Sunday, March 22, 2015

That Modular Thing Again, Hogs, A Ragged Hun, Tommy's Lightning, Two More From Biak, and a Voodoo or Two

So What's the Point?

It's been tough to get motivated lately, at least in terms of building something, which in turn made me think about why such things happen. For me it's a pretty easy equation since at the end of the day it all comes down to one of two things; laziness (the usual suspect) or general disinterest in Things Plastic at that particular point in time. It's a transitional situation at its worst and generally passes fairly quickly, but thinking about it got me considering other reasons why people don't finish models, which in turn reminded me of someone I used to know a very long time ago which, also in turn, brought me to the point of today's mindless ramble: The Perfectionist.

I used to know a guy a long time ago, back in the 60s, who was working on a 72nd-scale F-4 of some sort. (For the purpose of understanding this essay it's important for us to remember that, back in those days, there were only a handful of choices if you wanted to build a Phantom; the Airfix B-model that was later morphed into an E, the Revell B, and the Hasegawa J. Those kits were, and it's important to keep this in mind, the primordial 1/72nd scale F-4 models in our hobby. They were the first of the first, and they all were released before Monogram raised the bar beyond measure in 1967-68 with their 1/72nd scale P-51B and F8F-2.) He was, if memory serves, working off the Hasegawa kit, which was poor in the extreme and best described as a Tough Date, but it was available, kindof, and was therefore the starting place for a great many F-4J and F-4D models of the era.

There were a couple of different ways we approached the accuracy part of scale modeling way back then, in those primordial days before the existence of aftermarket. One way was to ignore the warts and just build the darned model, while the other way was to make an attempt at gathering accurate references so we could correct whatever kit we were working with and build something worthwhile. Most of the people I knew back them opted for an amalgam of the two philosophies, fixing what they could and ignoring the rest, but there was always that one guy who wanted his model to be a 100% nuts-on accurate replica of the Real Thing, to include every panel line, every piece of landing gear linkage, and so on and so forth. In short, That Guy raised his own personal bar so high that the F-4 could never, ever be finished, not by the hand of mortal man and certainly not in the allotted lifespan of any representative of homo sapiens.

It should be obvious from reading the above and taking the somewhat glaring leap of philosophical faith regarding That Guy's approach to scale modeling that the F-4 never was completed. The project may still exist for all I know, sitting in a box someplace because there's just too much work in it to throw it away, but it's an absolute certainty that the thing isn't done and never will be.

Let's jump forward to Right Now, a time and place where new kits can be every bit as inaccurate as the ones we fought with Way Back When but are far more frequently released and are of increasingly esoteric subjects---it would seem that every major aircraft type (except, of course for the FJ-3) has been, or is about to be, released as a kit by somebody or other. Since most of those kits aren't as good, accuracy-wise, as the kits Monogram was beginning to issue way back in 1968, there's a certain temptation to do a little correcting of the plastic, and that brings us to The Point, with apologies to Harry Nilsson.

Most days I'll spend at least a couple of minutes looking at the scale modeling boards I frequent, and at least once a week I'll see somebody's model on one of those sites that is so well done and intricately detailed as to make the casual observer think he or she is looking at The Real Thing rather than a scale representation of same. There are, and there's absolutely no doubt about it, some truly amazing modelers out there; people that are so incredibly good at what they're doing that you'd think scale perfection has actually been achieved. That's what you'd think, but at the end of the day the only way anyone is going to achieve 100% fidelity is to own a real airplane, or AFV, or whatever the object of that particular modeler's desire might be, and on top of that; to own one that's totally unrestored to boot. Scale modelers are, by inference and to an extent by definition, masters of illusion. Yes, the work that the masters of our hobby produce is amazing almost beyond belief, but at the end of it all there will still be places in the best of models where something was omitted, simplified, or glossed over in order to achieve the proper effect. The best we can do is pretty much the best we can do, regardless of how good we are. The guys who are really good at this whole scale modeling thing understand and appreciate that fact for the most part and, most importantly, they work with the skill-sets they've got. Yes, they aspire to do better on the next model; that's the nature of their approach to the hobby, but, unlike our friend That Guy from the beginning of this essay, they actually finish their projects and display them. They understand and accept limitations and deal with them. They finish things.

The reason I'm saying this is a simple one. Remember that part where I said that I read the boards most days and that I often see amazing work displayed on said boards? Well, there's a corollary there, because just as often I'll read a post from someone who's bemoaning their lack of skills and blaming that perceived lack of ability for not attempting to build whatever kit it is that they want to build but won't, all because they don't think they're good enough. Those folks won't stretch out beyond their present skill sets because they don't want to mess something up, and they blame it on that supposed lack of skills which honestly won't ever improve if they don't stretch out a bit and try something that's a little more difficult than they think they can accomplish. I'm privileged to run with a group of scale modelers that possess far greater ability at our hobby than I have ever had or ever will have, and I have yet to hear one of them ever say that they'd absolutely nailed a model and that it was perfect. What I have heard them say is how they could have done better on this thing or that thing, and how they learned from  a mistake, and how the next model will be better because of it.

That Guy never finished his Phantom, and he never will. I've finished most of what I've started throughout my scale modeling career, and for the most part I'm happy with what I've done because I enjoyed whatever the kit was and, more importantly, I've learned from the experience. Real Good is possible and achievable, as is Excellent. Perfect, generally speaking, is not, so there's no point in putting off the building of something because you don't think you're good enough to do it. You will have learned from the experience even if you gome things up, and your next model will be better as a result of your efforts, so lighten up and enjoy our hobby.

I rest my case.

An Easier Way to Do It

Our regular readers are probably all sick to death of hearing me say how easy it is to build any given aircraft model in a series of modular components, but that's the truth of the matter, in my world at least. Here's yet another example of How That Works for your edification:

The object of our affection today is Hasegawa's 1/32nd scale Me109F-4, representing the aircraft of Ofw. Eberhard von Boremski of 9/JG 3 as flown during late May or early June, 1942 time frame, after the aircraft had been picked up during a unit re-fit in Germany and flown to the Soviet Union for combat. In this view, the airframe has been roughly painted and decalled. The tailwheel has been permanently attached but those main mounts are just pressed into place to allow me to gain an idea of how the completed model will appear. They were removed minutes after this shot was taken so I could go back and finish the paintwork---that may seem suicidal since the aircraft is already decalled, but having the markings in place really helps in refining and "tightening up" things up. Those stub mounts for the wings that Hasegawa puts on their big 109 kits ensures proper dihedral and the wings fit like the proverbial glove if you've been careful with your assembly---note the painted and assembled, but not yet installed, starboard wing resting under the aircraft's empennage. Some kits just invite you to build them this way, and the big Hasegawa 109s could be the poster children for that philosophy.

Here's what it looks like when the big pieces start to come together. The wings will be removed so the paintwork can be accurized and trimmed up, and then permanently re-installed. There's still quite a bit of work to go, but the model is definitely beginning to take on the character of Boremski's "Maxi" and is looking pretty good, at least to my eye. Aftermarket on this one consists of a set of Aires 109F wheels and some Eduard belts and harnesses. Decals are from Eagle Editions and paint is my personal favorite and highly ubiquitous Testor ModelMaster enamel. A lot of airplanes can be built in subassemblies if you think your way through the process prior to starting and then take your time fitting things up once you begin to put things together.

With any luck this project will be completed by the next issue so you can see how it turned out. In the meantime, why don't you consider this assembly philosophy for yourself? Not all kits lend themselves to it, but most modern ones do, and it will simplify your scale modeling life beyond measure. After all, you'll never know if you can use the technique or not if you don't try it!

That Bent-Wing Bird

Every once in a while we manage to come up with just enough photography of a particular topic to make us wish there was more, in order to allow a more complete photo essay to be prepared for your viewing. The trouble with that sort of thing takes us back to the essay we began this issue with---if we wait until we've got what we want there's a fair chance we'll never show you what we've got! With that said, here are a few images of Chance Vought's immortal Corsair sent to us many months ago by way of the Tailhook Association. They're somewhat of a hodge-podge, but are well worth your time! Let's take a look:

Let's start with an F4U-5 as seen at the NATC during testing in 1948. The aircraft is very much a Plain Jane although its armament, and that propeller treatment, make it well worth modeling. The 5-inch HVARs under the wings and the three gasbags under the aircraft's center section encourage a second look, don't they?   Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Newer members of the Corsair family were very much in evidence in the NAV and the Corps by 1949, but at least one older variant was still very much in evidence. These aircraft are F4U-4s from VMF-323, taken at MCAS El Toro during 1949. It's worth noting that the overall finish on these aircraft is somewhat the worse for wear, perhaps reflecting the austerity imposed on America's armed forces during those pre-Korean War days. The paintwork on those rocket rails is worth a second look too---we don't ever see that particular representation on a model, do we?   Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

By 1953, VMF-323 had traded in its F4U-4s for AU-1s, a type far-better suited for the Corsair's air-to-mud role during the Korean War. This particular aircraft is carrying a full load of 500 and 1,000-lb GP bombs and is thoroughly ready to rumble. We suspect the target for the day is fairly close to the airfield since there seems to be no requirement for external fuel.   Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

The AU-1 managed to become the last of the Corsairs in US service, lasting until 1957 in the reserves. 129411 was one such survivor, shown here on the ground at NAS Glenview during her final days with the Corps. Note the GSB drop tank on her center section; it was scarcely necessary for all the paint to match by this point in the "U-Bird's" career.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Here's a nose-on view of 129411 to end our day with. The AU-1 was optimized for ground support, thus necessitating all of those under-wing stations. By 1957 the Corsair's survival in a "real" war would have been highly problematical, but she was just the ticket for the conflicts she found herself employed in. Those guys at Chance Vought knew how to design and build an airplane!   Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Still a Pretty Girl

Some airplanes look great in camouflage, and some don't. At the beginning of the Vietnam War North American Aviation's F-100D Super Sabre, aka the "Hun", was TAC's workhorse, the USAF's first true supersonic fighter, and PACAF's all-around cowboy, an aircraft assigned to a myriad of Pacific air bases and performing virtually every task the command required of a single-seat aircraft.

By mid-War, the F-100 had largely been relegated to the role of mud-moving, as exemplified by 56-3191, an F-100D-75-NA who's peacetime silver had long-since given way to a coat of wartime camouflage.

November 25, 1967, saw 3191 assigned to the 309th TFS/31st TFW operating in South Vietnam, heavily engaged in tactical air strikes on enemy forces in that country. This superb photograph graphically illustrates how the then-new SEA scheme weathered out in just a few short months of operation. The paintwork has burned off her aft fuselage, as you might expect on an F-100, but there are other signs of severe weathering as well, such as the large area of Mil-P-8585 primer evident on her canopy frame. The 15" national insignia on her fuselage is badly stained, and her upper-surface paintwork is rapidly becoming a patchwork quilt of various shades of green. Two other things are of particular interest in this shot. First, it's still early enough in the conflict that she's carrying the original F-100 afterburner rather than the F-102 burner that was fitted later on. She's also wearing silver pylons under her wings, an anomaly often observed, particularly in the early stages of F-100 camouflage in theater. 3191 survived the war to be converted into a QF-100D drone---she served right up to the end!   Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

They Aren't All Public Domain

World War II Photographs, that is. A great many shots from that conflict were in fact taken by our government in the operational areas, but many others were taken by the people flying and working on the aircraft. These images are, we believe, two of those that were taken by an average GI with a camera. They're from Bobby Rocker's collection, and we hope you'll enjoy them.

Tommy McGuire's "Pudgy" is legendary among P-38s, and has been well-represented over the years. Bobby sent us these images a while back, and they appear to have come from someone's private album rather than the National Archives, a fact that makes them unique enough to run today. Our first image is apparently of "Pudgy II" and something significant stands out in this photo, at least to us: The prop tips are not done in Insignia Yellow per regulation. It wouldn't be that unusual early on (look at any number of P-39 photos, for example), but it's fairly late in the war on Biak and most of the 475th's Lightnings were painted as called for by the regs. If you're a modeler it's all in the details!   Rocker Collection

Farther on down the road: Here's a detail of "Pudgy IV's" scoreboard, complete with pilot and crew names. As a general rule we crop our photographs in order to eliminate the white borders, but in this case we've left them as-is so you can read the legend on the shot: "Our ace of the air". Like so many of the top-scoring American pilots in the Pacific McGuire didn't survive the war, but his exploits were the stuff of legend. Let's raise a glass!   Rocker Collection

And While We're At It...

Our contributors often send photography to us in multiples, as is the case in this instance. We were obviously excited to receive the two shots of Tommy McGuire's "Pudgy", but were equally excited by the other two images that accompanied them. Let's take a look!

This particular P-40N is from the 49th FG's 8th FS, and was on Biak when the photo was taken. The aircraft provides us with an excellent example of the way aircraft weathered out in the SWPAC, and wears some interesting artwork as well. She's carrying bomb racks on her wings and is, all in all, a fair representation of the way the 49th's N's looked towards the end of 1944. All we need now is a shot of her tail!   Rocker Collection

And here's another 475th P-38L, this time at Mokmer Strip on Biak. "Mary" doesn't have the notoriety achieved by "Pudgy IV", but she provides us with yet another glimpse into life in the 5th Air Force. That may (or may not!) be her pilot on the left, but we're almost certain that's her crew chief standing on the right side of the photo. Take a look at their faces: "Pride" is a word that comes to mind!   Rocker Collection

Early Witchdoctors

If you're a fan of The Silver Air Force, then you're by default a fan of the McDonnell (not McDonnell Douglas!) F-101 Voodoo family of tactical aircraft. A couple of weeks ago we were having one of those electronic conversations with Mark Nankivil and the subject of F-101s came up. I asked if he might have a few images to share and he said Yes, after which the in-box became the object of affection for a veritable flood of Voodoo images. We're sharing a few of those, but only a few, with you today. Stand by, though; there are most assuredly more to come!

In the beginning, more or less. McAir was building aircraft for both sides of the street during the 1950s. Here we have an early (and still GSB) F3H Demon performing a tanking exercise with 53-2425, an F-101A-5-MC. Both types would go on to fame and the undying interest of the world's aviation enthusiasts, but only the Voodoo would see combat. Both aircraft were cutting edge platforms in their day, but the Demon turned out to be a dead end, although it managed to sire one of aviation's most enduring legends, the F4H Phantom, before its passing. The F-101 was a far more versatile platform from the very beginning and ended up performing three distinctly separate missions in three different air forces before its ultimate demise. Who do that voodoo that you do so well?   Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Early days for the photo-recon 101. 54-0150 was one of two YRF-101A-10-MC recon birds built (54-0149 was the other). The placard in front of the airplane describes the type's use in Operation Sun Run, a 1957 speed record attempt by the 363rd TRW's RF-101Cs. The Voodoo was nothing if not fast, a trait that would come in handy a few short years later over Southeast Asia.   Rick Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

By 1964 the Voodoo had seen the tiger; RF-101Cs of the Air Force's Able Mable project had been stationed in Southeast Asia and had begun limited combat operations over Laos during 1962 utilizing aircraft from both the 15th and 45th TRS. The early attempt at camouflage illustrated here managed to make it to the war, and your editor can vividly remember seeing two different camouflaged RF-101s on the 45th's ramp at Misawa during early 1965. RF-101A-30-MC, 54-1514, is shown here wearing a version of the new camouflage at an open house on the McDonnell ramp. As an A-model, 1514 didn't make it to the war but was lost in an accident near Franklin, NC, during 1966, a grim reminder that peacetime operations could be ever bit as deadly as those taking place in a conflict. It was never a safe occupation.   Rick Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

The Air Defense Command got into the Voodoo game too, with the two-place F-101B. 56-0232 was the prototype for the variant, an F-101B-35-MC. She's shown here taxiing in after a flight in August of 1962. The F-101 never really made it as a heavy fighter, but her speed, adaptability, and relatively long legs made her ideal for the photo-recon and interceptor roles. We'll see more of her next issue!   D Ostrowski via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

And that's it for this issue. March has proven to be an extraordinarily busy month for us and we've barely had time to accomplish much of anything in the way of aviation. With any luck we'll make it all up to you next time.

Meanwhile, be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon.