6 in the scale, and there's actually a sku number to order against so the announcement is more of an "is" than a "might be someday". Academy has that PBM we've talked about over the past couple of issues, and there are other kits in the pipeline as well.
New books seem to just keep appearing, as do new decals. By now there must surely be a resin update set for every kit of any airplane ever issued by anybody, and the PE industry is right in there too. We've got turned brass pitot tubes and gun barrels in wide profusion in the three most popular scales, and engines, and landing gear, and the list goes on and on, not to mention the magic of stereo lithography, which is just beginning to raise its somewhat miraculous head in the hobby.
On the down side we've lost Testor's version of our old friend Floquil, and it's not certain that somebody else will pick up the brand although, in all honesty, Floquil paint hasn't really been the same since that nasty old brain-cell-eating DioSol was removed from the formulation back in the 90s. One of the Chinese manufacturers, who surely should have known better, royally pooched a much awaited 1/48th scale kit of the Lockheed F-80, and we still don't have a kit of the FJ-3/-3M in any scale.
When you think about it, though, the down side isn't all that down, and as modelers we've gained a lot more than we've lost. We could be trite and say that we're living in a New Golden Age of plastic modeling and we'd be right, but we've said that before a couple of times so there's no point in repeating it. What we will say is that we've never had it better as modelers; never in the history of the hobby. The only time we've even come close was back in the halcyon days of the mid-and-late 60s, when Revell GB, Airfix, and Frog were releasing new kits almost monthly, Hasegawa and Tamiya were first beginning to make themselves felt in the hobby, and a new decal company named MicroScale was issuing decals to compete with the handful of sticker manufacturers already in place. Nowadays it seems as though all we have to do is mention that we want a new kit of something and we'll see it (except of course for that FJ-3!) sooner rather than later. Such is the power of the internet.
So why is this worth writing about? It's a simple thing, and one that we've touched on a time or two in the past. All you folks who wanted Tamiya to kit a 1/32nd scale F4U-1, or Pacific Coast to do a Tempest, or whatever else that "I've got to have one because I really want one and somebody ought to kit one" model may have been in your particular world, need to go buy one. We personally didn't purchase the F4U, although we probably will sooner or later. We did get a Tempest, and we would've bought an F-80 if that kit was worth having. The point is this: It costs money for all those model companies to research a kit even if they're relying on hobbyists and amateur historians to do the research for them, and it costs money to make the tools from which said kits will be produced. It costs money to research and print a kit's decal sheet and instructions, and it costs money to put the thing in a box and get it on the shelves so the modeler can actually buy that kit of their dreams. Every one of those new kits requires a great deal of money to bring it from somebody's dream to a real, honest-to-goodness hold-it-in-your-hand-and-build-it model. The companies that go out on a limb to create those objects of our affection need to sell kits in order to make some money to recover their costs and, hopefully, make enough of a profit to stay in business and give us yet another kit that we claim we just can't live without. It's a cycle, and we (that would be you and me, in case you hadn't figured it out yet), need to do our part and actually buy a kit or two instead of whining about how expensive everything has become and leaving that brand-new just-released Whatever-It-Is Mk III to sit and rot unsold on the shelves. If you asked for it and, in particular, if you whined about wanting one on one of those internet modeling boards and thereby influenced someone's decision to manufacture it, you need to spend the money to actually buy one. If you put your money where your mouth is you'll probably see that dream kit you really want one of these days. If you don't, and those manufacturers lose money making the dream kits you're not buying, you probably won't.
It Must Have Seemed Like a Great Idea at the Time
An Addendum at the Beginning
Usually we put corrections in place in the Relief Tube section an issue or two after we receive additional information from our readers (or, in certain extremely rare circumstances, actually manage to stumble onto the problem ourselves!), but sometimes we get them quickly enough to make it worth doing immediately after we publish an issue. Today is one of those times. It's the same old deal; if you haven't read this issue yet then you didn't miss anything, so you can ignore this entire correction. If you have already read it then you'll want to read the corrections, but we'll make it easy on you. To wit:
The caption on the final photo in this piece (139130) made mention of an airplane called the F6D Skylancer. It should have read F5D Skylancer, but we didn't catch the typo before hitting the "publish" button. Long-time friend Mike McMurtrey did catch it and promptly informed us of the fact (I'll bet he was grinning when he did it, too!). Thanks as always, Trey!
That takes care of the correction on the last photo in this piece. There's also one on the lead photo, so let's get down to it. In the caption we refer to a mystery structure hanging off the airplane and admit we don't have a clue as to what it might be. A reader named Rex came to our rescue with this explanation:
Hi Phil. In regards to " That's quite an apparatus she's got strapped to her aft section but, as usual, we're clueless as to its purpose." That device is not attached to the aft section, you can see that it is mounted to the outer pylon. It is the reel gear for a towed target system, in this case the Del Mar target. Your pic is a neat companion to a color shot that Mr Olson must have taken at the same time, from a slightly different angle and then had published in the Ginter book. (we see less of the BuNo in the Ginter photo) One thing I don't see in either photo is any sort of Motor Unit, but, I don't know at what point the RMU would be installed on an aircraft---maybe they were installed the same time as a target? I hope this is of help. Rex
Thanks, Rex; it's helpful indeed!
And now back to the original photo essay!
The Douglas F4D-1 Skyray was a looker and no two ways about it. If you happen to be my age (a condition I wouldn't deliberately impose on anyone) you might remember building either the Hawk, Comet, Aurora, or Lindberg kits of the airplane back in the 50s, or maybe even a little bit later than that. We got a kit from Airfix in the 70s, and what will probably be the definitive kit of the type from Tamiya in the 90s. We got references too, and decals. As modelers we can actually create a really good replica of what was arguably one of the prettiest jet fighters ever to grace the deck of an aircraft carrier. It was quite an airplane; a marvel of engineering. It was also, not to put too fine a point on things, pretty close to being a total failure as a military aircraft.
Yep; that gorgeous-beyond-words "Ford" was fast, and could climb like the legendary violated simian, but it couldn't do much else. It was a handful around the boat. It was woefully under-armed. It was a dense airframe with little room for growth as far as radars and avionics were concerned, and it was right up there with the early MiG-21 variants in terms of combat radius and useful range. It was really pretty, though.
Mark Nankivil shared a few "Ford" images with us a couple of weeks ago and, now that we've suitably defaced them to better deter The Picture Pirates we're ready to share them with you. We're sorry, folks; we truly are. The photos are really neat anyway, and we hope you enjoy them in spite of the watermarks.
If I had to guess, or even if I didn't, I'd be of the opinion that most of our readership has built a model of Mitsubishi's immortal A6M Zero-Sen at one time or another in their modeling careers. It's one of those airplanes that's both iconic and, for the scale modeler at least, a rite of passage. I've built more than a few of them myself, and out of that grouping (there are 10 or 11 of them, I forget which, sitting on the shelf as I type this) at least a couple are from the Tainan Ku and its successor 251st Ku. There are, in point of fact, no carrier-based Zero-Sen whatsoever in my personal collection. Every one of them is shore-based, but therein lies the rub, which brings us to the point of this missive.
It's been conventional wisdom for a number of years that the Tainan and 251st Kus removed the radios from their fighters and cut off the antenna masts as well (mostly true) and removed the tailhooks from their aircraft, those actions being taken in order to lighten the airplanes by removing unnecessary equipment and therefore weight. Taking out the radios made sense, sort-of, since they weren't all that good in the first place. Removing those hooks was another matter entirely, and was one of those deals that made sense except for when it didn't make any sense at all sense most of the airplanes in question were delivered to their land bases off an aircraft carrier. It's confused me over the years and might've confused you as well but, lo and behold, Bobby Rocker has come through once again, this time with a photo that offers indisputable proof regarding at least one A6M variant and that pesky tailhook.
Another Big 'Un on the Shelf
That Hasegawa Ki-44 I've been piddling with for the past couple of issues is done, and we're going to take a look at it today. It proved to be an easy date, taking approximately 12 hours from start to finish---that's the sort of thing that happens when you get yourself a kit where everything fits flawlessly! In point of fact, this particular model pretty much out-Tamiyas Tamiya for ease of assembly and darned near manages to build itself. Let's take a look:
Some Really Special Guys
Some seventy-one years ago, give or take, The United States made the decision to strike the Japanese homeland by means of a carrier-based attack against assorted Japanese naval targets in the Tokyo area. An attack force of USAAF B-25Bs, to be led by Col. Jimmy Doolittle, was chosen to conduct the raid and the rest, as they say, is history.
A Few More Fruitflies
If you've been paying any sort of attention at all to what we've been doing around here, you've noticed an ongoing almost-a-series group of articles on the LTV A-7 Corsair II. We're going to continue that trend today with a look at the "Fruitfly" in TPS.
Under the Radar
Today's Under the Radar entry is an older book that was largely ignored by the aviation community when it was originally published. It's achieved a new relevance due to recent progress in the field of aviation, and is well-worth looking at.
Lightning Bugs and Other Reconnaissance Drones; The Can-Do Story of Ryan's Unmanned Spy Planes, William Wagner, Armed Forces Journal International and Aero Books, 1981, 222pp, illustrated, is a highly readable, non-technical overview of the Ryan Firebee program for inception though its service in the Vietnam War. The volume begins with the requirement for an unmanned surveillance and target drone and details the development of the aircraft's development and its substantial (and largely unknown) combat career during the Southeast Asia War Games. It's well-written and explains the AQM-34 program in considerable detail. Most folks don't have it in their libraries (we doubt most folks are even aware of its existence!) but we consider it to be essential reading if your interests run towards American involvement in that unfortunate conflict. You'll probably have to search to find a copy but the result is well worth the effort. Recommended.
It's been a while (far too long, in point of fact!) since we've run anything in this section of the blog, so today must surely be the day to correct that!
The Relief Tube
Letters, we get letters; we get stacks and stacks of letters (with apologies to Perry Como). Well, maybe we don't get that many letters, but we do get a bunch of them. Here are a couple of comments we've recently received regarding various and sundry things that have appeared on this site:
Let's start off with a clarification from Tommy Thomason regarding that desert-bound PBM we ran last time. It's in the form of scans from a 1944 issue of Naval Aviation News that explain what was going on when that photo was taken---Tommy didn't comment beyond sending the images so we're not going to either, but they're worth a look.
Thanks as always, Tommy, for your help!
In the Keeping Us Honest department, here's a comment from Pablo Ziegler regarding that model of the Brewster Bermuda we ran a while back:
Just a note about the SB2A: as far as I know, the Special Hobby kit is 1/72nd scale. The firm released both the SB2A and the British Bermuda Mk.I to date. In 1/48th scale, as far as I can remember, the only game in town for the Buccaneer is the old VacWings48 kit.
Apologies to Frank Cuden for that particular clanger; Frank most assuredly knew the difference and supplied us with all the pertinent information when he sent the photos. Some days we just aren't very smart...
And we've got quite a few other comments as well, but they're mostly about that Picture Pirate thing and, frankly, we're as sick of all that as you are so we aren't going to run any of them. We definitely are interested in your comments, though, so please feel free to write us at email@example.com if you've got something to say, or if you've got photos or information you'd like to share.
Finally, there's a LOT of material waiting in the wings for us to show you, so stand by. We'll meet again real soon, but until then, thanks for your patience with our recent lack of a schedule, and be good to your neighbor.