Sunday, August 9, 2015

Flying!, Something Out of the Ordinary, Pirates, Hold That Tiger!, Charlie in Kentucky, and Some Scary Days

Tighten Up!

You'd never know it just by looking, but in theory this project is one heavily related to scale modeling, so scale modeling is what we're going to talk about today, or at least we're going to talk about one aspect of it---getting better at doing it.

Scale modeling is one of those learn-as-you-go things. No amount of reading the modeling boards, buying the overpriced how-to-build-the-whatever-it-is books, or buying the most expensive kits and tools can make up for a lack of basic skills. Nope; the only way you're going to learn how to build good models is to build until you acquire the skill-sets necessary to get you where you want to go. As a corollary, you're going to have to build "crummy" kits, or short-run kits (often the same as "crummy", in case you were wondering about that) as well as the latest whiz-bang marvels from the "good" manufacturers in order to develop the skill sets necessary to become a journeyman or expert modeler. There's no substitute for time in the saddle on this one---you have to put in the time to become a good modeler.

That said, here's a little trick that will help you more than you can possibly imagine in your ongoing search for improved skills: Change your modeling philosophy! That's right---change the whole way you look at the hobby.

To get to the point, most of us build unified models, for want of a better word, detailing them as we go along but always working on the philosophy that the model is the model and everything else goes into it or on it. It's one. It's a Whole. It's a model, but what's that model made of?

What if, instead of building a model, one each, of the object of your affection, we built a whole bunch of little models instead, and then put them all together in the big model? What if we made the cockpit a model, a project in and of itself, and then did the same thing for the gear wells, the gear doors, the landing gear, the wheels and tires, or anything else that's part of the greater assembly that becomes what you see on the shelf as a completed project? What if we built up a pair of 250lb GP bombs for our P-47 and made them models in and of themselves, stand-alone bomb models, properly assembled, painted, decalled, and weathered and capable of being added to said Thunderbolt, laid on the ground beside it in a diorama, or just displayed separately?

What if, instead of building an interior, we made the seat a stand-alone model that could be displayed outside the aircraft if desired? What if we did the same thing to the control stick that goes in that interior?

What if we did that with each and every subassembly of the model, in essence creating a scale model made up of many smaller scale models? Holy cow! That's revolutionary! Then again, maybe it isn't.

The simple fact of the matter is that those guys and girls who win the contests, most of them anyway, use that technique and pretty much always have. There's a reason those folks build models that look better than yours or mine; they're putting in the time to build up everything that's going to be seen when the model is finished and they're doing it one step at a time, as a series of mini-projects. You can call it super-detailing, and a lot of people do, but at the end of the day all those folks are really doing is building up a bunch of little models to the highest standard they're capable of and then installing them in the object that will become the completed model. That's it. That's all there is to it.

Of course, you're still going to have to learn all the basic skills in order to do things that way, and that takes us right back to the learning curve we were obliquely discussing at the beginning of this ramble. There's no getting around that one. On the other hand, that simple change of approach we just discussed will make things happen a lot more quickly for you as you progress with the hobby. It'll make you a better modeler, and it'll make you better faster than any other way we can think of. It's a win/win, if you catch my drift.

I rest my case!

Just For the Fun of It

Our first image for the day comes from Rick Morgan, who sent it out to a consortium of people with the comment that there was once a time when a military aviator could, within reason, jump into an airplane and just go flying.

And here's what that looks like! The airplane is a well-worn Reserve F4U-4 from Los Alamitos, the time period is 1948-49, and the pilot is to all appearances just enjoying the day! To be fair about things, it would appear that there are practice rockets on the wing stations so it's entirely reasonable to presume that he's heading out to the range to make smoke and noise, but we wouldn't be too surprised if he didn't have a cigarette en route or maybe on his way back to the home drome while enjoying a gorgeous day in the air. In any event, this photo is one of those that embodies the spirit of flight and we're grateful to Rick for sharing it with us.   Navy via R Morgan

A Little Known Invader

A while back we ran a couple of B-26C images from John Horne's collection that were of a variant unknown to a lot of folks; the RB-26C. Some 46 aircraft of that sub-type were available to the USAF's tactical recon wings at the start of the Korean conflict and were used extensively for night reconnaissance work therein, and more than a few went in hard in that most dangerous of occupations. The antenna suite of those aircraft make them unique among the Invader family, and John's been kind enough to mark up a photo of an 11th TRS bird to help us understand what's going on there.

 The airplane is 44-35825, built initially as a straight A-26C-50-DT and subsequently converted to RB-26C configuration. The 11th TRS was operating her out of Kimpo when this image was taken, and it depicts the aircraft's antenna suite in sufficient detail to allow us a pretty good idea of what's happening in that regard. Also of interest is the exhaust staining on the aircraft's nacelles; it's very typical of the A-26 and therefore an essential component of an accurate scale model of the type.   John Horne Collection

Here, also from John's collection, is a shot of the AN/APA-17B:

Many thanks to john for taking the time to dig up the AN/APA-17B image, and for marking up that view of 44-35825, so we could better understand the airplane.   John Horne Collection

I Wish We Knew

As has been mentioned a great many times before, Bobby Rocker is a constant contributor to this project. Most of the photography he provides to us is well-documented, but every once in a while he comes across images that aren't. That's the case today, as we look at several PB4Y-1 Privateer shots. Bobby doesn't know the unit or location, although we suspect they're stationed somewhere in or near Morotai or the Philippines in early 1945 (although that's an educated guess!). If you know what's going on, we'd like to hear from you! That address is, as always (just ask any of those spam dudes!)  .

Let's start off with "Doc's Delight". Besides that classic artwork, check out the names of crew member's wives and sweethearts painted adjacent to their respective locations in the aircraft. A nice touch, we think!   Rocker Collection

And here's "The Snooper" for your edification. Also of interest in this shot is the internal detail of the bomb bay doors, the aux fuel tank in the forward bomb bay, and the extraordinarily coarse tread on that nosewheel tire. The background information on this photo says "Morotai" so there's a good chance that where it was taken, but then again maybe not. Bobby wasn't any too certain so we're not either!   Rocker Collection

And here's "Reputation Cloudy". The artwork is a little rowdier on this aircraft, and there's a fair amount of over-painting of side numbers on her nose.   Rocker Collection

Here's our final image, "Rugged Beloved". We get another look at the forward bomb-bay fuel tank installation in this shot, as well as an exceptional depiction of the way the bomb-bay doors rolled upwards on the Privateer and Liberator families of aircraft. We all know about the exploits of the PB4Y-1's younger brother, the PB4Y-2, but the -1 did yeoman service in the Pacific and is well worth investigation and documentation.   Rocker Collection

Thanks again to Bobby for his unselfish sharing of the images of one of the most remarkable periods in our history!

Shark Mouthed Cats

Those of you who are fans of naval aviation are probably well aware that VF-21 flew the Grumman F11F-1 Tiger operationally before becoming the East Coast RAG for the type. Rick Morgan recently came by a couple of fascinating photographs courtesy of naval aviation photography and historian Bob Lawson, and is sharing them with us today. Here are his comments about the photos:

Phil- a couple of shots for the blog. I got these through Bob Lawson; they show VF-21 F11Fs on Forrestal during a 3-month period with CVG-8 in Forrestal (CVA 59) off the East Coast in 1958. They were filling the ‘day fighter’ role within CVG-8 for this at sea period with VF-82, flying F3H Demons, holding the ‘night fighter’ slot. Within a few months the “Mach Busters” would be moved to the new Replacement Air Group, RCVG-4 and become a training squadron for east coast F11Fs and redesignated VF-43.

Pretty maids all in a row! Bet you've never seen this many Tigers on a boat at one time, have you? The F11F was a gorgeous airplane no matter how you looked at it, and Fighting 21 flew the prettiest markings (as well as the most aggressive!) of them all.  Lawson via R Morgan

The F11F was unique in so many ways, it's easy to lose track of them all. One look at this photo shows one of the more obvious anomalies; the wings folded downwards instead of up and, if memory serves, they were manually folded. The vertical stab had a small fuel cell in it to facilitate taxiing without having to use up precious JP-5 from the main tanks (few 1950s jets could boast of much in the way of range, and the Tiger was quite possibly the worst of them all---video killed the radio star and short legs did in the prettiest of the Grumman fighters), and the arresting hook folded forward into the fuselage, upside down, rather than aft. It was an innovative design to say the least!   Lawson via R Morgan.

There's so much more we could say about the Tiger, but today's not going to be the day. Stay tuned, though; you just never know what might show up on these pages!

And We Thought We Had It Figured Out

It wasn't all that long ago that we were showing you a couple of straight up F-101C Voodoos that were serving with the Nevada ANG. That was an amazing thing because Nevada never officially flew the Charlie (their 101s were all of the converted RF-101H variety) and we duly published the photos at hand and moved on, saving another batch of photos for another day. We should've looked a little more closely at the photos, because there was another "real" F-101C lurking in the stack! Without further ado, but with a little bit of embarrassment, is an image of that aircraft:

Holy cow, ya'll! Where'd that come from! Kentucky's 165th TRS/123rd TRW was a National Guard outfit that was tasked with the photo recon mission and that, much like those Nevada birds, never had a tactical fighter mission with the 101, which makes F-101C-40-MC 54-1488 that much more of an oddball. We suspect she was in the same situation as those Reno birds, marked for the unit prior to conversion but never actually operated in the fighter role while there. She's not much for markings, just a pilot's name above the U.S. AIR FORCE logo on her nose and the word "Kentucky" on her vertical, but that state name is enough to make her stand out. She ended up at MASDC in the early 70s, as did so many of her sisters but was around long enough to provide us with a unique image to treasure while she was active.    RA Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

And in the spirit of Better Late Than Never, Doug Barbier was apparently on line when we pushed the Magic Twanger to publish this edition of the blog---he came back almost immediately with an obvious answer to the reason those two ANG units had straight-up fighter variant F-101Cs on strength. Let's let him explain and spare everyone the wait for another edition and its Relief Tube entry!

Phil, If I had to guess, those F-101Cs assigned to Nevada were there for proficiency trainers while the fleet was converted to the H model. The Michigan Guard had half a dozen plain jane F-84F models at Detroit Metro back in the late 1950s for the same reason - there just were not enough of the recces available so they drove the basic fighter versions around just to get some flying time. And speaking of just jumping in and going - that is exactly the way it used to be. In interviewing one of our old Michigan Guard pilots, he told me that in 1949 he came out to interview with the squadron commander, was hired on the spot & the boss told him to go downstairs, grab a parachute, pick out a Mustang on the flight line & get himself current again. No paperwork, no verification, no I.D. badge, no nothing - just pick one & go. Even through the RF-101 era in the early 70s, we used to keep at least one RF-101C parked on the Guard ramp at O'Hare for our airline pilots to fly. Rather than get in off of a trip & have to go over to Detroit, there was a Voodoo sitting there waiting for them. When it was time for the UTA weekend, they flipped a coin to see who got to fly it over to Detroit. On Sunday, maintenance would have another jet ready to go back. It was a different time.... Doug

Thanks, Doug!

Where Were You in '62?

October of 1962 was one of the scariest times in American history, a month in which the Soviet Union and the United States looked each other in the eye, each waiting for the other to blink. There's a lot to that story, far more than we're able to cover in this modest effort, but we can show you a couple of pictures you probably haven't seen before that date back to that time and, more specifically, to The Cuban Missile Crisis. The possibility of Armageddon came in many forms in the Fall of 1962.

 Cocked, locked, and ready to rock, these Boeing B-47Es from the 307th BW sit loaded on the ramp ready to go. The B-47 was such a pretty aircraft that it was easy to overlook its original purpose. The type finished out its career as a weather and ELINT platform, but there were still quite a few bombers around in 1962 that were on active duty when the call came.    USAF via Mark Morgan

That sign in the foreground is telling would-be kibitzers to stay away from the airplanes or get shot. The fate of the world hung in the balance during that terrible month, and the guys in the blue suits weren't taking any chances!   USAF via Mark Morgan

Here's 52-0417 on the ramp, ready to go. The 307th dispersed to various civilian fields throughout the CONUS during the crisis in order to complicate targeting for the other side, resulting in one instance in an aircraft commander of the wing paying for fuel with his personal credit card. A quick visit to the 307th Association's web site (  ) can provide some interesting details of this period in the wing's history.   USAF via Mark Morgan

Let's go out the way we came in, with a ramp shot of a 4-ship det from the 307th sitting in the sunshine in what could have been the last days of peace. We can all be grateful to the guys in the wing for being there when they were needed the most, and equally glad that the call never came!   USAF via Mark Morgan

The Relief Tube

We've received several comments of interest in the past few weeks and it's time to share! First up is a clarification from reader Tom Smith:

Dear Phil, I just recently discovered the Replica in Scale blog and could not be happier. I am one of those "of a certain age" who remembers the original magazines as I bought them new at the local hobby shop. Finding the blog is like coming upon a long lost family heirloom. The medium has changed, the content is refreshingly familiar. I spent some time looking through past blogs and came upon a picture that brought a bit of a smile to my face. In the September 16, 2014 blog there was a picture from the archives of John Horne showing an A-26C on the ramp at Iwakuni AB circa 1951, tail number 44-34535. The name on the nose was "Noop Gnat II". Your description referred to the "Gnat". Don't know if anyone else commented on the name but it actually refers to one of the primary sources of inspiration for military men wherever they are (the order of these inspirations change depending on the then current situation). Take the name Noop Gnat and reverse the spelling for each. QED.    Tom Smith

Here's the photo in question:

Thanks for explaining this one, Tom! I'm a little embarrassed to say that you're the first one to catch this, or at least the first to write in about it. It gives a whole different spin to that old National Geographic article "Fun Helped Them Fight"!   Photo via John Horne Collection

Here's a clarification we received a couple of weeks ago regarding that photo of "Little Sir Echo"that might be of interest:

About "Little Sir Echo" - this P-39 was flown in New Guinea by Lyndall Tate, a friend of my father's in the 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Group. I have been editing my father's diary and researching the history around it, and can add this to the discussion: Tate's wife was named Echo. (Back to Greek mythology: Echo was a nymph who was cursed by Zeus's wife Hera so that she could no longer speak except to repeat words. . . . I don't know why she was named Echo, but she was.) This makes the name on Tate's warplane of a piece with the names for the rest of the squadron (Maxine, Ruby etc). Tate may also have had a daughter named for her mother. I have read your blog before, while working on the diary, and it has been helpful. I do not know if the message that I posted (above) made it to your blog page, so if you can put it up, maybe other readers will be interested. The Pacific Wrecks speaks of two victory flags being painted on this aircraft, but I do not think Tate made any such claims or was awarded any victories. The earliest victory for the 82nd Squadron was by Delta Graham, in I think December 1943. (I think you have posted, or Robert Rocker has collected, a photo of Lt. Graham standing beside his P-39, "Maxine.) Tate stayed in the Air Force after the war, and eventually retired as a colonel or lieutenant-colonel. He was on a champion skeet-shooting team in the European area in 1956. In the earlier 1950's, they were at air bases in Texas, and in the 1960's in and around Bakersfield. Tate died in 2008. Echo I have not been able to trace but she may have died much earlier.   Thanks, Allen Boyer

Thanks for the insight, Allen, and for your kind comments regarding the blog!

Every once in a while we'll receive a request for information from a reader that we can't field. Here's one such inquiry, regarding a post-War 49th FG P-51D:

Hi Phillip,.....I'm looking for some photographs of P-51s in the 49th from April 30, 1947 to May 27, 1948. My Dad's P-51 (from the 40th FS, 35th FG) was transferred to the 49th during that time frame. In May of 1948 it was sold/given to the IDF and served there till it was really obsolete. Long story but it is NOW being restored in CA. I visited it a month ago, it's in pieces but about 70% original. I want to give the owner some options of the final markings of his a/c. I have photos of it while in the 40th FS....but none while it was in the 49th FG. I don't know which squadron it was assigned to in the 49th. My Dad was in the 7th FS of the 49th FG from late '48 to early '50 but was flying the F-80 then. Anyway....any assistance or advice you could give would be much appreciated. 

Here's the history card of the Mustang in question.

The comings and goings of any and all of the 5th AF units during the immediate post-War period is of considerable interest to us as well. If you can help, please drop us a line at  . Spammers need not apply!!!

And one final note before we go: We're constantly on the lookout for previously unpublished F-104 material around here, and have recently had an inquiry regarding testing of the AIR-2 Genie missile on an F-104A bailed to the NAV at NAS Point Mugu. Photos would be great, but any information at all would be of considerable help. By now you surely know the address...

That's it for this thrilling installment, but with any luck we'll see you again soon. Until then, be good to your neighbor!