Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hustler Maintenance, Bad Day in Birmingham, and a Token Zero

All Tore Down; Hustlers in the Barn

I saw my first real B-58 in 1961, when one flew over our quarters at Sheppard AFB. It was loud (four J-79s, remember?) and it looked like something from another world. It also looked like the landing gear was about to fall off, a characteristic of the Hustler's MLG trucks when in flight and a visual that's stayed with me to this day. (In retrospect I think my friends and I were all hoping the wheels would fall off so we could have them. It's funny how the 12-year-old mind works...) That was, if memory serves, the only time I ever saw a B-58 in flight; we went to Japan the next year and SAC started phasing the aircraft out of service shortly after we got back. It seemed that PACAF just didn't have much use for the beast, Southeast Asia War Games notwithstanding.

To get to the point for once, the Air Force operates several Air Logistics Centers around the country (but fewer than before thanks to that BRAC thing), each depot dedicated to a number of different aircraft, engines, and weapons systems. Kelly AFB in San Antonio was prime on the B-58, and it wasn't unusual for several Hustlers to be there at the same time undergoing maintenance. Here are a couple of photos of the B-58 for those of you who like to open things up on your models. Anybody out there brave enough to turn one of these shots into a diorama?

OK Gang, here's a project for you; how about three Monogram Hustlers undergoing depot level maintenance? This 1965-vintage photo shows three B-58s with various panels removed and work well underway. The escape pods have been removed and a small amount of cockpit console detail is visible on the aircraft in the foreground, while 61-2068 shows extensive use of paper and masking tape on the intakes and windscreen.   KAFB History Office 51832277

Here the escape pods are ready for installation on a 305th BW B-58A. This photo provides us with an excellent view of the nose gear and landing light detail as well. It's hard to imagine the clutter that surrounds an aircraft that's undergoing major maintenance until you've seen it first-hand, but the area is properly squared away. There's a lot to be seen here including jacks and access stands.  KAFB History Office 6672184

So You Think You're Having a Bad Day?

Contract maintenance for military aircraft isn't a new thing; it's been going on for years. Mostly it's a business-as-usual sort of deal, but every once in a while there's Drama. Sometimes there's a lot of Drama. Sometimes there's so much drama that you need fire trucks to get it to stop being Drama so you can go back to Business-As-Usual, which is what's happened in the series of photos below. The ramp is the Hayes Aircraft Corporation facility in Birmingham, Alabama (now Pemco); the year is 1957. I don't know much about the incident except that Hayes must've been big into KB-50 maintenance at the time, and either Hayes, the Alabama ANG,  or the airport had a really good fire team.

This is how things are supposed to be when you work in the aircraft maintenance business; just a nice quiet ramp with nothing much going on. In addition to KB-50 work, there was apparently some C-119 and B-25 activity at Birmingham as well.  Hayes AC 1-57-863

This bird's been burning for a while, but the fire team has it under control. Note the color of the smoke; this wasn't a fuel fire. (It would be normal for the aircraft to be de-fueled while undergoing maintenance.) Notice the proximity of other aircraft to the fire scene. Yikes!  Hayes AC 57-375

This closeup shows how the aircraft has broken in two at the wing. Note the fireman standing between the fus and the inboard engine still playing a stream of foam onto the fire. As bad as this looks, it could have been far worse. Somebody was definitely on the ball when this one started.  Hayes AC 1-57-362

The fire is out and the investigation begins. The KB-50 is a write-off, but as far as is known nobody was injured.   Hayes AC 1-57-374

Just how bad could this have been? Take a look at the rows of KB-50s parked near 8052 and figure that one out for yourself. There's no doubt that a tremendous amount of skill went into extinguishing the fire and minimizing the damage, but there had to have been a fair amount of good luck going on as well. You might want to think about this series of photos the next time something goes wrong where you work---maybe things aren't so bad after all!  Hayes AC 1-57-376

A Token Model For Today

Today's been a Real Airplane kind of day, so here's a shot of a model to keep things in perspective. It is, after all, Replica in Scale and it's a model airplane sort of deal, right? Right!

You can never have too many Zeros. This is Hasegawa's 1/48th scale A6M3 Type 32 marked as V-190 of the Tainan Ku as based at Buna during 1943. My dad was there, helped to take the place in fact, and may have even gotten a first-hand look at V190. That's something I can never know, but I always liked the airplane and wanted to build something from the Tainan Ku that wasn't a Type 21. Here's the result.

I'm lazy at heart, so extensive mixing of paint to get to the Flavor of the Month for the Zero's factory color just had no appeal for me at all. I'd read someplace that Floquil's "Concrete" (we're talking about the New Floquil here, not the much-loved DioSol-based paint of our youth) was a pretty close match to what the color faded to when exposed to the tropical sun for a while. That, plus the fact that the color comes reasonably close to matching the few chunks of Real Zero that I've been priviledged to examine clinched the deal; Concrete it was! The hinomarus were painted rather than decalled---it's really easy to mask and paint a Great Big Spot on a model---while all other markings were from the kit's decals. The back of the prop blades should be brown primer and not black as shown and it's in the plan to repaint them some day, but that pretty obviously hasn't happened yet. I mention it only to quell those of you who are poised to commence jumping up and down shouting things like "look at the prop blades, look at the prop blades".

Anyway, the model has the ubiquitous Eduard belts and harness but the rest of the cockpit is courtesy of the kit. The radio mast has been sawn off flush with the canopy per the Tainan Ku's long-established habit of removing the com gear(which apparently didn't work any too well in any case) from their aircraft. Hasegawa molds a radio into the side of the cockpit and removing it from the model to ensure that last bit of scale accuracy would be what an English modeler might term "fraught with difficulties", so it's still there should you care to pick up the model and take a look. I did give thought to removing it, but so doing would require a fairly extensive rework of the cockpit and I just didn't feel inclined to jump into that particular bucket, thus giving the Jump-Up-and-Downers an opportunity to do that again.

One final thing about the Hasegawa Zeros before we sign off. They all have a little triangular doohickey molded in front of the arresting hook well, and it shouldn't be there. Sand it off and fair in the hook because this airplane didn't have one installed. Build the model. Move on.

Something I Keep Forgetting

A few days ago I ran a color photo of a really pretty T-28B from VT-27 that a friend of mine shot at NAS Corpus Christi back in 1980. Robert Perry wrote me (at ) to let me know that the bird ended up at War Eagles Air Museum in New Mexico. There's a photo of it in its present guise at if you're interested in what it looks like today. Robert let me know about this back on the 12th, which may mean I forgot to mention his update until now. Late is better than never, right?

And Something Else I Keep Forgetting to Remember

I've got a project underway and am looking for photography and/or personal recollections on the 21st TFW while they were flying F-100s out of Misawa AB, Japan during the late 1950s up through 1964-65. The squadrons would be the 416th and 531st TFS, and their operations included frequent TDYs to Kunsan AB, RoK. Any help would be greatly appreciated and all loaned materials returned promptly. Please contact me at, you guessed it: if you can help.

And that's what I know for a Wednesday. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon.

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