Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Not Fade Away, Some Forty-Niner Ns, Checkertails, and Nobody Had It Easy
Just Tell 'Em How to Do It
When I was a kid I'd build just about anything anybody cared to release in plastic, and it didn't really matter very much to me what it was. I built Revell, Aurora, Comet, and Monogram airplanes, AMT, JoHan, and Monogram cars, Revell and Adams ships, Bachmann birds, Hawk insects, Pyro dinosaurs, and just about anything else you could imagine that came as an unassembled plastic kit. My friends all did it and I did it too; it was a rite of passage in the 1950s and 60s.
Way back in the beginnings of this blog I introduced our readership to Jack Dusenberry, an old friend of mine from Misawa who was more interested in model airplanes than in the more ubiquitous (for our age group at the time, anyway) model cars. Jack got me started off in a slightly more serious direction in terms of modeling, and from that moment the die was cast. I became a prime candidate for conversion to a hard core modeler when my dad was assigned to Lackland AFB in 1965, a fact I mention because that transfer led me to discover Dibble's Arts and Hobbies (right down the street from my high school; how convenient was that?!) and ultimately introduced me to Frank Emmett, John de la Garza, Frank Garcia, Jim Wogstad, and Mike McMurtrey, among others. Serious Scale Modeling raised its siren's call and I answered. I was pretty lucky too, because those guys I mentioned up there, as well as so many others who are going to have to remain un-named today (there were a lot of those guys, because I wasn't a very good modeler!), mentored me and helped me get past all the mistakes we inevitably make when we set out on a new endeavor. I also bought a couple of how-to-do-it books by a well-known British modeler named Chris Ellis, which was when I discovered that the folks I just mentioned had already taught me what was in those volumes plus a great deal more. That helped me to form an opinion, which I'm going to share with you today.
There have always been books on how to do things, pretty much since people began, well, doing things! Of late we've seen a plethora (that's your test word for today; look it up if you don't know what it means) of publications, as well as DVDs, on how to build this kit or that one, or how to airbrush, or how to do almost anything you might want to do in terms of building a scale model airplane. In point of fact there is now, right now this minute, a Brand Spanking New Book on how to build the airplane kits of one particular manufacturer (and only that manufacturer) available for your perusal and potential purchase, and I have to admit that the concept seems somewhat peculiar to me.
In point of fact I own one or two of those How to Build the Whatever It Is Mk I books myself, purchased when I was in a well-stocked hobby shop and between marriages, which means I had a small surplus of spending money and a rather largish surplus of Lack of Good Sense. I bought those books, read them, and at the end of it all wondered why I'd spent the money. They seemed like a good idea at the time but, to be brutally frank about things, they really didn't teach me much of anything. That was the point where I stopped buying those How to Do It modeling books.
What does this have to do with anything, you might ask. The answer's a simple one; those guys I already mentioned, plus a bunch of others scattered across the country, are my de facto How to Do It guides. We look at each other's work and share ideas and techniques. We e-mail quite a bit. We send photos to each other. We discuss things and we learn. In consequence those various how-to-build-the-whatever-it-is guides rarely if ever grace any of our bookshelves.
That doesn't mean the aforementioned guides don't have merit, because they're generally authored by people who know what they're talking about and they're almost always worth a look. They can't and don't, however, replace discussion or that mentoring I mentioned up there in the beginning of this piece. The best way to learn is to do; there are no Silver Bullets in this hobby of ours, and reading a book isn't the same thing as talking to somebody like Brian Phillipson when it comes down to learning a new technique. It takes most people a while to ramp up, which isn't always the preferred thing in our instant gratification kind of world. Taking a little time to learn is what's needed, and if you develop some good modeling assets of the human variety I'm willing to bet you won't need very many of those guides. You can go spend the money on a kit or some stickies instead. Just a thought...
That's my story and, as usual, I'm sticking with it.
Puttin' It to Those Paint Pedantics One More Time
One of the few down-sides of this great hobby of ours is the fact that it's inhabited by so many instant experts, folks who know everything there is to know about everything there's anything to know anything about, and who will tell you about it (generally at great length) at the drop of a hat. Their world seems to be extremely buttoned down, and consists of phrases like "never was", "couldn't happen", "that's color shift in the photo", and on and on and on. You know the type and, unfortunately, you probably number at least one of them in your circle of modeling acquaintances. That's how the hobby is, and will probably always be---we're an opinionated bunch at best!
Anyway, I was rummaging through a couple of storage boxes of old models the other day, and came across a 1/48th scale Monogram F-111A I'd built way back in the 80s. (Those of you who might be inclined to write and tell me that Monogram never did a quarter-scale F-111 need to cool your jets---they picked up the old Aurora "Aardvark" molds, cleaned them up and added what detailing they could, and released the kit under their name.) That kit was what's best called an "opportunity", not too good and not too bad, but needing a lot of work to be brought up to any sort of reasonable standard. I was a Jet Guy in the 80s, and I had to have a 1/48th scale F-111A for the collection, so I bought the kit, and I built it.
That 428th TFS/474th TFW F-111A that I did off the Monogram kit came out ok, all things considered, and it held a place of pride in the collection for several years. A move from The Big City to the country saw it placed in a plastic bag and put into a box to keep it safe during the transit. The move was made and when it was over some models came out of their boxes to go back on the shelf, but that "Aardvark" stayed in storage. It sat there, ignored and forgotten, for a little over twenty years. I rediscovered it one fine Sunday afternoon, and took it out to marvel at my handiwork (or lack of same), and was amazed, not at my plastic modeling expertise, but at something that had happened to the model during those years of storage. Let's take a look.
Now to the Great Mystery, and a small conclusion. The tan was one shade while the model was out on display but it's obviously shifted on all the exposed surfaces, while the portion of the starboard wing that was hidden under the wing glove remained the way it was the day the paint was mixed. While it was out in the light, so to speak, it was in subdued lighting, and never direct sunlight. That's worth repeating---the tan wasn't two-toned while the model was on display---the shift occurred over a number of years, while the model sat in a dark box in air-conditioned storage. That's the mystery: How did it happen?
To my mind the damage started out during that handful of years while the model was out on display. I think the paint took just enough light to start the ball rolling, color-shift wise, and the years the model sat forlornly in a dark box couldn't save it. Much like skin cancer on a human being the damage had been done years before, while the model sat on a shelf exposed only to indirect sunlight (a window) and incandescent light. The tan paint shouldn't have shifted like that, but it did.
I'm not a chemist, so I'm not going to try to tell you why that paint changed, although I personally believe that the red (a constituent color of tan paint) faded over time, because red isn't a particular stable pigment. The point, in terms of this particular model and nothing else, is that the tan faded. There's a bigger point to be considered, though; one that may cause you some personal soul-searching.
We all like to believe that we're building for the ages. We want our models to last, and to stay just the way they were when they came off the workbench, but that's probably not going to happen. Clear-coats will yellow over time, thus skewing the color shades a little bit (and if you don't believe me I've got a ten-year old slightly-yellow bottle of Future I'd like to show you), and model paint can, and evidently will, fade or change hue with time. We're dealing with chemistry and pigments here, folks, and paint changes as the aromatics in it out-gasses over a period of time. Just because the paint is "completely" dry and sealed doesn't mean it isn't changing, albeit at a rate most of us will never notice. It happens on anything that's got paint on it, from your house to your car to real airplanes, so why shouldn't it happen to painted models as well?
That's the premise, so what's the conclusion? To my mind it's simple. The paint on our models will shift its hue over time. It's probably inevitable, with certain colors being more obviously effected than others. The Good News is that it probably doesn't matter very much at the end of the day. If that old F-111 model hadn't had operating swing-wings I never would have noticed the color shift it experienced, even though it was anything but subtle. There's now no doubt in my mind that some of my older models have also experienced a small amount of color shift, just like anything that's wearing a coat of paint will do. Now that I know it's probably happening I recognize it, but I also ignore it. It's a slow process and I honestly don't expect to have to be concerned about it during my lifetime. It ain't nothin' but a Thang, ya'll, but it's a Thang that'll give The Color Pedantics something else to worry about. For the rest of us, let's just build that model, paint it and seal it and decal it and seal it again, and then move on!
Opinions are welcomed. That address is email@example.com .
Some Naughty Novembers
We've got a thing for the 49th FG around here. Maybe it's the fact that they were successful with the P-40 when a great many other units weren't, or maybe we're just fascinated by the Group's heraldry. Whatever the allure is, we're fascinated by the unit, which means we're always excited when we receive images we haven't seen before. Johnathan Watson recently sent us some photos of 7th and 8th FS P-40Ns with nose art you might not be familiar with, and we'd like to share them with you today.
firstname.lastname@example.org . Johnathan Watson Collection
One more thing before we leave The Forty-Niners today---the sharp-eyed among you have probably already noticed that all but one of the images we've just shown you are on the starboard side of the aircraft. That doesn't mean that that's all there was, however. From its earliest days the group tended to put nose art on both sides of their aircraft, not just one, and that art was often completely different from one side to the other. That makes these images all the more fascinating, and gives us a small research project to boot! Many thanks to Johnathan for the use of the photos.
More Memories of Misawa
Some of you may, by now, be speculating that we would devote this blog to Misawa Air Base and the goings on thereof if it were in our power to do so. The simple truth is that we loved the place, and thoroughly enjoyed our stay there. Allow us to reminisce for a moment and tell you why by means of a couple of There I Was stories. (We know you're probably sick of them by now, but we're not. Feel free to skip on down to the pictures if you'd prefer not to endure yet another story of mis-spent youth!)
Story the First involved a very simple adventure, mundane to most but formative to a 14-year-old Phillip Friddell. There we were (I'm using that annoying third person again), standing out in the yard in front of Jack Dusenberry's quarters one fine Spring afternoon in 1963, when jet noise caused us to look upwards. There it was; the first real F-102A we'd ever seen in our lives, and it was honking over the base housing area at what seemed to be a rather sporty rate of speed, all banked over (to the point where we could easily see the pilot sitting in the cockpit) and showing off a set of red and black checkerboards on its tail. It was a "Deuce", ya'll; a real live F-102A, and it was doing everything it needed to do to impress an aviation-struck teenager short of loosing a salvo of rockets. That was it---in that brief moment we knew beyond any doubt that we were going to enjoy living in Japan.
Story the Second was one of those things that a lot of folks don't think happens at American Military Installations, but they do, and in this case the hi-jinx resulted in an Article 15 for a pair of young airmen. The year was 1964, the last full year before the 4th FIS rotated back to the Land of the Big BX, and the place was the taxiway near the alert barns wherein the 4th kept a pair of '102s, loaded and cocked and ready to launch at a moment's notice if the whistle blew. Those alert birds were rotated out periodically for servicing, so there was a fairly constant stream of F-102s being pulled around the ramp by tow tractors.
Dragging airplanes around a flight line with a tug is a fun thing the first time or two you do it, but boredom sets in as soon as the shiny wears off that particular penny, which is what we presume caused the two young airmen operating said tugs to decide they needed to stage a drag race. Yep, you heard that right; a drag race. Each tug was hooked up to a fueled and armed "Deuce" which, in a sense, made it a fair competition for all concerned. A fellow conspirator served as the starting flagman, and it has to be presumed that another accomplice sat at the designated finish line, although he apparently got away before anybody could positively identify him. Imagine, if you will, how totally out of place it is to have a pair of jet fighters, firmly attached to tow tractors, sitting side by side on a taxiway while a third airman stands in front of them twirling his arms in the air in the finest Gentlemen, Start Your Engines tradition. The start was apparently something to see (and was seen, in the control tower and elsewhere), but the finish was relatively anticlimactic once the Security Police got there. The story was all over the base by the next morning, and the tug drivers were minor-league celebrities for at least ten minutes. They probably didn't want a career in the Air Force anyway.
Story the Third was an ongoing one and probably made for great stories in the O-Club stag bar, but Story the Third was a scary story too in as much as it involved periodic incursions of Japanese airspace by The Bad Guys and intercepts of said Bad Guys by those checkerboard-adorned fighters. Things apparently got a little sporty from time to time (one of my friend's dads once told me of a twilight chase through the nearby mountains trying to catch a snooper), but it was all in a day's work. It's why they were there; it was all part of the job.
At any rate, the 4th FIS was a rarity in PACAF, a fighter unit that had spent The Big One flying in one of those other theaters of operations rather than in the Pacific. We're not interested in that North African and European service today, though, so we're going to skip right past it, at least for the moment. Instead, we'll take up the story in February of 1947, when the squadron took over the P-61s formerly flown by the 418th Night Fighter Squadron and assumed station at Yontan, Okinawa. The squadron transitioned to F-82s during 1949 (and briefly flew combat missions in them over Korea during 1950-51) and did TDY in Japan---the 4th gave up the last of its F-61s while there. The F-82s bit the dust in 1952, replaced by F-94s, which lasted until their replacement by F-86Ds in 1954. For our purposes the final chapter in the 4th's history began with the acquisition of F-102s in 1960, which the squadron kept until rotation back to the ZI in 1965. In Okinawa they were stationed at Yontan, Naha, and Kadena Air Bases, while their sole base in mainland Japan was at Misawa. Thanks to the kindness of Marty Isham we're going to take a look at several of the 4th's aircraft flown during their stay in the Far East.
Under the Radar
Every once in a while you find one of those books that becomes a favorite just because of the way it's written. Today's offering is one of those special books.
If you want a copy for your own library you'll have to get it through one of the on-line booksellers or maybe at a trade table at a scale model show, since it's been out of print for many years. It cost a whopping three bucks when it was new, and probably won't set you back much more than that today. It'll be well worth the effort too. Don't believe us? Just grab a copy and flip to the chapter entitled "Forty Americans Cornered Over Bitburg". You'll understand what we mean. Recommended.
Mud Doesn't Care Who You Are
The Relief Tube
We've got a couple of comments to share with you today, so let's get started:
First, from Doug Barbier:
Phil, that last Happy Snap (in our most recent issue) certainly caught me by surprise. It was a sad day in more than one way - I flew as #3 in the last mission the unit flew - a 6-ship demonstration for the rest of the unit. The only flying we did after that was to ferry the jets off to either another unit or the boneyard. So it was my last flight and the last of the fighters for the 171st. As an aside - I drove 777s not 747s but the end result was the same. My son Geoff took the picture. Doug
Thanks, Doug, and apologies to Geoff for not properly crediting the photo.
In that 80s T-33 piece we ran a photo of an NAS Key West ramp full of ANG T-33s and commented that we didn't know what the occasion was. If you recall we asked the photographer, Rick Morgan, to explain what was going on. Here's his response:
Phil: The gathering of ADC-related T-33As at Key West occurred on 5 Dec 1980 and was related to an Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI) of the “Tarpon” radar site at the base as well as the Aerostat blimp that was tethered at Cudjoe Key. Three of the T-birds were from the 46th ADW at Tyndall (53-5818, 58-0632, 58-0527), 125th FIG (FL ANG) 53-5325, 177TH FIG (NJ ANG) 57-0715. Rick
Thanks, Morgo! (And, for the record, we've got more T-Birds on the way as well as some pertinent comments from a former T-33 driver, so stay tuned!)
And that's it for today. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon!