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!


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 -


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!


Thursday, November 4, 2021

Something Different at the 'Canal, Another Darned '109, They're Your Photos, A Couple From John Kerr, and a Tadpole


The Very First One

We're going to take a somewhat different approach with our opening piece this time and talk about something we've all had, and probably all remember. That's right; we're going to discuss the very first plastic model airplane we ever built, either solo or with help from someone, so let's jump right into it!

My first personal exposure to the world of plastic models came in 1955, while my dad was stationed at Chitose AB on Southern Hokkaido helping the Air Force stare down those bad guys just a few clicks away. It was an unaccompanied tour in those days which meant no families allowed so my mom and I were cooling our heels staying with my grandmother in the wilds of North Georgia while waiting for his 18-month assignment to pass. That, in turn, meant visiting relatives and, magically, getting to see my teenage cousin Jerry's model airplanes! He may have, and probably did have, have a stick and tissue flying model or two on display somewhere but the real treasure was on the dresser in his room; those first Revell jet airplanes! He may have had them all---my memory can recall the F-84F, F-94C, and F7U. He may have had a Cougar too, but I know for certain that he had those three. I saw them, I asked if I could play with them and was told "no" in terms I could understand, and the die was cast. Those models, plus Jerry's car (a used Sunbeam Alpine that he spent most of his weekends working on), rapidly elevated him to the exalted status of Favorite Relative in my eyes. The fact that he tolerated me and let me watch during those interminable hours he spent trying to synchronize the SU carburetors on that Alpine didn't hurt either, and in retrospect he's probably the reason I grew up loving sports cars too, but this isn't about sports cars. It's about plastic model airplanes.

Jerry took me to the hobby shop that was near his home but at six years of age I couldn't afford to buy anything so I just looked, and dreamed of the day I could build a model too. I asked my mom to buy a kit for me and, if truth be known probably drove her crazy with the frequency of my requests, but she always had said no, right up until The Magic Day. 

It started out as a normal shopping trip for groceries at Blair's Supermarket in Canton one Saturday afternoon. The place was large for a grocery store in a small Georgia town and sold things besides food and related dry goods and sundries. That meant they had a small toy section in the store, and in that toy section were a handful of models, one of which was a black "Me109 Night Fighter". It was in a smallish scale, just the size for someone of my tender years, and my constant pestering, coupled with a desire on my mom's part to get out of the store and go home, won the day. She asked if I could really build it all by myself, and I said YES loudly enough to be heard throughout the store. She bought it for me, and I suspect I danced all the way out to the car. I HAD A MODEL AIRPLANE! It was mine to build, and then I could play with it! I could be just like my cousin Jerry; could a sports car of my own be far behind? Ok, maybe not, but I had a model of my own and all was right with the world!

My attempts at assembly began almost as soon as we got home. We hadn't purchased glue because the thought had never occurred to either of us to do that, but Grandma always had Elmer's Glue somewhere around the house and glue was glue, so I was set. 

Or maybe not...

We all know that Elmer's doesn't work with polystyrene but I didn't have a clue back then, so I broke all those black pieces (it was a night fighter, remember?) off their sprues and set to work. The results were predictable but also eventually salvageable once someone had the idea to call my cousin to find out why all the of the kit's component pieces were literally falling off the model. A tube of plastic cement was somehow acquired and I began again, which allowed me to learn about Indelible Glue Fingerprints and how black plastic turns purple if you get enough cement on it. I got the thing finished in spite of myself, although I don't remember putting decals on it---my recollections of that very first polystyrene model airplane indicate it was overall black, which was just fine with me. It was a night fighter anyway, right? 

And that was how it all began for me! The subject matter might have had something to do with my ongoing modeling interest in the Ost Front Luftwaffe, although probably not, but the kit started me off on a lifetime of polystyrene misadventures that has carried through until this very moment. I look on the whole thing as a gift!

And here's the culprit! Everybody has a first model they built all by themselves, with no help from adults or older siblings, and this one was mine. I don't have a copy of it now and scabbed the picture you see off the Internet, something I almost never do, but I'd sure like to have that kit again. Drop me an email ( replicainscaleatyahoodotcom  ) if you have one you'd like to part with and maybe we can talk.

Long ago and far away...

Guadalcanal Birds of a Slightly Different Flavor

When we think of the aerial struggle that took place for the island of Guadalcanal from mid-1942 into early 1943 we usually think of Wildcats, Dauntlesses, Corsairs, P-38s, and P-400s, but the Army Air Force operated a number of other types in the theater. Take these airplanes, for example:

41-13153 was a B-25C from the 390th BS/42nd BG and was photographed at Henderson Field in the Spring of 1943. There may or may not be a name or nose art on the airplane; although this view doesn't show one, it wouldn't have been unusual for it to have been on the port side of the airplane only. This one is a straight-up bomber rather than one of the highly modified strafers found flying with the 5th Air Force in New Guinea during the same time period; those mods were the exclusive property of General George Kenney's boys during this phase of the war. Note how relatively clean this airplane is. I'm guessing it had only recently arrived from New Caledonia but it didn't last long, going down off Guadalcanal in July of 1943.    Friddell Collection

When we think of Martin's Marauder in the SouthWest Pacific we usually think of the 22nd Bomb Group and their operations out of Port Moresby, but there were B-26s at Guadalcanal as well. "Yap Trap" was a B-26B (41-175681) assigned to the 38th BG and nominally operating out of New Caledonia, although they could sometimes be found operating from Henderson Field as well. The group didn't operate the type for very long and didn't stay in the Guadalcanal area either, but they were there long enough for "Yap Trap" to be immortalized on film.   Friddell Collection

From the scale modeler's perspective we're relatively poorly served as far as kits of these airplanes are concerned, at least if you build in 1/48th scale (which I predominantly do). Accurate Miniatures attempted a B-25B/C/D/G a number of years ago but it has some serious errors that cause it to be only a fairly good model rather than the accurate one we'd all prefer, while nobody, as of this writing at least, has ever kitted a 1/48th scale short-winged B-26 of any sort. Big sigh.

A Great One From Norm

Long-time contributor Norman Camou is at it again, this time with a remarkable YouTube film of early l940s US Navy activities. It's an amazing look into the past and well worth the time it takes to watch it!

Thanks very much, Norm, for taking the time to find these jewels for us!

Not Another Bf109!

There are quite a few airplanes that are considered iconic, and those airplanes so designated generally have plastic model kits produced of them in substantial variety and in many scales. Willy Messerschmitt's 109 series of fighters certainly falls into that category of iconic airplanes, and the sheer quantity of kits available of all its various iterations is legendary---it seems as though there are as many different kits as there were real airplanes produced by Herr Willy, but we digress...

We're going to restrict today's discussion of the 109 family a bit, however, in favor of looking at and fixing the flaws of a kit that's often been called the best of the 1/48th scale Bf109Es; the Airfix Emil. It's got a lot to recommend it, you know; it's closer to scale than almost all of its competition, and it's relatively simple to build. It's easily available and was, until, recently, the most affordable of the good Emil kits as well, and it's also the only one out there that will allow the modeler to build all of the "normal" Bf109E variants from what's in any of its several boxings. That's right; excepting the barely produced and hardly used Bf109T, each and every Emil variant is right there in that Airfix box from E-1 to E-7, so the kit is what we used to call a Bargain as well as accurate.

We have a premise, then: The 1/48th scale Airfix Bf109E is the currently the best kit available of the type available to us (and yes; I'm fully aware of the recent Wingsy kit of the airplane, but I'm standing by what I just said about Airfix, for now, anyway...), but it's not without its flaws. Let's see what needs fixing!

The canopies are thick and the squared-off set for the E-4 and E-7 variants is just wrong. That's because Airfix allegedly used a real Emil for their kit research, and that real airplane was wearing an incorrect for the variant, later and far more heavily-framed Me09G canopy, a situation apparently caused by the paucity of proper Messerschmitt canopies in stock over at the local airplane parts emporium. The fix is pretty easy, if possibly expensive---either modify the kit parts by reworking the frames or swipe a canopy, or the entire canopy stack, from an Eduard Weekend Edition kit since that particular edifice (once our favorite Emil kit!) is just too darned big! Yes, Virginia; the Eduard E is overscale but a lot of the parts can be used to detail someone else's kit, which almost makes sense if you either have an unbuilt one lying around, or can get a Weekend Edition for cheap. Either way, the canopy situation is fixable.

The prop is way too thin, and the spinners provided with the kit (3 different ones) are all a little on the soft side. Our Canadian friends at UltraCast make replacements out of resin that are just super, and will fix the problem regardless of the spinner your model requires. 

The tailwheel is a little too small as well, and the main gear wheels are lacking detail. UltraCast can help with the wheels for the mains, while the Bf109F kit of your choice, or the tailwheel from the Eduard "Brassin" set for the Emil, will cure the problem at the back end of the model. 

The interior could stand some work, of course, but the simple addition of an UltraCast seat (with belts molded in) and painting will go a very long way towards making the office presentable. Yes; I use a lot of UltraCast products when they're available for whatever I'm building at the time. That's because I like their work a lot and I'm a fan of their products. Your mileage may vary in that respect and there are other solutions out there for the issues just mentioned but the boys from Canada tend to get my vote most of the time. You pays your money...

Then there's the real heartbreaker of the kit, which lives in the form of the main landing gear struts. As tooled, the model sits way too high and ends up looking pretty silly once it's completed, but those struts aren't the problem. Nope, the whole issue stems from the way Airfix have you mount the mains into the wheel wells, but there's a super easy fix for that too---that over-long gear is the long pole in this particular tent, but we can fix it in just a few minutes:

The guys at Airfix do great work these days but I'm pretty sure the guy who designed those struts wasn't talking to their wing department when those items were tooled because, as designed, they sit ON the wheel wells instead of IN them. The fix is an easy one; just open up the mounting slots so the strut attachment pegs can drop down into the wing. The struts are approximately 1/8th inch too long but not really; they just mount incorrectly, and this fix almost exactly equals the dimension required to fix the problem. 

Here's the finished opening. It's rough (I coulda/shoulda been neater!) but it works, as we will shortly discover.

See how those struts are sitting in the photo? The one with the red box around it has been corrected, while the one furthest away is just sitting there as Airfix mistakenly intended it to be. Dropping the strut down into the wing makes the whole problem go away.

Notice how the top of the strut's mounting peg hits the bottom of the upper wing---that can be used as an ad hoc fixture to set your spacing, after which all that's required is to make certain the splay and rake of the gear is correct and let the cement cure. How easy can this be!

Here's how the finished model looks. Note the "sit" of the airplane---much better, huh? One thing about the Airfix kit that poses a problem is the relative fragility of the pitot tube and aileron mass balances, which are extremely fragile and easy to break when removing them from their sprues. Caution is required. That said, this model was built mostly as an Old School sort of project so the kit gun barrels were drilled out and most of the other parts on the airplane came from the kit. Normally I would use Master Barrels for that sort of thing but this time around I didn't and Old School worked out just fine. 

Early reviews of this kit slammed it for over-large panel lines and there's some truth to that, but they largely go away once the model is painted. My model received a coat of Mr Surfacer 1200 prior to painting and everything worked out just fine in the panel line department but that's a matter of taste, isn't it? I'm ok with the way it looks but you might not be. One thing I definitely should have done was replace the canopy stack, because those parts are way too thick even for an airplane using the E-1/E-3 canopy, which this airplane did. As previously mentioned, the parts from Eduard's oddly proportioned and overscale Bf109E kits will work just fine with the Airfix offering, as will Hasegawa's for that matter. If you're building an Emil with the "square" canopy and windscreen frame you'll have to do something about the issue anyway, but I got lazy and could get away with it since the E-7 I was building (Herbert Ihlefeld's LG-2 bird in Romania, immediately prior to the launch of Operation Barbarossa) carried the older canopy set. Sharp-eyed readers will also note that the windscreen hand-holds and canopy retaining strap still need to be added. All together now: Jeez---doesn't he ever actually finish anything?

Here's a parting shot, just because. The paint on this one was all Mr Color while the crosses, swastikas, and what little stencilling is evident were taken from the kit decals, which look awful on their carrier sheet but are actually quite good. The LG-2 insignia, commander's chevrons, and victory markings came from Eduard's limited edition Barbarossa set. I chose not to use their national insignia because they're too big for the Airfix kit, which is actually 1/48th scale. The Eduard kit (which I used to like a lot) has scale errors similar to their initial-release Me-109G series, which means it's a great selective parts source but you have to pay attention because some of the components, to include the national insignia on the decal sheets, are just too darned big! Forewarned is forearmed...

Public Resources

It's an odd thing, of the strange but true variety, that thousands of excellent photographs of American military airplanes are available to the aviation enthusiast an historian on line, and they're there for free! That's right; they're free, but you will have to dig for them. The point is they're out there, just waiting to be accessed. 

The resource is the United States' very own national archives, and you can tap into them at National Archives | if you'd like. It's a huge, and we mean HUGE, resource, albeit one that can be notoriously difficult to navigate until you get the hang of it. That said, once you learn how to get around in there the images and documents that are available to the public absolutely free of charge will astound you. Here are a couple of examples of the photography that lives within:

Do you recognize this airplane? You should, because this very image has been used over and over again in books and magazine articles, sometimes properly credited but far more often not. It's been in the Archives forever and depicts "Scatterbrain", a P-40E of the 7th FS/49th FG during their time at the Port Moresby complex of airfields. The date on the photograph is somewhat misleading because it defines when the image went into the collection rather than the month and day the shot was taken, but still...  National Archives

Here's another photo you're probably familiar with. This time airplane is "Poopy II" and is another 7th FS/49th FG Warhawk stationed at Port Moresby. 

One of the things that will stand out if you choose to explore this resource is the overall quality of the images that reside there. Most of them are first-generation prints off the original negatives or first-generation color transparencies that have been scanned at a reasonably high resolution, although some of the photography held there isn't quite as good as these images are. That's not the point, though. The important thing is that the images are there, available and waiting. All that's required on your end are time, patience, and the ability to use the "search" function on a web site!

You can thank us later...

Maddog's Legacy

John Kerr, also know as "Maddog" to his friends, was a retired Air Force Air Commando and aviation photographer and collector who sadly passed away several years ago. That passing left quite a void for many of us but Maddog is still with us thanks to his tireless efforts in acquiring old and unique photographs of American military airplanes and his generosity in sharing them with others. We're offering this pair of images today to prove that point:

While the B-50 family was originally designed to be bombardment aircraft and the logical follow-on to Boeing's legendary B-29 SuperFortress, photographs of it in its bomber guise are difficult to come by because of the airframe's adaptability to other missions. We can find photographs of it in its weather, recce, and, most frequently, aerial tanker variations, but the straight-up bombers are fairly rare. This airplane, a B-50F (47-0141) of the SRS/55th SRW is rarer yet because it has retained its armament into 1953, when this photograph was taken at Olathe. The type is relatively obscure today but the B-50s in all of their variations were Cold Warriors par excellence and served the Air Force well from their introduction into service until the early 1960s. This one is a remarkable example of the type.   John Kerr Collection

Here's another Cold Warrior that's often overlooked by the amateur enthusiast. The Douglas B-66 wasn't much of a bomber and in consequence didn't serve long in that role, but it was the parent of the highly successful EB, RB, and WB variations of the airframe and deserves more attention than it normally receives. This photo illustrates a perfect example of one of the early RB-66s; an RB-66B (54-0534) of the 30th TRS/10th TRW stationed at Laon AB in France during the early and mid-1960s. The photo was taken at an open house, we think at Bitburg although we aren't certain of that. The airplane is a gorgeous representative of the Destroyer in its photo-recce guise and a fine representative of The Silver Air Force.   John Kerr Collection

Let's end Maddog's contribution to today's edition with a relative rarity. That tiny helicopter is a Bell HUL-1 (BuNo 143143) of HU-1 resting on the deck of a diesel-powered submarine, probably during the early 1960s. It was assigned to HU-1, an AirPac asset, and is proudly done up in the utility paint scheme and markings of the day. What a neat little helo! We suspect this image may have originated with the Navy but you never know, because John knew and traded with a lot of people! We think the photo is special no matter where it came from, and we're happy to be able to share it with you today.
   John Kerr Collection

Many thanks to Maddog John Kerr for the lifetime he devoted to the collection of photographs of American military airplanes and to his ongoing legacy to us all!

Sneaky Pete

It's been quite a while since we've walked a military flight line with a camera but there was a time when we could often be found there, wearing out shoe leather chasing airplanes. This photo takes us back to those days:

155681 was an A-6E assigned to VMA(AW)-533 and was on the ground on an overcast day at NAS Chase field when we caught her behind a tow tractor on 12 June, 1982. She was being moved into her parking place on the T-Line when this photo was taken.   Phillip Friddell

Here's another view of "Sneaky Pete" (probably the pilot's nickname and call sign rather than a literal aircraft name) in concert with an A-7E from VA-97 (BuNo 156828) and another A-6E, this time from the Navy's VA-165 (BuNo 155715). All three were robed in the NAV's classic "Easter Egg" paint job which was soon to give way to the more practical but far less attractive TPS schemes.   Phillip Friddell

The TPS camouflage paint schemes live on to this day, but we still prefer those long-obsolete Easter Egg paint jobs. There was a time, now many years behind us, when Navy airplanes wore color---a LOT of color---as a normal everyday part of the way they looked. Long ago and far away...

Happy Snaps

By now you're probably all familiar with Rick Morgan but for those of you who aren't, he's a career naval aviator (now retired) who managed to have a camera with him almost every time he was around or even near to a military airplane, and he's a talented writer as well. He's a superb photographer and it's always a pleasure to share his photography with our readership, so we'd like to offer another example of his work for you today.

Rick spent a fair portion of the mid 1980s flying with Air Wing 14 off the Constellation, which gave him the opportunity to photograph this gorgeous Tomcat (F-14A  BuNo 161609) from Fighting 21 while airborne over the Pacific Ocean on 10 June, 1986. It's one of those images that defines the airplane as well as the magic of flight and we hope you enjoy seeing it as much as we enjoyed sharing it with you. Fly Navy? You bet!   Rick Morgan

The Relief Tube

In the I Should've known Better part of today's entertainment, I need to make a significant correction to a Bobby Rocker image I ran last issue. That photo of the P5M loading casualties in the lead photo essay isn't that at all; the airplane is actually a Consolidated PB2Y Coronado based either in the Caribbean or the Atlantic. I missed it completely but Paul Boyer and Mark Aldrich didn't! First, from Mark:

 Hi Phil,

Man! I love your blog. I was just getting caught up and working my way through a few recent issues that escaped me and noticed one minor flaw in a fantastic August issue. That PBM loading casualties that came from Rocker is a Consolidated PB2Y Coronado. Probably a PB2Y-3R. No doubt about it.

Mark A.

And from Paul:

I just viewed your most recent blog entry from August 17 and noticed an oopsie. You have a Bob Rocker photo of a couple of litter patients about to be evacuated in a “Coast Guard PBM off Makin Island.” I can’t tell where it as taken, but that ain’t a PBM. The lack of wing dihedral from the fuselage, location of the hatch, and the two window-frame cockpit ceiling hatches are tells. What we’re looking at here is a PB2Y Coronado and it looks like it is in the “Atlantic” or “antisubmarine” scheme of dark-gull-gray over white. That would suggest a Navy Atlantic patrol assignment, possibly in Central or South America. I’m attaching a couple of shots: a reference photo, and a model I made of that aircraft using the 1/72 scale resin Kora kit.

Hope you and yours are well!

Paul Boyer

Here's a photo Paul provided to prove the point, and a photograph of an excellent model of the Coronado he built from the 1/72nd Scale Kora resin kit.   Paul Boyer Collection

And this, boys and girls, is how it's done! A good modeler with a good resin kit can do some amazing things indeed and, while I can't vouch for the quality of that Kora PB2Y kit, I can most assuredly confirm Paul Boyer's skills as a modeler! He was kind enough to share some other models from his collection with us as well, which we'll be sprinkling in as we go along!   Paul Boyer

Thanks to both Mark and Paul for the correction to that photograph! 

One more thing before we go: There's a Comments feature that can be used with this blog software but I've never turned it on and don't intend to. That's because of all the nastiness that appears on the various sites that allow such things; life's too short for that! Still, I'd love to hear from you and do publish pertinent comments, corrections, and photography, should you be so inclined. The email address for that, all run together to confound and befuddle The Picture Pirates, is    replicainscaleatyahoodotcom  . 

It's been a crazy year without much activity around here but we're still alive and well. We'll see you again, hopefully soon, with another edition of our modest blog. Until then be good to your neighbor!