Sunday, February 2, 2014
A Rebirth of Enthusiasm
Have you ever been stuck in a rut? More specifically, have you ever been stuck in a rut of the modeling persuasion and, more specifically than even that, have you ever been stuck in a modeling rut and not realized that you were? Well, folks, that's where we, or more specifically I, spent most of last year. Two Bf109Es, an Me109F, and a quartet of Fw190s, all from the Eastern Front, managed to add themselves to the collection during the course of 2013---all Luftwaffe aircraft and all representing operations in one specific geographic location. I had a great deal of fun building them and was, for the most part, happy with the way those models came out, but there was a catch; to wit:
It was pretty obvious that my modeling world was narrowing down considerably. It's true that I started that T-6 a while back, but it's been languishing on the shelf, ready to go into Corrosion Control for a paint job, for the past 8 months or so. There's a mostly completed A-4E that's been sitting there a whole lot longer than that (I started it way back when I started this blog!), and that Albatros DV I keep mentioning that only needs a little bit of touch-up and rigging to be complete, but none of those things are sitting on the display shelf at the moment. They're all works in process. What actually did get done, and all that got done, was a bunch of Second World War German stuff. I was in a rut.
Late last year, while in the throes of looking for yet another Eastern Front German aircraft to build, I had an epiphany (today's word) and drug out the fairly recent Hobby Boss FJ-4B kit, which resulted in the articles you've been following for the past couple of issues (you have been following them, right?). It got itself both built and finished (mostly, since I never completely finish anything), and is sitting on display as I type these words. That inspired me to drag down a Hasegawa F-104C kit and start on it, which resulted in a SEA "Zipper" from the 479th TFW being added to the collection---all it needs is to have the canopy painted and attached and a little bit of touch-up and it's done, and that particular project caused me to venture into the out-building Jenny likes to refer to as The Hangar and drag out a Monogram F-4D that I built way back in the 1980s and begin restoration work on it, which in turn caused me to pull out the Academy F-86F kit and begin work on it too. I was, and am, on a roll---all of these things have transpired over the course of the past three weeks! I managed to loft the front wheel out of that rut, to use a term from my motocross days, and move on to Other Things, specifically American jets. (That's where the original Replica in Scale hung its hat, if you recall, which means that the project has come full circle, sort-of.)
There's something else to be considered here too. A couple of months ago Doug Barbier was chiding me about mostly building shake-and-bake Japanese kits of recent manufacture instead of the tougher, but often more interesting, kits of the 80s and 90s---specifically the classic Monogram "Century Series" kits. He was right; those Hasegawa and Eduard Luftwaffe birds were easy dates in the truest meaning of the word. I could've built them in my sleep. The Fury was a lot tougher than those kits, and Some Modeling Skills were definitely required. The F-104 was a slam-dunk, of course, but the F-86 is causing me to clean out the cobwebs and remember how we used to do things back in The Good Old Days when there was more to modeling than careful assembly, and the restoration of that Phantom has become a minor challenge all its own. And you know what? I'm having some serious fun with all this! I had to drag decals out of the spares box for the FJ and deal with a very slight mod of the basic kit, and it was fun. It's been forever since I've built anything that was representative of USAF involvement in The Late SouthEast Asia War Games, so I had to mix the two greens since we live out in the country a great many miles from the nearest hobby shop and I wanted to paint the airplane in colors I didn't have on hand---so mix the two greens I did, and it was fun. I'm correcting small things, adding details where needed, and polishing the airframe on that F-86 so I can make it all shiny and silver, and that's fun too.
Fun. Isn't that why most of us got into this hobby? That's the reason I started doing it, way back when I was five or so years old; because it was fun. Fun's why I've stayed with it all these years, and fun's why I still do it, except that I wasn't having nearly as much of it as I used to (remember that part way up at the beginning about being in a rut?). A simple change of focus made things all better for me, and made the hobby fun again. I'm really digging on those jets, ya'll!
So what's really going on here? Did I simply change out my hobby fixations and move from one area to another? No; I don't think so, because I've also been arguing with the AmTech Hs123 which is, if you recall, the old Esci offering reborn. It's on hold at the moment because I'm building American jets instead of German fighters and fighter-bombers but I'll get back to it some day, just like I'll get back to doing some more airplanes from The Great War. I think the point to be taken is that we should all move around a little within the hobby and do things that aren't necessarily a primary interest for us. Look on it as a hobby within a hobby, if you will. It worked for me, so there's no reason it shouldn't work for you too---it's definitely worth a shot and I'll bet it ups the Fun Factor for you just like it did for me.
You can thank me later.
None of It's Safe
"It", of course, being military aviation. As enthusiasts and modelers we all tend to look at the glamorous side of things but rarely, if ever, give a thought to the more mundane side of the picture. A lot of us tend to read about, and build models of, fighters and fighter bombers, bombers, and other related examples of airborne death and destruction, but it's a rare modeler indeed who spends much time messing around with the far more mundane military transport.
With that as a premise, we're going to rely on the good graces of historian Mark Morgan and share some official USAF images of transports with you today. You'll notice a trend to those photos right away, but we've never been shy about stating the (extremely) obvious so we're going to let the cat out of the bag and tell you that all of them depict what happens when things go wrong in aviation. It's worth remembering that the guys who fly and crew the transports and tankers have a job that's every bit as risky as that performed by the ostensibly more glamorous fighter jocks. Let's take a look.
Easy to Overlook
It's often been mentioned, both by ourselves and by others, that we're living in a Golden Age as far as our hobby is concerned. There's no doubt that adage is true, but all the new uber-kits we've seen over the past few years should really be taken with a grain of salt---while it's true that some of them are absolutely amazing in terms of buildability and and detail, that doesn't mean that the older kits available to us should be ignored. Take, for instance, the Academy F-86F, the very same one I mentioned up there in our opening editorial.
Academy isn't the first company that generally comes to mind when experienced modelers think of accurate and easy-to-build model airplane kits, but that's a reputation that isn't entirely correct. While a great many of their offerings leave a little bit to be desired, it can honestly be said that some of their kits are as good as anything out there, requiring a minimum of work to produce an outstanding model airplane. Don't believe me? Well, then; take a look at this:
As with any model, the kit has a couple of minor issues that really ought to be corrected, and you can only get a hard-winged bird from it---it's molded with a decent representation of the 6-3 wing, while most of the available aftermarket decals are available for slat-winged Sabres, but there are ways around that. Stay tuned...
We LIKE the P-39
That's right; we have to admit to a considerable fondness for that beautiful but flawed little Bell fighter. Part of it is because "flawed" is a relative concept that traces back to an American (and British) combat career that was less than stellar to say the least. The exact same fighter, flying in a different operational environment by aircrew who understood the aircraft's limitations and worked around them, proved to be the mount of choice by a great many Soviet pilots, in who's hands it became an ace-maker. In other words, it ain't what you do, it's how you do it. That notion takes us to the study of a few P-39 photographs, supplied to us by Bobby Rocker. We're taking a somewhat different approach than we normally do this time around in that we'll be concentrating on the pilots and ground crew as well as the machines. Let's take a look.
They Weren't All From the 3rd
Korean War A-26s, that is. The 452nd BG, a former Second World War B-17 outfit that was reconstituted as a reserve light bombardment group during 1947, in the midst of the budding US Air Force's Wing Base Plan, could have been the Poster Child for that notion. Originally a unit on paper only, the group began receiving aircraft (the Douglas A-26 Invader) in mid-1949, in California. With the outbreak of the Korean conflict the 452nd initially transferred to Itazuke AB in Japan and then to Miho AB, their station until a mid-1951 transfer moved them to K-9 (Pusan East) in the RoK. Always a USAF Reserve unit, they stood down in 1952, transferring their aircraft to the 17th BW prior to transition back to the ZI. Their brief tour of active duty saw them in the thick of things with a sortie count of some 15,000 combat missions, nearly half of which were flown at night.
Several months ago we received an e-mail from one of our Australian readers, John Horne, asking if we might be interested in some unpublished Korean War-vintage A-26 photography. The images you're about to view are from John's collection---we're grateful to him and for his kindness in sharing them with us.
Many thanks to John Horne for these remarkable images!
While we don't do it often, it's not entirely unusual for us to make requests for specific material from time to time, and this is one of those instances. We've had a request for photography of Korean-War era 10th TRS A-26s which we can't fill---we have absolutely nothing in our files for that unit during their stay on the peninsula. If any of you have that sort of thing in your collection and would like to share them with us we'd sure like to see them. The address is email@example.com .
Under the Radar
Ok, ok; we know what you're going to tell us. The book was recently published and is on a mainstream topic. It isn't obscure, and everybody's seen it, so why run it here in our obscure or lesser-known books department? The answer to that one is simple: Although it's a mainstream sort of book and is one that every enthusiast of USAF history should own, we've seen it on relatively few bookshelves and therefore presume that only a few of you bought it when it was new.
While we don't normally consider "picture" books to be essential references, this one is different. For starters, Warren Thompson is an acknowledged authority on the topic covered, as is David McLaren. Almost all of the photography featured in the book is in color and well-complimented by the text, and a great deal of it is of the "rare" variety since it was taken by aircrew. As a bonus, several appendices are included and they're complete and highly usable as references in their own right. The book is, to use an overworked hack term, a goldmine of information, both photographic and textual, and the volume should be an essential component of any aviation library that leans towards the Korean War.
We haven't seen the book for sale in a retail outlet for a number of years but presume that the magic of the Internet will turn up one should you wish to add it to your collection. That's a quest well worth undertaking; the only negative we have regarding this volume is that it points out once again how badly the scale modeling community needs a decent kit of the F-86A, E, and early F (and preferably in 1/48th scale)! Recommended.
Mostly we run photos of older aircraft around here, since that's where our primary interest lies, but every once in a while we receive one of those photos that we just can't say "no" to. This photo is one of those.
The Relief Tube
I'm more than certain there's enough information in the "In" basket to allow us a healthy Relief Tube for this issue, but I'm equally certain that it'll be another week before publication if we wait while I go digging for the stuff and we're late already, aren't we?! Yep; I thought you'd see things our way so, until next time, be good to your neighbor! We'll meet again soon.