Saturday, July 30, 2011

Some Turkeys, Splitter Art, It's About Time, A Few More F-4s, Some P-Boats, and Some Thoughts About Aftermarket

Does Anybody Remember the Colby Books?

We sure do! They were a staple diet for every airplane-loving little boy in the United States back in the 50s, and we spent hours in the Sheppard AFB Elementary School library drooling over all those late-40s/early-50s bombers and fighters when we should have been studying. You could almost say they were a rite of passage way back then.

One of the stars of that series, at least to us, was the Grumman TBM Avenger in all its post-War iterations. None of us realized back then that it was old and tired by the time its picture showed up in those Colby books; how could any airplane named Avenger ever be out of date? It was every bit of that, though; a thoroughbred who's time had come and gone. The fascination of those post-War TBMs has lasted to this day, which in turn prompted an e-mail to Jim Sullivan, who's shared these images with us today. Colby fans, get ready for a treat!

Some combat aircraft continued to soldier on after the war ended in August of 1945, and these "Turkeys" were among them. They're from the Tarawa's VA-2A, and still carry their ball turrets and guns. When we look at this photo we wonder where the pilots had come from, and what campaigns they were in; they obviously know how to fly the airplane.  J. Sullivan Collection

BuNo 91433 was built as a TBM-3E, and still armed when photographed at El Centro in 1946. Her GSB paint has faded to an overall matt finish and from the looks of things she's ready to retire. There wasn't a whole lot of purpose in sending shop-worn Avengers to the NARF for rework or overhaul back then; there were just too many of them around.  J. Sullivan Collection

This TBM-3E was caught running up at NAS Squantum in 1947 and, like 91433 above, she's well on her way to being all used up. There's a badge under the windscreen, but we can't quite make it out, and we've been through all our assets and are stumped by that Zulu Alpha tail code. If you know the unit please drop us a line at .  J. Sullivan Collection

By late 1947 the TBM was a staple aircraft in the Reserves. 91107 was a TBM-3E out of NAS Norfolk when this photo was taken; she's in pretty good shape, all things considered.  J. Sullivan Collection

Here's a side view of 91107. She's carrying an orange Reserve stripe on the aft fuselage and, as noted above, is in good condition. We can't see the aft end of her transparencies but are willing to bet there's still a turret back there, although we aren't so certain there's a gun in it.  J. Sullivan Collection

New York's Reserve component flew the "Turkey" too, as shown in this 1948-vintage photo. This TBM-3S has its Reserve stripe located further aft than in the Norfolk bird just above, and the underwing radar pod is now painted in GSB rather than white. 91398's main landing gear wheels appear to be white, although the lighting in this shot is a bit off and they may just as well be in silver paint.  J. Sullivan Collection

1949 found this TBM-3R serving aboard the USS Boxer. The airplane has seen better days, and the looks on the faces of the pilot and V-2-Division sailor say they'd both rather be someplace else. We don't blame 'em!  J. Sullivan Collection

The TBM-3U was utilized extensively as a target tug, as demonstrated here by 85968. She was with VU-7 and was photographed in flight near San Diego in 1949---that crewman in the aft cockpit seems to be enjoying himself...  J. Sullivan Collection

Things had gotten a little more colorful by the time this VU-1 bird posed for its picture in our 1950-vintage photo. Those yellow wings really spiffed up the airplane and gave the appearance, if not the reality, of a safer mission while towing targets. It worked most of the time.  J. Sullivan Collection

This TBM-3E from VS-25 was assigned to the anti-submarine mission in 1953. If we wanted to be clever we'd say something along the lines of "they got a little bit too involved with their work". Instead, we'll just say that the crew got out ok.  J. Sulllivan Collection

This is how it's supposed to look. A section of VS-25 Avengers fly over their task group in our final shot of the day. You could never call the Avenger a beautiful airplane, but she had that Grumman Iron Works look to her. All us Colby Kids can be proud!  J. Sullivan Collection

Big Bird, Batman, and Jolly Roger

Sometimes nose art isn't actually on the nose of the aircraft. Take these Voodoos, for example. The 111th FIS/147th FG was flying F-101Bs out of Ellington in the early '80s, and they had some of the most colorful F-101s ever assigned to ADC even without nose art (and, it must be said, very few of their aircraft wore any form of personal decoration whatsoever). With "nose" art they were something really special.

"Big Bird". 57-0427 was arguably the most famous of the 111th's cartoon ships, primarily because she was photographed more often than the others. All of the 111th's Voodoos were immaculately-kept and "Big Bird" was no exception to that rule. Sharp-eyed modelers will note the Insignia Red interiors to the gear doors, a normal feature of the F-101 series. This photo was taken on the transient ramp at Ellington on 23 December, 1980.  Friddell

"Batman". 57-0252 had just finished a flight demo when we shot this photo in May of 1980. The Voodoo was a big airplane in every respect, and quite a performer to boot---a clean F-101 could outrun just about anything. "Batman" is in the "normal" configuration for a late F-101B, and typifies the breed. It was a neat airplane.  Friddell

And "Jolly Roger". She's just recovered and is taxiing in towards her slot on the ramp after a practice sortie. The drogue chute housing cap is still deployed although the parachute itself was dropped when 57-0270 turned off the active onto the taxiway on 23 December, 1982. Kindof makes you want to go pull out one of the old Revell or Monogram kits and have some fun, doesn't it?  Friddell

The boys from the 111th had it in their heads that they were a Sierra Hotel sort of an outfit, and we're inclined to agree with them---they could fly that big brute of an interceptor! 57-0252 and 57-0308 are shown here just as they break ground for an airshow crowd in May of 1980. It was loud, ya'll...   Friddell

As long as you're up there you'd may as well have a little fun! 57-0370 ended up as part of a 4-ship, and they took turns seeing how close they could get to the taxiway without ending up in the arms of Grave Misfortune. They did this over and over again, ending each pass with a max-performance climb in full burner. It was somewhat impressive.  Friddell

If you go up, you have to come down sooner or later, and they even had fun doing that. We were able to shoot this particular airshow from the 111th's squadron area, which meant that we got to talk to the pilots who were on the ramp watching their squadron mates fly, which also meant we got a running commentary of what was going on in the cockpit from some folks who actually knew a thing or two about the Voodoo. It rarely gets better than that.  Friddell

That's it for our Voodoo feature for today, but stay tuned. Shortly after these photos were taken some visiting Canadians took their CF-101Bs up for a little demo of their own, which caused amazement of the jaw-dropping kind among all of our newly-found Voodoo Driver friends. We'll look in on that particular party another time.

What Does It Take To Get Something Published Around Here?

Some places would regard that as a rhetorical question at best, but at our offices it passes for Fundamental Truth. The sad fact of the matter is that we receive quite a few submissions and sometimes they have to wait in line depending on publishing schedule and, to some extent, the whim of the editor on that particular day. We do eventually get around to everything, you understand; it just takes a while sometimes. Take, for example, our next feature.

Several months ago (it might have even been last year, but sometimes it's best not to count such things) we asked Jim Sullivan if he had any photography on the North American FJ-1 that he'd like to share. He did, of course, and he promptly scanned and sent it along to us. We, being as disorganized as we sometimes are, promptly filed it for use, where it's been until today. We will serve no Fury before its time!

120346 was assigned to the Navy's AT-3 when this photo was taken at Pax River in 1948. The FJ-1 was a dumpy little airplane but could still out-perform most of its piston-engined competition in certain flight regimes. If you study her shape closely (including her plan form which, unfortunately, we don't show anywhere in today's essay) you can see design elements from both the P-51 and the F-86. As a fighter, the FJ-1 honestly wasn't much of an airplane, but it sired a series of aircraft (FJ-2, FJ-3, FJ-4, F-86, and F-100) that became legendary. Not a bad legacy, huh?  J. Sullivan Collection

By November of 1948 the FJ-1 was in squadron service. 120357 was serving with VF-5A when Peter Bowers photographed her, and this gorgeous photograph illustrates a wealth of detail useful to the scale modeler. Note that the nose gear strut is two-toned; GSB and natural metal, and that the gun ports are covered over with duct tape. You'd never get away with that now, at least not outside of a combat zone, but PC hadn't been discovered in the 40s.  J. Sullivan Collection

Sometimes they just don't go where they're supposed to...  120369 was involved in this off-roading excursion on 15 June, 1949, while undergoing service testing. The airplane was barely damaged and was returned to flight status shortly after the photo was taken. Sharp-eyed readers will note that those are civilian policemen at the scene; You just never know how the day's going to go when you leave for work in the morning!  J. Sullivan Collection 

Finally, here's another photo of a VF-5A Fury to end our essay. Peter Bowers caught her on the ramp at Miramar in 1949, providing us with a portrait that, once again, provides a wealth of detail for prospective modelers. While there are a couple of kits of this type bird, it's an airplane that hangs out in Short Run Land for sure---some modeling skills will be required.  J. Sullivan Collection

A Smattering of Echo Bugsuckers

When we ran those Navy F-4 shots a couple of issues back we received an overwhelming response from folks asking for more Phantoms and, while we've never been accused of being overly-bright, we are smart enough to know A Good Thing when we see one. Today it's the Air Force again, with a collection of entirely unrelated F-4E shots for your enjoyment.

We don't know about the rest of you but when we think of the F-4E this is the image that comes to mind. The place is Korat and the year is 1971; 67-0287 was with the 388th TFW when this photo was taken by RH Morgan, who just happens to be the father of Rick and Mark Morgan, aerospace writers and photographers extraordinaire. You might say it's in their blood!  RH Morgan

The F-4 was still in its SEA warpaint in 1980, when Marty Isham snapped 69-0291 on the ramp in Alaska. She was assigned to the 18th TFS at the time and proudly wears their Polar Bear on the rudder. This is one good looking Phantom, ya'll.  Isham

Taxiing in: An F-4E from the 69th TFS/347th TFW comes home to roost at Moody AFB in Georgia. The SEA-camo'd Air Force still had a few years to go in those colors, but the writing was on the wall, and the world was about to turn into shades of grey for the Air Force. That was all still a few years in the future when this photo was taken, however, and the upper surface SEA colors on this bird wrap around the entire airframe. Oh, and check out that collection of stores too. That's one interesting Phantom!  Friddell Collection

By the late 80s grey SEA-camouflaged USAF F-4s were becoming a fairly rare commodity. 67-0370 was with St Louis' 110th TFS in August of 1987 and is taxiing in after a sortie. Normal practice is to release the drogue chute once the aircraft has turned off the active runway, although it's not entirely unknown for an airplane to taxi all the way in with one. Oh yeah, and it seems the Morgan family has a thing for sharkmouths. We're glad they do!  R. Morgan

There are some who will tell you that the F-4 was severely limited by whatever-it-is they think they know about the airplane. The guys who flew them and flew against them, either in peacetime excercises or in combat, usually have a different opinion. The Phantom was a hot rod, particularly when her engines were de-restricted to allow use of full military power, and that made the type a natural in terms of providing high-performance target aircraft. 68-0449 was with the 82nd ATS at Tyndall in when John Kerr photographed her in the 90s. It was somehow ironic; the F-4 started her Air Force career in shades of grey (as the grey-over-white F-110A), and she finished up that way as a drone. Funny how the circle is a wheel...  Kerr

Some Folks Called Her Dumbo

She was born with the name Catalina, but her admittedly goof appearance and low performance quickly gave rise to the nickname "Dumbo" once she entered combat. It's true that she was big, somewhat underpowered, and totally without glamor, but by the time the shooting was over she'd performed almost every role imaginable including that of bomber and torpedo bomber, and had done at least moderately well each and every time she was given a new task. Here's a look at her during the war, courtesy of Bobby Rocker.

The PBY was in the Pacific before the attack on Pearl Harbor, but this Catalina isn't at Pearl; this  photograph was taken at Sand Island at Midway during 1942. Considering the lack of damage to the island's facilities we'd guess that this photograph either predates or substantially post-dates the attack. We're guessing she's from VP-23, and those are depth bombs hanging under her wings. Rocker Collection

From one extreme to the other! This PBY-5A is being recovered at Woman's Bay, Kodiak, Alaska. The members of the beaching crew are wearing waterproof cold-weather gear, but that's ice floating around that aircraft. It's easy to forget the war in the northwest Pacific, unless you were there...  Rocker Collection

Espirito Santo was far enough removed from the fighting to allow for the construction of decent facilities early in the conflict, as is demonstrated by this well-developed PBY base. Those airplanes would have been sitting ducks in an air attack, but the war was relatively far away.  Rocker Collection

One thing you can do with a really versatile airplane is use it to resupply coastwatchers, which is what's going on in this image. VP-11 provided the well-worn Catalina, while local natives are assisting in off-loading the aircraft. You seldom consider this sort of thing when you think about the war in the Pacific, but it was a job that had to be done and no aircraft in the theater was better-equipped to do it than the PBY.  Rocker Collection
The crew of this "Dumbo" are practicing the recovery of a downed airman for the camera. The stilled engines, lack of Mae Wests and somewhat esoteric uniforms, plus the dead engines and bow mooring lines hanging off the bow prove this is just an excercise, but the real thing wasn't all that far removed from the activity shown here except, of course, that nobody's shooting at the airplane.  Rocker Collection

The P-Boats did yeoman's work throughout the war performing a wide variety of missions. Here a PBY from an unknown unit flies alongside the USS Sangamon somewhere near the Solomons. She could have been flying an antisubmarine patrol, or leaving on a special mission, or maybe carrying the mail. With the Catalina you never knew...  Rocker Collection

Just by looking you'd never know that this was anything other than a casual day in the lagoon. There's no way to know, just by looking, that this P-Boat from VP-52 is in the process of sinking, but that's exactly what she's doing. She's in Mios Woendi Lagoon near Wewak, and we have no idea what misfortune may have caused her loss but, as an interesting sidebar to history, she's still there in that lagoon sitting on the bottom, and is a popular diver's attraction today.  Rocker Collection

The down side of flying an amphibian is that you can have a landing accident on either land or sea; versatility sometimes gives you the opportunity to have a Bad Day in multiple places. The airplane is from the 1st FAW and was apparently in or near the Aleutians when she slid off the runway. Those depth bombs must have made it a somewhat sporty event for all concerned!  Rocker Collection

NAS P-Cola has been training Naval Aviators forever, it seems, and there was a time when they trained some of those aviators to fly PBYs. This pair of PBY-5s are sitting on the ramp immediately post-war showing us two of the three primary camouflage schemes worn by the Catalina during the conflict. The beaching gear is of interest---at this stage of the game you'd expect those airplanes to be -5As.  Rocker Collection

Do We Really Need All That Stuff?

We can remember it like it was yesterday. Life had just dealt us a hand we hadn't been expecting, resulting in one of those intervals known as Picking Up the Pieces, and we had begun modeling again after a several-year near-hiatus from same. Fate took us to Austin (we're in Texas, remember?) and to King's Hobby Shop. We prowled around in there for a while, totally confused by the vast proliferation of STUFF that had come into being during those years we were effectively out of the hobby and finally, after lots of soul-searching while finding a kit who's manufacturer we recognized, we approached the counter to pay for our newly-discovered treasure. The guy behind that counter asked if we wanted any aftermarket for the kit we were buying, to which we replied with something zippy like "I'm a modeler; I make that stuff myself!". He smiled. We paid and left.

Next time around we bought a kit and an Eduard "Zoom" set. The time after that it was a complete interior, and then resin wheel bays. We were hooked, and since that day we've pretty much bought aftermarket for every kit we've purchased. It's become automatic.

Here lately things have begun to change, however. The first Great Revelation came when we bought a photo-etch set for a Bf-109E and discovered that the RLM 66 portions of the colored etch were closer in hue to baby blue than to any sort of dark grey. After that we began to notice other things too, and then we began to suspect that some of the more prolific manufacturers of aftermarket were occasionally making things up as they went along. That, on top of the ongoing color thing (because, unfortunately, goofy colors weren't confined to that one set of photo-etch), began to make us suspicious. As a result we began using less aftermarket and a little more Modeling 101 when we wanted details, and nowadays we often use no more than an instrument panel, console panels (if appropriate), and a set of belts and harnesses to spiff up our interiors.

You're quite possibly in the process of scratching your heads along about now, wondering why this would matter to anybody, but the fact is that it apparently matters to more than a few people. Several of the folks who regularly contribute to this site are modelers as well as photographers, and one of them began an e-mail conversation the other night commenting on the viability of certain items of aftermarket. During the span of that electronic discourse it was determined that most of us had begun using less photo-etch and resin on our models, and everyone pretty much commented on the not-altogether-infrequent lapses of accuracy on said bits and pieces. It was a consensus, so to speak.

So then, what does that prove? It could prove nothing at all, but then those guys just might be on to something. Think about it---you spend fifty increasingly-hard-earned bucks on a new kit, then you go right out and spend another fifty bucks, or even more, on stuff to improve the model, and you do that even though you probably haven't spent nearly as much time researching the aftermarket for accuracy as you have the kit. You just presumed the aftermarket was better because somebody was selling it. Hmmm...

Where does the truth lie, then? In our world it's somewhere in the middle of things. Some aftermarket is really good, and some isn't. We still buy it, and probably will continue to do so, but we're now a whole lot more cautious about what we actually stick on the model. Our advice to you is to do what you think is right, but you might want to have a few references around before you go randomly attaching extra parts onto your new kit. It might not be that much of an improvement after all. That's our story and, once again, we're sticking with it.

Happy Snaps

Today's happy snap comes from what is, for us, a somewhat unusual source; the brother of a friend. Lee Bracken was one of the mentors who helped us when we first became serious about aviation photography, and he shared a number of images with us when we began building our own collection. Several of those images came from his brother George, who had been an F-4 driver during the Late Southeast Asia War Games, and one of those photos is today's Happy Snap. Thanks, Lee!

The Bad Thing on the Block. 70-0379 was from the 421st TFW/432nd TRW and is shown in flight somewhere over Southeast Asia. It's getting dark, and those guys are probably pretty happy to be going home. George Bracken

The Relief Tube

We've got a couple of things to address today, so let's get right to it:

First, from Mark Morgan, is a little more information about those fascinating Strategic Support C-124s from a couple of issues ago:  Phil - Great info and photos as always. To add to the discussion on SAC's C-124s, the SSS squadrons were:

1st SSS - redesignated from 1st Strategic Support Unit 21 Dec 48, Fort Worth AFB, transferred to Biggs AFB Dec 48, inactivated 1 Jun 59.

2nd SSS - Activated 14 June 1949, Biggs AFB; to Walker AFB 4/50; to Castle AFB 5/51; to Pinecastle AFB 9/56; inactivated 15 Jun 61.

3rd SSS - Activated 16 Feb 50, Hunter AFB; to Barksdale AFB 12/52; inactivated 15 Jun 61.

4th SSS - Activated 18 Feb 53, Rapid City AFB; to Dyess AFB 6/57; inactivated 15 Mar 61.

The 7th Logistics Support Squadron redesignated as an air transport squadron on 8 July 1964 and inactivated on 8 January 1966 at Robins AFB. It served as a geographically separate unit (GSU) of the 63rd Air Transport Wing from July 1963 through inactivation.
 The 19th LSS was at Kelly AFB; redesignated as an air transport squadron (special) on 8 July 1964; military airlift squadron (special) 27 December 1965; military airlift squadron 8 April 1969; and inactivated on 22 Dec 1969. It was a GSU of the 62nd ATW/MAW.

Finally, the 28th LSS at Hill AFB redesignated as an ATS(S) on 18 January 1962; MAS(S) 8 Jan 66; and inactivated on 8 April 1969. It was assigned to the 1501st Air Transport Wing after Jan 62; the 60th MAW after Jan 66; and finally the 62nd MAW, after July 1967. MK  Thanks, Mark!

Next up is a matter of geography. We recently ran a shot of a cold and barren airfield (one to which we'd never personally been) and stated that it was Thule because that was what was written on the slide in question. Dave Menard disagrees with that identification and offers this comment:  OK, that shot is not Thule, as I spent about 100 days TDY there in the spring of 1958 while loaned to the 509th AREFSQ from my unit at Pease AFB, the 100th FMS. Thule was way, way too far north for anyone crossing the pond to stop at. I suspect that the image my chums Dave McLaren and Marty Isham loaned you is either BW-1 Narsarsauq OR BW-8 Sondre Strom, both located in lower Greenland. I googled both SondreStrom and Nasrsarsuak/Narsarsuaq and there is an air to ground color image of the latter that clearly shows the end of the only runway really, really close to the waters edge! I just knew that it warn't Thule! Thule had a bunch of large hangers, big enough for one B-36 or two KC-97s. 

BTW, NEAC was the Siberia of the AF in the late forties/early fifties, if an NCO or officer screwed up, they wound up with a set of orders for a year at one of those bases in Greenland! There was also an Air Rescue Sqdn in Saudi Arabia in the early fifties (why there I will never know!) that served the same purpose. cheers, dave  We never were very good at geography! Thanks, Dave!

While we're talking about Dave, we've had a comment on our quick review of his book Before Centuries that may help those of you who don't already have that title. From a reader known to us only as Junkman9096: I agree completely about "Before Centuries". Also don't forget another, earlier book by David Menard "USAF Plus Fifteen". A litter more general in scope but it can be found dirt cheap on the internet. And a comment on the book from the author himself:  Thanks for the plug on my USAFE book but right now the only way to obtain it is through the used books on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble sites for various prices. I put a bunch of my own money into it to make sure my dupe slides gathered over many, many years got run in color and not B&W! It was worth it. Cheers, Dave. The hard work payed off, Dave---many thanks for the effort you put into both those titles, and thanks to Junkman9096 for telling us how to get one for ourselves!

When we ran those photos from the Richard Adams collection last time around we requested help from our readers regarding unit identifications for the C-47 and R4D photos. Here's a response from Rick Morgan:  Phil: Neat shots of the TRACOM birds in the latest blog. These were shot, of course, ‘back in the day’ when we still had hundreds of aircraft available (particularly, C, T and U types) to farm out to a lot of obscure operations spread throughout the world. Since many were older and not as neat as the A and F types they didn’t always get the photo coverage that the more glamorous F and A types did.

The Gooney Birds marked “Pensacola” are shown on the July 1965 Location & Allowance List (LAL) as belonging to Naval Air Basic Training Command (NABTC), which had 42 aircraft assigned directly to headquarters as hacks and support birds. At this point this list included two C-47s, an H and a J.

The VT-30 T-28B belonged to the A-1 advanced training squadron. It was probably used for instrument training in support of the A-1 training syllabus. The July ’64 LAL shows the unit had 19 A-1Hs, 7 T-28Bs and 42 (!) T-34Bs assigned at that time.

The Kingsville C-47 and C-45 were officially assigned to Naval Advanced Air Training Command with the base (Kingsville) being the functional operator. As Doug S mentioned in an earlier post, this was before TRACOM merged its two flight training parts (Basic and Advanced) and set up formal Wings at its bases. In the mid-60s this meant the NAS acted as a defacto Wing with a Captain (O-6) being the senior man on base. Kingsville had seven types of aircraft assigned in mid-1965; 2 C-47, 1 UC-45J, and UH-2B, UH-34J, UH-19F for SAR, back when each TRACOM base had its own such det. Rick  And that clears that one up! Thanks, Morgo!

Finally, we received a really neat photo from Bob Perry and there's honestly no place to put it at the moment---we're getting ready to do a piece on the "Sabre Dog" in the near future, but it's going to be a while before it's ready. We really like the photo Bob sent, don't want to have to wait to run it and, since we pretty much get to set the schedule around here, today's the day you get to see it. Here are Bob's comments regarding the photo:  Hi Phil. I thought you might be interested in this shot taken by my father at the Windsor Ontario air show in July 1959. It was an international show and there was lots of good stuff on display that day. I remember C-119s dropping paratroops, F-102s, Trackers, RCAF Neptunes and the new Argus. I can’t remember what else and can’t locate any more of my dad’s slides!

I’d never seen a Sabre before and besides this one the RCAF sent the Golden Hawks in their Sabre 5s. According to my notes this Sabre is an F-86D-60 but I have no idea of its unit or service history.Love the blog, keep up the good work! Bob Perry

And here's 53-0943 in all her Day-Glo glory. There's no doubt she's attached to somebody's unit (!) but don't have a clue as to which one. Readers, you know the drill---that address is . Oh, and Bob; please keep looking for those slides!

And that's all we know for today, so be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Thoughts On Subject Matter, Early TraCom, Some Lightnings, More F-94s, The Unknown Spartan, A Scary Airfield, and Some Special Shakeys

Why, Tell Me Why, Can't We Have a Decent Kit of the FJ-3?

                                           Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

OK, we know it's a rhetorical question, and we already know the answer: The mainstream kit manufacturers, sometimes known as The Big Guys, won't make a whole lot of money off the FJ-3, or the F-94, or any of the myriad of other 1950s American aircraft destined to languish in obscurity as far as plastic modeling is concerned. It's a fact of life. On the other hand, those very same Big Guys will make a pile of bucks off yet another Messerschmitt or Zero-Sen, or another F4U, or F-18, or name-your-own-particular-overkitted-real airplane---that's a Fact of Life. Don't believe us? That's your call, but if that's how you think then please explain why Tamiya never followed up their superb F-84G and F4D-1 with anything else in the same vein. (We know the old wive's tale about Mr. Tamiya kitting the stuff he likes, and that may have been true at one time, but we're guessing that those kits would have been followed by others had their sales numbers indicated a strong market for the product.)

That premise gives us a starting point, then; we're probably never going to see a 1/48th or 1/32nd scale kit of a 1950s-anything from the Japanese unless it's another Sabre variant or the like. The sales to support the investment in tooling just aren't there. That takes us to what's rapidly becoming The Second Tier of makers of plastic model airplanes; the British and the Chinese. Airfix has really come back with a bang and has been filling some long-vacant gaps in the process, while Hobby Boss has released a couple of 50s-early 60s subjects of interest to American modelers. Trumpeter's been in there plugging away too, but not with much in the way of early jets so far. Still, they're all in there trying, and although their offerings have had their share of flaws, none have been unbuildable to those possessed with a modicum of modeling skills. That just may constitute Light at the End of the Tunnel.

Then there are the Czechs. Those guys pretty much own the limited-run portion of the modeling world, and they've already done a few things that would be of interest to us. We've seen (and we know we're leaving out some kits here) an F3D, several F-80s, and some T-33s for starters, and even an F-86H in 1/72nd scale. Those guys are seemingly fearless in terms of the kits they choose to release, and their stuff is buildable and usually attains a high level of quality, albeit with the caveat that the modeler's skill level needs to be of a somewhat higher order than that of the individual who sticks with some iteration of Mainstream.

What does that tell us, then? In the world of RIS it would seem to indicate that the kits are coming, although it may be a while before we see them. Still, there's hope so, based on that notion, here are some suggestions to those manufacturers large and small who may be considering the production of kits for The Silver Air Force or The GSB/early Gull Grey Over White Navy:

Give us a major production variant right off the bat. Don't start out with The Obscure Version in order to sell more kits before you finally get around to issuing the one everybody really wants. That's not ethical, ya'll. It may make good business sense to you but it's definitely The Wrong Thing to Do.

If the real airplane carried ordnance or gas bags that pretty much defined the airplane, then please give them to us in the kit. Don't force us to scratch-build or have to go the aftermarket route for something that's normally seen on the real airplane.

Don't put rivets on anything unless you can do it the way Tamiya did on their 32nd scale Spitfires and Mustang. If you want to have a little fun with your customer base, then let those who want to do such a thing tear up a watch in order to make their own riveting tool. On the other hand, if you're going to insist on putting those accursed divots on your offerings, then include a tub of Mr. Surfacer with the kit so we can more easily make them go away so the completed model will look like an airplane rather than the victim of some rare skin condition.

Don't feel like you have to open up panels or provide separate control surfaces in order to sell kits. We're all capable of dealing with that sort of thing ourselves, so save your company the tooling costs and give us a more affordable product to start off with. If we want an open gun bay we'll open it up ourselves. That's why God makes aftermarket.

Provide decent decals with the kits. Talk to the Czechs if you can't figure out how to do that for yourselves.

And that takes us to a Final Thought with which to end this particular Mindless Ramble: Even though we're still sadly lacking in available kits of the classic jets of the 1950s, we're well and truly living in a Golden Age of scale modeling, internet prognosticators notwithstanding. We're pretty well convinced that we will eventually see the kits we want and suspect we'll see more than a few of them sooner rather than later, but there's a catch. If you want a kit of the F-86H in 1/48th scale and somebody actually gets around to releasing one, you really ought to go buy it. Sales are what will ensure that we get our models of those classic jets. Wishful thinking won't do it, but sales numbers will.

That's our story and we're sticking with it!

You Gotta Love Those Navy Trainers From the 60s

We do, anyway. We ran several of Richard Adam's photos three or four issues ago and promised at that time that we'd run the rest of them some day. It looks like today must surely be That Day, so let's take a look.

Let's start off with a T-28B from VT-30 (formerly ATU-301) out of NAS Corpus Christi during 1964. 153 is a typical example of her type, and probably trained thousands of young naval aviators before being retired. We're not entirely certain of it, but strongly suspect that the Trojan is everybody's favorite trainer.  Richard Adams

Of course, not everybody trained for single-engine duty after graduation. The multi guys got into the act too, and a great many of them started off their careers in the TC-45J. That little Beech design served both long and well, spanning several wars and training a great many students in the process. This example is from VT-7 at Meridian. The photo, like most of these, was taken in 1964.  Richard Adams

Here's a paint job you don't see on the C-45 all that often. Once again we're looking at a TC-45J, this one assigned to NAS Kingsville in 1964. There's not much orange on that airframe, but white suits it just fine. Richard Adams

Here's a little bit of Mystery Meat for the day. The airplane is a C-47-Something-or-Other (it's post-1962, remember) and the photo was taken at NAS Pensacola in 1965. She was assigned to NAS Kingsville---that station is confirmed by the legend "Kingsville" painted under her starboard wing--- but beyond that we're at a loss. The address is ...  Richard Adams

How about a shot of the "Gooney Bird's" bigger brother?  This C-117D was photographed at P'Cola in July of 1965, but we don't know much about her after that. You know the drill...  Richard Adams

And here's what a C-117 looks like when it's taxiing. 124 is the same bird we just looked at and is somewhat prettier in this view. Anybody got a unit?  Richard Adams

By now at least a few of you are asking "Where are the Cougars?" Ask no more! These TAF-9Js are all lined up for the camera (or maybe just all lined up) and are from VT-21 out of Kingsville in February of 1963. You have to admit; the Navy knows how to paint a trainer!  Richard Adams

Same day, same ramp. Do we like the Cougar around here? You bet we do!  Richard Adams

That does it for our look at TraCom today, although you never know when those orange and white birds might reappear. Meanwhile, thanks again to Richard Adams for sharing his collection with us.

Some Early Pacific Lightnings

The 80th FS/8th FG was among the first units to take the Lightning into combat in the Southwest Pacific, starting out in New Guinea in The Bad Old Days and ending up on Ie Shima in '45, a distinction that makes them worth looking at today.

The 80th's P-38s began combat operations with the P-38F out of 3-Mile Strip at Port Moresby in 1942. "Porky II" is one of the more famous of their aircraft and we're guessing you may have seen this shot before (how could you have missed it?!), but it's certainly worth a second look. Ed Cragg was the CO of the 80th and this was his airplane, which goes a long way towards explaining that immaculate finish.  B. Rocker Collection

And here's Col. Craig himself in front of "Porky"---the airplane is still clean but now getting to be a little worn. Those of our readers who are modelers might want to check out the Colonel's flight gear with an eye towards duplicating them in a diorama some day. The regs regarding uniforms were somewhat loosely interpreted in New Guinea.  B. Rocker Collection

Corky Smith is dressed for another combat mission in this shot Taken at 3-Mile. That P-38F has been to the mountain, and is about to go again, but it doesn't seem to worry Corky very much. Compare his flight gear to that of Col. Craig in the photo above.   B. Rocker Collection

Here's another one you may have seen before, but it's well worth looking at again. Lt. Hanover is young---they all were young---but one look at his face tells the story. Once again the place is 3-Mile Strip at Port Moresby. Things were getting better in the Pacific when this photo was taken, but the Japanese were still an enemy to be reckoned with. It was never easy.  B. Rocker Collection

Jess Gidley stands beside his P-38H at 3-Mile while serving with the 80th FS. This photo provides excellent detail of the P-38's main and nose landing gear. Such a neat airplane, and so tough to model effectively. We really wish Tamiya would kit the P-38 in 1/48th scale, ya'll! B. Rocker Collection
Ken Ladds was another of the 80th's successful P-38 jocks; check out the kill markings on the nose of his airplane. "Ruthie" was photographed at Dobodura during 1943 and was showing signs of hard use when this picture was taken. She'd be quite a challenge to weather properly, but what a beautiful airplane! (And check out her "parking apron"---can you say "primitive conditions?"  B. Rocker Collection

Last time around we showed you some photos of P-39s at Milne Bay and Port Moresby and commented on how the ground support equipment available to the squadron was better than most folks would expect. Well, here's an example of what most folks expect; this 80th FS P-38G is undergoing maintenance out in the slop, and the ground support equipment isn't the best. Still, it got the job done, and you can't ask for much more than that.  B. Rocker Collection

The airfield at Cape Gloucester was pretty luxurious compared to some. Here we find a section of 80th FS P-38Gs taxiing out for a mission; note the PSP. It certainly kept the airplanes out of most of the mud but was no fun to taxi on or operate from---at any speed past a slow walk it would severely shake both man and machine (T-28Ds operating in SEA in a different war suffered irreparable structural damage because of that shaking and its effect on wings laden with heavily-loaded pylons) . Still, its use allowed the AAF to utilize marginal airfields and do it even during the rainy season. Sometimes you just do what you have to do...  B. Rocker Collection

Keep an eye on this space as we continue to feature some of the classic aircraft of the war in the Pacific during the months ahead. Bobby Rocker's got some exceptional photography to share with us and you won't want to miss it.

Starfires Redux

Every once and a while we'll run a photo essay that strikes a nerve with one of our readers. In this case the reader is long-time friend Maddog John Kerr, who saw Marty Isham's F-94 shots in our last issue and decided it was time to add a few from his own collection.

Sharkmouths turn up just about everywhere, don't they? This fine example of that particular form of artistic expression is found on 50-0789, an F-94B-1-LO from the 61st FIS at Selfridge. The airplane is pretty darned boring except for that leering grin, but in this case the sharkmouth is enough.  B. Thomas via Kerr

50-0888 was another 61st F-94B. She's carryng a little bit of white trim, but her only marking of any consequence is, once again, that sharkmouth. The pilot is Major Bill Thomas; by standing in front of his aircraft he provides us with an excellent indication of the size of the bird. The F-94 was tiny by today's standards, but then all of those first-generation fighters and interceptors were pretty darned compact. Increased size in American fighters came with the increased complication of certain members of the Century Series.  B. Thomas via Kerr

55-5500 was what you might call a Special Airplane. Built as an F-94B-5-LO, she was one of two F-94s modified to YF-94D status and was later used for M-61 testing after the conclusion of the single-seat F-94 program. She's shown here while serving with Massachusett's 101st FIS and looks distinctly odd when compared to the standard F-94B on the ramp behind her. It reminds us of those RF-84Ks that ended up with the 45th TRS at Misawa---what's that thing doing here?!  Paul Paulsen via Kerr Collection

50-0913 was yet another F-94B-1-LO, here shown on the ramp when assigned to the 179th FIS, Minnesota ANG. The orange trim works surprisingly well with the areas of conspicuity red on the aircraft, and those lightning flashes are really something! We doubt any mainstream manufacturer will ever touch the F-94A or B, but it would make a nifty project for some of the Czech limited-run guys. That could be construed as a hint...  Wayne Gatlin via Kerr Collection

A Biplane Trainer That's Not a Stearman

It must have been obvious to even the most oblivious of politicians and military planners that war was fast approaching the United States as the 1930s drew to a close. The threat called for a massive ramp-up of military aircraft, which in turn caused the creation of several military aircraft who's fame was, shall we say, somewhat limited and in certain instances even lacking. This airplane was one of them.

If you intend to add large numbers of warplanes to your inventory you're going to have to build trainers too, so you'll have aircrew available when they're needed. The Spartan NP-1 was one of those unsung gap-filling trainers. An order was placed with Spartan by the Navy for 201 of them in July of 1940 with deliveries beginning not long afterwards. The NP-1 was a simple and sturdy design, but subsequent orders weren't forthcoming and the type pretty much died on the vine.  Larkins via Nankivil Collection

This view provides us with a good look at the NP-1's R-860-8 radial. It's not that the NP-1 was a bad airplane; it just wasn't a particularly good one when compared to the competition, and Boeing had the production capacity to produce the Boeing/Stearman PT-13 family in large quantities while Spartan did not. It was a race who's finish was easily predicted.  Larkins via Nankivil Collection

Thule, You're Talked a Lot; Let's Have a Look At Ya

OK, so it isn't New York, it isn't 1969, and we aren't the Rolling Stones. Still and all, that's not a bad way to introduce our next photo:

Most of you are probably familiar with Thule AB, but for those who aren't, a brief explanation is in order. Thule is in Greenland, and it's been a US base for a number of years. During the 1950s and 60s thousands of American military aircraft bounced into it while transiting the Atlantic and it probably saved a great many lives by the simple act of being located where it was. It was then, and to some extent still is, a key base. It is not by any stretch of the imagination, however, a garden spot. This photo was taken on a Good Day; imagine everything you see here except for the airplanes (and sometimes even them) covered in snow and ice, and imagine it's dark. Imagine you have to land there, and think back to all the horror stories you've heard about the place. Think about Doug Barbier's description of what it's like to fly out of Keflavik. You wanna talk airmanship? Talk to the guys who flew in and out of Thule back in The Day.  McLaren via Isham Collection

The Secret Life of Old Shakey

In last issue's F-94 article we ran a photograph of an F-94B taxiing out in front of a pair of C-124As. You couldn't help but notice the unique markings on those Globemasters, but it was an F-94 piece, not a C-124 article, so we didn't say anything about them. Dave Menard had some comments regarding the Starfire in question and mentioned the parentage of those C-124s, which in turn led to our asking if he had any photography of what had suddenly become a very special pair of "Shakeys" from the 3rd Strategic Support Squadron. Here's his response and some photographs:

Phil Here are four shots of the 3rd SSS in action, taken at great risk by the shooter as SAC was hyper paranoid about cameras in the late forties/fifties(I have been told one could not have a camera on base period, but have yet to confirm, but can well believe it after I was told that could not shoot the Division Commander's VB-25J when I got to Pease in early 1958!). The shooter's name is Eugene Van Houten.

SAC had three SSS units and as mentioned, their main mission was to haul atomic bombs around. They got out of that mission and gave it to Air Material Command who then called them Logistic Support Sqdns, and again, three sqdns: 7th, 28th and I cannot recall the third one. The 7th had a chipmunk facing to the right of the viewer with a log on its shoulder, forming a figure 7, and small decals of it showed up on mirrors, stall doors, etc all over the AF. The official rules for unit badges was that figures were to face left so the 7th got special permission to go the other way. A new commander came in and decided that he did not like said insignia so put out the word for a new design. Not a one was submitted! He lost that one big time.  Cheers, Dave

                                          Van Houten via Menard

                                          Van Houten via Menard

                                          Van Houten via Menard

                                          Van Houten via Menard

And yep; that whole No Cameras in SAC thing was true, at least for a period of time. Curt LeMay ran the shop on a war footing 24/7 when he was in charge back in the 50s and the command was extremely concerned about security as a result. Given the restrictions regarding cameras and the purpose of the subject matter, these photos are rare indeed. We're indebted to Dave for sharing them with us.

Happy Snaps

Today's Happy Snap is another one taken by Doug Barbier during his stint with the Michigan ANG. It's not an air-to-air but was taken from the cockpit of Doug's F-4 so we figure it qualifies:

Why do folks sometimes say that the F-4 was a smoker? Well, if you have to ask...  Those Phantoms equipped with the J-79-19 got a whole bunch cleaner, but you could still see the airplane a long way off. On the other hand, you might have trouble catching it, smoke and all. Have we ever mentioned that we like the F-4 a lot?

This is the part where we'd like to remind our readers that our Happy Snaps department is a place for them to show off the air-to-air photos they took while in the service. The qualifiers for inclusion are simple; the photo has to have been taken by the person who submitted it and has to be air-to-air (unless it's something like the photo we ran today). If you've got anything you'd like to share with us, the address is .

The Relief Tube

We didn't have any entries at all for our most popular department last time around, so it stands to reason we'd play catch-up today. Let's get started!

If you recall, we ran a photo essay on the Starfire in our last issue. We suspected we'd made some detail errors regarding those F-94 shots from Marty Isham, and we were right! Dave Menard has offered some corrections for us:

Phil, Still another issue to knock my socks off! Keep it up.

The 59th FIS was based at Goose Bay Labrador, not Thule. 871, 875 & 881 all from that unit and since 879 is in that serial block, would bet that she was also from this outfit. The B models that the 59th got came from the 61st FIS at Selfridge, I believe, as I have many shots of their birds in the same serial range and with sharkmouths, and may even have some of same birds. Will check it out this week and get back to you if I do, OK? (You bet it's ok, Dave---we look forward to seeing them!) I served at Ladd from August 1956-December 1957 so know those hangers. In the shot of 520, the main(and huge)hanger 1 is visible way in the background. This one was on the north side of the two parallel E-W runways and when I was there, the 449th used the west side of it and the 18th the east side (all had F-89Ds then). 520 is parked close to Hangers 2 & 3 which were in the SW corner of Ladd Field and pretty close together. When I was there, my sqdn (5001st FMS) had Hng 2 and the 74th ÅRS and 5001st Ops Sqdn shared Hng 3. 526 has Hng 6 in its background (burned down in 2005, damn it) and when I was there, the 433rd had it. After the phasedown in mid-1957 and F-89Js came in for the 449th to use, that sqdn moved into 6.

That shot of 859 ID-ed as a 318th bird at Thule may have been a 318th bird, but those hangers in background do not look like Thule's at all! I suspect it may have been taken further south when the unit was moving from the ZI to Thule. The Ç-124 to the left is a SAC A model, from the 3th SSS(Strategic Support Sqdn) whose main function was to haul the atomic bombs and their components around to where they were needed. They also handled normal loads like spare engines, vehicles, etc, but their main mission was the bomb hauling! Notice both Shakys have engines turning over... Cheers, Dave

And another comment on those F-94s, this time from Doug Barbier:  Phil, RE the shot of F-94B FA-879 on takeoff. That jet is from the 61st FIS at Ernest Harmon AFB, Newfoundland. 61st was at Selfridge during the first part of the Korean War & then was transferred to NEAC. The sharkmouth was standard on their jets & the serial number matches as well. Doug  Thanks, Doug!

Finally, we'd like to recommend a book to those of you who are interested in the 1950s USAF. Most of you know who Dave Menard is, and you may even know he's got a few books in print under his own name. We're guessing a lot of you don't know about this one, though, so we're going to tell you a little bit about it.

Dave published Before Centuries (Howell Press) way back in 1998. the book is an overview of the fighters of USAFE from 1948 through 1959, stopping short of the introduction of the Century Series to Europe. It contains 128 pages of photographs, most of which are in color and most of which have not been seen prior to publication of this work. Those photographs, simply put, are breathtaking. The easiest way to put it is to say this---if you like the photos of 1950s USAF fighters found in this blog you'll love the book. It's a must-have and we think it would make a fine addition to anyone's aviation library. That statement could conceivably be taken as an unabashed plug for the work of a friend, but the fact is that it belongs on the shelf of every aviation enthusiast, period. 'Nuff said!

And that's all we've got for today. Be good to your neighbor and, as always, we'll meet again real soon.