Those of you who follow this highly irregular publication with any degree of regularity (did he really say that?) will recall that I've had enough time in grade to be what we shall call older than dirt. In translation, that means that I've been both privileged and, on rare occasion, cursed, by the fact that I've known a lot of people in the hobby, but today we're going to take a positive spin and talk about one of that privileged variety, a fellow we're going to call Uncle Bobby. (That's actually his nickname in real life, too, but we're not going to use his whole moniker because so many people are sensitive about such things nowadays---he'll know who he is but you'll have to guess, so just roll with it, ok?)
Right, then; so what about Uncle Bobby, and why do we want to talk about him? The answer to that one is easy and, as always, there's a point to be taken from the discussion.
Uncle Bobby first showed up on the local modeling scene in 1969 or so, a transplant from Houston with an interest in aviation and model airplanes. He appeared one fine day at our local IPMS chapter meeting, introduced himself, and pretty much set us all on our collective ears with the model airplane he'd brought along to help establish his street creds.
Do any of you remember that year: 1969? Airfix, British Revell, and Frog were pretty much at the top of the heap in terms of kits of plastic model airplanes, with those Japanese upstarts Tamiya and Hasegawa steadily nibbling away at the established structure of the hobby (a veritable repeat of what Honda, et al, did to the British motorcycle industry of the era, but I digress). There were perhaps a dozen or so producers of aftermarket decals, one of which was the recently-emergent MicroScale, and a handful of people produced enamel paints specifically for the model airplane guys, although mix-your-own was still pretty much the order of the day way back then. The good modelers, or at least the ones who thought they were good, were all buying airbrushes (usually a Binks Wren B or a Paasche H) and attempting to use them and then, as now, there was an "in" crowd who defined the local definition of The Hobby, or who at least thought they did, and also, then as now, there was an established pecking order, and everyone pretty much had to conform to it or be cast out. Well, maybe not quite everybody...
When Uncle Bobby walked into that meeting room one fine Sunday afternoon back in 1969 he brought a recently completed Airfix TBD Devastator with him. The assembly work on that model was impeccable, with nary a one of the kit's thousands of rivets sullied in the process of assembly and finishing, and the completed airframe was a thing of beauty. The paintwork, pre-War silver and Yellow Wing, was superb, absolutely flawless, and the decals appeared to have been painted on the model. It was, for the time and place, quite a revelation. It was also more than a little disturbing to that "in" crowd we mentioned, because the superlative paint job had been done by hand, with a regular hobby brush, using paint from those little square Testor bottles, and adding insult to injury by utilizing the decals included in the kit! (Everybody knew that kit decals were absolutely worthless, even back in 1969.) Think about it, ya'll: A virtually stock kit using kit decals and painted with a generic hobby paint rather than something aimed at the discerning aircraft modeler, and using kit stickies. The heresy of it all! The horror! The horror...
And that, friends and neighbors, brings us to The Point, if you will. Think about what I just said up there: This new guy came in and, without an airbrush, aftermarket decals, or overpriced paint intended specifically for plastic model airplanes, and with a somewhat difficult kit to boot, knocked our collective appendages in the dirt, and did it all with grace and good manners. That TBD he'd brought along wasn't just better than what the rest of us were doing, it was a jump to a whole new level. It was a revelation.
Time marched on and Uncle Bobby eventually bought an airbrush, and somewhere along the line he began using aftermarket decals as well. Both of those things raised the bar that much higher for everyone concerned and, quite frankly, made him virtually unbeatable on the local contest circuit for as many years as he chose to compete.
Change up to Today, right now this minute, and look around you. Most "serious" modelers have airbrushes, some quite expensive, and aftermarket decals and specialty paints are the order of the day. Photo-etched and resin aftermarket parts have been added to the contemporary mix over the last 30 years or so, and it's gotten to the point where the actual kit is often the least-expensive thing in the scale modeler's bill of materials for any particular project. You have to have those things if you're going to be taken seriously in the hobby. That's the contemporary definition of The Game and everybody knows it, yet every once in a while somebody steps out of the woodwork using a basic kit, an old-fashioned paint brush and kit decals, throws in a little bit of scratch-building but minimal if any aftermarket, and just blows everyone out of the water with the results of their labors. Check out the completed model photos on all those other the modeling boards if you don't believe me!
Way back When, many years ago when I was racing motocross, it became evident that it wasn't necessarily the guy who had all the expensive and cool stuff who was the rider to beat. It was the guy who knew how to ride the damn motorcycle and wasn't afraid to try that ended up in the winner's circle and that, my friends, takes us right up to today's point, to wit: If you want to be good at something you need to jump in and actually try to do it. None of the fancy stuff will help you if you don't acquire the skills first, and sometimes it takes an Uncle Bobby to teach us that embarrassing lesson. Think about it, ya'll...
It ain't what you do; it's how you do it.
J Geils Band
The Eduard "Dog" Revisited
In many respects we've already beaten the Eduard P-39 kit into submission on more than one occasion, but yet another one is in the works here at the ranch and we'd like to re-visit and hopefully clarify a couple of the things we previously discussed.
At this point you're probably all thinking (quite possibly hoping?) that you've seen the last of the Eduard P-39 on these pages, but it seems as though I learn something else every time I build one, so it's fairly safe to say we're not done yet! Stay tuned...
A Movie You Need to See
OK, everyone reading this blog who likes airplane movies, raise your hand! Wow; that many of you? Let's try a different approach, then: Everyone reading this blog who's seen Angels One Five, raise your hand! Anybody? Beuller? Beuller?
Actually, that was kind of a set-up in a way, since most people have never even heard of Angels One Five, much less actually seen it, but it's one of those must-watch kind of movies if you're an aviation buff. Why's that, you might well ask? Well, for starters: It's a 1952-vintage black and white British film about a fighter squadron just before and during the Battle of Britain, and it features two real Hawker Hurricane Mk Is and a Mk IIc from the RAF and Hawker respectively, and five Mk IIc Hurricanes loaned by the Portuguese air force, along with a cameo performance by a real Bf110, which airframe was scrapped shortly after the completion of the film. The "Hurris" weather out beautifully as the movie progresses and the flying sequences are pretty darned amazing when compared to most other aviation films (and that includes aviation films from any era!) because real pilots of the era are flying the airplanes and there's virtually no "enhancement" of any of the images.
The cast does a better-than-average job, the action is properly understated, and the movie was filmed at RAF Kenley so the location smacks of realism. The plot is far more believable than most such endeavors can offer, and the movie is absolutely amazing on every level. It's available on DVD nowadays but can also be found for free on Amazon Prime (presuming you're a member) or really and truly for free on YouTube. It's a must-see even if your tastes don't normally run to that sort of thing. Recommended.
Just Another Hack
Or maybe not. I was looking for something a little bit different for this issue and Rick Morgan was apparently reading my mind---the photos you're about to view arrived literally within the past hour. They're of a subject familiar to most of us---the North American T-39 Sabreliner, but they're somewhat unique in that most of them represent aircraft in service with line squadrons rather than the far more ubiquitous TraCom birds. Let's take a look:
The Sabreliner was once a common sight in the American military, and we've got other shots of it hiding around here someplace for their debut another day. Until that time, many thanks to Rick for providing these fascinating examples of the type in Navy service.
The Unsung Heros
Shortly after publication of our January issue I received an e-mail from Steve Birdsall, who commented regarding the folks on the flight deck who make it all work:
Phil, I really enjoyed the Skyraider photos. I share your admiration of the “unsung heroes” . . . I tried to capture something of that with the attached photo. It was taken late one afternoon in January 1967 on the flight deck of Ticonderoga on Yankee Station. That’s VA-52’s #311, Bu No 142023. I didn’t get the lighting quite right and it’s never been published, but I still like it.
Plain and Simple
Aerospace has progressed by leaps and bounds over the past 50 years or so, which makes it worthwhile to take a look back at simpler times. Thanks to the generosity of Jim Sullivan we're going to do that very thing today!
One more thing before we go---do any of you hold images of American F-80s, either USAF, ANG, or Navy, in your photo collections? If so, we'd sure like to see them! That e-mail address is
An Airplane for the Big Guy
There was a time, not all that long ago, when American military transports had reciprocating engines, generally of the radial variety. They were noisy, their engines leaked oil like there was no tomorrow, and they were state-of-the-art until Boeing changed everything with their 707 (and derivative) family of transports. Mark Morgan was going through the photo archives at the AMC history office a while back and came up with these images of one of the most gorgeous transports ever built:
USAFE Bugsuckers to End the Day
A few months ago we were pleasantly surprised to hear from a reader who also happened to be an old friend from the 1980s; Scott Wilson. Scott was a blue-suiter when we met him, and his time in the Air Force gave him ample opportunity for photography. As a result of that opportunity he sent us quite a bit of McDonnell Douglas Phantom imagery to share with you, and we've got a handful of photos to start the ball rolling today. You've already seen his photography here, but this issue begins an ongoing look at the F-4 in service with USAFE. Let's see what Scott's got for us!
We have quite a few images from Scott's collection that we'll be sharing with you in the months ahead, so stay with us!
Another Movie You Have to See!
And we're going to give you the link to it right here, so you don't even have to go to the theater, buy a DVD, or do any of those other things we normally associate with such adventures! This particular film is from the collection of the Australian War Memorial and provides us with an eleven-plus minute look into RAAF operations out of Milne Bay during 1942.
The film was originally shot as a home movie and is in color, but sans sound. There is narration, however, and the film is absolutely remarkable for both the aircraft shown (including some USAAF P-39s) and for the graphic depiction of the horrible operational conditions those guys faced every single day in the Southwest Pacific. Bobby Rocker found the video for us and sent along the link, for which we are grateful indeed! Thanks, Bobby!
The Relief Tube
We don't have much in the way of comments or corrections today (where are you guys?), but we do have a comment or two to share:
First, from Rick Morgan concerning that photo essay we did on the Hasegawa P-40 last issue:
Phil- Love the piece you did on Hasegawa P-40s last blog. Always appreciated that aircraft and the P-40E specifically. Although few fighters looked better with sharks teeth (maybe the F-4E) I’ve never built one marked for the AVG (too “average”). I’d much rather do the 49th or some other obscure outfit- my last one was for the 11th FS in the Aleutians without the tiger head. Tillman, myself and a couple of others were waxing a couple of years ago about what was the “Best of the Second Best Fighters” of WWII. The P-40 is way up there; higher than a Hurricane I’d say (quite a few Desert AF units converted from Hurris to Kitty Hawks as I recall) and the Warhawk is certainly way up there in the “Valiant” column. The only other aircraft I’d say might rank higher was the F4F. Certainly nothing Russian; while the Luftwaffe didn’t fly anything I’d call “second best”. Rick
Thanks for your kindness, Rick, and for the opportunity just presented! Folks, re-read what Rick said regarding The Best of the Second Best World War Two Fighters and think about it for a minute. On a personal level, I'd have to say that the theoretically outclassed Polikarpov I-16 family both could, and in many cases did, hold their own in aerial combat against the Luftwaffe in the early days of the war in the East, which adds them to the list in my mind if no one else's. That's my opinion; what about yours? If you've got a horse in this race, please drop us a line at replicainscale at yahoo dot com (but take out the spaces or all you'll get is frustration!) and let us know your opinion. It's not a contest and there are no prizes of any sort---there's also no right or wrong answer---but we'll publish what you send in and, since we aren't any of Those Other Guys, your submissions will be treated with dignity and respect! Let's have some fun, ya'll; what do you say?
Rick, thanks to you and Barrett for a great idea! Let's see where it takes us!
And also related to the P-40, here's a comment from John Mollison:
Phil - Thank you. P-40s are beautiful airplanes…they have the shape, the style and the mission that embody whatever a ‘romantic’ writer wants. Your model makes me want to invent time travel and work with the tool… John Mollison
For those of you who aren't aware of the fact, John runs a wonderful aviation art web site, a link to which is provided on this blog. If you haven't been there to visit we strongly encourage you to do it at your earliest convenience. It's well-worth a few minutes of your time to drop in and see what he's been doing!
Finally, we occasionally receive comments that take us back to the earlier days of the project, either correcting a caption for us or adding additional information. Erik, from the Netherlands, has done both in this comment regarding an AV-8 shot we ran back in 2010:
Hi Phillip. In your blog at 30 august 2010 you have a photo of an AV-8A with the text: "Mystery Meat. I know absolutely nothing about this shot, but it gives a neat perspective on deck operations with the AV-8A, so here you are. Note that the IFR probe has been removed in this photo. US Navy". I had a closer look at the photo. - the model is an AV-8C because of the strakes on the gun pods, the retractable dam between the pods and the formation lights. - the photo was not taken on a US ship but a British ship, most likely the HMS Hermes. - The Sea King in the back and and the dress of the sailor are typical British. - Furthermore the extension of the deck and the lines / markings are for Sea Harrier operations (the so-called tram lines). Take a look at this picture:
The AV-8C is most definitely on the spot of the first Sea King. Note as well the box on the edge of the deck in both photos. I never heard before of AV-8A/C cross decking on the HMS Hermes. Maybe you could post that question on your blog. Best regards, Erik
OK, guys, what about it? Does anyone out there know anything further regarding the photograph in question? Drop us a note at replicainscale at yahoo dot com (once again, without the spaces and with an at sign (@) and a dot (.) in the appropriate places, and help us solve this mystery!
Thanks for writing in, Erik!
And that's it for today, ya'll. Be good to your neighbor, and with any luck we'll meet again soon!