What About the Kids?
Every once in a while it's good to think outside the box, plastic kit wise, and this past week was one of those times for me. I've been on a Korean War binge of late and have, in that vein, been enjoying the magic of one of my two remaining bottles of Floquil Old Silver in the creation of the required weathered natural metal finishes, an activity which led me to consider building the relatively new Eduard Spitfire Mk XVI. My chosen subject was a late example of the type, a post-War example in overall silver from 601 Sqdn RAF, and the build was what can only be described as pleasurable, although I'd be more than a little remiss if I didn't mention that Eduard's choice of landing gear attachment did cause me to utter what that old-time cowboy song termed a discouraging word (or two).
Let's use that landing gear, all draped in colorful epithets, as the starting point for today's ramble. It occurred to me while arguing with its attachment that other people had complained about it too, so it wasn't just my inherent ineptitude that was causing the problem. It was the way those parts were designed to fit together and it was a challenge, although it wasn't the end of my own personal polystyrene world by any means. I eventually figured out how Eduard meant for things to go together and everything turned out just fine in the end. The thing that got me thinking wasn't the gear installation itself, though; it was the fact that I've been doing this stuff since 1956 and have, for the most part, learned enough tricks of the trade to cope with almost any sort of plastic foolishness a manufacturer could come up with, and this kit threw me a curve.
What's the point, you may well ask yourself. That Friddell guy had trouble with the Spitfire, but so what? I probably won't---to use yet another set of old cowboy song lyrics he'd probably use to describe his misadventure, "it's your misfortune and none of my own". Ok then; maybe you won't, but what if you happen to be ten or twelve years old and the proud owner of an Eduard kit of almost any flavor, or maybe someone a little older who has developed an interest in the hobby and decided to buy that first kit and try things on for size? In a case like that, Eduard's landing gear could easily be the deal-breaker that pushes the novice right out of the hobby (that's presuming all the teensy-tiny detail parts included with almost any Eduard kit don't do the job first).
It's not just an Eduard problem either; I mention them because I happen to like their kits and build a lot of them. I've also been doing this stuff for a while, so most of my problems regarding the hobby are self-induced and I fully understand that phenomena. When I mess something up I take a deep breath and go back to figure out where I went wrong so I can fix the problem. You probably do a variation of the same thing but your typical Newbie won't, particularly if he or she happens to be on the youngish side.
We could easily make the point that a rank beginner shouldn't be starting off with a kit such as the Eduard "Spitty", but quite a few people new to the hobby buy kits based on box art and price. A Profi-Pack Eduard Anything is going to cost fifty bucks or more, but their Weekend Edition of same will start in the twenty to thirty-dollar range, which is affordable for some kids. Let's consider the consequences.
Junior Newbie wants to build plastic model airplanes because he's interested in both history and flight, and he's read about the legendary Supermarine Spitfire. He's hooked, and he wants to build a model which will, of course, come out looking just like all those models he sees on the Internet. He finds himself an Eduard "Spit" of any flavor and it's a Weekend Edition so he can afford it if he puts off buying that new video game until next week. He plunks down his money and takes it home, excited and ready to build a model of his favorite airplane, and reality sets in when he discovers he can't get past the cockpit or wheel wells. His new treasure is an unmitigated disaster and ends up in the trash can, while he goes back to playing video games. We lose another aspiring scale modeler but in the grand scheme of things we, as a hobby, lose a whole lot more than that.
Most plastic kits of recent design are intended for the modeler who's been at it a while, and said kits tend to cater to the high side of the standard. Some are unnecessarily complicated, and many of the limited-run specimens are virtually impossible for the novice to successfully complete. All of these things conspire against the kid (or novice adult) who's infatuated with model airplanes and wants to get into the hobby. They give a model an honest shot but, quite by accident, purchase something that's intended for the guy or gal who's got the chops to deal with what we're going to call severe polystyrene idiosyncrasies and they fail. They walk away from the hobby but that's no big deal, right? WRONG!
A great many of us are a rapidly aging demographic as far as this hobby is concerned yet a whole bunch of the newer kits are aimed at us; the Old Guys (relatively speaking, of course) who can afford the initial purchase price of our toys and have achieved the skills necessary to turn them into the models we want them to be. Eduard could be the poster child in terms of the production of the models we want to have, because they listen to what their customer base have to say and they act on what they hear. They don't always get it right in terms of accuracy but you can't fault their kits as kits---they're superb! The problem is; they're also largely unsuited for beginners.
This is a discussion that could go round and round, but in simplest terms you and I have a mission when possible; a duty, if you will, to help The New Guy or Gal, or The Young Guy or Gal, pick out kits they can actually be successful with if they decide they want to experience the magic of this hobby of ours. Hobby Boss has a range of kits intended for the relative newcomer to the hobby, as do a few other manufacturers, and there are still simple kits being boxed and marketed that were originally designed in the 50s and 60s and are pretty easy to assemble. That means the kits are out there, just waiting for someone who's new to the hobby to discover the magic we've enjoyed all these years. Maybe, just maybe, you ought to help the Newbie pick out something they can be successful with. It's the right thing for them because it will let them get the results they want with a whole lot less angst than they might otherwise have to endure, and it's the right thing for all of us because it helps fill the pipeline with aspiring modelers as we graybeards inevitably age out of the hobby, thus ensuring that there are still quality kits and accessories around for the remaining serious scale modelers to enjoy in years to come. Today is truly the Golden Age of plastic modeling and Today is likely to last for a few more years but, inevitably, the brand spanking new wonder-kits we're able to purchase now will begin to dwindle away as fewer and fewer modelers buy them because the folks that produce the kits aren't altruistic to any great extent. If they can't make money they won't produce new kits and at the end of the day we'll all suffer for it.
What do you say, then? Are you willing to help the novice modeler choose kits he or she can actually complete? Are you willing to help steer them through their first few models so they'll stay with the hobby, thus ensuring new and better kits for us all? Are you ready to do that? Can I get an Amen?
Think about it, ya'll; it's most assuredly the right thing to do!
Speaking of Getting Older
It seems like only yesterday that the F-16 Fighting Falcon entered the inventory but it has, in fact, been substantially more than a few years since that event and the Electric Jet has now achieved a certain seniority on life that rarely registers on those of us who have been around a while. Just to put things in perspective, here's a shot you may not have seen before of a B-model with a really neat paint job:
THIS is How It's Done!
We're greatly privileged around here because we're read by quite a few of the heavy hitters in our hobby. A lot of our discussion with those guys occurs over the telephone, but we still receive a bunch of e-mails as well. The following images came to us via the internet and from one of those aforementioned heavy hitters, Pat Donahue, who's polystyrene skill-sets are to be envied. He sent these photos a couple of months ago and they, plus shots of the completed airplane, have long since appeared on several of the plastic modeling web sites, which means they aren't exactly brand new to most of us. They are, however, excellent depictions of a project in work by someone we consider to be a master of the craft, so let's take a look at what we've got.
And that's it for this particular essay. Pat did finish the model, as we mentioned up there in the introduction, and you can see how it came out over on Hyperscale and, I suspect, a few other sites as well. Many thanks to Pat for the images and the opportunity to share them with all of you!
Something Rarely Seen
At least on this web site! We almost never run photography depicting any airplane in service after the very early 1990s, but this shot is really pretty and we need to share it with you:
Thanks as always to Mark for sharing the photo with us.
Those Guys Liked the "Jug"
Yes they did. In point of fact, you could probably say the guys in the 348th FG loved the airplane once they figured out how to properly employ it in combat. There's a fair amount of photography out there depicting the group during their days with the P-47D, but it's sometimes a little difficult to come up with something that everyone hasn't already seen. In that light we're guessing a few of you may have seen these images before, but they're new to us and they're something special!
Please note that I had originally attributed these photos to the collection of Bobby Rocker. I had mis-filed the original images when I received them and the rest, as some folks say, is history! That said, there truly aren't enough superlatives to adequately describe Bobby and his ongoing dedication to the preservation of those images of a remarkable time in our history and we'll show you a photo that actually is from his collection in a minute, but first let me apologize to Gerry Kersey for the mistake I made when I captioned these photos. Gerry's another one of the Good Guys who deserves credit for preserving the history of the the greatest generation, and we most assuredly want to give credit where credit's due. Yes; these photos could be better quality (and probably were, once upon a time), but the airplanes they depict, and the attitude and sacrifice of the men who maintained and flew them, are a significant part of our aviation heritage and their preservation is both remarkable and appreciated. Time hasn't been overly kind to those photos but they're here and, because of Gerry, Bobby, and so many others like them, we can all treasure them for the irreplaceable record they are. Thanks, guys, for everything you do!
Just One More
From the Rocker Collection, that is!
Thanks once again to Bobby Rocker's kindness, both for the photograph and for the enigma it presents to us!
A Different Bobby
You remember Maddog John Kerr, right? Well, way back in what constituted the beginning of The Publishing Day for me, I spent a lot of time in his home looking at airplane slides, a fair number of which came from a fellow named Bob Burns. Bob's photography stood out in John's collection, both for the uniqueness of its subject matter and for its exceptional quality, because Bob had ramp access at Pax River and used that access to the max. Here's an example of the sort of thing we're talking about:
We Wish We Knew
Not about the airplanes---we can pretty much figure that part out. No; the confusion part comes from the photographer of these images. They reside in our collection but we don't have a clue, not the first idea, who took them! (Well, actually we do---we're guessing Rick Morgan to be the culprit here...) We don't know when or where they were taken either, which makes them Mystery Meat par excellence, but lack of information never stopped us before and they're a really good way to end this edition so, without further delay:
Finally, here are a couple of shots of VF-102 F-14A Tomcats to round out our homage to The Mystery Photographer:
And that's it for today's Mystery Meat! (Would the real photographer please stand up? Beuller? Beuller?)
And it's time for a correction already, a mere five hours after I originally posted this particular photo essay. Rick Morgan sent in an e-mail which is of interest, I think:
Phil- Nice work, as always, but none of those Navy shots are mine! VFC-12 used overall gloss dark engine gray as a standard paint scheme for years for some reason. It certainly doesn’t look bad either. Those shots all appear to be at their Oceana home. The brown camo A-4 is from VF-126; picture is obviously at Miramar. While both of the Oceana adversary units (VF-43 and VC/VFC-12) had “house” colors in their later A-4 days, the West Coast units (VF-126, VA-127) painted practically all their aircraft differently. Very few of them were alike.
The Intruder is definitely VA-75, also home at Oceana. If the last two digits are “96” as they appear, that makes it about four possible aircraft… another classic example of how TPS’ grays melted into each other over time. Not a problem on, say, that Black Falcon KA-6D off to the right.
Many thanks, Rick! Now then, would the guy who shot the airplanes in this piece please get in touch with me so I can properly credit the images? Please?
Happy Snaps, and Under the Radar
Not today, folks. Things have been absolutely lunatic crazy around here for the past couple of months and I've really had to push to get this issue out so you wouldn't think I'd forgotten about you! With any luck those departments will be back with the next issue.
The Relief Tube
We honestly weren't prepared to run a Relief Tube this issue, but an hour or so ago I received a couple of comments from Doug Barbier that I felt needed to be published:
Phil, Another great blog - as usual! I really liked the opener about the graying of the hobby and helping out the newcomers, as well as the internet types who generally have no factual knowledge of the actual aircraft that they are raving/complaining about. I have sent a couple of e-mails to both xxx and xxx (internet modeling websites that I'm choosing to keep anonymous. Editor) about factual inaccuracies in reviews that would lead the unknowing the wrong direction and were unjustified in the face of the plastic/resin in question being accurate, and have received dead silence in return. Or when I tried to answer a couple of questions that were asked on the discussion forums---people did not want to hear a factual answer, they were more interested in flaming someone who did not see things "their" way. So I simply quit participating there rather than spend the time and effort just to get flamed - I have plenty of other things to keep me busy... I feel sorry for the poor guy who initially asked an honest question...(This) is a sad state of affairs, because I have more than a fair amount of knowledge that I could share - and there are plenty of misconceptions and fallacies out there.
Doug, I couldn't agree more! The things you describe are 100% of the reason we don't run an open forum on this site. And for our readers: Doug's comments are part of an e-mail discussing something else and have therefore been heavily edited by me, but they're so germane to what we try to do around here that I thought they needed to be published. Your comments regarding this particular Relief Tube entry are welcome and encouraged as long as they're civil, polite, and on-topic!
Now we're done! Be good to your neighbor and we'll try to meet again real soon!