Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Over and Over, U-Birds from Jim, Some Arachnids, A Different Time, and A Present From Norm


A Continual Rebirth

The year was 1961, and Monogram had just released their 1/48th scale F4F-4 (more or less) Wildcat to the modeling world and, perhaps more importantly, to 12-year-old Phillip. It was beautifully detailed---just look at all those rivets---and had working features too, what with its folding wings and rolling wheels. In later years we came to understand that a few things had been omitted here and there, such as the fuselage windows, the entire accessory section of the engine, and there was no cockpit to speak of. Fine detail, while good for its time, was on the sparse side as well (those universal head rivets were entirely accurate for the Wildcat's airframe, for instance, but were somewhat overstated) and it was, out of the box, a simplified replica of the F4F. To a skilled modeler it was an opportunity. To the aforementioned 12-year-old Phillip it was a gift from the gods.

Many years passed and that Monogram Wildcat remained the only readily available 1/48th scale kit of the type before the deities of the polystyrene world smiled once more and, in 1994, we were gifted with Tamiya's 1/48th F4F-4, a kit vastly improved over the one from Morton Grove. That Japanese kit still had a bunch of universal head rivets on its airframe but they were supposed to be there, and it was a revelation, for a while anyway. There was, of course, that little matter of a missing intercooler (a somewhat large and conspicuous item living in the engine's accessory section), and the sparse cockpit and simplified interior. There were some other things wrong with it as well but it was a quantum leap above the old Monogram kit and besides, the handful of errors could be easily corrected with aftermarket and the application of a bit of Modeling 101. The modeling gods had smiled again!

Times had changed between the release of that seminal Monogram kit and Tamiya's, however, and expectations were higher from those of us who actually built our kits rather than buying and hoarding them. It wasn't that the Tamiya kit was all that bad, mind you, but they only released it as the -4 variant, which left us all in the lurch for the other significant Wildcat variants. We could fix the minor issues with the kit, of course, and we did just that, while the somewhat skilled among our ranks could easily convert the kit to an early-War F4F-3 and the truly gifted could modify the kit into a passable FM-2 but, like we said, times had changed. The Monogram F4F-4 was now a dinosaur, suitable for entry-level modelers and small children on Christmas, and Tamiya's wunderkit had, through no fault of its own, entered into the realm of the has-been. We wanted something better in 1/48th and we were soon to get it, or so we thought.

2007 saw a relatively new company, Hobby Boss, release an entire family of Wildcats into our waiting hands. There, in one fell swoop, was an early F4F-3, a late F4F-3, an F4F-4, and, wonder of wonders, an FM-2! Life was Good and then, thanks to the realization that the company's research had been lacking, it wasn't good after all. None of the kits had those rivets that were so essential to the Wildcat's character and a great deal of detail had either been simplified or omitted entirely while the FM-2, that ultimate member of the F4F family that had never been previously kitted by a mainstream manufacturer (we call that opportunity), had a nose that was entirely inaccurate for the type. We began cross-kitting, the aftermarket guys began making aftermarket, and it became obvious that you could indeed get there from here, but only with a bit of struggle. It was time for another kit!

We got that kit too, boy did we ever get it! In fact we're now in the process of getting the entire Wildcat family, one variation at a time, from our friends at Eduard, and we finally have a decent shot at an accurate F4F-Anything or an FM-2 mostly out of the box. There are problems, of course. There always are; the short list includes ribbed tires which weren't used on carriers (at least not early in the War) and a missing main fuel tank, and those New and Wonderful Eduard decals which work really well except for when they don't. Still, the Wildcat that can be produced out of the box is little short of amazing. It's a wonder, a true revelation for the modestly experienced modeler. It's as good as it's going to get, until it isn't. 

There are a couple of lessons we can learn from this 60+ years of 1/48th scale Wildcat kits. Each and every one of them, and that includes the now prehistoric Monogram kit, were considered state of the art when they were originally released and all of them, even the Hobby Boss offerings, raised the bar a bit higher. We seemingly have reached the pinnacle as far as that airplane is concerned, but even the new Eduard kit has issues, albeit minor and largely insignificant ones. Someday somebody will release yet  another F4F or FM-2 that will push that truly amazing Czech offering to second place and we'll welcome that new kid on the block with open arms, after which the cycle will start over. It's the nature of our game, and it's a good thing. 

Amazing things have been done with that 1961-vintage Monogram kit. I've seen the results that can be achieved with it and the thing can be done, if only by a special few who possess the abilities required. Everything that's happened since that year has been gravy for the scale modeler as the kits and all that goes with them has improved, almost exponentially, with the passage of time. What was once exclusively the province of the top tier of modelers is now within reach of almost anyone. 

Here's our takeaway: The kits now available to us just keep getting better and better, and all of the older kits begin their fade into obscurity. It's the nature of things. The new whiz-bang kits age out and are replaced by something newer and astounding. The new kits are replaced in turn, and the cycle repeats itself. It's natural and normal. It's the way things are. 

And it's good. 

What Goes Up Must Come Down

And it doesn't always do it gracefully. Come down, that is. The military aircraft of the World War 2 era were particularly prone to being crashed, not because of any intrinsic flaw in the aircraft (usually!) but because so many were flying and, more importantly, being flown by pilots with varying skill levels. Even the most benign of airplanes could bite you, and the high-performance cutting-edge fighters of that era were often a handful for their frequently inexperienced pilots. The conclusion of hostilities reduced the number of airplanes in use and a larger percentage of the people flying them were possessed of a skill level vastly improved from that of many wartime aviators, but it was still a dangerous game. Here, from the collection of the late and greatly missed Jim Sullivan, are a few examples of times an airplane bit an aviator featuring Jim's favorite aircraft, the FG-1D Corsair.

This FG-1D (BuNo 87087) was assigned to the Reserve Unit at Grosse Isle and suffered a belly landing on 28 March 1948. Its untimely arrival in a muddy corn field resulted in little trauma to the airplane and none that we're aware of to the pilot. Not all crashes were so benign but this one was a walkaway with little damage. Note the V- that appears in front of the Bureau Number presentation on the tail, a fairly common prefix on late-40s Reserve birds.   Jim Sullivan Collection

Here's another FG-1D, this time BuNo 92575 of VMF-217, after a successful belly landing at NAS Squantum on 20 July 1949. As with 87087 above, the crash was a walkaway for the pilot with minimal damage to the airplane. The bird has been well-maintained and in wartime would have been quickly repaired, but we're not so sure that was done in this instance considering the fiscal constraints the American armed forces were operating under during the late 1940s.   Jim Sullivan collection

There's that pesky V- prefix on a bureau number again, this time on 92638 from the St Louis Reserve unit. It experienced a collapsed starboard landing gear while attempting to land at Vichy, Missouri, on 07 June 1948. At first glance there isn't much damage to the airframe but that bent propeller guarantees an engine overhaul and the wing is badly crumpled as well. There's a fair chance this one was given a quick trip to the scrap heap.   Jim Sullivan Collection

And the electrons hadn't even cooled when Rick Morgan sent a comment regarding the airport at Vichy:   Phil- Good stuff as always, the shot of the NAS St Louis FG-1 bent at Vichy got my attention. The small airport at that location was used by both Navy Reserve and Air Force Guard units out of Lambert as an ordnance loading facility for use at the range at Ft Leonard Wood. Seeing a Corsair there shouldn't have been that unusual during that period. Vichy had actually been home to a USAAF Recon Group during WWII that supported the newly opened Fort. It went back to full civilian ownership in 1957 as jets showed up at both reserve units. The field (VIH) is now called Rolla International Airport, based on the city located south of it.  Rick

And yet another belly landing! 76475, from VA-53B, went down near Akron on 22 August, 1949. The airplane isn't too badly damaged but an engine overhaul or replacement is required any time there's crash damage to a propeller due to the possibility of crankshaft damage to the engine, and there's a very good chance the airplane wasn't repaired. 76475 was an older FG-1D and may have been scrapped out rather than salvaged.    Jim Sullivan Collection

Sometimes it just isn't your day! 67074 (side number 65) lost a good bit of its empennage during a taxiing accident involving FG-1D 92264 (side number 54). The year was 1947 and the airplanes from the Reserve component at Oakland. In addition to the obvious damage to 67074, 92264's pitot tube is dangling from the leading edge of its port wing and there's undoubtedly more going on than we can see in this shot. Modelers: Note the overall eggshell rapidly going to flat paint finish of both airplanes. That's how things work in the real world, sometimes anyway...   Jim Sullivan Collection

I've known people who would overlook photographs of less than perfect airplanes simply because they were crashed or otherwise damaged. The logic of such a thing escapes me, but Jim wasn't one of those people and these images document some airplanes---FG-1Ds and primarily FG-1Ds from the Naval Reserve, that might otherwise have gotten away from us. We didn't call him Mr Corsair for nothing, Ya'll! 

A Scorpion or Two

Let's throw a jet or two into the mix today!

Northrop's almost legendary F-89 Scorpion family was star-crossed at best, a solution to the problem of protecting the United States from enemy aerial incursion during a time when ambition far outpaced technology. It was meant to be an all-weather interceptor and it was, for the most part, although it was never quite the airplane the Air Force wanted. Many ended up with the Air National Guard during an era when the active force seemingly sent the older types to the ANG, and that's what we're going to look at today.

49-2467 was an F-89B from Idaho's 190th FIS and this image, taken in 1956 at Boise, shows the colorful markings worn by many of the squadron's aircraft. This one hung around the 'drome for a while, possibly as an instructional airframe, but finally ended up at MASDC in 1959 and was scrapped out in 1960. A sad end!   Dave Ostrowski Collection via Mark Nankivil

Wisconsin's 126th FIS operated this D-model, 51-11410, for a brief time during 1960 before losing its air defense mission and converting to tankers. This airplane is very much a showboat with its scalloped gas bags and that checkerboard vertical tail with the scorpion emblem. They were operating out of General Mitchell Field during that time and must have added quite a bit of color to the place but it didn't last for long; it's a shame their time with the Scorpion was so short lived!   Dave Ostrowski Collection via Mark Nankivil

This late F-89, an F-89J, was originally built as an F-89D-60-NO and was assigned to Washington's 116th FIS (not to be confused with Washington DC, which is a different animal altogether) during the early 1960s. This example, 53-2530, is basking in the sun on the ramp at Geiger Field around 1960 and is a clean machine. Her unit markings are restrained but appropriate, while the airplane is well maintained and cared for, as were most ANG birds during the era.   Dave Ostrowski Collection via Mark Nankivil

As far as we know the F-89 rarely intercepted much of anything in terms of Bad Guy Airplanes, although they did manage to almost destroy portions of Southern California while chasing an errant F6F-5K Hellcat drone during what has become known as The Battle of Palmdale; here's a YouTube link to the affair should you have an interest in it:  

The Scorpion also fired the only live shot of the nuclear AIR-2 Genie air-to-air missile during Operation Plumbob at the Yucca Flats test range on 19 July 1957. Although you can't see much of the F-89J that fired the weapon, here's another YouTube link showing the test:

The 57th FIS lost its last F-89J in July of 1962, while Iowa's 124th FIS flew the last Air National Guard sortie with the type in July of 1969, ringing down a lengthy if somewhat undistinguished career for the airplane. In retrospect it wasn't much of a much, but it held the line until its ultimate replacement by the Convair deltas. Many thanks to Mark Nankivil for allowing us to share these images with you!

Things Were Different Back Then

There was a war going on in the 1940s and it was a big one. The fate of nations and possibly civilization itself was up for grabs and American industry was working overtime to provide the weaponry necessary to win it. Mark Nankivil, He of those Scorpions you were just admiring, shared this image with us and it's just too good to resist:

We don't know the unit or the location although I suspect the photograph was taken at the Curtiss factory; in fact I'm almost certain of that location, but almost doesn't count! I don't know the date either, but it's a special image all the same. The airplane is a P-40F, s/n unknown, and it's an airplane that was purchased by The Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen named "The Iron Eagle" and donated to the AAF. The verbiage above that image says "Given to Our Beloved Country, The United States of America, by The Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen", a definite comment on that point in American history. We can see the aircraft data stencil in the photo but can't get a serial number from it---the leading edge of the port wing cuts that off right after "P-40F-5-CU". Can any of our readers further identify this airplane? If so, that email address is   replicainscaleatyahoodotcom   .    Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Many thanks to Mark for the images he shared with us today!

A Link to Investigate

Everyone who reads this project is aware of Norman Camou, the man who can find anything on YouTube. He's expanded that reputation and bit and sent this a week or so ago. It's a link to a website that many people ignore but there's gold in them thar hills, so to speak, and you really ought to spend some time browsing this one.

Thanks as always to Norm for taking the time to share this link with us. It's much appreciated!

Happy Snaps

It's been a while since we've shared a reader's air-to-air shot with you, but here's one for today:

A KA-6D from Air Wing 14's VA-196 (151796) formates with a VAQ-139 EA-6B over Oregon on 26 June 1984. I'm guessing Rick was in the ECMO 1 station when he took this and the perspective couldn't have been better---what a shot! A big Sierra Hotel to Rick for this image!   Rick Morgan

Here's some more information regarding that shot of 151796, supplied by Rick after publication of this issue: The story behind the KA-6D shot: The two Whidbey squadrons in CVW-14 had each sent a jet down to Miramar for a CAG meeting. We came back the next day using the normal J-5 jet route that ran from LA to Seattle. The rule of thumb for a Prowler was that you needed at least 10,000 lbs of fuel onboard at Reno or you were going to have to stop for gas. It was pretty much weather and wind dependent and something we watched. The Milestone KA-6D, which I think was being flown by their XO, gave us a squirt over southern Oregon and we were good for the distance. Yes, I was in ECMO-1; if I'd been in ECMO-2 (right rear) I would've been looking right down the starboard wingline. Rick

I'm always looking for air-to-air imagery, as well as any other military aviation related photography. If you have anything you'd like to share with us, please drop me an email at   replicainscaleatyahoodotcom   and please excuse that goofy way of formatting the email address. It's to keep the spammers at bay and is unfortunately necessary!

The Relief Tube

Nope, not this time. It's been a very long time since I've had anything even remotely resembling a schedule for the project which means nobody has been writing in with corrections or additions to anything---it's hard to fix or comment on something if it isn't there, right?  If you'd like to correct, complain, or just say hey, please send an email or use the comments tag---yes, I've finally decided to open that feature up but anything that comes in will be scrutinized rather than automatically published so keep it clean and keep it relevant please!

And that's what I know. In the meantime, be good to your neighbor until we meet again. It's the right thing to do!


Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Magic, A Couple of Sabres, Yet Another One, An Airacobra, and One More Thing


It Makes No Sense

The goofy stuff that goes on with some of the modeling boards to be found on the internet, that is. On the face of it those boards are nothing but a Good Thing, constituting a generally easy to access source of information and provocative thought for the scale modeling community, but there's another side to it as well and I honestly just don't get it. 

My love for this hobby is, or at least should be, pretty much obvious to anyone who pays attention to what goes on here. My first trip to a hobby shop with my cousin Jerry lit the fire back in 1955, and by the time I built my first very own kit in early 1956 I was hooked. There was, and for that matter still is, magic in the hobby if you care to recognize it, and I did. Airplanes, cars, ships, tanks, insects, birds, dinosaurs, buildings, figures, and imaginary things from the world of science fiction; I built them all. I played with them too (I was a little kid then, remember!) but most of those early models survived for quite a while because I was so enamored of them. I enjoyed them and I learned from them because they often led me to books and specialty magazines so I could find out more about them. They were magic then and, at least in my own personal world, they're still magic now. 

The part of the world I live in is blessed with four good brick and mortar hobby shops within easy driving distance of our home; two in the Austin area and two in San Antonio, and I'm equally blessed by being part of a circle of friends who feel the same way about the hobby that I do. The whole thing, the entire hobby and most of the people in it, is magic!

That takes us to those internet boards and the part that makes no sense. There's lots of discussion there and plenty to learn no matter how long you've been involved with the hobby---lots of super people with an equal love for the hobby and a willingness to share it are on those boards, but there's another group too. They're the guys who know more than anybody else does and want to make sure everybody knows it. They're the guys who don't have much use for the new guys and their questions. They're the guys who get into flame wars with other modelers and, unfortunately, they're also the guys who make other folks decide the squeeze isn't worth the juice and sometimes even cause them to leave the hobby. The Hobby; remember that word? HOBBY!

Let's go back to that key word I mentioned at the very beginning of this missive: Magic. The hobby of scale plastic modeling is still magic to me, just like it's been for every day of my life since 1955. It's a joy on a personal level as well as a joy I choose to share whenever I can. It's truly a blessing in my world, as I hope it is in yours, and that makes sense to me. The things that don't further that joy don't make sense to me at all and I try not to do them. 

You don't mess with magic!

Such a Pretty Airplane

Since we're already discussing things that are Magic, let's take a look at one of the prettiest American jet fighters ever built; the North American Aviation F-86E Sabre. These images were taken in Korea during 1952 and came to John Kerr's collection via Jim Mesko. John (aka Maddog) was kind enough to share them with me before he passed but we have to present them to you with somewhat of a caveat. They're duplicates of what I presume were originally duplicates in the first place so the detail is a bit soft, and they were apparently dirty when the initial duplication was made---there's way too much clutter to successfully clean up, unfortunately, so let's enjoy them for what they are!

50-0602 was an F-86E-1-NA assigned to the 16th FIS/51st FIG when this shot was taken at Suwon AB in Korea during early 1952. Note her slatted wings, typical of her breed, and the generally worn appearance of her fiberglass intake and that panel on her vertical stab. She had been accepted by the Air Force in 1951 but several months in Korea had marked her. To add insult to injury she was damaged by a MiG-15 in air to air combat on 02 April 1952, but she survived to lead a full career afterwards.  Mesko Collection via John Kerr

51-2733 was an F-86E-10-NA, another mount from the 16th FIS/51st FIW. Photographed at Suwon during early 1952, she was crashed short of the Suwon runway and destroyed on 05 April, 1952. She's noteworthy for her aluminum intake ring and generally pristine appearance in this shot, which may well have been her final pre-accident portrait. Nobody ever said it was safe!   Mesko Collection via John Kerr

Finally, here's 51-2737, yet another F-86E-10-NA, beginning to taxi out on her way to some mischief, a talent she was apparently good at; she scored a total of three kills against MiG-15s during the course of her deployment to South Korea. She survived that conflict only to be burned out in a ground fire at McClellan AFB on 23 October 1954. She was in her prime here, however!   Mesko Collection via John Kerr

Thanks to Maddog for sharing these photos before he left us. Now, if only we had a kit...

They Also Served

We normally tend to think of the Korean War when we discuss the F-86, but the type was ubiquitous within the United States armed forces and served for many years. Here's an image taken by Rick Morgan to prove the point!

55-3906 and 3948 were both built as F-86F-40-NA airframes and both served with Japan during much of their careers. Returned to the United States during 1989, they were converted to QF-86 status and served with the Navy's Point Mugu Test Center in November (3906) and December (3948) of that year. Rick photographed them on the ground at Roosevelt Roads on 01 November, 1989, shortly before they were stricken.   Rick Morgan

Many thanks to Rick for sharing this with us. It's a great look into an aspect of the F-86's service career that few enthusiasts ever consider.

A Peculiar Iron Dog

My normal interest, at least as far as the aviation combatants of the Second World War is concerned, tends to focus on those aircraft and units used in the SouthWest Pacific. This P-39 apparently saw no service there but the image is unique all the same. Let's take a look.

This Bell P-39F-1-BE, s/n 41-7325, is apparently serving in a training unit somewhere in the ZI, location and date unknown. The back sides of her propeller blades are black and the tips on the front sides of that prop are Insignia Yellow, and she's wearing a black anti-glare panel on her nose, but she's otherwise unadorned by any paintwork other than her radio call and nose numbers. We can't speak for her wings but there isn't even a national insignia on her fuselage! To further deepen the mystery, she doesn't have the lower wheel well covers on her landing gear either---that was a fairly common modification in the muddy SWPAC but this image obviously wasn't taken there! The more normally presented P-39 parked behind her only serves to create more questions than answers. She was reclaimed in Seattle in 1944, and we're guessing she never left the States, although we could be wrong about that. To add yet another puzzle to the mix, the photograph is originally credited to someone with the last name of Spoonts, and Leslie Spoonts was a P-39 pilot with the 57th FS flying out of Adak during the Aleutians Campaign. It's Mystery Meat for sure!   Spoonts via John Kerr Collection

As has been mentioned here many times previously, it's no secret that we have a well-schooled and exceptionally bright readership! If you know more about this enigma of an airplane we'd like to hear from you. As usual we're garbling that address so The Bad People out there in Internet Land don't glom onto it, but you can get in touch with us at    replicainscaleatyahoodotcom   using the appropriate symbols as appropriate. (Where, they asked, does he come up with this stuff!).

One More Thing Before We Sign Off for Today

It's not at all unusual for the people I know fairly well to ask what's going on with the blog, and why it's invariably on a schedule that could only be described as nonexistent. That question has generally been answered in person, face to face, but a couple of days ago I received an email from a regular reader who was asking what had happened and if the project was still alive. Talk about a wake-up call! Here's the answer to what is an extremely valid question.

First and foremost, neither myself nor Replica in Scale are going anywhere. I've been involved with this project since Jim Wogstad and I first began thinking about doing a magazine back in 1971 and I'm not about to throw all those years away. It's a part of my life and neither myself nor the project are going away!

The reasons for all the delays are of little concern to the readership but you're all part of the RIS family and you deserve to know something. Unfortunately, the best I can do for the moment is attribute it to Life and move on from there. There's nothing overly dramatic or tragic going on; it's just been tough to find the time. With any luck and my new-found motivation I'll start doing a little better with publication schedules!

In the meantime, let's all give Stan Kurcz a big thank you for providing the kick in the backside that's gotten me off my hind end and back to trying to provide you with a continuation of the publication we all enjoy so much! Thanks also for the ongoing patience of our little family. I can make no promises but I'll do my best to publish these things a little more frequently from now on!

SO; until the next time, smile every chance you get and be good to your neighbor! We'll meet again soon.