Monday, August 28, 2023

From a Friend For a Friend

Memories of Corsair Jim

I had known Jim Sullivan (Corsair Jim) for decades, both as a contributor to this project and as a friend. He jumped aboard this project with a vengeance once he discovered that I was attempting an electronic rebirth of Replica and, somewhere along the way, he introduced me to Don Jay, a former Nimrod from the Bad Old Days in SEA as well as an image collector and photographer of considerable merit. Jim and Don spent uncounted hours on the ramps and flightlines of the American East Coast chasing airplanes and remained friends long after both of them had hung up their cameras and active airplane hunting. It was Don who first advised me that Jim was ill and, later, that he had passed. 

Don and I communicate fairly often and share photography with one another as well. Jim's passing was cause for considerable reflection for us all, and Don asked if he could share a group of Jim's images with us. We're honored to be able to do that, so please enjoy this special edition of RiS and maybe take a moment or two to reflect upon Jim's contributions to our hobby as well.

Let's go flying in a REAL airplane! Corsair Jim climbs aboard for a hop in Brad Hood's FG-1D at Hickory, North Carolina, on 20 May 1995. Jim may well have been smiling because of the impending air-to-air photography he was about to engage in (we KNOW he was smiling about snagging a ride in that U-Bird) but smiling was a ubiquitous thing for him. With that said, however, Jim was more often found on the other side of the lens as the following images will show!    Bob Dorr via Don Jay

Way back in the way back! Jim spent quite a bit of time photographing the traffic at Shaw AFB, which is where he caught this C-121C (54-0175) of the North Carolina Air National Guard's 156th TAS on final. You can almost hear those engines throttling back as the airplane prepares to touch down in September of 1966...   Jim Sullivan via Don Jay

Sometimes the arriving birds were a bit noisier. Even throttled back, this 363rd TRW RF-101C Jim photographed on final at Shaw in September of 1966 would have gotten everyone's attention. 56-0211 was a relative rarity by then as most Voodoos had long-since been repainted in the drab tan and greens of the newly mandated SEA camouflage scheme. She never deployed to the war zone, however, and survived to be surplussed out in 1978.    Jim Sullivan via Don Jay

Jim was a fan of the 'Doo and photographed them whenever he could. He captured this one rolling out at Wilmington in April of 1966. F-101B 57-0334 was from the 444th FIS' Det 1 and was a thing of beauty! Of special interest in this shot is the employment of a single gas bag, in this case on the port station. Two full bags significantly reduced performance for the mighty Voodoo and could create somewhat sporty aerodynamics in certain flight regimes so a single tank was not an uncommon fitment---modelers take note!  She was transferred to Canada in 1971.    Jim Sullivan via Don Jay

Very little escaped Jim's lens when on a ramp, as witnessed by T-33A 55-4380 of the 444th FIS basking in the Spring sun at Wilmington in April of 1966. The image is a bit soft (highly unusual for Jim) but the colorful uniqueness of this T-Bird more than makes up for it!    Jim Sullivan via Don Jay

Here's another recon bird, an RF-101C (56-0044) from the 29th TRS about to touch down at Shaw in April of 1968. The gloss red paint inside her flaps, gear doors, and speed boards was normal, but not the red trim on her afterburner cans! She's carrying two gas bags and would make a great subject for a model!    Jim Sullivan via Don Jay

Those of us with substantial time in the saddle chasing airplanes have all done it at one time or another, and Jim was no exception to the rule when an exceptional aircraft turned up unexpectedly. Here we find TC-54D 42-72695 photographed by Jim at Shaw on 09 March 1968. What was he standing on in order to get this shot, we wonder? At any rate, we don't know much at all about this somewhat rare bird and further information would be appreciated!     Jim Sullivan via Don Jay

The Carolinas were home to a number of interesting airplanes back during the 1960s and 70s, as typified by this EB-66C (54-0461) on short final into Shaw on 18 September 1969. Originally built as an RB-66, she spent some time in Europe prior to her assignment to the Southeastern United States. One of the rare ones, she never saw service in Southeast Asia.    Jim Sullivan via Don Jay

The 16th TRS out of Shaw was photographed often by Jim during the 1970s. In this evocative image we find RF-4C 65-0897 about to touch down at the home drome on 10 May 1971. She eventually turned into a world traveler, ending up being expended on a weapons range in Spain after her active service days were done. It was a sad end to a fine recce bird!    Jim Sullivan via Don Jay

Here's a shot of 0897 in living color, photographed while in her prime at Shaw on 19 August 1971. That paint demarcation line on the gas bags is both interesting and distinctive. The 16th's birds were usually spotless and well-maintained, although a great many of their stablemates---those on active service in Southeast Asia---were not.    Jim Sullivan via Don Jay

As our readers might gather from the longish list of published books authored by Jim on American naval aircraft, he was a big fan of anything that flew with a tailhook. Let's finish out our tribute today with a series of Navy types photographed at Oceana by him---those were fine days for Jim as he and Don scoured the East Coast airfields together shooting airplanes. This A-6A (BuNo 157000) from VA-176 was sitting on the ramp at Oceana on 25 April 1974, back in the days before TPS arrived on the scene and turned the NAV boring grey. I know it's subjective but this is a gorgeous shot!     Jim Sullivan via Don Jay

A-4E 151988 was another Oceana capture, taken on a sunny 12 May 1977. VC-2 had some extremely colorful airplanes at the time and Jim's shot of this one illustrates that to a T! Jim was exceptionally fond of the mighty Skyhawk but it stood in line behind a couple of other birds as we will see. As for the airplane, 988 finished up her years of active service with VF-126 and was stricken in 1993.     Jim Sullivan via Don Jay

Grumman's A-6 Intruder family was a pugnacious bunch of airplanes, and it really shows to advantage in this profile view of a TPS-painted A-6E (152603) from VA-162. Jim caught her at Oceana on 25 April 1992. She was relatively clean when she posed for Jim, a somewhat unusual condition considering how quickly the Tactical Paint Schemes weathered out in service! A grizzled veteran of numerous deployments including operational service with VA-176 during Desert Storm, 603 finished up her days with VA-85, finally going to the boneyard in 1994.     Jim Sullivan via Don Jay

Then there were the Tomcats! This Easter Egg from Fighting 41's Black Aces was a clean machine in an era when most F-14s were painted in splotchy TPS colors. 160379 posed for Jim and Don at Oceana on 12 May 1977 during her days with Air Wing 8, where she spent her entire service career. She was a beautiful airplane and Jim's lens really did her justice!    Jim Sullivan via Don Jay

You honestly can't show photos of the Tomcat without at least one image of VF-31's Felix in the collection. Jim shot this ramp full of them at Oceana on October 10, 1987. The "Turkey" was still in her prime when Jim photographed the squadron that day. Sometimes it's hard to believe the F-14 is out of the Fleet but this sort of imagery makes certain she's not forgotten!    Jim Sullivan via Don Jay

Before they transitioned to the F-14, VF-41 flew the mighty Phantom! This image is a classic and easily says it all---Jim caught 152208 on the Oceana ramp on 25 April 1974, while she was in her prime. Her days ended with VMFA-314 before she was sent to MASD for disposition; she was scrapped in 2004. Jim had an eye for composition for sure, and this shot proves it!    Jim Sullivan via Don Jay

And finally, here's Fighting 102's F-4J 153820 at Oceana on 25 September 1976. A survivor of sorts, she was upgraded to F-4S configuration and went into storage at NAD Cherry Point in 2003. The Mighty Fantoom was probably Jim's favorite jet of all time, and he definitely knew how to photograph them!    Jim Sullivan via Don Jay

Finally, here's Jim with his son Jim Jr and Queenie, taken at his home in February of 2014. It's a fine way to end this photo essay, don't you think?   Linda Sullivan via Don Jay Collection

It's impossible to know how many lives Jim touched over the years. His photo collection was massive and he was never shy about sharing its assets with anyone who asked him for assistance. He was a prolific author as well as superb photographer, and his skills as a scale modeler were well above average. He did all of these things and more, and he did them all with dignity, aplomb, and considerable modesty. He was part of a special breed, as is Don Jay, and both of them are men I'm proud to call Friend. 

You'll be seeing more of Jim's photography as we go along, and probably some of Don's as well, but in the meantime I hope you've enjoyed these images selected for us and shared by Don. They were friends, those two, and always will be, and we're honored to be asked to run this tribute. Thanks very much, Don, and blue skies, Jim! We'll meet again.

The Relief Tube

Not today.

Happy Snaps

Although most of his lens work took place on the ground, Jim was an accomplished air to air photographer as well. Does anyone need convincing? Well, just take a look at this one!

Jim was a magician with an SLR as proven by this wonderful image of N142CA, a restored Harvard Mk IV, in flight over Hickory, NC, back in May of 1994. It's a great shot and a fitting way to conclude this tribute to Jim!    Jim Sullivan via Don Jay

Be good to your neighbor, Ya'll. We'll meet again soon!


Sunday, August 27, 2023

Sad Times


In So Many Ways He Made It Possible

The year was 1972. Jim Wogstad and I had finally gotten to the place where we were ready to spring a mutual dream of ours, the original print edition of Replica in Scale, on an unsuspecting modeling world. That first issue, known to us then and now as I/1, was a success in spite of itself, largely because we had great people helping with the project and an idea that turned out to be more than merely viable. Maybe it was luck, or maybe something else, but we had the skill sets required, and we actually managed to have a dollop of financially critical advertising from our very first issue to help us get started. What we didn't have was access to original photography for the articles we were planning to run or the expertise to understand the ins and outs of America's aviation assets. We never doubted that we'd get where we wanted to go, mind you. We just didn't know how it was going to happen, and that's the way things were until our first 1,200 copies of the magazine landed on the shelves of the handful of hobby shops willing to take a chance on us. It was in one of those shops that we began our climb to respectability and a modicum of fame.

Dibbles Arts and Hobbies was, and is to this day, a brick and mortar shop in San Antonio, and for decades it was the go-to place for anyone seriously interested in plastic model airplanes and living in the South Texas area. One of those many Dibbles patrons was an Air Force noncom then assigned to Lackland AFB named Norm Taylor, who saw and purchased a copy of our first issue during a visit to the shop. Jim's contact information was published in the front of the magazine since his home was serving as our offices and Norm wasted no time in making the phone call that, in so many ways, set the tone for Replica in Scale, Aerophile and, by osmosis and imitation, any number of other periodicals to follow us. In the space of that one phone call an offer was made to help us with photography should we need it, along with an equally kind offer to introduce us to other national and international caliber photographers and aerospace collectors and historians. One man made one phone call and suddenly our entire project became viable. We were on our way!

Norm was able to help us for a couple of years but eventually the Air Force decided they required his services more than we did and he was transferred to Japan, but the folks he had introduced us to were still around and that allowed us to perform the research we'd so often dreamed of way back in the beginning. Our dream had actually become reality, albeit for only a few brief years before changing circumstance did us in. Our day in the sun with the print version of Replica in Scale was a short day indeed but in so many ways a successful one, and in great measure we owed it all to Norm. 

It's amazing how few people in the hobby know who Norm Taylor was, since his impact on it was so massive. He was one of those quiet and unassuming men who didn't brag or do things to draw attention to himself. He didn't have to, because his photography and his willingness to share his collection spoke for him. He's been called the dean of American aviation photographers on more than one occasion, and it's an accolade that fits. His composition and technical skills were superior to most, and he had The Eye, a gift he used to advantage every time he walked on a ramp with his cameras. His photography, either by his direct contribution or via the shared collections of others, literally filled the aviation periodicals and books of the 1970s and 80s. Both he and his work were ubiquitous. He took the bar and helped to substantially raise it. 

We all moved on with Life as the years passed and Norm slowly slipped out of the mainstream, something that happens to most of us sooner or later. Those of us in the community spoke of him and his work often but few of us were in direct communication with him anymore, although the word was out that his health had declined over the past several years. Things didn't look good.

We found out a couple of weeks ago that Norm had passed. It's an inevitability of living that eventually happens to us all, but it's also painful each and every time we lose a friend. It never gets any better.

There's a bright side, though, because Norm, and all the other friends we've lost over the past several years, are still around. The photographs they took, the books they authored, the knowledge they all so freely shared are still there and in that respect they live on, both in our hearts and on our bookshelves and in our photo collections. They were all greater than life, each and every one of them: Norm, Corsair Jim, Marty, Dave, Maddog, and all the others who have gone West during the past few years. Legends to a man, they were also among the most modest and humble of human beings. They were, and they remain, special, and it doesn't matter whether you're a photographer or an enthusiast, or a modeler. If your interest lies in American military aviation, your life has been enriched beyond measure by these humble giants. 

Thanks, Norm, for what you did for Replica in Scale, and for us all. Blue Skies, Amigo!