Monday, September 5, 2011

The Last of the Deltas, Studies in Glossy Sea Blue, The Infrequent Model, Mystery Meat,and A Salute to the Cat,

If Six Turned Out to Be Nine

In this particular instance we know you won't mind! We've been putting it off almost forever, but today we're going to run a few shots of the F-102B, better known to most aviation enthusiasts as the F-106A Delta Dart. The "Six" was unique in the Air Force in that it was never sold to any foreign nation, and rarely showed its delta planform overseas. It never carried bombs (although one airframe was rigged up with MERs as a gag while on one of those rare overseas deployments). It was fast and had an amazing initial rate of turn. It was a weapons system in the truest sense of the word, and it was a world-beater at its game. It was also the last dedicated interceptor to be flown by the USAF/ANG.

We may eventually get around to doing a series of photo essays depicting the Dart's career, but today we're going to focus on some colorful examples of the type when it was in its prime, during the 1980s.

57-2494 was an F-106A-90-CO and was serving with Massachusett's 101st FIS when Ron Kowalzyk photographed her in January of 1983. The "Six" was often used as an adversary aircraft during the '80s because of her delta planform, which gave the aircraft performance characteristics that were significantly different from those of most other American types then in service. 2494 was one of those aircraft, as noted by the "Top Gun" logo on her nose. She survived active service to be converted into a QF-106A drone and was expended (that means "shot down") during Stinger testing in 1996.  R. Kowalzyk

59-0095 was the Real Deal, a fast-mover from the 87th FIS that had participated in a number of actual intercepts of Soviet aircraft; her port side displays "kill" markings depicting four Tu-95 "Bear" bombers. She was taxiing in at Laughlin AFB in May of 1980 when we took this photo---check out the deployed RAT hanging from her fuselage and the pilot's ubiquitous orange zoom bag so beloved of ADC. While a great many "Sixes" finished up as high-speed targets, 0095 (an F-106A-125-CO) ended up being scrapped in 2003. It was a sad end for a beautiful airplane.  Friddell

Here's a nose shot of 0095 showing those "Bear" kills, plus the 87th's rampant bull's head. We managed to snap this photo just a few minutes before the transient guys at Laughlin began servicing her LOX bottles and asked us to leave that part of the ramp for potentially safer parts.  Friddell

The 87th was a colorful outfit. 59-0066 (an F-106A-120-CO) was wearing command stripes when Mark Morgan shot her on the ramp at George in 1985. She's got the clear-vision canopy mod but doesn't have the M-61 installation that could be carried in the F-106's weapons bay. Mark shot her at the height of her glory; in 1995 she was expended in AAM-120 testing after being converted into a QF-106A.  M. Morgan

The Guard supplied a considerable portion of the ADC's assets during the 80s and 90s. Here's 57-0246, a dinosaur as "Sixes" go. She was built as a straight-up F-106A-CO, and was assigned to the Montana ANG's 120th FIS when this photo was taken in October of 1983. Like a great many of her sisters she ended up her days as a QF-106 but wasn't shot down; she ran off the runway and was written off in June of 1993.  R. Kowalzyk

There are F-106 schemes and then there are F-106 schemes. The 5th FIS wore one of the classic ones, as illustrated by this lineup taken in October of 1984. 59-0130 was born as an F-106A-130-CO and served with the 5th before being converted to QF-106A status; she was subsequently converted into a test vehicle for NASA Dryden. 59-0002 was a -105-CO and was converted into a QF-106A prior to being shot down in 1992 during AIM-7M testing. That airplane in the back is unique; she was contracted in 1956 as an F-106A (56-0461) and still exists as an exhibit at the Sawyer Air Heritage Museum in Michigan.  Friddell Collection

Florida's a wet sort of place, and it's often cloudy, a phenomenon that provides for some really neat backgrounds for aviation photography as illustrated by this shot of the 159th FIS' ramp. 59-0138, an F-106A-135-CO, was looking good when John Kerr photographed her in 1985. Like so many of her kind she ended up as a QF-106A and was lost in an accident in 1995.  Kerr

The 49th FIS carried another one of the Delta Dart's classic schemes, and this shot of 58-0780 gives an idea of how it appeared in 1987. 0780 was built as a -100-CO and made the usual transition to QF status. She cashed in during AIM-7M testing in March of 1993, but she was a proud warplane when this photo was taken.  Parchman

The 318th FIS was yet another classic F-106 unit with tasteful yet spectacular markings on her tail. 59-0147 was captured while taxiing during October of 1982, and typifies the "Six" in final configuration. Kelly AFB was the F-106 depot and worked on mods as well as routine maintenance and overhauls. The clear-vision canopy and M-61 Vulcan installation were both developed at Kelly, and 0147 is fully modified, making her a fitting way to end today's salute to the "Six". She was built as an F-106A-135-CO and met a fate different than many of her sisters; she was never modified into QF status but ended up on a bombing range instead. A death in the air would have been more fitting...   Friddell Collection

And there you have it; today's installment of Six Into Nine. It's doubtful it'll be our last, so watch these pages!

Can You Hear Your Bluebird Sing?

Everybody loves the "Hog"; it's really just a matter of how much. We love the airplane quite a bit, and recently came into some interesting post-War photographs of her courtesy of Mark Nankivil and the Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum's William Peake Collection. Let's see what we've got:

If you're going to take an airplane to an airshow you really ought to clean her up a bit first. 81836 is an F4U-4 from HEDRON-33 and is being prepped for public display on 26 July, 1948. Note that her side number and her tail code are repeated under the port wing, and that she's wearing a USMC emblem under the windscreen. Oh yeah, and take a look at what's hanging off her fuselage pylons. Can you say Tiny Tim? Larkins via Bill Peake Collection, Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

If you're going to hang that big honkin' rocket off the centerline, you really ought to put something under the wings, too. How about a nice assortment of 5" HVARs to finish things off? The public ought to love that! We do too, come to think of it. She'd most likely be ten kinds of a pig to fly in that condition, but she looks neat, doesn't she?  Larkins via Bill Peake Collection, Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

The show's over and it's time to go home. The HVARs are gone but that Tiny Tim is still firmly attached to the airplane as 81836 taxis to the active. Her antenna suite is reminiscent of WW2, and she's still carrying her tailhook. That rocket is worth a second look too, as this angle provides detail not often seen in photographs.  Larkins via Bill Peake Collection, Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

This F4U-5N is from VMFN-512 ca. 1949 and is looking good in the peacetime NAV. The Marine Corps emblem is barely visible in front of her windscreen, and she's what you might call a Clean Machine.  Larkins via Bill Peake Collection, Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

And here's a "Hog" configured in what we might call a somewhat unusual manner. The airplane is from VC-4 and is carrying an enormous ADF footbal on her aft fuselage, in addition to a somewhat unusual antenna wire suite. 123190 is an F4U-5N, and provides graphic evidence of the reason those 2nd World War Corsair units put tape on the seams around their fuselage fuel tanks. Yuck!  Kohn via Bill Peake Collection, Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Here's yet another F4U-5N from VC-4, in a far more normal configuration than that of her sister above. That asymetrical tank was fairly normal for the later "Hogs", either by itself or in accompanyment of a napalm tank or bomb.The Corsair was nothing if not versatile.  Kohn via Bill Peake Collection, Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

The FG-1D was an F4U-1D built by Goodyear during the war, and more than a few survived the conflict to serve in the peace-time Navy. 87889 is one such example, seen here marked for NAS Grosse Ile. She's obviously seen better days, but that unusual presentation of her side number would make her well worth modeling anyway.  Dickey via Bill Peake Collection, Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Here's a far better example to end this study with. 92041 is an NFG-1D on her last legs---check out those orange Reserve markings. Betcha this airplane was an absolute knock-out in color!  Bill Peake Collection, Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

It's Big and It's Tamiya, But It Sure Ain't No Mustang

It doesn't happen very often, but every once in a while we suffer what some folks might call a pang of conscience because the original RIS was a modeling publication and we're continuing that tradition here, yet we rarely show actual models. We make mention of modeling points all the time, but we almost never actually build anything anymore.

Recently, though, things have changed for the better in our world. There's been quite a bit going on, but we've found the time to get a couple of projects close to completion and, with any luck at all, you'll see the results of those projects in the very near future. That's In The Future.

For today, we thought we'd go back to one of our favorite kits, Tamiya's 1/32nd scale Spitfire Mk VIII. That whole Tamiya Spitfire family is one of the best series of plastic model kits ever released, and will probably remain that way for many years to come. Yes, Tamiya does manage to raise the bar with every new release, but this kit is just about perfect right out of the box, with only a couple of small problems to deal with. We looked at the kit (and, in point of fact, this exact model of it) a few months back, but closer examination while performing one of our rare forays into Dusting the Models raised a few more things we'd like to discuss.

This is how the model came out. The investment in time was minimal for such a large and superficially complicated kit, although it really isn't complicated at all. Everything fits almost flawlessly, which means that you're doing something wrong if you come up with a component that just won't go into place, and the kit's engineering is almost inspirational. Nothing is perfect, though, so here's what you'll need to watch out for if you choose to do your own Australian Mk VIII. First, those spiffy magnets and little pieces of steel for the cowlings work a whole lot better than they should, but at the end of the day you'll want to either leave the engine panels off or button them up. Working features don't usually pan out all that well on scale models (with an emphasis on "scale") even when the kit is from Tamiya. The decals didn't work out well either, being too thick and too stiff. Aftermarket stickies will be your friend on this kit. We also stuck some Eduard in the cockpit, but didn't really need to do it---that interior is perfectly usable right out of the box. Finally, the kit offers those rubber tires that Tamiya loves to put on their big stuff, and the molding seam is almost impossible to remove.

Here, in what some folks might call "graphic fashion", are a few notes regarding the details visible in this photo. The kit decals are an issue, and these aren't them; the roundels and fin flashes came from a Victory Productions sheet that was better, although not by much, than the kit offerings, while the codes, nose art, etc., came from the Kagero book on the MkVIII and were, simply put, superb. We've read criticism of the tiny seam that runs down the center of the canopy on this kit, but it's necessary due to the slight bubble shape of same. We got rid of ours by sanding it off with 1500g polishing paper, then working up through 12000g to eliminate the minor scratching we'd just inflicted on that canopy. The whole operation took 10 minutes, maybe. The interior is great and can be marginally improved with aftermarket; if you really need to spiff it up you'll be doing some minor scratchbuilding to add the few things that are missing, but we'll tell you right now that the kit really doesn't need much in that area.

We really like this shot because it shows how well the kit captures the Spitfire's classic lines. The Australian Mk VIIIs were employed primarily as fighter-bombers, and the conformal auxilliary fuel tanks were a normal part of their combat operations. The kit provides them as optional components, and they attach via metal pins which plug into nylon bushings trapped in the kit's undersides during the early phases of construction. It works like a champ, and you can trade out the tanks on your finished model if you want to. All the control surfaces move, which we think is a Dumb Idea, but it's easy enough to immobilize them, which is what we strongly recommend you do. Then again, it's your model...

One of the things that drew us to this particular kit was the opportunity to perform some very simple and subdued finish variations and weathering. Those Australian Spitfires got really filthy, at least if we can believe the wartime photos we've seen, but they weren't overly beat-up; just dirty. This model was painted entirely with Testor ModelMaster enamels, and using Ian Baker's outstanding "coloring books" as a guide to the shades used. The "white" areas are actually Testor 36222 "Vietnam Grey" and look a whole lot better than a "pure" white in any scale. Aircraft paint used by the Empire during the 2nd World War period tended to have a slight sheen to it so that's how the model was done, after which random areas (but not that random because we used photos of the real airplane as a guide) were hit with Testor DullCote. We think it looks pretty good but if you disagree you don't have to do it that way. One more thing---there's a complete (but not super-detailed) engine in there, but the cowl panels are locked down with Tenax because we didn't like the way they fit to the fuselage. For our money Tamiya could've left that engine out of there (and substantially reduced the cost of the model) but they didn't do it that way. At the end of the day it really doesn't matter much, because we still ended up with the best Spitfire kit of all time. It ain't nothin' but a thang!

This photo doesn't show a whole lot more than those that preceeded it, but it gives a pretty good idea of the way 36222 works as a substitute for white. It also shows off a Builder-Induced Oopsie to prove that it's easy to make a mistake even when you think you know what you're doing. The real Mk VIII has a gun camera that shoots through a port at the base of the starboard wing. The actual camera is way back in there, and you can't see if from outside the airplane, and there used to be one on this model, replicated by a piece of blackend brass tubing set just inside that opening. That bit of tubing got knocked loose during construction (how we do hate cyanoacrylate around here!) and is still rattling around inside the wing someplace. We made a replacement from plastic tube but couldn't seat it properly when we tried to install it after the model was painted, which resulted in it sticking out from the wing, which it definitely shouldn't be doing. It's a Screw-Up, Type I, Class 1, Mk 1, and someday we might fix it. We mention it to you today so you don't go saying something dumb like "Hey---that's not in the kit! I better put one on my model too!" Look on it as a public service announcement of sorts...

Here's part of the belly to illustrate a couple of points. First, the much-fabled Merlin engine was a leaker in the truest since of the word, and the underside of any operational Spitfire so-fitted was filthy as a result. This view doesn't show it very well, but the belly of this model replicates that by use of black and dark umber pastels, applied before that gas bag was pinned in place and then hit with a light coat of gloss to make it look "wet". That's a light coat of gloss, ya'll! This photo also illustrates our Major Issue with this kit---those accursed rubber tires. They look great from the sides and weather out nicely, but no amount of sanding will completely remove those molding seams that run smack down the middle of them. The seams don't really show when the model is on its gear, but they certainly have the potential to; we rotated ours on the wheel hubs to show the "best" part of them when viewed from the front. Decent plastic or resin tires would be so much better, we think.

And that's it for today's Token Scale Modeling Section. There's more to come in the months ahead, though, so stay tuned!

OK, If You Guys Are So Doggone Smart Then What the Heck Is That?

If we could step into the legendary Wayback Machine (of "Rocky and Bullwinkle" fame) and go back to the late 1960s, we'd find your editor playing a game called "Stump the Champs" with various and sundry assorted scale modeling friends. The premise of the game was simple; just come up with a question or (rarely) a picture of something obscure having to do with scale modeling or aviation and see if anyone could guess what it was. It was fun then, so why not now? In other words, are you ready to play "Stump the Champs"?

OK, here you go, gang! This pair of photos were submitted by Mark Nankivil, who has tentatively identified them as members of the Piper L-21 family, and the airplane in question may well have originated with that airframe or then again, maybe not. Mark couldn't find anything on the airplane in his references, and we're not finding it in ours. In short, it's a mystery. If you think you know what it is, drop us a line at and let us in on the secret!  Nankivil Collection

And here's the other side, just to keep things fair. That airframe is absolutely covered with lettering but none of it is legible, and it appears to be on a civilian airfield judging from the somewhat unusual aircraft in the backgrounds of these photos. This particular shot also features a great big honking tear in the image, just to put the icing on the cake, metamorphically speaking. Stumped? We are too, so help us out here! Surely somebody out there knows what this thing is!  Nankivil Collection

An All-American Fighter

If you happen to be an American scale modeler you will eventually add a replica of Grumman's F6F Hellcat to your collection. It's so much of an inevitability that you could accurately describe it as a rite of passage. Since you either already have built an F6F or will build one sooner or later, we figured we'd may as well provide you with a little inspiration.

The Navy has always been an innovative service, as this photograph shows. The aircraft is an F6F-3 and yes, it's launching directly out of the hangar deck. The squadron emblem on the nose may identify this aircraft as a member of Fighting 1, but it's hard to tell with any great degree of certainty. One thing we can say for sure is that this was no ordinary event, as proven by the number of spectators watching the launch. That's one gutsy aviator in the Hellcat, folks!  Rocker Collection

This is a little more like what we're used to; a section of F6F-3s on the prowl in the Central Pacific. Nose art on Fleet-based F6Fs is not unknown but is rare enough to make this photo worth a good second look; check out the pair of dice and the name "Little Joe" on the nose. Note the heavy sheen on the paintwork.  Rocker Collection

A famous cat. This particular F6F-3 is from Fighting One aboard CV-10 Lexington, and has appeared in numerous publications both in photographic and artistic form. It's also featured on the decal sheet of the original Eduard -3 release. The airplane is a little shopworn, and we'd like to direct modelers to her port aileron, which has definitely seen better days. We used to think we didn't like this particular set of markings, but they grow on you after a while.  Rocker Collection

Most folks think of the Hellcat as a citizen of the Central Pacific, but the aircraft ended up pretty much everywhere the Navy and Marines flew in the theater. This fascinating but, unfortunately, unidentified USMC example is in flight over Lake Sentani in Hollandia. She's wearing squadron badges and seems to have personal markings as well, but she's just a little bit too far away to make them out with any degree of certainty. She'll have to remain a mystery for a little while longer...  Rocker Collection

One of the things we particularly enjoy about the photographs from the Rocker collection is the fact that so many of them put you right there with the aircraft and their crews. This photo is one of those; you can almost hear the engines and feel the vibration of that flight deck as the Enterprise recovers a strike after a raid on Tarawa. The shot provides a wealth of detail for modelers and really takes us back to the time and the place.  Rocker Collection
The Hellcat was based on Tarawa for a period of time after the island was secured in 1943. These F6F-3s and PBJs photographed on Mullinex Field make for an evocative photograph and show how quickly the place was cleaned up following one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War. The markings on those Hellcats are unusual but not entirely unique to the type.  Rocker Collection 
Everybody knows how dangerous carrier operations are, but shore-based aircraft aren't immune from accidents either. This one isn't overly serious; this F6F-3 from VF-33 has managed to find itself a bomb crater to taxi into, and is surrounded by Marines and sailors from the ground echelon trying to figure out how to get it out of there. The legend on that 6x6 in the background says "PILOTS ONLY"; it would make a neat addition to a diorama. We doubt anybody was injured in this incident, but that wasn't always the case.  Rocker Collection

The pilot of this VF-33 "Cat" might not have been so lucky, although the canopy's open and it looks as though he had a good chance of getting out of there. The movies rarely show it and memoirs often gloss over it, but the sad fact was that a great many airmen were lost in accidents too; ask any military aviator, past or present, just how downright dangerous his occupation is. The answer might surprise you...  Rocker Collection

Happy Snaps

Today's Happy Snap offering was taken by Rick Morgan while he was flying with VAQ-33 out of NAS Key West and it's a good one---let's take a look.

The date was August, 1981, and Rick captured this section of A-7Bs from VA-203 accompanying an EA-6A from VAQ-33 on a training hop near Puerto Rico. We haven't run very many "SLUF" shots around here; maybe it's time to change that.  R. Morgan

The Relief Tube

Let's start off today with a comment from Rick Morgan regarding that shark-mouthed F11F-1 we ran last week:   Phil: That’s a great picture of the VA-43 F11F on Indy you have posted. The reason it wears VF-21 markings is because Fighting-21 was redesignated Atkron-43 (VA-43) on 1 Jul 1959. At that time it became the Oceana jet attack replacement squadron with predominantly A4Ds assigned, although it kept a small number of F11Fs through early 1960 to train pilots for AirLant’s only fleet F11F squadron at that time, VF-33. The F4D on cat-1 is from Key West-based VF-101, which was the east coast “all-weather” fighter training unit, with Fords and Demons. Both squadrons were under RCVG-4 at that time. VA-43 later on went on to become Oceana’s instrument RAG and, after Vietnam, redesignated VF-43 and an adversary squadron. Rick We'll file that one in the "We Learn Something Every Day" file---thanks, Morgo!

As everyone knows by now, Jim Sullivan is possessed of a remarkable collection of images spanning several decades of American military aviation. He enjoyed our "Ford" piece last week and sent along this air-to-air of one of VMF-115's birds in flight near El Toro in 1958 to help flesh out the piece:

Remember that part where we said VMF-115 had simple but effective markings? This shot shows them off to considerable advantage, we think. The modelers among our readership might want to take particular note of her panel lines---real airplanes almost never look like ceramic figures, ya'll.  Bowers via J. Sullivan Collection

And that's it for today. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon!

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