Saturday, September 17, 2011

An Unusual Visitor, Sixes For Two, A Pacific Legend, and Learnin' to Fly

What Are Those Guys Doing Here?

That little fracas in Southeast Asia during that took place during the 1960s was quite an interesting affair. Most of us are familiar with the "normal" side of things, but there were quite a few sidebars to the conflict too; goofy things such as FJ-4Bs flying limited Alpha strikes into Laos during 1962, or somewhat unusual drones overflying interesting places. Another sidebar would surely be the unusual transients that occasionally showed up in Vietnam, Republic of. Let's start our day with a couple of those visitors.

Few people think of the Cambodian Air Force when they think of the Vietnam War, but that nation did possess a small air arm. We showed you one of their T-28s a few months back; here's something a little more unusual. This MiG-15UTI was photographed at Bien Hoa during June of 1970 during a rare visit out of country. The aircraft is about as plain as you can get---overall grey with a red nose. Her aircraft number, 2832, is presented on the vertical stab only, with nothing on the nose. Modelers take note of the antenna wire, which runs to a small mast just inside the larger one. That large mast didn't do anything except sit on the fuselage and look like an antenna mast, but it remained on the MiG-15, totally disfunctional, until the last one left active service. Check out that VNAF pilot for scale; the MiG-15 was a tiny airplane.  J. Elliott

Cambodia also operated the MiG-17; 1721 was a beautifully-marked example of the type in squadron service. The Fresco wasn't much bigger that the MiG-15 that preceded it and was quite an adversary in the hands of a skilled pilot, although there were relatively few skilled Bad Guys flying the type during that war. We know of several photographers who had the opportunity to visit Cambodia during the war, but most of the photographs we've seen were of poor quality because they had to be taken on the sly. That particular level of security went away the second these guys crossed into South Vietnam, allowing us a rare view of two of their aircraft.  J. Elliott

The MiG-17 was quite an aircraft, and packed a punch too. This nose-on view shows her gun pack partially winched down, which allows us a look at the single 37mm and twin 23mm cannon that armed most Vietnam-era MiG-17s. That doohicky laying on the starboard wing (which is on your left in this view---gotta pay attention to those things!) is the fairing for the 37mm gun. Check out that windscreen too. Most of the flat center panel, the one the pilot would generally look through, is blocked by the gunsight, and the quality of the transparencies is poor. Contributor Rick Morgan had the opportunity to sit in a Fresco once upon a time and commented that looking through the windscreen was a lot like trying to see through a Coke bottle that had a shoe box in the middle of it. The MiG-17 was definitely a no-frills aircraft!  J. Elliott

A Graceful Tub

Once upon a time, Convair (remember Convair?) built a then-state-of-the-art interceptor known to the world as the F-102A. That airplane, fondly known to the aviation fraternity as the "Deuce", was advanced enough that it was felt a dedicated two-seat transition aircraft (a trainer, in other words) was required. The resulting airplane was both ugly and distinctly subsonic, and is the airplane usually voted most likely to have inspired use of the word "tub" when describing the modification of a single-seat-anything into a two-seater.

That was the "Deuce". When Convair designed the F-106 (originally the F-102B, if you recall) they spent a little more time on the two-seater, and came up with an airplane that wasn't that far removed from the single-seat F-106A. It was a neat airplane, and today we're going to take a look at it.

57-2546 was built as an F-106B-60-CO and was assigned to the ADWC when I shot her at an airshow at Randolph in May of 1982. That canopy framing is typical of the Bravo Six and is not unique to this airplane. Neither, unfortunately, is the TAC shield on her vertical stab. Like so many of her sisters she ended her days as a QF-106B and was destroyed in 1995.   Friddell

57-2513 was almost devoid of markings when Vince Reynolds took her portrait in October of 1979. The "Six" was a clean airplane and could be brutally fast under the right conditions. She was a -31-CO and was never converted to drone status; you can see her today at the Yanks Air Museum.  Reynolds

July of 1984 saw Mark Morgan doing that airshow thing, where he caught the 186th's 57-2517 (another F-106B-31-CO) early in the day, before the public was allowed aboard. 2517 was converted into the now-ubiquitous QF-106 but survived  the program after a ground accident. She was subsequently surplused out and was in private hands at one time (she may still be, for all we know!). The F-106 would make for an expensive warbird...  M. Morgan

Those Montana birds got around! I shot this one on the transient ramp at Kelly in 1982. 57-2518 was built as an F-106B-35-CO and got herself converted to QF status at the end of her life; she was ultimately shot down by an AIM-120. This shot is for the modelers among our readership---check out the taxi light and the deployed RAT. You might also want to check out that taxiway behind her. Kelly was an interesting place in the '80s.  Friddell

Airplanes get new clothes from time to time, just like people do. 57-2513 was assigned to the 2954th CLSS when I photographed her on the ramp at Kelly in 1982. There's absolutely nothing of significant interest about her except for that vertical stab and the wingtips. She had a little flash but was basically a shy kind of girl. Then she grew up...  Friddell

And got all flashy, running around with a fast crowd as a B-1B chase aircraft. Go back up a few shots and you'll notice that she's the same bird Vince Reynolds photographed in nothing but a coat of Aircraft Grey. It makes for an interesting evolution of colors!  I think Mark Morgan might have shot this one but I'm not sure---how about it, Mark?  Friddell Collection

As long as we're looking at chase planes we'd may as well look at this one too! 57-2535 was an F-106B-35-CO when photographed at Kelly by John Parchman during 1988. Her tail markings are Insignia Blue rather than red, and she's noteworthy because she's got her weapons bay doors opened up. Assignment to a prominent test program couldn't save her, though; she was converted to QF status and went down at the hands of an AIM-9M in 1993.  Parchman

June of 1982 saw Kelly AFB hosting an ANG convention, with most of the Guard's tactical and air defense units in attendance. We often see active duty aircraft going into the Guard in their old age, but sometimes it works the other way around. Compare the photograph of that test bird immediately above with this one; anything seem familiar to you? She was a classy lady right up to the time she was expended as a drone.  Friddell

And finally, here's a shot featuring a detail you don't see every day; 59-0158 has her weapons bay doors opened and her launch rails deployed. Tom Ring shot her as a transient at Ellington in September of 1981. She's of special interest because she survived the QF-106 program to be ear-marked for a display aircraft at Edwards.  Tom Ring

That's it for today's edition of Six into Nine (with appropriate apologies to Jimi), but we aren't done with this particular song yet---stay tuned for more in the weeks ahead!

It's All a Matter of Being in The Right Place at the Right Time

And Lockheed's P-38 Lightning was every bit of that. She was born as an interceptor, and went to war in the frozen high-altitude climate of Western Europe, where she proved to be indifferent at best. General George wanted her for the Pacific, even though a great many people predicted she would fail there once put into combat against the far more nimble fighters of the Japanese. In the end she proved them all wrong, and was developed into an aerial killer par excellance.

The 54th FS was an early operational user of the P-38. This G-model is apparently on long final, or maybe just tooling along with her gear down while pacing a significantly slower aircraft. The Lightning was a rocket ship by the standards of the 1940s, and there was no such thing as a slow P-38. The flaps are deployed on this aircraft too, giving us an excellent view of their appearance in that mode.  Rocker Collection

The 54th operated out of Adak, without the glamor or notoriety of her more famous sisters assigned to warmer climes. That's Lt. Herb Hasenfus grinning at us from the cockpit, but you can bet he didn't smile all the time---that mud would turn to ice overnight, and the snow was no pleasure to work out of either. The guys in the Aleutians had it rough, but almost nobody remembers that nowadays. They ought to.  Rocker Collection

A fair number of P-38s ended up on Guadalcanal once the place had been more or less secured. This shot is soft on detail, but it's a perfect illustration of the fact that the Japanese weren't the only enemy in the Pacific. Those muddy runways devoured a whole bunch of airplanes, but they didn't stop operations.  Rocker Collection

The P-38 saw the war through, from the Bad Old Days at New Guinea and the 'Canal to the Philippines, but the conditions never changed much. Mud is mud, and tired is tired. There were times when the enemy was just a sideshow to the day-to-day drama of "routine" operations.  Rocker Collection

The 35th FS was one of the 5th AF fighter outfits to make it through the war pretty much from beginning to end. Dick West's "Helen" is seen preparing to taxi at Nadzab during the latter stages of the conflict. The airplane is devoid of drop tanks so it's probably intended to be a short mission; the P-38 flew the short hops too, but its forte was long-range operations. It was ideally suited for ops in the Pacific thanks to those twin engines and adequate internal fuel capacity.  Rocker Collection

By 1944 most of the Pacific belonged to the United States, but that was a condition that could never be taken for granted. The 35th was at Wadke on 5 June, 1944, when a Japanese air raid reduced Dick West's P-38 to pots and pans. The Golden BB apparently came in the form of a 250-kg bomb that hit directly in front of the aircraft with the result seen here.  Rocker Collection

This photo may possibly illustrate another of Dick West's airplanes, but then again it may not. Logic says the 35th couldn't have been full of airplanes named "Helen", but we honestly don't know. We do know that the's a P-38L, and that she belonged to the 8th FG when photographed at Mindoro in 1944. After that, it's anybody's guess!  Rocker Collection

"Barely Yours" was another P-38L from the 35th. Notice how the prop blades have weathered out, particularly in the area of the data block at the base of the blades. That's a detail often overlooked by modelers.  Rocker Collection

49th Fighter Group ace Robert DeHaven is most often associated with the P-40, but he spent some time with the P-38 as well. Here we see his Lightning immediately post-War, quite possibly in Japan. The guys in that picture look a lot older than they actually were, and appear to be fairly grim too. There was a reason for that.  Rocker Collection

The 80th FS was another unit assigned to Nadzab during 1944, as typified by Howard Fotheringham's P-38J. Between the white theater markings and green squadron colors the airplane is a veritable Easter egg, but her muddy parking apron brings us back to reality. Fighting in the Southwest Pacific was no picnic even if you were on the winning side.  Rocker Collection

The 475th was established as a hand-picked group of trained killers, and was a hot outfit from its establishment until the end of the war. This unidentified pilot typifies the breed. Yes, we say it over and over again, but those guys were young, most of them, although they didn't stay that way very long. It's easy to imagine this guy driving his best girl around town in a jalopy, or mowing his dad's yard. He's typical of the young men who fought in that war. We hope he made it to the end.  Rocker Collection 

Tommy McGuire was one of the ones who didn't make it. He was often described as a misfit, and only came into his own in the cockpit of the P-38. A close competitor with Dick Bong for the title of America's leading ace, he was killed in combat on 7 January 1945 while trying to save one of his flight members from attack by Sugimoto Akira, a highly-skilled Ki-43 pilot. McGuire had attempted to turn while low and slow and encumbered by drop tanks, causing his P-38 to stall and spin in.There are those who will tell you McGuire died out of greed, trying to beat Bong in the scoring race. To some extent that may be true, but he was also worn out, and quite possibly a little bit burned out as well. The thing to remember is that he died trying to save another pilot. Let's lift a glass...  Rocker Collection

Dick Bong flew several different P-38s during the course of his career, and not all were named "Marge". This example was photographed at Nadzab and shows Bong's scoreboard at the time. The airplane is filthy, and the operational conditions are miserable. We always remember the aces, but we rarely think of the mud. Unlike many of his contemporaries Dick Bong survived combat to become America's highest-scoring fighter ace of all time. He died while flight testing the P-80; very few of the AAF's top-scorers in the Pacific lived to a ripe old age.  Rocker Collection

A T-Bird is a T-Bird is a T-Bird

While we're talking about Lockheed aircraft, let's take a quick look at a lesser-known example of the breed. We all know that the Air Force caused a two-seat trainer, the T-33, to be developed from its F-80 fighter, and we know that the immortal T-Bird subsequently trained tens of thousands of pilot over the course of its career. Some some folks may not know that the Navy operated the aircraft as well, and even had their own specific variation of it. Let's look.

This is what most folks think of when somebody says T-Bird. It was a ubiquitous member of the USAF's arsenal for over two decades, and is typified by this study of 52-9883, a T-33A-1-LO here photographed with Michigan's 127th FG. This is how most of us think of the T-Bird. Those fuselage stripes are tasty, aren't they?  Barbier

The NAV (and the Marine Corps, as seen here) first acquired the T-Bird as a direct purchase, the aircraft being designated the TV-2. The aircraft was a standard T-33 in every respect, its only real modification for naval service being a new paint job. The TV-2 wasn't of much use as a trainer, at least not for the Navy, and frequently ended up as a station hack, as seen here.  Vince Reynolds

Although the basic T-33 was (and still is) a delight to fly, it could never be considered to be a naval aircraft. That changed when the basic design was modified into the T2V-1, an honest-to-goodness carrier aircraft.  Mods were numerous and included a general strenghening of the airframe and landing gear, installation of a tailhook, a new vertical tail, leading-edge slats, and a revised cockpit that included a raised seating position for the instructor in the back seat. Those accumulative mods changed the T-Bird into a distinctive variant known as the Sea Star.  Vince Reynolds

The Sea Star remained in Navy service until the 1970s, when it was replaced by North American's T-2 Buckeye family of trainers. 144165h was photographed in July of 1959 while assigned to NAS Anacostia, and could define the type as far as appearance is concerned. The hook is well-depicted in this photo, as is the humped-up aft canopy, necessitated by the raised seat for the instructor. That vertical stab is somewhat remeniscent of the F-94C, don't you think? Gotta keep it in the family!  S. Miller

Happy Snaps

There are Happy Snaps and then there are Happy Snaps. Today's offering is courtesy the camera of Rick Morgan, and might be termed "somewhat unusual".

Bear hunting! The year was 1985, and Rick was flying with VAQ-139 near Guam when he shot this intercept by a section of VFA-25 Hornets. It's our understanding that these sorts of affairs were generally friendly in nature, with lots of waving and picture-taking, punctuated with the occasional uplifted middle digit to provide spice to the proceedings. We consider this to be a classic image of the Cold War.  R. Morgan

The Relief Tube

Let's lead off today's offering with an explanation as to why we didn't publish anything last week. The simple truth is that a combination of minor illness plus employment demands, coupled with the length of time it takes to put one of these things together (and it takes longer than you might think) made publication impossible last time around. We'll try, as always, to do better, so stay tuned as it were. There are Good Things ahead.

One more thing before we get to our reader's input and corrections: You'll notice a change in the way our photographs are presented when you click on the images to enlarge them. That's a function of the blog software used, and we had nothing to do with the change. It's apparently universal---we went to the other sites that we know use that software and they're the same, so it ain't just us. We aren't sure whether we like it or not, but we can't do anything about it one way or another. We hope it's ok with you.

It's time to talk airplanes!  Last issue we ran a couple of photos of an airplane we described as Mystery Meat, and asked for identification. I expected a response, our readership being what it is, but I never expected to hear back from anybody five minutes after the posting went up, which is quite literally what happened. Mike McMurtrey was the first respondent, but he wasn't the only one:  That tri-geared cub is a YL-21 modified for aerodynamic research by the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory at Mississippi State University. They installed Cessna spring landing gear and a nose wheel. The hump on the cowling covered a pump that sucked boundary layer air into the wings. They even tried one without a prop to fly it as a glider in the same configuration. There are also pictures of one of these planes with a set of double tires on each side. Note that it belonged to the Army and not the Air Force. There were two YL-21s: 51-6495 and 51-6496. They were PA-18-135s special ordered in 1950. Mike

Steve Shefflin also checked in on the subject: Hi Phil, First, let me say how much I love your site. I download so many of your great photos to my wallpaper that I am in dire danger of filling my hard drive. Regarding your mystery photos, I too believe it is a modified Piper L-21 Super Cub. After staring at the partially visible serial numbers, and doing a little research, I think that it may be one of two YL-21 Super Cubs: 51-6495 or 51-6496 (c/n 18-749/750). I could, however, find no information regarding any tricycle landing gear mods. Finally, what in the world is that strange bulge on the upper cowling? Steve Sheflin  Take a look at Mike's response just above, Steve. I think he's got that hump figured out!

Another reader known only as Norm way up there in New Hampshire also nailed the airplane:  What a great web site! I check in every day to see if there is something new. I'm that nifty fiftie and sixties birds vintage. Bird in question is a Mississippi State research bird. BTW: They still have their square tail Bird Dog flying. Norm

We've begun a series of photo essays on Convair's remarkable F-106, and co-conspirator Dave Menard had this to say about the airplane:  Phil, Latest blog in this morning and as usual, interesting as hell! In the write up for the Six, mention is made that none went to "furren" AFs. I wonder. Reason for wondering is while on an officially escorted photo shoot at McClellan AFB in the spring of 1973 when I was stationed at Mathe r(across town from McClellan) and noticed some A and B model Sixes with 100% cocooning on them sitting on a barge waiting to go downriver to SF Bay to be loaded on a ship(?). Serials were in large(3 or 4 inch) stencils on both sides of their noses, but I did not write them down for reasons forgotten. McClellan was THE depot for the Six (as well as the F-100, F-105, A-1, to name some more) so logically, any Sixes for export would have left after full rebuilds. Hmmmmm. Have wondered over the years where they went. They were not Deuces as I do know the difference. Guess we will never know…Cheers, dave  Looks as though we've got another challenge for our readership! Does anybody know where those Mystery Sixes ended up? There's no prize for the answer but we'd really like to know!

And speaking of Sixes, here's a comment and a correction we snuck in that correction last week!) from Mark Williams: Phil, very nice selection as usual! You snuck a Monday post in on me, and when I checked your blog I realized I was a few days late! I'll take it though!

I really enjoyed the F-106s! As you can tell by my e-mail address, I'm sort of a fan. I never got to work on them myself -- I started as a crew chief on KC-135s, and ended up as a Flight Engineer on C-130s before I retired (nine days ago to be exact!)  I noticed you described 58-0780 as, "New York's 49th FIS". I kind of think that might confuse some readers into thinking that the 49th was an ANG unit, but it was not. They were active duty, and now the 49th FTS out of Columbus AFB, MS. In fact, a bunch of the old active FIS's are FTS's now. The 5th FTS is out of Vance AFB, OK now, and the 87th FTS is out of Laughlin AFB, TX.

BTW, I also caught you accurately described that 56-0461 is on display at the Sawyer museum, but did you know they repainted the tail number to accurately depict an actual 87th FIS aircraft? It's painted as 57-0231. I was there for the dedication ceremony exactly five years ago today! Personally, I'm not a big fan of changing tail numbers, but it wasn't my display. Anyway, great post! Keep sneaking in a few F-106 photos. Maybe I'll send a couple of mine sometime! Have a good weekend, Mark O. Williams  Thanks for the corrections, Mark! As always, they're appreciated.

And finally, it seems our mention of those childhood favorites, the Colby books, struck a chord with at least one of our readers, Gary Kato:  Phil, Not long ago I was trying to remember who made some of the military picture books that I used to check out often at the Public Library when I was a kid. Colby! I don't actually remember aircraft books but I do remember a military vehicle book or two. Finding your blog motivated me to find my issues of RIS and Aerophile. I only had 2 issues of RIS but I remember thinking it was a great magazine. Back then there weren't that many magazines doing things for modern aircraft model builders.Thanks,  gary And thanks to you for writing, Gary. Those Colby books encompassed just about everything as I recall---I can distinctly remember aircraft, warships, and military vehicles in the series. I keep hoping I'll run across the aviation titles in a used bookstore some day!

And that's about all we have for today. We've had some remarkable submissions of late so good things lie ahead---stay tuned for The Further Adventures of Whatever It Is We Do Around Here. Meanwhile, be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon.

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