Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Neat A-26 Ramp, Another Batch of Deuces, More Photo Phantoms, A Way to Get Out of There, And a Neat Memory

There's No Such Thing As Too Many Invaders

Or at least that's how we feel about it around here. Everybody knows that the AAF used the Invader during The Big One, and they're also familiar withUSAF employment of the type during both the Korean fracas and SEA, but how many of you can recall French use of the airplane? The Air Force transferred quite a few B-26s to France for use in their fracas in what was then French IndoChina, and we've come across a really neat shot of one of those pre-delivery ramps courtesy Don Jay.

The B-26s you see here (at Clark Field) are primarily B-models and come from at least a couple of different units. All are what you might call well-used, and most have the WW2 gun nose with 6 .50-cals displaced horizontally in pairs of two.  Don Jay 

Here's what Don has to say about it: Attached is an interesting bit of trivia: Right after the truce in Korea, USAF sent a number of B-26s to the French in IndoChina. Here is part of the transfer process ongoing. Its at Clark sometime in Fall of 53. You can just make out a French crewman or two in this photo. The B-26  coded BC-372 was returned to USAF control next year. dj

With any luck you aren't sick of Invaders yet, because there are probably a few more to come in the months ahead. Why's that, you might ask? Because we like 'em, that's why, so watch this space!

Bet You Thought We Forgot All About It

Nope! That's not the case, although you could certainly be forgiven for thinking that we'd run our course with the F-102. The truth of the matter is that we were waiting for some photography which, thanks to Marty Isham and Rick Morgan, is now here. Today's going to be an Isham Day, so let's take a look at some of the photos:

You just don't see all that much of the short-tailed "Deuce" in color, so we thought this would be a good way to start the show. 54-1396 was an F-102A-35-CO and ultimately ended up with a tall tail, but this was her original build state. She was photographed in July of 1957 with the 327th FIS at George AFB, and looks really nice with her checkerboards and command stripes. It's tough to get to an early F-102 from any of the currently available plastic kits (none of them have the proper details for an early "Deuce") but this one would make a really neat model. OK, you guys; who's brave enough to do it? Isham Collection

This is closer to what we're used to seeing. 56-1103 was an F-102A-55-CO and ended up at MASDC in 1970. She was photographed in 1958 in all her early operational glory with the 86th FIS, replete with nose art. "Mr Magoo II' is pristine in this picture and is carrying natural metal gas bags under the wings, not that uncommon but not often seen either. Way back when we did the original print article on the F-102 Jim made the comment that the type went through several distinct markings phases, one of which he termed the Neuter Period. Except for the nose art that term certainly applies to this aircraft.  Isham Collection

Nobody ever looks on the F-102 family as racing aircraft, but they were considered fast when they first entered service. These 27th FIS birds were based out of Griffiss AFB, and were involved with the Bendix Trophy race when this photo was taken. Check out the Roman numeral "IV" on the tail of 56-1229. Pretty classy, huh?  Isham Collection

There are Races for Fun, and there are Races That Matter. This photo depicts a three-ship of F-102As from the 327th FIS at Thule in February of 1959, back when their sort of racing really and truly did matter. The aircraft are from the alert section and are getting ready to rumble in -35 degree F temperatures. ADC was never an easy date, no matter how glamorous it looked to outsiders.  Isham Collection

Sometimes the best squadron markings are the simple ones. 57-0811 was built as an F-102A-90-CO and was with the 329th FIS when photographed in May of 1958 at an air show. That B-66B is interesting too; wonder if anybody photographed it as well?  Isham Collection

56-1413 was an F-102A-75-CO and was with the 61st FIS/327th FG when this photograph was taken on 21 May, 1960. She was serving as the group commander's airplane at the time and is painted in ADC's typical Aircraft Grey, although her gas bags appear to be in natural metal. Check out the orange speedbag on the pilot; ADC drivers much preferred the international orange flight suits and wore them long after everyone else had gone to sage green. It was a point of pride.  Isham Collection

Every military airplane has a set of schemes that we think of as "classic", and this is one of them. These "Deuces" were with the 325th FIS when photographed at McEntire AFB in August of 1963. The scheme is simply stunning, and check out those excercise stripes on the fuselage and wings. We've said it more than once regarding this airplane, but the F-102 was a gorgeous bird.  Isham Collection

Hot dog; would you look at that! F-102A-41-CO, s/n 55-3372, has the "old" national insignia placement, gorgeous tail markings, and a command stripe to boot. It's hard to top this scheme, although we're certainly going to try to do that in our next installment, but this F-102A from the 327th FIS at George is a good way to end today's feature, since we started it off with an earlier scheme from the same squadron. We'll continue with the F-102 next issue, but now it's time to look at something else for a while. Isham Collection

Even More of Those Phabulous Photo Phantoms, or the Ram Rhinos Strike Again

This piece of camera bay art says it all, even though it has nothing to do with Nevada's "High Rollers", who are the object of our affections today. It just screams RAM, though, and the 67th was the host unit for the meet. It makes sense to me! P. Friddell

Anyway, it seems we've mentioned it once before, but we like F-4s around here. We like 'em a lot, but you probably figured that one out for yourselves, right? Anyway, here are another couple of RF-4Cs we photographed at RAM 90. We should probably do a separate piece on the RAM meets, but to be honest about it we just aren't that organized, so getting the photos in dribs and drabs is how things will have to be for a while. On the other hand, organization is often considered to be a Good Thing, however seldom you encounter it on these pages, so today we're going to concentrate on the RAM team from the 192nd TRS/152nd TRW, Nevada ANG, aka "The High Rollers".

I used to be organized, but that was a very long time ago. When I was organized I could've found my RAM 90 notes and given you all the serial numbers for every team, but that was Then. In the present reality we'll just do our best until those notes turn up. Meanwhile, here's the Nevada team; three Reno RF-4Cs lined up behind one of the 67th's birds. Every air force base has (or had, since most of them are closed now) it's own distinguishing architecture. At Bergstrom the signature edifices were those accursed light poles that sprouted all over the perimeter of the ramp, making it difficult indeed to photograph an airplane without some portion of one growing out of the fus or tail of same. Since we don't PhotoShop things around here you're stuck with that phenomena; we're mentioning it so you don't think that's some super-duper-secret antenna growing out of the vertical stab on 897.  P. Friddell

64-1068 was an RF-4C-23-MC and was the oldest airplane on the 192nd's team that year, but was in pristine condition when photographed in August of 1990. All of the Reno birds were in a high-gloss finish, and all were using those distinctive intake covers. They were proud of those airplanes!  P. Friddell

Second verse, same as the first, except that this time the airplane is 64-x897; we aren't sure of the full serial number on this one and reader input is welcomed. All the Nevada Phantoms looked the same at RAM, with the serial number on the tail being the only visual difference between airplanes. Check out those inboard stations; most of you have probably known this for years, but the RF-4 family used the same inboard pylons as the Navy's Phantoms, while the straight-up Air Force fighter variants carried a different design in that position. Modelers take note! P. Friddell

And finally, here's the new kid on the team; 65-0870, an RF-4C-26-MC. Nevada's RF's were old, but they were solid, making all their scheduled sorties during the meet. P. Friddell

This markings presentation was found on every 192nd RF-4 at the meet, with the serial being the only difference between airplanes (but we already said that, didn't we?). That white fin cap with the "High Rollers" logo really worked well with the low-conspicuity greys on the airframe.  P. Friddell

This is 0870 again, but all of the RF-4Cs on the 192nd's team carried that distinctive RAM zap. It was low-key but distinctive. We like it!  P. Friddell 

Most folks don't end a photo essay with a dead-on nose shot of an airplane but convention hasn't stopped us from doing anything yet and probably never will, besides which this seems as good a way as any to end today's RAM 90 feature. Now then, let's see who'll be the first modeler to duplicate those intake covers...  P Friddell

And Now For Something You Never Really Think Of

There we were, some time back in the late 70s or early 80s, standing on the transient line at Randolph with camera in hand waiting for the Cross Country Weekend Rush to arrive, when an AV-8A recovered and taxiied up close to where we were standing. The pilot got everything squared away in the cockpit and shut down the airplane, opened the canopy, and sat there while the transient guys went looking for a stepladder that would work with the Harrier. It probably only took a few minutes for somebody to find some sort of ladder, but the intrepid Marine aviator in that airplane got tired of waiting; he secured the seat, managed to get to the wing, walked down the span of same, and hopped to the ground at the wing tip. He looked at us standing there festooned with cameras, said something along the lines of "happens all the time at Air Force bases", and walked off in search of the O Club.

The lowly stepladder is the military aviator's friend when at a strange field, but there are specialized ladders available for every airplane in United States military service, even though few of us ever think of such things. Here's a photo to prove the point:

It's the 27th of September, 1985, and this assortment of boarding ladders is hanging on a tubular rack by the Kelly base ops blast fence. Our ex-military readers will probably recognize most of them, and immediately figure out that they're for Air Force birds only. There's not a step ladder in sight, although you can bet there's at least one or two leaning on the wall in the ops hangar, ready for use.  P. Friddell

The Way It Was

You hear quite a bit from Don Jay around here and for good reason; he submits some really neat stuff to us. This week is no exception, although it's far from original---Don tells us this particular contribution has been around on the internet for a while now. Still, it's good reading, and a fitting way to end the day:

This is a True Story.

As a pilot in the Air Commandos stationed at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand [NKP] during the Vietnam War. I flew the A-26 Invader aircraft that had proven itself time and again during both WW-II and the Korean war. The A-26 was flown by us on night reconnaissance and interdiction missions on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. NKP was referred to as NAKED FANNY by those of us fortunate to be stationed at the base which was located on the western bank of the Mekong River which put us uncomfortably close to Communist activity.

I dropped empty Pearl beer bottles at least once a week on various roads in Laos and North Viet Nam. We would close the bomb bay doors and then fill the bomb bay up with the bottles. It was a great morale booster as we all laughed our butts off thinking about the reaction of the enemy to this harassment. The crew chief didn't particularly like it as his aircraft would smell of stale beer for a week after. We often wondered what the bad guy's after-action reports looked like after receiving this incoming!!

I can't say enough about the crew chiefs, gun-plummers and maintenance folks that we had at NKP. They were the best that I was associated with during three tours in Viet Nam. They worked during the day with no shelter, slept in bare barracks, but unfailingly produced the aircraft that we flew each evening. What a Group. There was no Unions, no "It's not my job" responses. We had enthusiastic Gun plummers working on engines and dedicated crew chiefs helping to load bombs. If I had to go to war again, that's the group of flight line folks that I would want to fight with. I was privileged to have served with them. No enemy could defeat such spirit and "can do" attitude.

Flying the A-26 in combat was exciting. It was a thrill a minute attacking trucks and other transportation vehicles and even AAA sites at night on the HCM Trail winding into South Vietnam. We encountered lots of enemy anti-aircraft weapons and small arms fire lighting up the black nights to pucker the seat cushions on the A-26. Night combat is always a challenge. Although it was exciting and demanding, it was also a lot of fun as long as you kept your wits and retained your sense of humor. Joe Kittinger

What a neat story; bet you couldn't get away with that nowadays! Thanks, Mr. Kittenger, for writing this, and special thanks to Don for forwarding it along. Neat stuff!

Happy Snaps

Today's photo is a final T-38 shot from Doug Barbier, taken during his stint as a Williams AFB T-38 flight instructor. It's an artistic sort of photograph, doesn't show much of anything in the way of markings, and is about ten kinds of pretty. Enjoy!

You can almost hear the narrator from the John Ford movie of your choice talking about riding off into the sunset, can't you? Beauty!  Doug Barbier

The Relief Tube

Remember that A-6 shot we ran last time? The guy who sent it to us, Mark Morgan, has been able to fill in the details of that unique assemblage of aircraft and folks and link it to a very special, and sad, event:

Phil - Hadn't looked at your latest blog yet, Rick mentioned the A-6 photo. You've got the basics, obviously, here are the details:

This was the day of the ceremony - both coasts, NUW and NTU - marking the official retirement of the A-6 Intruder and the attack community from US Navy service. The last two VA squadrons in the Navy, VA-196 and VA-75, hosted the events at their respective stations, appropriate seeing as VA-75 was the first fleet A-6A squadron while VA-196 was the first AirPac squadron.

Approximately 1000 people crammed into the VQ-1 hangar (formerly occupied by VA-128 plus several fleet squadrons); 10 former VA-196 COs showed up for the event, including CAPT Leo Profilet - my last Professor of Naval Science at UNM NROTC and a former POW - and CAPT John Pieguss, my second skipper at VA-42. The legendary Lyle Bull (Navy Cross; former CO VA-196, VA-128, CARGRU-7) gave the speech for the squadron disestablishment and CAPT Jim McKenzie did similar honors for Attack Wing Pacific.

The former COs trooped the line with CDR Dave Frederick, the last skipper of VA-196; COMNAVAIRPAC, VADM Brent Bennett, then presented the AIRPAC Battle E to the squadron. The last Commander, Attack Wing Pacific, Capt Terry "T-Tom" Toms got up and did an extended talk about what the Navy was losing by getting rid of bombardier/navigators ("A HUD won't loan you $50 when you get stuck at a divert," among other comments) and finishing (with voice breaking), "When someone asks me what I did in the Navy, I'm going to puff up my chest and say, 'By God, I flew Intruders.'" Not too many dry eyes in the place.

The photo depicts the aftermath: the "piping over the side" of the last AIRPAC CAG bird, to the accompaniment of bagpipes by the Canadian Seaforth Highlander Regiment. We all then adjourned to the club where the party went well into the night.

Any questions or if you need any more details, give me a holler. MK

Thanks, Mark. that must've been a really special day.

On a somewhat different and more technical note, we wanted to mention that some of our photo files tend toget to be a little on the large side, but we feel that resolution is definitely our friend. To reinforce that point, here's a comment from Marty Isham:

Hey Bud...concerning that F-94A, FA-551 shot of the 5th on the ramp. Because of your blow up, I can now ID those 84s, they are 2nd FIS a/c. In the fall of 52 for some odd reason usaf/ADC replaced the 2nd 94As with F-84Gs, they flew with the 2nd until the 86Ds arrived. I wonder how long it took those 84s to intercecpt any SAC bombers at altitude. Cheers....M

Glad we could help, Mr. Isham! And, while we're on the topic of large images, we've historically run most of the photos we've scanned or personally taken in a fairly large size, which we think is a Good Thing in terms of allowing our readers to see as much detail in a photo as they want to be able to see. On the other hand, there's a school of thought that says they're just too danged big for some folks. Truth be told, that sort of thing can be easily addressed by setting your monitor to accomodate large images; the monitor we use around here is set to automatically re-size everything to fit the available screen (although you can certainly enlarge the photos if you want to by the simple action of left-clicking on the image). That said, we're working on finding a viable middle ground that will make everybody happy but without compromising image quality. Stay tuned...

Finally, you might want to watch out for our next edition; our Google stats tell us it's our 100th, and we've got some special things planned for it in celebration. Meanwhile, please keep those cards, letters, and photographs coming ( ) and be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon.

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