Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Couple of Early Phantoms, The Way It Was, Who Knows What They're Doing, Just Lookin' For Trucks, And Some Germans in Texas

In the Beginning

We're all used to the F-4, and I'll bet that more than a few of us miss the airplane; what used to be an everyday sight in the skies around any American air base is a rare thing these days, and in our opinion it's a lesser world for it.

Most folks are used to seeing the Air Force variants of the Phantom (my son started out called it the "Bent Winged Bug Sucker" because an F-4 maintenance officer that I used to hang out with called it that---not a bad name, come to think of it...) all decked out in SEA camo, or ADC Grey, or maybe even in those goofy darker shades of grey when we get towards the end of the road, but in the early days, back when the type wasn't that far away from being an F-110A, the standard paint was Gull Grey over White. It was a Navy Thing back then, and it made for some neat looking, if somewhat unexpected in this day and age, paint jobs. Mark Nankivil's been at it again and has supplied a couple of early RF-4C (not RF-110A, although it wasn't far from it) images. Enjoy.

RF-4C (not RF-110A) 62-12201 made her 100th flight on 5 November 1964. Within a couple of years the RF-4C would be hip-deep in the conflict in SEA, but in '64 the type was still brand-spanking-new to the Air Force. The grey and white RF-4s are a relative rarity and really pretty, we think. The scheme was effective, too, but not down in the weeds.  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

A proud flight test team stands in front of 12201. Note that the "Ph" part of the F-4's heritage has already started; that placard refers to the "Phabulous Photo Phantom"---love it!  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Learning to Fly

If you're a regular around here you've probably discovered we've got a soft spot for classic trainers. Here are a couple of images from the archives to reinforce that point:

"OK, you guys; let's go get in the airplanes and go someplace!"  They don't do it this way any more, but back in the old days a mass man-up like this wasn't all that uncommon. What we're looking at is a group of pre-War aviation cadets preparing to man up on a ramp full of BT-1s; bet that was a real sporty takeoff if they actually launched in a group. Things were looser back then...  Friddell Collection

Remember that part where we said things were looser back then? Here's a photo that could be the Poster Child for that sort of thing, taken at Randolph Field back in the '30s; that's the Taj in the background. Try this today and you'd have the Air Force, OSHA, the Green folks, and Lord knows who else sitting on your posterior asking for blood. There was a time when all you needed was an understanding CO who knew the value of good publicity and enough intestinal fortitude to go out and Do the Dumb But Fun Thing. Then again, they used to crash a lot back then too...  Friddell Collection

OK You Guys; Exactly What Is It You're Doing?

Every once in a while we come across one of those shots that, to wax a little bit Biblical about it, passeth all understanding. What follows is one of those shots.

Lessee now; We got your airplane, we got your bag-pipers, and we got your crowd of assorted civilians. Mark Morgan sent this to me many years ago and he may have actually explained what was going on here, but I can't find much in the way of notes so it's a total mystery to me. The A-6E is a TRAM bird from VA-196, BuNo 159179, and the photo was taken 28 February 1997 at NAS Whidbey, but once you get past that I'm Officially Stumped. It could easily be a memorial service of some sort, since there seems to be a color guard just aft of the tail, but it's hard to say. What about it, Mark?  M. Morgan

You Gotta Love Those Black A-26s

You've heard it before, probably a whole lot more than you ever wanted to. The creator and editor of this never-humble blog spent most of his professional career in aviation, a circumstance that allowed him to meet a whole lot of people who took pictures of airplanes. One of those folks was an aeronautical engineer named Mike Hernandez, who spent part of the Korean War as a gunner on B-26s with the 3rd Bomb Wing. He was kind enough to share some photography with us, so we're going to share it with you.

Let's start right off the bat with an anomaly. This unidentified B-26C from the 8th BS/3rd BW is wearing the hard nose off an A-26B. It was a relatively easy thing to replace that nose in the field, but at the time this shot was taken the 8th was equipped with glass-nosed Charlie models. Go figure! And, while you're off figuring, check out those highly-polished natural metal prop blades. Regs? We don't need no stinkin' regs!  Hernandez via Friddell

They almost look placid, don't they? The Invader was a beautiful airplane, and quite the performer too. 44-34687 and 44-34180 are both from the 8th BS and are getting ready to take on a little gas while preparing for the evening's upcoming festivities. We don't know how you feel about it, but we think that Jet finish ("gloss black" if you don't speak 50's Air Force) on the B-26 was about as sexy a paint job as you'll find on any airplane.  Hernandez via Friddell

Here's another ramp shot of a 3rd BW B-26C, 44-35634, but the real star of this particular show is 51-5300, the HU-16A, sitting behind it. The sharp-eyed observer will note that none of the Invaders in this piece are wearing nose art, which makes us think that the airplanes are very new in-country. Note that most of the turrets have been removed; they would have been useless against the MiG-15, and most missions were flown after dark anyway. This shot really shows off the slim lines of the B-26.  Hernandez via Friddell

Here's a good view of the markings presentation on the vertical tail of the 8th's B-26s. That yellow trim is really something on a black airplane, isn't it?  Hernandez via Friddell

Jet paint notwithstanding, not all of the 8th's missions were nocturnal. Mike Hernandez photographed 44-34167 on its way to mischief in a twilight mission; this one was flown while the sun was still out. Note that the dorsal turret is still present and is trained forward. Mike described those missions as "sporty". We bet they were!  Hernandez via Friddell

So, what does an Invader formation look like from the cockpit? This photo gives us a pretty good idea. Those guys are really tucked in, but it won't last long---that tight formation is a really good way to get popped by The Bad Guys. Hernandez via Friddell

OK, modelers; here's your official How to Weather An Invader Nacelle shot. This bird is new enough to still be carrying a dorsal turret and the airplane is relatively clean, but that nacelle is absolutely filthy. It doesn't take long for a round engine to trash everything around it...  Hernandez via Friddell

Not All Texas Germans Live in Fredericksburg

Or at least they didn't in 1990. Bergstrom AFB has been closed for a number of years now, but it was still a going concern (12th AF HQ and home of the 67th TRW) back in the late 80s and early 90s, when they hosted a bi-annual international photo recon meet called RAM. The Federal Luftwaffe was in frequent attendance at those contests, which is where we took these images.

There are people out there who think modern military airplanes are relatively fragile. Those folks have obviously never spent much time around the F-4, which was built like the proverbial brick house. 69-7481 is a Federal Luftwaffe RF-4E and is undergoing last-minute maintenance prior to being manned and launched; all of AG-51's Phantoms were painted in a camo scheme very similar to the classic pre- and early-war RLM 70 and 71 scheme. Some paint jobs just don't look all that good on the F-4, but she wears this one well.  Phillip Friddell

Here's 69-7505, another RF-4E from AG-51. That, my friends, is one beautiful Phantom!  Phillip Friddell

The whole premise of the RAM events was to simulate wartime conditions, right down to ersatz Bad Guys intercepting the recon birds while they were zipping around photographing Texas, and maintenance was taken very seriously by all the participants as a result. The 1990 event ran during the 3rd week of August, a moderately warm time in South Texas, and the German ground echelon dressed accordingly. No such luck for the aircrew, though; nomex was the order of the day.  Phillip Friddell

Everybody at RAM 90 was extremely professional, and it was a closely-contested event in every way. The Luftwaffe maintenance guys were dressed somewhat casually, but they were nuts-on professional in every other respect. AG-51 ran a tight ship that week, ya'll!  Phillip Friddell

A literal parting shot, as it were. 69-7505 is prepped and ready to launch. Do you guys miss the F-4? We sure do!  Phillip Friddell

Happy Snaps

It's back to ATC and Doug Barbier for our Happy Snaps again this week:

Lots of folks look down there noses at trainers. This T-38 formation provides a really good reason why you shouldn't do that...   Doug Barbier

And this is about as pretty as it gets.  We'll let Doug tell you about it:  (Here are a) couple of T-38 shots from Willy back in about 1977-78..... ended up completely destroying that poor Konica camera body - 500 hrs of riding around in cockpits and trying to take pictures at up to 5 G's just vibrated it into pieces.... and no, the shutter hung up at about 3 1/2G's, but I tried it. .... do you know how much your back hurts when you've got the camera supported up on the glare shield & you're trying to lean forward & look through the eyepiece with a parachute on your back while your buddy who's flying loads 5 G's on the jet to chase lead? Formation shots were 3 jets full of instructors and one poor solo student who needed a 4-ship ride to graduate. Weakest student in the class, everyone else had finished up. But he survived.... 90 degrees of bank in wing work & "photo formation" for the pitch out. Doug

Neat stuff, Doug---thanks as always! And we definitely appreciate the sacrifice of that Konica; the photos are well worth it!

The Relief Tube

Let's get right down to business this week. First off is a comment from Doug Barbier regarding the F-84F shots we ran a week or so ago:  If nobody has identified it for you yet, 51-1654 belonged to the 509th TFS at Langley. They flew them from 53-56 before going to the Hun - and then getting xfrd to Clark and going to the F-102. Doug

While we're on the topic of F-84Fs, reader Ralph Nardone had this to say about the Monogram kit of same:
Hello, Phil. I've been reading R&S online for a while now, and had the good fortune to read a few of the print editions a while back when a friend shared them with me. Today's post about Monogram's kits are spot on--there were none better, and while the majority of those kits are getting old, they're still largely either the best or only game in town. Bang for the buck? You betcha. In fact, I just posted my build of the Thunderstreak. Check it out: http://www.ironmodeler.com Keep up the great work! Ralph Nardone

We couldn't agree more, Ralph. Those old Monogram kits have their own quirks to be sure, but at the end of the day almost all of them will allow the creation of a beautiful model. Thanks for writing in.

And that's about it for today's Thrilling Edition. Remember to drop us a line at replicainscale@yahoo.com if you have any comments or criticisms, or if you've got some photography or information you'd like to contribute---we're always looking for material and your input is welcomed. Meanwhile, be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon.


  1. Phillip. Ref the early Phantoms. We have one of those first two AF airframes a 2-3 blocks down from my office. Definitely NOT typical RF-4C. The provenance of these two started on the McDonald Douglas line as RF-4Bs (thin, unslatted wings). Charlie models that started on the line as Cs were called Cs. Pulled off and reconfigured to AF specs. Initially designated RF-110A off the line. LATER designated as RF-4C.

  2. I can't speak for the other photos, but that Invader picture (44-35364) with the HU-16A was taken post-Korea. At least 1954 or later (as indicated by the preceding 0- in the tail number). That could explain the lack of nose art for that plane. Most of the rest of those photos are just taken from the wrong side to get photos of the nose art.

  3. I like your pictures. The A-6E Intruder with the bag pipers and parade is VA-196 Main Battery/Milestone squadron out of Whidbey Island Washington. This plane #500 is the Carrier Air Group Commanders plane, hence the Black-colored tail. the BuNo is actually 159579 and this is the final flight of this plane as she will be flown to the Boneyard at Davis Monthan AFB. In 1997, the A-6s were retired and this was its retirement from service. Interestingly, fast froward 7 years from this post, this is one of two A-6s left. She right wnow is sitting at the Pima Air Museum waiting for funds to disasseble, transport and assemble at a museum in California. of 693 built she's one of a handful that survive.

    Roy McCarthy