Tuesday, August 17, 2021

A Couple From Bob Rocker, Those Hasegawa P-40s, A Hog or Two, A Big Bird, and A Special Documentary


OOPSIE, and The Consequences Thereof

Let's start at the beginning, or maybe quite a bit before then. I acquired my first airbrush back in 1968, an early-60s Paasche H given to me by the next-door neighbor of a girlfriend. It was and still is a quality piece of work and I still have it, velvet-lined case and all, although it must be admitted it hasn't been used in a very long time. These days it's mostly a treasured keepsake of my early days in "serious" modeling, albeit one that could easily be put back into service if necessary. 

1968 was a watershed year for me in many ways, but the two that matter to this ramble are that Paasche H and the Binks hobby compressor I purchased to feed its requisite air supply. That first Binks compressor was a horse; it always worked and it was seemingly unbreakable. It was in almost daily use for some 20 years before finally giving up the ghost when it became the victim of a ruptured diaphragm in late 1988. Still, it had proven itself, which mandated an easy decision to replace it with an identical unit. That replacement is still chugging along, or at least it was when I retired it in favor of the far quieter Paasche D3000R my wife gave me for Christmas back in 2015. Ah; that Paasche! It was a revelation because it had an air tank, a water trap, and a pressure regulator built into the unit; none of which were present on either Binks as-purchased, plus the Paasche was nearly silent since it ran off the compressed air stored in the tank most of the time, a huge plus in the ongoing game of ensuring domestic tranquility on the home front. (Translation: Mama don't like that compressor noise!)

Nothing lasts forever, though, and that spiffy Paasche compressor gradually began cycling more and more frequently and taking longer to fill the air tank each time it cycled, which should have been a tip-off of some sort if I had been paying any attention at all, but of course I hadn't been. A cursory check and several leak-down tests had proven to me that none of the various air fittings on the unit were compromised even though the holding tank no longer held pressure for very long, so the whole thing was written off as the idiosyncrasies of an aging compressor. Stuff happens, right?

That's been the status quo for several months now, but everything changed a week or so ago. There were warning signs, as there so often are in Life, but like so many of us I chose to ignore them until The Fateful Night which began as I went to bed and was told by my wife that the compressor was running again. That's wasn't unusual so I made some sort of reply that involved ignoring the compressor until the next day, and I went to bed. That was Strike One. Strike Two came at 0330 the next morning when I got up to answer natures' call and noticed the compressor was merrily compressing away, apparently without making any progress at all where filling its modest storage tank was concerned. That's not what's supposed to happen so the continual racket should have been yet another a major flag for me, but the need for sleep overcame any curiosity on my part so I went back to bed. Strike Three came when I got up at 0630 and discovered the darned thing was still running! That finally stirred me from the grasp of Self-Induced Oblivion and I went over to turn the darned thing off, only to discover that it had somehow managed to pee a nasty greyish liquid all over the carpet in the space where it sat beside my modeling desk. Yes; it was, and still is, a Stupid Thing to keep a compressor on a piece of unprotected carpet and I never should have done it, but then I'd never had any personal experience with an oil-less hobby compressor puking assorted nastiness all over the floor either. Who would've thought that could even happen!

Then I noticed the compressor, which had been running until the moment I manually shut it off, wasn't actually compressing anything; it was just merrily humming away and making no productive contribution to the situation whatsoever. A close examination led to the discovery of a hole, maybe a 16th of an inch in more-or-less diameter at the edge of the holding tank, pretty much where you would find the weld that attached the end cap to the unit. A phone call to Paasche seemed in order but that only produced a No-Joy moment for me because their compressors, or mine anyway, are only warranted for one year and I'd had this one for far longer than that. The guys over there were nice enough, you understand, but they weren't any help at all, although they did take the time to section a compressor tank to show me they all would exhibit some degree of rusting over time and there were definite signs of rusting around that hole in my unit (but not on the carpet; go figure).  They also assured me, multiple times and in three-part harmony, that both halves of the problem were mine because the unit was several years out of warranty---an unpleasant reality, if you will---and there I was, hard down with no recourse as far as the manufacturer was concerned. It was time to Work the Problem.

The immediate solution was simple enough. A miraculous cleaning product called Spot Shot took away every vestige of staining from the afflicted carpet. The tank repair was simple too: The rusted-out hole was enlarged with a drill and a sheet-metal screw of a greater diameter than the hole I'd just made was wrenched into place using epoxy as a potting agent to ensure the thing couldn't possibly leak anymore, which it doesn't. The tank holds pressure, I can paint again, the carpet is clean, and everything is probably as good as it can be except that now I think there's some sort of pressure relief valve that's beginning to fail too, which takes us to today's lesson, to wit:

Don't ignore the obvious. If your compressor, airbrush, or any other tool or fixture you use is acting in a peculiar manner it would probably behoove you to investigate the reason it's doing that. Throwing in a little basic preventive action too, such as putting a compressor in a shallow plastic tub or similar before you even turn it on, can help matters considerably and you can save yourself some grief down the road.  

In hindsight, I'm guessing there was a pinhole at that weld in the tank that allowed the rust monster to develop to the point where a penetration was the inevitable result of what I'm thinking was inadequate QC at the manufacturer's level. (I was a certified aircraft welder in my younger days and I've got more than a passing familiarity with such things...) The cause really doesn't matter very much, though, because I could've/should've investigated the situation when the unit very first began to act up and I didn't. I also could've/should've had some sort of containment under the compressor, to keep the rubber pads on its feet from discoloring the floor if nothing else but I didn't do that either. Jeez, Phillip...

My ultimate solution was a new compressor, relegating the Paasche to the status of backup unit. That came with a personal decision to avoid that company's compressors as well, although it must be said that hobby compressors belong to that family of devices that can no longer be economically produced within the United States, thus rendering them all to be somewhat at long-term risk of failure. It's not so much a case that one compressor is Good while others are Bad, but rather a case of paying attention to your tools. That means I discovered once again that there's always something to learn and taking the time to do that would lead to a better outcome at the end of the day. You'd think I'd know that by now...

What We Think and What It Really Was

We live in interesting times. If you're reading this blog it's because you're an aviation enthusiast, and maybe a scale modeler too. You collect resources, you buy books, and you might even scour the deepest reaches of eBay looking for old photographs of airplanes to add to your collection of references. You quite possibly build model airplanes as well, with the substantial investment in kits, paint, decals, and accessories that comes with that hobby. If you're like most of us, your view of such things has been greatly influenced by the documentaries and movies that are out there, but rarely has there any thought to what we're going to call The Truth. We're going to take a minute to share a couple of photos provided to us by Bobby Rocker to illustrate what we mean.

Here's a prime example of what, for the purposes of this conversation, we'll call The Norm; it's an A-20G from the 90th BS/3rd BG over Lake Sentani late in the Pacific War. The airplane's intact and nobody's shooting at it. The crew was probably scared at some point in the mission, or is possibly about to be scared, but everything is calm right now, almost serene. It's what we think of when we think about our modeling subjects at all.   Bill Rupert Collection

Special Note: Contributor and friend Gerry Kersey has pointed out to that this image came not from Bobby Rocker's collection but from that of Bill Rupert. Apologies to all concerned and please disregard the credit line applied to the photograph! 

There's a whimsical side as well, as illustrated by this 67th FG P-400 participating in a close encounter of the worst kind with a US-marked Tiger Moth on an airfield in New Caledonia. We don't know the circumstances of the mishap but it's not unreasonable to presume that nobody was seriously injured, and the photo depicts the sort of accident we can find humor in. It's superficially funny and we can even make models of the airplanes involved.   Rocker Collection

And then there's this. The airplane is a Coast Guard PB2Y somewhere of the East Coast of the United States, or possibly in the Caribbean, loading casualties for the trip to proper medical attention. No; those casualties weren't from an airplane engaged in combat or even in the SWPAC but hurt is hurt, wounded is wounded, and dead is, unfortunately, dead, no matter how it happened. The big difference here is the fact that those guys could be recovered to be placed on that Coronado for transportation to a field hospital. Aviators were rarely so lucky.   Rocker Collection

We study the conflicts and we build the models. We discuss the merits of both the airplanes involved and the campaigns they fought in, and some of us publish books and magazine articles about them. I do those things too, and I enjoy them, but we need to remember the reality of the situation. None of those guys would have been doing what they were doing when they were wounded or killed if they could have done otherwise. A bad situation required them to stand up, as soldiers always do, and it required some to pay a terrible price. That's worth thinking about.

Not As Bad As You Think

That lead-in could apply to many different things, but in this instance it's a way to introduce a simple fix for the 1/48th and 1/32nd scale kits so many people love to hate: The modular Hasegawa P-40 families Curtiss Warhawks. The kits share similar design features in both scales, with separate empennage and cockpit sections as well as a handful of inserts intended to allow the manufacturer to produce different variants of the kit without going to the added expense of tooling different fuselages for each and every one of them. It's a smart and, at least in theory, cost-effective way of dealing with the problem, but there's a catch. Those inserts are no big deal if you've got a little time in the saddle as a modeler, but they can prove tricky indeed for the total novice or the lesser-skilled. With that in mind, let's see what we can do to ease the pain!

This shot, taken directly from one of Hasegawa's instruction sheets, defines the three areas that produce the problems encountered by many modelers. None of the inserts are shown, nor are the halves of the empennage assembly, but the  details that have been circled define what we need to know.

Here's the most important piece of the puzzle regardless of the scale you're building, or even the specific sub-variant of P-40 it might be. First and foremost: Totally ignore the kit's instructions for assembling the fuselage as Front and Rear sub-assemblies. Instead, take the big pieces for each side of your modular Warhawk and clean them up, then assemble them to make two complete fuselage halves. Align from the outside of the parts, where you'll see any mismatches when the model is completed, and CAREFULLY wick liquid cement (Tamiya Extra Thin Quick Setting, for example) into the joints from behind. Align the parts properly and allow them to cure. (A word of warning here: Do NOT put your fingers over a joint when applying your cement because there's a substantial risk of the stuff wicking out of the seams and leaving a fingerprint in the model's plastic. Yes; that's Modeling 101 and yes, I've done it. You have too, or you someday will, so paying attention to this basic construction technique is a thing that will save you from unnecessary frustration and cleanup!) 

This extremely simple modification to the kit's instructions will allow an almost perfect fit to the big pieces which means minimal finishing work for you later on, as well as a better-looking model once you're done.

This shot illustrates how everything goes together in the area of the radiator bathtub. If you attach the  cowling lip to the assembled radiator parts at this time and make sure everything is centered when you look at the thing from the front, you'll end up with perfect alignment of a part that goes wonky all too often. Let it cure and then assemble it to one of the fuselage halves. That one deviation from the instructions will, once again, produce a far better model with a lot less work on your part!

Before you permanently install that radiator lip, drill a couple of holes in the insert bays on the nose, and drill a couple into the the lower wing gun bays as well. This will allow you to adjust them all for a flush fit from behind before you wick in your liquid cement to lock the inserts in place---just poke a toothpick or similar into the proper hole to push a panel that may not be sitting flush into the proper position before the cement can cure.

While we're at this part of the assembly, take notice of that triangular piece that's immediately aft of the rear-most exhaust stack. The P-40D and E don't have those fillers but all the other P-40s do, and careful alignment is once again required, probably to be followed by a tiny amount of filler and some light sanding to obtain a smooth homogeneous surface there. 

This is what you'll have just before joining the fuselage halves together. Since you've already dealt with the area behind the cockpit, the intake lip, and the back end of the fuselage, what you're doing now is just like working with a "normal" model airplane kit. If you've done your part at all during the assembly process, every bit of the nonexistent drama many modelers associate with these kits is now gone. Eliminated. Vanished!

Here's what you'll end up with if you do things the way I've described them. There are a couple of other things here to pay attention to as well:

Those baseball-sized rivets in the cutouts behind the headrest on the P-40D through M are hugely oversized and have got to go, so sand them off. 

The machine gun inserts in the leading edges of the wings are another heartbreaker for many modelers, but you can avoid that particular bit of angst by carefully cleaning them up, then installing them in their cutouts in the upper wing halves prior to attaching said halves to the lower wing. It's the same deal as with all the other inserts; fit them carefully and wick some liquid cement in from behind to lock them in place from inside  the wing where it can't be seen and therefore can't create problems either. Align them on the tops and they'll fit on the bottoms too, but make sure those inserts are fully cured before assembling the wing halves!

You'll probably want to fill in those little ID lights on the fuselage sides too. They were on P-40Ds and very early Es, but very few Warhawks actually had them beyond those early variants. 

Thanks to this picture you now know what the pattern on the carpet in my studio (the one the compressor peed all over) looks like, but you've also got a pretty good idea how the undersurfaces of the nearly completed model should look. In this case it's a P-40M from the RAAF ca. 1944 but the assembly basics are the same regardless of the variant you're building. Once again, there are a couple of minor details you might want to consider as you move towards completion of your model:

First, those white spots you see on the model are MicroScale Krystal Klear that's been employed to replace the lenses that go in those places as given in the kit. That's because I'm clumsy and invariably manage to put a nick in the kit's clear parts where they attach to their sprue, or maybe sand a flat in them when I'm cleaning those parts up. Either way I end up with an out-of-round part, so using Krystal Klear instead of the kit components eliminates that problem before it can occur.

In a similar yet totally unrelated vein, the kit provides a tiny lens that goes into a hole in the front of one of the landing gear knuckles but the real airplane didn't have one there, so fill in the hole, sand it out, and move on.

Study of photographs seems to show that very few wartime P-40s had gun cameras, at least in the Pacific, so building and installing the one provided by the kit (parts A2, A24, A25, and U2) is very much up to the individual modeler unless you have a photo of the real airplane you're replicating that shows one in place.

Here's the way the model under construction for this article ended up immediately prior to finishing. It was an easy date with no drama, and all those modular components so often cursed by a vocal few in the modeling community ended up fitting like a glove, with no significant parts mismatches and little putty or sanding required. 

If you're around the hobby enough you will eventually hear a few modelers decrying these kits because of the way they're designed, although the complaints often come from people who haven't actually built any of them! Ain't that always the way!

In my world single-piece fuselage halves would have been preferable but that's not what comes with the kit, and it really doesn't matter anyway, because those Hasegawa P-40s are great kits that are capable of producing outstanding replicas of the real thing if the modeler does their part. The models build easily, or at least they do for me using the tips mentioned in this article, and they capture the look of Curtiss' pugnacious Warhawks as no other presently existing kit does. To each their own, as the old saying goes, but on a personal level I'm a big fan of Hasegawa's 1/48th and 1/32nd scale P-40s. Your mileage may vary, of course...

 An Overdue Look at Old Hose Nose

Jim Sullivan has been part of the Replica in Scale family since 1973. Aside from being both a superior modeler, photographer, and long-time associate of this project, he's also a highly valued friend. Today we're going to look at a few Corsairs from his remarkable collection of photography. They're fascinating, to our way of thinking anyway, because they show "The Hog" during normal day-to-day operations during both good and bad times. Let's take a look!

There's a general perception among a great many enthusiasts that tired or obsolescent American military airplanes were simply scrapped in place or dumped after they'd passed their usefulness in the Pacific. That was certainly true post-conflict and even during the last days of the War, but some of those older airplanes were still useful in many respects, even though their days as effective combat aircraft were over. These F4U-1As are a prime example of the practice of salvaging combat aircraft that still had life left in them. They once belonged to the legendary VF-17 and were photographed on 7 July, 1944, while being unloaded at Mugu Beach in California. Too worn for further combat, they were perfectly viable as training or utility aircraft. To borrow an old Southernism: Never throw nothin' away!   Jim Sullivan Collection

April of 1944 saw VMF-322 operating out of Kadena Field on Okinawa. These F4U-1Ds belong to that squadron and are armed with napalm as they taxied out for another mission against a highly motivated and determined enemy that wasn't interested in surrendering. 322's combat time while they were stationed on Okinawa was largely spent performing highly dangerous air-to-ground work, with the squadron's aircraft often flying multiple sorties per day in support of the ground troops. It was a tough way to make a living for all concerned.   Jim Sullivan Collection

Winners and losers; an F4U-1D from VMF-322 sits on Kadena prepped for another mission behind the remains of a Ki-36 "Ida" once used by the airfield's former IJAAF occupants. Damaged Japanese airplanes littered may of the airfields captured by US forces during the course of the war, but they rarely remained intact for long. Souvenir hunters would continue the destruction of the airframes created by combat activity and then most remaining aircraft would be scrapped, with a select few being retained for further study or shipment back to the CONUS for serious evaluation. The "Ida" was far from the cutting edge of technology even when it was new, guaranteeing that this example would soon be scrapped.   Jim Sullivan Collection

Whoa, Big Fella! In an event that must have created increased heart-rates in everyone who witnessed it this VMA-312 F4U-4 snags a late wire coming aboard the USS Badoeng Strait off the coast of Korea during September of 1951. The flight deck has always been a scary and dangerous place, even during the course of normal operations. Adding combat to the mix made things that much worse, but this Corsair managed to avoid disaster. We can only imagine what the Marine on the wing root of the "Hog" in the left front was thinking while all this was going on!   Paul Jerominski Collection via Jim Sullivan

Sometimes you got lucky when things went wrong, and this was one of those times. BuNo 97503 was an F4U-4B, also from VMA-312 during their time on the Badoeng Strait, and seen here after a landing accident that took place on the boat in 1952. The airplane is pretty banged up but it's salvageable and, most importantly, the pilot walked away from the accident. That wasn't always the case when things went wrong on the flight deck...   Paul Jerominski Collection via Jim Sullivan

Here's an undamaged F4U-5P from VMJ-1/MW-11 sitting on the ground in Korea during 1953. The Corsair was one of those classic airplanes that looked good in every one of its many variations; a brutish yet somehow elegant warrior from prototype to final production. It was state of the art when it first went into service, truly a cutting-edge sort of airplane, and was still modestly viable when it was finally retired from US service in the mid-1950s. It was truly the stuff of legends.    Clay Jannson Collection via Jim Sullivan

Thanks very much to Jim "Mr Corsair" Sullivan for sharing these photographs with us. They're a fitting salute to that most unique of American naval fighters and we're grateful to be able to run them!

They Used to Be Everywhere

We're talking about Lockheed's once-ubiquitous C-141 Starlifter, of course. Your editor saw his very first hint of the airplane in an early '60s issue of Air Progress, shortly before the type entered service, and than his first real one overflying Misawa Air Base in Japan during 1964. After that it seemed as though the C-141 was everywhere the United States had any sort of presence; it was truly a transport for all times. Norbert Graser, he of ThunderCals fame, sent in a couple of interesting photos of the C-141B a few months ago and we thought we'd share them today.

66-0138, a C-141B of the 63rd AW, was originally built as a C-141A and later stretched, as were most of the A-models. Nor caught her at NAS Glenview on 27 June, 1992. She looked as though she'd just come out of corrosion control but she'd been around since the mid-60s and you can bet the airframe had some stories to tell.    Norris Grazer

Here's 0138 on arrival at Glenview---a picture perfect airplane if ever there was one. We honestly can't remember ever seeing a Starlifter that pristine during our time chasing military airplanes, mostly because the 141 was just too busy to stay pretty for very long, but this one was gorgeous!   Norris Grazer

Here's the icing on the cake; a spiffy bit of nose art. The 63rd Airlift Wing was only two years away from deactivation when Nor took these images, but they definitely went out with a bang!   Norris Grazer

Many thanks to Norris for sharing these with us!

Bloody Buna

Let's finish the day with another YouTube documentary from regular contributor Norman Camou. It's not about airplanes for once but it makes the point about the horrors of the war in the Pacific as few documentaries can. There's a personal connection here too; my dad was at Buna for that particular party, and was present at the Battle of Manila as well, with excursions to a few nasty places thrown in-between for good measure. There was a time when he would talk about his days in the SouthWest Pacific but he never shared very much about his time at Buna, and I'm pretty sure he carried the memory of the place with him to his grave. Thanks to Norm for discovering and sending this along. 

Let's raise a glass to those guys and gals, and all their brothers in arms who came both before and after, who gave so much for us. 

The Relief Tube

We have an entry in our corrections and comments section known around here as The Relief Tube. It comes from Rick Morgan and corrects a misconception or two we had about today's Happy Snaps entry. The actual correction has been appended within that section in boldface.

While we're at it, you can contact us with comments, criticisms, or to share photography, at   replicainscaleatyahoodotcom   which is an all-run-together attempt to deceive those rascally spammers out there. Just put an @ sign and a dot in the appropriate places instead of the words I ran together and you're home! We look forward to hearing from you!

Happy Snaps

Every once in a while we'll come across a photo that defines the magic of flight. This image, which was shared with us by Rick Morgan, is one of those very special pictures.

We think, subject to correction, that "Boom" Powell (who was assigned to VA-36 at the time) was involved in the making of this photo but didn't actually take it since he was a "Scooter" driver by profession and we think the shot was probably made from the right seat of a Grumman "Stoof", either an S-2 or a C-1. That honestly doesn't matter because this photograph is Magic, and expresses the sheer joy of flight as few photographs can. Can you say "WOW"?  And, of course, we got it wrong! Thanks to Rick Morgan we now know that Boom Powell was never in VA-6 at all, although he did drive the mighty "Scooter" in anger during the Late SouthEast Asia War Games. The image did come to Rick via Boom but originated with someone within The Skyhawk Association; here's a link to that outstanding site if you don't already have it saved on your computer.   skyhawk.org  Many thanks to Boom and Rick, and apologies to all for the confusion!  pf

Rick had a couple of other comments regarding this particular A-4:

No idea who the pilot is; 99% chance it’s not Paul Palmer.

NG706 is not listed as being lost on that deployment.  VA-36 lost four jets on that deployment with two pilots made POWs, one recovered and one KIA.

VA-36 Roadrunners (callsign “Gale Force”) were an east coast squadron attached to CVW-9 for Enterprise’s first combat deployment. The Air Wing had a unique four Skyhawk attack complement with VA-36, VA-76, VA-93 and VA-94 attached along with Phantom squadrons VF-92 and VF-96 and the normal “cats and dogs”.

Besides the Shoehorn mods you can also see the under-cockpit antenna for AGM-12 Bullpup guidance.

Thanks very much to Rick for sharing this one---what a photo!

And that's it for today, ya'll. Be kind to your neighbors and we'll meet again soon!