A Good Idea or a Throwaway?
This particular Good Idea being the almost new 1/48th scale HobbyBoss P-38L Lightning, and the throwing away part; well, you'll find out soon enough. Leave us continue...
If any of you have ever built a P-38 in any scale, and that includes such classic kits as the ancient Aurora offering, you know how difficult it is to get all the big pieces lined up properly. The Lightning's basic design guaranteed a clean airframe but the real aircraft was moderately difficult to build and somewhat of a pig to maintain, even though it proved to be an ace-maker par excellence once it got into combat. Until very recently all of the plastic kits of the type exhibited a tendency to allow art to imitate life and mimicked that difficulty to build to a tee. Consider the facts: An airplane with lots of pieces going in lots of directions, with each and every major sub-assembly needing to be in perfect relation to its mates. An airplane that looks wompy-jawed and awkward if any significant component is out of alignment. An airplane that resides in few collections as a finished model, primarily because of the complexity of the design and the PITA Factor involved in the construction and finishing of anybody's kit of the type. In short, there's got to be a better way.
This is the part where you might reasonably ask why there needs to be a better way; after all, it's just a plastic kit, so how hard can it be? The answer is pretty ding-dang hard! Check it out, gang: There's two of all the big pieces in every kit we've seen to date, once you get past the center section and cockpit, anyway. Two engine nacelles, two booms, two vertical tails, two outboard horizontal tails, four radiator bathtubs mounted on the sides of the booms, and to top things off the airplane has tricycle landing gear, which means you've got to ballast the nose so it will sit on its gear. That's a tall order for the experienced modeler, and the newbie or barely competent guy or gal doesn't stand much of a chance. Remember that part where we said there had to be a better way?
Well, it turns out there is one, and it's the exclusive domain of one of those Chinese companies we all love to hate; HobbyBoss. A couple of months ago they unleashed their 1/48th scale P-38L on an unsuspecting public, and in one fell swoop they did away with most of the bugaboos that makes built-up P-38 models of any flavor such a rarity. Yep; in one giant leap outside the old Lightning box they went where no other manufacturer had ever gone before and eliminated all of the bugaboos formerly associated with constructing the P-38. The did this by the simple expedient of molding almost all of the airframe in two great big honking pieces. The fuselage/wing/boom assemblies are provided as a top and a bottom, to be assembled (with added details) into an airframe! The horizontal stab, both inboard and outboard, is part of that top and bottom so there's no way to misalign the parts. Ditto for the booms and outer wing panels. The landing gear wells are molded into the lower component, and the kit is engineered in such a way that even the most ham-fisted of modelers would have to work, and we mean really work, to screw things up. The modeler will have to add the vertical stabs and the forward sections of the engine nacelles and attach the radiators, but that's about it for the airframe. It's simple. It's an example of superb engineering, and it works! Somebody should have done it this way a long time ago, but they didn't. Kudos to Hobby Boss for an engineering job will done.
That's the Good News, but I'm sure you're all waiting for the other shoe to drop, so here you go: The tire and wheel assemblies are awful, and need to be replaced. The L-model has landing lights in the leading edges of the wings, but there are no transparencies for them. The "lips" on the oil cooler inlets at the front of the nacelles are too sharp. The booms are squared off instead of being oval in cross section. The doors on the radiator tubs are gomed up beyond salvation and need to be replaced. The polished oval aluminum panels that live on the inside of the nacelles are supplied as circular transparencies. The Christmas Tree rocket launchers are heavy handed and need to be replaced. There are prominent seams in the gas bags that shouldn't be there. Finally, the windows in the canopy sit much lower than they should. That's the Bad News.
Ok, then; what do we actually have here? In my opinion, which is worth exactly whatever credence you're willing to give it, the kit is somewhat frustrating but can be saved with aftermarket and a little bit of sweat equity. That canopy will be somewhat of a tough date and the cross-section of those booms may be something most of us end up living with, but the kit can get you there if you're willing to put some effort into it. And, if those European resin guys who churn out aftermarket (often unnecessarily) for models of Mr. Hitler's Luftwaffe both ad infinitum and ad nauseum can manage to divert a little bit of their effort into parts for this kit, we'll all be in a win/win situation.
The point we're trying to make here isn't about this kit specifically, even though that's what we've been spending most of our time talking about. No, it's about the philosophy involved in kitting this beast. The guys at HobbyBoss took a giant leap away from anything that had come before and came up with a real winner, flawed in detail but absolutely brilliant in concept. There are a bunch of little things wrong with the kit, and it can be frustrating because of that but at present there's no faster way to get to a 1/48th scale P-38, and the way they engineered the kit makes a P-38F/G/H entirely possible utilizing those beautifully-engineered big pieces. We can only hope they'll make the effort to fix the things that are wrong with the kit if they decide to do that. In the meantime, way to go, HobbyBoss!
Things Were Different Then
There was a time when the United States was the world's self-proclaimed Arsenal of Democracy, a time when our aircraft factories rolled out military airplanes of all types by the thousands. Nobody can afford to do that sort of thing nowadays, which makes this issue's first photograph special.
Thanks once again to Bobby Rocker for his continuing support of our project.
Gotta Love Those A-26s!
We do, anyway, and thanks to the kindness of John Horne we've got another group of them for your enjoyment today:
firstname.lastname@example.org . Macklin via John Horne Collection
Thanks again to John Horne for sharing his collection with us. We hope you're all enjoying those Invaders because there's more to come---stand by!
What the Captain Meant to Say
We're willing to bet dollars to donuts that a considerable portion of our readership were in diapers, presuming they were even alive and on the planet, during The Late, Great Southeast Asia War Games, but suffice it to say that conflict supplied the aviation community with quite a few catch phrases and expressions, a great many of which would tend to be unintelligible to those of relatively few years. "What the Captain Meant to Say" is one of those phrases.
It seems that for a considerable portion of that nasty little war the Air Force held a daily press briefing for the edification of the journalists who were attempting to make sense out of things so the folks back home (that would be us) could better understand the conflict. Veracity (another word for "truth") was sometimes in short supply in said briefings, which caused them to acquire the nickname "Five O'Clock Follies", which in turn led to an immortal story involving the Young Captain (it was always a young Captain) who'd just returned from a mission to some particularly nasty locale; say, Hanoi or the Dragon's Jaw. The press would ask the Young Captain how things were up there and he would respond with things like:
"It was awful up there! You could walk on the flak and there were MiGs everywhere! They shot the crap out of us! I'm lucky to be alive."
At that point the PIO conducting the briefing would step in and pronounce: "What the Captain meant to say was that opposition was somewhat heavy..." You get the picture, right?
Anyway, this isn't then and this article isn't about the Vietnam War, although that classic aviation joke does provide us with a nice lead-in to our next story.
If you recall, we ran a piece last issue about an F-4E from the 57th FIS that managed to launch out of Keflavic with its wings folded and was able to return to base reasonably intact. We didn't know much of anything about the incident so we asked one of our constant readers and contributors, an aviator who'd actually flown out of Kef back during The Day, to provide us with an education, which he promptly did. We published the piece and sat back wondering what folks would think about it. As things turned out we didn't have to wonder for very long, because we promptly received an e-mail from one of our readers, who turned out to be The Guy Who Was There When It Happened and Was Crewing The Airplane. Thanks to the kindness of Gerry Asher we've got the full story on that incident, and a little more besides. We're going to run the story but not today, because we've somehow managed to corrupt the PDF he sent us and we can't get it to load to the site! We're going to run the photos today, though---we're really excited about this one and want to get it published. Please be patient with us while we struggle through the dark corridors of Computer Land. We will get this document untangled and readable, we promise! Gerry, we apologize for our total lack of computer competence, but we'll get this thing done! In the meantime:
If you're a constant reader, or if you've taken the time to read your way all the way back to the beginnings of this blog, you'll remember that we used to run excerpts from an old Navy Aviation Ordnance Manual, NavAir 00-80T-65. It was a fine tradition and we're not entirely certain why we stopped doing it, but today's as good a day as any to bring it back to life. Without further ado, then...
A Mitchell Here, A Mitchell There
We've got a few more photos to share with you from the Rocker Collection---a handful of B-25s that don't seem to quite fit any other way. They aren't related but are interesting nonetheless, so let's take a look at what we've got:
Thanks as always to Bobby for unselfishly sharing his collection with us!
Under the Radar
We suspect the vast majority of our readers to be sufficiently young to have never experienced the 1960s in a first-hand sort of way, which provides us with a really great lead-in to today's book review. Way Back When, some 50+ years ago, we weren't nearly as well supplied with decent (read "serious" here) reference materials as we are nowadays. Aero Publishers was one of the big dogs in American reference books back then, although their approach was for the most part of the lightweight variety. One of their titles stood out, however, and we think it's stood the test of time fairly well.
The war in Southeast Asia was still raging when this title was first released in 1969, and the F-105 was still very much a part of that war. It's 80 modest pages are crammed with a highly-readable and accurate text covering the development, technical details, and operational deployment of what can arguably be termed one of the best fighter-bomber designs of all time. Photo captions are brief and concise, and the book includes such revolutionary (for the time) items as a serial number list, pre-SEA camo markings specifications, and a list of F-105 MiG killers. The illustrations include color as well as black-and-white photographs, profile drawings, and a 5-view drawing of Paul Douglas Jr's "Arkansas Traveler". The book was a literal one-stop reference for the type, and holds up well today as a valid reference book on the "Thud". Often overlooked because of the era in which it was produced, it's well worth acquiring should you come across a copy. Recommended.
The Relief Tube
Nope; not today. We're going to spend the time trying to figure out how to run Gerry Asher's F-4 piece for you! In the meantime, be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon!