Sunday, July 22, 2012

Shelf of Doom?, Early A-7s, One December Day, And Some Zipper Odds and Ends

It Must've Been a Bad Day

You know how it goes. You build a model, put it on the shelf and admire your newly-finished project, and go do something else. You come back later to admire it again and discover something you either forgot to do or did poorly, which causes you to perform a little bit of rework. That's how it is today.

We published yesterday, admired what we did, and walked away. When we went back to look at the fruit of our labors this morning we discovered that our proofreading skills had been, shall we say "limited" and there were typos and grammatical errors every place we looked! Since we try our best to put out a quality product around here all those mistakes took us straight into the realm of the unacceptable, so we're going to take a minute and fix a few things. If this is the first time you're reading this particular installment then you'll never know the difference so just keep on keeping on. If, on the other hand, you did happen to visit us yesterday some of what you read will be different; not radically so, but different nonetheless. It's not you, it's us. This time...

Jus' Ole Junk

That's what we call it, anyway. The internet scale modeling fraternity (to which we happen to belong, ironic as that may seem to those who know us well) has birthed a number of really goofy words and phrases over the years, a few of which are real side-splitters. Our personal favorite, albeit one having nothing whatsoever to do with this particular diatribe, is the use of the noun "pony" to describe any member of the North American P-51 Mustang family, a name by which said aircraft was never called while it was in active service even though at least one American decal manufacturer christened an entire series of sheets using that particular appellation. To each his own, we suppose...

Anyway, this isn't about that. Today's Totally Incoherent Rambling has to do with another Buzz Word Concoction; The Shelf of Doom. Everybody's got one in one form or another, although a great many of us have never bothered to call it anything nearly that dramatic, and certainly never bothered to name it anything so negative. Your editor even has one and yes; it's a literal shelf, but there ain't no doom about it.

Nope---in our world that shelf is not one of doom, it's more a shelf of delayed opportunity, a home for projects gone frustratingly awry for whatever reason. We don't consider any of them terminal projects; in our world that sort of thing gets its useful components removed and is then pitched---end of story. (San Antonio modeler Bob Angel coined the phrase Reduced to Produce for that operation, and we wholeheartedly agree with his terminology!) To prove the point, each and every Classic Airframes kit we've built has enjoyed residence on that particular shelf during some phase (or many phases!) of its construction, such being the nature of a great many of the kits belonging to that particular range of Occasional Plastic Purgatory.

The highly-desirable but frustratingly difficult products of that one manufacturer notwithstanding, we have to go right back to the whole notion that started this particular bit of silliness, which is the concept of a literal shelf of doom. Here's how we figure this ought to work: If the model is so bad it has to be banished to an honest-to-goodness shelf of doom then you need to pitch it. Throw it away. Dispose of it. Reduce to Produce! Allow us to give you The Southern Perspective if we may: It ain't a shelf of doom, it's a place we put stuff until we're ready to get back to it. It's a Land of Opportunity.

Shelf of Doom our patootie!

The First of the Fruitflies

A few years back the United States armed forces retired their last LTV A-7 Corsair IIs, replacing them with the far more capable (although it took quite a while to get there) F-18 family of fighter/attack aircraft. The venerable A-7 Corsair II (rarely called that in US service, but rather known as the "Fruitfly" to the guys with the boats and the "SLUF" to the blue-suiters; "SLUF" being an acronym that we'll let you figure out for yourselves, although the adjectives "Slow", "Little", and "Ugly" are in that name somewhere) was the premier American light attack aircraft of the late 60s through mid-90s.

The A-7 was a revelation when it first entered service with the Navy because it had it all as far as an attack aircraft was concerned; a sophisticated (for its day) fire control and weapons delivery system, long legs, and the hauling capability of a dump truck. On top of that it had been designed for ease of maintenance from the very beginning and offered an extremely good ratio of maintenance hours per hour flown. It was the Bombdiggedy of its day, and became a world-beater when it's Echo-version received a state of the art low-bypass turbofan for its power plant. The Air Force ended up buying their own version of it; the A-7D, thus proving that a Very Good Idea is just that, regardless of who's name is on the wrapper, and subsequent combat in SEA, Grenada, the Balkans, and a handful of other places more than proved its worth in an operational environment.

Today we're going to take a brief look at The Founder of the Feast, the A-7A, so let's see what we've got:

The NAV's test pilot school ends up with all sorts of dogs and cats due to its mission, and they received the "Fruitfly" early on. We don't know the BuNo, don't know the boat, and don't even know the year in which the photo was taken, but it provides a great view into the world of the NTPS. Modelers, take a look at that intake; a great many of the plastic kits of this aircraft have gomed-up that particular portion of the fuselage. That nose is, to a great degree, a feature that defines the character of the aircraft. Be careful when you select which kit you're going to build!  USN via M. Morgan Collection

The NWES was a big part of the A-7's career, evaluating most of the weapons that ended up being deployed on the airframe. This heavily-used Alpha is sitting on the ramp (presumably at Lemoore but we expect to be corrected on that one; the address is ) during preparation for flight. Note how the old "Easter Egg" paintwork stands up to the elements in contrast to today's more effective (and far less colorful) TPS. There's something to be said for shiny paint.  T. Ring

Here's another view of one of the NWES birds, this time at a public airshow in September of 1971. She's up on tippy-toe, implying that she's carrying relatively little fuel. The A-7 has frequently been described as an F-8 that ran into a wall; this shot shows us why. Standard Navy practice during the Easter Egg phase of camouflage was to paint all control surfaces Glossy Insignia White, and this photo illustrates that directive nicely. Of particular interest are the horizontal stabilators, which are white on both upper and lower surfaces. Gotta love that pre-TPS Navy!  T. Ring

AirPac's VA-37 was an early operator of the type. This particular shot was taken in the ZI and depicts 153212 just after the gear has retracted but while she's still low and slow; note the deployed flaps and leading-edge slats. She's carrying MERs and some colorful paintwork which would later morph into a presentation bordering the spectacular when the squadron transitioned to the E-model. Built as an A-7A-4b-CV, she spent a brief stay in the desert before transforming into a P-model and transferring to Portugal. The "Fruitfly" got around.  R. Piccianni 

VA-122 (along with VA-125) was the A-7 RAG when the type was still on the active duty roster. 154360, an A-7A-4c-CV, went down the same road as 153212 and ended up in Portugal, but was attending an air show at Bergstrom when Lee Bracken caught her on the ground in May of 1976. Those RAG birds were ridden hard but never put away wet; this aircraft is extremely well-maintained.  L. Bracken

The NavRes has long been an essential, and highly active, part of the Navy's aviation component. 153190 was yet another -4b that ended up in Portugal. She was in her twilight years when this photo was taken, and the stress wrinkles on her skin convey a lengthy and active service life, but she was still a viable, if increasingly limited, strike platform. The name USS Ranger painted on her aft fuselage connotes a recent det on the boat and she wears the title proudly on the transient ramp at Bergstrom in June of 1977.  L. Bracken

We're going to end our day with this study of 153216 from VA-304. Another Reserve bird, she carries the name "Zeus" on her port MLG cover. Some of the later variants of the Corsair II would be far more colorful, but 216 carries enough decoration to make her well worth modeling.  USN via M. Morgan

OK, we'll admit it---we're a little thin where A-7As are concerned and yes; we're actively soliciting additional images. (You know the e-mail address, right?) While we're waiting, we'll see about collecting some Bravo "Fruitflies" for next time. Stay tuned!

Just Chasing Airplanes

There was a time, way back in the 1980s, when an inordinately large number of well-known aviation photographers all lived in south Texas. We were privileged to know (and, hopefully, to learn from) several of them. That fact provides a lead-in to our next piece.

It was just a few days short of Christmas in 1979 when we got the phone call from Maddog John Kerr, the gist of which being that he, his son Paul, Dan Hagedorn, John Dienst, Lee Bracken, and Frank Garcia were going to drive to San Angelo to see some ex-Honduran AF F4U Corsairs that had been ferried up there for overhaul and a repaint and that I was going with them. It wasn't an invitation but rather a command (Maddog's like that sometimes), but it seemed to be The Right Thing to Do so I pulled some Kodachrome out of the refrigerator and beat feet over to John's place, where the four of us piled into his purple Gremlin for the ride north. It was, as they say, a trip to remember.

There are many ways to get to San Angelo from San Antonio, and we took the one that involved driving along a stretch of Interstate 10. We'd been whizzing along for a bit in some extremely foul South Texas Winter Weather when Paul Kerr, who was sitting in the back seat of that Gremlin with me, pointed out the side of the car and said "There's an airplane on that hill!" We looked and sure enough there it was; the remains of a Cessna 182 piled into the side of a limestone outcropping. Maddog allowed as how it had gone in the night before and the crash had made the previous evening's news. It was a sobering image, not helped any by the fact that it had just started to snow, making a dreary winter's day even gloomier.

Anyway, we turned off IH 10 and onto State Highway 87 towards Fredericksburg, plowing through what had turned into a regular South Texas version of a blizzard. We passed through Fredericksburg and headed north on the final sprint towards San Angelo, still in driving snow, when Maddog said "I've had enough of this defecation" (that's not really what he said, but this is a family-oriented site)and commenced to rocking back and forth in his seat, chanting "No Snow, No Snow". "Jeez, Maddog, what are you doing?" was the Burning Question of the Day, to which question the response was "I'm doing the snow chant so this will stop!" Yeah, right; like he's going to make it stop!But stop it did; we topped the next hill, the very next stinking hill, and drove out into bright sunshine with nary a cloud in sight. Maddog had stopped the blizzard! Holy Cow!

OK, maybe it wasn't really him, but the bottom line is that we got to the airport in San Angelo with no further adventures and were able to shoot those beautiful U-Birds to our heart's content, with nobody else on the ramp, and in decent weather. Dan was in heaven and the rest of us weren't too far behind. What follows is a tiny sampling of that afternoon's endeavors:

That BT-13 is a warbird, but the two Corsairs are about as real as it gets, recently retired from the Honduran Air Force and ferried to San Angelo for paint. Those "Hogs" had N-numbers stencilled on their aft fuselages but were otherwise in Honduran military trim sans guns. The snow-bound drive had just become well worth while!  Friddell

N4901 had been built as an F4U-5N but wasn't fitted with a radome or radar; we didn't get to look in her cockpit to see if there was a scope in there.She still had her flame dampers though, and the blast tubes for her 20mm were still in place. If only airplanes could talk!  Friddell

Here's her other side. Christmas came on December 23rd that year, and no doubt about it. Those airplanes were well-used but had obviously been equally well-cared for. They wouldn't have been out of place on any American Naval or Marine air station of the late 40s or early 50s---they were a time machine of the highest magnitude.  Friddell

N4901was another F4U-5N. The Hondurans put their wing insignia out on the tips and the treatment made for a really pretty bunch of airplanes. And no, Virginia, they didn't have their tailhooks!  Friddell

Honduras used F4U-4s too. N4908 was an example of the breed, as well-used as the -5Ns but not beat up. The Hondurans took good care of those airplanes!  Friddell

Our final shot is a 3/4 frontal of N4908. That prop tip treatment wasn't all that unusual in that it could be found on certain block numbers of P-47Ds found in Europe during the last days of The Big One, but they were somewhat of an anomaly on the F4U.  Friddell

You can still see those Honduran U-Birds today on the American airshow circuit. As gorgeous as they are in their retro-American military livery, we prefer them the way they were when they arrived in Texas; pristine throwbacks to an earlier time. Yep; Christmas came a little early that year!

Star, Star (With Apologies to Keith and Mick)

Any of you who've been with us from the beginning know we have a thing for the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, affectionately known as the "Zipper". It was an airplane born well ahead of its time, one that was so specialized (as an air-to-air fighter and point defense "interceptor") that it was nearly useless until foreign sales forced it into the fighter-bomber role. Those later airplanes were really something, although still somewhat limited but the earlier ones, well, they were the earlier ones. You have to start someplace.

We were doing some rare cleaning of the files a few days ago and stumbled across a small package of F-104 photography we didn't use in that Squadron monograph we'd authored way back in the 90s. Those photos are definitely a hodge-podge of images and honestly not much to write home about, but they do provide some insight into the airplane.

Most of the companies who made plastic airplane kits back in the 50s had a Starfighter in their lineup but Hawk were first with a G-model, even though it was that in name only since they'd missed a great many salient features of the real thing. No matter; that silver-plated "Zipper" with its Maltese crosses had pride of place in our collection until fickle fate (in the form of a back-yard dogfight) did it in. This Lockheed publicity shot gives you an idea of Hawk's intent---the kit didn't have Japanese markings in it but catered to the Canadians and Germans with its decals. It was a very long time ago.  LAC via Isham Collection

It's possible, just barely possible, that a few of our readers can remember a late 80s prog-rock album entitled Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters. We still have our copy of that recording and think of the admittedly eclectic music contained within every time we see a silver Federal Luftwaffe F-104G. This is, if memory serves, the first example of that breed. G? G for Germany! Rock on!  LAC via Isham

If you were a kid in the 50s this is how you imagined the F-104. 53-7786 was the first of two XF-104As and had a relatively long life as early "Zips" go, finally crashing to destruction in 1957. Test pilot Bill Park had to abandon her and survived the ejection, always a sporty proposition with the A-model's downward firing ejection seat.  Note the short fuselage and early intake treatment. It took a while to get it right with the '104.  LAC

It's a little-known fact but at high Mach and altitude the F-104 could out-turn and out-run most Soviet fighters. The problem was that the lessons of the Korean War that helped birth the "Zipper" were false ones, since most subsequent air-to-air combat took place at lower altitudes and airspeeds, an arena where the F-104 performed poorly. The the result was predictable; the A-model was a poor clear air mass fighter, which led to a brief stint with ADC where it proved itself to be next-to-worthless as an interceptor, quick reaction and stellar time-to-climb notwithstanding. TAC was the next (and final) American military operator of the type; it's Charlie models were somewhat more capable than the Alphas but still weren't what the Air Force needed. This evocative Lockheed factory shot shows a ramp full of F-104Cs and looks impressive, but the damage was done. The loss rate remained high---56-0911 ended up in the Gulf of Tonkin after a mid-air in 1965, while 56-0922 went down near Mojave in 1968, killing her pilot. Starfighter drivers earned their pay!  LAC LA-1524-12

Early Lockheed press releases called her "The Missile With a Man in It". This view shows why as this early A-model (note the faired-over M61 port) poses for her picture. Few airplanes were as exciting, but few were as flawed in their early variants. The "Zip" had more coffin corners than most airplanes had corners. LAC

This shot of a production F-104A provides us with a graphic example of everything that was wrong with the early Starfighter. Even though the F-104 had longer unrefueled legs than the F-4 Phantom it was still a short-ranged aircraft; there was little room for internal fuel. It had a single gun that was frequently removed because of problems, and it had virtually no wing area which made it fast and stable but little else. Its tee-tail created substantial drama in tight turns and high angles of attack because it was easily masked by the wings, and its downward-firing ejection seat proved deadly to a large number of pilots (including highly-skilled test pilot Ivan Kinchloe) at low altitude. She got centerline and underwing pylons early in the game and could sport AIM-9 Sidewinders on her wingtips, but it wasn't until the advent of the "European" "Zip" that the F-104 became a truly viable weapons system. She had a long and distinguished career overseas, but was never quite what she was supposed to be in the US Air Force.   LAC

Our adventures in our archives this weekend turned up some pretty neat F-104 photography which we'll share with you in later issues. Watch this space!

Happy Snaps

Today's Happy Snap isn't the one we'd planned on running today; up until five minutes ago or a different photo had held that place, but just moments ago we received a photo from Rick Morgan we just couldn't resist running. It's a Happy Snap of a different flavor:

Phil, here's a shot from my day chasing U-2s at Beale. Our escort was a Capt pilot who took us out in their Camaro. He told us that the Calif Highway Patrol gives them high-speed driving training once a year. They apparently were surprised that the USAF uses largely stock cars with simple lap belts and no roll cage, all while maxing at 100+ with one hand on holding the radio mike.
The aircraft in the picture is U-2RT 80-1091.
The car circles the aircraft prior to take-off as a ‘last-chance’observer and then follows to confirm the pogos come off. He then chases during landing to call distance-to-the-deck since the pilot’s field of view is so bad. The ground crew comes out, installs the training wheels and it taxis into the hangar. Rick
We can honestly say that Rick never ceased to amaze---thanks, Morgo!
The Relief Tube
Before we get started with today's installment I'd like to make a special request of our readers. Several months ago we ran photos of a model of a P-40E that was flown out of Darwin during 1942 by Benjamin "Bitchin' Ben" Irvin. You can imagine how surprised we were a few weeks ago when we received a letter from his grandson telling us that he'd discovered the blog and the photos of that model. The bottom line is that we'd like to build a model for him but don't consider the one already completed to be presentation quality. We've got the kit, but need the stickies; they're on an old 1/48th scale SuperScale sheet of assorted P-40s. If you've got said sheet and wouldn't mind parting with Irvin's markings we'd like to hear from you. The address is .
Last week we ran a shot of a semi-derelict F-105D T-Stick 2 and stated we didn't know which aircraft it actually was. The contributor of the photo was old friend Maddog John Kerr, who provided the following insight and yet another photo:

Hi Guy,
I sure am glad to see you back in business. I missed my RIS. The F-105D, marked 78-002 is really 61-0044. Photo was taken at Brooks AFB, TX, on June 20, 1984. If I remember correctly they have a total of 6 F-105's there, including a couple of B models from the New Jersey ANG (I have slides I am sure) and yes they were being used for Battle Damage Repair airframes.. Found the slides and will scan and send: As for the # 78 starting on the bogus serial numbers I believe was the from the 78th CLS Squadron that did the BDR repairs. Some, maybe all, of these were later trucked up to Camp Bullis to the security training ramp. They may still be there. Photos to follow tomorrow. Cheers, old MD Kerr.
57-5797 B NJ ANG 78-005
57-5835 B 466TFS 78-001
57-5789 B NJ ANG
63-8363 G GA ANG
61-0110 D 457TFS
61-0044 D 457TFS 78-002
And here are the other T-Stick 2 photos:
                                                                               John Kerr
                                                                               John Kerr
We've said it before and we'll say it again; this is a sad end for a noble pair of airplanes!
And that's what we know for now. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Paint It White, More Hotel Mustangs, A New Department, T-Stick 2, and Gasbags for the F-51

It Just Ain't That Tough, Ya'll
Painting things white, that is. Or yellow, or red, or any of the other bugaboo colors that give so many modelers fits when they try to apply paint to a new project. We've personally never had much of a problem with any of those colors, so with that as a point of reference, let's talk technical for a minute.

First, let's define the sort of paint we're going to be using. Your humble modeling editor (as opposed to your humble photographic editor) has been around the modeling world for a while and has developed a distinct preference for enamels and lacquers as opposed to the acrylics more and more people are using nowadays. It's not that we haven't used acrylics before; Floquil Poly S (the original formulation, thank you), Tamiya, and Gunze have all passed through our airbrushes, along with a home-brewed concoction of artist's acrylics thinned with tap water and a little isopropyl alchohol. All of the above worked just fine, but certain colors just never behaved the way we wanted them to.

We've also worked with the hobby-based lacquers and enamels; Humbrol, Pactra, Frontier HQ, Imrie-Risley, Floquil, Official, Testor, et al, and have found most of them to be far more user-friendly and easy to use, particularly for a novice. That statement sets the tone. We're going to be talking about enamels in this missive. Why don't you get your ventilation going, put on your respirator, and let's play with paint for a few minutes.

White is one of the Big Three in terms of the colors most novice and intermediate modelers have difficulty with, so let's start with that one. The challenge presented by white is simple; how do you get decent coverage without a huge build-up of paint, or runs, or that gritty sandpaper-ish finish we've all experienced at one time or another? The answer is simple, although it may not seem so at first glance.

One answer is so blatantly obvious that everybody ought to blush with embarassment if they haven't already thought of it: Use a good grade of paint. Floquil is great; lots of coverage even when thinned, fast-drying, and easy to manipulate. Testor is right behind it and that's Testor in any flavor of enamel, either the classic Little Square Bottle or the ModelMaster line. In stark contrast Humbrol, which used to be one of the best hobby paints you could buy, is presently made in China (or at least the last tin we personally bought was) and is, in a word, useless crap. That said, we're going to presume you're using something from either the current (modern) Floquil line or ModelMaster. You're on your own for anything else.

The second component is also simple, although it runs counter to what a newby's conventional wisdom might suggest: Thin your paint! We normally thin everything we use a minimum of 30%, and 40 to 50% is more the norm. We use multiple thin passes (just like you'd do if you were painting a real airplane or car) and we let the color build up---the color is thin so you aren't building up a thick, hide-every-detail layer of paint. The beauty of doing things this way is that you can allow your base coat to show through in places if that's what you need to do, for instance if you were replicating the white leading-edges of a mid-to late-War PTO aircraft and wanted to show a little weathering and fade.

Here's an example of painting with a really thin white. In this particular case the paint (Testor ModelMaster enamel) was thinned some 45% and the paint was applied in multiple thin coats. Coverage was just fine, thank you, and it only took 3 or 4 light passes with an airbrush to achieve this effect. The upper surfaces were done the same way, which allowed a little bit of the original grey and green camouflage to show through in places. The end result was a replica of a well-used but not overly beaten-up RAAF Spitfire Mk VIII.

That takes care of painting with white, so here's what we've learned: use good-quality paint and thin it. Learn how to paint with it, which means practising with an airbrush, not just squirting paint everywhere with it hoping things will work out for you. In short, learn how to master your material!

So how about painting with yellow? If you're moderately bright you've already figured that one out for yourself---painting with yellow is just like painting with white only using a different color, and a decent quality of paint is essential to your success. You can brighten things up a bit by applying a coat of white to your model first, but that really isn't necessary; we routinely paint FS13538 prop tips by masking and painting directly over the black prop blades.

They call it Mellow Yellow (Quite Rightly!). The under-cowl Gelb 04 ID panel on this FockeWulf has been painted with Floquil's Reefer Yellow directly over the model's tan plastic, with no undercoating of any kind. If memory serves we used some 4 or 5 light passes to achieve this effect. This is how we do our fuselage stripes and cowlings too; it's really easy to show traces of the original camouflage on a given model, if that's the effect you're going for, by appling light colors and manipulating the paint with technique. Practice is your New Best Friend!

That leaves us with everybody's favorite modeling color; red. By now you should have the drill down pat, and already have it in your head that you're going to be using multiple passes of paint to achieve the effect you want. There's one big difference to red, though---if you want a really bright red that just pops out at you (a tonal variation that's pretty much too much for most scale models, by the way), then undercoat with white first. The thing most folks don't understand about red is that it's just another paint and it'll behave that way if you don't let it spook you.

Red over dark green. We always try to do this sort of thing the way it was done on the real airplane, which in this case meant Testor ModelMaster Gloss Insignia Red directly over the camouflage color, with no undercoating of any sort. It took 4 or 5 light coats of that red, thinned some 40%, to get this effect---we originally gave thought to undercoating with light grey (as opposed to white) but that proved to be unnecessary. We like how it came out, but you don't have to do it that way if you happen to think it isn't very good. You pays your nickle...

So where does that leave us? With any luck at all, you can now go straight out to your modeling desk, prep some paint, and apply a contest-winning coat of white, yellow, or red, to the model of your choice. Just remember that practice does indeed make perfect and you'll be ok. Once again, that's our story and we're sticking with it.

A Few More Shots of The Fastest Mustang
We ran a few shots of the fastest and most capable of all the Mustangs, the under-dog F-51H, a few issues back, but we had others we didn't run in that essay; time and The Great Move of 2012 got in the way and we just didn't accomplish what we'd set out to do. Old and valued friend Marty Isham had loaned us a great many color shots (which we ran) and a batch of black and whites (which we didn't, because we didn't have time to scan them before everything got boxed up); thanks to Marty here's our feature photo essay for the day.

Most F-51Hs ended up with the Guard, but a few made it to the regulars too. 44-64256 was built as an F-51H-5-NA, and was assigned to the 1100th ABG when this snapshot was taken in the early 50s. The H-model differed substantially from the more-familiar Ds and Ks, and the airplane lost most of its classic lines in the process. The Hotel was, however, the most capable member of the Mustang family. The dawn of the Jet Age did her in.  Isham Collection

Here's 44-64290, another H-5-NA from the 1100th. The airframe appears to be painted silver, while the spinner is in natural metal and the fabric-covered control surfaces are in silver dope. If you look closely you can detect an antenna wire running from the tip of the vertical stab to a pointon the right side of the fuselage just behind the opened canopy (and not to those antenna masts!). The devil's in the details!  Isham Collection

Taxiing out. 44-64633 is yet another 111th bird, and this shot illustrates that antenna wire placement to what some folks might call good advantage. Note that all of these aircraft have operating tailwheel doors; by this time most D and K models had had their tailwheels permanantly locked down, based on the USAF's experience with muddy airfields in Korea. Most of the H-models had retractable tailwheels right up until the end of their careers.   Ron Picciani

The 56th FG operated F-51Hs for a short while, an irony of considerable proportion considering their wartime success with the rival P-47 Thunderbolt. "Ah'm Available" (from the 62nd FS) is one of the very few H-models to carry any sort of nose art; the airplane was never spectacularly marked while in service with either the regulars or the Guard. Those wing stripes are kind of tasty, though... (And the tailwheel on this bird is, but of course, LOCKED DOWN! There just ain't no justice!  McLaren Collection via Isham

This is what we might call a classic shot, were we inclined to do that sort of thing. 44-64319 was from the 56th and was photographed sitting on the ramp at Selfridge in 1948. Note the missing tailwheel doors and absence of antenna wire. Zero-length rocket stubs are visible under the wings.  Isham Collection

44-64572 was built as an F-51H-10-NA and was pulling duty as a target tug when this photo was taken at Selfridge in August of 1949. This study offers a tremendous amount of detail to the modeler, although there's no worth-while kit to use it on---the configuration of the rocket stubs is of particular interest.  William Balogh via Menard via Isham Collection

New Jersey's 119th FS was one of the many ANG units that operated the F-51H for a short period of tiem. 44-64322 was another H-5-NA and was captured while participating in a public air show in the late 40s. Like most F-51Hs, she's a Plain Jane as markings go, but this shot provides some useful details of the area under her canopy decking.  L Paul via Isham Collection

A great number of F-51Hs ended up in New England, as typified by this gorgeous example from Massachusett's 101st FS. 44-64478 was photographed in 1951 sporting a pair of command stripes. The H-model would've torn 'em up in the skies over Germany or Japan, but was too late for the war and never saw combat.  John Antaloci via Pack via Isham Collection

In 1953 Vermont's 134th FG was a prime user of the F-51H. This evocative shot illustrates a small part of their ramp. Note the missing tailwheel doors.  Bill Green via Isham Collection

This remarkable photo simply screams Air Guard! 44-64496, an F-51H-5-NA, was captured amidst a pack of T-6Gs during August of 1953. Note how the antenna wire runs to the right side of the fuselage, a modeling detail not to be overlooked if we ever see a decent kit of this aircraft!  Bill Green via Isham Collection

One of our first memories is of being a small boy during the early '50s while our dad was stationed at Limestone (later Loring) AFB and seeing rows of Mustangs parked along airport fences when we drove around New England on weekends. Here's a fine example of that particular childhood memory; Vermont's 134thlight up preparing for flight on a sunny day in 1953. Times were simpler back then!  Bill Green via Isham Collection

The shape of things to come! Vermont's 44-64377 sits on the ramp next to T-33A-1-LO 52-9458. The nation's hottest piston-engined fighter's performance had just been eclipsed by that of a jet trainer. The end was in sight.  Bill Green via Isham Collection

New York's 139th operated the Hotel for several years. The paintwork on these aircraft is somewhat unusual; notice the treatment of the leading edge of the vertical stabilizer and its accompanying strake. The F-51H could never have been called an Easter Egg (with the exception of a couple of target tugs we ran in our last installment) but these come close to fitting that bill.  Francillon Collection via Isham

Our final shot of the day is a real doozey; Illinois' 169th FG all lined up and sitting pretty. No, they weren't the most attractive of their breed, and they didn't wear classic paint jobs. They never fought in a war or fired a gun in anger, but they were there, ready if needed. Your collection of 1950s American aircraft is not complete without an example of the fastest Mustang. If only we had a kit!  Menard via Isham Collection

Under the Radar

We haven't added any sort of new department since the installation of "Happy Snaps" some months ago, so it must surely be time to do it again. Our Brand Spanking New section is going to be called "Under the Radar" and will be an infrequent review or announcement of things new, either plastic or published, that seems to have been ignored by the rest of the modeling world. There are a ton of people doing homegrown publishing on the internet so duplication of effort may well (and probably will) exist, but with any luck most of what runs in this space will be new to you.

With that as a premise, let's go right to our Very First Edition of "Under the Radar":
Glory Days; The Untold Story of the Men Who Flew the B-66 Destroyer Into the Face of Fear, Wolfgang W.E. Samuel, Schiffer Military History, 2008, Hardbound, 429pp, illustrated.

It's been some 40 years since the conclusion of festivities in The Southeast Asia War Games, and you'd think that by now every airplane and every unit involved in said activity would have been covered extensively in print. In some instances that's the truth of the matter; just go looking for books dedicated to F-105 or F-4 ops in that unfortunate conflict and the point will be well-proven. If, however, you have an interest in the "lesser" players in the air campaign of that struggle, you'll be hard-pressed to find much of anything that's worthwhile.

The B-66 Destroyer family falls handily into the latter category. It's electronic warfare variants were a constant in SEA air ops from the beginning of combat missions over the North until the last unit left the theater in March of 1974. Jay Miller's AeroFax title has long been the standard reference on the airplane (albeit a nearly unreadable one because of the tiny size of the type face employed) but it's long on technical description and short on operational history, which is where Glory Days comes into the picture.

Wolfgang Samuel was a B-66 pilot, a retired colonel, and his personal history of life with the B-66 is both engaging and highly informative. It's a personal narrative with the history of the aircraft interwoven into the story, so the reader shouldn't expect the abundance of technical information that makes Miller's effort so valuable to the historian, but the narrative fleshes out the operational side of the B-66 story much as Jack Broughton's books perform that function for the F-105. The airplane's strengths and weaknesses are explored in considerable depth, as well as its developmental and operational history, all in sufficient detail to enable the reader to understand just why so many of those photos of USAF strike missions over the North included an EB-66 in the shot. The B-66 was critical to the mission; not the optimal platform but what was available, and its combat crews performed superbly in a high-threat environment. It's not just a history of the type's service in Vietnam, but provides a fascinating look into the world of one of the Air Force's most underappreciated combat aircraft.

Originally published in 2008, the book has gone largely unheralded in the aviation community. That's a shame, because it's definitely worth acquiring; it belongs on the bookshelf of any historian or enthusiast with an interest in the Cold War or the air war over SEA. We recomend it highly.

After the War Was Over

Republic Aviation's F-105 Thunderchief won its spurs in a combat environment it was never intended to fight in, and a large percentage of the combat force was lost as a direct result of the fact that it was the best tactical fighter-bomber the USAF had at the time. Everybody knows the story, but a lot of folks don't seem to remember that the "Thud" saw squadron service after the conclusion of hostilities.
The Powers That Be recognized the F-105's failings and an attempt was made to upgrade the airframe into a more survivable combat platform, which in turn gave birth to a mod known as "Thunder-Stick Two". A total of 30 F-105Ds (or 31, depending upon the source used) were modified into this configuration in a program that began in 1966, although few of the aircraft so modified (the distinguishing external feature of which was an enlarged dorsal spine or "hump" added to house the new LORAN gear) saw combat past the assignment of a handful of aircraft to the theater to provide proof of concept. Although some aircraft did see service with regular units of the USAF, most ended up with Carswell's 457th TFS/301st TFW, an AFRes unit stationed in Central Texas.

While we'd love to show you photography of the handful of T-Stick Two birds that were evaluated in SEA, we don't have any (which is a big hint for anyone who might have such images to offer to share them!). What follows is a small collection of aircraft from the 457th. We hope you'll enjoy them.

The tell-tale hump of the T-Stick 2 mod is extremely evident in this shot of 61-0110, a modified F-105D-20-RE of the 457th. Maddog John Kerr photographed her at Bergstrom on 4 August 1979 when she was nearing the end of her life. A rare survivor of her breed, she ended up on public display at Roswell Industrial Air Center in Roswell, New Mexico.  John Kerr

This profile view by John Dienst provides an excellent view of the change in profile to the "Thud's" airframe as a result of the T-Stick 2 mod. There proved to be minimal degradation of performance due to the modification, and directional stability was actually improved as a direct result of the increased side area. 60-0464, an F-105D-10-RE, ended up at MASDC in 1982 but was in her prime when photographed in May of 1979. Note that the port-side gas bag has been converted into a travel pod and features a bright green upper fin.  John Dienst

Lee Bracken was one of the handful of aviation photographers who taught us how to do it, and we hold him in high regard. This gorgeous study of 60-0455 shows why we feel that way. The airplane went to MASDC in 1981 and ended up on public display, first at an American Legion post in Mississippi, then finally in the veteran's memorial park in Dixon, Illinois. She was in her graceful middle age when Lee shot her at Bergstrom in 1979. Beauty!  L Bracken

61-0110 was a well-used example of the breed when photographed by your editor at Kelly AFB on 27 Jan, 1982. She carries a travel pod on her left inboard station and proudly wears the name "Texas Humpbacks" under her port intake. This view is of the same aircraft that introduced this piece, and shows how dramatically a change in lighting can alter the perception of color on a camouflaged airplane---modelers beware!  Friddell

And here's the artwork, presented in the finest tradition of the F-105s who's remains litter the karsts and valleys of the northern half of Vietnam. Of particular interest is the insignia red tip to the interior of that gear door, a paint modification added in an attempt to prevent injury to maintenance personnel. A small painted zap from the F-105 depot at Hill AFB provides additional interest to this shot. "Texas Humpbacks" would make for a great model, but neither the conversion kit nor the markings exist. Dream on...  Friddell

The end of the road. This unidentified specimen sits semi-derelect in June of 1984 awaiting her fate. A handful of "Thuds" ended up on public display and more than a few ended up as BDR hulks. We aren't certain about this one but we do know it was a sad end for a noble airplane. Long ago and far away...  Kerr

Where You Gonna Put That Extra Gas, Mister?

By the end of the Second World War most of the planet's air forces had learned the value of range extension via use of external fuel tanks. North American's P-51/F-51 family had a far better-than-average unrefuelled range to begin with, but the addition of auxilliary tanks allowed her to fly virtually anywhere in western Europe, and to perform butt-killing missions to Japan with the 20th AF. Since the Mustang family survived well into the post-War era, and since so many kits are available of the aircraft, we figured our readership would enjoy having a little bit of additional information regarding this often-overlooked aircraft component.

The Sargent Fletcher company was a major player in US military aviation for a number of years, producing a great number of aircraft-specific external tanks and pods for all sorts of airplanes. The following images are from their one of their 1970s-vintage catalogs and provide dimensions and specifications of two different tanks with application to the P-51D/K/H.

This page depicts the 110-gallon jettisonable fuel tank built by Sargent Fletcher. The tank could be used by the P-38, P-47, P-51, and P-61, and was found well into the post-War period. Modelers will have to do a little math but the distance between suspension lugs is well-defined in this view.  Sargent Fletcher Corp.

This tank is most often associated with the post-war F-51D/K/H family, but could also be employed by the F-47N. We've often seen the tank in photos of ANG F-51Ds and Ks; it's a natural for modelers of the post-War era and provides a classic example of one of the earliest Fletcher aux tanks.  Sargent Fletcher Corp.

Happy Snaps

When last we met we told you we'd be back with another Happy Snaps entry this time around. A promise is a promise, so here you go!

Most folks tend to think of the Middle East when they think of Grumman's EA-6 family in a combat situation, but the earliest member of that tribe, the EA-6A, saw combat use in SEA at the hands of the Marine Corps. This study of an otherwise-unidentified EA-6A of VMCJ-1 was taken by retired Marine Lt Col Ted Herman and provided to us by frequent contributor and retired Naval Aviator Rick "Boris" Morgan. The aircraft are carrying ALE-32 jamming pods on stations A and B and are apparently en route to work on a typical day in The Nam. The paintwork is a well-worn example of the Navy's classic Easter Egg Light Gull Grey over Gloss White---modelers take note!  Herman via R Morgan

The Relief Tube

We don't know how you feel about things, but it's a definite relief to us to have a "real" issue in print again! That said, here's a small accumulation of comments we've piled up over the past several months. We did some significant picking and choosing here in the interest of keeping things brief because we've had a LOT of comments. Here's a sampling of them:

About a hundred years ago we ran some photos taken by Rick Morgan depicting a nose art contest held aboard the Theodore Roosevelt while she was en route back to the CONUS in the wake of Desert Storm. Matt Norton was one of the folks responsible for the application of that nose art, and he had this to say about it:

Mr. Friddell,

I am the guy in the green shirt. To fill you in a bit, headgear (cranial) is not required on the flight deck when NOT under flight operations. The artist has his cranial on because he was working on a ladder much of the time. Yes, during flight ops, headgear is mandatory.

I was there to assist the artist by mixing the paints and look after the paint guns and air brushes. We had a lot of fun applying it and a sense of pride when done. VAQ-141 was one of the few squadrons on board that took advantage of the opportunity to apply nose art.

Unfortunately, I do not remember the artists name and there is not a good shot of his face here. My memory would be sparked if I could see his face. May have a better clue packed away with my Navy things.

Matthew S. Norton
Night shift Corrosion Control supervisor

Thanks for the clarification, Matt, and apologies for taking so long to publish your comments!

And from Dave Menard regarding our first F-51H installment:

Loved the H Mustang stuff and well recall them overhead in the early fifties and getting into fur balls with Navy reserve Corsairs and Bearcats out west of Chicago! Now, straight and level only.
Here is a civvy H taken in East St Louis in the spring of 1971. When she cranked up, sounded like a sewing machine. Use if you desire and I took it! cheers, dave
Beauty, and a type rarely seen on the Warbird circuit.  Thanks, Dave!  Menard

And here's one on that wooden B-26 Marauder model we showed so many months ago, from Tom Sanders:

The B-26C is a Strombecker Recognition Model originally manuactured in 1942. It is interesting that Strombecker used the dimensions of the "prototype" (first constructed) for the dimesions yet marketed it as a B-26C (Omaha, NE Martin Plant). It is in 1/72 scale that was originated as a standard in the UK. The landing gear, doors and package guns are add-ons and should be kept (in my opinion) as they are vintage to that particular model. Steve Remington at just posted one of my Strombecker B-26 models under the "Strombecker Story" about 3/4 down the page.

Thanks, Tom! It's great to have that information available.

And there's more; so much more, but we've quite frankly run out of steam for today. Here are a couple of further comments from the editors (us/me) to wrap things up:

We've recently heard from several of our UK-based readers informing us that the screen formatting of RIS over there has been an issue of late. We've asked some of our friends around the US to see if they've been having problems too; so far it seems to be confined to our friends in Britain. We'd like very much to hear if any of the rest of you have experienced any issues with the site.

In that vein, we frequently do that copy-and-paste thing when we run the Relief Tube, an action that seems to wreak havoc with Blogger's software in terms of font and type size. That's why these Relief Tube entries tend to wander all over the place in terms of different sizes and font presentation---we are, as we've said so many times in the past, dumb as the proverbial post when it comes to computers, so bear with us. We just may get this all figured out someday (although nobody here is holding their breath on that one!). Patience is a virtue.

Finally, and in the best tradition of not letting a thing go until we've worked it to death, we've been informed by people we trust of the identities of a couple of the folks who have been playing fast and loose with our photography. That means, in simplest terms, that we now KNOW WHO YOU ARE, so cut it out! For those of you of an honest nature (which would be most of our readership), please feel free to right-click and save to your heart's content; just give provenance if you reproduce the images anywhere.

That's it for now, so be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon.