Sunday, January 6, 2013

Fruitfly Tubs, More on That A-20G, Old Hose Nose, and A Blast From Our Past

Rub-a-Dub-Dub, That Fruitfly's a Tub

If you've been around NavAir for any length of time at all, you're aware that Naval Aviators have a tendency to give nicknames to their airplanes. The A-7 series, known as the "SLUF" to the Air Force Crowd, has always been the "Fruitfly" in the Fleet. "Tub" has long been the vernacular for any two-seat variant of a single-seat tactical aircraft, which leads us into today's continuation of the A-7 saga. We'll eventually get around to covering all the US variants of the type, but for today we're going to look at the NAV's two-seater A7s. Rub-a-Dub-Dub...

The "Fruitfly" started out as a single-seat light attack aircraft, of course, and was ultimately built in considerable numbers, which meant that a great many were available for conversion to the type-conversion trainer---24 A-7B airframes and 36 A-7Cs were ultimately converted to TA-7C standard, with a further 8 aircraft being modified to EA-7L configuration. The type proved its worth transitioning pilots new to the A-7 into the jet, and a great many ended up their careers overseas. Here's a photographic sampling of the Corsair II's training variant for your enjoyment.

David Balcer was a young Ensign undergoing flight training in November of 1979 when he snapped this photo of 156784 while she was operating with VA-174. While most of the TA-7Cs survived extensive service, 784 suffered a different fate. She was transferred to the Greek Air Force and crashed to destruction in 2003. David Balcer

156773 was serving with VA-122, the west coast RAG, in January of 1980, and was photographed transient at NAS Chase by a young Ensign Rick Morgan. The aircraft shared a fate similar, if not identical, to that of 156784---she was transferred to the Royal Thai Navy for use as a source of spares and ended up on the dump at U-Tapao shortly after the turn of the new century. Of particular interest in this shot is the red-painted APU dump and the color scheme on the gas bags. R Morgan

The PMTC had reason to own multiple TA-7C airframes. 156787 posed for this portrait in July of 1980, some 14 years prior to her transfer to DM and ultimate disposition to the Greek Air Force. The A-7 fleet lost its outboard pylons later in the type's service, but these early examples of the TA-7 retain all six stations.    David Balcer

156738 wasn't the very first of the TA-7 conversions, but she proudly wore the fact that she was one of them on her tail during 1981. She ended up in Greece but was assigned to the NWC when this shot was taken on the transient ramp at Chase. She's a moderately unique airframe, having been assigned FAA number N165TB upon being stricken from the Navy.  David Balcer

Some sources indicate that 156738 was assigned an N-number but that said number wasn't applied to that airframe. This photo indicates otherwise, and the condition of the airplane suggests that she may have been close to flight worthy when the photograph was taken.  John Kerr

Like many TA-7Cs, 156767 ended up in the Greek Air Force, although she was very much an active Navy asset when I photographed her at NAS Corpus Christi in the Spring of 1981. She was assigned to the east coast RAG, VA-174, at the time, and was an extremely well-used example of her type. Friddell

The TA-7 was well-represented on the American air show circuit during the 1980s. Here we see 156751 from VA-174 on the ramp at Randolph during their May, 1982, air show. Sharp-eyed readers (and we're convinced we don't have any other kind!) will notice her "USS Lexington" moniker on the aft fuselage. The "Lex" was a training carrier at the time with no assigned tactical air assets, but it was a common practice to paint her name on aircraft being use for CarQuals. 651 ended up being one of the rare TA-7C survivors, and is presently on public display in Illinois. Friddell

It's a little uncommon to find examples of aircraft from "equal but opposite" units at an airshow at the same time, but that was the case at Randolph in 1982 when VA-122's 156795 showed up on display alongside her counterpart from VA-174. She ended her days in Greece, but was in her prime with the NAV when this shot was taken. Friddell

154402 was on the ramp at Selfridge awaiting the arrival of some bad weather when her portrait was taken in October of 1984. TPS was rapidly becoming the norm in the Fleet, but most of the TA-7Cs were still in their Easter Egg paint jobs at the time. 402 was one of the older airframes assigned to the TA-7 program, and ended her days in the desert. R Kowalczyk.

By 1986 most of the NAV's tactical assets had been repainted in some variation of TPS, as illustrated by 154458 during her assignment to VA-122. The overall grey paint job makes her look a little more sinister, doesn't it? She ultimately ended up being sold to Eldorado Aircraft Supplies, although we honestly don't know her final disposition. Rick Morgan

July of 1988 saw frequent contributor Rick Morgan on TDY at Moose Jaw, where he managed to catch the NSWC's 156773 on public display. The tail markings are simple but tasty---compare this shot with the one we ran of the same aircraft a few images ago... R Morgan

Then there was that other two-seat A-7, the EA-7L. Never a true electronic warfare aircraft, the type served with VAQ-34 in a training role during the 1980s. This shot is as good a way as any to end today's look at the "Fruitfly Tubs", but we'll take a longer look at the variant in another edition. Stay tuned! R Morgan

They Called Her "Powerful Katrinka"

A couple of issues ago we ran some A-20Gs for you, including one photo of an aircraft bearing two different names on the nose. We stated at the time that we wished we could have read the lettering so we'd know what that name actually was; 3rd Attack owner and webmaster Gerry Kersey read that comment and decided to make things right. Here's what he had to offer:

We'd originally identified this 13th BS/3rd Attack A-20G as "Milly" with the notation that she bore a second name that we couldn't quite make out. We think that second name was probably painted in red, which wouldn't stand out very well when displayed on an OD aircraft that had been photographed in direct sunlight. Whatever the reason, here's another view of "Powerful Katrinka" that shows that nose art, although you have to really look for it in this photo. San Diego Air and Space Museum

And here's the Money Shot. That artwork, which is almost invisible in the previous photo, pops out nice and clear in this posed shot of photographer Jack Heyn. Gotta love those A-20s! 3rd Attack.Org

Hog Town

It's been quite a while since we've run any photography on one of our favorite airplanes, the Chance Vought F4U Corsair. We're thinking it's time to end that particular drought, so here's a selection of "Hogs" for your enjoyment!

The Corps ended up being one of the principal users of the F4U, as shown by this F4U-1D from VMF-323 being armed up at Kadena late in the war. By 1945 most Marine use of the "U-Bird" was of the air-to-mud variety, but there was still plenty of combat to go around. Rocker Collection

February of 1945 saw the first carrier-based strikes on Japan. This photo doesn't seem to offer much at first glance, but check out the way her "G" symbols are presented on the ailerons, and the presentation of the national insignia on her port wing. She's from the Bennington and is on her way to work in this photo. Rocker Collection

July of 1945 saw AirWing 9 heavily engaged. This photo is of particular interest because of the large "NO STEP" legend painted on her upper flap surfaces. That sort of stencilling wouldn't have been out of place in the 1950s or 60s but was a distinct anomaly in 1945. Rocker Collection

The "Hog" was too good an airplane to languish at the end of the War, and ended up with a career that took her well into the 1950s. This gorgeous photo shows VF-114 F4U-4Cs on the boat during 1951. Don't let the relaxed atmosphere of that shot fool you; a flight deck full of taxiing propeller-driven aircraft is one of the most dangerous places you'll ever be. Naval aviation was never safe, even in peacetime. Rocker Collection

The Big One was over, but that didn't mean the Corsair was through with combat. These VF-653 F4U-4s are getting ready to launch for a strike on North Korea off the Antietam in 1952. That deck looks relatively placid but the coats on the V-2 Division tell a story. Let's take that dangerous flight deck we were discussing a minute ago and add cold, lousy weather to the equation. It was always an adventure... Rocker Collection

VF-783 on the prowl. It looks pretty cold down there, but every airplane in this formation is flying with its canopy cracked open. No; we don't know why they did that either, but we like the photo. Rocker Collection

It's a carrier plane, so you fly it onto the carrier, right? Well, not necessarily, at least not in the Good Old Days. Back then you were just as likely to hook your airplane up to a sling and trice it aboard the boat, as is being done at North Island in this photo. The airplane's an F4U-4 and we're guessing she's from a training outfit, but once you get past that we're all out of ideas. Modelers might want to note the wing-fold jury struts that are installed to lock the wings in place during the hoisting operation.   Rocker Collection

Thanks once again to Bobby Rocker for sharing these images with us.

The Saga of Frantic Fraye

It's time to jump into the Official Replica in Scale Wayback Machine and take a look at what one of those late-60s English bands once aptly termed days of future passed. Today's big adventure carries us back to our one foray into the wonderful world of nose art. To wit:

Replica was long-gone, a victim of Life, Family, and General Stuff. In short, the project had run its logical course. Jim was continuing with it but in a completely different direction, birthing in the process a periodical called Aerophile that in turn produced some of the best aerospace journalism of its day. Meanwhile, your editor had abandoned all intent of publication to continue a life-long passion for off-road motorcycling.

That hiatus lasted for a few brief years, when Jim and I reassembled the team (that means we started working together again) to produce a handful of monographs under the Aerophile banner. We actually brought a couple of those projects to fruition and, therefore, ultimate publication, but most of our efforts were stillborn because, once again, we were long on Enthusiasm and Good Ideas and woefully short on time.

One of those projects that never quite left the ground was a special on USAAF and USAF nose art. we had the material to do it, and thanks to Jim's ongoing brilliance regarding Things Publicational we had the ability to make it happen. Planning began, and then came The Epiphany: If we were going to do a nose art monograph the cover of same ought to feature original artwork by the staff of Aerophile. It wasn't just a Good Idea; it was a GREAT Idea. There was only one tiny little fly in that particular glass of buttermilk---we wanted to do real nose art on a real airplane, and we didn't have an airplane to put it on. It was Time to Ponder.

Ponder we did, and, through the intercession of Mr. Shakespeare's slings and arrows of outrageous fortune we stumbled upon a solution. It seems that the part of the CAF's Central Texas Wing that based out of San Marcos had a TB-26B in flying condition that they regularly took to air shows, and your editor stumbled onto that fact while photographing one of said shows at Bergstrom. It began quite by accident, when we asked one of the crew what he might know about the history of the airplane. His reaction was classic; aviation wisdom at its finest:

"I don't know nothing about it except the damn thing's broke most of the time including today when the damn landing gear wouldn't come down and the airplane could've damn well killed us if I hadn't cranked the damn wheels down before we ran out of gas." (That's what we might call "perspective", except that today we're going to call it "opportunity knocking" instead!)

"Have you guys ever thought of putting nose art on this thing? It would look really great with nose art, and I know a guy (the guy being Jim, of course) who's ready, willing, and able to give you guys some killer artwork for your airplane. All we want is to be able to use a picture of it on the cover of a book we're doing."

"Hey, that would be great! Let me ask Mr. Stokes (that would be John Stokes, who actually owned the airplane at the time) if it's ok. Can you guys paint a nekkid girl on our airplane?"

And the conversation went on, the bottom line being that Mr. Stokes agreed to the nose art as long as we could work his wife's name (Fraye) into the design, and as long as it was tastefully done. We agreed and set to work.

The actual blow-by-blow painting of the nose art will be featured on these pages sooner or later (we have to find the slides first!), but suffice it to say that Jim and I drove out to Gary Field one Spring afternoon, MEK, Mil-Spec primer, and paint in hand, and set to work. Here's one iteration of how it all came out:

"Frantic Fraye/Aeros" in all its just-painted glory. The nose art was classic World War 2, based on a Vargas composition of that era and painted by Jim once we'd cleaned the airplane and laid everything out. We got our photography and the CAF got their nose art, but at the end of the day we never published that book and, unfortunately, "Frantic Fraye" continued to be broken most of the time. To add insult to injury, some well-meaning soul went back at a later date to modify the artwork, transforming "Aeros" into a far more buxom and considerably less artistic version of her former self. A lesson learned, as it were.  P Friddell

A Shameless Plug for a Friend

You've probably figured out by now that some of the folks included in our circle of friends are aerospace journalists. One of the people who falls into that category is Rick Morgan, a man who's becoming increasingly prolific in terms of this whole publishing thing. His latest is a monograph on the Grumman A-6 and its use in the Vietnam Fracas.

We haven't actually seen the book for ourselves so we can't review it for you. We can say, without fear of contradiction, that Rick's scholarship is impeccable, and his collection of naval aviation photography is superb. With that as a foundation we expect this volume will be one you'll want to add to your library. Rick's one of our go-to guys in terms of NavAir and yes, we really do expect the book to be well worth the price of admission.

Happy Snaps

Nope; not this time. We're still trying to get things back on some sort of viable schedule and just haven't had a chance to go looking for air-to-air shots in the collection. Maybe next time.

The Relief Tube

First, a correction from Dave Menard regarding a couple of those Texan captions from a few weeks back:

Phil, GREAT to see some more blogs again. But the shot I took a week before enlisting in Oct 55 was the yellow 991 bird, a Chanute AFB visitor. The red trimmed one was in instrument trainer markings, which was red nose,tail feathers, and 45 degree bands across the tops of the wings. Have seen these on T-33s, C-45s, and I think a C-54. Cheers, dave

Thanks, Dave---it's good to be back!

Next up is an image of a T-6 under restoration from a reader known only as Norm:

Beauty! Thanks very much for sending this one along, Norm!

We've picked up quite a few new readers over the past several months, which has resulted in a series of comments regarding some of our older features. Scott Leslie had this to say about one of our pieces on the TBM:

Hi, I was reviewing all the posts and saw the question on the TBM-3E from NAS Squantum in 1947. The question was on the Zulu Alpha tail code; Z or Zulu designated Squantum (later on NAS South Weymouth when Squantum was closed and all flying operations were shifted to what had previously been a mostly heavier then air NAS), and A or Alpha was for attack. Post war the USN dropped S for Scouting, B for Bombing, and T for Torpedo, deciding on A for Attack; S would become ASW squadrons, when the composite squadrons which did the ASW mission in WWII were disestablished. I could go on, but that's the gist of it. I wasn't sure if this had been answered yet. Thanks, Scott Leslie

And thanks to you for writing in, Scott! Another one of our readers had this to say about a different article:

That photo of F-84G FS-058-A is not a 27th FEW plane. The 31st FEW badge is visible under the side of the canopy. The pilot deplaning appears to be the wing commander, Col. David Shilling. FS-058-A also has an antenna just in front of the wind screen. That was a navigation antenna installed on the lead plane. FS-058-A was a 307th FES jet.

We'd like to give credit where credit's due, but this particular message came to us via the "comments" feature of the blog, which we don't use. We'd like to make certain that everybody gets the credit due them when they write in to us so please send your comments, photographic or literary contributions, etc., to .

Finally, we're still receiving reports of our photography showing up on other people's websites without any sort of provenance. While we used to see that sort of thing as an outright act of intellectual thievery, we now suspect that it's happening largely because the spiders that crawl websites on behalf of folks like Google and Bing just pick up random images (we discovered that by accident when we did a search on Replica in Scale in Bing "Images" the other day and saw dozens of photos we'd published hiding in there). Those photos all linked to our site just like they should, but anyone taking the images for their own use would have to be concerned about where they came from in order to note the source and properly credit them when they published them in their own blogs or user groups, and it's pretty obvious that the great majority of those guys just don't care. That's all the more reason for us to watermark the non-official photography we run, so we can give credit where credit's due and, hopefully, foil the Picture Pirates in the process. There doesn't seem to be any other way around it!

And that's what we know for today. Be good to your neighbor, don't steal our photography, and we'll see you again real soon.

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