Monday, August 24, 2020

Here's How You Do It, Bad to the Bone, Operation Thunderstorm, And Some Fruitflies


Dazzled By Brilliance?

We got our Triplane. The folks at Meng, who may or may not have produced other kits for Wingnut Wings, may or may not own some or all of the tooling, may or may not be faithful to the WNW's Dream and may or may not produce other kits of Great War airplanes in 1/32nd scale, have released this much anticipated kit of kits to the masses. See-What's-in-the-Box reviews have been hitting the electronic modeling press for a while now and there should be any number of How I Built It reviews out there by now as well. The kit is real, and it's available for purchase at this very minute. You can have your  own if you want one, which brings to mind a couple of thoughts.

First, one of those kits found its way out here to the wilds of rural Texas and is sitting by the work bench at this very moment. I've been able to examine it fairly closely, although I have to admit I haven't measured anything and probably won't. (That sort of thing can get you into trouble sometimes; just ask the highly respected folks who reviewed the initial release of the Eduard Me109-G family and claimed it to be dimensionally spot-on when it really wasn't if you don't believe me!)  No measurement equals no claims from me of dimensional accuracy, period, but in all honesty everything looks pretty good and the kit's fidelity to detail is excellent. Not breathtaking, not ground-breaking, and not the best ever seen in the entire history of plastic model airplanes, but definitely excellent. 

Not that it's a perfect kit by any means. So far it's been criticized for having a little bit of flash here and there and a set, because there are three of them after all, of slightly bowed wings that will require straightening prior to assembly. (That's all, he said?! Those are the only issues the kit has? Why tell me why are you complaining!) On the other hand, the complaints we've heard regarding the instructions are valid so you'll be wanting some decent reference materials at hand before starting the interior, if nothing else. The decals might or might not be ok but the "face" provided for Werner Voss' F.1 Triplane is incorrect and we don't much care for the instrument faces provided; Cartograf quality those decals ain't but they'll be mostly adequate for a lot of folks and can easily be replaced if that's desired. 

On the other hand, the kit provides a choice of ailerons, cowlings, and windscreens so you can build either an F.1, an early production Tripe, or a later one, out of what's already in the box. You actually have a choice because all the possible variants are catered for in that one kit, while most manufacturers (a grouping that could easily have included WNW themselves) would have released them as separate variants in order to increase their revenue stream. The kit decals make an attempt at covering the bases too. It's a great approach and we applaud it---way to go, Meng! Of course the kit doesn't include the option to up-engine the airplane with a captured Clerget rotary and maybe an English prop too, a practice that was followed on a limited basis by certain individual pilots within the Imperial Air Service, but there are aftermarket Clergets and propellers are available if you just can't live without doing that, and we think it would be going way too far to expect any kit manufacturer to cover that particular base anyway. 

So now we know it's a good kit and we think it's probably an accurate one as well, and as nicely detailed as we would expect from the boys from New Zealand. The instructions aren't as good as those that came in any Wingnut offering and the decals are barely adequate but hey; Meng tried, and they did a pretty darned good job of it too! They also released a kit that a great many of us wanted but thought we'd never see after the demise, maybe, of Wingnut Wings. (Let the rumor-mongering continue because it's already begun!)

On the other hand there's another 1/32nd scale Fokker Triplane kit out there as well, and it ain't half-bad. Yes, I'm talking about Roden's offering and yes, I actually meant to commit the heresy of saying it's a good kit, because it is. It's not as detailed as the new Meng kit, but once we get past the "valley" they put in the middle of the horizontal stab because they faithfully followed a set of drawings that erroneously included that particular non-existent feature, it's very nearly as good. Just remember that it's an older model and its not as well detailed as any WNW offering and therefore not as good as the new Meng Tripe either, but it's still a good kit and perfectly viable when married to a little aftermarket and some modest skill. 

Why do we mention the Roden kit at all, you may ask. The answer to that one is simple: There's a whole world of 1/32nd scale kits out there that Wingnut Wings had nothing whatsoever to do with and most of them are pretty darned good. Roden, for example, produce a number of very nice kits that do, admittedly, require a slightly higher skill level of the modeler than do the offerings from WNW, but the boys over at Copper State are issuing kits that are every bit as good as anything the folks down in the Southern Hemisphere ever produced and their instruction sheets and decals are top-notch as well. There are options to Wingnut Wings, albeit options that aren't nearly as prolific subject-wise, at least for the time being, but the point to be taken is that options are there if you want to explore them. 

That particular Adventure in Tangents aside, here's what I think we might learn from this adventure. First; nothing lasts forever, which means we might all want to try to obtain the kits we want to build while they're actually available at non-collector prices. Secondly; any kit that gets itself linked to anything WNW did will invariably be compared to that manufacturer, and perhaps/probably not entirely favorably. Finally, there are other manufactuers of large-scale Great War airplanes out there. There aren't many of them and their product lines are limited when we compare them with Wingnut, but they're there. 

My own personal Bottom Line is this: I have the Meng kit and will build it in the very near future, but I'm also going to build my Roden Tripe because it's a good kit as well, maybe not quite as good as that new Meng offering but good nonetheless, and I'm capable of making up for any perceived kit shortfalls if I choose to do that. Most serious scale modelers are capable of that sort of thing as well, while those who aren't will eventually acquire the necessary skills as they progress on their journey through the world of plastic scale airplanes. It's always helpful to start out with the best kit we can obtain but after it's all said and done it's the modeler, and his or her abilities and skills, that make the difference. The plastic is a starting place that we should probably call Opportunity because it all comes down to what we make of it at the end of the day. You might say it's all in our hands.

My story, etc etc...

A Fine Example of What We Just Said

Remember back about thirty seconds or so ago when we mentioned that it's mostly the modeler and not the kit? Here's a fine example of that sort of thing courtesy of Jim Sullivan, an AD-4Whiskey from VMC-1:

Those of our readership who have achieved a cerain seniority on Life may well recall the 1/48th scale polystyrene efforts of ESCI back in the 1980s and 90s. They offered the serious modeler a line of much needed and in many cases somewhat unique kit subjects, several of which were what we'll term "modestly flawed" and none of which could have been in any way described as an easy date. They weren't, and still aren't, a good choice for those with lesser skills but they can really be something for the modeler with a little bit of experience.

This particular variant of the Douglas AD Skyraider has never been produced by any other manufacturer, at least not in 1/48th, which means you're going to be using an ESCI kit (or its AMT sibling---it's all the same plastic no matter how you cut it) if you want to build one for your collection. Jim Sullivan wanted one and he had the AMT kit on hand, a collaboration which produced the results you see before you.

Here's The Real Thing; AD-4W BuNo126840 from VMC-1 taken in Korea on 15 May, 1953. That airplane hasn't been abused but it isn't exactly brand new and shiny either, and Jim's model captures the spirit of the thing pretty well, we think.   Sullivan Collection

And that, friends and neighbors, takes us to an old Rolling Stones tune, It's the Singer, Not the Song (Aftermath, December 1965). The kit isn't particularly easy but Jim has the skills and the need for a -4W in his collection, which leads to this sort of thing.  'Nuff said...

The Clock Was Ticking

But there was still plenty of time left on it when this photo was taken back in late 1966 or early 1967, and that particular Phantom was actively participating in the war in Southeast Asia.

Denny Smith was a C-130 driver who spent some time in-theater during the mid-60s, which is when he photographed 63-7590, an F-4C of the 480th TFS/366th TFW taxiing in from a strike on the Bad Guys. Friend and former F-4 driver Doug Barbier had this to say about the photo: That one really is a time machine, taxiing back in after a mission and after dropping the drag chute and going through de-arm. The paint and markings of those early "paint it in a hurry from this drawing, don't bother to prime it, use whatever we have on hand and make sure it's back on the schedule tomorrow morning" jets will drive you nuts. The T.O.s to paint them didn't show up until a long time after the fact and I have more than a suspicion that they were simply written to match what was commonly done in the field. Look at that early stab with no reenforcement plate and non-slotted leading edge too! Aftermarket, anyone?

 Unfortunately, the clock really was ticking on 7590; she was shot down two years later while flying with the 12th TFW. Both crew ejected safely, but it was a fate suffered by far too many airplanes during the conflict.   Denny Smith

The Right Airplane for the Job

Northrop's legendary P-61 Black Widow was one of those airplanes that made a career out of its mystique, size, and utility. It was big and it wasn't particularly fast or maneuverable, but that size meant it could carry significant armament and the heavy and bulky airborne radar of its day, which in turn meant it was well suited for use in its primary role as a night fighter. By the end of the Second World War its viability in that role was beginning to wane somewhat, although it remained in service with the 5th Air Force until 1950, but that's not what we're interested in today. It's size and soundness of structure made it a useful platform for other missions as well, and we'd like to show you a couple of photos of the airplane in one of its more significant, if less well-known, roles, that of weather ship. The mission was a direct result of a 1945 collaboration between the NACA, the Weather Bureau, the Army Air Forces, and the Navy. Headquartered out of the AAF's All Weather Flying Center in Clinton, Ohio, the type was tasked with flying through thunderstorms in an effort to gain meaningful knowledge that would relate to operating in all weathers.

The weather has always been a challenge for the aviation world to overcome, and the immediate post-War years began to see serious study of the various phemomena and conditions that could cause a threat to the aviator. The Thunderstorm Project's aircraft included a variety of types, one of which was Northrop's P-61---the Black Widow had been specifically selected due to its proven ability to cope with bad weather and severe turbulence. 43-8298 was a P-61B-20-NO assigned to the program and carrying the All Weather Flying Center's colorful red and yellow markings. The P-61 was a tough bird but the aircraft assigned to the Center took a beating all the same.   Mark Nankivil Collection

43-8327 was an early P-61C-1-NO and bore a variation of the markings found on 43-8298. At least nine Black Widows were active in the program from 1946 until 1949, and it seems that all of them differed somewhat in appearance as well; note the presentation of the serial number of 8327 under the port wing, for example. Instrumentation changed as well, and did so somewhat frequently as different aspects of the mission were addressed.   Mark Nankivil Collection

Finally, here's 43-8356, a different P-61C-1-NO, showing off yet another variation in markings. These airplanes suffered greatly while performing their mission, although no aircraft were lost during the course of the program.   Mark Nankivil Collection

Those of us who fly, even if only as commercial passengers, owe the crews of these aircraft an enormous debt for the job they performed so many years ago. Their courage and fortitude vastly improved our understanding of both thunderstorms and aviation weather in general, and paved the way for safer flying for everyone. It was difficult and dangerous work, and the crews of those P-61s excelled at it. At the risk of over-using a saying we quote fairly often around here: Let's raise a glass...

Gone But Not Forgotten

The LTV A-7 Corsair II family of attack aircraft have to rank among the most successful of the designs dedicated to the air-to-ground mission in the United States armed services. A result of the 1963 VAL competition to provide the Navy with a replacement for the long-lived Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, the first operational variant, the A-7A, began to reach the Fleet by 1966. The program eventually saw the type in use with both the Navy and the Air Force, as well as with several foreign operators. Today we're going to take a brief look at one specific variant, the A-7E, in use during a brief window in time; four aircraft spanning the years 1981 and 82.

Here's a fine place to start since VA-147 was the first Navy squadron to accept the A-7A into service, back in June of 1967, and was among the first to take it into combat. The squadron was active with the type during the Vietnam Conflict, and converted to the A-7E during 1969. This post-War Echo, 157479, was photographed on the ramp at NAS Chase Field on 06 June, 1981. Obviously well-used, 479 was the real thing, visiting a Tracom base after a recent cruise on the USS Constellation.   Phillip Friddell

May of 1981 saw a unique pair of "Fruitflies" from VA-193 on the ground at Ellington ANGB in Galveston. 159273 was nicknamed "Golden Dragon", a reference to 193's squadron nickname, and belonged to the unit's CO. She was a Clean Machine when I photographed her on the 22nd of May.   Phillip Friddell

Also found at Ellington that day was the squadron XO's aircraft, nicknamed "Executive Dragon". The Corsair II was a pugnacious-appearing little airplane as is well demonstrated by this photo.   Phillip Friddell

Finally, we have 156828 from VA-97 sitting on the ground at NAS Corpus Christi on 12 June, 1982. All four of these aicraft, photographed barely two years apart, were still wearing the Navy's classic Light Gull Grey over White scheme which would give way to the new TPS paintwork shortly after these images were taken. They were still pretty at the turn of the 80s, though!

The Corsair II lasted until 1991 in Navy service, with the last operational aircraft being retired after their return from Operation Desert Storm. The Air Force variant lasted a little longer, serving in the ANG until 1993, while several foreign users continued with the type until Portugal's retirement of their A-7Ps in 2007. 

From an operational standpoint the A-7 could carry an impressive load of ordnance for a considerable distance, but it suffered from low speed and limited ability to carry modern avionics. At the end of the day the airplane did its job and it did it well, but all things eventually must pass. It was quite a platform in its youth and it served well for over forty years, a testimony to its basic design. It was quite an airplane.

Happy Snaps

Yep; it's that time again! Here's an F/A-18A from the "Connie's" VFA-113 for your consideration today:

There are different reasons to like photographs of things. This image, taken by Rick Morgan over the Indian Ocean on 26 July, 1985, illustrates one of the more important ones. At first glance the image is a little frustrating since we can't make out the BuNo, nor can we really get a good look at the squadron markings on the vertical stab, but the composition---Lord-a-mighty; the composition! This, boys and girls, is how it's done! That's an A+++, Morgo, and thanks for sharing it with us!   Rick Morgan

And So It's Time to Go

Yep; it's that time. There's no Relief Tube today because nobody corrected us about anything, even though we almost certainly made some mistakes in the last issue. We're always interested in hearing from you, of course, and we'd love to see your photography if you've got anything you'd like to share with us. Comments, photos, or just Hi How Ya Doin', you can reach us for any of those things at replicainscaleatyahoodotcom although, as we always try to remind folks: You need to substitute the @ sign and a dot (.) in the appropriate places if you want the address to work. It's a pain in the wazoo to have to explain that, and we can thank those unscrupulous Picture Pirates for having to deal with it, but it's the way things are. (I know; whine whine whine...)

Anyway, that's it for today. Be good to your neighbor, stay safe in this year of the Covid, and we'll meet again soon!