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!

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