Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Mystery Airacobras, The Son of The Son of Neptune Returns, A Texas T-Bird, A Pretty Talon, and Some Nifty 109 Stuff
Stomp, Shout, Work It On Out, Or What A Silly Hobby This Can Be
A year or so ago the increasingly amazing folks over at Airfix announced that they would be releasing a 1/48th scale model of the Curtiss P-40B. That announcement quite literally set the world of plastic scale aircraft modeling on its collective ear, since the type had been horribly served by the industry in terms of kits in that scale and nobody had been able to substantially improve on the by-now primordial kit that Monogram had released way back in 1964. The general point of view within the hobby was that a decent kit in that scale would to all intents and purposes constitute a license to print money for the company smart enough to get it right, and the recently resuscitated Airfix had been on a roll for a while, with each new kit being substantially better in every way than whatever kit had come immediately before. Airfix had even taken the time and effort to measure a surviving and restored Hawk that had gone down in the former Soviet Union during the Great Patriotic War. Life was good.
There were, of course, a few hiccups along the way, the most significant of which (at the time) being a misplaced tailwheel well which was subsequently corrected prior to the release of the kit. Then it happened; a modeler on one of the boards began to compare the unreleased and totally unavailable-in-plastic kit's lines against period photographs and discovered an apparent anomaly regarding the lower fuselage lines, specifically in the area of the cooling flaps and that large fairing running along the ventral centerline to just aft of the trailing edge of the wing. That discovery, seemingly based primarily on speculation since there were no actual kits available to anyone at the time, started a poopy storm of discourse within the internet modeling community at large and on one or two web sites in particular. The resulting angst became so seemingly unbearable that a handful of people were actually stating, in print (electrons, actually, but let's not pick nits here), that they would never purchase the kit once it did become available because they were so disappointed that it wasn't going to be perfect.
Then the kit was released---in the UK a few weeks ago and more recently here in the States. That started up an entirely new round of electron-killing as the debate over that horribly flawed belly began all over again, this time in three-part harmony, with a fair number of people soundly lambasting Airfix for their unforgivable error. More reasonable folks offered up the opinion that the real example measured by Airfix had bellied in and not one of the handful of surviving long-nosed P-40s had an accurate-as-manufactured-by-Curtiss ventral area to examine or measure, and that the loft drawings that could provide the definitive answer don't seem to be around anymore, but none of that greatly reduced the general gnashing of teeth regarding the model. Then, as we all might have expected, the usual hue and cry went out for Resin, that miracle of modeling miracles and, indeed, the very salvation of Scale Plastic Modeling itself. To that end, someone is probably working up a fix as I type this (it couldn't hurt anything, I suppose) and the whole problem will inevitably go away just as soon as another manufacturer releases the next kit of the airplane we always wanted to model and, inevitably, pooches some part of it.
Okay; the problem won't really go away, but fewer people will continue to discuss it at the great lengths recently enjoyed because that P-40B will have become Yesterday's Papers soon enough. As an aside, I've got a copy of the kit on my desk as I write this and except for the prop it looks just fine to me, even with the less-than-perfect undersides. I'll agree that there are issues there but I'm going to tell you right here and now that they won't make all that much difference unless you choose to build the model and then display it upside-down, and even then there are only a handful of people on the planet who could look at that underside and specifically (and dimensionally) explain exactly what's wrong with it. Is the problem worth fixing? Of course it is, if that's what you want to do. Will it stop you from building a truly nice replica of an early P-40? I don't think so, because the rest of the kit is so very nice.
We've discussed this sort of thing before, right here on these very pages, but I'm going to repeat myself and provide you with my perspective on the subject, for whatever that perspective may or may not be worth. To wit:
If you absolutely positively have to own something that mimics the original article in each and every respect and detail, then you'll have to go get yourself said Original Article because no model, in any medium or kitted or built by anybody, is going to be 100% accurate. It ain't gonna happen, not today, not tomorrow, and not ever. 35-plus years in aerospace, a great many years of which were spent in the manufacturing of airframes, convinces me beyond a doubt that The Real Thing is rarely, if ever, done entirely to the designer's drawings. If that aforementioned Real Thing deviates from the drawings (and it often does---that's one of the many reasons God invented drawing revisions and change notices), then your model honestly doesn't stand much of a chance, does it?
What, then, should we reasonably expect from a kit? You may well have a differing view of things, but my own personal expectations are as follows: Reasonably accurate scale dimensions and shapes. Reasonably accurate contours. Reasonably accurate details. If those things are present I can take the ball and run with it from there, and can choose whether or not the inevitable issue(s) is/are worth the time and effort to fix. I truly do want to start out with the best and most accurate kit I can obtain of any given subject and, in that same vein, I want the finished model to be as good as it can be given my extraordinarily modest skills, but that Airfix P-40B is probably going to be the next project on my agenda and I'm not going to be overly concerned about the belly. Your own personal mileage may vary, as they say, but at the end of it all this is a hobby. If I think a particular kit is horribly flawed I'll either fix that flaw, ignore it (doubtful but always an option), or simply wait a while for a better kit to come along. Life's just too darned short, ya'll, and I'm not going to taint my favorite hobby by getting all worked up over something that's wrong with a piece of polystyrene. I used to do that and the hobby wasn't very much fun when I did. I don't do it very often anymore and the hobby has once again become, for me at least, all the fun I thought it was when I "built" my very first polystyrene airplane kit way back in 1956.
Your mileage may vary...
Keeping Us Guessing
One of the things about our hobby that's both fun and extremely frustrating, all at the same time, is the occasional photograph about which we collectively know next to nothing; Mystery Meat, as it were. The next two shots, sent to us by Bobby Rocker, illustrate that frustration but my oh my...
The thing that drew us to these particular photographs, besides the fact that they're of early P-39 variants, is the opportunity they offer the scale modeler for diorama ideas. In the first photo we see a P-400 being refueled, while the second shot depicts maintenance on the nose-mounted guns. Kits of the airplanes are available in all the various scales, while the trucks are available in 1/48th and possibly in 1/72nd. Opportunity knocks, as it were!
Thanks as always to Bobby Rocker for his ongoing help with the project.
Just a Few More P2Vs...
Just a few, that is...
We aren't entirely done with the P2V; not just yet, but we are going to temporarily ring down the curtain on military examples of the type with this edition. Thanks to Jim Sullivan we've got a few somewhat unique Neptunes to share with you today, so let's take a look:
That's it for the Neptune, at least for now, but don't be unduly surprised if a few of those fire bombers turn up on these pages soon!
T For Texas, T For T-Bird Too!
Ellington Air National Guard Base has been around for a while, its interceptor assets covering the defense of the greater Houston area. Your editor was there for a photo shoot in the winter of 1981 on a visit to photograph the tenant 111th FIS/147th FIG's F-101B Voodoos, when the opportunity arose to shoot one of their T-33s preparing for a proficiency flight. Opportunity knocked, as it were, and these shots were the result:
A Pretty Airplane
Every once in a while we come across a photo of a really pretty airplane, and we just have to share it with you:
The Erla Bird Catches the Worm?
Ok, ok; it's an awful pun and, at the end of the day, an irrelevant one as well, but sometimes that sort of thing is in us and just has to come out so cut us some slack here! The point of this piece is a simple one: Revell of Germany recently released a 1/32nd scale kit of the Erla-built Me109G-10 for our modeling pleasure. The kit itself is one of that strange breed that was apparently designed by committee, a committee where nobody was talking to anyone else assigned to the project---we say that because the kit is, in a great many regards, simply brilliant in certain areas of its design and execution, while being woefully below what's now considered to be the norm in others. It is, in short, a kit that cries out for aftermarket! We recently purchased one (a bargain at $29.95 USD), and then proceeded to rack up another hundred bucks or so in resin and cast bronze to bring it up to snuff. Here's where we are with it today:
There's still a long way to go before this one gets to be called Finished, but for once all that aftermarket is not only worthwhile; it's absolutely essential to the completion of an accurate model!
Hmm---I wonder how this balances against the editorial up there at the top that I wrote for this very same issue... Fickle, aren't we, or maybe just subjective and more inclined to spend money on some airplanes than on others. At any rate there's definitely a contradiction of philosophy here. A little bit of soul-searching may well be in order!
Under the Radar
Once upon a time, a very long time ago, there existed an excellent series of aviation enthusiast publications known as Historical Aviation Album, which I believe was an offshoot of the earlier Aero Album series. Those publications were magazines very much in the spirit of the journal published by the American Aviation Historical Society at the time and were edited by Ken Rust and, later on, Paul Matt. Their quality was superb and a great deal of what they published is still valid today.
That said, in 1973 they released what was, at the time, a seminal work on the 5th Air Force, a tome that was everyone's go-to reference and, indeed, the only worth-while publication on the topic, until the advent of Steve Birdsall's Flying Buccaneers several years later. It was a ground-breaking volume in its day and still holds up well, even by 21st-Century standards.
This is one of those works that's so modest in appearance as to make today's aviation book collector pass it by were they to find a copy offered for sale in a used book store. That would, in our view, constitute a mistake of considerable proportion. Within its modest 64 pages lies a brief description of every significant unit to fly with the 5th AF, broken down by group. Line drawings are provided to define squadron markings and each section is illustrated with photographs and the text, while relatively minimal, is sufficient for its purpose, especially when judged by the standards of the time in which it was published. There's also an appendix listing 5th AF aces, if you care about that sort of thing, but the book's value when it was originally published, and as it remains today, is its quick over-view approach to the subject---it's an excellent starting place if you know just a little bit, but not a lot, about the 5th and want to learn more.
Nowadays its value is primarily that of a springboard to other references, but it was an astounding work way back there in '73 when most of us were still buying into the notion that all the 5th's records and photography had been consumed in some mysterious fire in Tokyo post-War. It was, in point of fact, the only all-in-one-place reference on the topic for several years, and it's stood the test of time better than you might imagine.
We would be less than truthful if we said this book was a must-have in today's world, but for a great many years it was just that, and it's still pretty useful today. There aren't many other books out there that can make that claim!
The Relief Tube
A couple of our readers have written in with comments, so let's get right to it!
Regarding that pair of Marine-marked P2Vs we ran last issue, Rick Morgan offers this clarification:
Phil- Think I found it. The only Marine P2V that I could find on a quick search of Allowance Lists is a P2V-2 at Aircraft Engineering Squadron-12 (AES-12), MCAF Quantico VA, from mid-1952 through 1958. It’s listed as a “Research and Development” platform throughout. They show two onboard in Mar 1955, which may well have been an airframe swap out. Rick
Thanks, Rick. The appropriate captions in our last issue have been corrected.
And in a similar, if not identical vein, Tommy Thomason saw last issue's piece on the P2V and had this to say:
BuNo 39090 had the original P2V nose avec the "bow turret". See attached.
My posts on the Turtle:
P2V Modeling Notes
Each dash number of the P2V seemed to have a different propeller, engine, and engine cowling. Not to mention the changes to the canopy, bomb bay, nose wheel well, tip tanks, etc. over time and the eventual addition of jet engines. Or the fact than both the nose and tail could be changed on later aircraft between armed and ASW patrol. Or the unique noses, like the ones on the P2Vs used for Arctic mapping. One of these days I'm going to do a post on the major differences between the dash numbers. T http://tommythomason.com/
Thanks as always, Tommy!
Next up is a comment from Bret Wood about a piece we published some time ago:
Saw pictures of "Doc’s Delight," "The Snooper,” and “Rugged Beloved” on Casu44.com. This unit saw service in the Pacific, specifically on Tinian. My grandfather was assigned to this unit. Regards, Bret Wood
Thanks, Bret! (I don't suppose you've got any photos...)
Finally, Norman Camou has discovered and sent in another YouTube link for us to enjoy, this time on the 430th FS in action over Germany in 1945 and in living color:
And this one as well, covering B-25 ops to Rabaul. We may have run it once before, but we've also gained quite a few readers of late and the film is too good to miss!
Thanks as always, Norman!
And yet another last-minute, after we published correction, this time from Mark Morgan and regarding that NARTU-assigned P2V shot that's fourth from the time in this issue's Neptune piece:
(Regarding that) P2V-5F 131508 6G-214? NARTU, for Naval Air Reserve Training Unit. Otherwise, outstanding blog as always! MK
And that's it for this time around and, in all likelihood, for the remainder of this year. Our season's best to everyone and be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon!