Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Mystery Airacobras, The Son of The Son of Neptune Returns, A Texas T-Bird, A Pretty Talon, and Some Nifty 109 Stuff

Stomp, Shout, Work It On Out, Or What A Silly Hobby This Can Be

A year or so ago the increasingly amazing folks over at Airfix announced that they would be releasing a 1/48th scale model of the Curtiss P-40B. That announcement quite literally set the world of plastic scale aircraft modeling on its collective ear, since the type had been horribly served by the industry in terms of kits in that scale and nobody had been able to substantially improve on the by-now primordial kit that Monogram had released way back in 1964. The general point of view within the hobby was that a decent kit in that scale would to all intents and purposes constitute a license to print money for the company smart enough to get it right, and the recently resuscitated Airfix had been on a roll for a while, with each new kit being substantially better in every way than whatever kit had come immediately before. Airfix had even taken the time and effort to measure a surviving and restored Hawk that had gone down in the former Soviet Union during the Great Patriotic War. Life was good.

There were, of course, a few hiccups along the way, the most significant of which (at the time) being a misplaced tailwheel well which was subsequently corrected prior to the release of the kit. Then it happened; a modeler on one of the boards began to compare the unreleased and totally unavailable-in-plastic kit's lines against period photographs and discovered an apparent anomaly regarding the lower fuselage lines, specifically in the area of the cooling flaps and that large fairing running along the ventral centerline to just aft of the trailing edge of the wing. That discovery, seemingly based primarily on speculation since there were no actual kits available to anyone at the time, started a poopy storm of discourse within the internet modeling community at large and on one or two web sites in particular. The resulting angst became so seemingly unbearable that a handful of people were actually stating, in print (electrons, actually, but let's not pick nits here), that they would never purchase the kit once it did become available because they were so disappointed that it wasn't going to be perfect.

Then the kit was released---in the UK a few weeks ago and more recently here in the States. That started up an entirely new round of electron-killing as the debate over that horribly flawed belly began all over again, this time in three-part harmony, with a fair number of people soundly lambasting Airfix for their unforgivable error. More reasonable folks offered up the opinion that the real example measured by Airfix had bellied in and not one of the handful of surviving long-nosed P-40s had an accurate-as-manufactured-by-Curtiss ventral area to examine or measure, and that the loft drawings that could provide the definitive answer don't seem to be around anymore, but none of that greatly reduced the general gnashing of teeth regarding the model. Then, as we all might have expected, the usual hue and cry went out for Resin, that miracle of modeling miracles and, indeed, the very salvation of Scale Plastic Modeling itself. To that end, someone is probably working up a fix as I type this (it couldn't hurt anything, I suppose) and the whole problem will inevitably go away just as soon as another manufacturer releases the next kit of the airplane we always wanted to model and, inevitably, pooches some part of it.

Okay; the problem won't really go away, but fewer people will continue to discuss it at the great lengths recently enjoyed because that P-40B will have become Yesterday's Papers soon enough. As an aside, I've got a copy of the kit on my desk as I write this and except for the prop it looks just fine to me, even with the less-than-perfect undersides. I'll agree that there are issues there but I'm going to tell you right here and now that they won't make all that much difference unless you choose to build the model and then display it upside-down, and even then there are only a handful of people on the planet who could look at that underside and specifically (and dimensionally) explain exactly what's wrong with it. Is the problem worth fixing? Of course it is, if that's what you want to do. Will it stop you from building a truly nice replica of an early P-40? I don't think so, because the rest of the kit is so very nice.

We've discussed this sort of thing before, right here on these very pages, but I'm going to repeat myself and provide you with my perspective on the subject, for whatever that perspective may or may not be worth. To wit:

If you absolutely positively have to own something that mimics the original article in each and every respect and detail, then you'll have to go get yourself said Original Article because no model, in any medium or kitted or built by anybody, is going to be 100% accurate. It ain't gonna happen, not today, not tomorrow, and not ever. 35-plus years in aerospace, a great many years of which were spent in the manufacturing of airframes, convinces me beyond a doubt that The Real Thing is rarely, if ever, done entirely to the designer's drawings. If that aforementioned Real Thing deviates from the drawings (and it often does---that's one of the many reasons God invented drawing revisions and change notices), then your model honestly doesn't stand much of a chance, does it?

What, then, should we reasonably expect from a kit? You may well have a differing view of things, but my own personal expectations are as follows: Reasonably accurate scale dimensions and shapes. Reasonably accurate contours. Reasonably accurate details. If those things are present I can take the ball and run with it from there, and can choose whether or not the inevitable issue(s) is/are worth the time and effort to fix. I truly do want to start out with the best and most accurate kit I can obtain of any given subject and, in that same vein, I want the finished model to be as good as it can be given my extraordinarily modest skills, but that Airfix P-40B is probably going to be the next project on my agenda and I'm not going to be overly concerned about the belly. Your own personal mileage may vary, as they say, but at the end of it all this is a hobby. If I think a particular kit is horribly flawed I'll either fix that flaw, ignore it (doubtful but always an option), or simply wait a while for a better kit to come along. Life's just too darned short, ya'll, and I'm not going to taint my favorite hobby by getting all worked up over something that's wrong with a piece of polystyrene. I used to do that and the hobby wasn't very much fun when I did. I don't do it very often anymore and the hobby has once again become, for me at least, all the fun I thought it was when I "built" my very first polystyrene airplane kit way back in 1956.

Your mileage may vary...

P-40-CUs from the 8th PG, Mitchell Field, April 1941.       Rocker Collection

Keeping Us Guessing

One of the things about our hobby that's both fun and extremely frustrating, all at the same time, is the occasional photograph about which we collectively know next to nothing; Mystery Meat, as it were. The next two shots, sent to us by Bobby Rocker, illustrate that frustration but my oh my...

These Airacobras provide us with a tantalizing view into the past, and pose a fair number of questions as well. We originally identified them as P-400s, but now think they were probably P-39D-2s retrofitted with the 12-stack exhausts of the export version (not an uncommon occurence in theater after the start of the war). That's about all we know about them, though, because there's no unit ID, no visible aircraft serial number (radio call number) or even an identification as to where the photo was taken, or when. That said, let's look at some things and take a guess. First up is Location. A couple of thoughts come to mind in that regard; the ZI, Australia, or New Guinea. A Stateside location is certainly possible given the relatively open spaces and the apparent light-colored, dried, dirt in the foreground, but those ground crewmen are dressed pretty casually for any sort of flight ops on American soil and the airplanes aren't carrying any sort of exercise markings, so our Official But Probably Incorrect Guess becomes either Australia (the 8th arrived there in March of 1942) or maybe, if somewhat less likely, Port Moresby in New Guinea in very early April of 1942. The early national insignia is entirely plausible since the official change-over to the corcarde sans red center disc occurred in May and June of 1942. That marking on the door could be of help, of course, but we can't quite make out what it is---a unit marking or one of a personal nature?  It's a fascinating photograph no matter where or when it was taken, but we'd sure like to know a little more about it. If you've got the answer, that e-mail address, provided in a manner that will hopefully defy the spammers, is replicainscaleatyahoodotcom!    Rocker Collection

We're a little better off working with this shot, because the unit and place are available. It was taken outside Port Moresby, at Seven Mile Strip, and it's from the 35th FS of the 8th FG. The airplane is quite possibly a P-400 but could just as easily be a P-39D fitted with P-400 exhaust stacks, a practice that was not unknown in the theater. There's no apparent nose art in view, but it's probable that any that might have been applied to this aircraft was painted on the port side only---if there was any artwork at all.   Rocker Collection

The thing that drew us to these particular photographs, besides the fact that they're of early P-39 variants, is the opportunity they offer the scale modeler for diorama ideas. In the first photo we see a P-400 being refueled, while the second shot depicts maintenance on the nose-mounted guns. Kits of the airplanes are available in all the various scales, while the trucks are available in 1/48th and possibly in 1/72nd. Opportunity knocks, as it were!

Thanks as always to Bobby Rocker for his ongoing help with the project.

Just a Few More P2Vs...

Just a few, that is...

We aren't entirely done with the P2V; not just yet, but we are going to temporarily ring down the curtain on military examples of the type with this edition. Thanks to Jim Sullivan we've got a few somewhat unique Neptunes to share with you today, so let's take a look:

The P2V had a long association with Antarctica. One of the earliest examples of the type optimized for that mission is shown here; a P2V-2N assigned to VX-4 in 1956. This aircraft, BuNo 122466, was lost en route to McMurdo Station over South America shortly after this photograph was taken; fortunately, all eight crew-members survived the crash. That ski gear is noteworthy, as is her International Orange over GSB camouflage scheme. If we only had a kit...   80-G-800333 vial Sullivan Collection

In this shot we see 124289 on the ground at NAS Alameda in 1957. A P2V-3W, she had survived an accident in Alaska in 1952 and soldiered on until shortly after this photograph was taken when she was sent off to the boneyard, the sad but inevitable end that befell most Neptunes.   Sullivan Collection

Did we hear someone say they wanted to see an unusual P2V? Well alrighty, then; how about this one? BuNo 140439 was assigned to VX-6 for service out of Wilkes Station in Antarctica, but check out that Fulton Recovery Device on her forward fuselage! Unfortunately, her service was relatively short-lived; she crashed to destruction during 1961 while supporting Operation Deep Freeze, an accident that killed 5 out of her 9-man crew. It was a sad end for a unique aircraft.   Sullivan Collection

May of 1964 saw 131508, a P2V-5F, operating with the NARTU out of NAS Alameda. Her paintwork is somewhat unusual, which causes us to suspect that those areas that appear to be white in the photo are actually orange DayGlo---that particular type of paint tends to show up as white in black and white photographs. As an aside, check out that ramp! Round engines tend to throw a lot of oil when they're first started and before they warm up to operating temperature, which causes flight lines to be splotched with lubricant as we see in this shot. There are a lot of things we miss about The Good Old Days, but filthy ramps aren't one of them!   Sullivan Collection

Going to work! This SP-2H is outbound from NAS Whidbey Island in 1964. Assigned to VP-17, 148353 was eventually converted to the AP-2H configuration but was a straight-up patrol bomber when this shot was taken. Check out the aircrewman behind that aft fuselage window. In all likelihood he'll spend a great deal of the flight looking at the ocean through that opening---the "normal" mission for the Neptune family was far from glamorous but important nonetheless. Nowadays most of the world's armed forces perform this sort of mission with electronics, but there are times when nothing beats a Mk 1 Eyeball for scanning the seas. It was, after all, a very long time ago!   Sullivan Collection

During the 1960s it wasn't at all unusual for aircraft assigned to the Navy Reserve component to carry a lot of DayGlo on their airframes, and 126525 is a fine example of the application of that sort of paintwork. A P2V-6, 126525 carries a manned tail position rather than a MAD boom, but neither that station or her nose appear to be quite normal. You know the e-mail address by now, right?   Paul Stevens via Sullivan Collection

Ah, for the glamorous life of a patrol bomber crewman serving in the tropics! Yep---that's Diamond Head in the background, but the guys crewing 143178 aren't going to see very much of it. They will, of course see water, and a whole lot of it, beginning the minute they clear the Hawaiian Islands. It's January of 1966 and that SP-2H is from VP-4. The airplane performed yeoman service from the time she was built in in 1957 until she was accepted into the storage facility at Davis Monthan in 1971.   Sullivan Collection

Most of us think of the Neptune as a naval aircraft, and it primarily was, but the United States Air Force found a use for it as an ELINT aircraft and operated small numbers of the type as the RB-69A. This example, 54-4037, was originally a P2V-7U and was one of the few to be lost in combat, shot down by a MiG-17PF near the city of Yantai, People's Republic of China, on 11 June 1964. The P2V's size (plenty of room for the ELINT gear of the day and requisite crew) and unrefuelled range made it a natural for the job, but it was meat on the table for a determined interceptor pilot. We'll probably never know the full story, but those RB-69 ops were definitely not your normal, run-of-the-mill patrol bomber missions!   Sullivan Collection

Remember those early, gun-armed P2Vs that were generated out of the NAV's requirements for an effective patrol bomber, stemming from their experience with that sort of thing during the Second World War? They were in many ways developed to deal with the exact mission the Navy began to encounter in early operations over Southeast Asia during the mid-1960s. Vietnam, both North and South, were maritime nations to an extent and sea control of their coasts called for the exact same attributes that had spawned the Neptune in the first place. The OP-2E, depicted here by 131528, was developed to deal with the mission and was optimized for it. 528 was operated by VO-67 from November of 1967 until July of 1968, operating out of Naked Fanny in Thailand, albeit sowing sonobuoys along the Ho Chi Minh trail rather than over the ocean. This particular photo was taken at NAS North Island in October of 1967, immediately prior to deployment to theater, and shows the aircraft fitted with mini-gun pods. Employing that sort of weaponry over the trail could easily have been a career-terminating activity for a big, lumbering airplane like the P-2, but it certainly looked good on the ramp!   Sullivan Collection

ELINT wasn't a mission reserved exclusively to the Navy or Air Force during the Vietnam fracas; the US Army also operated the Neptune in that role, as the AP-2E. Operated exclusively by the 224th Btn/509th Radio Research Group based out of Cam Rahn Bay, their short time in theater provided valuable information to US forces. This aircraft, 131492, was originally built as a P2V-5, then converted to an RP-2E and later redesignated as an AP-2E, and was damaged at Plieku in South Vietnam during 1968. (You can find a couple of color shots of one of these aircraft by going back to our 18 December, 2010, issue, should you be so inclined.) You just never knew what was going to turn up in that war!   Sullivan Collection

The writing was on the wall for the Neptune by the late 60s, although a fair number of them were still in service. In this shot we see 131510, originally built as a P2V-5 but in service with the NAV's NADC as an NOP-2E when this shot was taken at Johnsville, PA, in 1968. Replacement by the Lockheed P-3 Orion had begun in 1962 and the P-2's days were numbered, but the type provided valuable service right up to the end.   Sullivan Collection

The Navy's utility squadrons operated the P-2 as a drone launch and control platform, as well-illustrated by this photo of 128347 taken while she was operating with VC-3 during February of 1970. Active duty was rapidly nearing the end for the Neptune but the old girl still had plenty of life left in her!   Duane Kasulka via Sullivan Collection

A sad end for a proud bird... The P2V family had served long and hard, flying dull, monotonous patrols over endless expanses of ocean (except for those odd-ball members of the clan, of course), performing her necessary but rarely-exciting mission in all climates, weathers, and regardless of time of day. The Neptune is an easy airplane to overlook because it's not glamorous and certainly not very exciting, but the roll it played was critical to the defense of the nation. She was most assuredly the king, or at least the queen, of the seas during her salad years.   Sullivan Collection

But there's no point in crying over it because she's still out there, and in moderately large numbers, flying a mission that she was never built to perform but has turned out to be ideally suited for; that of fire bomber. You just can't keep a good airplane down!   Mark Nankivil

That's it for the Neptune, at least for now, but don't be unduly surprised if a few of those fire bombers turn up on these pages soon!

T For Texas, T For T-Bird Too!

Ellington Air National Guard Base has been around for a while, its interceptor assets covering the defense of the greater Houston area. Your editor was there for a photo shoot in the winter of 1981 on a visit to photograph the tenant 111th FIS/147th FIG's F-101B Voodoos, when the opportunity arose to shoot one of their T-33s preparing for a proficiency flight. Opportunity knocked, as it were, and these shots were the result:

If you're going to have a squadron hack, this is the way to do it! T-33A-1-LO, 56-1670, is being prepared for launch on an uncharacteristically chilly winter's day at Ellington. Every airplane in the unit's inventory, and we do mean each and every airplane, was spotlessly clean, and every one of them was a showboat. This "T-Bird" was special, though, because it was a surviving T-33A that was still being used almost daily---the T-33 wasn't entirely out of the inventory in the 80s but the breed was becoming increasingly rare, which made this airplane a pleasure to photograph!   Phillip Friddell

Conventional wisdom says you get into American military airplanes from the left side but F-80 and T-33 jocks always seemed to mount from the right, which is how we see it illustrated here. None of the members of the Shooting Star family were particularly large, nor were their cockpits very far off the ground, but the contours of those intakes made access tricky without a ladder, notwithstanding the fact that there was no easy way to get in there without one! The "T-Bird" was definitely a throwback to an earlier time, which may have been the reason the type was always popular within the units who had one as a proficiency trainer or squadron hack. We're glad they did, too!   Phillip Friddell

A Pretty Airplane

Every once in a while we come across a photo of a really pretty airplane, and we just have to share it with you:

65-10390 was a T-38A-60-NO and was assigned to Randolph AFB's 12th FTW when Paul Bigelow photographed her parked at the home drome shortly after the turn of the century. The last time we personally attacked any of the 12th's Talons with a camera was back in the late 1990s, when they were wearing that then-new and especially tasty white over Insignia Blue scheme, but we have to admit we really like the way the airplane looks in this particular paint job. Many thanks to Paul for taking this shot, and to Maddog John Kerr for passing it on to us!    Paul Bigelow via Kerr Collection

The Erla Bird Catches the Worm?

Ok, ok; it's an awful pun and, at the end of the day, an irrelevant one as well, but sometimes that sort of thing is in us and just has to come out so cut us some slack here! The point of this piece is a simple one: Revell of Germany recently released a 1/32nd scale kit of the Erla-built Me109G-10 for our modeling pleasure. The kit itself is one of that strange breed that was apparently designed by committee, a committee where nobody was talking to anyone else assigned to the project---we say that because the kit is, in a great many regards, simply brilliant in certain areas of its design and execution, while being woefully below what's now considered to be the norm in others. It is, in short, a kit that cries out for aftermarket! We recently purchased one (a bargain at $29.95 USD), and then proceeded to rack up another hundred bucks or so in resin and cast bronze to bring it up to snuff. Here's where we are with it today:

This is an extremely general view of the top of the airplane, taken to illustrate the use of Master Barrels set AM-32-062; it includes a pair of MG131 muzzles and a pitot tube, all lovingly machined out of brass and worth every penny of their remarkable inexpensive purchase price. The other aftermarket shown here is the seat, seat bulkhead, and belt/harness assembly---that particular chunk of resin is courtesy BarracudaCast and is also more than worth its price. Also shown is Barracuda's supercharger intake, which is much improved over the kit offering, and that same set also includes a set of exhausts and hollow cooling scoops for the nose, both of which are installed on the model but not visible in this shot. One thing we should point out to you in case you're a fan of the Luftwaffe and are aware of such things: Those wing crosses were done via Montex Mask and will have to be removed from the model and re-done since they represent the type of upper wing cross applied at the Diana factory in Czechoslovakia. This is, remember, an Erla-built aircraft and their cross presentation was entirely different on those airplanes, something I knew but ignored until the semi-finished model was staring me in the face. Big sigh... Oh yeah; and it needs to be said that I didn't fix the location of those cowl guns, adjudging it to be just a little too much trouble to do at the time I made that decision. In hindsight it should have been done, but it's too late to fix things now! I won't tell anybody if you won't...

And here's another shot, this time illustrating Eduard's Brassin' landing gear legs and wheel/tire assemblies, both of which are well worth their investment price. This view also shows us those BarracudaCast scoops (and Yes, Virginia, we know we need to drop the one closest to the spinner down just a hair, but it's only stuck on there with Future and will come right off when we get around to moving it!), their replacement oil cooler, and part of the exhausts. The spinner is from BarracudaCast as well, yet another worthwhile component from that absolutely superior aftermarket supplier.

An overall view after the yellow ID band has been painted around the nose but before any sort of weathering has begun. Those "Diana" upper-wing crosses really show up if you know what they are, but they'll be gone and replaced with proper "Erla" crosses in a day or two, The white stripes at each wingtip simulate the tape that Messerschmitt used to seal the joint between said wingtips and the wings. It's always there on the pointy-nosed 109s but generally over-painted and therefore not visible. The Revell "Erla" G-10 simulates that feature but they do it with overly-wide and extremely thick faux tape that's molded into both upper and lower wingtips. It has to be sanded off for an accurate model---a word to the wise...

This photo illustrates what happens to your depth of field when you use an older point-and-shoot Nikon digital camera to photograph a model, but I'm running it primarily to show you how well Revell captured the "sit" of the real airplane so cut me some slack, ok? There are so many really neat things going on in that kit, but as purchased they're balanced by all the seriously goofy why-did-they-do-that detailing Revell put on the model. As it stands it's a really good starting place for an excellent model of this variant of the Me109. I only wish they'd taken things a little further---this could have been the kit of the year and I would gladly have paid an additional ten or fifteen bucks for the privilege of not having to spend an extra hundred bucks or so on necessary aftermarket. Are you listening, Revell?

There's still a long way to go before this one gets to be called Finished, but for once all that aftermarket is not only worthwhile; it's absolutely essential to the completion of an accurate model!

Hmm---I wonder how this balances against the editorial up there at the top that I wrote for this very same issue... Fickle, aren't we, or maybe just subjective and more inclined to spend money on some airplanes than on others. At any rate there's definitely a contradiction of philosophy here. A little bit of soul-searching may well be in order!

Under the Radar

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, there existed an excellent series of aviation enthusiast publications known as Historical Aviation Album, which I believe was an offshoot of the earlier Aero Album series. Those publications were magazines very much in the spirit of the journal published by the American Aviation Historical Society at the time and were edited by Ken Rust and, later on, Paul Matt. Their quality was superb and a great deal of what they published is still valid today.

That said, in 1973 they released what was, at the time, a seminal work on the 5th Air Force, a tome that was everyone's go-to reference and, indeed, the only worth-while publication on the topic, until the advent of Steve Birdsall's Flying Buccaneers several years later. It was a ground-breaking volume in its day and still holds up well, even by 21st-Century standards.

Fifth Air Force Story, Kenn C. Rust, Historical Aviation Album, Temple City CA, 1973, 64pp, softbound, 8-1/2 x 11, illustrated.

This is one of those works that's so modest in appearance as to make today's aviation book collector pass it by were they to find a copy offered for sale in a used book store. That would, in our view, constitute a mistake of considerable proportion. Within its modest 64 pages lies a brief description of every significant unit to fly with the 5th AF, broken down by group. Line drawings are provided to define squadron markings and each section is illustrated with photographs and the text, while relatively minimal, is sufficient for its purpose, especially when judged by the standards of the time in which it was published. There's also an appendix listing 5th AF aces, if you care about that sort of thing, but the book's value when it was originally published, and as it remains today, is its quick over-view approach to the subject---it's an excellent starting place if you know just a little bit, but not a lot, about the 5th and want to learn more.

Nowadays its value is primarily that of a springboard to other references, but it was an astounding work way back there in '73 when most of us were still buying into the notion that all the 5th's records and photography had been consumed in some mysterious fire in Tokyo post-War. It was, in point of fact, the only all-in-one-place reference on the topic for several years, and it's stood the test of time better than you might imagine.

We would be less than truthful if we said this book was a must-have in today's world, but for a great many years it was just that, and it's still pretty useful today. There aren't many other books out there that can make that claim!

The Relief Tube

A couple of our readers have written in with comments, so let's get right to it!

Regarding that pair of Marine-marked P2Vs we ran last issue, Rick Morgan offers this clarification:

Phil- Think I found it. The only Marine P2V that I could find on a quick search of Allowance Lists is a P2V-2 at Aircraft Engineering Squadron-12 (AES-12), MCAF Quantico VA, from mid-1952 through 1958. It’s listed as a “Research and Development” platform throughout. They show two onboard in Mar 1955, which may well have been an airframe swap out. Rick

Thanks, Rick. The appropriate captions in our last issue have been corrected.

And in a similar, if not identical vein, Tommy Thomason saw last issue's piece on the P2V and had this to say:

BuNo 39090 had the original P2V nose avec the "bow turret". See attached.
                                                   Tommy Thomason Collection

My posts on the Turtle:

P2V Modeling Notes

Each dash number of the P2V seemed to have a different propeller, engine, and engine cowling. Not to mention the changes to the canopy, bomb bay, nose wheel well, tip tanks, etc. over time and the eventual addition of jet engines. Or the fact than both the nose and tail could be changed on later aircraft between armed and ASW patrol. Or the unique noses, like the ones on the P2Vs used for Arctic mapping. One of these days I'm going to do a post on the major differences between the dash numbers. T

Thanks as always, Tommy!

Next up is a comment from Bret Wood about a piece we published some time ago:

Saw pictures of "Doc’s Delight," "The Snooper,” and “Rugged Beloved” on This unit saw service in the Pacific, specifically on Tinian. My grandfather was assigned to this unit. Regards, Bret Wood

Thanks, Bret! (I don't suppose you've got any photos...)

Finally, Norman Camou has discovered and sent in another YouTube link for us to enjoy, this time on the 430th FS in action over Germany in 1945 and in living color:

And this one as well, covering B-25 ops to Rabaul. We may have run it once before, but we've also gained quite a few readers of late and the film is too good to miss!

Thanks as always, Norman!

And yet another last-minute, after we published correction, this time from Mark Morgan and regarding that NARTU-assigned P2V shot that's fourth from the time in this issue's Neptune piece:

(Regarding that) P2V-5F 131508 6G-214? NARTU, for Naval Air Reserve Training Unit. Otherwise, outstanding blog as always! MK

Thanks, Mark!

And that's it for this time around and, in all likelihood, for the remainder of this year. Our season's best to everyone and be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Even More Neptunes, An Evocative Cat Shot, Another Forty-Niner, A Pair of Classy Rides, The Herky Bird in Her Element, and A Treasure

It Can't Be That Hard, Can It?

To cut straight to the chase, as it were, I've had an opportunity to build quite a bit over the last several months and that opportunity has led to an observation of sorts. It's one of those things you've probably noticed in your own world too but maybe never thought too much about, or maybe you thought about it a lot. Either way, it's one of those Fundamental Philosophy kind of things that we all encounter from time to time (and for once I didn't succumb to the temptation to say "phundamental" instead of the real word "fundamental"---your thanks and gratitude are appreciated even though I'll probably revert to form again at some later date), and here's what we're talking about:

Let's presume your own personal production rate is prolific enough that you crank out a model airplane every month or so, or maybe even more frequently than that. Let's also presume that your modeling interests are sufficiently varied to allow you to build a variety of subjects, making use of kits from a variety of manufacturers in the course of your endeavors. Finally, let's make the assumption that you pay attention to what you're doing and actually take notice of what's in the boxes those kits come in, and then let's think for a minute in the semi-abstract, ignoring things like accuracy, the level of detail, or whatever else may normally consume your attention when you first pop the lid open on that brand new kit. Let's be very literal, ya'll, and only consider those pieces sitting in the box and what you can make from them. (Aha! they said in unison as their comprehension of his latest bout of madness set in!)

Ok; maybe you aren't getting it quite yet---I tend to be somewhat obtuse on my best days and pretty much incomprehensible on my bad ones---so I'll explain.

For starters, let's take the 1/48th scale Tamiya Bf109E and examine the pieces sitting in the box. Think about what you see in there and what you can actually do with the kit and you'll figure out pretty quickly that The Big T have released the model as a couple of different variants (the E-3 and E-4/E-7),  yet the only difference between one kit and another are the decals and the windscreen and canopy set. Those kits are variant specific, period, which can be expensive if you're paying full retail for one of them and aren't entirely certain where you want to go with the model.

Now let's examine the several year old Airfix model of the same airplane. (Yes; the canopy for the E-4 is well and truly gomed up and there are a few other piddly issues as well, but remember we aren't talking accuracy right now.) It includes multiple windscreens and both canopy styles, a tropical filter, an aux tank with rack, ordnance, and different wings to cover the armament differences between the variants. As far as I know all those goodies are in all the different boxings of that kit, allowing you to build pretty much any 109E variant no matter which kit you purchase.

Or, how about the Me109G-10 in 1/32nd scale? Hasegawa has a kit of what we'll call the "normal" G-10 variant with not much in the way of optional parts in the box, and it sells in the mid-70 dollar range in the United States. Revell/Germany recently issued their own kit of the G-10, but in the less commonly found Erla-produced variation, and that kit includes three different tailwheel covers, two different tailwheel legs specific to the G-10, three different types of rudder (actually four if you consider they also provide a standard "small" tail with the model as well), three different tire/wheel assemblies, two oil cooler assemblies, and two canopies. They didn't include wing inserts to cover those Erla-built G-10s that featured the earlier, small wing bulges, but that's about all they missed and the model goes for 26 bucks here in South Texas. Yes, there are corrections required and the aftermarket resin guys do well with the kit, but it's so inexpensive to start with that it really doesn't matter very much in the long run and I can't think of any other manufacturer out there who can offer that much value for under thirty dollars. If you happen to be on a budget and you want a G-10, this kit very nearly has it all. Shazbot!

Tamiya isn't the only offender when we're talking about one variant per box, of course. Take a look at Eduard's revamped Me109G (and now F) families of kits. There are currently a number of releases offered of those airplanes and they're all variant-specific, but there honestly aren't that many differences from one round-nosed 109 to another until you start hitting the late-War variations, so all the different components necessary for any F or G-1 through mid-War G-6 could easily go in one boxing with the later variants in another, and I suspect Eduard could keep their current pricing even with the inclusion of all the "extras" that would entail. In point of fact, those new Eduard 109s are chock full of "extra" parts marked not-for-use, so one kit can build quite a few sub-variants. They just don't advertise it that way, thus encouraging the unsuspecting to buy lots of "different" kits for little reason other than, maybe, the decals.

And the Beat Goes On (and on, and on), but wouldn't it be nice if the various manufacturers would put all the stuff for the minor variations of a particular aircraft in the same box instead of spreading it out over a bunch of individual kits? The very same Eduard that offers all those different 109 kits released their seminal P-39 with everything for every Airacobra variant and you can quite literally build any P-39 production model ever built, other than the American TP-39 or Soviet-modified two-seat trainers, right out of the box regardless of what the kit is called. Eduard has re-released the model numbers times as different variations, but the only difference between any of them has been the instructions and decals and whether or not the kit was a "ProfiPak" or "Weekend Edition" offering. Once again we'e talking about lots of kits issued but the same stuff, and a lot of it, in the box. In the Old Days we called that "value for money and, speaking of that very thing:

Love them or hate them, the once-revered Monogram used to do exactly that sort of thing back in the early and mid-60s, providing enough extra stuff in their kits to allow us to build an assortment of variations from any particular kit. They weren't always correct in what they offered in those boxes but that's not the point---they took the trouble to do it rather than adding a small extra sprue and forcing us to buy a new kit if we wanted a different variant of a specific airplane. It was a good way to do things back then and I humbly submit that it's a good way to do it now as well, so hats off to the reborn Airfix, Revell of Germany, and the handful of others who go the extra mile to provide the serious scale modeler with value for money in their kits.

Hey kit manufacturers, do you hear that thumping sound? That's Opportunity knocking! How about it?

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Come Out

Two issues ago we ran a feature on early Lockheed P2V Neptunes for your edification and entertainment, but that edition hadn't been up for even 24 hours when we received another photo, this time from Mark Nankivil, that we absolutely positively have to run today!

Can you say "WOW!!!"? VX-6 operated a real assortment of dogs and cats in their role as a test and evaluation squadron with this P2V-7LP providing a prime example of that sort of thing. The ski installation is noteworthy, as are those RATO bottles; you haven't lived if you've never been close to a big airplane performing a RATO launch---can you spell "deafening"? Mark's comment about this photo parallels my own: I sure wish this was in color! Kinda makes you want to go build a model of a P2V, doesn't it?   Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

We really meant that Safe to Come Out part too, because a casual conversation with old friend and Replica contributor Jim Sullivan turned to that very same Navy patrol bomber the other day, which in turn resulted in a few more P2V and P-2 shots you really need to see, which takes us to

The Son of Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Come Out!

We've known Jim Sullivan since the mid-1970s, and the depth of his collection has never failed to amaze us. Here are a few examples of P2V-related collection depth depth for your perusal:

Two issues ago we showed you a photo of what was perhaps the most famous Neptune of the all; the "Truculent Turtle". Here's another image of her at NAS Oakland on 12 October, 1946. This photo was taken less than a month after her record-breaking flight and really shows off the clean lines of the P2V-1. The Neptune's career lasted well over thirty years and more than proved the validity of the concept; those guys at Lockheed knew how to design an airplane.    Sullivan Collection

BuNo 39090 was another P2V-1 and belonged to VPML-2 when this photo was taken at NAS Alameda in October of 1948. Her overall matte finish and that apparently chopped-off nose definitely put her squarely in that category often called "unique", but we really don't know anything more than that! Drop us a line if you can help solve the mystery! That address is replicainscaleatyahoodotcom!
   Sullivan Collection

This is a little more like it! This VP-8 P2V-2 is shown sitting on the ramp in all her Glossy Sea Blue Glory---the place is Floyd Bennett Field, New York, and the year is 1949. Those lumps and bumps are, or at least can be, fairly standard for the type, and you can see where the gun ports are covered over if you look closely at the nose. The NAV's view of the whole patrol bomber thing was one of offensive action, a philosophy that was reinforced during the Second World War (which in turn gave birth to the P2V family), which explains all those hard points under the wings. There was more to maritime patrol than simply finding the Bad Guys.   Sullivan Collection

BuNo 39343 is what you might call an odd-ball in the world of P2V-dom; a P2V-2 bailed to the Marine Corps for use as an electronic warfare training platform. She was assigned to AES-12 out of Quantico during the 1952-1958 time frame, although there's a good possibility she traded off for the assignment with 39365 at some point. There's really not very much to distinguish the airplane markings-wise once you get past that big MARINES logo on her aft fuselage, but that marking alone makes the photo somewhat of a rarity. The airplane appears to be just another P2V-2 as far as equipment goes, but we could be wrong about that. She's a rare bird any way you slice it!   Sullivan Collection

126523 was warming up on the ramp at Wilmington, NC, when this photo was taken in 1954. She's a P2V-6 and was assigned to VP-21 when this was taken, although she also also spent time with HC-11 at one point in her career. She's pretty standard from a detail standpoint but those exhaust stains are worth noting; they're characteristic of the airplane and really show up on one that's painted in any sort of dark color. Note the aircrewman poking out of the hatch at mid-fuselage---the P2V was a big airplane and often used a crew member to spot the wingtips while taxiing since seeing where they were in relation to everything else could be somewhat problematical from the cockpit, especially on a crowded ramp.   Sullivan Collection

This is what a P2V-6M looks like in standard patrol bomber configuration, with all the turrets installed and armed. Those PatWing guys spent countless hours flying over what must have seemed endless miles of unforgiving ocean while performing their mission, but few of us ever think about that aspect of things. No; P2Vs were never particularly glamorous, but they were an essential component of the NAV during the Cold War. This example, 131559, was with VP-24 when the Navy took her portrait on 18 April, 1954.   National Archives 80-G-638364 via Sullivan Collection

Here's another example of an aircrewman serving as wing-tip spotter while a P2V taxis, in this instance a P2V-2 from ATU-501 heading for the active at St Louis in November of 1958. The Navy was beginning to phase out the use of defensive gun turrets by the time this photo was taken; by the mid-50s most of the world's air forces who could present a threat to the United States in a combat situation had long-since transitioned to jet fighters, making a gun-armed patrol bomber an iffy sort of proposition at best. 39336 is still wearing Glossy Sea Blue paint, but that will change the next time she visits a NARF---if she isn't routed to the boneyard she'll receive a new paint job of Insignia White over Engine Grey. The times they are a-changin'!   Sullivan Collection

Proof positive that the Marines operated at least two P2V-2s in the training role (with AES-12), and a prime example of the fate of most P2V-2s---here's 39365 sitting in storage at Litchfield Park. She was yesterday's airplane by the time this photo was taken in the late 1950s but had served her purpose well. We're guessing that 39336 (shown immediately above) never made it to that NARF we mentioned but instead headed directly for storage, to be followed shortly by scrapping. That's the inevitable fate of most military airplanes and it's necessary, but somewhat sad as well.   Sullivan Collection

The P2V-7 was the last of the line, with many of them surviving until the late 1960s (the last active-duty aircraft was retired in 1970, although the Reserves kept the type a little longer) to become the P-2H in 1962 under SecDef Robert McNamara's aircraft re-designation program. 140971 went into service in 1956 and was therefore among the last Neptunes to wear Glossy Sea Blue. The -7 could still be fitted with a dorsal turret but the type was virtually never seen with one mounted, the cover shown above being far more typical. 971 was serving with VP-1 when this photo was taken and lasted until 1987 when she was finally scrapped out.   Sullivan Collection

Jim was kind enough to provide us with a number of Neptune photos for this essay, but we're going to stay with the Glossy Sea Blue birds for today. We'll finish things up with a few dogs and cats next time around---stay tuned!

A Patrol Bomber of a Different Flavor

Since we're on a patrol bomber kick around here it's probably time to illustrate an airplane that wasn't manufactured by the folks at Lockheed. This shot from Bobby Rocker's collection that defines the breed to some extent:

A handful of Second World War aircraft types could be considered to be ubiquitous, turning up everywhere during the course of the conflict and under a wide variety of markings. Consolidated's PBY Catalina was one of those aircraft. Big, slow and lumbering, its range and reliability made it the ideal over-water patrol bomber and, to a great extent, an unsung hero of the war. This photo shows a PBY-5 about to touch down in the harbor at Attu on a rare temperate day as crew members assigned to the PT boat squadron berthed in the foreground pause in their work to look on. You can't make out the markings on that "Dumbo" and you certainly can't see any detail of the sort that would excite the average scale modeler, but the photograph speaks for itself and is remarkable for its ability to put you in the scene. It wasn't always combat---there were a lot of "normal" operations during that struggle as well.   Rocker Collection

Protect and Avenge

Yep; we're talking about one of our all-time favorite SWPAC fighter groups; the 49th, and we're going to offer you yet another photograph from the ever-remarkable Rocker collection:

"Stew Head IV" was a P-40E assigned to the 49th FG's 7th Fighter Squadron and is shown here sitting on the ground at one of the Port Moresby complex of airfields (or possibly Dobodura) during late 1942 or early 1943. She's a pretty normal E-model in almost every respect, but both she and the Warhawk behind her are fitted with the later flared exhaust stacks rather than the tubular ones more conventionally associated with the P-40E. It's not that great an anomaly and was, in point of fact, a fairly normal thing, but it's a point to be watched if you're modeling the airplane. (And if modeling "Stew Head" is your intention, you might also want to note that the 49th rarely repeated names or nose art on both sides of the aircraft. The norm was different art or names on either side---that's worth remembering and no; we don't have a photo of the other side of this airplane to share with you!)   Rocker Collection

Thanks as always to Bobby for his ongoing generosity and for his dedication to finding and preserving images such as these for posterity!

USAFE Hot Rods

Ok, not really, but the photo we're about to share with you does have a theme of sorts:

Anybody who knows us is well aware that we don't have much use for that phenomena known as "social media" and we never (that "never" part could be in all caps, ya'll) look at any of it. It's just not something we're interested in, but this image could change all that! It's from FaceBook, discovered by Rick Morgan, and has all the appearance of an official image of some sort. It's a remarkable shot in many ways and is well worth a look! The F-86D was assigned to the 526th FIS at Ramstein and is a real show-boat of an airplane, while the car is a Mercedes Benz 300SL roadster, one of the earliest of a breed later to be known as super cars. The "Dog" is somewhat unique in that it belongs to the Wing King of the 86th FIW, under which the 526th was assigned---check out the command stripes on the aft fuselage---and she's so highly polished it almost makes your eyes hurt! Have we ever mentioned how much we like the Silver Air Force?    Unknown via FaceBook via R Morgan

Another Immortal

There's not a whole lot to say about Lockheed's amazing C-130/L-100 family of transports that hasn't already been said many, many times before, but we found some more Mystery Meat in the collection a couple of weeks ago and the photos are worth sharing with you today. Let's see what we've got this time!

The C-130 was designed to operate from unimproved airfields, as illustrated by this Rhode Island ANG (143rd TAS) E-model shown taxiing in at an unknown location. The camouflage paint is the "lizard" scheme that was so prevalent during the 1980s and 90s in the USAF, ANG, and AfRes but we have no idea when or where the photo was taken, nor do we know who the photographer might have been. It's a neat shot, whoever took it, and it helps to illustrate the Herc's intended operational environment as few photographs can.   Unknown via Friddell Collection

Then again, this photo just may illustrate things a little better! The aircraft is rather obviously owned and operated by the JASDF but we're not at all familiar with the units assigned to that organization and can't begin to tell you the squadron this bird was assigned to. We also don't know the year the photo was taken, or where, or who took it, although we suspect it was taken at the same time and place as the RI bird immediately above. That e-mail address, or rather a spam-free variation of it, is replicainscaleatyahoodotcom.

We haven't done a whole lot in the way of military transports around here and it may be getting close to time to do something about that situation. What do you think? (You know the address, right?)

Well Traveled and Well Worth a Look

It's an odd concept when you first consider it, but a great many photographs assume a life of their own as they become public and travel from the original photographer to enthusiasts and historians. We offer this image as a case in point:

This photograph isn't of particularly high quality but it's definitely one to turn your head if your interests run to the early Pacific War. It's a well-traveled shot, first arriving here without caption via the kindness of Gerry Kersey. Shortly afterwards the image showed up again thanks to Bobby Rocker and annotated by noted Pacific War historian and artist Jack Fellows. There's nothing we can add to the caption that isn't already covered by Jack's comments, so we'll let the image speak for itself. Enjoy!   F Patnaude via Gerry Kersey/3rd Attack and Jack Fellows/Bobby Rocker

Happy Snaps

It's been at least a couple of issues since we've run any sort of Happy Snap so it must surely be time to do it again! We're big fans of Rick Morgan's photography around here and coincidentally have a great deal of it in our files, which somewhat coincidentally takes us to today's image:

Rick was a Prowler guy for a great deal of his time in the NAV, which provided seemingly endless opportunities to photograph tactical jets in the air. In this shot we see VFA-87's 163105 waiting its turn to take a little gas off the coast of Egypt in January of 1991. We're always impressed by photos such as this one because they make it all look so easy---it would be a safe assumption to state that everyone flying the airplanes in this photograph would assure you that it really wasn't! Formations like the one you see here, along with the ability to pass gas in any sort of weather and regardless of the time of day, are the result of endless hours of training and time in the air. Rick wrote a book called Tip of the Spear a few years ago chronicling tactical naval aviation in the post-Vietnam era. These guys, and their brothers and sisters out there flying every day, typify the tip of that spear. Sierra Hotel!   Rick Morgan

The Relief Tube

It's that time again, but with a caveat. Some of the comments you're about to read are fairly old and weren't picked up by us for publication when they first arrived here---as everyone surely knows by now, we don't run a forum of any sort in conjunction with the blog, so it's pretty important that we run comments when we receive them. We apologize for the delinquency although, us being us, we can't promise it won't happen again! Please bear with us, etc, etc...

Way back in August we ran a photo of a 405th BS B-25J with the comment that it was taken in the Philippines---Bobby Rocker caught that one for us and sent the following correction:

This is a 405TH BS B-25 at Nadzab in early 1944---a B-25 can't make it to the Philippines from Nadzab as you describe in the caption. The B-25's couldn't attack the Philippines until around September 1944 when the 5th and 13th AF moved to more forward bases.  Best regards,

 Bobby Rocker

Thanks for keeping me honest, Bobby, and apologies for taking so long to put this in print!

Next up is a comment from a reader known to us only as Big Red Lancer and concerning one of the F3H Demon shots we ran some time back:

That photo of F3H AB-105 with the chief... There were NO cranials at that time. All we had was Mickey Mouse ears and goggles. No float coats, just our green jerseys... and no Flight Deck pay... 

It was a different time...   Many thanks for the comment, Lancer!

Next up is a correction from Duane regarding a P-40E photo we ran back in our 7 August issue:

The P-40 is an E model. Parson Posten refers to John Posten, formerly of the 17th Pursuit Squadron in the Philippines.

Thanks, Duane!

Norman Camou is a reader who sends us links to really neat stuff from time to time. He found this YouTube link and sent it to us a month or so ago, but we pretty obviously sat on it for a while. We think it's great and expect you'll enjoy it too:

In theory the link will work just fine, but you can always do that copy and paste thing if it doesn't!
Thanks for sending this one, Norman---it's really, really good!

Finally, here's another one of those after-we-published corrections for you! When we captioned the shot of that "Dog" sitting beside the 300SL we mis-identified it, basing our information on a mis-captioned photo we ran in the print issue of this project Way Back When. Doug Barbier caught it (although I'm guessing it was also correctly identified when Rick originally sent it and I somehow misplaced the information). Here's what Doug had to say regarding the airplane:

Phil, I suspect that someone has already mentioned this, but that Wing King USAFE Sabre Dog actually belongs to the 526th FIS, based at Ramstein AB, GE (which also explains the Mercedes) and was the 86 FIW Boss bird between 1958-1959. Also in that vein..... the 32nd FIS was based at Soesterburg AB, Holland (also assigned to the 86th Wg), while no interceptors were based at Weathersfield - although plenty of them showed up for the Open House days. Keeping track of the USAFE units in the 50s is a full time job in itself. OTW, another great issue. And I completely agree with your opener on extra parts for various versions in the kit world.


Thanks, Doug, and a reminder to all our readers: We're just as likely to make a mistake as anybody else is and very much appreciate your corrections and comments. If you see something you'd like to comment on, or something that needs fixing, please drop us a line at replicainscaleatyahoodotcom. This project is very much a joint effort and we couldn't do what we do without you!

That's it for this time around, ya'll, but we've got some interesting things in store for you next time so stick around! In the meanwhile, be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon!


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Polka Dots, King of the Sea, Famous Mustangs, One of a Kind, and Another Voodoo

A Road Less Traveled?

A year or so ago Jenny and I were in one of the several fine brick and mortar hobby shops that still exist in South Texas, passing away a pleasant (for me, anyway) hour or so looking at new plastic and talking to the proprietor, when she came over and said she wanted me to build another biplane, at which point she handed me the then-new Eduard MAG Fokker D VIII. For a lot of people that would have been one of those "thanks but no thanks" kind of moments, but I've always harbored an affection for the oddballs of military aviation. With that as a perspective, there was nothing to do but buy that kit. Czech, Romanian, and Hungarian Fokker D VIIs---how cool is that?!

Ok, so maybe it isn't very cool to you, or even to most people, but I happen to like that kind of thing. Humor me.

The real point here isn't what I like, much as I would sometimes like to think so. Nope; it's about a way to relieve what some might call The Modeling Doldrums, that affliction we all suffer from time to time. For example:

Every passing year sees at least one, if not more, new kits of the immortal but occasionally boring Messerschmitt 109 released to a seemingly never-jaded modeling public. Pick a variant and unless it's a G-12, T-2 (as a primary kit, not a conversion!), or a recce version there's a kit of it somewhere. We're choking on them. After all, how many pointy-nosed airplanes with black crosses can any one person build?

There's another road to take, though, even though it's one relatively few modelers choose to follow. Yes; that German fighter was produced in the many thousands, but countries other than Germany used it in active service---Hungary, Romania, Switzerland, Bulgaria and Spain all jump immediately to mind, and there were others in addition to those. For the most part their camouflage schemes mimicked those of the Luftwaffe but their national insignia and markings certainly didn't, which provides the modeler with some room to stretch out and explore something a little out of the ordinary.

That sort of philosophy can extend to virtually any combat aircraft as well; it's definitely not limited to those flying machines used by Germany during the 1940s. It's easy to find American, British, and other aircraft in the air forces of countries you wouldn't normally consider modeling. The list could be, and very nearly is, endless in that regard.

Then there are the airplanes that are slightly out of what most modelers would consider to be their normal context. My mind jumps to any Second World War aircraft in a post-War setting in that regard, a category that allows us to build P-47s and P-51s on occupation duty, B-24s (one, at least), flying as a weather ship, or the TB-25s of the Air Training Command during the 1940s and early 50s. For the most part such projects entail little more than markings changes, although that B-24M or TB-25J I just alluded to would also entail some mild conversion work in the way of the elimination of gun turrets---no big deal to accomplish and yet another way to put something really unique on the shelf,

Familiar post-War aircraft (or pre-War, or whatever) markings variations offer yet another road to the modeler who's getting just a little bit burned out by their "normal" interests. Think about the North American T-6 Texan for example, and about it's service with the air forces of nations all around the globe. The varieties offered there, for just that one type of airplane, are virtually endless. Add the MiG fighter of your choice, or almost any Sabre variant, and suddenly you're looking at more airplanes than you can model in a lifetime.

And those are just the markings variations! If you're willing to perform a little kit surgery, a whole different world can open up to you! The Soviet Union used two-seat P-39 conversions for training during the Great Patriotic War and re-engined more than a few P-40s with Klimov powerplants as well. The American Navy slung Bat missiles under some of their PBJs and used them in combat. A lot of wartime aircraft ended up converted for use as hacks and trainers in the post-War world too, which opens up yet another area of possibilities, and that's not including those aircraft that were modified for test or research purposes.

The point is this: Virtually every kit you acquire can be easily modified into something a little bit out of the ordinary if you take the time to research the subject and then expend some elbow grease (which could be as simple as purchasing a new decal sheet or a different bottle of paint) which will in turn add to your personal knowledge, enhance your skill sets, and maybe even break you out of a down period in your modeling career. Yes; there are people out there who are essentially one-trick ponies---their collection is extremely focused and their choice of subject matter limited as a result. In my world that's their loss, and it's an easy problem to fix. It's all a matter of choice. All you have to do is choose.

Snoopers in the Far East

Several years ago we received a series of photographs from John Gluhak, who had spent a portion of his Air Force career with the 45th TRS in Misawa during their days flying Republic Aviation's RF-84F Thunderflash. We meant to run them at that time but mis-filed them in a folder that had nothing whatsoever to do with RF-84Fs, Misawa, or anything else even remotely related to those things. Today is our day of atonement for that mistake, and we offer our sincere apologies to John Gluhak, who provided us with these really neat images:

The Man himself! A young A2C John Gluhak mixes paint on a typically cold Misawa ramp during the late 1950s. We usually think of the pilots and aircrew when when we're considering the operational conditions on those bases of long ago but then, as now, it's the folks doing the less glamorous but no less essential maintenance jobs that make it all happen. Note how that high-tech piece of ground support equipment (the ladder!) has its aircraft number and flight letter painted on it. Such things had a way of disappearing sometimes...                              John Gluhak Collection

Take a look at this guy. M/Sgt "Pete" Peterson was the Line Chief when John Gluhak was with the 45th, and he's typical of the breed. He's sitting in a relatively comfortable office in this photograph, but you can bet he spent his share of time in places that were considerably less hospitable during the Second World War and probably in Korea as well. The line chiefs made it all happen, and Lord help you if you screwed up something on one of their airplanes. It was never the pilot's airplane either; they were simply on loan to the flyers from the chiefs. The overused term "unsung hero" comes to mind...     John Gluhak Collection

Let's go flying! We suspect this was taken over Lake Towada, a volcanic lake near Misawa, but we've never seen it from the air so we're not certain of the fact. What we are certain of is that the 45th were good at what they did and flew some really pretty airplanes to boot.   John Gluhak Collection

Of course, the days weren't always perfect and sometimes the recce guys had to dodge clouds in order to get their pictures. It was tough enough to do in peacetime and would get a whole lot tougher a few short years later in a different airplane over the Republic of Vietnam.   John Gluhak Collection

You fight like you train, and the guys in the 45th trained a lot. This RF-84F was caught on the break just prior to a photo run over northern Japan on a training flight. This view shows us just how big those gasbags were, but the Thunderflash was a thirsty second-generation jet and she wasn't going to get very far at all on what little fuel she could carry internally. Those tanks were a necessary evil.   John Gluhak Collection

The Air Force's tactical jets have been fly-by-wire since the F-16 entered service back in the 1980s, but prior to that it was all done manually, with no computerized assistance. That's something to remember when you look at a photograph like this one---Lead is flying for the formation while Two and Three are both locked in on a portion of the airplane in front of them and flying on that reference point entirely by hand. This photograph makes it all look so easy, but it isn't.   John Gluhak Collection

Maybe three aircraft in formation don't impress you? Ok; here's a flight with a few more! This shot includes most of the 45th in flight over Aomori Prefecture on a pretty and almost cloudless day, looking good for the camera and anybody on the ground who happened to look up to see what all the noise was about. This sort of thing wasn't all that common even in the 50s, but it made for good public relations when it happened. The normal day-to-day ops of the "Polka Dots" couldn't have been further removed from the placid-looking shot you see here.   John Gluhak Collection

It wasn't all fun and games even in peacetime. The young man is Lt. Pritslaugh from the 45th and he's receiving a bravery citation for following a wing man who'd passed out in his aircraft. The Lieutenant ended up going past the Mach in a dive and ended up pulling out at tree-top level---that's what happened to Lt. Pritslaugh. We have no idea how things turned out for the guy he tried to help and would really like to know more about the incident. If you have anything to add, our hopefully spam-proof e-mail address is replicainscaleaty ahoodotcom.   John Gluhak Collection

Let's leave our photo-essay on the 45th TRS and their RF-84Fs with another shot of Airman Gluhak, this time taken in front of the squadron orderly room. Many thanks to John for sending us these photographs of a remarkable time in his life.   John Gluhak Collection

An Early Neptune

We gave you a teaser last issue and showed you a picture of an early Lockheed P2V-3, a conversion from the classic Hasegawa P2V-7 kit perform by Ed Ellickson. While we were teasing you we promised we'd show you a few more shots in our next issue. Well, gang, it's our next issue, so guess what?

Let's start this off with the e-mail Ed originally sent describing his project:

Dear Mr Friddell, 

 Since running across your Replica In Scale blog a couple of years back, I have thought about writing to you many times, but never got around to it. Your August 2016 column finally brought together the "perfect storm" of factors to make me sit on my duff and "get 'er done".

 First, I would like to thank you for the joy you brought me years ago, when you began Replica In Scale magazine. After seeing the first issue at the local hobby shop, I promptly subscribed (and would do so again!)and stayed with you until the end -- a demise that I still recall with sadness.

 I have been building -- off and on -- for a good while. I built my first plastic model in 1954, one of the old Revell box scale B-25 Mitchells. I used tube glue, and had no paints, but it started a wave that was to sort of last until even now. (I sure would love to have some of the old airplanes that I glued up, and then tossed out of the upstairs window to see how they would fly. Some were luckier, like the Lindbergh F9F Panther that at least had a tether to fly around on for a while Those were the days.
But, to the present. 

Your mention in the current blog of your being stuck for a while on the Korean War era hit me right in the wheel house. Some years ago, I happened to run across the last surviving P2V-3 Neptune extant, and took a few really bad photos, mostly of some details rather than overall shots. I told myself I would return one day, and take some better shots, and build a model of the darn thing. 

Well, certain rats in Florida decided to make a reef out of the airplane, and I never got any better shots. Apparently, no one else did either. Or at least, they've not appeared in public. The ones I got are not overall shots, and wouldn't be of much interest to your blog, else I would send them along. What I did do, was wait several years for some other adventuresome soul to make a kit of the plane, or a conversion kit, or some specific parts, so I could create the model. Nada. During this waiting time I researched as much as I could about the -3, and found that in addition to the usual maritime patrols, these aircraft were used for a time for the road interdiction mission, until things got dicey, courts-martial was threatened, and the whole affair was classified for some 50 years. (Hidden enough so that the same thing was repeated in 'Nam with other aircraft). Interestingly, this twin-engined plane was bigger than a B-24, so at least until the advent of the C-130 gunships, it was probably the largest plane to ever fly this mission. Further, most of the books about aviation during the Korean War don't even mention the aircraft as being there at all. 

In any event, toward the end of last December, I sat down and decided what the heck, if no one else will do it, then I'm gonna have to do it myself. In my case, during the late 60's, it seemed like the Brit modelers were the best around for detail and just crazy conversions. (I would like to think that your magazine helped to turn the tide a little more toward our side of the pond!), so I figured why not bring it straight to 'em and see how I did. For that reason and others, I ended up doing a build thread over on, where I ran a detailed thread showing step-by-step how someone else, particularly the newer modelers, could do a pretty fair old-school conversion. I showed which tools, gadgets and techniques I used to get the old Hasegawa 1/72 P2V-7 Neptune converted to a dash 3 version. 

I have attached a few photos for your perusal. ( I know that you have strayed from the path of The One True Scale, but I'm sure that God will forgive you one day.) I thought you might find the model of interest, as it fills a gap for that era, and also because I willingly give you some credit through your publishing efforts, for helping me amass the skill to pull this off. Also, with the exception of some Lockheed-made models of the -3 in wood or metal, I'm betting that this is the only model ever made of a P2V-3, either in plastic or resin or any combination thereof. In that sense, I think it is also historic.

The build thread is at: It is entitled "The Lockheed P2V-3 Neptune -- A Forgotten Warrior", and I hope you get a chance to take a look. Your fan, Ed Ellickson -- aka "TheRealMrEd"

And so it began. Not that many people seem to build the P-2 in any variant, much less one of the earlier ones---Jim Sullivan's P2V-5 conversion that we ran back in our 25 May, 2014, edition is the only other one we can think of---so Ed's conversion came as a breath of fresh air to us. Here's what the model looks like:

Here's a 3/4 rear view showing the tail turret that replaces the Hasegawa kit's MAD boom, along with the underwing rockets and added lumps and bumps. It may not look it, but there's a whole lot of work involved in back-dating the Hasegawa kit to this variant!    Ed Ellickson

Here she is in profile. Compare that nose contour to that of the -7 and you'll see that, once again, there's a bunch of work that ends up looking so very simple in the finished model. It's not.   Ed Ellickson

And our teaser from last issue. The Neptune was a big airplane, much larger than you might think, but we'd really like to see a 1/48th scale kit of any variant of it. Fat chance, right, but you can hope. Right after we see that FJ-3 we've been whining about ever since we began this project...   Ed Ellickson

One final thing: That comment in Ed's letter regarding truck-busting in Korea really got us going but we can't find anything more on the subject than what we've stated above, even though P2V-3s from VP-6 did shoot up a train or two and some coastal targets early in the war. We asked our usual Navy go-to guys if they had any further information and came up with a blank, which leads us to as for further information. If any of you hold photography or anecdotes about the P2Vs used in Korea, we'd sure like to hear from you. That somewhat-confounded-to-confuse-the-spammers e-mail is replicainscale atyahoodotcom.

Iwo Mustangs

The whole reason for the American invasion of Iwo Jima was the ongoing requirement for airfields that could be used for the aerial bombardment of the Japanese home islands. Iwo fit that bill perfectly, first as a recovery field for damaged B-29s and later as a base to both the B-29s and their P-51D escorts. These photos from the National Archives via Bobby Rocker illustrate both the operational conditions and aircraft of that time and place.

The 21st Fighter Group's 46th Fighter Squadron arrived at Iwo fairly early in the game. "Tiny Gay Babe" and "Three of a Kind" are relatively famous members of the squadron, primarily because of this photograph. Note that both aircraft carry over-sized aux tanks but neither are fitted with the AN/ARA-8 "Uncle Dog" antennae so typical of Mustangs used in this theater of operations. "Three of a kind also appears to wear an OD anti-glare panel, not unusual but still somewhat of an anomaly for the time and place.    National Archives via Rocker Collection

Murderer's Row. These P-51Ds are from the 21st's 531st FS and are all neatly lined up on Iwo 2 in 1945. Although a ramp such as this posed a tempting target for any enemy aircraft able to get close to it, a strike on Iwo was, for the most part, beyond Japan's capabilities by that point in the war---their hands were full defending the home islands. Although it's possible to detect one or two OD anti-glare panels on aircraft in the far distance, most of these birds carry the newer black coloring and, once again, none of the aircraft are fitted with "Uncle Dog".   National Archives via Rocker Collection

Thanks as always for your kindness, Bobby!

A Unique Bird

Back in The Day, whenever that might have been, Jim Wogstad and I visited a great many air shows on the day before the actual show, this being done for the purpose of catching arrivals without having to contend with The Maddening Crowd on the day of. Mostly we managed to capture images of variations on The Same Old Thing but every once in a while we'd get lucky and discover something truly unique, as typified by these shots taken at what used to be Kelly AFB on 17 May, 1986.

We honestly weren't expecting anything out of the ordinary that morning, but then it was Kelly and you just never knew what would show up on their ramp, either transient or, in this case, for a public display of American air power. The day was somewhat overcast and providing us with perfect lighting, while the guys at Kelly Ops were their usual helpful selves as they checked us in and handed us off  to our PAO escort. So far it was just another day in the neighborhood, but that was about to change dramatically!

How about this to make your day? The airplane is the one and only NC-131H, 53-7793, and we captured her while she was being used to support STS training within AF Systems Command (note their command emblem on the parasite nose). Actual space shuttle cockpit time was somewhat limited and that extra cockpit allowed some hands-on, non-simulator training for the approach and landing regimes of the flight profile in an honest-to-goodness real airplane. Aside from that nose and the winglets, the sharp-eyed reader will probably notice the Allison 501-D22G's that replaced the aircraft's as-built R2800-99s. It was a unique airplane in every respect.   P Friddell

That added cockpit offered an excellent field of view to the pilot in training, as demonstrated by this head-on shot. The cockpit itself could be easily modified to replicate the aircraft the NC-131 was simulating, providing an excellent simulation platform for any number of unusual aircraft. Those prop blades are interesting as well; the 501-D22G was capable of producing over 4,000 shaft horse-power, making paddle-blade propellers an absolute must. The airplane certainly looked clunky and unwieldy, but its real-world performance was more than acceptable.   P Friddell

Here's a view of her other side for anyone who might have an interest in such things. The "extra" cockpit has its own access via a hatch on this side of the aircraft while the regular crews gets in and out in the same old way, through a cabin door on the port side. In many respects the NC-131Hwas just an ordinary Samaritan as long as you didn't count the new engines, the winglets, the nose, and a few other odds and ends...   P Friddell

53-7793 was assigned to the Air Force's Flight Dynamics Laboratory within Systems Command for most of its service life, as identified by the large FDL banner and emblem painted across both sides of the vertical tail. It was a simple logo for a somewhat complex mission!   P Friddell

Finally, to make absolutely certain everybody knew what the airplane was being used for!   P Friddell

The Air Force got quite a bit of mileage out of 7793 before they retired her to the National Museum of the Air Force in 2008. She's definitely a relic from a different era, but she made possible a number of the innovations now taken for granted in aviation.

We Keep Finding Stuff Around Here

and we often have no idea where it came from! This photo has all the earmarks of an official USAF image so that's where we're presuming it came from. However we came by it, it's a drop-dead gorgeous example of The Silver Air Force at its best, and we'd like to share it with you today:

The airplane in question is 56-0189, an RF-101C-50-MC operating with the 363rd TRW out of Shaw early in the recce Voodoo's career. Those yellow squadron markings are particularly tasty and the OD anti-glare panel on the nose compliments them nicely. As with virtually all USAF 101s the interior of the gear doors and speed boards are Insignia Red. Now, if we only had a kit! (And yes; we know there are a couple of kits out there already. Like we said...) Oh yeah; one more thing: You might want to take a look at the background of this shot too---that H-19 and SA-16B are certainly worth a gander!   Friddell Collection

And it's time to go!

Yep---we're running a little bit behind the power curve again so that's it for this thrilling adventure! Tune in next time, etc, etc, but until then be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon! (More or less...)