Monday, June 28, 2010

Tweety Plumage, A Couple of Stratojets, Some More Invaders, and No Progress Whatsoever On The Nate

When Tweety Got New Feathers

Way back in 1987 (anybody besides me remember 1987?) the Air Force decided it would be a really good idea to put some color on their T-37 and T-38 fleets, not for the amusement of aviation enthusiasts such as ourselves but rather for conspicuity purposes. They'd tried once before with the late, lamented Candy Cane Air Force T-37s (a story for another time), but were a little more serious about things in the 80s. The scheme that Randolph AFB's corrosion control folks came up with (assisted by the not-inconsiderable input of some fellow named Keith Ferris) resulted in a scheme that remained on the T-37 until it was finally retired from service.

It was my good fortune to be on a shoot at Randolph during the transition, and I ended up with a fair amount of paint and markings-related T-37 photography as a result. Most of what I shot was on slides and I don't have a decent scanner yet, so I'm going to share some official USAF photography with you instead. Sure hope you like the "Dog Whistle"!

The first T-37B to wear the new high-vis scheme was 66-7982 of the 12th FTW. It was nicknamed "Tweet 1" and is seen here in the initial version of the scheme. The color is more of a royal blue than the later Insignia Blue worn by ATC's T-37s and T-38s, while the gear legs, wheels, and inner gear doors (along with the wheel wells) remained Insignia White.  USAF

Here's the starboard nose. Note the crew chief's name painted under the anti-glare panel, as well as how the difference in lighting has perceptably changed the hue of that royal blue!  USAF

ATC's birds were, and still are, well-used. 7982's rudder shows the effects of 21 years of continuous use! The bird proudly wears its RA tailcode at the top of the rudder.  USAF

And the starboard side. This photo offers a fine example of the reason you don't normally want to shoot with backlighting!  USAF

A detail of the empennage, useful primarily because it gives a pretty good idea of that original royal blue. 7982 was funded by the Federal Luftwaffe and was originally assigned to the 80th FTW at Sheppard before ending up with the 12th FTW at Randolph. The airframe was subsequently sold to Greece, finally ending up at the AMARC in 2006.  USAF

If you're going to have a "Tweet 1", it only stands to reason that you'd have a "Tweet 2" to go with it. Here she is, parked on the T-37 Ramp at RAFB. 67-14737, another T-37B, ended up wearing the final scheme which used Insignia Blue rather than the royal blue of "Tweet 1". The "Dog Whistle" would wear this scheme until its ultimate retirement from the inventory. I think it's kindof pretty.  USAF

Here's the nose of 14737, which shows the anti-glare and anti-skid treatments to advantage. It also gives us a really good idea of how the blue paint sweeps up onto the upper wing.  USAF

And the upper wing up the same aircraft. That fuel cap treatment is reminiscent of the one used on the P-38 and adds an interesting touch to the upper surface of the aircraft.  USAF

The guys at Randolph were kind enough to give me a blank form out of their corrosion control files. Here are my original notes on the scheme worn by 67-14737. (Note that I mis-identified the serial number when I did this. Some things never change...)

It's a Good Day to Run a Picture of the BUF's Daddy

The Boeing B-47 was ground-breaking in every way; a true pioneer of aviation engineering. The following shots don't really fit into any sort of format but are interesting nontheless. Enjoy!

It's a long, skinny photograph, but a photograph at any rate. 53-1915 was built at Lockheed-Marietta as a B-47E-70-LM, and was converted to EB-47E status at some point prior to its ultimate retirment to the MASDC in 1965. This early shot was taken during its time as a bomber and no; I don't know where those smudges came from either!  For that matter, I'm not sure where I found this shot but I like the picture, mostly because of that antenna running from the vertical stab to the forward fus.  Friddell Collection

The LOGAIR depot at Kelly AFB was prime on the B-47, and usually had a bunch of them in various stages of repair and overhaul. This maintenance hangar contains enough B-47s to equip a full SAC Wing!
Those were the days!  KAFB History Office13066008

Two More Invaders For Your Consideration

If I had it in me to do a monograph on the Douglas A-26/B-26 family I'd probably include these next shots, but I'm not so I won't. You'll just have to settle for seeing them here...

This photo, poor as it is, is highly significant because of the time and the place: Clark Field, early 1945. The aircraft are from the 3rd  but the image is too poor to make out much in the way of details. Once again the source is unknown, which is a shame. I wonder if there are any more photos of this lineup out there someplace...  Friddell Collection

Here's something really dumb you can do to a photograph if you've a mind to. The original of this is a slide, which I shot at Randolph AFB on 18 June, 1972 during an open house. I figured I needed a print of it and had one made, but didn't specifiy the type of paper the print was to be on, so the image ended up on this crinkly stuff. You can see everything ok, but it's definitely not the way to run the railroad, just in case you ever wondered about doing such a silly thing yourself.  The aircraft is an A-26B-61-DL (44-34610) of the Air National Guard Bureau. If I ever get a decent scanner I'll re-do this and run it again. Until that happens, let this be a lesson to me!  Phillip Friddell

A Distinct Lack of Progress

On "Nate", that is. Nothing's happened to it between now and the last time you saw it, so we'll shine it on by for today. Meanwhile, be good to your neighbor. We'll talk again soon.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Nudging Along With Nate; Or Making Little Progress, A Tilt-Rotor That's Not From Bell, A CAG Corsair, A Few -5s, Inside an Electric Spooky, and Something to Move the Things That Go Bang

Somethin's Goin' On, But It Ain't Very Much

Depending on how you judge things last week might or might not have been productive. Your never-humble correspondent (that would be me) managed a week of modest accomplishments (including the riding of not one but two Ducatis!), but didn't get very far on "Nate". That's a relative thing, particularly if you judge Progress by my distinct lack of same regarding that Hasegawa A-4 we started oh-so-many-months-ago, but the "Nate" is actually coming along, more or less. The along-coming just isn't happening very darned fast, that's all.

There are a couple of issues, aside from the fact that I'm generally bone-tired these days and don't have much time for modeling, that are slowing down the completion of this extraordinarily simple kit. One of the things I've rediscovered is that the canopy frames of the transparencies provided for either kit variant are somewhat less defined than they could be, but then that was the norm back in the mid-1970s. I mention it only because I'm on my second round of canopy masking because I want it to look good; if you'll page back to my first installment of this whole Ki-27 deal you'll find a photograph of a model of same that I built a few years back. Nobody wrote in to tell me the canopy demarcation lines were ratty (and I'm grateful for that) but ratty they are, and there's no point in repeating that particular bit of poor workmanship on this model.

Another thing is the way the engine mounts, and the fact that there's nothing behind said engine to prevent you from looking straight into the cockpit when you hold the completed model in a backlighted position. I knew about the problem because I'd noticed it after I'd finished that first model, but had forgotten all about it (how I do dislike the aging process!)  when I built this one. If I can easily remove the cowling I'll put a baffle back there before I call this thing finished, but if I can't do that then I won't. The problem really can't be seen unless you know to look for it, but then we're aware of it, aren't we?

On a more positive note I did, however, manage to get all the initial striping done. You may recall that the aircraft being modeled had red stripes on the aft fuselage, vertical stab/rudder, and horizontal stab/elevators, the aforementioned stripes being trimmed in white. My approach to doing this was to perform a little careful masking (but not nearly careful enough, because I've got a couple of stripes to fix!) and painting, doing the "white" parts first. Next I'll mask the already-painted white trim and do the red, at which point the markings will be completed. Note that the "white" (there's a reason I'm using those little quotation dealies there) is actually Testor 36622 Grey; that's because it makes an excellent subdued white, which goes nicely with a pet theory of mine regarding pure white paint on small model airplanes. Feel free to do the same if you like the effect, or don't even consider it if it doesn't look right to you. This is, after all, a pretty subjective hobby.

Here's a 3/4 nose shot showing the not-quite-white white. There's a lot of taper on that aft fuselage and masking it was therefore a joy beyond compare, but a little caution ended up being all that was required to make things work. I had to cut the masking tape I use (Tamiya, I think), by laying out a strip on a piece of sheet sytrene and cutting against a draftman's straight-edge with a really sharp blade to get the width I needed---I think that sort of thing is available off the shelf but none of the San Antonio or Austin shops carry it---but the rest of the process was relatively simple.

Another view, partially redundant but another view all the same. Next up is application of the red, and I can honestly say I'm not looking forward to doing it, mainly because the masking's going to have to be really precise and precise I'm not. Guess we'll find out how it goes, huh?

And a view from behind. I'm not sure if the stripes on the horizontal tail are on the bottom surfaces too, but I didn't put them there---that's on the theory that in the 1:1 scale world this whole paint job was applied by somebody in the field, and getting under "Nate's" tail to paint anything would have been pretty tough, even if the aft fus was supported on saw horses or similar. If anybody can prove to me beyond reasonable doubt that this airplane had stripes down there I'll add 'em; otherwise it stays as-is. Note that I still haven't overpainted the anti-skid on the port wing---the more I look at That One Famous Photo the more I'm convinced that the panel was there, just covered over by dust or mud in a few places. I'll cater to that when I get to the weathering.

It's now possible, but only just, that this thing will be completed in time for next week's installment, but then again maybe it won't be. I will serve no Ki-27 before its time!

The Will Was There, But the Way Was Lacking

Bell wasn't the only aerospace company interested in the tilt-rotor concept; Curtiss Wright put in their two cent's worth too in a short-lived early-60s program. We haven't run anything by Mark Nankivil in a while, so let's take a look at a couple of photos he's sent in:

Here's 61-2197 in all its glory. Those 4 props were spun by a pair of Avco-Lycoming T55-L-5 engines buried in the fuselage. The first prototype crashed during testing, which greatly influenced the cancellation of the program. The surviving airframe ended up at what used to be called the Air Force Museum.  Greater St Louis Air & Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

And here she is in low hover. I'm one of those folks who thinks the whole tilt-rotor thing is a great idea, but nobody was quite ready for it in the 60s! Let's file these photos under "great ideas gone wrong".

A Correction Is In Order

Author and Friend Tommy Thomason was heavily involved in the development of Bell's Tiltrotor and sent in this comment regarding the X-19. While I don't normally print corrections the same day I run the original piece I had the chance to do it this time so, without further ado:

Strictly speaking, the X-19 was not a tilt rotor, because the lifting devices were propellers (high disc loading, no cyclic pitch), not rotors. They were very unusual propellers, because they were designed to maximize "radial lift." (Trust a propeller company to come up with a propeller solution to vertical flight.) Pitch, roll, yaw, and height control in hover were accomplished by changing the propeller pitch, which in a helicopter (or a tilt rotor) would be collective. Note that the X-19 was also not a tilt wing, since the wings did not pivot with the propellers. (The reason to tilt the wing was to get it out of the way of the propeller downwash so thrust was maximized.) On the X-19, the download on the wings was minimized by flaps. The tradeoff in not tilting the wing was a reduction in thrust in hover versus a reduction in drag in low speed flight while the thrust was angled mostly upward, some contribution in lift from the wing during conversion to and from cruise, and the avoidance of wing stall in low-power descents which was a problem with tilt wings.

Probably more than you wanted to know...

We now know a whole lot more about the X-19 than we did before; many thanks, Tommy!

Corsairs Can Be CAG Birds Too

If you mention the Chance Vought F4U-5 to almost any modeler or aviation historian the first thing you'll probably hear is reference to the type as a radar-equipped night fighter. The -5 did indeed see a great deal of service in that guise, but it also flew as a day fighter without that clunky radar pod. Here's a shot from Jim Sullivan that shows just how pretty the late "Hogs" could be:

This is F4U-5, BuNo 121846 of VF-61, while serving as Air Group 1's  CAG bird during 1952. The spiraled prop hub and striped vertical tail are noteworthy, as is the use of matte sea blue paint ahead of the cockpit. A squadron badge on the nose puts the finishing touch on a beautiful example of the -5. The exhaust stains on the fuselage are noteworthy.  Sullivan Collection

UPDATE, LATER THAT SAME DAY: And now for yet another same day correction! Rick Morgan caught a couple of errors regarding this shot and sent in a more complete description of the bird, plus a unit correction. Apologies to all for the error, and gosh I wish those other guys hadn't cribbed our "Relief Tube" thing...

Phil: Fascinating shot of the CVG-1 F4U-5 tonight, but it’s not VF-61. Fighting-61, the “Jolly Rogers”, were with CVG-6, assigned to Midway, with F9F-2s at that time. T-01 is indeed one of the CAG birds, one of two assigned directly to the Group (as in the 1/52 Location & Allowance List) along with a single AD-4Q, two TOs and four SNB-5s for use as hacks (obviously when land-based for the last two types). Although assigned to the Air Group, they were actually maintained by one of the subordinate units under it at NAS JAX. At that time VF-11 and -12 had F2H-2s, VF-13 and -14 F4U-5s, VA-15 with AD-4/4L.

The assigned strength was 16 aircraft for each squadron, plus 8 for the CAG. I can’t quite make out the insignia- it should be the Air Group’s but I don’t recognize it. As for the name on the side, it’s not the CAG (CDR Richard Rogers at that time) although it might be the Group’s Ops O.


Thanks, Morgo!

Not All Korean War -5s Were Night Fighters

And to prove the point, here are a few more shots from Jim Sullivan's collection for your consideration:

Loaded for bear, this F4U-5 of VMF-212 prepares to launch at Kimpo during 1952. The "Hog" proved to be an outstanding ground support aircraft, although the type suffered relatively heavy casualties when performing the mud-moving mission in Korea. Somebody had to do it...  Sullivan Collection

The mains are just beginning to retract as this VMF-212 bird gets airborne. She's armed with 6 rockets, a napalm can, and a drop tank; asymetrical centerline stores were the norm in Korea for all the Corsair variants. Barely visible are eyes and a mouth on the gas bag.  Sullivan Collection

Any landing you can walk away from is a good one. This VMF(N)-513 -5 has bellied-in at Kimpo during 1952 and suffered relatively minimal damage in the process. Odds are that she was back in the air within a couple of days of this mishap. The Corsair was a tough old bird!  Sullivan Collection

Corsair Color

How about a couple of color photos to end today's salute to the "Hog"?

Fighting 42's BuNo121928 sits on the ramp in mid-1949. Of interest are the yellow tips to the vertical stab and wings (note the probable color shift; that's a chrome yellow rather than the faded out pastel shade implied by the photograph), the aluminum wheels, and the highly-weathered condition of the airplane. It was rare for a peacetime Corsair to get this nasty; VF-42 must've used their airplanes!  Sullivan Collection

And finally, a -5 of VF-14 (USS Franklin D Roosevelt) prepares to trap during October of 1953. This is a clean aircraft and contrasts with the VF-42 bird shown directly above. They're barely visible in this shot but the black and white striping on the tailhook is visible if you look closely.  Sullivan Collection

Did You Ever Wonder What's in There?

The Douglas C-47 family had a last chance for glory during the Vietnam War, serving as a gunship, an EW platform, and a transport, among other roles. The EC-47s were an interesting lot and I thought we ought to see what the Air Force did to the airframe.

This page from 1C-47(E)N-1 shows the interior configuration as installed. The C-47 proved an ideal platform for the EW mission as long as nobody was shooting back; high-threat environments weren't the place to be in this bird. The airframe was modified into three distinct variants, the EC-47N, EC-47P, and EC-47Q, served throughout most of the conflict. There are a couple of pretty good kits of the "Goony Bird" out there, you know...

What's That Little Wagon Under The Bomb?

Those of you who are old enough to have built the Monogram SBD kit surely remember that it came with a little wagon to put the big bomb on if said bomb wasn't attached to the airplane, and you probably remember it in a lot of WW2-vintage photos of flight decks as well. It was about as ubiquitous a piece of equipment as anything could be, and I'll bet you don't even know what to call it, or at least you didn't before today! The time has come, and it's about time, too! Here then is the Bomb Skid, Mk 1 Mod 1 for your consideration:

The Mk 1 Mod 1 was an extremely simple piece of gear and was capable of handling the 1,000 lb GP bomb. Note that the bomb is mounted to face aft on the skid, and is meant to be secured by a hold-down strap. There are brakes affixed to the wheels---they're actuated automatically when the skid is lowered onto the flight deck. It couldn't be any simpler!

And here's how to put the bomb on the skid. How easy can this get?

You could install a Mk 3 adaptor and carry rockets around too. That little bomb skid was a pretty effective device!  And in case you were wondering, the illustrations all came from our old friend The Aviation Ordnanceman's Manual, 1958 edition.

That's All There Is, There Ain't No More

So we'll see you in a week or so. In the meantime, be good to your neighbor!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Complain, Complain, Complain, More On That CalSpan Invader, Even More CalSpan Birds, A Look at Color, Fixing The Big Stick, and Progress On Nate

If You Can't Say Something Nice

Time was when I read multiple internet modeling boards pretty much each and every day of the week, mostly to learn things but, it must be said, also for the amusement offered from time to time. Let's face it, ya'll; most internet boards, and that includes boards of pretty much anything you could possibly imagine that folks would have a board (or "forum", which is the fancy name that most of them are called) about, end up being sounding boards for for Instant Experts and people with some sort of axe to grind. I've never quite understood the concept ("Hey Moderator, don't you have a DELETE button over there someplace?") but there's a whole big chunk of Internet Humanity who seem to live for confrontation, and who seem to take some sort of strange pleasure by exhibiting their knowledge at the expense of others. It's a sad fact of virtual life, but it's also an Essential Truth of same.

That takes us to the part where I said I used to read the boards. I don't read 'em any more because I can't; things have changed around here to the point where I barely have time to do this blog, much less concern myself with the slings and arrows that some of the forum folks throw at each other on the aforementioned boards. In many respects that's too bad, at least on a personal level, because I've learned a lot about modeling from some of those Board Folks---there are some really good ones out there too and, quite frankly, they outnumber the "bad" ones by a considerable amount. I've also learned to shake my head and think things such as "don't those guys have anything better to do?" when I read the missives of The Complainers.

As a case in point, and to take us to what's going to pass for the reason I'm writing this thing, let's look at a new kit; the Airfix 1/48th scale Bf109-E. It's getting airplay on The Boards right now because it's new, and because it doesn't meet the standards of the day, whatever those are. I haven't seen the kit, just the sprue shots, and I doubt I'll buy one based on what I've seen, but that's primarily because the kit doesn't seem to offer any significant improvement over my own personal Gold Standard for that airplane, which is the Tamiya Bf109E-3 and Bf109E-4/E-7. That doesn't make the kit bad by any means; it just means I've got several unbuilt Tamiya kits and the new one from Airfix doesn't improve on them in any way.

On the other hand, more than a few modelers, and I'd expect most of them to be people relatively new to the hobby, will buy the Airfix kit, build it, and be happy with it. I also anticipate that more than a few experienced modelers will buy it, maybe out of curiousity, build it, and possibly be happy with it as well. There's a place in our hobby for kits like that one, and there's got to be a viable financial reason why Airfix chose to kit it. After all, it costs a fairly substantial chunk of change to tool for a new kit and it would seem obvious that Airfix thinks they have a market for it.

That takes us to the "specific" complaints about the kit, which seem to consist of chunky parts (in some places) and Great Big Honking Panel Lines. Those things do exist, and they need to be mentioned in a serious review, which I'm certain somebody has already done. With any luck the astute modeler will read those reviews and make up his or her own mind about whether or not they want the kit, leaving it to those previously-mentioned Forum Folks to bash the "clunkiness" and the panel lines ad nauseum. Me, I'm going to go build a model, and probably not complain about it too much while I'm doing it---most recent kits are far better than my very own personal abilities and I'm honestly just pretty darned happy to have something to choose from. Kudos to Airfix for issuing their new 109E, and to those of you who choose to build it. Enjoy it, and enjoy the hobby too. After all, it's just a kit, ya'll; it's only a kit.

Let's move on.

When Getting It Wrong Is The Right Thing To Do

A while back I started a thread (that's Internet Talk) on the Douglas A-26 Invader and, somewhere along the line, ran a photograph of a civil A-26 owned by CalSpan. I surmised it to be a corporate transport and so described it in the caption. Boy, was I ever wrong! Keith Svendsen, who was in the Air Force at the time and was there with the CalSpan Invader wrote to me ( ) to provide the real story on the airplane. I'm re-running the shot so you can see the airplane again without having to scroll down to find it, and appending Sven's comments as the caption:

 Just to add to the info on this Invader. It was built as s/n 44-34653. The Air Force Research Lab had the aircraft modified to a Variable Stability testbed in the early 1960s. It was used for both AFRL projects and USAF and USN Test Pilot School curriculum flights. The Calspan instructor pilot served as the safety pilot in the left seat while the right seat flight control system was programmable and used by the student or project pilot. This aircraft was used by the test pilot schools until 3 March 1981, when it  disintegrated during a curriculum flight north of Edwards AFB. The left wing separated after spar failure. Unfortunately, the parachutes were normally tied down in the aft fuselage and neither the Calspan pilot or the two TPS engineering students got out. One of the engineers was a good friend of mine of mine since college. Her husband and I both became students at TPS that July.

Timing is everything. AFRL knew that this aircraft, and its sister ship TB-26B s/n 44-34165 (N9146), were at the end of their useful service life and were due to be replaced by a single variable stability Learjet with the next TPS class. The surviving variable stability A-26 is held by the Air Force Flight Test Center Museum at Edwards and is in the same markings as the aircraft that was lost.   Sven
Here's a shot of the other CalSpan A-26 after being inducted (and, presumably, restored) to the museum at Edwards AFB, also courtesy Sven:
N9146H, the sister ship to N9417H sitting in the Edwards museum holding area in 1990.  Keith Svensen
Almost makes you want to build a "civil" A-26, doesn't it?!
And While We're At It
Here are a couple of additional CalSpan aircraft for your enjoyment today:
The variable stability Lear Jet LJ24. Took over the mission of the lost/retired TB-26. When I went through the "School House", it was standard to break the class up into teams of three or four and practice what we had learned in the flight controls course. We were given the pitch system as originally designed in the YF-16. If you remember the unofficial "Flight Zero", where during a high-speed taxi test the aircraft became unstable and the GD pilot elected (correctly) to take off and evaluate the situation rather than trying to keep the aircraft on the runway, then you'll understand why we were tasked with designing a fix to that control system. The incentive to doing a good job was that the CALSPAN pilot was going to program whatever we came up with into the VS Lear and we had to fly it. All of our evaluations took place 'up and away' though - thank goodness.    Sven

The NC-131H Total In-Flight Simulator, my class didn't get to fly this beast - I think it was down for depot maintenance. It wasn't generally used in the set curriculum, but it was used for class projects which took place in the last third of the one-year course. The aircraft had at least two interchangeable noses, one with the evaluation control station (shown) and a bulbous nose used for sensors testing.     Sven

We'll come back to the CalSpan birds another day. Meanwhile:

Just Paint It Some Old Color

Once upon a time, just a few short years ago, the early-twenties daughter of a friend of mine referred to something in her life as having occured "back in the day". It seemed an odd comment given her distinct lack of seniority on life, but it's what she said, which takes us to a Paint Thing.

Back in The Day, as it were (the particular day being the late 1960s), Floquil was a major player in the hobby paint market. They weren't owned by anybody else yet and were still Floquil, a division of...  FLOQUIL! And they made what was arguably the best hobby paint on the planet. (It may still be the best too, because nothing's ever been released that's capable of topping its performance, but that's a story for another day.) Floquil made railroad colors, and they made hobby colors, but they didn't make airplane colors, which meant you had to do some mixing to get what you needed. Floquil saw the need for something more, and issued their very own mixing guide covering most of the colors that modelers Back in The Day needed for their projects. They also provided a little bit of philosophy regarding those paint colors, which I'm going to share with you today courtesy of the letter that accompanied each and every mixing guide. Given the general lunacy that tends to surround "correct colors" in our hobby I'm going to say it's well worth a read:

Boy, did they ever hit that whole color nail on the head! There's no telling what your personal take on this color thing is, but I personally agree with Floquil's approach. It's worth remembering next time you get into one of those pointless discussions with The Folks Who Know Everything. Philosophy, as it were!

Taking the Big Stick to The Shop

As you may or may not know, the LogAir depot at Kelly Air Force Base was prime on the B-52. Let's do a quick photo essay on The Big Stick. (Or the BUF if you'd rather. Me, I'm saying Big Stick, at least for today.) Today's time capsule deals with the aircraft during the last days of its "peacetime" paint.

57-0182, a B-52F-70-BW, gets ready for delivery on the ramp at Kelly. The year is post-1964 judging from the '64 Ford Fairlane we can see at the bottom of the photo. 0182 ended up at MASDIC in 1971.  Kelly AFB History Office

It's a long way to the top. In this early shot (with no handy cars to help us identify the year) we see 53-0387 (A B-52B- 30-BO) getting touched up on the ramp. The tail gunner's position is shown to advantage here. None of the B-models made it to Vietnam and 0387 ended up at the MASDC facility in 1966. Note the maintenance stand up against the vertical stab of the next B-52 in line---it must've been pretty sporty up there on a windy day!   KAFB History Office 3204116

Kelly was the depot for the BUF, which means that they all came back there for overhaul multiple times. This unidentified B-52 has seen the elephant as connoted by the mission markers on the side of the fuselage. You have to wonder if anybody at Kelly bothered to photograph the nose art (there was some) and the mission markers before inducting aircraft for maintenance. (If they did such a thing, I haven't been able to find out where it's housed---anybody out there got any ideas, or maybe some more BUF noses? If you do, please get in touch with me at the ubiquitous !)  KAFB History Office 61252711

That wascally wabbit sure got around, as attested to by the nose art on B-52D 55-0078. If you've never been around an aircraft during overhaul you just can't conceive how cluttered things are on the hangar floor! There's method (and planning) to the madness, but you'd never know it just by looking. This bird survived Vietnam only to be lost on 30 October 1981 near La Junta, Colorado, during a low-level night training mission.  KAFB History Office 4991546

A rampant bull, a palm tree, and five mission markers adorn this unidentified B-52. Sure wish we knew the story behind those markings!  KAFB History Office 6259649

I Told You This Would Take a While

I've been putzing around a little bit more on the "Nate", but we aren't getting anywhere fast. Here's what I've done since last we met---pathetic, ain't it?!

That One Famous Photo clearly shows a light color under the canopy, so I've gone back and painted it in Testor JAAF Light Gray Green, which is what I strongly suspect was under there. Note the rough demarcation line---there's no real point in getting this part perfect since the base of the canopy will hide any irregularities. My personal jury's still out on dusting some dark green over that anti-skid on the port wing root, but I'm probably going to do it before I call this thing finished, mostly because that murky photograph inplies it was actually done.

The prop got painted too. I generally use a subdued yellow for the striping on such things in the belief that a really bright "Hey look at me!" prop stripe detracts from the model. That's personal philosophy, of course, and you may want to do otherwise on your own creations. I'm going to go mask some stripes on the tail and aft fus as soon as we finish this installment of my ongoing ramblings; maybe next time you're here this thing will be almost done. Maybe...

It Must Be Time to Go

Mostly because I'm all typed out! We'll see you next week, or maybe a little bit later in this one. Meanwhile, be good to your neighbor!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Nimrod, Sandy, and Nate

Nimrod Means Hunter, and the Prey is Trucks

Friend and contributor Don Jay was with the 56th SOW during the Late Great Unpleasantness in Southeast Asia, and spent a fair amount of time with the A-26 (nee B-26) during that conflict. We've already looked at a couple of his photos but, in the spirit of Never Having Too Many Invaders, we're going to explore things a little further.

Here's more A-26As in one place than most people ever get to see. The location is Naked Fanny, Thailand (aka NKP), the year is 1968, and the aircraft belong to the 609th SOS/56th SOW.  The "Nimrod" A-26s were flying a classic interdiction mission at night, hunting trucks in and around the Ho Chi Minh Trail. By all accounts they were highly effective at the mission.  Don Jay

The "Invader" fought a tough war in SEA, and there were losses. Here's a partial listing of serial numbers and, unfortunately, and overview on losses, as presented by Don:
Here are the known (by me) serials of the A-26s assigned to NKP:

Observed in 66-69 timeframe: 64-17461/42/43/44/45/46/48; 64-17650/51/52/53/54;
64-17660/61/62/63/64/65/66/67/68/69; 64-17670/71/72/73/75/76/77/78

This represents 30 of 30 A-26s assigned to the various Sqs at NKP. The first A-26s arrived at NKP in June of 1966 as Det 1, 603 ACS, with an initial deployment of 6 A-26As., then in '67 to the 606ACS, and finally in Nov 67 the 609ACS/ 56th SOW.

Here are the combat losses:

64-17668 & 17669 in a mid air on 2/21/67-606ACS
64-17642-8/26/67- "
64-17648-4/30/68- "
64-17673-3/10/69- "
64-17667-3/22/69- "
64-17646-7/08/69- "

An enviable record when you think about it. 10 combat losses out of 30 airframes-1/3 of the force. Flying combat every night for over three years-66-69, they averaged 1 truck kill per sortie, something not surpassed until the AC-130s arrived. The squadrons at NKP were not the normal of USAF units-each had a mystique of its own. The Nimrods were best described in the off take of the song "Ghost Riders in the Sky";  Nimrods, Nimrods.....Truck Killers in the Night...
Once it became obvious to the USAF that the venerable A-26 would require extensive modification to remain viable in its new combat role, a contract was let to modify some 40 aircraft to B-26K Counter Invader configuration.  That contract was issued in 1964, and hardware was available by 1965. Here are a couple of photos of A-26Ks on display in '65 to show Congress what their money had bought.

Sure is shiney, huh? 17672 sits on the ramp in all its demonstration glory. The scheme wouldn't last, and this airframe would be at NKP by August of 1967. It was subsequently lost in combat.  via Don Jay

And its sister ship, 17643. This bird was photographed at Eglin AFB, presumably during armament trials. Note the glass nose; it wouldn't last long before being replaced with the far-more-useful gun nose. This aircraft was also lost in combat after deployment to SEA.  via Don Jay

If you're gonna be an Air Commando you gotta have a patch. Here's the 609th's; many thanks to Don for sharing this with us!  Don Jay

The air war in SEA wasn't exactly the High Point of Fun for most of the participants, but sometimes a little humor reared its head. There was a modest rivalry between the A-26 guys and the 56th's spAD drivers, as this photo attests:

Here's what a Counter Invader looks like when seen through the eyes of an A-1's gunsight. We'll have fun fun fun 'til daddy takes the T-Bird away...   via Don Jay

It couldn't all be fun, though. Here are a few business-as-usual photos depicting the "normal" daytime life of the A-26. Things were a little different after dark...

If you were to say that maintenance facilities were primitive in during the War you'd be right. Here, an A-26B undergoes engine maintenance in The Great Outdoors during 1969. Of particular interest are the wheels, which feature red hubs, and the extensive exhaust staining aft of the cowl flaps. The "Nimrod" birds were well-used.  Don Jay

Sometimes you could work on the airplanes in a hangar (more or less). That meant that you wouldn't get as wet when it rained, but the heat and bugs remained the same! Note the A-1 parked to the right of the A-26. Both aircraft were ideal for the Air Commando mission.  Don Jay

Takin' Care of Business. The original A-26 hard-nose contained 6 .50 caliber machine guns arranged across the nose in two rows of 3 guns each. That was quickly changed to the nose configuration we're familiar with; 8 .50s arrayed in vertically displaced pairs. These gun muzzles are covered with masking tape, although other methods (including the occasional use of condoms) were tried in an effort to keep moisture out of the gun muzzles. In many respects the A-26 was the original Bad News Bear.  Don Jay

Those Other Guys Flew Skyraiders Too

Every once in a while I run a shot that's Mystery Meat. This is one of those photos. The aircraft is a USAF A-1J, but I've got no idea which unit it's from. I strongly suspect it to be from the 602nd SOS at NKP but have no way of knowing; the pilot who gave it to me back in the late 60s has since passed away. Let's enjoy it for what it is; a window into a far-away time and place.  Paul Jahant

This bird's a little bit easier to figure out---the unit is the 602nd and the year 1967.  This happy snap was taken in poor weather as witnessed by the brilliance of the navigation lights. Wars rarely wait for decent weather.  Paul Jahant

Chooglin' On Down the Road With Nate

I've actually made some progress on my Ki-27 project, and here's the proof:

The 24th must've been the free spirits of the JAAF during the Philippines Campaign. Here's what the model looks like today; all the big stuff has been painted and I'm working up the courage to start masking all the red and white stripes on the aft fuselage and tail. The one surviving photograph (that I've seen, anyway) of this particular aircraft seems to show the anti-skid on the wing to have been painted over, so I'm going to lightly dust it with the appropriate upper surface color.  It's coming along, I think.

And here's what the front of it looks like. A lot of the camouflage is by-guess-and-by-golly, because there's just that one surviving photograph...  The figure is from FineMold's Ki-43-II and will compliment the model nicely. The hinomarus were masked and painted on; the stripes will be painted as well and  there won't be any decals on this one at all. Oh yeah,  I ended up using the stock pitot tube even though I said I was going to scratch it. Lazy, I am...

And that's what I know. Be good to your neighbor and we'll see you again real soon.