Friday, August 5, 2022

No Way to Lose, Arachnids From the Frozen North, Something You Don't Normally See Around Here, Some Old Tinker-Toys, and School Days


It's Nearly Always a Win

I am, of course, referring to our hobby and, more specifically, to the building of a kit, any kit, to a reasonably high standard of finish. In many respects I'm the wrong guy to be talking about that sort of thing since I'm a middle-of-the-road sort of modeler at best, but we can learn lessons even in mediocrity and the recent eating of my lunch by a relatively new and high-end kit provided the reflection required to cause pontification regarding the subject---that means let's talk about it for a minute or two.

That most recent obstruction in the perfidious path to polystyrene perfection (yes; I actually did say that and no; I don't know what prompted me to do it either) wasn't the only challenge I've ever faced while modeling. Nope; there have been many such excursions into failure, perhaps too many to count if truth be told, but there's been an up side to each and every one of those near disasters. 

Take, for example, that 1/72nd scale Lindberg He.162 I attempted to build back in 1976. It was a simple kit with few components, most of which fit properly, so there was no undue challenge to building the thing. Inspiration was at hand and the kit was cooperating, which meant it was ready to paint in a mere day or two. The airbrush was actually in hand when The Discovery was made; that kit utilizes a one-piece wing that slides through slots in the fuselage halves and I'd put it in backwards, a fact noticed only when the largish leading-edge slats in that newly swept wing were discovered. There honestly wasn't much saving that one so it landed in the trash can, leaving in its wake a perpetual note to self regarding the wisdom of checking things prior to the application of glue. That was actually the Up Side to the adventure even though the model was trashed. Now we sing it all together: PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU'RE DOING! Yes indeedy, a life lesson if ever there was one.

Proceed forward a few years, to the early 2000s and my discovery of Classic Airframes. Any one of them was a stretch for my abilities at the time but the kit subjects made the gamble worthwhile. They even offered the Curtiss P-6E, a favorite of mine since childhood, and in two different boxings to boot! It was reputed to be a difficult kit but biplanes had never previously been any sort of challenge to my ever-limited skills so the game was on. Said game lasted right up to the part where the upper wing needed to be installed, which was when Folly entered the picture. That darned wing just wouldn't mount properly no matter how it was attached. In desperation I finally consulted Mr Internet (this was the early 2000s, remember) and read where everybody was trimming the struts because they didn't fit properly. That seemed to make sense so I trimmed mine too, thus ensuring there was no way the upper wing could ever be properly attached to the rest of the airplane, but that one didn't get thrown away. It went back into its box and sat for fifteen years or so until I acquired another kit at a good price thanks to the kindness of an old friend; Richard Ng. I could describe the revelation that resulted in the successful completion of that model but I'd rather not, referring anyone interested to scroll instead to the bottom of this page and type "P-6E" into the search function to find the article published in these very pages. The adventure will pop up complete with photographs. The lesson there was another ode to simplicity: LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES AND DON'T REPEAT THEM.

Finally, there was that Grand Phoenix FJ-4B Fury. The kit comes with a reputation for being challenging at best, and that can certainly be true if you allow it to be. The major offenders are the resin main landing gear bays, which are too thick to fit inside the wings, and the components we'll agree to refer to as Anything Inside the Front of the Airplane, all of which compete for the same limited amount of space in there. Those things are a challenge, to be sure, but the kit is more accurate than either the primordial Matchbox or the more recent HobbyBoss offerings, which means learning a bit of patience and fortitude. That particular kit was removed and put back into its box more often that most people change their socks and underwear but at the end of the day a pretty good model resulted---I have both the HobbyBoss and Grand Phoenix models on the shelf, sitting side by side, and the Grand Phoenix kit is far and away the better of the two, although the path to get there was a bit more difficult. That adventure eventually resulted in quite a bit of preplanning and measuring, which resulted in the fitting of the apparently unfittable. The experience led to perhaps my most important lesson of all: FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO IT BEFORE YOU TRY TO DO IT.

And finally we come to the point, which is this: You're going to mess up sometimes, and there will be times when your failure could be described as Epic. You're also going to mess up more than once, and that's okay too, or at least it is as long as you learn from the adventure. The kit, whatever it is, provides us with an opportunity and nothing more. What we do with it results directly from our abilities, both to figure things out and to perform the physical task of modeling, and to learn from our mistakes. Let's call that Growth. 

Whew...

Better Than Nothing

That sobriquet could handily describe Northrop's F-89 Scorpion family of jet interceptors. They certainly looked the part of a dedicated defender of the skies, particularly after the introduction of the D-model with those massive fuel tanks/rocket pods hanging off the wingtips, and they lasted for several decades in both the regular Air Force and in the Air National Guard, but they honestly weren't very much as such things go. A classic product of the 1940s, the F-89 family were cutting edge technology when designed and close to obsolete the day they first entered service. They had marginal radars (but so did everything else at the time), and they were slow. Like so many military airplanes of the '50s they were blessed by never having to serve in combat---a very good thing---but they did hold the line while the United States was ramping up the Century Series of jet fighters which, coincidentally, managed to include a pair of interceptors that truly were up to the task. 

Maddog John Kerr was a slide collector par excellence and a friend as well. He shared a great many images with me, a couple of which we're going to look at today.

Before we begin, let's define a time and a place. The photos we're going to look at today are all of F-89D-75-NOs from the 76th FIS during their time at Presque Isle, Maine; specifically during the 1955 time period. In this first shot we see a largish formation of Scorpions over the Maine countryside, with 54-0221 closest to the camera. This image, and two of the three that follow, were scanned from duplicate slides and the quality isn't the best, but we think the subject matter will make up for it. 221 ended up with the Minnesota ANG's 109th FIS.  John Kerr Collection

Here's a closer image of 0221 providing a slightly better view of her markings. The last two of her Air Force serial number were repeated on the outboard nose of her wing tanks, although that isn't shown in this view. The F-89 always appeared somewhat ungainly to me, but this view makes it look almost pretty. Almost...   John Kerr Collection

In this photo we get a view of the other side of 0221, which gives us a look at the sharkmouth the squadron carried during this time period. While far from garish, its proportions and colors suit the Scorpion's shape to a T and provide a wonderful markings variation to the airplane. 54-0234 is also carrying her "last three" on the nose of her wing tank/rocket pod assembly, as are the other aircraft in the squadron. Jet fighters sure were prettier back then!   John Kerr Collection

Finally, and perhaps appropriately, we have this marvelous photograph of a young 76th FIS driver standing for a hero shot in front of "his" Scorpion. Most, if not all, of the 76th's D-models carried the sharkmouth at this time period and while we have no way to determine which airplane this was, the image does give us a good feel for the proportions and colors of the marking. Those were the days!   John Kerr Collection

Jim Wogstad and I interviewed John Keeler, a former pilot with the wartime 56th FG, for our very first print issue of the Replica in Scale project back in the early 1970s. During the course of that interview John recalled a story for us about a flight to Greenland in company with a group of F-89s. His comment about having to weave constantly in order for the Scorpions to keep up with them pretty much said it all, but the airplane was available when there was almost nothing else to do its job. Sometimes you just have to make do!

Guess What I Found!

Long ago and far away...

Back in 1974 Replica in Scale was a print publication, because there was no such thing as a personal computer or the internet. The project was chugging along, and our original staff had dwindled down to just Jim Wogstad and myself, plus spouses, and Horizon Hobbies, a large distributor at the time, was sending us review samples on a regular basis, not all of which were airplanes.

A few months ago found me performing one of my extremely rare cleanups in the studio and I discovered one of those non-airplane models, entirely intact and looking mostly ok once all those years of dust had been removed. It's not an airplane, and we're not getting ready to go over to the dark side here, but I thought it might be worth sharing, as a curiosity if nothing else. Feel free to skip right past it if it doesn't interest you!

Here, in all its glory, is a 1974-vintage Tamiya Fiat-Ansaldo M13/40 medium tank as built by your rarely humble editor almost immediately after receiving the review copy from Horizon. We thought the kit was accurate at the time, which may or may not have been entirely true since few detailed references for it existed back then, and it looked fairly ok after a hefty wash of Grumbacher Burnt Umber over the ubiquitous Floquil "Mud" I'd painted it with. A couple of the fenders were dented by the high-tech expedient of twisting on them with a pair of X-Acto needle nose pliers, while the somewhat dashing commander up in the turret was painted with artist's acrylics over white primer, detailed out with the kit's binoculars and goggle straps cut from typing paper. It's not much by today's standards but we liked it a lot back then. It's a tale from the RIS crypt, as it were!

Some Spiffy Scooters

There are air shows and then there are air shows. Frequent contributor and, coincidentally, editor of The Hook magazine Mark Aldrich, recently came across some images from a special airshow held in Great Britain long ago. Let's have a look:

CV-38 Shangri La was making a port call at Southhampton back on the 10th of September, 1960, and staged an open house aboard ship. This photograph, and the two to follow, were taken on that stereotypical dreary day. In this image we see A4D-2 142690 from VA-12 chained to the deck and ready to receive visitors. She managed an extensive career in the Navy but never saw combat in SEA, a rarity for the type considering the events that were about the define the Skyhawk's career and were rapidly reaching a boiling point several thousand miles away.   Mark Aldrich Collection

142693 was another A4D-2 from Attack 12 assigned to the "Shang" on that overcast day. She's wasn't  as colorful as 690 and was possibly more typical in appearance than her Easter Egg older sister. She survived her Navy career to be stored and MASDC and later put back into the air operating with the NASA's Ames Research Laboratory. Note the fellow scuttling past her aft fuselage; we don't know about you but visions of Charles Dicken's Artful Dodger immediately came to mind when we first saw this image!
   Mark Aldrich Collection

VA-106 was the other light attack squadron embarked on Shangri La during that 1960 cruise and one of her superbly-decorated "Scooters", 144962, is beautifully illustrated in this image. Items of interest, markings-wise, include the lack of a space or dash between the VA and 106 on her fuselage and the inclusion of her aircraft type (A4D-2) on her gasbags in addition to the squadron identification found there. She met an unfortunate end in a midair collision with an A-4B during 1967, long after she left VA-106, that resulted in the death of four people on the ground. Nobody ever said Naval aviation was safe...   Mark Aldrich Collection

Thanks as always to Mark for his generous sharing of his collection!

School Days

Mark Nankivil, he of the Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum, has been with the electronic Replica in Scale project almost from the beginning and, like Jim Sullivan, Mark Aldrich, and so many others, has unselfishly shared his collection with us. In keeping with that generosity, we'd like to offer this glimpse of days long past:

It's almost time for the young folks to go back to school here in Texas, but in 1942 a whole bunch of kids were attending a different sort of classroom, a response to America's largely unexpected entry into the Second World War. This AT-6A, 41-329, was photographed undergoing maintenance out of doors at Foster Field, in Texas, early in that year. The airplane appears to have been hastily camouflaged in Olive Drab over Neutral Grey, a distinct anomaly if true. She led what must have been a typical life as a training platform, being ground-looped at least four times during her career at Foster but surviving until at least 1943.

That outdoor maintenance could be considered prophetic since many of the students learning to fly at Foster would later end up in the SWPAC where that sort of thing was the norm. Easy days? Never happen, GI!   Mark Nankivil Collection

That's it for today, ya'll; and only a mere 2 months later than we'd originally intended. Big sigh...

Anyway, be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon! I hope!

phil


Thursday, May 26, 2022

An Oldie but Goodie, Supersize Me, and A Zipper to End the Day

 

A Different Approach

Here we are, and we're late again! The handful of readers who have been with us since that very first electronic issue back in 2010 have watched a steady trend with the project, which has declined from a heady 79 issues in that first year to just a handful, erratically published. The reasons for that are many but at the end of the day don't matter very much; the point is that a title much-beloved by your editor has been gradually fading into oblivion. 

That's a bad thing in our view, a very bad thing indeed, and it's time to do something about it! Here is the first issue of the new but not necessarily improved RIS. You'll notice it's a lot briefer than it used to be, featuring just a couple of articles. With any luck you'll also note an increased publishing schedule.

To paraphrase that American writer Samuel Clemmons, the stories of our demise are considerably exaggerated, but we've definitely taken things to the brink. Let's see if we can resuscitate the project!

 A Viable Old-Timer

Tamiya has been a leader in the world of plastic scale modeling for many decades now, and their most recent efforts are mind-boggling in regards to engineering and scale accuracy, but their older kits weren't too bad either. For an example, let's turn to their 1990s P-51D Mustang as released in 1/48th scale.

Tamiya's Mustang kit is old enough to be called seminal. It's been a stand-by for scale modelers for nearly three decades, and for good reason. It's more than reasonably accurate for one thing, and it's easy to build for another. We won't go so far as to say anyone can get a superior result using the kit, but most modelers will find it in their skillsets to do that.

The model has been released multiple times, with each release being theme-based and reflecting markings specific to that theme. Our personal favorite is their Korean War boxing as shown here. The model features three different sets of markings, one of which we've used for this model---those of the 36th FBS/18th FBW. What you see before you is almost but not quite kit stock, which we'll explain in a moment. 

Tamiya's by now primordial F-51D still looks the part, even without weathering---yes, boys and girls, it's the usual RIS work-in-progress which, even with the very best of intentions, may never progress much further than what you see here, but the images make the point.

Now for the serious stuff. Every plastic kit has issues and this one is no exception to that rule, but the issues are minor indeed and have been enumerated at least twice previously on these very pages. We're guessing a great many of you can't remember them, so here's a quick and dirty review.

There's a notch in the flaps, on the upper inboard corners, that doesn't exist on the real airplane. Tamiya put it there to provide an easy option to model the airplane with its flaps down; lazy, that. The fix is an easy one using sheet styrene or putty and will take a few minutes to accomplish.

Tamiya measured a restored warbird when tooling the model and included a set of scab patches on the wings that are unique to that particular airplane. "Real" Mustangs don't have those patches nor their accompanying rivets.

The canopy reinforcement bow is molded solid on the kit, while the Real Thing has lightening holes in it. You can fix that with a drill (or maybe with a piece of Eduard aftermarket etch, although we can't remember that for sure, or you can ignore it since only the hard-core Mustang enthusiasts will ever notice it. I generally choose to ignore it but you don't have to do that.

The sprue attachment points for the windscreen and canopy are poorly placed and almost guarantee damage to those components, but Tamiya went back and re-did those parts years ago. Caution is still required but fine sandpaper and a polishing cloth can fix most problems related to what is admittedly an awkward bit of engineering. 

Finally, the kit's interior is a bit basic. In the past I've spiffed up that part of the model with an Eduard "Zoom" set, although the example of the kit you see before you has an ancient True Details set installed instead. There are options out there.

Another bit of aftermarket on the model is a set of Eduard's "VLR" Mustang tanks, which they offered separately at one time. They make excellent napalm tanks and offer a considerable improvement over the tanks offered in the kit, which are simply the normal 75-gallon gas bags. I also cut the rockets off their zero-length mounting rails on the model, primarily to put a little variety into the KW F-51Ds in the collection.

So what are we saying here? Is the Tamiya dinosaur a better kit than the far more recent Airfix or Eduard offerings? Nope, not by a long shot. It's an older model that's begun to show its age, but it's still way past viable since it's relatively inexpensive, easy to build, and still provides an excellent starting place if you want to build an accurate Mustang. You pays your money and you takes your choice!

We'll call this Inspiration; a 67th FBS/18th FBW F-51D on the ground in Korea on 15 July, 1952. Note the cuffed HamStandard prop, retractable tailwheel (sometimes locked down in-theater due to poor runway conditions), and the color of the gear behind the cockpit armor plate. The SNJ-5C in the background was assigned to the Joint Operations Center, hence the "J.O.C." painted on the nose under the windscreen. There were a lot of dogs and cats flying around in Korea, especially in the early days of the conflict.   Bob Cutts via John Kerr

NOTE: I had originally misidentified the F-51's unit in the caption. Thanks very much to long-time friend Mark Morgan for catching the error and keeping me honest!  pf


The Big Stick

We all remember Convair's B-36, the largest bomber ever built by anyone and a USAF staple of the early Cold War. Here, thanks to the folks at NARA, are a couple of images of a Peacemaker assigned to the American nuclear test program during the early 1950s.

Here's a glorious view of EB-36H 51-5726 of the 4956th Test Group Atomic, Special Weapons Command, at Indian Springs AFB on 15 March, 1953. The airplane was on display, along with a number of others used by the unit, during some sort of grip-and-grin public affairs event.   NARA 342-C-K-10161

And here's the unit emblem for the 4956th. The B-36 was truly a marvel of engineering, and possessed of incredible capabilities when new. Time and Progress passed it by rather quickly, however, and it became obsolescent quickly. The type still formed the backbone of SAC when this image was taken, however.   NARA 342-C-K-10162

Your editor's father was a plankholder at Limestone AFB, which became Loring, and in consequence I have many fond memories of the mighty B-36. What can you say about it other than WOW! What an airplane!

AND ANOTHER NOTE! Those B-36 images were taken at Indian SPRINGS AFB, not Indian Hills as misidentified by me---that's what happens when you write captions at 1 in the morning, I guess. Many thanks to Mark Morgan's brother Rick for snagging that one! Big sigh...

Another Favorite

Everyone who knows anything at all about me knows I have a passion for the F-104. Here's a shot you may not have seen of one of them; a Charlie from the Deep South.

56-0899, an F-104C from South Carolina's 157th FIS, is on the towbar and being moved in this wonderful shot taken at McEntire ANGB during May of 1962. The "Zipper" was a handful and only a few Guard units received them. This example went back to the USAF after its time in South Carolina and crashed in Spain during 1963. It was, and still is, tough when you're on the cutting edge of things.   Tom Ring Collection

And that's it for today. Future editions, which are intended to come far more often than they have of late, may be longer than this, or maybe they won't be, but we're still alive and well so don't give up on us yet. 

Oh, and you can still get in touch with us at replicainscaleatyahoodotcom should you be so inclined. Just convert that mass of letters into a normal email address and you're ready to rock!

Be good to your neighbor, ya'll. We'll meet again soon!

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Sad Day, Some Models From Boyer, Hard Times, First With the Phantom, and a Clean Invader

 


Another One Gone

I first began going to Kings Hobby Shop in Austin some 18 years ago. The place was a revelation for a great many reasons but, as with most good hobby shops, the real treasure there had nothing to do with what was on the shelves, as impressive as that was. Nope, the thing that made Kings a special place was the people, from the owner and staff right down to the customers. It was a hard-core scale modeling sort of shop and the place to go if you were serious about the hobby. The vibe was a good one, with lots of friendly people on both sides of the counter. It was easy to do business and easy to make friends. 

My visits there rapidly turned into an every-Saturday afternoon sort of thing and friendships were made in the process. On one such Saturday I was standing at the counter talking Airplane with Rudy and Brad when a guy wearing a basketball jersey, matching shorts, a huge grin, and carrying a largish box under one arm, came into the store. The box held an unfinished 1/32nd scale Hasegawa Me109G-6 in Italian markings, while the jersey and shorts contained Bryan Phillipson. The Gustav was an absolute revelation, way past museum quality in construction and finishing, and Bryan was an instant friend from the first moment. His grin said it all, with no guile and no self-interest other than building the best model airplanes he possibly could. He was an artist and in many respects a magician, and his modeling work was little short of amazing---I've known modelers who were as good, but I've never known anyone that was better. 

Bryan and I shared an interest in model airplanes, of course, and also in fast cars. The Saturday runs to Kings quickly morphed into a run to Kings coupled with a trip to a local Mexican restaurant for an early and lengthy supper where we talked modeling and solved the polystyrene related problems of the world. It was a joy and a high point in my week. I got remarried somewhere along the way and Bryan became an instant friend for my new wife, a girl who'd moved to Texas from New England knowing nobody other than me and in need of a friend or two. Bryan was there for her, and her road became easier. 

Bryan smiled all the time, and as far as I could tell he was almost always happy. It could be pouring rain outside but his world was full of sunshine, and it was infectious. You couldn't be unhappy around Bryan for very long. You just couldn't get him down, or keep him down. 

Bryan became infected with Covid a while back. He got really sick too, but he beat it. Almost immediately after the bout with Covid he developed pneumonia, and he beat that as well, and then he caught the flu. It seemed that he was also going to beat that one but the other illnesses had greatly reduced his ability to fight a new disease and that put him in the hospital in intensive care. I spoke with him briefly while he was there, just before the nurse told him he couldn't talk to anyone on the phone anymore because the simple act of talking was compromising his ability to breathe. Shortly after that he was placed on a ventilator. 

Bryan died last Saturday. I'm told it was peaceful, and I'm one of those folks who believe in a better place so I'm reasonably certain he's checking out the hobby shops in his new neighborhood as I'm writing this, but that doesn't make it any better. He was a friend, and he always will be, but he's not around anymore. 

There's a lesson in his passing, because at the end of the day most of us have a Bryan somewhere in our lives and they're more important than ever in a world that seems committed to tearing itself apart. I think that's inspirational, and I truly believe friendships are something to be treasured. Maybe that's a reason to rethink things a bit regarding the relationships we have with others we hold near and dear? Maybe that's a silver lining?

Blue skies, Bryan....

That Boyer Guy

While we're discussing friends, and on a far happier note, I've been privileged to have a friendship with Paul Boyer, he of FineScale Modeler fame, for a great many years. Paul's a prolific modeler, and a darned good one too, and we'd like to take a couple of minutes to show you a bit of his work, all in 1/72nd scale.

You're probably familiar with this one but, if not, it's Paul's Kora PB2Y Coronado all done up in one of the Atlantic ASW schemes. I've always envied Paul's precision modeling, a talent indeed considering that itty-bitty scale he's chosen to work with. (I had to say that, Boyer!)

Airfix produced a dandy little Lockheed F-80C kit back in the late 1970s, and it's still entirely viable today as evinced by Paul's P-80A conversion off the basic kit. Nobody seems to model those pearl grey early Shooting Stars very often and Paul's model makes us wonder why. The model is both gorgeous and technically superb. Beauty!

Then there's this beast; Anigrand's Lockheed C-5A. The model is enormous even in 1/72nd scale, and a challenge to build as well. This model could be considered a magnum opus regardless of the standards applied to it and it could well define Paul's skill as a modeler. Whew!

Paul no longer edits FineScale Modeler but he continues to build prolifically and his work still appears in the magazine, as well as on internet sites such as HyperScale. His skills as a modeler are impressive indeed and you'll be seeing more of his work on these pages from time to time!

Bad Days on the 'Canal

Five Bell P-400 Airacobras from the 67th Fighter Squadron of the USAAF arrived at Guadalcanal from New Caledonia on 22 August, 1942, shortly after that island's invasion by the US Marine Corps. It was a classic case of "go with what you've got" since the P-400 was largely inadequate in the air-to-air role, but fighters were desperately needed on the island and the P-400s were available. The following images provide us with a look at just how rag-tag those early days were.

It was quickly ascertained that the P-400 was a poor match for the Mitsubishi A6M2 "Zero" fighter so the type was quickly relegated to ground support operations, a task at which the airplane excelled. This image illustrates a recently-arrived fighter from the 67th bombed up with a single 250lb GP bomb prior to a mission. The airplane is beginning to show the wear and tear of combat operations (notice the missing paint on the nose gear strut and the staining adjacent to it) but is still in relatively good condition. An indiscernible name is barely visible on the vertical stabilizer.   Friddell Collection

The sleek lines of the P-39/P-400 family made the airplane a perfect candidate for garish artwork, a fact quickly used to advantage by both the 67th FS at Guadalcanal and the 8th FG in New Guinea. This fine example is painted on one of the 67th's P-400s, also armed up with a 250lb bomb, at Henderson field. It's interesting to note that the 67th's Airacobras normally operated with their landing gear wheel covers in place; they were frequently removed from the type in New Guinea as a means of dealing with mud accumulated during operations from soggy airfields but apparently didn't pose much of an issue on the 'Canal.   Friddell Collection

This tantalizing image shows an airplane with the remnants of a shark mouth, a pair of dice one the vertical stab, and a largely illegible name (the second word appears to be "BOUND", but we can't quite make out the first one!) immediately above it. The maintenance conditions on Guadalcanal were every bit as poor as those in New Guinea, ensuring there were no easy days on the island.   Friddell Collection

Here's a salvaged port-side door from one of the 67th's Airacobras providing us with a fine view of the squadron's emblem. Note its well-used condition and the generally frayed and beaten-up look of the pilot kneeling beside it in the remains of his flight suit. Remember that part about no easy days?   Friddell Collection

This is a poor photograph at best, but it defines the time and place as few others can. From the beat up P-400 being used as a backdrop to the tired faces of the ground echelon depicted here, we can get a sense of what their day-to-day must have been like. Remember that part about no easy days?   Friddell Collection

It was only a matter of a few months before the 67th FS was absorbed into the 347th FG and moved on to P-38s, but in that short time they created a legend. Their days were spent in direct support of Marine ground units and their attempts at fighting the Japanese in the air were sporadic and largely unproductive, but they were there when nothing else was available and their efforts helped to stem, and then turn, the tide in the Solomons. They were a special breed, much as everyone fighting in the Southwest Pacific was. Let's raise a glass...

First With Phantoms

That moniker would, of course, describe VF-74 and their first cruise aboard the Forrestal. That groundbreaking deployment began on 03 August 1962, some sixty years ago, and set the stage for one of aviation's most spectacular and successful combat aircraft. Fortunately for us the event was well-documented at the time and, thanks to Mark Aldrich over at the Tailhook Association, we have some remarkable images of the deployment to share with you along with a short movie courtesy of Periscope Films and the folks at YouTube. Note that most of this photography was taken during the squadron's 1961 transition to what was at the time the McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom. The nomenclature would be changed to F-4B in just a few short months thanks to then-SecDef Robert McNamara's inability to understand the NAV's aircraft designation system, but these airplanes were all F4H-1s at time they were photographed.

First up, let's take a look at that movie of the first deployment. 


That short film is more significant than the Navy could ever have imagined it would be given the length of time the F-4 was to serve in the Fleet. Many thanks to the folks at Periscope Films for making it available to us all on YouTube!

As if the movie wasn't enough, here are those images from the Tailhook collection to whet your appetite!

In the beginning...  Here's YF4H-1 142259, which had been used during Project Top Flight during 1959 to attain two separate world altitude records; it later set a world speed record during Operation Sky Burner as well. Check out the configuration of the nose in particular; this airframe very much defined the early appearance of the Phantom but was still a bit shy of the production aircraft.   Tailhook Association via Mark Aldrich

This image pretty much says it all about the Phantom. The F4H-1 was designed to fill the role of Fleet defense fighter and had to be able to get airborne and in a position to intercept incoming threats in a remarkably short period of time. 150425, photographed in October of 1962, is seen here doing exactly that, albeit from shore rather than the deck of a carrier. The airplane was truly a revelation when introduced into service. 425 was a survivor, being upgraded to F-4N configuration prior to her ultimate delivery to MASDC during 1977.  Tailhook Association via Mark Aldrich

Fighting 74 was operating the F4H-1 aboard CVA-59 during October of 1961 as the first Fleet squadron to take the mighty Phantom to sea, although their first actual deployment didn't occur until 1962. In this shot we find 148372 launching from the Forrestal's starboard cat, working up in preparation for that first cruise. The Bedevilers had one of the Phantom's classier paint jobs, we think.   Tailhook Association via Mark Aldrich

Here's 148381 immediately after trapping aboard the Forrestal during that 1961 workup cruise; note the green shirt from the V1 Division running out to disengage the cross-deck pendant from the tailhook, as well as the total lack of underwing stores on the aircraft. This airplane didn't last long, crashing near NAS Oceana on 17 July, 1962.   Tailhook Association via Mark Aldrich

In this shot 381 begins an overflight of Virginia Beach during 1961. She's carrying gas bags and beginning to show a little wear and tear from her brief time on the boat. It would be over for her less than twelve months later. Nobody ever said military aviation was safe...   Tailhook Association via Mark Aldrich

And the Phantom hits the big league as 148383 sits on the flight deck of the Forrestal at the beginning of the type's first deployment to the Fleet! Somehow the F4H-1 just looks right sitting on a flight deck, doesn't it? She made it through a lengthy career in the NAV and finished out her days as a QF-4B drone.   Tailhook Association via Mark Aldrich

The recent introduction of what may well be the ultimate 1/48th scale F-4B (F4H-1) kit by Tamiya has caused the hobby's decal manufacturers to scramble to produce the myriad of markings carried by the type. We'd like to humbly submit that the scheme you see here is the one to do, but we might be prejudiced!

A Clean Machine

We hadn't planned on running this particular image today but it's just too darned good to pass up:

You may have seen this National Guard Bureau VB-26B (44-34610) on these pages once before but she was such an immaculately-kept airplane that we just had to show her again. She was photographed on the ground at Andrews AFB by Jim Sullivan on 24 April, 1973, and provides us with a gorgeous photo of one of the all-time classic airplanes and a fine example of the type; was in fact the last operational member of the A-26 family prior to her retirement. Many thanks to Jim Sullivan for sharing this photo with us.   Jim Sullivan

Under the Radar

We normally devote this part of the project to older titles that our readers might have missed the first time around, but today we have a pair of titles released within the past month. Both are concerned with American naval aviation and in our view both are must-haves should your interests run in that direction.

Sundowner Phantoms the F-4B/N Phantom II in Service With VF-111 1971 to 1977, Angelo Romano and Mike Grove, Double Ugly Books and Decals 2021, 69 pp, profusely illustrated.

On the face of things this title is just another book similar in concept and production to many others of its ilk; a bunch of captioned photographs and minimal text regarding a specific airplane. You could indeed come to that conclusion but you'd be severely mistaken if you did, because it's well and truly a definitive study of one of the Navy's best-known fighter squadrons of the Vietnam and Cold War eras, as well as a boon to the scale modeler.

To start with, the authors (Angelo Romano and Mike Grove) are among the deans of United States naval aviation history. Their credentials as historians and as stewards of aviation history are impeccable, which bodes well for any title with either of their names on it. To add to the credibility of the work are the various contributors who aided in the research phase of the project; once again the names are instantly recognizable and well-credentialled. 

The book itself is a concise, if brief, history of VF-111 during their time with the mighty F-4 Phantom II. It begins with the creation of the squadron during 1942 and takes the reader through its pre-F-4 history during its first several pages, then quickly transitions into the squadron's Phantom era which is, after all, the point of the book. All of the photographs are presented in full color and are painstakingly captioned to provide the maximum amount of information and the final four pages of the book are devoted to the F-4's standard camouflage and markings during the time period. Several charts accompany the brief text and will prove of interest to the hardcore enthusiast.

Nothing is perfect, however, and it must be noted that several of the book's photographs are somewhat muddy in presentation, although we suspect that's more the result of the original image than of any sort of production flaw. That said, this is a book that we can recommend without reservation if its topic falls within your range of interests. According to its cover this volume is the first of a series; we're looking forward to the others!

Smokin' Tigers, A Pictorial History of Reconnaissance Attack Squadron One (RVAH-1), Mike Grove and Angelo Romano, Ginter Books 2022, 120 pp, illustrated.

Another title by Angelo Romano and Mike Grove, and yet another must-have for the naval aviation buff. The book is one of many in the Ginter Books squadron history series and keeps up the high standards set by previous books offered from this publisher. 

The book, a blend of incisive text and excellent photographs, covers the squadron from its establishment in 1955 until its untimely demise in 1979. Each phase of the unit's history is defined by superbly reproduced photographs and brief yet incisive text, accompanied by relevant charts, graphs, and color illustrations, as well as page cuts taken from pertinent manuals. 

This volume is very much a one-stop reference regarding Heavy One and is a worthy addition to the Ginter squadron histories. 

One From Norm

It almost wouldn't be an issue of RIS without a contribution from Norman Camou. Here's a gem he discovered on YouTube; a wartime Japanese newsreel documenting their activities. It's part of a series and provides a fascinating look at those guys on the other side of the fence.



Thanks as always, Norm!

The Relief Tube

I thought I'd managed to slip by without any sort of egregious error this time but it turns out I published the Yankee Extraction System drawings for the family model of the A-1, the A-1E and F, rather than the proper one for the A-1H/J. Also, that isn't a Yankee seat in the Tom Hansen image I published. Tommy Thomason caught both slips and steered me towards the information in his Tailhook Topics blog, which you really ought to be reading if you aren't already doing that!


Many thanks to Tommy for keeping us honest!

For Bryan




That's it for today, ya'll. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon!

phil


Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Rules? What Rules?, We've All Seen It Before, A Fine Legacy, and Some Jugs From the Guard,


Can You Really DO That?

Scale modeling is one of those evolutions that we progress with throughout our lives, or at least those of us who stay with the hobby for any length of time do. That evolution gives us the opportunity to see what others do with the hobby and how they do it and, if we're lucky, allows us to grow as modelers. I'd like to share an example of that with you today.

Two years of my collegiate career involved working part time at a local hobby shop in San Antonio which in turn led to meeting, and in many instances becoming friends with, a number of highly talented individuals who were far better modelers that I was at that point in time. It was what some folks might call a Golden Opportunity to Learn and even though I was at that time, and pretty much always have been for that matter, what certain of my relatives would call a slow study, I knew a good thing when it slapped me in the face. Yeppers; strange as it may seem to many who know me, the ability to pay attention and learn did, and still does, overcome me from time to time. It's nothing deliberate on my part but it's there. Sometimes...

Anyway, one of those customers who became a good friend was a guy named Bill Todd. He was attending Texas A&M at the time but would visit the shop fairly regularly, both to purchase things and to show his latest work to us. He was a figure painter of superior abilities, probably one of the best in Texas at that time if truth be told, and he was pretty good at everything else model-related too. He was also an intellectual in the truest meaning of that term and was prone to thinking in unconventional ways to solve problems so it didn't surprise me one bit the day we received our first shipment of Imrie-Risley enamels allegedly blended, color-wise anyway, specifically for figure painting and he expressed considerable, if polite, disinterest towards them. It wasn't that he thought the paint to be inferior or anything like that; he just had no particular use for it and that, of course, resulted in me asking why not.

Bill's answer shouldn't have surprised me at all but it did, and it got me thinking. He had never bought any of the paints by any manufacturer specifically formulated for use with military miniatures but he did purchase a fair quantity of paint of almost every variety we sold, eventually to include the aforementioned Imrie-Risley. He bought Floquil. He bought the classic Testors in the little square bottles. He bought Pactra. He even bought some of the first Floquil Polly-S to hit the market, but he purchased everything a bottle at a time and almost never bought a lot of paint on any given occasion. 

We were both the same age and shared a number of similar interests so it wasn't unusual that we began to hang out together, which eventually led to him showing me how he painted figures. His work was amazing and quickly accomplished; there was no agonizing over brush strokes for him! That wasn't the astounding part, however. Nope, the astounding part was the way he mixed his paint to achieve the colors he used. He had a small color cup, maybe the lid of a paint bottle although it's been near fifty years since then so I honestly don't remember that particular detail, and he had the several colors of paint ready for mixing on his work surface. The thing was, none of the paint he was using came from the same manufacturer. He mixed square-bottle Testors, Floquil, Pactra, and even a little Polly-S in the same batch, thinned it all with regular modeler's paint thinner, and applied it to the figure he was working on. I was pretty astounded and told him he couldn't do that and expect it to work. He told me he did it all the time and it worked just fine, thank you very much, and he was right! All that paint, admittedly in extremely small quantity, was mixed, blended together, and worked the way it was supposed to. He painted with his mixture, and he applied thinner to his brush and blended the colors he'd just applied as though he was working with fine oils instead of bottom-end hobby paint. His results were spectacular. 

So what's your point, you may well be asking yourself at this juncture. It's a simple one really and, at the heart of the matter, is something that only peripherally has anything to do with blending paint:

Bill didn't mix all those different brands of paint together because he necessarily wanted to. He did it because those were the colors he needed and they were on hand, while buying anything else would entail borrowing his dad's Delta 88 and making the 30-minute drive to Dibbles to get it. The problem was a simple one and it had a simple solution. If it hadn't worked he would probably have made that drive but it did so he didn't, and everything worked out just fine in the end.

I'm not saying you should do that literal thing yourself and I'm here to tell you that if you indulge yourself in such madness you're 100% on your own and I'm in no way responsible for whatever mess you might make, but I'm also saying that the conventional way may or may not be the best way to solve a problem in each and every instance. Chew on that for a minute or two and let's look for a conclusion we can draw.

Our hobby is presently choking with readily available assets for the modeler. There are web sites and blogs (somewhat obviously including this one!), there are magazines and books, and videos by the battalion telling you what you can and can't do. They can all be helpful but sometimes the solution to a given problem is already in your own head, just waiting to pop out and amaze everyone you know.

I once knew a retired Systems Command Lieutenant Colonel who made things happen each and every time he encountered something that was difficult. His solutions were often unique and very much outside the norm but they were also effective solutions that worked. I once asked him what his secret was. His response? Just work the problem. That's all there is to it, ya'll; just work the problem! Maybe you really do need to buy something special that you don't already have, or do something the way all those other folks are doing it, or maybe you don't. Maybe all it takes is for you to work the problem

Think about it...

Everybody Has Seen the Airplane

But a lot of folks haven't seen it like this:

44-84778 was purpose built for photo recon as an F-6D-25-NT and ended up with the 45th TRS in Korea. She was extensively photographed and a couple of decal companies have featured her on their aftermarket sheets, a relatively pointless activity at the time since there were no F-6D kits to put them on and the one conversion kit that we're personally familiar with, the 1/48th scale offering from QuickBoost, was inaccurate. That all changed when Eduard released their very own F-6D model a year or two ago, and we can now build photo-Mustangs to our heart's content, or at least those of us who primarily build in 1/48th scale can! With that as an introduction, let's take a look at one photo ship you can build!

Our first image shows 778, aka "My Mimi" undergoing preflight prior to yet another mission over the North, and we get a fine look at her markings in consequence. Of particular interest is her nose art, a tiny cartoon character aft of her name. The airplane's somewhat battered overall silver paint stands out against the natural metal finish of her spinner, and the airplane is relatively dirty. Not all of the 45th's F-6Ds carried the squadron's polka-dot motif on the spinner, as exemplified here. As always, the Devil's in the details!   NARA via Replica in Scale

Here she is again, running up and getting ready to taxi out. The inboard gear doors are coming up as the hydraulic system pressurizes, while the pilot is busy scanning the gauges. Of particular interest in this image are the taped-over gun ports and the corrosion-resistant exhaust covers, as well as the ADF loop just aft of the radio mast. Note the lack of gas bags under the wings; the Mustang possessed superb range on internal fuel alone (one fuselage tank and a pair in the wings) so extra gas wasn't necessary most of the time when serving in Korea, which in turn allowed the F-6D to take full advantage of its speed during combat ops.   NARA via Replica in Scale

Time to go to work! This great side view shows 778 about to pull out of its parking slot for another mission. The aircraft still has functioning tailwheel doors, an increasing rarity as the conflict progressed since many Mustangs had them locked in the "down" position and the doors removed to accommodate operational conditions found on the often primitive South Korean airfields of the day. The pilot's helmet features the 45th's famed "Polka Dots", although they have yet to be added on this particular airplane. That low ceiling almost guarantees the mission will attract considerable ground fire, but that was the norm most of the time.     NARA via Replica in Scale

Many thanks to NARA for making these wonderful images available to the public, and to Eduard for releasing their superb F-6D kit that allows us to build a proper photo Mustang. All we need now are some decals!

Gotta Love a Sharkmouth

The Second World War saw the creation of a great many squadrons and wings, some of which continued on into peacetime after the conclusion of that terrible conflict. The 23rd Fighter Group was one such unit, the heirs of the Flying Tiger mantra and legendary sharkmouth insignia that they subsequently applied to many of their post-War operational aircraft. The story of the group is too extensive for study here, but a couple of photographs of one of their more colorful mounts could certainly be in order.

Lee Bracken shot this particular Corsair II, more popularly known by its nickname "The SLUF" (Slow Little Ugly F******" on the transient ramp at Bergstrom AFB in January of 1980. She was from the 76th TFS and was built as 74-1758, an A-7D-16-CV. She's wearing a modification of the SEA pattern camouflage paint, albeit of the later wraparound variety, and she's a well-used airplane.  Lee Bracken

72-0184 was built as an A-7D-12-CV and was assigned to the 74th TFS when Lee Bracken's brother George photographed her on the ramp at Holloman in March of 1980. Her paintwork appears substantially more dull that that of 1758 but that's a trick of the ambient lighting existing when George took the photograph---it's also a fine lesson to scale modelers to thoroughly research their paint colors before applying them to a project because what you see isn't necessarily what things actually are! Of particular interest is the fact that this airplane has been zapped by No 6 Sqdn RAF, who have applied their famous "Flying Can Opener" marking to the fuselage immediately in front of that open avionics bay door. The flight gear hanging off the retractable boarding ladder implies an imminent departure.   George Bracken

Finally, here's a portrait of A-7D-9-CV 70-1051, all resplendent in a fairly new wraparound set of SEA colors sitting on the display ramp early in the morning of 02 August, 1980, at the late and often lamented Bergstrom Air Force Base. Her markings include a sharkmouth on her travel pod as well as a "caption", for want of a better term, tying the Wing to its Second World War predecessors. This SLUF was eventually written off in a handling accident but she was in her prime when this image was taken.   Phillip Friddell

Here's a parting shot of a pair of 23rd TFW A-7Ds on short final into Kelly, taken on 09 December 1979. We don't know about you folks but it makes us think back with fondness on The Good Old Days.   Phillip Friddell

The Boys From the MD ANG

Maryland's 104th Fighter Squadron was an early player in the post-War ANG and a linear descendent of the ETO's 489th FS. Organized at Harbor Field in Baltimore, the 104th achieved Federal recognition by the National Guard Bureau on 17 August, 1946, flying the P-47D Thunderbolt. They kept their P-47s until 1951 when they converted to the F-51H Mustang (note the designation change---Maryland's Thunderbolts were P-47Ds when the squadron was constituted and became F-47Ds while in service when the Air Force changed their fighter designations from P to F in June of 1948). 

Mike Burke, a longtime friend of frequent contributor Mark Nankivil (he of the Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum) had collected a series of black and white photographs of the group and recently shared them with Mark. Sadly, Mike passed a few months ago, but the images of those P-47s remain; we're presenting them today thanks to the kindness of Mark Nankivil and in memory of Mike Burke. 

Clean hangars and safe work areas are the norm nowadays but the definitions of "clean" and "safe" have changed somewhat over the years, as illustrated by this early view of the 104th's maintenance  hangar. The variety of aircraft parked in there is of interest and includes an A-26B (44-34676), a T-6 (originally AT-6C 41-32747), an R-5 (serial unknown) and several P-47Ds, all assigned to the unit. Messy hangars weren't exactly the norm in the late 1940s but they weren't all that unusual either. Time (and a horrendous accident rate among most American aviation units) would change that!   Mike Burke Collection via Mark Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

Sometimes you do what you have to do, including performing basic maintenance on the ramp. This sort of thing was the norm during the Second World War and Korea and can still be seen to this day. although the safety standards have changed considerably since those early times. Take note of the tip warning treatment on the propeller; those stripes aren't an anomaly but rather the way the A.O. Smith company (a subcontractor to Curtiss Electric) marked their propeller blades prior to shipping them to Curtiss for final assembly and firmly identify these airplanes as coming from wartime production.  Mike Burke Collection via Mark Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

On the gun butts! This wonderful image is just full of detail for the scale modeler, including the squadron markings under the canopy, the post-1947 national insignia, and the primitive (and left-over) RHAW antenna on the vertical stabilizer. 45-49115 typified the squadron's -40-RE Thunderbolts in so many ways!    Mike Burke Collection via Mark Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

This photo could have been taken in Western Europe during 1945, but it wasn't! Nope; this wonderful imaged was shot in Maryland on April 1st, 1948, which could have made it a record of the ultimate April Fool's Day joke on the squadron safety officer, although we somehow doubt that. There are other possible explanations, of course. It could've been the unfortunate result of parking in the dirt during facilities construction prior to a rainstorm, or maybe it was something involved with a training exercise, but we don't know. If you think you do, that properly-encrypted email address is   replicainscaleatyahoodotcom  . We'd definitely like an answer!   Mike Burke Collection via Mark Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

Let's end this essay with a wonderful photograph of a MD ANG four-ship formating over the countryside. It was taken late during the squadron's employment of the Thunderbolt and may well depict their contribution to the District of Columbia's air defense umbrella since the unit rotated a four aircraft detachment to Andrews for that purpose during part of the time they operated the type.   Mike Burke via Mark Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

Blue skies, Mike!

The Relief Tube

Long-time friend Steve Birdsall noticed our A-4 close-up posted in Happy Snaps two issues ago was probably miscredited and offered this:

Hi Phil -

Glad to see the latest update at RIS.

The photo of the VA-36 A-4 caught my eye and I suspect that is a Tom Hansen photo. As you well may know, Tom was an airman aboard the HU-16s stationed over the Gulf of Tonkin, and he devoted many hours to photographing the many other aircraft he encountered. The timeframe fits too.

Anyway, I've attached a somewhat similar closeup . . .  A-1H NE 581 of VA-25 from USS Coral Sea on 18 September 1966. Tom noted that Crown Alpha's escorts that day were Canasta 81 and 73.

Feel free to run the photo if you wish - on the next update, or Facebook or whatever, just as long as it's credited to Tom Hansen. He rarely if ever gets the credit he deserves.

All the best -

Steve

Thanks very much for the correction and the insight, Steve, and we'll make certain Tom gets the credit! 


Happy Snaps

Just in case you were wondering what happened to the Skyraider photo Steve mentioned in The Relief Tube:

Once again Tom Hansen captures the sheer joy of flight! Of special interest in this shot is the excellent depiction of the Yankee Extraction System as used in the A-1. Aviation photography honestly doesn't get much better than this!   Tom Hansen via Steve Birdsall

We may run an article on that extraction device at some later date but in the meantime here's a page from the manual to illustrate the way it worked:

These illustrations are pretty basic but you get the idea, right? 

Many thanks to Steve Birdsall for sharing both the correction and that marvelous image with us!

That's about it, both for this issue and for this year. These are challenging times and our exceptional paucity regarding the number of issues we've published during the past twelve months bears that out, but we're still kicking over here and we'll see you again early next year. Until then, be good to your neighbor! We absolutely WILL meet again soon!

phil