Sunday, September 22, 2013

An Amazing Delta, Some 80s T-Birds, a Hog, and A Famous Flight Deck

It's All in the Way You See It

In our most recent (and highly thrilling) edition of ongoing ramblings, edifications, and general silliness, you got to read a missive concerning my complete inability to get up the enthusiasm to finish a couple of models that are both so close to completion it's scary. You may or may not agree with the whole concept of the thing---that it's the pleasure you take from the building of the model rather than the completion of the model itself, but I personally subscribe to the theory. I think it's a valid notion and it goes without saying that I'm going to expound on it today. (That means I'm going to talk some more.)

First, our most recent premise was that you didn't necessarily need to feel somehow inferior or cheapened if you didn't actually complete everything single thing you started; it's perfectly fine to burn out on something if you get tired of it or become overwhelmed by it. Admittedly, you can't use that sort of logic if you're at work, and in particular if your job is that of an airline pilot or heart surgeon ("When he wakes up tell him I just wasn't feeling it today. Sew him up and we'll try again when I'm interested in doing it."). No; you can't do that sort of thing in real life, but you absolutely can if whatever it is happens to be your hobby.

Don't believe me? That's fine, but consider this before you skip to the next article in this blog: Most people who have a hobby are involved in it because they enjoy it and it relaxes them. It soothes their souls and makes them feel good. It relieves stress. It reduces anxiety. It makes their lives better. If you'll accept that as a premise, then you'll almost immediately understand why it's ok to put something aside if it becomes more trouble than it's worth. You can even throw it away if you want to, although I rarely take it that far myself, or you can put it away so you can work on it at a later date. At this very moment my personal shelf of opportunity (I don't buy into that whole Shelf of Doom thing, as we've discussed at least once before on these pages) includes, in no particular order, a Monogram F-106A that's been in work since it first came out in the 1980s, a Heller RF-84F of the same vintage and start date, a Monogram T-6 (yes; that one), a Hobby Boss FJ-4B, an Eduard Albatros DV, 1/110th-scale Revell HMS Bounty that I started in 1976, and two Fw190s. They've accumulated over the past 30 years or so and will all eventually be completed. Maybe.

The point of the whole thing is that it's a hobby of mine and only that, and if something I'm working on becomes more effort than it's worth I'll put it aside for a better day. That Albatros I mentioned in the previous paragraph is the one I used as a test subject to demonstrate how to do rib tapes with a colored pencil and it's done, completely finished except for a couple of little folded metal covers for the wings that I just can't work up the steam to make, and the rigging. It looks really neat and I can't wait to get it completed and on the shelf, but I'm not ready to do that just now because I'm thinking those tiny little covers are going to be a real pain in the patootie to make and I'm just not interested in that sort of thrash at the moment. That "Six" may never be finished, the RF-84F is right up there with it in the "enemy on beach, condition in doubt" realm, and, at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter. I'll build something else. I do this for fun.

So here's The Big Question of the day: Why do you build models? Is it fun? Does it soothe your soul? Does working on a model make you feel better? Those are questions that are well worth the asking, but you have to keep in mind that there's no "right" or "wrong" answer. It's a hobby. It's your hobby.

Just sayin'.

There's Never Been Anything Like It

There was a time, not all that long ago, when Conventional Wisdom said that you needed to fly high and really, really fast if you wanted to drop bombs on somebody. It was a wisdom that worked out just fine when the guys who were going to be defending against you didn't have anything more formidable than flak and fighters for you to contend with; both defenses were tough enough to deal with, but neither was something that could stop the show. Then, one day in 1960, a missile battery in the former Soviet Union managed to shoot down a dark blue airplane with no national markings that was flying a great many thousands of feet over their territory taking pictures of classified installations. The game had changed forever.

Convair's B-58 Hustler had been originally designed to contend with The World That Was. It was FAST; a supersonic bomber in an era when such things just didn't exist. It could carry a healthy weapons load in an era when one big honkin' bomb was enough for the mission, and it was highly advanced. It was also, after that day in 1960, far more vulnerable than it had been before as mission profiles shrank down into the weeds in order to avoid the newly emerging SAM threat. The whole purpose of the high-altitude supersonic bomber had disappeared in the wink on an eye and the Hustler quickly followed.

Through the graciousness of the Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum we have a few photographs of that incredibly beautiful airplane to share with you today. Let's take a look.

55-0662 was one of the more famous B-58s. She was involved in a great many of the test programs that brought the Hustler up to operational status (Doppler tests, auto-pilot and nav system testing, and various other related programs) and earned the dubious distinction of being the first B-58A to blow all of her tires on landing. She was the test airframe for the YJ93 program and was re-designated to NB-58A at that time. Finally, she was converted to TB-58A status. She was assigned to the 93rd BW while operational, and went to MASDC in 1970, finally being scrapped out in 1977. She was carrying her NB-58A moniker when this shot was taken in May of 1960. We're going to call her a gorgeous airplane.  Olson via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

This Hustler was another early bird. 55-0666 was the YRB-58A and was used extensively for testing. Among her other accomplishments was a ground-breaking sustained 32 minute flight at Mach 2+. She also made an 11-hour 15-minute test flight, becoming the first B-58 to accomplish a flight of that length. At one time she was involved in the testing of the B-134 pod. Most of the B-58 fleet ended up as pots and pans, but 666 was sent to Chanute AFB for public display at the end of her service career. Ostrowski via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

60-2059 was a service bird and was assigned to the 305th BW when this photo was taken in May of 1964. She's named "Greased Lightning" in this shot, but carried "Can Do" on her flanks earlier on. She achieved fame in a non-stop supersonic flight from Tokyo to London (some 8,000 nautical miles) and ended up on display at the SAC museum at Offutt. The "discolorations" at the tip of her vertical stab are antennae covers; just watch somebody jump up and offer them as proof of the application of a SIOP scheme to the Hustler!  Ostrowski via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Why Can't They Get It Right?

As the Second World War was drawing to a close the various nations involved in that conflict were all heavily engaged in the development of new technologies, one of which was jet propulsion for military aircraft. All of the major combatants designed and built jet fighters (and bombers, in the case of Nazi Germany) or, at the very least, experimental designs that could have led to a combat aircraft, but only the United States, Great Britain, and Germany actually put such designs into service use.

In the United States, the first of such aircraft was the Lockheed P-80, a seminal design that spawned the P-80/F-80, the T-33, and the F-94. All of these aircraft have been kitted as plastic models (and the P-80 in wood) at one time or another, but for some reason precious few of those kits have been worth having, at least in terms of shape and dimensional accuracy, and it seems that the older kits are by far the better ones in terms of overall fidelity to the real thing.

As a case in point we'd like to offer the once-ubiquitous Lockheed T-33. A two-seat outgrowth of the basic P-80 design, it was built in the thousands and flown by air forces (and naval air arms) around the world. There was a time when anyone learning to fly military aircraft in a non-communist country was almost guaranteed to take at least some part of their training in the "T-Bird", and the type survived in service, as a hack and proficiency trainer, long after it had been superseded in actual service in its original design capacity. A great many examples survive to this day and more than a few are flying in civilian hands, which means there are a lot of real ones for the folks who design plastic kits to measure,  yet the more recent polystyrene offerings of the type leave a great deal to be desired in terms of accuracy. (Our personal favorite kits are the Hawk offering in 1/48th scale and the Hasegawa kit in 1/72nd, the former of which is a survivor of the 1950s and the latter the early 1970s. Take that with however many grains of salt you'd like, but if we were going to build a T-33 those are the kits we'd start with). That said, we aren't going to offer a detailed look at any of those kits today, but rather a selection of photographs from the type's twilight years in the 1980s, in order to give the modeler an opportunity to build something a little unique. Let us proceed.

May of 1980 saw your editor on the ramp at Ellington ANG Base near Houston for an airshow. 58-0707, a T-33A-5-LO, was sitting on the ramp in all her natural metal glory, a rarity in that time period since most of the remaining T-33s in the Air Force had long-since been painted in overall Aircraft Grey. She was carrying a travel pod and an ADTAC shield on her vertical stab, but for all appearances could have stepped right out of the late 1950s. Note that crew access ladder, a purpose-built piece of GSE specific to the type. It could be mounted to either side of the aircraft but often ended up on the right side of the Shooting Star family. That's something to watch if you're building a model of the type.  P Friddell

58-0592 was another T-33A-5-LO that was still in natural metal finish in 1980. She was assigned to the 26th AD when Dennis Kuykendall photographed her in July of that year, and her attractive lines were complimented by the red/white/blue trim of her parent unit. The "T-Bird" is one of the few American military aircraft that had its speedboards deployed when parked, and it was often seen with the flaps down as well, a fact that will be greatly appreciated by the Drop Everything and Let It Hang school of scale modelers! 0592 ended her days on public display in Vermont.   D Kuykendall

The 111th FIS/147th FIG out of Ellington AFB was one of the more famous ANG users of the type, primarily because of the unit's markings during the late 70s and early 80s---the 111th was on F-101B Voodoos at the time, but like most air defense units of the era still had several T-33A on hand for use as hacks. 52-9223 was one of those aircraft. She was built as a T-33A-1-LO and spent an active career in Air Training Command before ending up as one of the favorite weekend mounts of "The Texans". She's shown here in the overall Aircraft Grey scheme so typical of aircraft assigned to ADC (or, in this case, ADTAC) units of the day. She's carrying a travel pod and her speedboards are only partially-deployed.   P Friddell

There was a time, way back in that almost forgotten pre-computer age, when written correspondence was done on paper with some sort of a writing instrument. (Those of you of an appropriate age can explain that to your offspring if you're so-inclined!). We mention that because of our long-standing friendship with Rick Morgan, who shot this lineup of ANG T-33As at NAS Key West in December of 1980. There had to have been a reason why all those "T-Birds" were there at that time, and we're more than certain Rick told us all about it in the letter accompanying the slide, but that letter is long-gone so we can't explain it---how about it, Morgo?  Take a look at the paint schemes on those aircraft, all of which are in aircraft grey except for the one sitting second-to-last, which is still in natural metal. It really shows off the contrast in schemes, doesn't it?  R Morgan

January of 1982 saw Marty Isham in Alaska during one of his assignments to Seward's Ice Box, which is where he shot 53-4900. Built as a T-33A-1-LO, she had recently arrived on the ramp (note the melted snow and ice beneath her aft fuselage) when Marty took this gorgeous photo. There's no travel pod attached, but everything's hanging in this evocative shot, and her crew ladder is sitting on the deck beside her starboard nose. It's a beautiful scheme, and a neat idea for a display.  M Isham

The late, lamented Kelly AFB (known nowadays as Lackland AFB, in an instance where the sibling absorbed the parent during the throes of a late 20th-Century base-closing frenzy) sits in the middle of the southern half of the continental US, a fact that saw a great many military aircraft transitioning through it on cross-countries. It also saw the occasional special event, once of which was the reason for the 49th FIS' 57-0698 to be there in January of 1980. The ANG convention that brought her there during that month caught her in her all her natural metal glory, albeit with Aircraft Grey tip tanks. Note the anti-glare panel on her nose, which is in non-specular black.  Friddell

The boys from Vermont got around. This T-33A-1-LO, 53-5121, was sitting on the same ramp as 57-0698 immediately above when we snapped this portrait. She's from the Vermont ANG's 134th DSES/158th DSEG, and she's immaculate in her overall Aircraft Grey scheme. This time the boarding ladder is on her port side and is in place, giving the modeler an excellent idea of how the aircraft looked when said ladder was fitted. Everything's hanging, as we've come to expect of parked "T-Birds", and she's carrying a travel pod. Those bang seats are common to all of the aircraft in this particular essay, but are not the first-generation seats that were fitted when any of the aircraft in this photo essay were first built. That's a point to watch if you're modeling a two-hole Shooting Star.  P Friddell

There's one thing about grey airplanes---sometimes they really look GREY! The New Jersey ANG's 58-0611 is a case in point. Assigned to the 177th FIG in 1984, she was transient on the ramp at Selfridge when Ron Kowalczyk took her portrait. That tail code treatment is extremely reminiscent of the way the NAV does such things and looks distinctly out of place on this airplane, doesn't it? It's just that sort of anomaly that makes her a fine candidate for a scale model, and her almost nonexistent weathering makes her an easy date for the new or intermediate modeler.  R Kowalcyzk

Here's a "T-Bird" you don't see every day. 51-4120, an early T-33A-1-LO, was, at one time, the oldest flying USAF aircraft in the active inventory. At one point she was converted to NT-33A status with the addition of the nose from an F-94 but was never designated as anything other than a T-33 variant. She was finally retired in 1997 and put on permanent display at the Air Force Museum (we're dinosaurs around here and don't use the currently fashionable name---go figure!) in Dayton, a proud reminder of her glory days. She was still active and on the ramp at an air show when Mark Morgan caught her in October of 1984.   M Morgan

The 84th FITS had 58-0707 on strength in March of 1985, when she was on the ramp at a SoCal air show. She's absolutely pristine and nearing the end of her days in this photo, a beautiful reminder of the Age of the Silver Air Force (and yes; we know she isn't silver!). The T-33 was designed, and originally built, with a pair of .50 caliber guns in the nose, but none of these aircraft carry them. (There was an armed AT-33 variant, but that particular aircraft is beyond the scope of this essay.) Note the black-painted tip of the vertical stab on this bird; it could also have been white, as illustrated by several of the aircraft in this piece.  M Morgan

Virtually all of the ANG F-101B and F-106A units of the 1980s had T-33As attached to them, as beautifully illustrated by the Florida ANG (159th FIS) bird shot at Tyndall in August of 1985 by John "Mad Dog" Kerr. Florida's markings were tasty yet subdued, and were well-suited to the T-33. 52-9803 had been built as a T-33A-1-LO and was last seen in a scrapyard, a sad end to a gorgeous old airplane.   J Kerr

We'll finish up our Ode to the 80s with this shot of Oregon's 53-5959, a T-33A-5-LO, on the ground in March of 1988. The 123rd FIS knew how to paint an airplane, and that's well illustrated on 5959 as she sits in her parking slot at the Home Drome. She ended her days in the air force of Uruguay, where those underwing stations may have been of some value. She's a pretty bird, and this photo is an appropriate way to end our essay on the immortal "T-Bird".   M Morgan

Under the Radar

Jay Miller is a name known to most aerospace historians. The series of publications he produced and, in many cases authored, are still considered to be essential references for their subject aircraft. One of those books is the subject of today's feature.

Aerograph 4, Convair B-58, Jay Miller, AeroFax Press, Arlington, 1985, 136 pp, Illustrated.  If you have an interest in the B-58 and can only own one reference on the type, this is the one. It's safe to say that Jay never wrote or produced a bad book, but several of them were exceptional references, and this title is perhaps the best of them all. The author had full and unrestricted access to the old Convair files while researching the project and it showed in this work---the information presented told the Hustler story with no gaps, and its photographs and technical illustrations helped to make it the book on the type; every pod, every weapon, and every projected development for the aircraft was described and, in most instances, illustrated as well. At a ripe old age of 23 years it's still the standard reference for the type, albeit one you'll only find in used book stores or on one of those internet auction sites these days. It's well worth the price of admission and should be on the shelves of every enthusiast who's interests include the bombers of The Silver Air Force. It's worth seeking out if it's not already on your bookshelf. It's one we recommend without reservation.

A Great Big Hog

To say that Jim Sullivan likes the Chance Vought F4U Corsair is a lot like saying that people like ice cream. A renowned author of naval aeronautica in general, Jim has made the pursuit of "The Hog", aka "Old Hose Nose", a life's work. He's a modeler as well as an author and photographer, and his display shelves sag under the weight of a substantial number of models of the Corsair. He recently took one of his earlier efforts and re-did it, and was kind enough to provide photos and a description of the adventure. We'll let him explain it to you:

Here's the Trumpeter F4U-1D kit that I had originally converted to an FG-1A. It has now been reworked as a F4U-1A in the VF-17 markings of Butch Davenport's #33 Corsair. The structural changes included the replacement of the front landing gear doors, the matching opening in the wheel wells and the replacement of the kit cowling with a corrected one from Vector and the 'wiring' of the engine. I did little to the cockpit as I had corrected it when I originally built the model. I'm pleased to add this one to my collection. Here's the story of the rebuild.

A number of years ago, probably eight or so, I purchased the 1/32nd Trumpeter F4U-1D Corsair kit. At the time I bought it I wasn't monitoring any of the modeling blogs so I had no advance idea of the built-in 'landmines' that kit contained. I went ahead with basically an OOB build except I used after-market decals. I noted the mis-shaped front landing gear doors and corresponding wheel well openings as well as the completely bogus cowl flaps---I have no idea why I didn't correct them on the original build. The other glaring error in the kit was the inclusion of a floorboard in the cockpit, since the early "U-Birds" didn't have it. Fortunately, I did deal with that by replacing the kit parts with a reasonably good resin cockpit set from True Details. As time passed, I really got tired of looking at that Corsair with the mis-shaped parts and I decided to rebuild it. I used the after-market cowling from Vector and robbed the front wheel covers from an old Revell Corsair. I corrected the wheel well openings with a little #11 surgery. I wired the engine with fine copper 'thread' and that was a pain as I couldn't dislodge the engine from the fuselage...I must have used CA glue on the original build so I had to wire it in a mounted position rather than on the modeling table where it would have far easier. After all the replacement parts had been installed, I re-shot the paint with Model Master enamel using a lightened dark sea blue (out of the bottle, it's a bit dark), the stock intermediate blue and flat white with just a tinge of gull gray added. I then clear gloss coated the areas where the decals would be applied. I went to the decals stash box for the red surround national insignia and pulled the #33 markings for VF-17 pilot, Butch Davenport's 2nd "Lonesome Polecat" which were on EagleCals decal sheet #EC32-20a. After the decals had been applied and dried thoroughly, I shot the entire plane with clear flat to blend the paint and decals. I hope you like the way she turned out.

Here's Jim's model as originally built. The markings and paintwork are accurate (and documented by photography in Jim's collection) but the basic Trumpeter kit leaves a little bit to be desired. If you happened to be a novice to Things Chance Vought you'd never know the difference, and most Trumpeter kits look pretty darned good once they're completed and sitting on the shelf, but a great many of them have what we're going to call "issues". Such is the case with their F4U.

We're big fans of the whole Reduction for Production thing, but it's not always easy to do. Re-read Jim's comments about having to re-wire that engine in situ on the completed airframe, then consider just how big a 1/32nd scale Corsair really is. The operation was no easy date, and that's for certain!

Here's a different view of Jim's "Hog" in rework. Note that he's dealing with details rather than major structure---we point this out because the whole rework thing is an extremely viable way to take an older model, correct its problems and give it a facelift, and put it on the shelf in a new guise. It's usually easier to do it that way than it is to start a brand new kit and is, in our personal experience, a lot of fun as well. We highly recommend the process.

Ready for decals and final detailing, the rework is looking good. Not every modeler is geared to stripping decals and sanding away old paintwork, but it isn't that difficult to do; neither is mild rework when it's required. Sometimes the toughest thing about this sort of project is getting the dust off the donor airframe! (And no; we're not saying this particular model was ever dusty!)

Here's what that wiring looked like while Jim was replacing it. It's always a Good Thing to have something to hold your engine with, but it gets a little more complicated when that something happens to be a 1/32nd scale Corsair! Wiring the engine while it's sitting on the completed airframe is really tough when said airframe is as big as an F4U is, but sometimes you have to deal with the cards you're dealt. We think it looks pretty good!

And the Winner is...  This is how the rework came out; pretty impressive, huh? The simple changes made by Jim during the effort moved the model from Really Good to Great, and they were accomplished with minimal effort on his part. There's been a lot of angst over on one of those internet modeling boards of late regarding the authenticity of dropped flaps on a parked Corsair (and everything up, not dropped, is how the NATOPS says to do it), but there are a whole bunch of period photos out there to show that it was often done. In point of fact, about the only time you could say it wouldn't be seen would be on an aircraft with folded wings, and even then we'd probably comment that it's best to never say never.

Here's a 3/4 front view of the "Polecat". There's absolutely no doubt in our minds that the new Tamiya "Hog", a straight-up F4U-1, will eventually be joined in their catalog by an F4U-1A and an F4U-1D. There's also no doubt in our minds that Jim's rework will be able to hold its own in that stellar company when the day finally comes.

And what some folks might call a parting shot. That Trumpeter kit has its flaws, although they're fortunately relatively minor in nature once you get past that botched cowling, and it's not what you could ever call an inexpensive purchase; the retail price alone could make it a prime candidate for rework rather than the scrap yard! This rework shows what can be accomplished with just a little bit of effort and the desire to keep an existing model. It's an avenue you might try on one of your own shelf queens---the end result is well worth the effort involved!

Many thanks to Jim Sullivan for providing both the photography and the details of this project. With any luck it will inspire you to take a look at the older models on your own shelves and breath new life into one of them. It's the sort of thing we highly recommend.

Runnin' With the Pack

Bobby Rocker has been an essential component of this project from its earliest days. His remarkable collection of Second World War photography has allowed us a window on those days that's both provocative and informative. Here's a photo to illustrate the point.

The Year is 1942, and the place is the South Pacific. The often trite and generally over-used term "in harm's way" had yet to become a part of the lexicon, but that increasingly banal phrase that's so heavily overworked by the contemporary press could easily describe this photograph. 1942 was a seminal year for the American war effort; Coral Sea, Midway, Santa Cruz, and the invasion of Guadalcanal all took place within the confines of those 365 calendar days, but so did the fall of Java and the Philippines. It was, in every sense, a critical year. In this classic photo we can get a feel for the courage of those days. The flight deck belongs to CV-6 USS Enterprise, while the lead ship is either the Yorktown or the Hornet, neither of which would survive to see the dawn of 1943. That's something to remember the next time you build a model of an airplane, or a ship, or a tank from that era. This image, and so many others we've run on this site, documents an era of courage and resolve, and in so many ways those models we love so much were paid for by the blood of our fathers and grandfathers. Let's raise a glass...   National Archives via Rocker Collection

Happy Snaps

Last time we ran a Happy Snap for you we presented a photo of an A-7 on a carrier deck. We figured it fit the criteria, even though the aircraft wasn't yet airborne, because it was shot by a naval aviator in an operational setting and because the airplane was from his air wing. We're extending that logic a little bit today and presenting yet another ground-bound image, but it's more than a little bit special. Let's take a look.

Doug Barbier is a friend, and has been for a number of years. He's an excellent modeler and writer, and a superior photographer. He's an aviator, with a number of hours under his belt hauling grandma and the kids all over the place in a 747. At one time he was also an Air Force fighter pilot of the Sierra Hotel variety. His photography, as well as other unique images from his collection, have graced these pages from time to time, as have a number of informative and generally hilarious personal reminiscences. He's one of the cadre of readers who never fails to let us know when we've been less than accurate in a photo essay or article. That's Doug standing on the far right in the photo immediately above, and it's a Sad Day for him; the picture records his last operational hop in a Michigan ANG F-16A prior to retirement from the Guard. Thanks for your service, Doug, and special thanks for all the help you've given, and continue to give, to this project.  Photograph via Doug Barbier

The Relief Tube

We only have a couple of entries for you today, so let's get going:

When we ran that "FORD" piece an issue or so back, we totally misidentified a towed target apparatus that was hanging off a port wing station. We received and printed a correction on that one almost before the electrons were dry (can that even happen?), after which we also received corrections from Tommy Thomason and Rick Morgan. Tommy sent along a couple of photos that provide a better view of what's going on here---take it away, Tommy!

Phil, it's a rig for towing a Del Mar (?) high-speed target. I don't remember what the designation was. It could be accommodated on a pylon of various aircraft. Tommy

Here's an F3H with the Del Mar target apparatus in place---note how it positions the target up and away from the airframe. This rig would make a unique addition to any scale model of an airplane that was cleared to use it but it would, to the best of our knowledge, have to be a scratch-build sort of proposition. The resin aftermarket can actually sell yet another set of Spitfire wheels or a new Me109 cockpit, but there's just not enough of a market to justify manufacturing something as esoteric as this. More's the pity!  Thomason Collection
And here's a slightly better shot of the Del Mar rig on an FJ-4. The pods on the inboard system are part of the apparatus, and are also visible on the F3H shot above. Those pods and uniquely-shaped towed targets make replication of the system a little more complicated that most modelers would be willing to undertake, but what a neat addition to a model. We'll add it to our bucket list.   Thomason Collection

Also, one of those F-8s we ran last time around was a little more unique than we thought and no; it's not the obvious one. Let's let Rick Morgan tell us about it.

Phil- That shot of the NATF F-8L you posted is one of those aircraft you used to dream about catching on a ramp because of its rarity. NATF had ten aircraft assigned in June 1972 to support its role developing and testing carrier launch and recovery systems (catapults and arresting gear). This included a pair of A-4Cs and single F-8L, YF-4J, F-4B, A-7A, A-6A, A-3B as well as a U-1B Otter and HH-2C. The facility now normally uses aircraft up from Pax River for work. Rick

Wow---who would've known? (Obviously not me!!!) Thanks, Morgo, and thanks to Mark Nankivil for sharing the photo with us!

One final thing; you may have noticed that we're back on an almost schedule again. We intend to stay on it too, so get ready for the boogie. Meanwhile, here's a glimpse of the sort of thing that lies in store in the months ahead:

A pair of 1st Pursuit Squadron/American Volunteer Group Curtiss Hawk 81s sit on the ramp at the RAF station near Toungoo, Burma, early in 1942. At this point in the AVG's history the mission was familiarization and training, but that would change soon enough.   Jack D. Jones

Meanwhile, that's it for this issue. We've got some interesting things planned for the near future, so stick around! Until then, be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again real soon.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Some More 'Saders, A Sad Fort, What Followed the Jugs, and A Famous Visitor

Kind of a Drag

We've all had those days. You know the ones; the kind where you get the urge to go start something, get all the stuff out so you can do just that, and get to work, only to discover that you can't stay motivated. (We're talking about scale modeling here---if you're thinking cutting the grass or painting the house, you're on your own!) I've had a couple of those days lately and I thought I'd share the experience with you.

Aerial combat on the Eastern Front during the Second World War has held a fascination for me for a great many years, and those who know me well also know that there are a great many finished models of VVS and Luftwaffe aircraft sitting in the collection. That said, it should come as no surprise to anyone that there would currently be a project on the bench that would reflect that interest. There are, in point of fact, not one but two of them sitting there, and they're both dead as a duck at the moment, almost finished but interminably stalled. One of them has gone back into its box (it's a big box), and the other presently resides on The Shelf of Opportunity, where it may well live for quite a while to come. Allow me to 'splain, Lucy...

The first of the Great Stalled Projects of 2013 is an Eduard Fw190F-8, done in a set of truly unique colors worn by one of the aircraft assigned to SG11 and carrying a Panzerblitz installation under each wing. It's sitting there almost finished, requiring only a cowl and prop, plus all those tiny little rockets (twelve of them, to be exact), to be called Done. The problem with it, and it's a Big One, is that Eduard royally pooched the cowlings on all of their Fw190s and it's not an easy fix. The kit looks ok if you open everything up (the way we suspect it was intended to be built), but when you look at it in profile with everything buttoned up the upper line of the nose is straight as a board and parallel to the lower cowl line when it should, in point of fact, be slightly tapered downwards. It's no big deal if you don't know it's there, but it just screams out "Look at me---I'm WRONG!" if you do. QuickBoost makes a correction cowl for that very kit, presumably because so many people can't seem to cope with closing up the one that comes in the kit, but that correction cowl is missing the taper too. The Bottom Line: I can't bring myself to try to figure out how to fix the thing so it's sitting, completely assembled, painted, and decalled, inside its box sans clear parts and cowling. It's probably going to sit there a very long time.

The next GSP is yet another Fw190, this time a Hasegawa A-4 done up in one of those tasty JG54 winter schemes. It's completely done, painted, and decalled. It's weathered. All it needs is its transparencies and a seat to be called Finished, but the kit seat is too wide to fit in the cockpit tub with Eduard belts attached to it. I've thinned out the seat sides and it fits now; all that remains to be done is to paint it, install the belts, and drop the thing into the cockpit so the windscreen and canopy can be added. That's it, that's all there is to it, but I just can't work up the enthusiasm to finish it so it's sitting up there on the aforementioned Shelf of Opportunity, just waiting for the final few things to be done so it can go on the display shelf. (Hasegawa boxes are a lot smaller than Eduard boxes, so it can't go back in there.) I suspect that it too will sit there for a Very Long Time because, once again, I just can't find the inspiration to finish the darned thing.

So why is that, you might say? What deeply-rooted psychological issue stemming from my childhood is causing me to procrastinate and continually avoid finishing those models? What's the reason?
(Keep in mind that in this modern age of ours there's an underlying reason for just about everything.) What unsaid thing is it that's keeping me from finishing those two kits? There's only one answer: I don't know!

The point to be taken here is a simple one. Not everything we build gets finished. I know people who go a little bit nuts if they get a model almost finished and then can't find the inspiration to put it on the shelf. I also have a friend who's got an unfinished 1/48th scale Bell X-2 (not an easy date, that one) sitting on the shelf ready for paint and decals. It's been there since at least 2004, and from what I can tell it's likely to sit there a few more years before it's completed if, in fact, it ever is. The modeler in question thinks that's a fine state of affairs and so do I. At the end of the day this whole deal is a hobby, something we do for relaxation and fun. If some aspect of it becomes Less Than Fun and we choose to put it away for a while, or even forever, that's ok. Keep that in mind as you sit at your workbench and this wonderful hobby of ours will remain just that. Obsess on it because you don't finish a project and you'll likely end up playing video games, with plastic modeling becoming just a distant paint and solvent-soaked memory of the fun you used to have.

That's my story and, as usual, I'm sticking with it!

That Gorgeous F-8

Yep, that one. Chance-Vought's immortal F8U Crusader. The F-8 was a revolutionary aircraft in virtually every respect, and it was pretty, too. Mark Nankivil recently supplied us with a number of images that were bound for the Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum Collection (a facility we highly endorse), and we'd like to share them with you today.

If ever an aircraft required a transition trainer the F8U was it, so Chance-Vought piddled with the notion of a two-seater for a while. The aircraft you see before you is the result of that piddling. Initially designated the F8U-1T and becoming the TF-8A during the McNamara-inspired I Don't Know What All Those Letters and Numbers Mean So I'm Going to Change Them So I Can Understand Them redesignation of American military aircraft during 1962, the aircraft got an extra seat and accompanying set of controls and lost two of its 20mm cannon. The result (in this case designated as an NTF-8A to avoid designation confusion with the existing single-seat TF-8A) is the aircraft you see before you.  BuNo 143710 was originally built as a straight-up single-seater and later converted to TF standard. It's seen here in August of 1974 when assigned to the Navy Test Pilot School. What a pretty airplane!  D Ostrowski via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

And here's the other side, showing how graceful the aircraft looked with the canopy closed. Very few people actually flew 143710 before it crashed to destruction in August of 1978 (both crew members escaped that particular encounter with Grave Misfortune). You might want to check out the radome treatment; although the aircraft was converted from an Alpha model it received the later, substantially larger radome treatment of subsequent F-8 variants. Modelers might want to check out the way that speedboard is sitting on the ground too; it was a characteristic of the entire F-8 family!   D Ostrowski via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

The RF-8 branch of the Crusader family ironically ended up being the last of the type in US service. As with all the photo 'Saders, 146856 was originally built as an F8U-1P and converted into RF-8G configuration late in life. This particular airframe is apparently about to head to the NARF(photographed at Scott AFB in 1975) but still looks every inch the thoroughbred even though she's apparently all used up. We could be mistaken (and will most assuredly hear about it if we are!) but we're pretty certain the RF-8 series was the last purpose-built photo-recon aircraft used by the NAV, subsequent aircraft types making do with dedicated pods instead of built-in cameras. It was a different era.  LH Reynolds via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

VF-124 was the West Coast F-8 Rag, and F-8E 149222 was assigned to the unit when this photo was taken in May of 1971. She spent a number of years in the role of transition trainer before going to the MASDC facility in 1987. The name on the vertical stab tip is "Snuffy" and there's surely a story there; do any of you know what it is? That address is !  R Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

If you get through the RAG you'll eventually end up on a boat. F-8E 150855 was assigned to the Ticonderoga when this photo was taken in September of 1968. The war in Southeast Asia virtually guaranteed she wouldn't stay this way for very long, but she was absolutely pristine when Rick Burgess shot her portrait in 1968. Note the red paint inside the gun ports, a colorful if somewhat impractical way to show the squadron colors.  R Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Can anybody say "Show us the Pretty"? 150898, an F-8J of VF-24, was caught on the ground at Miramar in November of 1969. She ended up in MASDC but was wearing one of the more colorful Crusader schemes when this photo was taken. She was a Fleet bird, assigned to the Hancock, and almost certainly had seen the elephant over North Vietnam. Sharp-eyed modelers will note that the inside of that speedboard is painted Insignia Red.  T Gibson via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

The F-8 was a hotrod if ever there was one, and a fair number of them ended up with the NAV's test and evaluation squadrons. 150898, an F-8J, was performing exactly that function with VX-4 when Fred Roos shot here in January of 1975. She's beautifully painted but obviously very well worn. She was eventually retired and sent to MASDC, but was still blowin' and goin' when this evocative photo was taken.  F Roos via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

The Marines made extensive use of the F-8 too.146963 was an F-8K, re-built from an F-8C and assigned to VMF-351 when this photo was taken in October of 1963. Note the staining all over her airframe and, in particular, streaming back from the control surfaces on her wings. The sit of tailplanes is entirely characteristic of the F-8 when the aircraft is shut down.  F Roos via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

145419 was an F-8L assigned to the NATF when this shot was taken in June of 1972. You've probably already noticed (and equally-probably already knew) that the NAV rarely operated the type with any sort of stores hanging under the wings. 419 could be the Poster Child for that configuration. Anybody out there know what this airframe was doing in '72?  D Ostrowski via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

We'll run a few more Crusaders another day. Meanwhile, many thanks as always to Mark Nankivil for sharing images from his remarkable collection with us!

No Easy Days in the SWPAC

I think we can safely say we've all seen to many movies and read way too many books about the combat aircraft of the Second World War. Our next photo shows just how dangerous it could be even for the guys who weren't flying combat:

This uniquely-camouflaged B-17E was assigned to the 29th Air Service Squadron but had been reduced to a hulk when our photo was taken. She's uniquely-painted and carries the name "Buzz-Flies" on her nose, but we don't know a whole lot more about her than that. We do know that the sea of mud she's resting in was all too typical of operational conditions in the Southwest Pacific. Imagine, if you will, the heat and humidity, the mud, and the mosquitos all present in that photo. There were no easy days for anyone in the SWPAC.  Rocker Collection

Neel Would've Been Proud

When we think of the 348th Fighter Group during World War II we inevitably think of the P-47D Thunderbolt, and with good reason. The group, led by Neel Kearby, took a fighter that was, at least on the face of things, totally unsuited to combat in the Pacific and turned it into a finely-honed killing machine through the simple tactic of playing the game in a manner that favored the P-47 instead of simply reacting to the way the Japanese wanted to do things. As a direct result of their tactical doctrine the 348th quickly became the highest scoring (and by a considerable margin) P-47 group in the theater. Still, the immortal "Jug" really wasn't the best fighter for flying the not-inconsiderable distances required to take the war to the enemy in that oceanic theater of operations, and by the time the 348th reached the Philippines they had acquired a more suitable aircraft for the long-distance war they were waging; the P-51D Mustang. Through the kindness of Johnathan Watson we're going to take a look at some of those P-51s today. Enjoy!

This aircraft summarizes the popular view of the 1945 edition of the air war in the Pacific; a clean airplane basking in the sunshine of a tropical island. The actual situation couldn't have been further from the truth. This aircraft, from the 340th FS/348th FG (note the red-on-white spiral treatment to the spinner), was relatively clean when this photo was taken, but all you have to do is look at the paintwork on her fuselage stripes or the staining on her fuselage to know she's been worked pretty hard. Still, the Philippines basked in sunshine a good portion of the time.  Watson Collection

Of course, sometimes that sunshine was what happened when it stopped raining. The 341st's"Jenny" is sitting on a nice, sunny ramp, and there's even dust on the runway, but she's parked in front of a bog. Field conditions were a whole lot better than they had been in New Guinea, but a tropical island is a tropical island and mud is mud, no matter where you are. Speaking of primitive conditions, check out the pump attached to the drop tank that's sitting in that trailer. Those guys worked hard for each and every mission.  Watson Collection

Captain Sam Denmark flew with the 460th FS, and "Six Shooter" was his bird. The squadron insignia and kill markings, along with the spinner treatment, make his aircraft a natural for a scale model should you be so inclined. Check out her battered paintwork and the mud all over her mains---she's a pretty airplane but she could sure use a bath.  Watson Collection

"Minute Men" of the 460th FS was another well-worn ship from the 348th---note the paint missing from the tip of her spinner and her generally weary appearance. You might also take note of the condition of her tires; they're well worn and probably substantially past their service life due to that wear, but they're still on the airplane. Sometimes you just had to go with what you had...  Watson Collection

If you're familiar with any of the 348th's Mustangs this is the one---Bill "Dingy" Dunham's "Mrs. Bonnie". She's sitting on the ground at Ie Shima in this view, and at first glance she's well cared for. A closer look at her paintwork will prove that's not really the case; she was worked just as hard as any of the group's other aircraft were, and it showed. There were no easy days.  Watson Collection

And here's "The Rollicking Rouge" from the 341st in all her glory, a fitting aircraft with which to end this piece. She's airborne and ready to rumble, bad news for the Japanese fighters that might encounter her in the air. Still, the Japanese were possessed of some extremely capable aircraft and pilots right up to the last day of the war, and it was as easy to die in a P-51 in 1945 as it was in a P-39 or P-40 during 1942 or 43. Let's raise a glass!  Watson Collection

Kearby and The Duke

Everybody did what they could back in the Bad Old Days of the Second World War, and a number of Hollywood celebrities visited the combat zones as members of various USO troupes. This next photo illustrates one of those visits.

Neel Kearby was, by all indications, a 100% professional and a man with a serious demeanor. This photo, taken during a USO tour that had stopped over at Saidor, shows him in a happy mood as John Wayne tries out the cockpit of one of the 348th's "Jugs". Although Wayne never served in the military he performed an invaluable service to the war effort by touring the combat zones in support of the guys on the sharp end of things. Kearby's smiling in this shot, but he looks spent and all used up. The war took a toll on everybody who fought in it, and Neel Kearby would eventually pay the price.   National Archives via Bobby Rocker Collection

Under the Radar

Top Cover for America, John Haile Cloe and Michael F Monaghan, Anchorage Chapter, Air Force Association with Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., Missoula, MT, 1984, 262pp, illustrated.

When we think of the USAF during almost any phase of its existence we tend to think of airplanes flying over the Pacific, or over Europe or maybe Korea, or even the CONUS. It rarely occurs to anyone that the Air Force and Air National Guard have had a substantial, if sometimes small, presence in Alaska for virtually their entire history. Beginning with the pioneering flights of the 1920s and extending until the present day, the USAF and its associated ANG units have quite literally flown "top cover for America". This volume covers the history of that effort from inception until its publication date of 1984 and does so in a highly readable and detailed style. Photo reproduction isn't the best, and the book comes across as distinctly low-budget in many respects, but the information contained within is of the highest order. It's one of those volumes that is well worth seeking out and it belongs on the shelves of any enthusiast who has an interest in the United States Air Force. Long out of print, it's still available if you look for it, and is worth the effort when you find it. Recommended.

The Relief Tube

Today we're going to start out with a comment from Rick Morgan. It's not a correction this time, although we do appreciate that sort of thing if you're so inclined, and it points out some interesting information on that last batch of A-7Es we ran.

Phil: I was impressed by your selection of A-7E shots in the last installment. Three of them were truly rare shots of squadrons in short-lived (about a year or less) Air Wing markings. While most AirPac VAL units stayed with their air wings over several deployments. The VA-195 bird (NL413) was in CVW-15 markings (NL) for only a few months, Jan to Oct 1982, and never cruised with them. The Blue Diamonds (in this case NE312) made only one deployment with CVW-2 in 1984 between 14+ trips with CVW-9 (NG). The ‘Golden Worm” of VA-192 (NG300) is shown in CVW-9 code; and they only did one trip with NINE after many years with CVW-11 (NH). I’m CCing two of the only guys I know who seem to think stuff like this is important (!). As you say- Neat Stuff !  Rick

Thanks, Morgo!

A blog member known to us only as Space Ranger has left this comment regarding the clanger we dropped last issue when we were attempting (with pathetic success, as things turned out) to describe the Douglas successor to the F4D:

Re: "Douglas F6D Skylancer." I think you mean Douglas F5D Skylancer. The F6D was that clunky ol' "Missileer" proposal.

Thanks, Space Ranger and no; we're not going to do an F-6D piece, just in case any of you were wondering!

About a hundred years ago (or at least it seems that way) we ran a piece that included some TBMs wearing a ZA tailcode. Periodically one of our newer readers will have a comment on one of those older pieces as in this instance, thanks to Marc Frattasio and Peter Jardim:

A while back ago you asked about the "ZA" tail code and the small circular insignia under the cockpit of the TBM shown on The "ZA" stands for attack aircraft assigned to NAS Squantum and the insignia is the Squantum witch insignia. Prior to 1970 the individual naval air reserve squadrons did not actually "own" the aircraft that they flew. All the reserve aircraft on a reserve base were maintained in a pool from which the various reserve units on that base drew on their drill weekends or annual training periods. The base identification code letter assigned to NAS Squantum was the letter Z. During the period between 1947 and 1950 reserve aircraft in these pools also had a code letter that identified the type of aircraft. For example, A for attack, P for patrol, F for fighter, T for trainer, R for transport, etc. So "ZA" in the case of that TBM stood for an attack aircraft assigned to NAS Squantum. There were probably three or four naval air reserve attack or composite ASW squadrons at NAS Squantum at that time that flew this exact same aircraft. In 1950 the type code was dropped and all aircraft assigned to NAS Squantum just carried the Z on their wings and tails. To see what the Squantum witch insignia looked like go to Take care.   Marc J. Frattasio

I just came across the page doing a search on Squantum and saw the TBM-3E Avenger. The "Z" is the Squantum station code and the "A" was designated for attach. Squantum had plenty of aircraft types and for a period of time before they switched to just having the "Z" on the tail they carried the type designator. I can't say for sure about the badge but chances are it was the Squantum Witch that some aircraft carried. At the bottom of this page where the patches are is an image of the witch. hope this helps, Peter Jardim

Thanks very much, Marc and Peter, and thanks for that link.

We got a number of comments from a group of folks that we choose to call The Usual Suspects regarding that appendage hanging off the "Ford" last time, but we also received the same information from another of our readers whom we don't hear from often enough. Here's a description of our former Mystery Structure from Rex, the Accidental CAG:

Hi, Phil. In regards to " That's quite an apparatus she's got strapped to her aft section but, as usual, we're clueless as to its purpose. (Tommy?)". Well, I'm not Tommy, but I nitpick every word he types online",(just kidding). That device is not attached to the aft section, you can see that it is mounted to the outer pylon. It is the Red gear for a towed target system, in this case the Del Mar target. Your pic is a neat companion to a color shot that Mr Olson must have taken at the same time, from a slightly different angle and then had published in the Ginter book. (we see less of the BuNo in the Ginter photo). One thing I don't see in either photo is any sort of Motor Unit, but, I don't know at what point the RMU would be installed on an aircraft---maybe they were installed the same time as a target? Hope this is of help.  Rex

Thanks Rex, and I'm certain that Tommy extends his thanks as well! (And it goes without saying that we'd also like to thank Tommy Thomason and Rick Morgan for writing us with the correct description of that goofy-looking rig!)

And that's it for this time. Many thanks to all of your for your patience while we got our heads straight on that Picture Pirate thing, and special thanks to John Mollison for kick-starting us by way of his current "Hun" project. And, while we're thanking people, a special vote of appreciation needs to go out to Jenny, who repeatedly told us to stop 'cessing on the Picture Cretins and get back into the game!

Until next time, be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon!


Sunday, September 8, 2013

That Bat-Winged Douglas, Hooked on Zeke, Tojo Completed, Courage, and Those TPS Fruitflies

What a Summer It Turned Out to Be

And why, you might logically ask, is that? The answer is an easy one---we've just seen the release of a 1/32nd scale Tempest V, with another one (from a different manufacturer) in the pipeline. We've got a new 1/32nd scale F4U-1 Corsair, the first "birdcage" Corsair ever released in this scale. One of the Chinese manufacturers has announced a T-6 in the scale, and there's actually a sku number to order against so the announcement is more of an "is" than a "might be someday". Academy has that PBM we've talked about over the past couple of issues, and there are other kits in the pipeline as well.

New books seem to just keep appearing, as do new decals. By now there must surely be a resin update set for every kit of any airplane ever issued by anybody, and the PE industry is right in there too. We've got turned brass pitot tubes and gun barrels in wide profusion in the three most popular scales, and engines, and landing gear, and the list goes on and on, not to mention the magic of stereo lithography, which is just beginning to raise its somewhat miraculous head in the hobby.

On the down side we've lost Testor's version of our old friend Floquil, and it's not certain that somebody else will pick up the brand although, in all honesty, Floquil  paint hasn't really been the same since that nasty old brain-cell-eating DioSol was removed from the formulation back in the 90s. One of the Chinese manufacturers, who surely should have known better, royally pooched a much awaited 1/48th scale kit of the Lockheed F-80, and we still don't have a kit of the FJ-3/-3M in any scale.

When you think about it, though, the down side isn't all that down, and as modelers we've gained a lot more than we've lost. We could be trite and say that we're living in a New Golden Age of plastic modeling and we'd be right, but we've said that before a couple of times so there's no point in repeating it. What we will say is that we've never had it better as modelers; never in the history of the hobby. The only time we've even come close was back in the halcyon days of the mid-and-late 60s, when Revell GB, Airfix, and Frog were releasing new kits almost monthly, Hasegawa and Tamiya were first beginning to make themselves felt in the hobby, and a new decal company named MicroScale was issuing decals to compete with the handful of sticker manufacturers already in place. Nowadays it seems as though all we have to do is mention that we want a new kit of something and we'll see it (except of course for that FJ-3!) sooner rather than later. Such is the power of the internet.

So why is this worth writing about? It's a simple thing, and one that we've touched on a time or two in the past. All you folks who wanted Tamiya to kit a 1/32nd scale F4U-1, or Pacific Coast to do a Tempest, or whatever else that "I've got to have one because I really want one and somebody ought to kit one" model may have been in your particular world, need to go buy one. We personally didn't purchase the F4U, although we probably will sooner or later. We did get a Tempest, and we would've bought an F-80 if that kit was worth having. The point is this: It costs money for all those model companies to research a kit even if they're relying on hobbyists and amateur historians to do the research for them, and it costs money to make the tools from which said kits will be produced. It costs money to research and print a kit's decal sheet and instructions, and it costs money to put the thing in a box and get it on the shelves so the modeler can actually buy that kit of their dreams. Every one of those new kits requires a great deal of money to bring it from somebody's dream to a real, honest-to-goodness hold-it-in-your-hand-and-build-it model. The companies that go out on a limb to create those objects of our affection need to sell kits in order to make some money to recover their costs and, hopefully, make enough of a profit to stay in business and give us yet another kit that we claim we just can't live without. It's a cycle, and we (that would be you and me, in case you hadn't figured it out yet), need to do our part and actually buy a kit or two instead of whining about how expensive everything has become and leaving that brand-new just-released Whatever-It-Is Mk III to sit and rot unsold on the shelves. If you asked for it and, in particular, if you whined about wanting one on one of those internet modeling boards and thereby influenced someone's decision to manufacture it, you need to spend the money to actually buy one. If you put your money where your mouth is you'll probably see that dream kit you really want one of these days. If you don't, and those manufacturers lose money making the dream kits you're not buying, you probably won't.

Just sayin'...

It Must Have Seemed Like a Great Idea at the Time

An Addendum at the Beginning

Usually we put corrections in place in the Relief Tube section an issue or two after we receive additional information from our readers (or, in certain extremely rare circumstances, actually manage to stumble onto the problem ourselves!), but sometimes we get them quickly enough to make it worth doing immediately after we publish an issue. Today is one of those times. It's the same old deal; if you haven't read this issue yet then you didn't miss anything, so you can ignore this entire correction. If you have already read it then you'll want to read the corrections, but we'll make it easy on you. To wit:

The caption on the final photo in this piece (139130) made mention of an airplane called the F6D Skylancer. It should have read F5D Skylancer, but we didn't catch the typo before hitting the "publish" button. Long-time friend Mike McMurtrey did catch it and promptly informed us of the fact (I'll bet he was grinning when he did it, too!). Thanks as always, Trey!

That takes care of the correction on the last photo in this piece. There's also one on the lead photo, so let's get down to it. In the caption we refer to a mystery structure hanging off the airplane and admit we don't have a clue as to what it might be. A reader named Rex came to our rescue with this explanation:

Hi Phil. In regards to " That's quite an apparatus she's got strapped to her aft section but, as usual, we're clueless as to its purpose." That device is not attached to the aft section, you can see that it is mounted to the outer pylon. It is the reel gear for a towed target system, in this case the Del Mar target. Your pic is a neat companion to a color shot that Mr Olson must have taken at the same time, from a slightly different angle and then had published in the Ginter book. (we see less of the BuNo in the Ginter photo) One thing I don't see in either photo is any sort of Motor Unit, but, I don't know at what point the RMU would be installed on an aircraft---maybe they were installed the same time as a target? I hope this is of help. Rex

Thanks, Rex; it's helpful indeed!

And now back to the original photo essay!

The Douglas F4D-1 Skyray was a looker and no two ways about it. If you happen to be my age (a condition I wouldn't deliberately impose on anyone) you might remember building either the Hawk, Comet, Aurora, or Lindberg kits of the airplane back in the 50s, or maybe even a little bit later than that. We got a kit from Airfix in the 70s, and what will probably be the definitive kit of the type from Tamiya in the 90s. We got references too, and decals. As modelers we can actually create a really good replica of what was arguably one of the prettiest jet fighters ever to grace the deck of an aircraft carrier. It was quite an airplane; a marvel of engineering. It was also, not to put too fine a point on things, pretty close to being a total failure as a military aircraft.

Yep; that gorgeous-beyond-words "Ford" was fast, and could climb like the legendary violated simian, but it couldn't do much else. It was a handful around the boat. It was woefully under-armed. It was a dense airframe with little room for growth as far as radars and avionics were concerned, and it was right up there with the early MiG-21 variants in terms of combat radius and useful range. It was really pretty, though.

Mark Nankivil shared a few "Ford" images with us a couple of weeks ago and, now that we've suitably defaced them to better deter The Picture Pirates we're ready to share them with you. We're sorry, folks; we truly are. The photos are really neat anyway, and we hope you enjoy them in spite of the watermarks.

The "Ford" was armed with 20mm cannon, but the guns weren't very useful thanks to an extremely limited ammunition load. The primary weapons were primordial early versions of the AIM-9 family and pods of unguided 2.75-in FFRs. The fact that the aircraft could be armed with guided missiles guaranteed that the type would show up at the Naval Missile Center at Point Mugu, which is where this photo was taken in April of 1961. That's a towed target rig she's got hanging off her structure (thanks, Rex!), although the motor is missing. There appears to be a scab patch on her vertical stab as well, but we have to admit that we don't know if it's a repair or has some other purpose.   Doug Olsen via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil
The Marines have frequently received the Navy's hand-me-downs, and that was sort-of the case with the F4D-1. The type didn't work out particularly well in the NAV and didn't do much better with the Corps, but it did provide experience with what was, for a very brief period of time, a state-of-the-art interceptor. 139151 from VMF-542 was photographed on her home ramp in September of 1961, looking to be ready to rumble with her pylon-mounted AIM-9s. She was a relative Plain Jane as far as her paint job went, but she still looked like she was going a million miles an hour just sitting there.   Doug Olsen via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Remember that part where we said the "Ford" was a beautiful airplane? Well, folks, they just never got any prettier than the NAV's VF(AW)-3's scheme for the bird---if there was a prize for good looks there's little doubt that Gene Valencia's "Fords" would win it, each time, every time. This scheme has probably inspired more people to build a model of the F4D than all the other units put together. Both of the Tamiya kits offer these markings right out of the box (as did MicroScale's old Allyn reissue back in the 70s), and most after-market sheets devoted to the type will get around to covering the unit sooner or later, presuming they haven't already done it. It's what we might call a popular squadron, even though its service life with the type was brief.  Doug Olsen via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

139162 was another Skyray from VF(AW)-3 that posed for her portrait that day. There's not much about her to set her apart from her sister shown just above, but it provides a variation if you'd like to model a "Ford" ramp some day. The F4D-1 climbed out at a pretty impressive angle of attack; an interception launch must have been a sight to behold!  Doug Olsen via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Let's go to an air show! Paul Stevens caught 139130 on the ground at an Armed Forces Day back in 1961. She was looking a little bit rough around the edges the day this photo was taken, but was still as capable an interceptor as the type ever was. The "Ford" wasn't particularly large, which was a big part of the problem since there just wasn't any room for growth. The Douglas F5D Skylancer would have been the answer, but the appearance of Vought's F8U and McDonnell's F4H-1 pretty much sounded the death-knell for the bat-winged Douglas interceptors. A couple of the naval aviators who frequent these pages have opined that it was a very good thing that the Navy never had to go to war with the F4D-1, but then that could have also been said about any of the type's contemporaries as well. She was a place holder at best, but she sure looked like a star!  Paul Stevens via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil.

Hook 'Em

If I had to guess, or even if I didn't, I'd be of the opinion that most of our readership has built a model of Mitsubishi's immortal A6M Zero-Sen at one time or another in their modeling careers. It's one of those airplanes that's both iconic and, for the scale modeler at least, a rite of passage. I've built more than a few of them myself, and out of that grouping (there are 10 or 11 of them, I forget which, sitting on the shelf as I type this) at least a couple are from the Tainan Ku and its successor 251st Ku. There are, in point of fact, no carrier-based Zero-Sen whatsoever in my personal collection. Every one of them is shore-based, but therein lies the rub, which brings us to the point of this missive.

 It's been conventional wisdom for a number of years that the Tainan and 251st Kus removed the radios from their fighters and cut off the antenna masts as well (mostly true) and removed the tailhooks from their aircraft, those actions being taken in order to lighten the airplanes by removing unnecessary equipment and therefore weight. Taking out the radios made sense, sort-of, since they weren't all that good in the first place. Removing those hooks was another matter entirely, and was one of those deals that made sense except for when it didn't make any sense at all sense most of the airplanes in question were delivered to their land bases off an aircraft carrier. It's confused me over the years and might've confused you as well but, lo and behold, Bobby Rocker has come through once again, this time with a photo that offers indisputable proof regarding at least one A6M variant and that pesky tailhook.

The place is Buna, and the GI is from the 32nd Infantry Division. The aircraft is (or was until recently) an A6M3 Type 32 Zero-Sen From the Tainan Ku and, in keeping with the whole point of this piece, its tail-hook is deployed, proving beyond doubt that at least one of the Tainan's "Zeros" had its tailhook in place after delivery to a land base. It's my guess that most, if not all, of the others did, and I'm guessing their Type 21s and 22s probably still had them too. The hook seems to be painted black, which is entirely in keeping with all of those Hasegawa and Tamiya instruction sheets, and it's definitely deployable. Many thanks to Bobby for the photograph and the confirmation of a long-held theory.   Rocker Collection

Another Big 'Un on the Shelf

That Hasegawa Ki-44 I've been piddling with for the past couple of issues is done, and we're going to take a look at it today. It proved to be an easy date, taking approximately 12 hours from start to finish---that's the sort of thing that happens when you get yourself a kit where everything fits flawlessly! In point of fact, this particular model pretty much out-Tamiyas Tamiya for ease of assembly and darned near manages to build itself. Let's take a look:

Hey everybody, look at the big silver airplane! Well, maybe it's not so big; the Ki-44 was a tiny aircraft even by Japanese standards, and looks absolutely diminutive when it's sitting on a shelf next to just about any other 1/32nd scale JAAF fighter, but it's big enough. This is one of those rare kits where everything fits almost perfectly---we sanded the seams on the fuse, the wing halves (or more properly wing thirds), and the horizontal stabs, then polished them out without using a spot of putty anywhere. None. Nada. Zip. All the markings were masked and painted except for the unit insignia and the number 32 on the rudder (which is repeated on the lower mlg doors), which are kit decals. There's an Eduard interior in there, and the antenna's from stretched sprue, but everything else came directly from the kit.

Here's what the other side looks like. If you recall, the fuselage was done as a completed subassembly which was in turn attached to the wing, which was done that way too. Read that sentence again if you missed what I'm saying here---the fuselage was built, painted, and decaled, and then attached to a wing that had received the same treatment. The horizontal stabs and cowling were done the same way, and it really simplified the assembly of the model. You can't do that sort of thing with a model that doesn't possess superior fit, but this kit could be the poster child for one that's easy to stick together. Somewhere back there when this project was first started I mentioned my unerring ability to snatch defeat straight from the jaws of victory, mostly because I always mess up something and have to go back and do a few repairs. This kit was different in that there were no issues with any part of the assembly or finishing. That big Hasegawa "Tojo" is an amazing assemblage of plastic, ya'll!

And here's a not-particularly-good 3/4 frontal view to end this essay with. (One of these days I'll get a decent digital camera; I promise!) As a reminder, all of the silver was done with a Tamiya spray can, although I can't remember which one of their many shades of silver I used. That really doesn't matter, since the whole point is that I was able to easily paint the thing as subassemblies. Anything that isn't silver was done with masking and an airbrush, of course, but the point is that a quality aerosol paint can be a real time saver and a joy to use. I'm liking the way the model came out and am truly hoping my next project will be as easy as this one was (it probably won't be, though...)! That's my story and I'm sticking with it!

Some Really Special Guys

Some seventy-one years ago, give or take, The United States made the decision to strike the Japanese homeland by means of a carrier-based attack against assorted Japanese naval targets in the Tokyo area. An attack force of USAAF B-25Bs, to be led by Col. Jimmy Doolittle, was chosen to conduct the raid and the rest, as they say, is history.

You may remember a scene very similar to this image from the classic movie Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, where the filmatic Doolittle Raiders were shown practicing doing carrier launches from what was then Eglin Field. In this photo from the National Archives, 40-2281, a B-25B assigned to the 17th BG (but not used on the actual raid) runs up her engines prior to launch. If any modern air force were to do this nowadays the aircraft would be surrounded by all sorts of telemetry and data-recording devices, and there would be safety devices galore, as well as a fair number of people watching. There's probably a fire bottle around there somewhere, and almost assuredly a meat wagon and crash truck or two are parked out of camera view, but the setup was pretty basic. Can I hear anybody say "it was a simpler time"?  Rocker Collection

The launch! No, it's not off a boat, but it's every bit as hairy. This shot is a still from a movie so the quality's not all that good, but it gives a graphic sense of the drama associated with every aspect of the project. 40-3366 was another aircraft assigned to the 17th but not used on the actual raid itself. The modelers among us may want to note the distinct difference in color between the rudder fabric and the sheet metal of the vertical stab. Bet the adrenaline was pumping in that cockpit!  Rocker Collection

A Few More Fruitflies

If you've been paying any sort of attention at all to what we've been doing around here, you've noticed an ongoing almost-a-series group of articles on the LTV A-7 Corsair II. We're going to continue that trend today with a look at the "Fruitfly" in TPS.

It's May of 1982, and this uniquely-camouflaged Echo model (158823, from VA-195) is posing for its picture at an airshow. Of particular interest is the demarcation of the light grey beneath the wings and horizontal stabs---to say this scheme is atypical is an understatement of the greatest magnitude! She was an A-7E-12-CV and was absolutely pristine when Mark Morgan took this shot. She's also carrying all of her weapons stations, a practice that was generally discontinued not long after this photo was taken.  Mark Morgan

The various Navy test squadrons made extensive use of the A-7 family, as illustrated by this shot of VX-5's 160724, taken at Selfridge in November of 1983. The Tactical Paint Scheme (bet you always wondered what TPS stood for, didn't you?) had a way of looking all beat-up and worn-out even when relatively new; this airplane is in far better shape than her paintwork would indicate. She's a survivor, ending up on public display in Louisiana.  Ron Kowalczyk

May of 1983 saw this  A-7E (157501, an A-7E-7-CE) on public display at NAS Lemoore. She's a bit shopworn but her markings are extremely well-done and she'd make a fascinating subject for a model. This shot gives us an excellent view of the Corrogard applied to the leading edges of all of her flying surfaces, which was not typical for the type when in TPS. She's only carrying 4 of her original 6 underwing stores stations; the increasing use of smart weapons decreased the need for lots of room for ordnance.  Mark Morgan

October of 1983 saw this gorgeous bird from VA-146 on the ground at Lemoore. She was an interesting aircraft in that she was assigned to a boat (the KittyHawk) and still carrying all 6 of her weapons stations when this photo was taken. That's a FLIR pod hanging off her inboard pylon. There are no racks hanging off those stations, but in every other respect 155273 is ready to rumble.  Mick Roth

159647 is another survivor, ending up outside a Chevrolet dealership in Fallon, Nevada, of all places! She was still the Real Deal when Rick Morgan took this shot at NAS Whidbey Island in August of 1984, and is somewhat special in that she's wearing CAG markings. She's relatively clean as TPS-painted aircraft go, and is carrying TERs on her outboard stations. Contrast this shot with that of 157501 a couple of images back; all of 647's Corrogard surfaces have been painted over. It's the little things that make this hobby so interesting!  Rick Morgan

VA-97 was a prime user of the type and used their aircraft hard, as illustrated by this shot of 158021 taken at an air show at NAS Corpus Christi in April of 1986. She's entirely combat-capable but really looks awful in this portrait. Check out those stains on the upper surfaces of her flaps---do that on a model and your typical "knowledgeable" scale modeler will tell you you've pooched the paintwork, thus further widening the gap between all the Instant Experts out there and reality. Just goes to show...   Phillip Friddell

The various greys used within the TPS range of paints were (and still are) notorious for changing their appearance depending on ambient lighting, as illustrated by this photo of VA-27's 159281, taken at Whidbey Island by Rick Morgan in August of 1987. Her paintwork is patched and extremely well-worn and, once again, we have a graphic example of the streaking and staining often found on the upper surfaces of the A-7's flaps when the aircraft was painted in TPS. The A-7 family did yeoman service in the Fleet and reserves, a fact not always appreciated by enthusiasts.  Rick Morgan

VA-122 was the West Coast RAG for the Fruitfly and frequently sent dets to the boat for carrier qualification. 160542 is seen here on the Ranger in October of 1988, and she's in relatively good shape overall in this shot. Note the stainless steel APU exhaust peeking out above her starboard nose gear door---it's pointless to paint anything that gets that hot since the paintwork will just blister off the surface of the duct. It's a note worth remembering if you're planning on building a model of the A-7.  Rick Morgan

This "Fruitfly" from VA-37 (158842) was cleaner than most when Rick Morgan took her picture in May of 1989. She was transient at NAS Whidbey Island when the shot was taken, and was in the 4-station configuration so typical of late-80s A-7s. The intake warning treatment looks a little goofy to our eyes, but we're pretty highly opinionated about such things. 842 ended up in Chicago as a museum bird, adding to the roster of "Fruitflys" that finished their days on public display.  Rick Morgan

Our final A-7 for the day is a little bit of a ringer. She's recently off the boat and served in Operation Desert Storm while with VA-72. Her wrap-around tan and brown camouflage is in distinct contrast to any sort of TPS, but was probably useful at low altitude over the Middle East. The photo was taken at an Armed Forces Day display at Eglin in 1991. Note that she's carrying all six of her wing stations---we're guessing she probably dropped a whole bunch of iron bombs while on station and needed the rack space. She was eventually transferred to the Royal Hellenic Air Force, but was very much a Navy bird when this photo was taken.  Bill Thomas

And that wraps up our A-7 coverage for today. We'll probably run a few shots in the days ahead since we've got so many of them in the collection, but we're going to take a break for a while and look at some other airframes in the next few issues. It seems fair to us!

Under the Radar

Today's Under the Radar entry is an older book that was largely ignored by the aviation community when it was originally published. It's achieved a new relevance due to recent progress in the field of aviation, and is well-worth looking at.

With unmanned vehicles being The Hot Topic these days (it seems as though you can't go more than a day or so without something about "drones" appearing in the popular press), it's probably worth while to look back a bit into their history.

Lightning Bugs and Other Reconnaissance Drones; The Can-Do Story of Ryan's Unmanned Spy Planes, William Wagner, Armed Forces Journal International and Aero Books, 1981, 222pp, illustrated, is a highly readable, non-technical overview of the Ryan Firebee program for inception though its service in the Vietnam War. The volume begins with the requirement for an unmanned surveillance and target drone and details the development of the aircraft's development and its substantial (and largely unknown) combat career during the Southeast Asia War Games. It's well-written and explains the AQM-34 program in considerable detail. Most folks don't have it in their libraries (we doubt most folks are even aware of its existence!) but we consider it to be essential reading if your interests run towards American involvement in that unfortunate conflict. You'll probably have to search to find a copy but the result is well worth the effort. Recommended.

Happy Snaps

It's been a while (far too long, in point of fact!) since we've run anything in this section of the blog, so today must surely be the day to correct that! 

OK, so it's not actually in the air, but it's getting ready to fly so we're going to consider it a viable entry into our Happy Snaps department anyway. The time is September of 1987, and the place is the USS Constellation. Long-time friend and fellow aerospace traveler Rick Morgan is up in Vulture's Row, camera in hand, photographing the goings-on down on the flight deck. The aircraft is one of VA-122's A-7Es, recently arrived and taxiing to its parking slot. That deck looks peaceful and somewhat serene, but it isn't. Every day on the boat is a day that's just waiting for disaster---that's something worth remembering when you look at all those carrier ops shots we run around here.  Rick Morgan

The Relief Tube

Letters, we get letters; we get stacks and stacks of letters (with apologies to Perry Como). Well, maybe we don't get that many letters, but we do get a bunch of them. Here are a couple of comments we've recently received regarding various and sundry things that have appeared on this site:

Let's start off with a clarification from Tommy Thomason regarding that desert-bound PBM we ran last time. It's in the form of scans from a 1944 issue of Naval Aviation News that explain what was going on when that photo was taken---Tommy didn't comment beyond sending the images so we're not going to either, but they're worth a look.

Thanks as always, Tommy, for your help!

In the Keeping Us Honest department, here's a comment from Pablo Ziegler regarding that model of the Brewster Bermuda we ran a while back:

Just a note about the SB2A: as far as I know, the Special Hobby kit is 1/72nd scale. The firm released both the SB2A and the British Bermuda Mk.I to date. In 1/48th scale, as far as I can remember, the only game in town for the Buccaneer is the old VacWings48 kit.

Apologies to Frank Cuden for that particular clanger; Frank most assuredly knew the difference and supplied us with all the pertinent information when he sent the photos. Some days we just aren't very smart...

And we've got quite a few other comments as well, but they're mostly about that Picture Pirate thing and, frankly, we're as sick of all that as you are so we aren't going to run any of them. We definitely are interested in your comments, though, so please feel free to write us at if you've got something to say, or if you've got photos or information you'd like to share.

Finally, here's an unadulterated shot of a 17th PG Curtiss P-6E in flight for your enjoyment. Consider it a gift from the Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum courtesy of Mark Nankivil. It's a positive way to end our day---a beautiful photograph of a beautiful airplane.

Finally, there's a LOT of material waiting in the wings for us to show you, so stand by. We'll meet again real soon, but until then, thanks for your patience with our recent lack of a schedule, and be good to your neighbor.