Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Plastic Dog is Done, Echo Uglies, The Last Thing You'd Expect to See, and Some Arachnids

So Whaddaya Want, Egg in Your Beer?

A few days ago I was performing my daily ritual of scanning the various scale modeling boards I visit, reading those forums I steadfastly refuse to put in this project, when I came upon a link to the soon-to-be released, brand spanking new Not A Copy of Anything Else 1/32nd scale Fw190F-8 from Revell. Luftwaffe aircraft that served on the Eastern Front are a specific aviation interest of mine so I clicked on that link with great anticipation and was greeted by a color photograph of a nicely-built ground attack Wurger. The model in that photo looked pretty good to me, especially since its real-world retail price would be less than half that of its only competitor in the scale, the Hasegawa kit. You could say it got my interest.

There were no comments tacked on to the entry at the time I read it; I must have come in right after it had been published. OK, then; nothing else to read here so let's move on to something else, which is what I did. Several hours later it was time for lunch, and I'd chosen to eat at my desk that day so I clicked back into that forum so I'd have something to read while I ate. Scanning down the list of recent posts, I found the Focke Wulf review again, but by then several comments had been appended to the original post, one of, if not the very first of which, was bashing the kit for having undersized bulges and an incorrect hinge line on the cowling. That post was followed by one defending the kit, which was in turn followed by a series of point/counterpoint rebuttals.

That made me start thinking about the whole deal. The kit had just been announced, an appealing photograph of a nicely-built model had been released to the public, and the drama had begun---it was the initial release of the Eduard Me109G-6 all over again! Then again, maybe it wasn't. Presuming the kit doesn't have any other major flaws, and presuming those bulges really are drastically undersized, all we really have is an opportunity. My guess is that any number of resin aftermarket companies are waiting in the wings, anxious to get their hands on a kit so they can release a resin correction set for however much of the cowling is gomed-up. Let's presume that the cowling is the only thing we have to contend with, and let's take a look at what some folks might call the worst case.

Let's say that cowling really is messed up, and those bulges and that hinge really do require fixing. Let's take the next step and say that somebody creates and release a resin correction set for same, and offers it for sale for ten or fifteen bucks. What do we have at the end of the day? Let's consider:

The Hasegawa 190 kits in this scale that I've been seeing for sale of late were all in the $75-100 USD range.The new Revell kit will likely go for 1/3rd to 1/2 of that if they follow their normal pricing structure. Add ten bucks or so for the inevitable replacement cowling and you're still saving a bundle by buying the Revell kit. Finally, consider that you bought the kit to build it, and modeling is modeling whether you're using the component supplied in the kit or a new one of resin. It all works out pretty much the same when all's said and done.

When we look at it that way, what's all the fuss about? As far as I know, nobody's ever released The Perfect Model Airplane kit, and I seriously doubt anybody ever will. In my world, fixing or replacing that cowling just adds to the fun of the thing. I build for fun, and I'll bet most of you do too. It's just my opinion, but I think that those of us who are interested in building a big FockeWulf ought to buy the kit, build it, and enjoy the experience presuming, of course, that there's nothing else so significantly wrong with the kit that fixing the cowling becomes pointless. I'm looking forward to it.

Enough said!

Iron Dog Revisited

When last we met, we discussed at some length the way to eliminate that nasty step between the canopy and fuselage on the Eduard P-39 family of kits. The photos you saw in that thrilling installment of the project could have been a big old hint that there was a model in the works, which there was. It's rare that I ever actually finish a project these days, but I managed to more or less complete that P-39, so here it is in all its Eduardian splendor!

Although most of us tend to think of the 49th FG when we think of The Bad Old Days of 1942 in the Pacific, the simple fact of the matter is that the 8th FG was the first to get to New Guinea, initially to Milne Bay and then to Port Moresby, where they held the line against the Japanese alongside Australia's 75 and 76 squadrons, who were flying P-40Es. The first American kill in New Guinea was scored by a pilot from the 8th; Lt Donald "Fibber" McGee, who accomplished the feat in a P-39D that was still wearing its pre-War corcardes on the wings and fuselage. He was flying 41-6941 when he scored that victory, and as luck would have it his airplane is relatively easy to model. The completed kit is the same Eduard P-39 we looked at last time around, with decals scrounged from here and there. The only tough markings to source were the nickname ("Nip's Nemesis") that was painted over the exhaust stacks and that letter "Q" on the nose. Fortunately for the sake of this project, the late-but-not-necessarily-lamented AeroMaster did a 1/48th scale P-39 sheet that included the markings for McGee's "Nip's Nemesis II". With the name and the aircraft-in-squadron letter in hand, the rest of the model was a piece of cake.

This photo shows the other side of the airplane, and provides us with a graphic illustration of why everybody says the wings on the Eduard P-39D are too thick---they are, although they're not so thick as to keep the finished model from looking good. Of more concern, at least to me, is the way the kit represents the wing guns. I didn't do anything about them on this model but probably will on the next one. And yes, Virginia; I know I haven't weathered the landing gear or gear doors yet. Patience!
Whether you like the way it looks or not is a matter of personal taste, but it was done with pastels no matter which way you lean regarding that subject. The interior is 100% stone stock with the exception of a set of belts and harnesses, although Eduard's Profipak version of the kit can provide you with all the bells and whistles if you need them for your own P-39.

So here's the bottom line, folks. The "Eduard Step" in their P-39 kit doesn't really exist, and whether it appears on a completed model or not is entirely a function of how well you perform your initial assembly when you're building the kit. To take things a step further, the kit provides us with the raw materials necessary to build a model that looks like a P-39, thick wing notwithstanding. Some modeling skills are required to get to that point, to be sure, but those skills are minimal in this instance. Finally, with Hasegawa kits being priced the way they are at the moment, the Eduard Airacobra suddenly becomes the deal of the day, so to speak. I've seen non-Profipak offerings of the basic kit for as little as $15 from time to time, and the average price for a full-blown Profipak offering seems to hover around thirty bucks or so, while the slightly better-detailed and far newer Hasegawa kits seem to go for around twice that. All the Eduard offering requires is a little elbow grease and TLC and you're there. It seems like a no-brainer to me!

Double Ugly Strikes Again!

I've been running a lot of F-4s lately, and the reader response that's been coming my way suggests that more than a few of you are enjoying the show. Rarely one to give up on a good thing, I've decided it's time for a few more Phantoms for your edification and entertainment. This time around we're going to look at a few E-models, with no rhyme or reason to the selection of the images shown other than that they're all post-Vietnam era. Let's see what we've got!

72-0140 was assigned to the 422nd FWS, 57th FWW, when Bill Peake shot her on the ramp at Nellis in 1980. She's in classic SEA warpaint in this view and the shot illustrates the ground activity that makes up such a significant portion of a tactical fighter's life. Later converted to QF-4E status, 0140 managed to survive two Air Force careers to join the US air show circuit after the turn of the last century (and boy; does it ever feel funny saying that!). As far as we know she's still around, a proud survivor of her species.   William Peake

The time was June of 1981 and the place the 57th FWW's ramp at Nellis. Every once in a while photos show up in the collection sans provenance (that means I don't know who sent the picture to me!), and this is one of those. I strongly suspect Marty Isham to be the culprit in this instance, but whoever the Mystery Photographer is, he needs to identity himself so I can properly credit the image. In the meantime, let's enjoy a ramp full of F-4s when they were in their prime!  Friddell Collection

Conversely, I do know who shot this photo! John Dienst was out doing what he does best, prowling an Air Force ramp with a camera, when he snapped 67-0327's portrait. She was assigned the 347th TFW in May of 1984, and had assumed the grey and greens camouflage so representative of the Group during that time frame. Check out that red star on her splitter plate---she popped a MiG-21 over North Vietnam in September of 1972. Most F-4s didn't survive the smelter, but 0327 ended up on public display in a park near Luke AFB. That's fitting, we think!   John Dienst

By 1984, the 57th FWW had partially gone Lizard, as depicted by 66-0379, shot by Kirk Minert on the ground at Nellis in September of that year. She ended up with the Turkish Air Force in 1987, but was in her golden years with the USAF when Kirk took her portrait here.  Kirk Minert

The F-4E was a fully-capable fighter-bomber by the mid-80s, and could carry a wide selection of weapons and their associated pods. 68-0373, of the 347th TFW's 68th TFS, was photographed carrying a Pave Spike pod at Nellis in April of 1986. She was one of the unlucky ones that succumbed to an operational accident---she took a bird strike over the Oconee Swamp in Georgia in October of that year and went down, taking one crew member with her. Military aviation has never been safe...    Rick Morgan

Although we're primarily covering USAF "Echos" in this edition of our ongoing salute to the F-4, Mark Morgan was on the 110th TFS/131st TFW's ramp in St Louis in December of 1986 and shot a couple of birds we just had to share with you today. 68-0528 is our Plain Jane of the shoot, as long as you consider a Phantom wearing a big honkin' sharkmouth to be a Plain Jane! She's podded and carrying Mk76 practice bombs on her TERs. Later in her life she was transferred to the Turkish AF and in 1991 she crashed to destruction, taking her pilot with her.   Mark Morgan

68-0338 was also a MoANG bird, but is wearing a tasty outfit of ACM greys along with that sharkmouth. A close look at her splitter plate reveals a surprise; one MiG kill painted with another going on while our intrepid photographer was there. Both kills were scored over North Vietnam during 1972, and the airplane ended up being a display aircraft for the Missouri Air Guard after her retirement.   Mark Morgan

Here's a close-up of 0338's scoreboard detailing her kills. The paint was scarcely dry on that lower kill when Mark shot this image, illustrating either the skilled professionalism or unbridled insanity of the typical aviation photographer! We're kidding about that, of course---Mark is one of the most accomplished and professional aerospace photographers we know, and we're delighted he took this shot. This is an "Echo" well worth modeling, we think!   Mark Morgan

Wing commander's aircraft tend to be on the pretty side, as exemplified by this 37th TFW F-4E taxiing in at Nellis in October of 1987. There's a lot of color on her tail but it would barely compromise her ability to hide at speed and at the altitudes she'd most likely be flying in a combat scenario. We'd like to tell you more about the airplane, but there's no serial number visible so we can't! If you've got more information on her, please drop us a line at and let us know a little more about her. It's the right thing to do!   Marty Isham

Here's a wing commander's bird that is identified! 73-1184 was assigned to the 4th TFW in October of 1987 when Marty Isham snapped this gorgeous portrait of her on the ground at Nellis. She survived her stint with the regular USAF to become a QF-4E drone, and was still extant as late as 2011.    Marty Isham

Many moons ago we showed you a black-and-white of an unidentified F-4E I shot on the ground at Bergstrom during the RAM 88 photo recon meet. She wasn't a participant but was just passing through, but her overall Mil-P-8585 primer coat, totally unadorned with any other markings, insured that she stuck out like a sore thumb! You don't see this sort of thing very often, do you? Anybody out there care to build a unique model of a Phantom?   Friddell

Let's end today's "Echo" Essay with this Air Force shot of the 57th's 68-0358 dropping bombs over the Nellis range. She ended up with the New Jersey ANG in 1990, and then on to South Korea in 1991. This photo of her while she was in her salad days is as good a way as any to end our day with the F-4, but stand by; there are more "Bugsuckers" to come! It's just a matter of time!    Isham Collection

What's He Doing Here?

It must seem like I'm always bragging about the photography that comes our way thanks to the generosity of Bobby Rocker, but the simple fact of the matter is that his collection is filled to the brim with unique and seldom-seen images. Take this one, for example:

In our Last Thing You'd Ever Expect to See category, we have this Culver  TDC-2 Cadet, come to grief in MAG-45's area on Falalop Airfield at Ulithi Atoll late in the War. The aircraft was originally designed as an aerial target, although it's difficult to imagine a need for "domestic" aerial targets in an operational theater full of the real thing. Still, someone thought it necessary to get at least one of them out to the AO; I wonder if one of the short-run Czech model manufacturers would consider kitting this one!   Rocker Collection

Shiny Scorpions

A few years back, John Kerr dropped me an e-mail to ask if I'd be interested in "a couple of neat airplane pictures" he'd come across. Anybody who knew Maddog also knew that his idea of a "neat" airplane picture could be be well-worth looking at, so I jumped at the chance and told him to send them on. He did, and I indulged in the appropriate oohs and ahs when they arrived. Then I filed them away and promptly forgot about them until earlier this week, when I re-discovered them. Here's what I found:

The F-89 family once held the fate of the United States in its slow and unwieldy hands, a sluggish and poor-performing interceptor that was the best we had to offer until the advent of Convair's deltas and their incorporation into the ADC. 53-2599 was an F-89D assigned to the 23rd FIW's 74th FIS, operating out of Thule AB in Greenland during the mid-1950s. "My Mommie II" is a gorgeous example of the type, and illustrates why the F-89 has such an appeal to aviation historians and modelers.   Mike Martinolick via John Kerr

Here's what the other side of the airplane looks like, shot as she taxis out at Thule. The front half of the F-89D's wing tanks served as a repository for an arsenal of 2.75-in FFARs, which explains the staining behind that big star on the front of the tank; 2599 has recently expended a load of rockets. If you're building a Scorpion and are interested in weathering it, that tank is one of the few places where such a thing would be appropriate.   Mike Martinolick via John Kerr

A four-ship of the 74th looks pretty for the camera aircraft over Thule. The aircraft in the foreground shows evidence of rocket firing, which adds additional detail to the staining not found in the photo of 2599.  As an interceptor the F-89 was a dog in the truest sense of the word, but it sure looked neat!   Kerr Collection

Although you might think this is yet another shot of F-89s over Thule, you'd be mistaken. 52-2152 is an F-89D from the 59th FIS and is not from the Kerr collection, but it's a pretty shot and it fits right into the them of this essay. The Scorpion was a big airplane, and the best we had for several years in terms of bomber defense, but it was always an interim interceptor at best. Its looks definitely obscured its lack of performance!   Smart via Isham Collection

And Another Thing...

I was in Hill Country Hobby in San Antonio a couple of weeks ago and found a Tamiya Fw190A-8 on the consignment shelves for what could only be described as an outstanding price. Since the kit is basically accurate once you get past the wheels, landing gear, and wing root gun access covers, and since I like that sort of thing (FockeWulfs, that is), buying it was a no-brainer. While I was paying for the kit I mentioned to Gary, the owner of that fine establishment, that the model was an easy weekend sort of project because everything fit so well on it, which led me to think some more on the subject while I was driving home. Here's the result of that rare burst of creative thought on my part:

This is an almost stone-stock 1/48th scale Tamiya Fw190A-8, but with a couple of minor improvements. The pitot tube and guns have been replaced by brass units courtesy of Master, while a set of Eduard harnesses grace the pilot's seat. The biggest change, and the one that made the most difference to the appearance of the model, was the addition of a set of late-War smooth-tread wheel/tire assemblies taken from a donor Eduard FockeWulf kit. That simple addition improves the kit's "sit" immensely, and makes the completed airplane look a look more like a real Fw190. The best part is that I didn't have to buy them since I've got several sets in the spares bin! There's also a stretched sprue antenna wire on the model, done in the droopy, no-retraction-reel-on-the-canopy late War Fw190 style.

The model represents an Fw190A-8 from JG-6 on the Eastern Front at the end of the War. The paint is my favorite ModelMaster enamel (the paint line so often discredited by the internet "experts"), and the decals are from wherever I could find them in my decal collection. More to the point of this ramble, the kit was begun on a Saturday morning and completed on the following Sunday---the entire project took approximately 7 hours from start to finish. I still need to paint the tip of the pitot tube, of course, but those of you who have followed this blog from its beginning know that there's always something left over for me to do before the model's actually completed. That's how I build things!

Anyway, the point is this: Every once in a while I get the bug to just build something and get it on the shelf. Most any recent Tamiya kit is a slam-dunk sort of thing, which makes a true weekend build an easy thing to do; instant gratification, as it were. The end result of this particular effort was an attractive (to me, at least; your mileage may differ) model of an airplane I wanted to add to my collection, and it took virtually no effort to get there. In my world it's good for the soul, and I thought I'd share the philosophy with you.

And now, it's time to get back to sanding seams on that Academy F-4J!

Happy Snaps

We're going off in a different direction with Happy Snaps today, thanks to an image sent to us early last week by Rick Morgan.

When Rick sent this photo he captioned it "And the boss said: Stand by to start jets!", a line often heard by Rick during his days in the NAV and an image appropriate for those of our readers who have recently experienced the severe winter weather that's graced portions of the northern and northeastern United States of late. The photo was taken during a NorPac cruise on the Coral Sea during 1983 and illustrates a facet of daily life aboard an aircraft carrier that we rarely get to see.   Navy via Rick Morgan

The Relief Tube

A funny thing happened on the way to the Blog. I was getting ready to begin extracting comments for this section and my e-mail started acting goofy, which caused me to shut it down immediately. I doubt it was being compromised but you just never know, and I'm a Better Safe Than Sorry kind of a guy so there you go; no Relief Tube today!

And then again, maybe there will be, sortof. A couple of hours after publishing this edition of the blog I received an e-mail from Gerry Kersey over at 3rd Attack.Org reminding me that the white OA-10A shot I'd run last issue and credited to Bobby Rocker's collection had actually been photographed by, and was from the collection of, Fred Hill. Apologies to Fred, Gerry, and Bobby for the gaffe, and the correction has been made! Thanks, Gerry, for your patience!

That said, we're going to stick a fork in this edition and call it Done. I've been receiving some really neat material of late so stay tuned---there's some Good Stuff to come. Until then, be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Dog That Won't Lie Down, A White Cat, Stormy Weather, A Tropical Herc, One November Day, and Look at That Jug!

Waited All These Years

It's a cause and effect sort of thing, don't you know; one of those things that we do in life that we don't like or aren't particularly proud of that's there, right out in front for the whole world to see. One of those things that won't go away. One of those things that's embarrassing for everybody concerned.

On a personal level I've had quite a few of those moments. Some were highly public and full of drama, like the time I had that runaway horse in San Antonio's Fiesta night parade while representing Fort Martin Scott's reconstituted Second US Dragoons (an adventure not helped in any worthwhile fashion, and in point of fact instigated, by the University of Texas' marching band's drum line), while some were not. Today's reconstruction of another of the mis-steps of a sordid past isn't going to be one of those high profile adventures like that parade, but it's an embarrassing moment  nonetheless, one not helped in any significant way by the passage of time.

Those of you with long memories, and perhaps a seniority on life similar to my own, may recall that Jim Wogstad and I did a couple of print monographs back when we were working together during the final days of Aerophile. That experience made me want to do a monograph of my own, outside the Aerophile name, and I got the chance after we finally decided to shut that project down for good. I'd been gathering photographs and information one one of my favorite airplanes, the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, for a number of years, and it seemed that the time had come to do something with all that material. I wasn't quite ready to do a full-fledged book, but a small monograph was well within my capabilities so off I went in search of a publisher.

Nowadays it seems as though there's a Publisher of Things Aeronautical on every corner, but back in the waning years of what I'm going to deem The Culture of Print there were only a few, at least in the United States. I approached one of the big ones, an outfit who'd made their reputation doing monographs, and told them that their current title concerning my favorite airplane was getting distinctly long in the tooth and needed replacing. They agreed with me and we came to terms. The die was cast.

To skip ahead a bit, the completed book sold well enough to be reprinted a couple of times, but I was never really happy with it. My original text was considerably abbreviated, which caused portions of the text to make little or no sense, and my photo captions were significantly edited. The book that was published wasn't the book I had written. I wasn't happy with it at all, and was embarrassed to have my name on it because I knew that my aviation-minded friends would all buy a copy of it and wonder what happened.

Over the course of years I'd told a few friends the story of that particular adventure, but I'd never gone out of my way to say anything about it publicly because there was an enormous extenuating circumstance surrounding the creation of that book; the project's editor, a friend of mine and someone I respected a great deal (and still do) was fighting a terminal disease and was attempting to get my book published before the final curtain came down on his life. He won that particular battle, as witnessed by the publication of my "Zipper" book, but he lost the war shortly after publication.

So why am I telling you this now? To make things brief, my Better Half brought me a recent internet review of that old title a couple of days ago, a commentary in which the writer had wondered out loud why the book could have been so bad when the original RIS, as well as this modest project, had been done to a somewhat better standard. Said Better Half was considerably annoyed that someone had the temerity to criticize "my" book, but the criticism made (and makes) perfect sense to me, because I agree with every word that was written in that review.  As far as I know, that one review is the first time anybody's ever given my F-104 piece an accurate critique, and I'm delighted that the writer stood up and did it.

I'd decided long ago that I wasn't going to ever explain that project in public unless somebody slammed it in a truthful review, at which point I'd say something. Today's the day; the review is there, the comment has been made, and here's my take on the whole deal:

That book, as originally written, was far better than it turned out to be when it finally saw print, and I was disappointed in it when I first saw it (and for that matter still am). More significantly, though, a friend of mine, one who most assuredly had more important things to contend with than getting my monograph to press, devoted his efforts and ever-decreasing and precious time to make sure the thing got published. He was successful and, if I'm not mistaken, my book was the last one he edited and produced. I'm proud of that, thankful and flattered beyond words that he made the time to get me in print. My embarrassment's a small thing indeed when compared to what he did to help me.

Maybe someday I'll go back and do the F-104 book I'd meant to do way back then. Until that day comes, if it ever does, I'll live with what I did because I know how it came to be what it is. No; I'm not proud of that book, but I'm damn proud of the dedication that went into producing it. Now you know, and there's really only one more thing to be said---thanks, Nick!

You Can Get There From Here

"Here" being defined as the semi-old 1/48th scale Eduard P-39 of any iteration, and "there" being a completed model. That P-39 kit was a revelation when Eduard first released it; delicate, petite, and looking every inch an Airacobra when finished, at least mostly. The kit was, and no doubt about it, a significant improvement on the 1969-vintage Monogram kit that constituted The Only Game in Town up to that time, but the Eduard offering had flaws of its own that placed it squarely into the category of being a tough date.

To be specific, there were two major areas that posed a considerable problem to the dedicated scale modeler. First off was the thickness of the wing which, although it didn't really look too bad on a finished model, was in fact far thicker than anything Larry Bell had ever designed for one of his airplanes. The other issue was the fit of the canopy and windscreen to the fuselage because "fit" was a term that seemed not to apply to the model---placement of the canopy on a completed fus guaranteed a significant step between said fuselage and the canopy, which in turn ensured that you couldn't build the airplane with the separate cockpit doors in the closed position and have the result end up looking like a closed door on a P-39. A great many of the completed Eduard P-39s we've seen have featured those two problems to a greater or lesser extent, so it's an endemic sort of thing, albeit one related to the amount of attention paid by the modeler during construction. There are some other issues too, such as the shape of the vertical stab and rudder, but we're not going to address them today---get yourself a decent set of plans and a piece of sandpaper if that bothers you!

You can do something about the fit of that wing simply by sanding away some of it's thickness from the inside of the mating surfaces prior to assembly, but you've got to be careful if you do that because it has the potential to mess up the relationship between the wing center section and the nose gear well; a trade-off, if you will. That's why we tend to leave the wing thickness alone and not look at the completed model from head-on. Yes; it's a problem and it's a noticeable one too, but it's one that an old stager like us can live with.

That step in the canopy fit is another matter entirely. It makes the completed model, no matter how exquisitely finished, look like it was done by a rank newbie. We've got a Soviet P-39Q sitting on the shelf as this is written that exhibits the issue and we've seen many others as well, some of which have appeared in well-known scale modeling periodicals. It's common knowledge in our hobby that Eduard's canopy and doors don't fit on their P-39 kit in any of its iterations. Or do they?

We've often puzzled over why Eduard allowed that particular clanger to get itself into kit form. We could (and still can) understand the wing-thickness thing; the model was released very early into Eduard's rebirth as a manufacturer of world-class plastic kits and we suspect there may have been tooling limitations involved (read "money" here) that impacted the process. the canopy was another story since it simply didn't fit properly to the rest of the airplane.

Then it hit us---a literal scale-modeling epiphany! Lots of other Eduard kits have well-publicized fit issues too (their Fw190 and Bf109E families come to mind) but almost all of those could be addressed by actually following the instructions and doing a little bit of trial fitting prior to assembly. Could the same thing apply to that P-39 canopy? There was only one way to find out!

OK, first let's make a deal to ignore those big honkin' wing to fuselage seams, because they'll go away on the completed model. Ditto the seams that still need filling between the wing halves, and while we're at it let's cut Young Phillip some slack on the unfinished shoulder harnesses too! What we're looking at here is the way the fuselage halves mate to that bulkhead and the aft cockpit decking. When we stuck the fus together we pulled the two halves up snug against the bulkhead and hit them with a tiny drop of Tenax. Doing it that way doesn't seem like that big a deal, but it is, and doing it completely eliminates The Dreaded Eduard Step from the canopy-to-fuselage joint!

Here's another picture for you to peruse. That tiny spot of Tenax looks huge in this photo, but let's all remember that the airplane, and therefore the Tenax mark, is actually much smaller than the photo suggests. You can clean it up if you feel so inclined but we didn't, and not doing it made no difference at all to the appearance of the model. Once you've completed this part of the operation, not only will The Dreaded Eduard P-39 Canopy to Fuselage Step go away, but the doors will fit in the closed position too! Don't believe it? Well, check this out:

No, the door and canopy aren't painted yet, but this photo should give you a pretty good idea of how things are going to end up when the model is done. The canopy fits all the way around, the previously-mentioned Dreaded Step is history and, wonder of wonders, that door fits both the canopy and the fuselage with just the tiniest amount of sanding and trimming of the door hinges. Who'd-a thunk it?!

Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye

Many years ago a movie was released called The Longest Day. Contained within that movie was a small scene where an exhausted RAF Battle of Britain survivor played by Richard Burton uttered the classic line, "The trouble with being one of the few is that we keep getting fewer". That statement could be applied to any number of situations in life but it's truly only suited for one thing. It's a commentary on the loss of a friend. Today, in a somewhat belated report, it's our sad duty to comment on the loss of another of our number. It happened some six months ago and some, perhaps many, of you have already received the sad news. We found out last night in an e-mail from Rick Morgan and thought we should share.

A big smile and a warm handshake started it off for me, along with an invitation to go shoot the ramp at Randolph during an upcoming Armed Forces Day celebration. The shoot was a good one and a great way to kick off a budding career in aviation photography but it was far from uneventful, primarily because our new-found friend, a retired blue-suiter, had the temerity to tell a security policeman to go peddle his papers when said official asked to see our credentials (we were wandering the ramp unescorted at the time). That was the first time we saw him in action, but it was far from the last. He wasn't shy and he didn't suffer fools lightly; old non-coms are like that, you know.

We went over to his place after the shoot and met his family. It wasn't long before we felt like we were part of that family, and a pleasant evening looking at airplane slides put the icing on the cake, partially because our own collection consisted of about 50 slides at the time. When it was time to leave that first evening, we were handed a box full of duplicates and told to take what we wanted since we were just starting out in the profession. That was it, no questions asked; just take what you want.

That evening led to a great many trips together chasing airplanes, and the opportunity to shoot with someone who knew how to do it greatly improved our own photography. There was skill to be learned from him, as well as graciousness and humor. He was a fine companion, a man with the unbridled enthusiasm for life of someone half his age.

He suffered too, although few people got to see that side of him. He'd been one of the first Air Commandos to go to the Southeast Asia War Games and the experience had left its mark. That side would come out occasionally, usually prompted by substantial consumption of a good Scotch, but it never lasted for long. He was far too exuberant to let anything keep him down for long.

The time came when he moved away, and the distance meant we spoke less and saw each other even less than that, but he was still a friend and was as generous as he had ever been. Somewhere along the way he started a web site, publishing a picture a day of some sort of military airplane or warbird from his collection, sharing what he had with others for free. It says something about him that several of his friends chose to keep the site going after his passing.

It's never easy to lose a friend, and it's particularly tough when that friend was also a mentor. Finding out about his passing several months after the event did nothing to lessen the blow. Fair skies, Maddog, and may your new road be an easy one. Thanks, John Kerr, for all you did for us and for so many others. Let's raise a glass...


That Others May Live

I received a text message from Frank Emmett yesterday, a missive in which he explained a temporary absence from Things Friddellian as being an unfortunate side effect of building a Monogram PBY. On a personal level, that's one kit I've never been inclined to argue with (most of my projects end up being arguments, if anybody out there cares about such things), but Frank did it, which got me thinking about PBYs, OA-10s, and similar. I've run photos of plenty of PBYs in the past, with more to come at some point in life, but OA-10s have been somewhat scarce around these parts. That said, Frank's e-mail gave me reason to take a look in a file I'd recently received from Gerry Kersey. Here's what I found:

The United States was perhaps unique in its efforts to recover downed airmen during the course of the Second World War. Sure; other countries did it too, but non equaled the Americans in terms of effort expended in search and recovery missions. This shot, taken at the airstrip at Lingayen Gulf, shows a 2nd ERS OA-10A sitting on the ramp awaiting its next call to action. 44-33984 was Canadian Vickers-built rather than a Consolidated product, but what she was called made no difference whatsoever to the way she functioned. The under-wing tanks, apparently from a P-38, are noteworthy, along with the Yagi radar suite, and that radar pod on her dorsal forward fuselage is normal for the breed, as is the weathering---round engines have a tendency to throw oil in prodigal amounts and those OA-10s that ended up painted white were probably filthy almost immediately after their first engine crank. Way back when, about a hundred years ago, Jim and I were working on what eventually became a still-born SBD project. One of the folks who was heavily involved in the effort was Jack Elliot, who commented that, on the Dauntless, the oil that lubricated the prop was the same oil that lubricated the rudder hinges. It works that way for all aircraft powered by radial engines, as beautifully illustrated by 33984. She's a little messy, but let's take a lead from the guys she pulled out of the drink. Let's call her "Angel"...        Fred Hill via 3rd Attack.Org

Riders On the Storm

The date was 21 May, 1983, and I was on the ramp at NAS Corpus Christi, photographing airplanes prior to the facility being opened to the public at 1000 hrs. The weather was beyond awful, with intermittent rain showers and solid clag; CAVU wasn't a term that applied that day. Still, the weather at Corpus wasn't as bad as it could have been; North Texas was under a severe thunderstorm alert and the prognosis for San Antonio, the city I'd recently departed on this particular adventure, wasn't much better. It was, in short, a lousy weather day.

In spite of all that the show ramp filled up to the brim with spectators the second the gates were opened to the multitudes, many of whom were dragging along lawn chairs, coolers, and small children, all in anticipation of a promised display by the Blue Angels later in the day. A great many of those spectators had just settled in when the sound came, that howling thunder that was once the hallmark of the McDonnell Douglas F-4. It wasn't the sound of one Phantom either, but of several, a cacophony that was soon augmented by the sight of four SEA-camo'd F-4Ds overflying the field, looking for a place to light.

That flight of F-4s wasted no time getting down; a quick inquiry of my escort (who was carrying a brick and was therefore in communication with both the tower and the folks at transient alert) identified the newcomers as a flight of F-4Ds from Carswell's 704th TFS/924th TFG caught out in the miserable weather and diverted to Corpus while severe storms passed through the DFW area. That wasn't the amazing part, though. No; the Amazing Part was reserved for what happened after their arrival, when they were directed to taxi through the perimeter of the crowd and parked in a largish slot in the display line, thus providing Grandma, Grandpa, and the previously-mentioned small children with a whole new element of airshow entertainment and personal participation! It was, for a brief period of time, a sight to behold, but at the end of it all no children or lawn chairs were ingested into the maws of hungry turbojet powerplants and all was well. The birds had landed and parked safely.

That whole sideshow started while I was in a hangar and ended before I could get into camera range, so no photographs of their arrival mayhem were taken by me, but I was able to do some shooting as they cranked and departed a couple of hours later. Here are a few shots from that afternoon for your enjoyment and/or amazement:

It was a dreary day, and one possessing more than a little bit of danger for the military aviator caught out in the weather, but the boys from Fort Worth got down ok. In this shot, F-4D 66- 570 is receiving pre-flight maintenance prior to launch for the Home Drome. The weather still stinks, but the storms have passed through Carswell and moved south for the time being. It's time to go!    Friddell

The 704th was fragged for an air-to-mud training hop that dreary day, and the airplanes that bounced into Corpus were configured for the mission---take a look at the stores on 748! Those, plus that LORAN towel rack on the fuselage spine of two of the aircraft, made this quartet of "Bugsuckers" well worth photographing.    Friddell

Here's 748 again, mostly because I really like the way the Phantom looks when it's photographed from this angle! Consider it a salve to my frequently enormous ego and move on!    Friddell

In this view, the transient guys are preparing their blue-suited visitors for departure. Drogue chutes are being re-packed, and at least one set of speed slacks is hanging from the crew ladder on 797. The weather hasn't gotten much better, but there's more of it coming in and it's advertised to be severe. It's time to go!   Friddell

Here's a different view as the 704th prepares for departure. Notice that 570 doesn't carry the LORAN towel rack, although two of her companions do. Still, the F-4D in any configuration was capable of inflicting some serious hurt on the Bad Guys if push ever came to shove. Don't ever underestimate the ANG or the Reserves; those guys were, and still are, some seriously competent and highly professional aviators.   Friddell

The airplanes are manned up and getting ready for the boogie. The NAV's transient guys were having a seriously good time during the adventure that day, probably because they were doing what they were trained to do and getting to show it to the public for a change. It's easy to overlook the maintenance and ground-handling folks when you're interested in military aviation, but it's a mistake to do that. They're every bit as professional as the aviators they work with, and they have the same crummy hours as well as many of the risks. Those are the guys and girls who make it all work, folks. Nobody's going very far in an airplane without them!  Friddell

It's time to depart these parts for other parts. Pre-flights are done, and Lead is pulling out of his parking slot to begin his taxi to the active. The noise is deafening (a pair of J79s times four sitting 50 feet from the crowd line, if you recall) and the spectators are getting to see a whole lot more than they'd bargained for that day. It was quite a show!    Friddell

And away we go!  Lead's heading for the active with Two close behind, as Three pulls out of his parking slot. The boys from Carswell were stars that day (I, for one, enjoyed what they did far more than I enjoyed the low show put on by the Blues later in the afternoon!) and John Q. Public got a glimpse of The Real Deal for once. It was what you might call a win-win situation!    Friddell

Yep, it was quite a day, the 21st of May, 1983. What must have started out as a wasted sortie for the 704th turned into quite a public relations event, with the taxpayers present on the ramp that morning getting a fine look at what they were paying for. It all happened 32 years ago this Spring and I'm still pumped by what I got to see during the course of that day! There are worse ways to make a living!

You Just Never Know

Once upon a time, about a million years ago, your editor had limited ramp privileges at Kelly Air Force Base. The aircraft you're about to view was a bird that was shot there during the late 1970s, an L100-30 (the stretched civilian version of the Hercules) of 31 Squadron, Indonesian Air Force.

A-1314 of the TNI-AU was on the ground at Kelly having a modular interior fabricated by the now-defunct Ventura Manufacturing fitted into her cabin when she posed for this shot. She was a relatively new aircraft when the photograph was taken on 16 August, 1979, exhibiting little staining or weathering after her trip to Kelly from the Lockheed plant in Marietta, Georgia. Her newly-installed interior was plush but could be removed in a matter of minutes, restoring the aircraft's full military capability when required, making an extremely useful transport even more so.          Friddell

This somewhat disorienting shot of the underside of her starboard wing shows the Indonesian national insignia and conspicuity markings to what we'll call Good Advantage.   Friddell

This somewhat murky view provides us with definition of her registration presentation under the port wing. It was easy to get under the airplane for the purpose of photography but impossible, at least in this instance, to get above it to determine if the registration was carried on her upper wings as well. If you've got the answer sitting in your collection please drop us a line at and let us know what it looked like up there!    Friddell

Finally, here's a detail not readily evident in the first shot we ran of this aircraft---the DayGlo Orange prop tips. It's far more common to see that sort of thing done up in Insignia Red, which presents the aspiring modeler an opportunity to display a unique detail on his or her model, presuming, of course, that they can get past the fuselage plug required both in front and aft of the wing that's required to turn a "stock" C-130 into an L100-30.    Friddell

Many thanks to the guys at Ventura Manufacturing and the transient crew at Kelly for letting me photograph this gorgeous airplane so many years ago!

It Looks So Peaceful

It's a new year now, 2015 to be exact, which means that last month those of us who are both aviation and historically-minded took a few moments to reflect on the Japanese attack on the American naval and army installations at and around Pearl Harbor. It was a simpler time, although that would soon change, but the United States was still at peace in November of 1941.

Eva Field, USMC, Territory of Hawaii, November 1941. Eva was a small installation, but still large enough to handle a full squadron each of SBD-1s (VMSB-232) and F3F-2s (VMF-2). Neither type would have provided much in the way of aerial opposition to the aircraft of Kido Butai, although it's interesting to speculate on the outcome of a knife fight between the A6M2 and the tubby Grumman---the Zeros used in the Pearl Harbor strike were limited in performance due to aileron flutter issues that had yet to be resolved, while the F3F family was renowned for its ability to turn on a dime and give back change and was fast for a biplane. As far as is known (at least to me) no Marine fighters got off the ground that Sunday morning, but what if they had? Would it have had any impact at all on the outcome of the attack? Probably not, but I'm guessing the Japanese would have known they'd been in a scrap. Where are those guys that wrote The Final Countdown when you need them?!    National Archives via Rocker Collection

A Famous T-Bolt

A while back we ran a shot of John Wayne sitting in Neel Kearby's P-47D-4, "Fiery Ginger IV", while The Boss, Col. Kearby himself, looked on. That photograph, plus the recent (for us, anyway!) release of one of Nor Graser's excellent Thundercal decal sheets that included the aircraft as a subject, ensured that we wanted to build one. We had a Tamiya "razorback" kit laying around, along with a set of Loon Models early P-47 cowl flaps, and an Eduard Zoom set for the interior, all sitting on the shelf just waiting to be built into an airplane. Those Thundercals provided the catalyst and the die was cast!

And here's the Star of our show, "Fiery Ginger IV". She was Neel Kearby's last "Jug", and arguably his most famous. She was lost, along with Kearby, on 6 March 1944, when a worn-out Colonel Kearby made the fatal mistake of getting low and slow with a Ki-43 "Oscar" from the 77th Sentai of the JAAF. The AAF's leading proponent of the P-47 in the Pacific was, unbelievably, gone in the blink of an eye.    Rocker Collection

As with so many aircraft shot down over New Guinea, the location of the wreckage of Kearby's 42-22668 was known to certain of the natives living in the area of the shoot-down, resulting in the salvage of the vertical stabilizer several years ago---Neel Kearby's body had been recovered and returned to Texas for burial back in 1948---providing us with a poignant relic of his sacrifice. This artifact is presently on display at the AFM in Dayton, Ohio alongside a P-47 restored in Kearby's markings, a fitting tribute to an exceptional aviator and leader.     Rick Morgan

 And here's the end result of this particular modeling project. The OD is a couple of shades of Testor Model Master manipulated together and weathered with pastels, while the "white" paint on the vertical tail and the leading edges of the wings is Testor 36622 SEA Grey. It looks brilliantly white in the photograph but is quite subdued in person, I promise!! The interior has been modestly enhanced with that Eduard Zoom set we mentioned earlier, although it must be said that the one provided by Tamiya is excellent in its own right and only needs careful painting and a set of belts and harnesses in order to shine. The aftermarket cowl flaps, from Loon, fit the model far better than do the similar items from QuickBoost and are to be recommended. Gun barrels are turned brass items from the folks at Master, and the stickies, as previously mentioned, are from Thundercals. The model looks every inch a "Jug", doesn't it?

Here's a different view of the completed model that illustrates why you need those Loon cowl flaps. Tamiya provides adequate gun barrels, but the ones from Master constitute a significant improvement and are well worth the price of admission and Yes; they're crooked on the model. No; that's not how they're supposed to be. Yes; we're going to fix it! Someday. Maybe...  Additionally, there are a couple of other things you need to watch out for if you're building "Fiery Ginger IV". She used the thinner-bladed (earliest) of the Curtiss Electric props provided in the kit, and she wasn't fitted with under-wing tanks or bomb racks because the wings on the P-47D-4 weren't plumbed for them. She could, however, and often did, carry the 200 gallon "Brisbane" aux tank on her centerline---she had the so-called "Big Belly" mod that referred to the pregnant guppy look her ventral profile acquired when the P-47 design was modified to allow carriage of a belly tank, and most photographs of her on the ground show the tank in place. Both photographs of the model illustrate the auxilliary gun sighting post that was attached to the exterior of the forward fuselage on the P-47, as well as on the P-39 and P-40. It's an essential part of the P-47's character and should be added to the model.

Before we go, let's discuss a couple of notes on the way the model was finished. Most OD over Neutral Grey AAF aircraft serving in the SWPAC were beat to snot from the sun and elements, and their finish showed it. We didn't paint "Fiery Ginger" that way because Kearby was both the 348th's group commander and a recent Medal of Honor winner and we're guessing that she was fairly clean when the photo was taken of her showing all 22 of his kills. Also, check out the "white" on the model's vertical tail; it illustrates the way all of the white looks on the finished product, including those shiny leading edges. That brilliant white on the wings is neither white nor brilliant on the model itself, but the lighting makes it look that way. There's a lesson there, I think.

One final thing before we go: Check out the star design on the aircraft's wheel covers. At least a couple of Kearby's Thunderbolts carried it, and a great many of the 348th's "Jugs" had some sort of personal decoration down there. It's something to watch for if you decide to build an airplane from that particular group, and Nor thoughtfully included the marking on his decal sheet---Thundercals is a Class Act, ya'll!

Many thanks to Nor Graser for the Thundercal samples and, more importantly, for producing his exceptionally high-quality line of 1/48th scale Pacific theater P-47 decals. Now then; would anybody care to make some 77th Sentai markings for the FineMolds Ki-43-II?

Under the Radar

Nowadays we're it seems as though we're choked with reference publications, but it wasn't always so. Way back in the dark ages of plastic scale modeling, serious reference works were few and far between, and often difficult to obtain when they did exist. All of that changed forever back in the mid-60s, with the advent of a modest series of references that ended up filling the gap for an entire generation of scale modelers and enthusiasts.

Where it all began: 10 pages of text and photographs, plus covers which included color artist's renderings of several of the aircraft shown in the text. It was a humble beginning, but by the time it was all said and done the series contained some 250+ aviation titles, and Profile Publications had expanded the range to include armor, warships, automobiles, and small arms as well. I bought my first one for fifty cents at Dibble's Arts and Hobbies in San Antonio back in 1965, and my last for two bucks, give or take (and yes; from the same shop!), making them the bargain of the modeling world both then and now. The text in each one was written by an acknowledged authority in the field, and each one was a sound reference work in spite of the modest size and format---it wasn't at all unusual back then for the serious modeler to go to the hobby shop (a real one, not one made of vaporware) and pick up a new kit and the appropriate Profile to go with it; one-stop shopping, as it were.

In point of fact, the Profile series helped to define an entire generation of scale modelers, and the importance of those modest publications to our hobby cannot be overstated. No, they're not impressive to look at now, but they quite literally set the stage for everything that followed. They were truly a landmark in the world of scale modeling, and we're continually amazed at everything they did for the hobby back when the series was in its prime. They're still worth picking up, and are usually not very expensive when they can be found for sale. You probably won't be able to get away with paying fifty cents for one anymore, but you ought to have at least one of their titles in your collection. They're that important to our hobby.

Happy Snaps

It's been a while, so here's a really tasty air-to-air for you courtesy of Rick Morgan, shot back during his days with Air Wing 14.

The normal thing was to have KA-6Ds serving as tankers back during the early 80s, but the straight-up attack variant of the type was perfectly capable of hauling a buddy store and refueling a strike package too, as illustrated by this VA-196 A-6E in flight over the Pacific. Rick's got an eye for this sort of thing and we're really pleased to be able to share the image with you today. Thanks, Morgo!   R Morgan

The Relief Tube

It's been so long since we've run a Relief Tube that some of our newer readers may not be aware that we do it. We've got some entries that are long-overdue for publication, however, so it's time to crank it up again!

First up are a couple of comments regarding that VAQ-33 EF-4J who's portrait we published a few issues back. We'd mentioned the airplane was pretty much an ordinary F-4J, but we were wrong! Let the games begin, first from noted aviation photographer and Phormer Phantom (and Tomcat) driver Jan Jacobs:

Phil, the VAQ-33 EF-4J wasn't really a "run-of-the-mill F-4J" It was in the first batch of F-4Js made, and served as Blue Angel #6 for a while. Along with the others in its block, it had J79-GE-8 engines installed with the short burner cans, instead of the usual -10 engines with the longer cans. It never had a radar set installed, hence its use by VAQ-33 as a missile simulator. Jan Jacobs (Retired managing editor, The Hook magazine, former editor of Smoke Trails, and former Phantom and Tomcat puke)  Thanks, Jan!

And then from Rick Morgan, who took the photo in question and was assigned to VAQ-33 at the time:

Phil: Concerning GD11, the EF-4J you posted, as usual, there’s more to the story. VAQ-33 had at least five Phantoms at various times although never more than three were on-board at any one time. The first three were F-4Bs, one of which (GD9, 153070) was formally re-designated EF-4B. The two J-models weren't exactly standard as they were from early lots before the J got the ‘big’ motor; note the F-4B style afterburner can on her. GD10 (153076) and 11 (153084) were both redesignated EF-4J and are the only two I know of to get that title officially. GD11 was also a former Blue Angel as well; They carried a threat simulator in the nose in lieu of the normal AI radar and were used for very high speed anti-ship missile presentations. Both were retired in 1980 due to high flight hour costs and, according to more than one source, because the CO really didn’t like fighters (I’m not making this up!). Among the F-4 pilots we had was the legendary LCDR Joe “Hoser” Satrapa who was but one character in a squadron full of them.  Rick

And while we're discussing the F-4, here's former USAF and ANG Phantom Driver Doug Barbier's comments regarding that out-of-shape missed approach 149th bird who's photo we ran an issue or so back:

Phil,  betcha that 149th F-4 sideways on the go-around was the result of the back seater trying to land the airplane. Several of our high time WSOs could do formation takeoffs and landings very proficiently. Landing from the back seat of an F-4 was challenging, to say the least, esp if the airplane had the RHAW gear installed - that blocked up one of the two small "holes" you could look through to see out the front. You hoped for a crosswind so that you could look out the side instead of seeing nothing but the back side of the front ejection seat. If there wasn't a crosswind, you were sorely tempted to fly sideways down final anyway, just so that you could see something---like concrete... If you had to go straight at it, you could not see the runway until you were about 10 feet in the air. You had a couple of seconds to use your peripheral vision to check that you had runway on both sides of you. If not, you had a very short period of time to get both throttles fire-walled and get it headed skywards again!  Doug

Thanks to all those military aviators out there who write in to keep us honest. It's an education each time/every time and we really appreciate it!

We've been pretty remiss in publishing anything of late, and as a result several of our newer readers have contacted us regarding certain of our older issues. This comment is in regard to the FJ-4B as fitted to carry the Mk 7 Special Weapon and comes from reader Dennis Brown:

My research shows that the lack of guns and the odd ports on the port side were done when carrying nuclear bombs. The gun bay was used to carry a standby generator that was used for the low altitude bombing system (LABS). The LABS replaced the normal gun sight. I've included your photo and an excerpt from an article about the FJ-4B I've come across, as well as the web address of the article for your confirmation (not run in this issue, Ed). Sincerely Dennis Brown 

 P.S.- I sincerely hope this helps someone that may choose to recreate this in a scale model.

Thanks, Dennis. As it happens, we did run a correction in a later edition, but your comments are very much appreciated---keep 'em coming!

Most of the time we hear from Pat Donahue regarding the superb models he builds, but the photo of that Grumman Goose we ran a few issues back prompted him to show us a whole new side of things:

Phil, I always enjoy your blog; here are a couple of Goose mods that have occurred over the long history of the machine. The first is a 4 engine job that was built by McKinnon the second is a G-21G that had the 2 P and W R-985 450 HP engines replaced by 2 P and W PT-6-27 715 HP, McKinnon also did this conversion. As you can see the lines of the old girl were dramatically changed! I flew this Goose for a number of years and it had quite good performance, and preformed quite well on one engine, McKinnon also upped the take off weight to 12,500 #.  Pat Donahue

The McKinnon-built four-engined Goose as flown by reader Pat Donahue. Sometimes we really envy our readers their jobs! Thanks, Pat, but with an apology! Pat provided us with two photos, one of which was that re-engined G-21G, but we were unable to open the file for an air-to-air he provided. Maybe next time!     Donahue Collection

Finally, it's been a while since this blog has been published. It's all my fault for letting Life get in the way of a highly erratic publishing schedule, but that sort of thing happens when you're a one-man show! This letter from one of our readers in Greece sums the whole thing up, and illustrates why I continue this project---I firmly believe I've got the best readers in the world. Thanks to each and every one of you!

Dear Phillip, It has been almost 3 months that I've been reading your blog with great interest. Very good information (a Pandora's box!) and lots of fun (I love the way you're writing) I've been reading your posts from 2010 and getting towards 2014-I'm at 2011 now- checking occasionally for the newest posts. I noticed that your latest post was on October 17th 2014. Is everything OK? I hope you and your family are all right. I wish to all of you good health, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Looking forward for a new post from you. Keep up the good work and May The Force Be With You. Best wishes,  Elias Trapezanlides 

And thanks to you, Elias, for both your concern and for your loyalty to the project! I'll try to do better in 2015!

That's about it for today, folks. I've got a few more entries for the relief tube including a set of photos from Norm that I'd like to share with you, but that's for another day. Until that time, be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon!