Monday, May 9, 2011

More Thoughts on The Big M, Doin' That Voodoo Thing, and Some Starfires

Some Folks Think They Know, But It's Possible That They Don't

It's probably nothing more than a Seniority on Life Issue, but it seems as though a whole lot of the things your editor used to hold Near and Dear aren't held in particularly high regard by very many people anymore. No, we're not talking about Cosmic Things That Really Matter, but about our hobby; so don't go calling the Headline News 'cause it's not that big a deal.

Still, there are some things that were good Way Back When and still are good, if you've got the sense to take a look at them and cherish them for what they are. Take, for example, the folks who designed and cut the molds for the kits manufactured by the Late, Lamented Monogram. In their day (which was, it's important to remember, Then, and not Now) they were as good as it got. None of the Japanese manufacturers of their time could touch them for accuracy, and the Japanese were really their only competitors in that particular arena. Things began to change in the mid-80s, and by the 90s that vaunted Monogram quality was quickly fading, not so much because they didn't make good kits, because they did, but rather because the slings and arrows of the business world allowed other manufacturers to overtake, and then surpass, them.

A lot of today's younger modelers make sport of, or complain about, those old Monogram kits. We said that very thing several months ago and say it again, not because we like to repeat ourselves (although we've been accused of that very thing on more than one occasion) but rather because we found one of Monogram's really special '80s kits while rumaging around in the attic last week looking for something else, and we wanted to talk about them for a minute.

That kit is Monogram's venerable 1/48th scale F-84F. They boxed it twice, once without a Mk 7 device included, but with a pair of 750# GP bombs, and once with a Mk 7 and without the 750s. (We think there should have been one kit with all the stuff in it, but nobody who's ever taken Marketing 101 feels that way...) The kit is, simply put; superb. That may seem a little over the top, especially coming from someone as cynical as we can be, but the kit has held its age extremely well. You'll want to replace the decals of course; MicroScale (or maybe it was SuperScale; I've been confused about that one since Ted and Greg went in different directions a few years back) did a couple of decal sheets for the kit and there may be others out there as well. You might also want to do some scribing on the kit, since all the panel lines are raised, but that's not really necessary, particularly if you do a Guard bird in SEA camo.

We mentioned that there were two different releases of the kit, so we probably ought to define them for you. The first release was kit #5432, which is molded in OD plastic and includes a pair of M117 HE bombs. Markings are for one silver Missouri ANG aircraft and one Texas ANG bird (almost certainly from the 149th TFG, since no other Texas ANG unit used the type) in SEA colors and yes; we're too lazy to go look up the units. You aren't going to use those stickies anyway, so it doesn't really matter very much, now does it?

The second release was kit #5437, which features a USAFE bird, one from the ubiquitous 78th TFS/81st TFW. The decals are really nice on the backing paper, but experience tells us they won't work well at all on the model. On the other hand, you do get that aforementioned Mk 7, plus an appropriate pylon to hang it on if you don't want to use the cart included with the kit (the Mk 7 went on a dedicated station, in case you were wondering). There's also a set of RATO bottles, which a fully-loaded F-84F sorely needed.

Now then, what if you'd rather build the much newer Kinetic offering instead of these dinosaurs? There's nothing to stop you from doing that, we suppose, but the "ancient" Monogram kit is the better of the two, and you can use that Mk 7 on something else (like an FJ-4B) if you're so inclined. That Monogram Thunderstreak shows up on trade tables for next to nothing these days, and you might want to pick up a couple of them while they're still priced that way.

Here's something you can do with your Monogram F-84F kit if you don't want to do a "typical" airframe. 56-1621 was assigned to the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards when this photo was taken in 1958. We figure it was used for chase duties, but your guess is as good as ours.  Isham Collection

It's all a matter of taste, we suppose, but this Thunderstreak just screams "Build Me!". 51-1654 was on the static line at an open house when this photo was taken, although we don't know the date. The unit was the 405th FBW; that scheme's simple, yet effective, and works well on the F-84F.  Emmett Collection
Who Do That Voodoo

Which is, of course, a line from Mel Brook's  classic Young Frankenstein, which is in turn taken from an old song. And yes; we'll admit that sometimes it's a bit of a stretch getting titles for things around here, but that's how it is. Just roll with it, ok?

Anyway, we all know about the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo family, so there's not much point going into an excessive amount of detail on the subject. Suffice it to say that the type morphed from the stillborn F-88 project (an intended escort fighter for SAC that didn't quite pan out) into a strike fighter, an interceptor, and a photo recon aircraft. Most of the service variants were either F-101B interceptors or members of the RF-101 photo reconnaisance family, but those strike fighters came first, and today we're going to take a look at some early examples of that part of the breed.

53-2418 was an F-101A-1-MC, and was a flight test article for the program when this photograph was taken. The gun blisters are in place but they're faired over, and that pointy thing sticking out of the nose is a test boom; the pitot tube (for which the test boom is easily mistaken) is mounted on the underside of the nose. The differing anodic finishes on the airframe are of interest, as are the deployed flaps which were required in order to enable formation with the photo ship.  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Here we see 2418 in close formation with sister aircraft 53-2419, also an F-101A-1-MC. Both aircraft were used extensively in the flight test role, and 2418 even managed a two-year stint as a J-79 testbed. It's not generally appreciated, but the F-101 platform was a versatile one.  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

53-2423 was the first F-101A-5-MC, and is seen here on the deck in St Louis. Like the aircraft in our previous two photographs, 2423 spent a great deal of time in the Voodoo test program. The radome has finally been painted black, but those guns are still faired over. The F-101 was a compact design, but it was still big. The "compact" part of the equation is well-illustrated here, but sometimes the camera lies...  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

The F-101 test program was well in its stride when this shot of 2423 was taken. The ground crew doesn't look very military, but that's because they aren't. That's a McDonnell ground crew standing before us. They made it all happen.  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Finally, here's 2421 after completion of her 200th test flight. Those light-colored areas on the airframe are Day-Glo, while the "200th Flight" placard is a creation of the McDonnell engineering department, taped to the airplane for the occasion.  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

It Looked a Lot Better Than It Really Was

The Lockheed F-94 Starfire family, particularly the F-94C, looked the part of the deadly all-weather interceptors they were designed to be, but at the end of the day they were still T-33s fitted with afterburners and fire-control radar. Intercept capability came in two flavors; radar predicted .50 caliber guns and radar predicted 2.75-inch FFARs. Neither weapon worked especially well with the airframe (but neither did the radar or the afterburner) and the F-94 was an interim design at best, but it was available when other interceptors weren't, and even managed to claim a kill in Korea. As with most Lockheed designs, it was also a beautiful airplane in all of its variants.

Most of our older readers, at least those who model, probably built a Revell F-94C back in the mis-spent days of their youth (that kit was Revell's first model airplane kit, in case you didn't already know that), or maybe an off-scale Comet, Lindberg, or Aurora kit of same, while our readers who were active in the 80s modeling scene may well have built the Heller F-94B kit. HobbyCraft (or maybe Academy; those two manufacturers always kindof run together in my mind) released a more-or-less F-94B back in the 90s (I think), but the sad fact is that the modeler is poorly served as far as the Starfire is concerned. There just aren't any decent kits as of this writing, and barely any kits at all. There are, however, more than a few decent photographs of that particular airplane, and today would be a great day to look at some of them.

49-2551 was an F-94A-5-LO and was with the 5th FAWS when this photo was taken in 1951. The T-33 parentage is extremely evident in this photo.  Isham Collection

The 5th FAWS on a practice mission. This photo was taken over the Atlantic Ocean in 1951, and shows the aircraft very much in its element. That arrow through the squadron badge is particularly tasty, we think!  Isham Collection

We're going to leave the F-94B for another day, and skip right to the F-94C. The Charlie model had no guns, being armed solely with 2.75-in FFARS carried in the nose (behind retractable doors) and in wing pods with frangible tips. 51-5604 was  an F-94C-1-LO assigned to the 46th FIS and is shown here at a public airshow in 1953. This is the variant most people think of when you say Starfire.  Emmett Collection

Here's another airshow photo. The F-94C was photogenic if nothing else, as illustrated by this 27th FIS bird assigned to Griffis AFB during the mid-50s. That rocket armament definitely impressed those of us who grew up in the 1950s and were raised on Colby books. Those were the days!  Emmett Collection

Most F-94s ended up as pots and pans, but this example was accessioned by the Pima County museum and survives today as a rare example of her type. We need a kit!  Frank Emmett

Happy Snaps

Those of you who have been with us for a while probably know that contributor Don Jay spent some time in Sunny Southeast Asia during the late 1960s. He's provided us with today's Happy Snap, and it's something a little bit different. Let's look:

Hi Phil, Here is something a bit different for you-a ‘wump, wump bird.’(This) CH-3E (was from the) 20SOS known as the Dustys and Poneys. Just North of NKP along the mighty muddy, aka ‘The Fence.’ In real life its name is the Mekong River. The Poneys and Dustys were the true special ops in this time frame. They went everywhere and did just about anything that has been overdramatized of the SEA war- A true unit of the ‘Secret War.’ This warbird had many adventures and survived the war to live its last days out at Luke with the 302SOS. dj

PS: Isn’t it time someone made a model-a great model-of the H-3/H-53 family??  
We couldn't agree more, Don, both for the H-53 and so many others of the rotary persuasion. Maybe someday...
The Relief Tube
OK, you guys. Last week we managed to skate, but we've got a couple of corrections and additions this time around, so let's get right to it.
First off are a couple of comments on two of the photos we ran last week. Dave Menard provides the corrections:
Phil, P-51D PF-390 was probably taken the winter of 1947/8, as in June 1948, designations and buzz numbers changed so that P-51Ds with PF-XXX buzz numbers became F-51Ds with FF-XXX buzz numbers.
That gaudy F-86H-5 was from the 1st FDS, 413th FDG out of George AFB CA. The RB-69As did not carry USN style markings, i.e., side number on nose and two letter sqdn code on fin, so that one is probably a Navy one in transient status. Unless for a possible open house perhaps? Remember those, when the services could afford to send their birds everywhere and anywhere? Were we ever lucky to have been a/c buffs when we were! Cheers, dave  
Thanks, Dave, and we hope you get your scanner fixed REAL SOON! And amen to your comment about being buffs when we were---that was definitely a Golden Age!
Sometimes we'll run a photo, or make a statement, that assumes a Life of Its Own and just won't allow itself to be fixed. We saw an example of that with the B-25 we ran a couple of issues back. Your never-humble editor somewhat severely dropped the ball when captioning the shot, then fixed it, fixed it again, and may, just may, have finally gotten it right on the third try. Maybe. That photo was sent to us by Don Jay, who has sent along a different shot to illustrate what a B-25B is supposed to look like. I think we'll let him caption it!
Phil, to make amends for that faux B-25B (nee RB-25D) that I sent to you earlier this year, here is a real B-25B (I hope) taken by the North American company photographers sometime in '42. The photo was marked B-25  in S. California. 1942. don    Jay Collection
In this case we can honestly say the error was mine, but we did end up with another neat photo out of the deal. Thanks, Don! (And, to our readers, be sure and check out the oil staining behind the cowlings, and the apparently-missing de-ice boots!)
And finally, to show that we really do have an ego around here, we'd like to run a comment from a fellow blogger: 
Another very nice post Phil, thanks a lot. And an Fw 190 too..neat work! I don't know how you do it week in week out - easily one of the best aviation blogs out there. By the way thanks for the links!
Cheers, Neil
Thank you, Neil for your kind words. For those of you who aren't aware of it, Neil operates not one, but two, blog sites; one on the Luftwaffe of the Second World War, and an affiliated modeling site. We've been linking to him for a while now and you might want to spend some time at his sites---he does a seriously good job over there. You'll find his work under the headings Falke Eins Luftwaffe Blog Spot and Falke Eins My Modeling Blog; you'll find both links to the upper right of this page.

We were teasing Dave Menard about his broken scanner a few paragraphs ago, but we've suffered a similar fate over here so this is it for today's thrilling chapter. Be good to your neighbor and we'll see you again next week.

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