Monday, April 29, 2019

Back in the Way Back, Scooters, Presents From Fred, Zips On the Ramp, Schlact Bird, Bad old Days, Lost, Invaders, Names and Planes, Doug, and The Morgan Boys

Unexpected Consequences

Let's jump in our Scale Modeling Blog WayBack Machine for just a minute and go back a few years, to 11 February, 2010. That's when I published the very first electronic edition of the reborn Replica in Scale. That first issue was a modest effort at best, brief of duration and covering just one model airplane, the Hasegawa P-40E. That initial blog was followed by many others, although I've never managed to equal, or even come close to equaling, the output of that first year, a measure of time in which I managed to create a whopping 79 issues in the span of 365 days. By contrast I was able to put out an all-time low of exactly 4, count 'em; 4, issues in 2018. Yikes!

Still, I've been able to maintain a core readership that has stayed with the project from the beginning, a readership that has assumed the mantle of old and valued friends for whom I am more grateful than you might imagine given the frequency of publication around here. The numbers keep growing, too, and we've got quite a few folks who have signed on as followers of the blog---I'm pretty darned grateful for that as well!

Something else has happened over the course of those eleven years; we've experienced an event I always knew could happen but never gave much thought to until a few days ago. It's a milestone of some magnitude for me, particularly given the frequency, or distinct lack thereof, of publication lately. This project, little old Replica in Scale, has substantially exceeded one million (that's one million!) reader visits since its humble beginnings some 10 years ago. It's a number I find incredible given the size of the staff around here (just me!), not to mention my frequently infrequent schedule of publication. Wow!

We've gained a lot of friends during that time and, sadly, lost a few as well---Dave Menard and Maddog John Kerr come to mind in that latter regard---but we've been able to keep on keeping on even as the frequency of publication has dramatically diminished. The project has devolved from a periodical of many issues per year back to an occasionatical (a term Jim and I used to use to describe the original print version of RIS way back in The Day) of just a few, but it's still alive and kicking with no intention of stopping any time soon.

Anyway, a million visits for a project as modest and unassuming as this one is deserves a little commemoration, I think, so this issue is going to be somewhat special. Look on it as a Thank You to everyone for staying with us during thick and thin. With any luck the best is yet to come!


In The Beginning...

Way back in the Way Back, so to speak, back in 2010 when I began this project, I'd lost contact with almost everyone I'd worked with during the print days of Replica in Scale. I wasn't building much of anything and I'd largely ceased collecting primary resources, so it was slim pickings in terms of what I could publish in the way of photographs of real airplanes---at that point in time I didn't even have a real slide scanner and was using the scan feature on my wife's computer printer for that task! I still had my files, and all those slides I took over the years, but the available resources were well and truly on the thin side.

Let's keep that in mind, because it's only fair that we begin this very special (to me, anyway) issue with a couple of photographs that are typical of, and to a great extent commemorate, the photo assets available to me in the very beginning.

San Antonio's own 182nd FIS served in Korea during the unpleasantness there in the early 1950s, as the 182nd FBS/136th TFW. Assigned to Itazuke AB in Japan during 1951, the squadron quickly transferred to Taegu (K-2) in Korea due to range restrictions experienced while operating out of the Land of the Rising Sun. 50-1161, an F-84E-20-RE, was photographed on the ramp at Taegu after the move but prior to the squadron's conversion to the F-84G in 1952. As far as we know "San Antonio Rose"/"Gulf" experienced no air-to-air combat during her assignment there, but other F-84Es did, with one claiming a MiG-15 on 26 June 1951, and another claiming a probable on the same date. The "Rose" was a pretty airplane, and we'd like to ask if any of our readers have photographs of her that show the entire airplane. If you do, the highly boogered-up e-mail address (to stop the spam crowd) is replicainscaleatyahoodotcom, with the appropriate symbols and dots substituted for the extra letters.   149th TFG

The 182nd flew the F-84 twice during its history, first with plank-wing E and F models and later, as an interim measure, with the F-84F. All of their Thunderstreaks were operated in the then-current SEA camouflage scheme and featured minimal (read "boring" here) markings. As things transpired the 182nd was the second-to-last ANG unit to operate the type, which was obsolescent the day they received them. This aircraft, 51-1651, an F-84F-25-RE was photographed by the group on their ramp at Kelly while taxiing out for yet another training mission. Note that only two auxiliary fuel tanks are carried and the aircraft is flying sans pylons on the outboard stations. Like all 1950s jet the F-84 was a gas hog and the two bags seen here were an absolute necessity if the aircraft was to have any range at all. Four bags were better...  149th TFG

It could be said with complete honesty that the swept-winged F-84s were marginal, and somewhat star-crossed, aircraft from the first day of their service with the Air Force until the day of their retirement from the ANG but they were, for a period of time, an integral part of the Tactical Air Command and even, briefly, with the Strategic Air Command. The type was deployed to Europe during the Berlin Crisis of 1961 but was fortunately never required to expend ordnance while serving with the United States. That said, this air-to-air four-ship from the 182nd shows how pretty the aircraft could be, even though it's fortunate indeed that it was never forced into combat.   149th TFG

Small photo essays like that were our bread and butter in the very beginning because we honestly couldn't do anything else at the time but things were about to change, and for the better!

Old Friends

While it's true that we'd lost track of the majority of our aviation friends over several years of inactivity, it's also true that we're a small community that keeps track of its own. With that as a basic premise it shouldn't surprise anyone that it didn't take long for those aforementioned old friends to find us, even though we didn't know how to get in touch with them. Some of those friends are sadly gone now; Dave Menard and John "Maddog" Kerr have passed, while Marty Isham has pretty much retired from the festivities, but Jim Sullivan and Doug Barbier have been taking up the slack throughout it all, as have the Morgan Brothers, Rick and Mark, Mark Nankivil and Don Jay, not to mention the herculian efforts of stalwart supporter Bobby Rocker. The photos that follow are an assortment from those guys. Thanks to all of you for your unflinching support!

Scooters From Sullivan

Jim Sullivan, a contributor to the original Replica in Scale and Aerophile projects, was one of the very earliest to find this electronic version of RIS. His talents with a camera are beyond reproach and his collection of images is remarkable. He's a fan of All Things Navy, and that love extends to the venerable Douglas A-4 Skyhawk. Here are some photographs from his collection to prove the point:

One of the really neat things about the "Scooter" is its longevity in almost every one of its many variations. Originally conceived as nuclear-capable attack bombers, all of the multitude of service variants proved capable of performing a wide variety of duties. A fine case in point is 142865, an A-4B from VC-1 working out of Barbers Point, Hawaii, in February of 1969. She's relatively clean, as most utility squadron aircraft had a tendency to be, with just a slight bit of lubricant staining around her mid-section to define the busy life she led. That marking on her gas bag is of interest as, an aside, are the aircraft in the background on the right side of this photo. Let's play Name the Movie!   Sullivan Collection

Here's another utility bird for you---148314 was an A-4C from VC-7 working out of NAS Miramar on 28 May, 1974, when Bill Curry took this photo. Of interest in this shot is the centerline bag which isn't an auxilliary fuel tank at all but rather a buddy store for air-to-air refuelling. In so many ways The Bantam Bomber could truly do it all!   Bill Curry via Sullivan Collection

Let's keep that VC thing going with this fine example of the species. Another Charlie, 148609 was assigned to VC-2 and working out of NAS Jacksonville back in April of 1972. We suspect she was nominally assigned to VC-2's skipper, Captain Knutson, at the time---that's because of her gaudy markings and absolutely impeccable finish, although we could be wrong about that. (I don't think so, but it's always possible...) The flight gear hanging off her port-side 20mm implies that she's about to go flying, a beautiful airplane out and about on what is, to all appearances, an equally beautiful Florida day!   Bill Sides via Sullivan Collection

The NATC facility at Pax River was a heavy user of the Heinemann Hot Rod, and worked hard. A-4E 148614 was assigned to weapons test there for a time and provides us with a shot of a well-worn but immaculately maintained "Scooter". All five underwing stations are in place and the airplane is ready for its next test assignment, but we'd be more than a little remiss if we didn't mention the tiedown ropes being used to secure this bird to the ramp. We're used to seeing chains used in that capacity so the ropes are a little out of the ordinary, but then there's their size---they could be used for securing a small warship to a wharf! Maybe that was common at Jacksonville, where this photo was taken in August of '72, or maybe there was a storm on the way. Whatever the reason, a modeler would probably have some explaining to do if they presented a model configured that way for a contest or public display!   Bill Sides via Sullivan Collection

Another Pax River bird, 154175 is in the nearly pristine condition we've all been led to expect of aircraft assigned to that facilty. She's a humped A-4F and was probably staged for an airshow when this photo was taken, judging by the placard taped to her nose. Sharp-eyed readers will notice her refuelling probe, which has been modified for other purposes. This would be the part of the day where I'd ask Tommy Thomason to chime in with an explanation and speaking of which---Hey Tommy; what is that thing?!  At any rate, the photo was taken at Pax River in August of 1973 and presents us with a fine study of the "Skyhawk's" classic lines.   Jim Sullivan

Of course, this is how most of us think of the A-4; in this case a pair of A-4Fs from VMA-311 taxiing at Yokota AB in March of 1972, towards the tail-end of American involvement in the Vietnam War. Your editor more commonly thinks of this squadron armed to the teeth and operating out of Chu Lai a couple of years before, but the aircraft and markings are virtually unchanged from that slightly earlier period. 151988 is almost pristine, a condition that would have been remarkable had she been on the ground in-country, and we've always found those squadron markings particularly appealing---maybe that cartoon cat appeals to the kid in us all!   Harry Tyrpak via Sullivan Collection

Shot on the same day at the same place, here's 159653 from VMA-211 taxiing out for launch. Her squadron markings are similar in presentation to those of 311's 151988 immediately above, except for that refuelling probe, which has been candy-striped in red over her Light Gull Grey factory finish. The devil's in the details!   Harry Tyrpak via Sullivan Collection

Working on the theory (as well as a fair amount of necessity) that there might not be enough combat capable A-4s available due to the demands of the VietNam War, the Navy contracted for 100 or so A-4Cs to be remanufactured into more capable airframes, a modification that resulted in the A-4L. The type was used by both the Navy, in the Reserve force, and by the Marine Corps, and featured an avionics hump which provided the aircraft with slightly improved capability in spite of the retention of its J-65 engine and 3-hardpoint wing. The Lima wasn't used in combat by the United States but carried some pretty markings nontheless, as typified by 149539 of VA-204, sitting on the NAF Washington ramp back in September of 1973. The airplane is fairly well-used and no; we don't know what's going on with that blast panel in front of her port cannon!   Joe Handelman via Sullivan Collection

Here's a flight of USMC Limas for your perusal, all from VMA-124 and taken at MCAS Memphis in October of 1973. These aircraft are obviously being worked hard but are well-maintained, and that red/white/blue trim is gorgeous.   Fred Roos via Sullivan Collection

Let's end this essay with a Marine Foxtrot from a unit you just don't see everyday! 154185 was serving with VMA-223 when Lindell Reynolds shot her back in July of 1974 while she was sitting transient at Scott AFB. There's nothing exceptional about her except for that tasty paint job, but she provides us with a fine way to end this photo essay.   Lindell Reynolds via Sullivan Collection

That's it for the "Scooter", at least for this time, but we've got a lot more waiting in the wings from Jim so stay tuned...

And Then Along Came Mark

Nankivil, that is! We received an e-mail from Mark early in the adventure; he said kind things about the project and provided us with a group of A-7 scans. Holy Cow---somebody I didn't know was sending photography and offering to send more. It was deja vu all over again, to steal a line from Yogi Berra. It was just like back in those fabled days of yore (that's really corny but I've always wanted an excuse to use it in print!) when we'd receive a package of photographs from someone we didn't know; a really special occasion and particularly gratifying since someone we hadn't previously spoken with had thought enough of the project to contact us and send photography. It impressed us (read "me" here; I'm bouncing back and forth between first and third person again) and it still impresses us!

Anyway, Mark jumped into the program early and has been a constant contributor ever since. One of the things he does is to assist the Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum with their photo assets, acquisitions which he sometimes shares with us as well. That's the case today; the photographs you're about to view were taken by Fred Roos and passed along to us. Note that we've abbreviated the museum's name in the watermarks on the images---yes; we're lazy. It's a flaw we/I can live with, so let's look at some pictures of airplanes!

Let's begin this essay by stating the obvious: We aren't looking at one particular type of aircraft today, but rather an assortment of different airplanes. First up is this pristine F-102A-75-CO, 56-1415 from Pennsylvania's 103 FIS/112th FIG. She could be the poster child for a clean airplane and that's complimented by her markings, which are a little bit out of the norm. The usual red alar is on the vertical stab of course, along with the ubiquitous ANG badge, but the nose markings, in particular the four Firebee drone kills, set her apart from the pack, and the candy-striped pitot tube provides the icing on the cake! 1415 was luckier than many of her sisters and wound up on public display with the PAANG, a proud reminder of days gone by.   Fred Roos via Mark Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

The ubiquitous F-4 Phantom II began her USAF career as the F-110A, a designation that was changed when Robert McNamara's defense department decided that all of the flying services needed to use the same designation system for their airplanes. (As an aside they didn't ask us about it; they just did it, and we've been confused ever since!) Those early F-4s were painted in the glossy light grey worn by the F-102s and 106s of the Air Defense Command, and the ANG units tasked with the interception mission post-Vietnam War were painted in that color as well. The Phantom, F-4C-19-MC, 63-7568, was serving with Indiana's 113th TFS when Fred photographed her in August of 1981. She's clean and obviously well-maintained, and, perhaps unfortunately, bereft of any sort of unique markings, but she typifies the Air National Guard of the 80s. She was ultimately expended as an air to ground target, a sad end for a proud bird.    Fred Roos via Mark Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

Here's another F-4C-19-MC, this time 63-7576 from Michigan's 171st FIS based at Selfridge and photographed there by Fred on 22 August, 1980. Her markings are typical of the aircraft operated by the 171st and she's obviously been immaculately maintained. 1986 found her at Lakenheath, being used as a battle damage repair trainer. She ended her days as a ground trainer in Germany, at Bitburg. Doug, did you have any time in this one?   Fred Roos via Mark Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

Here's a regular USAF Phantom for a change; an F-4D-30-MC from the 474th TFW flying out of Nellis AFB. She's in the SEA scheme so typically worn by the F-4 during its AF, ANG, and AFRES service and is very typically marked. 66-7577 ended her days flying with the ROK AF, but was in her prime when Fred photographed her at Buckley ANGB in July of 1980.  Fred Roos via Mark Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

Cessna's A-37 Dragonfly was a really neat airplane in concept, but was ill-suited to service in the post-Vietnam War era. Most of the survivors quickly found their way into the Guard and Reserves, with a handful of them going to foreign customers or, somewhat inevitably, being transferred to the civilian market. This photo illustrates one of the ANG birds, an OA-37B assigned to Illinois' 169th TASS in May of 1980. The Dragonfly was a capable little airplane, albeit one that couldn't easily survive  in a high threat environment; they were retired fairly quickly.   Fred Roos via Mark Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum.

The Guard also received airplanes that were survivable in a hi-threat scenario, with the LTV A-7 Corsair II being a fine representative of that sort of aircraft. This example, 70-0970, an A-7D-8-CV, is a fine, and truly special, example of the breed. She went to SEA in 1972, assigned to the 355th TFS/354th TFW, and was used by Major Colin Clarke to win the Air Force Cross during a remarkable 9-hour rescue support mission. She was then assigned to the Colorado ANG's 120th TFS/140th TFG, where she remained until 1992 when she was transferred to the National Museum of the United States Air Force. There's absolutely nothing about the airplane in this image that alludes to her remarkable history but she's been preserved for aerospace posterity, which we think is simply outstanding, particularly when we consider the fate of so many of her sisters!    Fred Roos via Mark Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

Then there's the Thunderbolt II, aka "The Warthog". Originally designed to deal with Warsaw Pact armor in a big war in western Europe, the type has achieved fame performing the CAS mission in the Middle East. There were never that many of them in the regular Air Force at any point in their career, but they found their niche, and true combat role, while serving with the ANG and AFRES. 78-0602, an A-10A, was serving with the regulars, in the 356th TFS/354th TFW, when her image was captured at an airshow at Scott AFB on 13 June, 1981, resplendent in her 80s "Lizard" scheme. She was lost at Nellis on 26 August, 1983, a reminder that there's nothing safe about military aviation, not even in peacetime.   Fred Roos via Mark Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

Here's an interesting one for our perusal: a Northrop CF-5D of 434 Sqdn, Canadian Armed Forces. The devil's in the details as far as this aircraft is concerned, and those details would make for a fascinating scale model. Take, for instance, her unpainted natural metal finish (although the gas bag hanging off her port wing is camouflaged), or her candy-striped pitot tube, or maybe her conspicuity red tip tanks replete with colored navigation light lenses in their fronts. The blue band and squadron emblem on her tail put her over the top, a clean machine and a fine repesentative of Northrop's most successful design family. Fred photographed her in July of 1982, when she was relatively young and in her prime. Beauty!  Fred Roos via Mark Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

You don't have to be very smart to know we have a fondness for the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk around here, and Fred photographed a gorgeous example of that family back on 27 March, 1980. 152862 was a TA-4F assigned to VX-5 when Fred captured her image, a slightly soiled but heavily used example of the type. We sure like that classic Light Gull Grey over Insignia White paint job!   Fred Roos via Mark Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

And now, for something unexpected! Let's close this particular essay with a profile shot of 70-15884, a Beech/Ratheon RU-21H. She was converted to the type's Guardrail V configuration early in her career but that's honestly all we know about her or her mission at the time she was photographed. That's right; we know nothing. Zip. Nada. We don't even know her unit, nor did Fred, only that he photographed her on 22 October, 1980. A mystery ship, as it were! If you know more...   Fred Roos via Mark Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

That closes out this installment from Mark, but there's more to come a little further down the road!

Corroboration of A Photo We've All Seen Before

First, here's the photo:

Now for the corroboration. The photo has probably been seen by pretty much everyone reading this issue, and we even ran it ourselves once before. The thing is, the location of that ramp of 435th TFS/8th TFW F-104Cs is often given as Tan Son Nhut, or frequently just Republic of Vietnam, but the truth is actually None of the Above. Let's hear the explanation from Don Jay:

If you remember, the USAF produced a series of lithographs/posters in the late 60s-70s. This was one of the first ones and initially was labeled USAF forces in Vietnam, then F-104s at Tan Son Nhut, and finally F-104s in SEA. So I am not sure what folks think when they see it. It is definitely Udorn RTAFB and shows the newly arrived 435 TFS. The clincher in IDing the base is the RF-101 flightline on the right. Only two places had the RF-101C, Udorn and Tan Son Nhut, and the ones at Saigon were not in the open but using some old French concrete revetments at this time. Anyway, it does show off the ‘zipper’ in good detail. Cheers, dj

Many thanks to Don. He's got a few more surprises for us today but before we get to them...

A Token Model

Since this project is a technically a scale modeling publication by title, if rarely in actual fact (much like the later editions of our old print effort, come to think of it), it occurs to me that we ought to have a couple of photographs of aeronautical polystyrene replicas for your amusement and edification so, without further ado:

We hadn't been publishing the print version of RIS for very long when we were introduced to Bob Migliardi, who was running an absolutely outstanding publication, RT, for IPMS Canada. Bob has since moved on to producing his own decals, often of unique subjects and covering a wide span in the history of aviation. His efforts can be found under the Illiad Design label, and here's an example of the sort of thing he's doing nowadays. The model seen above is Tamiya's relatively ancient 1/48th scale Bf109E-4/-7, suitably modified with a larger tailwheel and fatter propeller blades and done up as an E-4B from II/LG2 serving in Russia during 1941. The decals are from Illiad, which is the reason I'm showing you this particular model, and they're quite a treat. Register is perfect, they represent a subject that I don't think (subject to correction) has been done before in this scale---I'm talking about the specific airframe and not the schlacht genre, by the way---and they work perfectly. They're a superior product and well worth your consideration, etc, etc. And yes; my work surface really is that nasty looking. I use it, and I've been using it for a very long time. Beware of photographs of models sitting on nice clean work mats!

Here's another view of that "Emil" in a cleaner environment that's just the least bit more viewer-friendly. There's not much to say about the venerable Tamiya Bf109E family that hasn't been said before; they do offer a tailwheel that's too small and prop blades that are too skinny, and you really need to get the boxing that says "Made in Philippines" on the side if you want to have their corrected nose, but it's as close to a shake and bake model airplane as you're likely to ever find and makes a great therapy project if you just need a project that can be completed for fun, with minimal angst.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming:

We Get By With Help From Our Friends

Yes we do, and in that vein:  Bobby Rocker discovered us pretty early on in the project and began contributing photography to us, something that continues until this very day, and I've come to feel that we quite literally wouldn't be the same publication without his help. Let's take a look at a random assortment of images he's supplied of late. There's a theme here---let's see if you can figure it out!

Before the beginning: A 20th PS Republic P-35A taxis out at Iba Field in the Philippines shortly prior to the outbreak of hostilities. This idyllic scene of American fighters would be destroyed in just a few short months, but when this photo was taken the Philippines was still a good duty station for a single officer.   Rocker Collection

A great deal of the war was tedium, with seemingly endless hours spent in the more prosaic aspects of military life such as aircraft maintenance. In this shot "Eager Beaver", a B-24D of the 90th BG's 320th BS is undergoing "maintenance" in a heavily staged photograph at 5 Mile, outside of Port Moresby. It's highly doubtful you'd find that assortment of ground echelon performing that particular range of operations on the same airplane all at the same time, but it looked good for the folks back home. The boys were over there, but they were safe and sound while working hard to defeat the enemy. Of course, the photograph couldn't tell mom and dad how hot it was, or how bad the mosquitos were or, in the early days, how bad it was when the Japanese came over to bomb the Port Moresby complex. You don't tell your folks that sort of thing because you don't want them to be concerned about you. "Dear Mom and Dad, Everything is fine here so don't worry about me..."   Rocker Collection

"Sometimes it gets a little rough out here, but we spend most of our time working on the airplanes and wishing we were home..."  Yep; just like these armorers squatting beneath the wings of a 70th FS P-39Q at Torokina Strip on Bougainville. Those guys are fit and healthy, not to mention happy. They're probably really glad to be there, but maybe not. Take a closer look at "Snafu", paying particular attention to how beat up she is. The pinup on the door and those grins on the armorers tell one story, but the wear and tear on the airplane tells another one entirely. Nobody was spending any time sitting in circles singing about how happy they were in the Pacific. Nobody. Not ever.   Rocker Collection

We periodically mention that it wasn't always the Japanese that provided the excitement out there. This 70th FS P-39Q has gone off-roading, possibly thanks to an F4U that's just out of the photograph. It's doubtful the pilot was hurt in this mishap, although the gun sight in the P-39 was perfectly situated to provide you with stitches if your head snapped forward and you weren't properly strapped in. It really didn't matter how it happened, but rather that it did.  There was never an easy day out there.   Rocker Collection

You could catch a break every once in a while, of course. Those guys under "Boomerang", a B-25C of the 13th BS/3rd BG attest to that, but that airplane was formerly operated by the Netherlands East Indies air component. Her life prior to the date of this photograph was reasonably exciting but didn't portend the things that would come---she went missing in August of 1942. You have to wonder if any of those guys went down with her. "Everything is fine here, so don't worry about me.". Right...  Rocker Collection

Some days weren't too bad, of course, and you might even have a few minutes to stand in front of your airplane to have your picture taken for the folks back home, like Don Lee of the 7th FS/49th FG is doing in front of "Pistoff". We'd be remiss if we didn't point out to the modellers amoung you to check out the white outline to the yellow letters in that aircraft name, a fine point that every manufacturer of custom decals has missed up to this point, but that's honestly not why we're running this shot. We've said it before but we'll say it again; take a look at Lt Lee's face. He's young, and he's so very old. You can bet those three kill markings under the windscreen (also ignored by most decal sheets featuring this airplane) didn't come easily.   Rocker Collection

Here's a P-40N, possibly from the 49th but we're not certain of that, parked on a PSP ramp while some of the ground guys, or maybe a pilot and crew chief, pose for the folks. This photo was taken after the white ID markings were added to fighters operating in theater, but check out the wear on those leading edges and the abrasion on the propeller blades. The Pacific ate airplanes too.   Rocker Collection

Things didn't improve all that much as the war progressed, although there was marginally less chance of dying in combat the closer things got to the end. You still had to work on the airplanes, though, and you had to fly them. This 318th FG P-47D sitting on the ground at Isley Field on Saipan testifies to how crummy operating conditions were and, for most part remained, until the last day of the war. "Sun Shine" is a pretty airplane, but she's a little the worse for wear. Remember that part about the Pacific eating airplanes?   Rocker Collection

Neither the Navy nor the Marines were exempt from those horrible conditions we've been talking about. George Bunker brought this VMO-251 SBD in hard in 1943. The airplane isn't too badly damaged, at least from what we can see in this photograph, but a crash is a crash. At least he walked away.    Rocker Collection

You were never safe out there, even when the enemy was nowhere around. Those guys from the flight deck division are pretty nonchalant in this photograph, which was taken while the USS Anzio was rolling in heavy seas on 17 December, 1944, during Typoon Cobra near the Philippines. You could even write home and tell the folks about that one...   Rocker Collection

After all, it wasn't that bad! Well, maybe it really was that bad; after all, something knocked the snot out of this Anzio-based TBM. I'm sorry---what did you say? Ok; you win, it wasn't really that rough after all. It's just a storm, not a battle. All right, then; how about changing places with one of those guys? No? We didn't think so.   Rocker Collection

It's only a little storm, right? Well, don't tell that to the guys on the Kawjalein unless you want to get yourself laughed off the boat!   Rocker Collection

Or maybe you can just go down to the hangar deck and help clean up the mess. Maybe these FM-2s will be salvaged, but we're willing to bet that more than a few go over the side. It wasn't always the Japanese that got you.   Rocker Collection

Ken Walsh was a Marine fighter pilot with 21 confirmed air-to-air victories, and a Medal of Honor winner to boot. He had a successful career in the Corps, and died of a heart attack at the age of 81. He survived combat, and he survived the Pacific. This photograph is one of those taken out there, in theater, for the express purpose of showing the folks back home what their heroes looked like. We never met, and didn't know,  Ken Walsh, but his face tells a story. He was there, as were so many others, because it was his duty. He, and most of the others, came home, but a great many didn't. They're still out there somewhere, a silent testimony to devotion, duty, and courage in the face of extreme peril. They were, and the increasingly few survivors still are, a special breed. Let's raise a glass...   Rocker Collection

And while we're at it, let's raise a glass to Bobby Rocker, and Steve Birdsall, Jack Fellows, Justin Taynan, Robert Livingstone, and all the others who strive to tell the story of those terrible days so long ago. Lest we forget...

Gone But Not Forgotten

That would be Pacific Coast Models, a model company that specialized in polystyrene replicas of aircraft of the Reggia Aeronautica. Their range of kits, produced for them by such cottage industry stalwarts as Sword, were often a little tough to build but resulted in highly unique and the completed models, once finished, could be spectacular. Their later days saw them broadening their scope away from the Italian air force of World War 2 and producing such divergent kits as the Fw190A-1/2/3/4, Ta152H, Spitfire Mk IX, Spitfire Mk XIV, and Hawker Tempest. Excellent efforts all, those kits were simply too little and too late to save PCM; Tamiya's Merlin Spitfire kits and Special Hobby's Tempest in particular helped to put the nails in the lid, but Pacific Coast's kits are still out there and at reasonable prices, too. You can do some good things with them, to which end we'd like to offer up their Spitfire Mk XIV for your consideration:

See what we mean? This is PCM's Mk XIV "Spit" and it's 100% what came in the box, even to include the decals---no aftermarket was harmed in the production of this model! It's one of those mixed-media affairs, being mostly polystyrene but with healthy dollops of resin and photoetch included for the finer details. That detailing is adequate too, at least from my point of view, and people a lot smarter than I am say the dimensions are pretty accurate as well, which puts it in the WIN column in my world.

Here's another view to show how much it really and truly does look like a Griffon-engined Spitfire. All the markings are, as previously mentioned, from the kit decals, although I have to admit I cheated a bit and painted on those black lines on the wings---I've never gotten along particularly well with long, skinny decals and had no reason to expect that to have changed when I built this model!

This is a kit I truly enjoyed building, and I'm looking forward to building their Tempest as well. Yes; I know the Special Hobby kit is supposed to be better but I don't have a SH Tempest. I do have a PCM Tempest. I see logic in those statements although, as always, your own personal mileage may vary.

One final point has to be mentioned before we leave this particular topic: Although I didn't find anything especially difficult to deal with while building this model, basic, and even intermediate, modeling skills are required. Everything fits well for a limited run kit, and the model is relatively easy to get together, but the new guy or gal might well end up binning it (that's a British-ism for throwing it away) before they get it completed. It won't fight hard, but it most assuredly will fight back during the course of construction. I built this one a couple of years ago and specifically remember having to argue a bit with the wing-root fillets and the dihedral, and special care had to be taken with the interior installation as well. None of it was all that tough but you probably need to have both Modeling 101 and 102 under your belt before you take a crack at this one.

We miss PCM, and we miss the fine folks who birthed and ran it for so many years. The company's demise was truly a loss for us all but those kits are still out there, often ignored, and just waiting for the right modeler to come along. Tally Ho!!!

The Third at Yokota

The 3rd BG, that is. Here, thanks to Gerry Kersey over at 3rd Attack (see the link on the right side of this page) are a couple of photos of one of their B-26Bs while stationed at Yokota immediately post-War:

She's an old stager and a little bit shopworn, but she's still ready to answer the call if needed! Check out her early nose configuration, with the six .50 caliber Brownings displace laterally instead of vertically. This is the way The Old Air Force looked, ya'll!   via Gerry Kersey/3rd Attack Group.Org

Here's a slightly different view of the same airplane at the same event. We've been thanking people right along for helping us with this project, and we'd like to mention Gerry for his unfailing support. Taking it a step further, we'd also like to give a very special thank you to Gerry for his outstanding job over at the 3rd Attack site. The resource he's built up there is little short of amazing, and we're truly grateful that he's chosen to devote himself to the preservation of that very special group of aviators.    via Gerry Kersey/3rd Attack Group.Org

A Random Modeling Tip

Trumpeter, that modeling company we all love to hate, actually does some pretty neat stuff when you get right down to it. They kit a whole bunch of airplanes, among other things, that no other manufacturer would touch with with a ten-foot pole, and they've got a small line of modeling-related stuff as well in their Master Tools line, chief among which is their "Item No: 09937 Plastic Circle Board". It's exactly what its name implies, being a collection of rings and discs, all out of polystyrene. I've had two different hobby shop owners tell me that particular item invariably languishes on their shelves, rarely purchased by anybody. I think that's just wrong, and here's why:

Ever try to get a resin engine to fit properly inside a polystyrene cowling and have to argue with either cyanoacrylate adhesive or epoxy to get the darned thing to stay where you want it to? Here's one solution! The cowling is from Academy's P-47N, and the engine is an aftermarket resin affair that looks a lot better than the powerplant supplied in that otherwise very nice kit. That's one of Trumpeter's rings superglued to the back-side of the resin engine. Once it's properly aligned (from the front, not from back here!) that ring will be locked into place with plastic cement in a plastic to plastic weld, thus guaranteeing the powerplant won't come loose later on. We don't know about you but we're impressed with the whole thing. Way to go, Trumpeter!

You Gotta Have a Sense of Humor

Yes you do. It's helpful in everyday life and is absolutely essential during times of extreme stress, say, maybe, like in a war. The guys at the sharp end of things during the Second World War and the Korean Conflict had established and maintained a wonderful way of expressing humor and, to the extent possible, relieving stress, by putting names and artwork on their aircraft. The practice was both prolific and in some instances profound (not to mention occasionally profane), but the officers at the top end of things, at least in the Air Force, often frowned on such activities. Their notion was that such imagery was unprofessional and therefore not to be permitted to exist on their airplanes. They actually managed to keep a lid on things for a while during the 1960s, which is the reason you'll see so relatively little nose art on SEA-based birds during the 1966-68 time period, but the staff weenies in DC weren't the guys getting shot at and the aircrew that were at the sharp end of things quickly came to the conclusion that they'd do it if they wanted to or, more likely, could get away with it. While some of the resulting art was most assuredly on the raucous side, and occasionally obscene (think that famous pair of F-105Ds, "Cherry Girl" and "Pussy Galore" here), most of it was innocuous, while a great deal of it was humorous and some even thought provoking.

Don Jay spent a substantial portion of his youth in theater while serving with the Air Force. He's also a photographer and a collector of photography, and today he's offered us a few images of Vietnam-era aircraft art for your perusal. The artwork is special, and reflects a way of dealing with the stress and pain of a wartime aviation environment.

Let's start with an image of a helmet rather than an airplane. This particular bone-dome is sitting on an SOS A-1 and sums things up rather nicely, we think. It bespeaks an attitude, but the SpaD guys were always like that...   Jay Collection

Most people thing of Phantoms and "Thuds" when they think of the air war in SEA, but a lot of other types were active there as well. "Little Ruff" was a Cessna O-1E performing the highly dangerous role of forward air control. The Bird Dog is rarely the first airframe to come to mind when we think of nose art, but this Charles Schultz-inspired image suits the type perfectly!   Jay Collection

"TWA/Teeny-Weeny Airlines" is another O-1E, this time sitting on the ramp at DaNang. The name is simple yet appropriate.   Jay Collection

Don Jay shot "Honey Bucket", 67-0301, an F-4E-35-MC, during his stay in SEA. She gained a measure of fame on October 15,  1972, when she killed a MiG-21 on a mission up north. Subsequently transferred to the Turkish Air Force, she crashed into the Aegean Sea near the island of Lesbos on 28 January, 1995, with the loss of her pilot. This is what her nose art looked like when she was in her prime.   Don Jay

"Hillbilly Slick" was an RF-4C-26-MC, s/n 65-0870. She was operational at Udorn fairly late in the festivities and her nose art was spectacular to say the least!   Jay Collection

65-0849 was an RF-4C-25-MC and features nose art of the double-entendre variety. There's nothing subtle here!   Don Jay

Sometimes the artwork was subdued, and sometimes profound. F-105D-25-RE 62-4236 was assigned to the 34th TFS at Korat in 1968 and carried the name "Isaiah 6:8" on her nose gear doors. For those of you not familar with the meaning, the reference is biblical and expresses the following:  "And I heard the voice of the Lord saying "Who Shall I send? Who shall go for us?" And I said "Here I am. Send me!" We don't know the fate of this particular airframe or its pilot but it's a fair bet she was expended over the North at some point. Sometimes it takes more than enthusiasm and nose art...   Jay Collection

A handful of "Thuds" are well know to most enthusiasts, and "The Jefferson Airplane" is one of those. Built as an F-105F-1-RE (63-8302), she was subsequently converted to F-105G standard and lost over North Vietnam on 29 September, 1972. Her pilot survived both the shoot-down and a stay in the Hanoi Hilton but her Bear was apparently killed on capture. It was a brutal war in every way.   Jay Collection

63-8306 was another F-105F-1-RE that was converted to an F-105G. She was a SAM killer of some reknown and survived the conflict, a fate eluded by far too many Thunderchiefs and their crews.   Don Jay

"Flash" was an old airplane by F-105 standards, a D-model built in 1959. Serialed as 59-1743, she was an F-105D-5-RE and was serving with the 333rd TFS at Takhli and getting ready to go up North when Don photographed her in October of 1970. She's a survivor and is preserved at Hill AFB in Utah.   Don Jay

Here's 58-1152, another early F-105D-5-RE. Don photographed her during her SEA service while at Korat in 1968; she was serving with the 34th TFS at the time. She survived her missions over the North but was lost in 1971 due to an in-flight fire while serving with the Kansas ANG's 127th TFS. Her pilot survived the ejection but the airplane was lost. 1152 was one of the relative few that went down due to an operational accident rather than enemy fire.   Don Jay

We have to admit we're partial to this airplane! Silver "Thuds" have always had an attraction for us and this one's special. 61-0184 was serving with the 44th TFS out of Korat when this photograph was taken in 1965, but it's the name that gets us going: "Vietnam ANG".  Built as an F-105D-25-RE, she was one far too many Thunderchiefs to be lost in combat; she was shot down over the North shortly after this photo was taken,  on 10 August, 1965. Her pilot got out, a circumstance that eluded far too many "Thud" drivers. One final note: Check out the color of the M117s hanging off her centerline MER. They appear to be black, and they should be the standard OD of all US bombs. We're guessing they really are OD, just as they should be, and it's just relection off a shiny surface---maybe the weapons were polished for the occasion---or maybe they really were black (which we doubt severely!). We'll probably never know...   Jay Collection

Many thanks to Don Jay for providing us with all of these images. They're a wonderful time machine into a tragic part of American history.

Life in the Frozen North

For those of you who might not know, we've been blessed from the very beginning of this project by the presence of a number of career aviators. Their insight and, often, their photography, has helped us to make this blog what it is. Doug Barbier is another plankholder; we knew him back in the days of the print Replica in Scale and also during the Aerophile project. He's another one of those guys with both a colorful Air Force career and a way with a single-lens reflex camera. Here are a couple of his photos for your enjoyment, taken when he was flying with the 57th FIS out of Keflavik during their F-4 days. The first set of photos are best explained by Doug, who was in Lockheed's immortal T-33A during the course of the adventure:

Bear Bomber

In the 1960's and 70's, the 57th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (FIS) at Keflavik airbase in Iceland maintained what was nearly a wartime status. Their mission was to intercept and identify any unknown aerial traffic that penetrated the Icelandic Air Defense Zone (ADIZ). And the Soviets kept them busy. I was stationed there as a squadron T-33 pilot during 1979 on a one year long remote tour. With only three pilots in the squadron, plus another half dozen "attached" guys who were serving tours in the Command Post, we had three "in commission" T-birds and life was good. Since the maintenance guys were much happier on the flight line turning wrenches on the jets than sitting in their quarters going crazy, we usually scheduled the T-birds 3 turn 3, turn 3 a day. This meant that each squadron T-bird pilot had his own jet and flew it three times a day Monday through Friday. The F-4 folks had all sorts of additional duties, including a minimum of two crews on alert 24/7/365. And they had about three dozen crews and a total of 13 F-4E Phantoms, of which 5 might be on the local training schedule - maybe. The remainder were either on alert, in maintenance or in depot in Spain, so flight time was hard to come by for them. 

The T-33's were primarily stationed at Kef to provide target support for training new WSO's coming in to the squadron- most of whom had been dropping bombs and had not used the radar for air-to-air work since checking out in the jet and needed all the help that they could get. We also flew pre-planned navigation routes to calibrate the air defense radars on the island and acted as targets in the monthly "Fan Angel" air defense exercises. Target sorties usually had us loaded out with one ALE-2 chaff tank under one wing pylon and an ALQ-71 or -72 ECM jamming pod under the other. With this configuration, the T-bird was unable to make it to any other airfield than Kef so the wise pilots practiced hand flying ILS instrument approaches to touchdown in the nice weather, so that they could do it for real when the fog and low visibility rolled in. Your choices in that case were limited to die hot (in the wreckage), die cold (in the water), or land. When the weather was that bad, nobody was going to save you because they were never going to find you in time.

The Soviet armed forces carried out several very large scale exercises each year and when that happened, all local F-4 training was cancelled, any jets in local maintenance were hurried to completion and all F-4's were "cocked", crewed and put on alert. This left the T-bird guys with nothing to do but go sight seeing. But many times, there were over 150 "unknown" targets airborne near Iceland and only 8 to 10 operational F-4's. While the TDY E-3 "AWACs" could call for fuel from tankers based in the UK, there were no tankers available for the F-4's, so they had to constantly cycle back to Kef for fuel, leaving huge gaps in coverage. ADC frequently used single-ship scrambles, but even then, a 15:1 ratio was not in the F-4's favor. 

In 1978, someone had the idea of putting a T-33 on alert, relieving a little stress on the F-4's and hoping to intercept a Bear with a T-33, something which had never been done. A T-bird had the external stores downloaded and was placed out on the alert ramp, cocked and waiting. They waited for a long time since the T-bird did not have the speed to catch a target on the east side of the Island, the Soviets had to cooperate and bring an "unknown" down the gap between Greenland and Iceland. This was the normal route for the TU-95 "Bear" bombers that were deploying to and from Cuba. Finally the big day occurred, the Klaxon went off and the T-bird was scrambled. Unfortunately, in their haste to get airborne the crew came around the corner from the high-speed alert taxiway onto the runway too rapidly and rolled one main tire off of the rim. While the aircraft was not seriously damaged, that ended that bright idea and the T-birds were relegated back to their normal role.

During July 1979, the Soviets were running another of their exercises and Capt. Tom Callahan and I were airborne in the Lockheed racer. I always carried a camera ensconced in my helmet bag, "just in case" something interesting would present itself. I was in the back seat and had just finished a heavyweight simulated flameout approach and was starting the go-around when the tower told us to contact the GCI (Ground Controlled Intercept) immediately as they had a pairing for us. That was unheard of, so while I was getting the power in and the gear up, Tom contacted the GCI and the first words we heard were: "Sloe Gin 91, you are paired, two targets 290 degrees range 135 miles". I had the jet cranked around to the heading that they gave us before we reached the end of the runway and gave control to Tom while I started unearthing my camera. 

Unfortunately, the GCI folks were used to the much faster F-4's and while we left the throttle buried in the forward end of the quadrant (ignoring the 30 minute limit on full power operations - we were not going to let this one get by us), the initial vector left us "cold" and they had to keep slowly turning us to the left to try to get some cutoff. Thankfully the two Bears were at 23,000 feet as our T-bird was unpressurized and we could only legally go to 25,000' before running into the danger of possibly coming down with the bends or some other type of "evolved gas" problems. By the time the range was down to 20 miles, we had a "tally-ho" on a flight of two Bear bombers but we could see that the geometry was still not in our favor - they were going to cross our nose and put us into a tail chase which we would lose. It was absolutely "VERBOTEN" to talk directly to the Bears, even though we knew that they were undoubtedly listening in to our conversations with the GCI folks, so I pressed the microphone button and made a general statement to the effect of "gee, it sure would be nice if they could slow down about 15 knots so we can keep up with them". Sure enough, the trailing Bear pulled back his power and we managed to complete the intercept, although the leader was now a couple of miles past us. The swept wing planform of the Bears allowed a high-subsonic cruise and the straight wing of the T-bird gave us a limiting Mach of 0.8. They were faster... They were also very loud. When you got close, you could not only hear, but feel the vibrations from those thirty-two contra-rotating prop blades. We called the ID on two Bear Foxtrots - the anti-submarine version - and flew alongside for several minutes while I took some photos. The whole time, the second Bear was falling further and  further behind his leader, but then again, he had never seen a T-33 and we had never seen a Bear, so it was all good. We finally got an F-4 on station after what seemed like an eternity - we were still burning neutrons at full power trying to keep up - passed the escort off to him, pulled the power back to save the engine and headed for home. After writing up the overtime on the max power limit so that the maintenance guys would check the turbine blades and exhaust for cracks, we went back to the squadron with big grins on our faces. Those were immediately extinguished when we found the Air Forces Iceland Commander screaming in the face of our squadron commander about "creating an international incident" and having a "non-combat coded jet intercepting a Soviet war plane". It did not matter that the USN Rear Admiral (his boss) had personally approved the pairing and was laughing his head off about it.

Anyhow, the whole event was hushed up and nothing else was ever said or heard about it, except for the fact that we became "Discrete 1" and "Discrete 2" on the squadron "hack" board that listed the first dates of the intercepts. The person who was the most disappointed about the whole affair was one of the F-4 pilots who had been up at Kef for nearly 5 months and had not yet intercepted his first Bear. He had been scrambled and sent east about 3 minutes before we got paired to the west. We got a Bear. He got a missed intercept and had to try to live down the fact that the T-bird guys got a Bear before he did.    Doug Barbier, February 2019

Doug Barbier

Maybe we can catch him if we pedal just a little faster...  Tom Callaghan and Doug Barbier closing in on their "Bear" in the mighty "Lockheed Racer". They caught that Tu-95 at the end of it all, but they did it with a little help from friends in an unexpected place!   Doug Barbier

Finally! The Tu-95 is an absolutely amazing airplane, and is far faster than its size and all those propeller blades might suggest it could be. Most of the air-to-air shots you see of them were taken by people in Fast Movers, which the "T-Bird" really isn't. Still, if everything's in your favor, you can make it all happen. This photo is the proof of that.   Doug Barbier

Here's a shot of the adventure as taken by the Phantom that joined up with Doug's T-33 shortly after the intercept, and the "T-Bird" has dropped its speed brakes to break away and return to Kef while there's still fuel. The photo isn't much of a much if you aren't aware of the relative capabilities of the airplanes in the photo but the Tu-95 will step right out when the throttles are pushed forward, making this intercept a rare and somewhat incredible event. It's an amazing shot if you know what's going on.    An Anonymous F-4 GIB via Doug Barbier

Next up is another shot Doug didn't take, this time of his "T-Bird" performing a bubble check near Keflavik:

Bubble check photo taken by one of the GCI controllers at Hofn - on the southeast corner of Iceland. Me in the front seat, my crew chief on an incentive ride in the back.  The choice was to go between the bubble and the vertical rock wall or to come by the lighthouse and pier.  In other words - rocks or birds, your choice of hazards.   I went for the birds.  They had a klaxon that the on-duty controller would hit when they had an inbound for a flyby.  Those poor guys were not allowed outside the fence the entire year that they were stationed there, the only time that they were allowed out was to get on the little prop plane to get flown to Kef to go home, so it was a big deal/morale raiser to have someone come by. In consequence, they would all grab a camera and rush outside when they knew we were coming.  In consequence, we used to make sure that the RAF F-4 crews who came over every month to play in our "Fan Angel" exercises would do a bubble check on their way home as well. You knew down to the minute when they had passed, because the phone lines to Reykjavik would heat up, the U.S. Ambassador would get called on the carpet, who would immediately call the Air Forces Iceland CC, who would tell him that it was "not our guys, it was the Brits on their way home".   "No, they cannot  be called back and no, they will not be allowed to return".  Since it was always a different squadron and a new RAF crew every month, he always kept his word.   Doug Barbier   Barbier Collection

An RAF Phantom, at altitude and staying out of trouble. It was not always so...   Doug Barbier

You rarely see dissimilar types flying in formation nowadays, but it could still happen back in the 1970s. We've published this shot once before, but in so many ways it helps define the 57th during their time at "Kef" so we're doing it again. It was taken by Baldur Sveinnson during an airshow at Reykjavik in 1979. (Doug couldn't take it himself because he was flying one of those "T-Birds".)     Sveinnson via Barbier

The Mighty Mighty "T-Bird". In this shot,  -540 is flying east along the south coast of Iceland on a typical sight-seeing tour. Do you think the term "classic aircraft" might apply to Lockheed's T-33? We sure do!   Doug Barbier 

You gotta be tough to live in Texas, but I think we can safely say Michigan isn't too far behind in that regard. That's Doug in the photo, no longer in the "T-Bird" but still very much in the frozen north, and that's what he's been doing for the better part of this past winter. Snow's pretty if you don't have to live with it...

That's it for this round of photography from Kef, but you might want to check in with us next issue when we'll highlight some more of Doug's photography, featuring the 57th's F-4s. Stay tuned!

The Brothers Morgan

That would be Mark and Rick, of course. I met Rick first, while parked off the south end of the runway at The Late Lamented Kelly AFB while shooting arrivals on a Sunday afternoon. That chance meeting led in turn to an introduction to Rick's older brother Mark, and both have been firm friends ever since. Rick and Mark have gone on to become authors of note and have always had an exceptional talent with finely-ground glass attached to an SLR body which, in turn, takes us to today's final photo essay.

First, let's take a look at some ground studies of Northrop's seminal F-5 Tiger II, in this case in service with the NAV's adversary squadrons back in the 1980s:

Here's 159880, an F-5E and formerly AF 73-0895, sitting on the ramp at MCAS El Toro on 08 May, 1983. She was assigned to the Navy Fighter Weapons School ("Top Gun") at the time, and was looking pretty spiffy, if somewhat shopworn, on that early morning. The entire F-5 family were simple in both concept and execution and were, at least to us, the last of the pure fighters. Your mileage may vary on that one but that's what we think!   Mark Morgan

And here she is again, this time at Point Mugu on the 20th of October. We're running her twice to make a point---it's the same airplane in the photo above but look at the difference in her paintwork! No; she hasn't had a recent visit to the NARF for a cosmetic makeover. What you're seeing is 100% the result of different lighting on her airframe. Modelers take note!   Mark Morgan

Variation on a theme! 160794 (AF 73-0872 wore a similar, if almost entirely different (yep---I really said that!) scheme while serving with the NFWS. Mark shot her at an air show at MCAS El Toro on 28 May, 1984. On 18 April, 2003, she crashed to destruction near NAS Fallon while serving with VFC-13. Unfortunately, her pilot was killed in the accident, proving once again that there are no easy days in military aviation.   Mark Morgan

The Tiger II family had a tub in the lineage, the 2-seat F-5F. Here's a prime example of same; 160964 (AF 75-0753), sitting on the ramp at El Toro on 28 April, 1985. We personally prefer the grey-based camouflage schemes used on the Navy's adversary types to the tan and green ones, but that's just a personal preference. At the end of the day it's still the same airplane, very sleek and very, very capable. No; it's not much good in bad weather, and it's far from stealthy, but it just might be the airplane to have in an old-fashioned clear air mass knife fight...   Mark Morgan

Let's close things out with another Echo; this time 162796, photographed while on public display at NAS Miramar on 19 February, 1989. Another one of those pretty grey birds, she's somewhat of an anomaly in that her BuNo, 162796, ostensibly belongs to an E-2C Hawkeye, but she obviously isn't that! If YOU know the answer (Tommy? Rick? Mark? Beuller?), that e-mail address is replicainscaleatyahoodotcom!   Mark Morgan

Now, let's take a look at a page from Rick Morgan's past, back in the mid-80s when he was flying with VAQ-139 aboard the Constellation. There's potentially quite a bit to see from his service during that time but today we're going to spend our efforts looking at VFA-25's F/A-18As:

It almost looks as though something's about to happen here, but you'll notice that 161948 is firmly chained to the flight deck, at least for the moment. She's not carrying Sidewinders but she's being prepared for flight nontheless. This is what TPS looks like when it's clean, by the way, or at least the way it looked on this airplane on 02 May, 1984. She ended up with the Blue Angels and was for a time (and possibly still is) on display at Florida's Valiant Air Museum.   Rick Morgan

Proof positive that you can be bored during flight ops! 161955 is chained with a towbar attached in preparation for a training mission. Life eventually became more exciting for her when she was assigned to the Blue Angels flight demonstration team, but she was just another Hornet when Rick took this photo on the 2nd of May, 1984. She's presently at the museum in P'Cola, should you care about such things.   Rick Morgan

Getting ready to rumble! 161950 is taxiing up to the cat in preparation for launch on a practice Alpha Strike on 01 May, 1984. She's mostly pristine in this photo, which causes us to guess that Rick took it fairly early in the cruise. The airplane eventually ended up in Spain, a far cry from her Pacific Ocean home while with VFA-25!   Rick Morgan

Rick put in several cruises with VAQ-139, which explains the 08 August, 1985, date stamp on this image. In it, 161957 is manned up and getting ready for launch. Compare the overall condition of her paintwork to that of the airplanes in the previous three images. Sea service will beat an airplane to death if you let it. 957 was another VFA-25 bird that ended up with the "Blues", assigned to them in 1997. She wound up on public display in Orlando.   Rick Morgan

If you go up you'll eventually have to come back down and, with any luck that adventure will be something along these lines---161948 is trapping aboard the "Connie" on 20 April, 1985. She's a little dirtier than she was in our lead photo up above, and that Sidewinder she's carrying is not of the inert variety. It's not a job; it's an adventure!   Rick Morgan

Thanks as always to The Brothers Morgan, who have been with this project from the very beginning and continue to help as we move along in this journey!

Hellcat Production

Norman Camou is another of our regulars, and periodically sends us links to the really neat stuff he finds on YouTube. Here's one such example:

Thanks, Norm, and Keep 'Em Coming!

Under the Radar

There was a time, long ago, when there was no internet. There was no way to easily access a great deal of the information we now take for granted, such as USAF serial numbers and their relationship to the airplanes we were all researching and writing about, but even back then we had THIS:

United States Air Force Serials 1946 to 1969, Merseyside Society of Aviation Enthusiasts, 1969, 71pp, illustrated.

If ever there was a work we could describe as seminal to the amateur aviation enthusiast, this would surely have been it. Extremely modest in presentation, its 71 pages were chock full of information we just couldn't get anywhere else back in 1969. There was an explanation of the way the USAF of the time designated their airplanes and assigned serial numbers, there were photographs (albeit on the tiny side) to illustrate the point, and then there was the heart of the matter; page after page of serial number entries, to include block numbers and pertinent notes. As a research tool it was as good as things got back then and the information contained within its small format (6-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches!) is still entirely valid today. We suspect a large number of our readers have never heard of this tiny missive, but it's well worth acquiring if you find one for sale. We ordered ours direct from England way back in The Day, mostly because Frank Emmett forced us to do it,  and have never regretted it. It once was, and could still easily be, a must-have for the serious aviation enthusiast's library. We highly recommend it.

Happy Snaps

Yes! Happy Snaps! It's been forever since we've run anything in what has become a dormant part of the project, but that's only because we haven't received anything of that nature from the military aviators in our readership for a very long time. I'm not sure why that is, but that's most assuredly the way it's been for a while. This is a special edition for us, though, so we're going to dip back into the files and find something to run. (That's a fancy way of saying we stumbled on this while looking for F/A-18s a little while ago...)

OK, is this pretty or what? Rick Morgan took it off the coast of Southern California back in February of 1987. She's 161929 and we presume she was from VFA-25, although the slide isn't so noted. We can't tell you much more about her except that she ended up at Davis Monthan in 1996, but she was The Bombdiggdy when Rick shot this photo!   Rick Morgan

Here's a bonus Happy Snap for you; a 57th FIS out of Keflavik, photographed by Doug Barbier in 1979 on a rare sunny Icelandic day. Beauty!   Doug Barbier

The Relief Tube

We haven't run one of these in a while either, so today must surely be The Day.

Alan Moore was going through our back pages and found a quick essay we'd done on PB4Y-1 Liberator nose art and offered this:

Dear Mr. Friddell, 

 I came across your blog today and while browsing I found Mr. Bobby Rocker's PB4Y-1 photos under the heading, "I Wish We Knew." All four Liberators (Only the PB4Y-2s were Privateers, BTW.) are VB-111 aircraft. (The squadron designations were changed to VPB-xxx on 1 Oct 1944.) 

 (746) Doc's Delight is BuNo 38746;  (750) The Snooper is BuNo 38750;  (38) 906 Reputation Cloudy is BuNo 38906;  (38) 913 Rugged Beloved is BuNo 38913.

More information can be gleaned from 

 VP-111 History at . Additionally, Rugged Beloved has a Facebook page: In Memory of the Crew of PB4Y-1 #38-913 the "Rugged Beloved" Facebook 

 Finally, researcher Terence Geary has compiled a listing of all Navy Liberators and Privateers and it's available at Aviation Archaeological Investigation &; Research: PB4Y USN Aircraft Airframe History List Hope this helps.

 Sincerely, Alan Moore Geneseo, NY

Thanks very much Alan, both for the corrections and for the web sites!

Finally, and in our One of the Many Reasons We Love This Hobby Department, we recently ran a piece about the construction of a 67th TFS F-51D we built in which we mentioned we'd messed up a couple of the numbers in the 1960s-vintage Stoppel decal sheet we were using for our buzz numbers. We put out a cry for help on these very pages and Thomas Lundgren, in Denmark, took the time to contact his friend Jacob Stoppel to inform him of our plight. Mr. Stoppel still had a couple of partial decal sheets on hand and was kind enough to send them along, thus letting me put another KW Mustang on the display shelf. Many thanks to Jacob and Thomas for that kindness and to all of you as well, for making this hobby of ours the absolute pleasure it's been for most of my life. You're an exceptional bunch!

That pretty much wraps up this special edition of Replica in Scale. My sincere thanks go out to all of you, both those who have been with the project from that extremely modest first issue and to those who have joined along the way, for making it what is is today. Thanks for your continued interest, your ongoing encouragement, and yes; your corrections. You're all as much a part of this adventure as I am and I'm grateful to each and every one of you!

A million visits. WOW!

Anyway, with any luck we'll see you again soon but until then, be good to your neighbor!