Sunday, September 3, 2017

Going Back a Few Years, Things Didn't Improve With Age, One More, Good CGI, So Near and Yet So Far, USMC Phantoms, and Brother Rat

How Much Do We Care?

Boy, is that ever pretentious sounding, but hear me out on this one, please!

The original Eduard Me109G family was, to put it mildly, somewhat hosed, a gorgeous kit that was, in more ways than one, too big for its britches. It was, as the manufacturer told us, the ultimate kit of the ultimate Second World War fighter but at the end of the day it was so badly flawed as to be useless to any but the most casual of modelers. Or was it?

Then there was the Eduard Tempest, the only decent 1/48th scale kit of the very best British propeller driven fighter of the Second World War, flawed by a fuselage that was entirely too short to be of use to any serious modeler.

Go back a few years, or maybe a whole bunch of years, and take a look at Revell's P-51B in 1/32nd scale, advertised as The Next Great Thing at the time of its release but woefully misshapen and virtually useless as an accurate representation of any sort of Mustang.

In 1/72nd, that itty-bitty scale that I honestly can't see all that well any more, we had Revell's Tempest Mk V and P-51D, along with any pre-Airfix Mk V Spitfire kit, and a host of others.

And the beat goes on. It seems like something new is being released almost weekly these days, and there are literally thousands of old kits still out there as well, which means the chances of some manufacturer messing up their tooling and producing an inaccurate model are pretty darned good. We've already discussed Perfection and its complete and total unachievability (a word I may have just made up but still a word when all is said and done!) and have had that discussion more than once. To me it's one of those Basic Truths of our times---you can't fix Stupid, nor can you have a perfect model airplane. You can, however, have a pretty darned good model airplane if you do your part in the ongoing drama and that takes us to a quandary of sorts.

Let's say your own personal skill sets are pretty good, and you can reliably turn out high-quality model airplanes on a fairly consistent basis. You've become a silk-purse-from-a-sow's-ear kind of guy or gal, and you can make almost anything made out of polystyrene or resin look good. That's more than commendable and makes you a superior modeler of sorts, but it's only half the battle. The other half is scale accuracy, which means it's time for a brief journey down Philosophy Lane.

Just how accurate is accurate? Can we define that in any measurable way, or is it just something we discuss when we're around other modelers? It's a question that's almost Shakespearean in its nature, because there's a big old rub hiding in there!

At the risk of repeating myself, and realizing that mere risk has never stopped me from doing that very thing before, I have to say that ours is a subjective hobby at best. Yes; there are engineers and artists out there, and most modelers are a combination of the two, but in every instance the modeler is more of one thing than of the other. The engineers want Polystyrene Perfection, and the artists want a viable representation of the real thing that's pleasing to the eye. It's one of those deals where nobody's right and nobody's wrong or, to put it another way: I don't know art, but I know what I like.

So here's the point: I personally won't waste my time on a known bad kit unless there's just nothing else out there to work with and my life can't go on without a model of the whatever-it-is on my shelf. The problem is that our previously aforementioned Life is just too darned short, ya'll, and for some of us it's getting shorter with every passing day. Does that mean I've finally sold my saddle and gone over to the Don't Really Care side of the hobby? No; not at all. What it does mean, at least to me, is that I can now let some things (not many, but some) that would have made me bat-poop crazy a few years ago slide or, to put it another way: If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and looks like a duck, then there's a pretty good chance it really is a duck. The current Eduard Fw190 kits walk like, talk like, and look like Fw190s when they're completed, but they aren't all that accurate as scale models even though they really and truly do look the part sitting there on the shelf. They're an anomaly that helps to prove a rule. If the kit is reasonably to scale (and that's by your definition, not mine) and reasonably accurate (again, by your definition and nobody else's), and if you're happy with it as it sits in your collection, then it's probably a pretty good model.

There are no perfect kits out there, and there never will be. There are some pretty good ones, and a great many adequate ones, and some really bad ones too, but there are no perfect ones. That gives you an opportunity to pick and choose, and to do the best you can. Should you listen to others while you're doing this? Absolutely! Should you care about what others think of your work? Yes you should, but with a huge caveat.

This is a hobby and, most important of all, this is your hobby. I have personal standards and I truly do try to raise the bar a little each time I build a kit, but at the end of the day I'm building for my own personal pleasure and gratification. I enjoy the time I spend at my bench and I feel pretty darned good when something comes out the way I wanted it to when I began the project. If someone else likes it too then that's gravy, but at the end of the day I'm building for myself, because it's my hobby. Good enough can sometimes actually be good enough, even on an old or obsolete kit. Perfection isn't in the game at all.

That's my story, etc., etc...

Farther On Down the Road

Let's take a brief ride in the Wayback Machine today and take a look at a photo we could've/should've but didn't run way back in our second print issue when we profiled Stanton Smith.

Those of you with long memories, or maybe just a good collection of primordial scale modeling publications, may remember the piece Jim and I ran on Stanton Smith way back there in the early 70s. Stanton began his active duty Air Force career with the 80th FG flying out of Burma, and I don't think we had this particular photo at the time we ran the original article---Jim came across it years later while doing weapons research---but it's the P-40N assigned to Stanton and thus deserves a place on these pages. A lot of folks aren't aware of it but the P-40N was configured to carry underwing stores, one hardpoint per wing, and could haul either gas bags or ordnance there. This photo shows the ground echelon bombing up Stanton's aircraft prior to a mission and illustrates the high-tech equipment available to the ordnance folks assigned to the Burma Banshees back there in The Bad Old Days. We're always talking about how rough things were in the SouthWest Pacific, but conditions honestly weren't any better in the CBI---lousy is lousy, no matter where you are.   Wogstad Collection

Many thanks to Jim Wogstad for discovering this photograph and realizing that I couldn't live without it!

The Same Old Song and Dance

Stanton Smith's P-40N, shown immediately above, was photographed during the 1944 time frame, as was the shot we're about to show you. The airplanes and places are different but there's a common thread here:

These B-25J gunships are undergoing heavy maintenance at Lingayen and they're sitting out in the open, on Marston matting, while it's happening. You might think that maintenance facilities for the 5th AF would have improved with the passage of time but by 1944 the war was moving so fast that it was all the AAF could do to keep up, which leaves us with the these 17th RS Mitchells sitting out in the open while they're being serviced. At least there wasn't any mud to contend with that day...   Fred Hill via Gerry Kersey and Bobby Rocker

While we're on the subject of photographs taken by Fred Hill, it's come to our attention that a lot of people are running his photographs on the Internet, or printing scans of them in print publications, without bothering to provide attribution for their source. That bothers us, and it ought to bother you as well. Right is right and wrong is wrong! Just sayin'...

A Final One From '44

We received this shot from Gerry Kersey a few weeks ago and it's so unique we had to share it:

"F.O.E" sits on the ramp waiting for another mission. She's in pretty decent shape as A-20s go, but she's still showing the effects of a hard life. There were no easy days.  Kersey Collection

Goin' to the Movies

It's not at all unusual for you to find links to videos on this site; thanks to the generosity of Norm Camou we've been able to run some truly unique footage for you from time to time. Today's movie isn't from Norm, though, but rather from Rick Morgan, who found this little gem on FaceBook a couple of weeks ago:

The clip is 10 or 12 minutes long and is about Nationalist Chinese Curtiss Hawks engaging Mitsubishi G3M-1 bombers during the Sino-Japanese War. The CGI is nothing short of spectacular, and the airplanes behave the way real airplanes do in flight---none of the exaggerated aeronautical miracles found in recent movies are present here and all the action is extremely believable.

We do, however, have a couple of criticisms of the clip. The first is a technical glitch---early on several of the Hawks show backwards side numbers, either an editing glitch or a deliberate ploy to catch Picture Pirates. The second problem is more one of taste in that the clip is just too darned short! The CGI is breathtaking and the clip appears to be from a real movie which we think may be called "The Bridge", although we aren't certain of that---there are real non-aviation actors in parts of the clip, however, so it almost has to be from a greater work.

This is a must-see if you're an aviation enthusiast. Many thanks to Rick for sharing it with us all!

Missed It By That Much...

I am, of course, talking about the recently released Airfix P-40 B kit in 1/48th scale. It's a model who's release was greatly anticipated; one that fueled storms of discussion and debate even before it became available for examination, much  less actual building, and that debate terminated at least a few friendships and caused a couple of people to be dismissed from various on-line forums. It was, and perhaps still is, a kit that arouses considerable passion in the hearts of those who choose to build it.

That's not for discussion today, however. I've always admired the airplane as an example of aeronautical art and, like a great many people, I've also bemoaned the lack of a 1/48th scale kit of the type that might prove to be a significant improvement on Monogram's seminal but distinctly long in the tooth 1964 release. The New Airfix has been doing good things in my opinion, which made their P-40B well worth investigating so, with all the reviews and tooth-gnashing in mind I called a local shop and asked them to hold a copy of the kit for me as soon as their stock arrived. What follows is what I think of the kit after building it, but I'm going to go ahead and tell you right off the bat that I like what Airfix did for the most part, and I honestly think most of you will like it too. Keep in mind, though, that this site doesn't do kit reviews, so you're not going to hear what color the parts are or how many of them are in the box---you probably don't need me to tell you those things anyway, right?

Anyhow, there is one caveat regarding this kit that almost everyone who did actually review the model has mentioned; the fit. A lot of folks say it's too good, and too precise, and and they aren't awfully far from being right. The tolerances for this kit, and almost all of Airfix's recent releases for that matter, are incredibly precise and you need to pay attention to what you're doing if you plane on building a decent model. This is not a kit for the novice or ham-fisted. Some modeling skills and a little patience are required, and if you don't possess those things your chances of a harmonious outcome are slim at best. With that as a baseline, let's move on to the things that will matter to you when you build this kit.

First off, and stating the obvious yet again, the kit's panel lines are somewhat overstated, or maybe a whole lot overstated. They seem to lie somewhere between contemporary and 1970s Matchbox offering in execution and they manage to detract from the finished model in a significant manner. Yes; there's a school of thought out there that says they will disappear under a coat of paint, but I'm here to tell you that ain't gonna happen unless your paint bottle says Sherwin Williams on the side. If you want to reduce that scribing you'll have to do the old-fashioned manual Fill, Sand, and Rescribe thing. My personal nature runs towards the lazy side of the scale so I'm not about to do that, although you can if you'd like. (I have to admit it looks less offensive the longer the model sits on the shelf, so maybe it doesn't matter all that much but that's a cop-out, isn't it...)

Once you get past the scribing there's not much to dislike about this kit, but you might want to know the following:

You can build any of the long-nosed P-40s from this kit but you'll have to reconfigure the landing gear and address a couple of other issues if you want to build one of the early P-40-CUs. The other American variants (the B, C, and G) can be built from what's in the box, as can the Hawk 81 family, which was the primary export version. My model is of a P-40B so we're going to talk about the American versions here, along with some basic, and minor, corrections to the kit.

Let's get aftermarket out of the way first, though. Eduard makes an interior and canopy masks, and their Brassin' line line includes a set of exhaust stacks, while UltraCast offer a couple of different prop and spinner configurations and Master make a set of gun barrels. There's also a new "Nun's Hat" fairing in resin out there, or at least there was at one time, but I honestly don't see a need for that particular "correction". The others are pretty much optional in my view too, although I consider the prop and spinner replacements to be fairly essential. You pays your money, etc, etc...

As for actual construction, it's all pretty easy. If you're doing the American version you'll want to use the seat with the rounded back and the appropriate seat frame, as well as the straight pitot tube, but that's almost the only thing you really have to watch for. With that out of the way, the basic corrections you'll need to make are basic indeed:
  1. The kit represents the external rudder hinge on both sides of the rudder, but it's only on the port side on the real airplane so you'll need to remove it from the starboard side. You might also consider removing it from the port side and replacing that one with fine wire should you be so inclined---it'll look a lot better if you do that.
  2. That rudder has a trim tab in it, and the guys at Airfix only molded it in the starboard side of that part. It's easy to scribe it in on the port side too and you really want to do that.
  3. All of the long-nosed P-40s have a landing light in the lower side of the port wing and the kit gives you provision for it, but the instructions don't tell you to open up the hole and install the lens provided with the model. The solution to that one should be obvious...
  4. The parts breakdown for the nose of the model is extremely effective in dealing with the complex shapes found up there, but I think there's an easier way to do the resulting assembly work. I added the side panels that live just above the exhaust stacks before the fuselage was assembled, applying Tenax from the back-side to lock them in place. It was easy to do and it worked, although you might prefer to follow the kit's instructions there. The choice is yours.
  5. I did the same thing for the wing fillets, adding them while the fuselage was in halves. It made things a lot easier for me, but you might not be comfortable doing it that way either.
  6. There are a couple of small access hatches that live in the port wing fillet. Airfix forgot to put them there (and I did too!) but they're easy enough to scribe in place and you really ought to do that.
Everything else was done per the instructions and worked out just fine, thank you. The completed model really looks like a P-40B too, and some of the details (formation and navigation lights, gear doors, etc) could serve as an example of how to do that sort of thing for the other manufacturers out there---they're petite and very much to scale!

This view shows how the fuselage panels were inserted prior to assembly. If you're careful here it will simplify things later on and remove the possibility of sanding and puttying around the nose from your life. 

The wing root fillets were done the same way. It's easy to install them at this stage of construction, but things might get a little tougher once the fuselage is buttoned up, although I didn't try it that way so I honestly can't comment on it. This is also a good time to install the radio compartment hatch, once again cementing from the back side.

A picture that's worth a bunch of words! Do your installation a half-inch or so at a time and things will line up perfectly, while a "hot" solvent such as Tenax will ensure those fillets stay where they're supposed to!

The interior appears to go in much the same way as it does in the Hasegawa P-40 family, but in this case it needs to go in before the fuselage sides are joined together; you can't slip it in afterwards. Yes; that's a messy nose seam. It's easy to fix with sandpaper and Mr. Surfacer. Note. Chuckle. Move on...

It's beginning to look like an airplane now. I usually build these things in a modular fashion nowadays, but it was easier to do this one by sticking all the big pieces together the old-fashioned way. It's really starting to look like a P-40B, isn't it?

Here it is with all the big pieces attached and the decals applied. There's a ways to go yet but you can tell Airfix did their homework, can't you?

It's on its legs now and pretty much complete except for the prop and spinner, which had yet to arrive from the good folks at UltraCast when this photo was taken. That shoulder harness probably shouldn't be in there but it was in the Eduard interior set and got itself added by me without a second thought, which was a major clanger on my part. I could tell you I'm going to fix later it but that would be a lie...

And this is where I'm going with the project---a P-40B from the ill-fated 20th PS of the 24th PG as stationed in the Philippines at the start of the war. I'm liking it so far.

So let's summarize. Is the Airfix P-40B the ultimate kit we all wanted it to be? In all truth, it is not, but it isn't that far away from it either. The major issue with the kit are the overdone panel lines it's festooned with; most of the kit's detail, including the interior, is excellent, petite, and very much to scale. The prop and, to a lesser extent the spinner, is a clanger, but that's easily fixed by the use of an UltraCast replacement (presuming it bothers you enough to make you want to replace it). The decals are perfectly usable, as are the clear parts, and the engineering of the overall kit is impressive indeed. As for that "nun's hat"---somebody's going to have to provide a lot more evidence than we've heretofore seen before I decide it's a serious enough problem to require my attention, but you may well choose to do it.

On the other hand, that impressive engineering we just mentioned is also a major pitfall if the modeler doesn't have the skill-sets or experience necessary to work with them. I meant it when I said the kit's tolerances are on the tight side---every single piece on the almost-completed kit you see above fit perfectly, but every single piece was also carefully trimmed and dressed before attachment to the model. I personally enjoyed building this thing and, thanks to the largess of an old friend of mine, have a second kit waiting in the wings that will probably be built sooner rather than later.

I like this kit, except for the panel line treatment, and I like it a lot. Your mileage may vary...

Bugsuckers From the Corps

Ok; ok. We like the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom, and we like it a lot. So does Jim Sullivan, and thanks to his kindness we're going to share a few images with you that he took back in the 1970s:

You can't beat this for pretty! BuNo 151420, from VMFA-321, sits on the ramp at NAF Washington in clean configuration on 23 April 1974. It's hard to remember how brutally efficient the Phantom looks when she's not encumbered by pylons and stores; this photo is a reminder. As pretty as she was, this bird led a somewhat difficult life---she suffered a runway overshoot at NAS Whidbey Island and took a dip in Puget Sound, then followed that adventure with an unspecified (to us, anyway) ground accident in 1976. She's still a pretty airplane, though...     Jim Sullivan

155528 was with VMFA-312 when Jim shot her at MCAS Cherry Point on 25 July, 1974. An F-4J, she's in relatively clean condition with just a pair of gas bags marring her classic lines. Her anti-glare treatment is a trifle unusual but otherwise she's a pristine example of her breed. She ended up going to AMARC in 1987.    Jim Sullivan

VMFA-251's 153896 was sitting on the ramp at MCAS Beaufort on 14 June, 1976, when Jim took this gorgeous portrait of her in near-clean condition, with only a pair of pylons cluttering her lines. She was built as an F-4J but survived long enough to become an F-4S prior to her delivery to the boneyard in 1985. Modelers take note of those Sidewinder rails, which are Insignia Red on their inner surfaces. The Devil's in the details!   Jim Sullivan

That same June day in 1976 saw VMFA-122's F-4J 153825 sitting on the Beaufort ramp. The anti-glare treatment on this bird is particularly tasty, we think. Like several other aircraft in this photo essay, 825 was slated for F-4S conversion and, like the others, ended up going into storage in 1985. She sure was pretty when she was in her prime, wasn't she?   Jim Sullivan

153889 was a survivor. Built as an F-4J and converted to an F-4S, she ended up being preserved at MCAS Kaneohe Bay. In this 10 July 1979 photo she's still on active duty with VMFA-333 and shows considerable evidence of a recent trip to Corrosion Control; her airframe is liberally festooned with patches of Mil-P-8585Y zinc chromate primer. We're guessing a re-paint is right around the corner, probably at the NARF, but who are we to say?   Jim Sullivan

Thanks as always to Jim Sullivan for his talent with a camera and his willingness to share both with us!

A Proud Tradition

Those of you who follow this project are well aware of the way the history of things threads through our lives. Here's a case in point:

This image is from the collection of the St Louis Air and Space museum and came to us through the diligence and kindness of Bobby Rocker and Gerry Kersey. It shows a B-25 from the 3rd BG in flight shortly before its transfer to the 345th BG in 1943, but there's more to it than that. The nickname on the side of the airplane is "BROTHER RAT", which was the title of a late-30s movie starring Ronald Reagan. The name goes much deeper, however, being a nickname the students of the Virginia Military Institute have called each other from Civil War days right up until this very moment, which makes us believe that someone on the aircrew, probably the pilot, was an alumni of VMI. It's truly interesting to see that tradition carry down through the generations and, unfortunately, from one tragic war to another. Funny how the circle is a wheel...    San Diego Air and Space Museum via Bobby Rocker

While we're on the topic, do any of you hold any other imagery of this airplane in your collections? If you do, we'd surely like to see it! Our e-mail address, all gomed up to try to fool the Spam Clan, is replicainscaleatyahoodotcom. (We're always interested in photography of any other American military aircraft as well, of course, but today we've got a particular interest in this one! Just sayin'...)

Under the Radar

While we usually take a look at older books and monographs in this section of our project, today we're going to take a somewhat different tack and boldly jump, with considerable trepidation, into the wonderful world of 21st Century digital publishing:

F-102 Delta Dagger, Bert Kenzey and Rock Roszak. Detail and Scale Publications, 2017, Electronic monograph, heavily illustrated.

We recently came by this title through as a result of a series of e-mails with one of its authors, Rock Roszak, a correspondence that caused us to jump headfirst into the wonderful world of electronic books. There's a story behind D and S's conversion to that medium, of course---one that we'll save for someone else to tell---but the books are here and in a format that many of us would not normally use or seek out. That could be a mistake on our part.

Most of us are well familiar with the old Detail and Scale series, a family of books who's history stretches back a great many years. They're so familiar, in fact, that we aren't going to describe them for you since pretty much every aviation enthusiast on the planet knows what they are, but rather jump straight into a look at the current presentation.

In the most basic sense the D and S electronic volumes are no different than the print books that we're all so used to yet they are, in the same breath, considerably different and much improved. Everything that endeared the old print edition works to us is still there; a brief history of the aircraft in question plus pages of detail photography of the actual aircraft slanted at the modeler are an essential part of the books, but in many respects that's where the similarity ends. These newer, digital editions, are much more comprehensive in terms of squadron usage than the old print editions could ever be, and the presentation of both photography and printed material is far better than before, and considerably more comprehensive (even to include pilot's narratives in this particular edition). The page layouts are improved and the overall product is quite impressive. Add to all that a substantial reduction in cover price and the books begin creeping towards the Must Have category of references. The volume we examined, that for the F-102, also included a comprehensive selection of photography covering every unit known to have flown the "Deuce".

That said, we do have one reservation, albeit a personal one. While the electronic format truly does broaden the scope of possibilities with these books, it also limits access to them to those with a computer, I-Pad, or similar. In a similar but completely different vein, it also eliminates the tactile experience gained by having and reading a "real" book of the old-fashioned print variety.

Our experience with this particular title makes us think there's a lot to be said for the format and presentation, as well as the sheer amount of material that can be presented for a substantial reduction in cost to the consumer, and there's little doubt in our minds that E-Books are the way of the future.That said, your humble editor is what some folks might call a curmudgeon, one who likes holding a real book and turning its pages. Still, the writing's on the wall, isn't it?

And that's about enough for all this philosophical rambling. If you have an interest in the "Deuce" this volume is well worth having, and we think you'll enjoy it. If only it were made of paper...

Review sample courtesy of Rock Roszak and Detail and Scale

The Relief Tube

It's been a while since our last edition (and Yes; we really do have A2F and SB2C photo essays in the works, we promise!), but we've got a couple of comments to share with you today so let's get to it!

First, from Richard Bebb regarding a "Scooter" photo we ran a while back:

Sir , 

In your August 2016 issue you have a picture of a brown camouflaged Aggressor aircraft (an A-4E or A-4F from VA-126) for which you have no further information. It is in fact an A-4F, and here is some further info on the aircraft: 

 Variant: A-4F Unit: VF-126 (Also listed as VA-126) BuNo: 154181 Modex: NJ-620 Date: c1983.  Description: right front view of VF-126 Skyhawk BuNo 154181, NJ-620, parked on the ramp. Location: NAS Miramar (as indicated by the NC-8A in the background). 154181 was assigned to VF-126 as NJ-620 (or NJ-625) between 1978-92 when it was retired to AMARC. URL to complimentary Photo Hope this is of some help. 

 Regards,  Richard Bebb

Many thanks, Richard!

Here's a clarification we're delighted, absolutely delighted, to receive regarding a photograph of an unusually configured SBD/RA-24A we ran several issues ago. Scott Diamond found our article and was coincidentally researching the airplane in question at the time---here's what he has to say about it:

Mr. Friddell: 

 This is regarding the picture of the SBD-5/RA-24A with the mystery gear on and under it. This is indeed the QF-24A-DE drone aircraft the USAF used for testing in the late '40's. I found the picture on your site while I was looking for information on that particular craft because I met the man who "flew" it during test in the Air Force. I'm currently building a commissioned B-25 model for this gentleman an he told me all about his career in the AF and the odd turn it took after he completed flight training on the B-25J gunships to be sent to the South Pacific for the Air Apaches. Because of Navy concerns about the security of ships in the area where the planes were due (we had been temporarily chased out by Japanese forces) they cancelled the shipment until the area was under Navy control again. By that time this gentleman was sent to assorted temporary duties and when the planes finally left the US he was bust at Wright Field with something else. Because he had been a radio enthusiast before the war and was still tinkering with them to try to make remote control planes while in the service he was tapped for a position in the new high-g program where the AF was testing new types of G-suits for our crews to use in combat. The newer planes were giving crews a lot of problems in dogfights and the AF was using a drone to help figure out the solution. They needed someone to help work out the kinks in the drone and then fly it during the tests. My customer was it. He told me today that he flew in a B-25 in the nose compartment with his radio gear while test pilots wearing the various g-suit designs would ride in the Dauntless. He didn't remember the number for the SBD (he is 98 years old, and while sharper than I'll expect to be he is fuzzy on those kinds of details) he did remember it was the only one the AF had. Apparently the USAF had chosen the Dauntless for this task because it could pull so many hard g's and still hold together, as well as be easy to control and recover. So the test crew would be strapped in with pressure bottles for the suit bladders, then EC (his initials...I haven't asked if he wanted to be named yet since I just found this article) would fly the drone through the test maneuvers as the crew would note the effects of the suits and perform various tasks to see how alert they were during the same. By using the drone the USAF hoped to avoid crew casualties from blackouts that couldn't be recovered from in time to avoid a crash, especially during multiple maneuvers in succession to simulate combat. The problem of making it through a high-g recovery in a dive bomber was considered top of the list, since our side didn't have the sort of recovery device the Germans had on Stukas for that, and the Helldiver and Dauntless could pull even more g than that plane did. EC told me the SBD had cameras inside and out to record the tests, and extra radio gear for backup, but was pretty much just a stripped down SBD-5. He remarked on the perforated dive brakes and how well those worked at holding the plane's speed down in a dive before he pulled them in and yanked the drone out of it to try to black out the crew. Sounded like a hard dollar for those guys to me! EC also flew hands-on drone planes that were used for evaluation of remote feedback of the instruments during remote flight. This would eventually allow operators to fly the drones out of visual flight range and was the first steps in early remote guided missiles and recon craft like the Vietnam-era Quail. Nowadays he lives in Washington just 3-4 hours from me. So there it is, the story of your Mystery Bird! It really floored me to see this picture on your website right after getting the model commission and interview with the man who "flew" it. 

Regards, Scott Diamond

Scott, thank you very much for sending this to us and helping to clarify the mystery regarding that airframe!

On a final, but necessary note, I'm pretty sure this issue of the project is later than, or at least in contention for that honor, anything we've previously published. To those of you who have contacted us with concern, please don't worry---all is well and we're chugging right along over here. My wife and I have been heavily involved in moving her ailing mother from Florida and establishing her in Texas over the past several weeks and the activity has consumed a LOT of our time. In theory things are back to normal now---fingers are definitely crossed on that one! We're also extremely fortunate in being far enough west of the Texas coast to have missed almost all of the bad weather that's been so much in the news of late; thanks very much to those of you who have asked about us and our well-being over the past week. We're ok, but we'd like to give a heartfelt thank you to all those who were concerned about us and ask you to turn your thoughts to the folks who actually did get slammed by that storm.

And that's it for this highly delinquent issue! Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon!


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Rags to Riches, and A Very Special Home Movie

Who Came First?

The year was 1969, or at least I think it was, and I was standing behind the counter at Dibble's Arts and Hobbies in San Antonio one dismal, rainy afternoon, when I heard a rumbling from the parking spaces in front of the door. The sound was that of an American V-8 engine, and a healthy one at that, but the only car in our lot was an old Jaguar XK-150 drop-head coupe that had just pulled up. A tall, thin guy with glasses, probably about my age, got out and came into the store and introduced himself, which is how I came to meet Al Orvedahl, a college student who had only recently moved into San Antonio to go to school. (That V-8 rumble had well and truly come from his Jaguar; he'd decided shortly after purchasing the car that it lacked performance, so he shoe-horned a Pontiac 389 into its engine bay and began a career surprising Corvette Stingrays, or at least he was doing that when the car wasn't overheating due to the retention of that itty-bitty Jaguar radiator, but that's a story for another day.)

The next surprise came a couple of months later, when he brought in a completed 1/32nd scale Revell F4F-4 he'd been working on for the past several months. The kit was an absolute revelation and featured impeccable bodywork, a paint job that was well above average, and decals that looked as though they'd been painted on, but those things weren't the cause for our amazement; that came from the details he'd added to the model.

Take the cockpit, for example. Al had gone in and added all of the details Revell had missed when they tooled the kit, scratch-building them from sheet styrene and stretched sprue, and he'd manufactured a set of lap belts for the seat he'd made. We take those things for granted nowadays, except that nowadays most people use resin or photo-etch instead of hand-crafted styrene, but almost no one was doing it in 1969.

Then there were the seams where the wings and horizontal stabilizers joined the fuselage, which were immaculate, with no lost rivet detail. It turns out Al had used white glue to fill those seams, wiping away the excess to allow a perfectly filled joint. That's also a common trick these days, but it wasn't back then. He'd used that white glue to make the insulators on the antenna wires he'd stretched from sprue as well---other people were using stretched sprue back then, including me, but nobody was making insulators out of white glue at that time, at least not that I was aware of.

Al also discovered Hasbro Light-Brite pegs and their usefulness for making colored lenses and transparencies for models, and other things as well, and the list went on and on.

Some of you have been using those tricks for decades, I know. I've been using them too, as well as writing about them, or at least I was as soon as I picked them up from Al. Since that time, I've seen all of those tips, and many others from "The Day", periodically repeated as "new" techniques in various magazines and internet "publications" and forums. I even ran the Hasbro lens idea in an early edition of the original Replica in Scale. I learned several of those tricks from Al, and I'm reasonably certain he picked them up from somebody else, which takes us to today's Lesson in Humility.

There are plenty of new ideas and techniques out there in The Magic Land of Modeling in which we dwell, but in actuality most of them had their origins back in the 60s and 70s, way back when our hobby was really beginning to take off (no pun intended!). Those ideas and techniques have been passed down, perpetuated, and improved upon for decades, and precious few of them are truly new. The origins of most of them are lost in the polystyrene mists of time, which leads to their periodic rediscovery and transmission as new ideas and techniques.

There's nothing wrong with any of that, of course. The important thing is that we learn, and by learning become better at what we do within the hobby. Technology (laser printing, for example) is rapidly passing by certain of those old techniques and rendering them obsolescent,  but even that is creating its own mythos of who came first. At the end of the day we all learned from somebody, and there's considerable validity to that old notion that everything old is new again. I think somebody even wrote a song about it!

Let's go build a model, then, and maybe give a thought to those old guys who figured things out for us so we wouldn't have to. They're the reason we can do some of the things we do and, for the most part, we don't know who they really were with any degree of certainty. That's worth thinking about, at least in my world!

And the Beat goes on...

An Apology to Jules

Bringuier, that is. As you all surely remember, Jules Bringuier was the guy responsible for Classic Airframes and the wonderful and eclectic range of kits that fabled company brought to us only a few short years ago. Long on imagination and daring, the company was, at the end of the day, a purveyor of short-run kits of unusual subjects, which is another way of saying that precious few of their offerings were easy to build, particularly for those new to the hobby or possessed of limited skill sets. The gorgeous box art on each and every one of those kits, coupled with that aforementioned eclectic subject matter, seduced more than one modeler into attempting one of their kits, and those attempts often resulted in an indifferent result or even outright failure. Classic Airframes kits were a tough date, pure and simple.

With that as a largely unnecessary introduction, let's you and I go back to 2004 or so. That year was one in which my own personal world was being rocked by fractuousity of a familial nature, as it were, and I desperately needed something to take my mind off the tragedies of the moment. That particular Something came to me one dismal Saturday afternoon during a visit to the now long-defunct but fondly remembered Village Hobbies in Austin, where I spied a Classic Airframes P-6E sitting forlornly on the shelf. I've always had a thing for that prettiest of the Curtiss Hawk family and plastic is plastic, right?, so I grabbed it and almost ran to the counter to pay for the thing and get it back to the house so I could begin work. Things were looking up!

All of Classic's kits were of the mixed media variety, a game I'd never played before, and that P-6E was a gentle introduction to the genre for me. Some of the "normal" styrene parts were a little bit on the clunky side, but any plastic model ends up being the sum of its parts and the parts I was examining looked perfectly usable, so I dove in. There were some burps and hiccups along the way but nothing insurmountable, and in a few short days I had a completed airframe that required only the addition of the upper wing before it could be deemed Finished.

My own personal modeling karma has always included a big chunk of good luck where things with multiple wings were concerned, and I'd never had an issue getting a biplane of any sort together in a tidy and workmanlike manner. True, you have to be careful during assembly, and pre-planning doesn't hurt either, but at they end of the day they're generally an easy thing to build. Generally.

This one, however, was one of those rare biplane kits that fought back, and successful completion wasn't in the stars for that project. Try as I might, I just couldn't finagle that accursed upper wing into the correct position---it simply wouldn't go on there properly! At that point in the festivities I decided to consult the collective wisdom of the entity known collectively as The Internet, where I found a literal plethora of information from the two or three people who had resolved the strut issue by trimming said components so I gave that a shot too, which provided me with yet another opportunity to duplicate my previous failure at attaching that darned wing to the airplane, which I proceeded to do. Duplicate my previous failure, I mean.  Phooey!

There was a temptation to throw the kit into the trash at that point but I didn't do it; instead, I put everything back in the box and kept that P-6E in storage for the advent of a better day, the precursor of which came at a local model show a couple of years ago when I ran into an old friend of mine, Richard Ng, who was attending that very same show and offered to sell me a couple of new-in-the-box Classic Airframes P-6Es on the cheap. It was an opportunity of sorts, or maybe even an omen, and who was I to say no? What harm could it do, right?

Anyway, and to stop rambling and more-or-less get to the point, I decided to resurrect the project a couple of weeks ago and had the good sense to photograph the festivities along the way, almost a first for me! What follows is how things shook out:

Here's where the project was at the time of resurrection. The model had been decalled at one point and there were some paint blemishes to deal with as well, but the basic construction was sound and it looked like the significant parts of a P-6E! Who could say no?

There was a time when I annotated the instructions of the models in work on my bench. It's not a bad thing to do if you're inclined towards that sort of thing, and it can actually help you to pay attention and maybe even avoid a mistake or two as you go along your merry way, but that's not the point here. Look on these as some sort of whacked-out public service announcement, if you will---feel free to consult them if you think they'll be of help to you, or don't do that at all if you don't. Either way will work out just fine in the end!

It's true that we're all used to seeing this sort of parts breakdown on the instruction sheets that come with our kits, and it's equally true that a great many of us ignore them, but it's a good idea to at least give them a once-over if the model is of the mixed-media and limited-run variety. If you look carefully you'll find there's no way to actually attach the propeller to the finished airplane because no kit part is supplied to allow you to do it (an odd omission, that, although that's easy to fix), and there's no optical collimator (another word for "gun sight" back in the 1930s) provided with the kit either. Both omissions are easy to deal with and are of little or no consequence to the project. We're modelers, right?

The kit's first few steps allow us to assemble an interior and stick the exhausts into the fuselage halves. It's simple work but care is required, particularly when working with the rudder pedals. I've now got three different kits of the P-6E and they all, each and every one of them, came with pre-broken rudder pedals. They're easy enough to rebuild but you might want to plan for a rework when you purchase, or finally decide to build, the kit. The interior is a little short on detail as well, but the cockpit opening isn't very large so you can get by with what the kit provides; no harm, no foul. The exhausts are a no-brainer---paint them and stick them in place before you stick the fus together. I suspect I used some sort of cyanoacrylate on them back in '04, but it could just have easily been a 5-minute epoxy. The important thing is to make sure they'll stay in place once you've buttoned up the fuselage because there's no second chance if you fail on this one!

Steps five and six get you to a completed basic airframe. My recollection is that everything fit together fairly well, but you could benefit by drilling a couple of holes and pinning the wings and horizontal stabs to the fuselage with brass rod or cut-down insect pins---besides assuring those components stay where they're supposed to, the pins also help in setting dihedral on the lower wings, which is one of several critical operations on this model. You'll also want to note that the gun barrels provided by the model are too great in diameter and won't fit properly into their troughs in the fuselage halves. Look on that as an excuse to buy a set of Master .30 cal Browning barrels and move on or, conversely, omit the guns entirely if the airplane you're reproducing is one of the blue and yellow birds, since the type was painted in those colors fairly late in its service life and was often unarmed by that time. Omission of the guns will also save you from scratch-building the optical collimator later on, although that's simple enough to do if you want an aircraft with armament. The choice is yours, etc., etc.

And here it is folks; the step that will make or break your model. There are all sorts of comments out there in Internet Land talking about cutting struts, repositioning mounting points, and such, but none of that is really necessary, or at least it wasn't for me. What I did may or may not work for you, but here's how I dealt with this step on my own model. First, you'll want to do some assembly out of sequence and install the landing gear first instead of in steps 9 and 10. Be really careful of the main gear's alignment and then, when you're satisfied with same, allow the model to sit overnight so the undercarriage can set up permanently. Once that's done, go in with a drill and clean out each and every one of the strut mounting points. I used a number 66 drill for the task but there was no magic in its selection; it just happened to be what was in that particular pin vise when I picked it up. The thing is to drill the hole just a bit larger than the "pips" at the end of the struts---that's so you'll get a good, secure anchor when you glue them in place. When all that's done, carefully cement the struts into their respective places on the upper fuselage and lower wings, set them according to the diagram provided in the instructions (which also conveniently shows you how to set the dihedral on the lower wings), and leave them alone for a day or two. Finally, once you're absolutely certain those struts are firmly and permanently locked into place, drill out the mounting holes in the lower surfaces of the upper wing using a drill that's a little larger than those infamous strut "pips" and carefully mount the wing, starting at the cabane struts and working outwards.

Here's your starting place before attaching the upper wing. The undercarriage is in place and everything that can be pre-painted is pre-painted, thus theoretically stacking the odds in your favor. You'll probably notice there's a bit of overspray here and there, but that will be corrected prior to installation of the wing.

Next up are the cabane struts. I used Tenax throughout the model's assembly, both then and now, but almost anything will work as long as it dries with a strong bond. If your weapon of choice is cyanoacrylate you'll probably want to use one of the slower-drying ones so you can set the angle properly on those struts but, regardless of what you use, and to repeat myself once again, let everything dry overnight and make certain you have a good, strong bond before doing anything else.

Once the struts have cured and are solidly in place you should be able to do this without any sort of undue movement of the model whatsoever---if anything does move, your bond isn't good enough and there's a pretty good chance this whole project will collapse when you mount the upper wing, thus causing you to say many colorful words in a loud and forceful manner. I'm not saying you need to turn your own model upside down and do this, mind you. The point to be made here is that the cabane strut-to-fuselage mount is critical to the assembly of this airplane and a weak joint in any one of those strut locations may well doom the project for you. The extra time is well worth expending!

Step 11 has you add the aux tank and some smaller bits and pieces to the lower fuselage. This is a job for cyanoacrylate and, in my world at least, one that's easier to deal with before that upper wing goes on. It's your choice, of course, but I stuck those bits and pieces on prior to mounting the upper wing and was glad I'd done it. Your mileage, however, may vary...

A photo that proves the point! The wing is just sitting there, not permanently attached in any way, and the cabane struts are carrying its full weight. Everything is in proper alignment too, so we're just about ready to fix the cabane struts to the upper wing and then---ta Daa!---attach the interplane struts and mount that wing, but first...

Let's paint any trim and apply the decals. That may seen somewhat counter-intuitive to you at first, but the objective here is to avoid excessive handling of the model once that upper wing has been installed and it can thus constitute being A Very Good Thing in your own personal modeling world. This would also be a good time to scratch-build and install that collimator as well, if you plan on arming the model. While we're at it, the instructions would like for you to mount the windscreen before you mount the upper wing, but it sits far enough aft of the wing cutout that you can do that afterwards, which was my own preference. It works out ok either way so the choice is yours!

The interplane struts go on next and, once again, need to have their mounting angle carefully set and then be allowed to sit unmolested overnight. This is a key joint and it absolutely positively has to be done properly!

And here's where you should be except, of course, that you want both interplane struts mounted to the lower wings rather than just the one I've shown. I know. I know...

Here's another view to confirm what you're trying to do. If your model doesn't resemble this, you might want to double-check the kit's instructions regarding strut angles and take another shot at it! Once you're satisfied that everything is aligned properly and firmly glued into place (notice how I keep repeating that part?) you can drill the strut mounting holes in the lower side of the upper wing a little over-sized so the wing can "float" a bit in regard to the strut location once you begin the mounting process. That sounds somewhat drastic at first but it's really quite logical since there's a flare at the base of each end of the interplane struts that will cover the enlarged holes once the wing has been installed, and the larger mounting holes will provide you with the wiggle room necessary to mount that wing properly and without drama!

And here's the money shot! Everything has been aligned, cemented in place and allowed to dry thoroughly (overnight!), and the model is being held a foot or so above my modeling desk by grasping the upper wing alone. The model isn't fragile at all, and I routinely handle it this way---those wings are locked in and are rock solid! All you have to do to get to this point is build slowly, make certain that everything has been securely mounted, and follow the kit's instructions to the letter regarding strut angles and lower wing dihedral!

Note how incidence, gap, and stagger are all correctly set? That's entirely a function of the kit's design and its instructions and nothing else. The only thing not specified in the kit was my decision to drill the holes in the upper wing's lower surface a bit over-sized. Everything else you need to do the job correctly has been provided in this model, but you've got to follow those instructions to the letter and use a little bit of care and forethought as you build or some degree of disaster may well ensue!

One thing about the older Classic Airframes kits (and nowadays there's no other kind, so we're talking about the chronologically earlier releases here) are the pre-yellowed vacuum-formed transparencies, one of which can be seen in the corner of this photo just to the right of the model's rudder. It wasn't usable for the model but served quite well as a vacuum-form mold to enable the creation of a decent, and actually transparent, windscreen. You might also want to note the aileron actuation tubes between the wings---the kit provides them but they're thick and clunky and are best replaced with .020 Evergreen rod, which was what was done here. We're in the home stretch now, and this thing really looks like a P-6E!

There's a little more to do before we can call the project done, of course. There's rigging to be done, and three radio antenna masts plus antenna to be added, and then the prop and a tiny bit of paint touch-up here and there, but the model is far enough along to prove the point. A great many modelers of my own personal acquaintance, including some exceptionally talented ones, have long been of the opinion that the Classic Airframes biplane kits were poorly designed and virtually unbuildable. I thought that too, and had the notion drummed rather forcefully into my head back in 2004 when I first began the model you see before you. My problem then was simple---I thought I knew better than the kit designer did when it came time to mount that upper wing, and in consequence I tried to rush the assembly of that most critical of biplane components. The end result was a badly built, and presumably unbuildable, model airplane that sat in its box, partially assembled, for some 13 years before I finally decided to give it another try.

Yes; it's true that Classic Airframes kits were of the limited run genre and suffered all the failings of that sort of thing, but the manufacturer tried really hard to provide a first class product within the confines of a somewhat limiting medium. Take the painting guides provided with each kit, for example. This is a page from the P-6E (kit number 440) that I began all those years ago, and it's a first-class effort, easily on a par with anything anybody provides even now.

This is the other scheme provided with that kit. The decals were by MicroScale and were (and still are, for that matter) superb. Printing was excellent and the decals were as thin as anything you can buy today. A lot of thought went into those Classic Airframes kits, and they were probably as good as the existing short-run technology of their time would allow. Every one of them presents its own unique challenge to the modeler, but they're all buildable. All it takes is skill and patience!

The model isn't finished yet, although it soon will be, but the simple act of following directions and building slowly turned the trick and produced a pretty good looking model airplane for my collection. That brings us back to that whole apology thing, because Jules Bringuier had it figured out way back then and it turns out his kits weren't the problem, or at the very least this one wasn't. Nossir, in this instance the problem was me, pure and simple. A new day, and a new attitude, produced a result far better than the one originally achieved. That unbuildable kit was entirely buildable right from the box, just as its designer had intended. Yes; Classic Airframes kits can be a handful to work with and it still seems as though every one of them presents its own unique set of challenges to the modeler, but some fine model airplanes have been produced from those kits over the years. For that we owe Mr. Bringuier a hearty thank you, albeit a somewhat tardy one, for being willing to produce kits that no one else would have ever touched. Classic Airframes was obviously a labor of love, and I for one am grateful that he was willing to invest his time and treasure in that dream.

It ain't what you do; 
It's how you do it!

The J Geils Band said that a very long time ago and it could be the theme song for this, or any other, short-run kit, which takes us right up there into The Wonderful World of Patience and Forethought.

I shall serve no model airplane before its time...

A Movie You HAVE to Watch!

Norman Camou spends a lot of time searching out historical aviation pieces on YouTube and the like, and sent this to us yesterday---a home movie shot in New Guinea back in The Bad Old Days! It's a personal document of sorts so there are things in there other than airplanes, but there are airplanes to be seen! It's a little over half an hour in length so get comfortable and prepare to be amazed!

Many thanks to Norman for sending this treasure to us!

And in late-breaking news: Norman found and has sent along yet another version of the movie. It's the same film and the exact same length but is from YouTube and is of much better quality than the first one. We've left the original link up there too, as a just in case. Thanks again to Norman for sending along this remarkable film!

And Now For a Special Message

This issue is late. There's nothing new there, of course---it would be entirely appropriate to re-name the project Late r Us at times---but the project has had to take a back seat to some recent and significant  issues that have, gratefully, been resolved, and is very very late in consequence. Nothing terrible has occurred and there's certainly nothing to for any of our readership be concerned about, but issues of a time-stealing nature conspired to put any sort of schedule right down the old plumbing, a Defecation Happens sort of thing if you get our meaning.

This VF-11 F-4B hulk (152305) photographed by Bob Lawson at MCAS Cherry point in April of 1971 pretty much sums up the way things have been going around here of late but there are sunnier days ahead, we promise!   Jim Sullivan---Please note that I mis-credited this image to Bob Lawson, but Jim took it!

Anyway, our next issue should be a good one: There are Grumman Guardians in the wind, along with post-War Helldivers, and the photography shared with us on both aircraft is remarkable, but it's going to take a little time to finish up watermarking and captioning the photos (thanks again, Picture Pirates!) and we wanted to get something in print in the meantime so you'd know we were still alive and kicking!

This pair of Fighting 92 F-4Js on the prowl over the Gulf of Tonkin during 1973 hopefully portend where we're headed with with project given just the tiniest turn of luck. Watch this space and cross your fingers!   Lawson via Sullivan Collection

Please accept our sincere apologies and maybe we'll be able to get something else published in a couple of weeks.

Until then, be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon!


Monday, May 1, 2017

The New Guinea Blues, An Old Albatros, All Beat to Snot, and A Book on the Six

I Can't See It But I Know It's There

"It", of course, being all that unseen aftermarket that we so lovingly cram into our models in search of the ultimate in super-detailing and, since super-detailing is the name of the game in our hobby, it's definitely the thing to do, right? Sure it is. Absolutely. Maybe...

Wait a minute, you may well be asking yourself at this particular part of our discussion! He just said that super-detailing was the ultimate goal for us, a Holy Grail, if you will, so why's he vacillating over it? Detail's the thing, right? The guys who win those big contests all have it, so don't I need to have it too? There's no point in even discussing it! Or is there?

Ok, ya'll; I've just commited the ultimate sin as far as polystyrene scale modeling is concerned and suggested that you don't need to go cramming all those detail parts into your models. I have to be wrong, right? Well, yes I do, unless of course I'm actually on to something, and I'm pretty sure I am.

My premise in this whole thing, and one that should need no explanation whatsoever, is simple; a mantra that guides my own personal modeling world and could guide yours as well, if you were so inclined, to wit: If I can't see it, then nobody else can either and I'm not going to put it in there. No, I'm not saying we don't need to detail our creations---that's a big part of the fun for most of us---but I am saying that our time can often be more profitably spend doing something else on the model.

Think about that for a minute. Most of the aftermarket detail available to us (some of which we could just as easily scratch-build for a few cents rather than the many dollars a lot of us actually end up spending for reproductions of somebody else's scratchbuilt parts) goes into one of three or four places on any given model airplane: The cockpit; the wheel wells, the powerplant(s) and related areas, and the guns or ordnance, presuming the airplane you're modeling was armed.

Of those four areas two are pretty much a no-brainer, at least up to a point. Most plastic kits fall short in the areas of cockpit and wheel well detailing to one extent or another so enhancing those areas makes a great deal of sense, as long as what you've done can actually be seen on the completed model. To illustrate the point, the cockpit on a B-29 is extremely visible and benefits tremendously from any extra work put into that area, but the only other crew areas that fall even remotely into that category are the gunner's sighting positions on the sides of the fuselage and the tail gunner's position, and you honestly can't see very much in those places. The bomb bays could, of course, use a little extra love, but only if they're going to be displayed with their doors in the open position and visible to the casual viewer. If they're going to be closed any effort there is wasted. You can use the same logic with virtually any bomber, particularly in the larger scales, because you generally can't see very much once you get past a few select areas. Much in the same vein, the cockpit area in a fighter generally requires some extra work, particularly if the canopy is going to be displayed in the open position, but even then there's only so much that can be seen. In those instances, and in any similar ones as well, detailing something that will never be seen becomes a time trap that a great many of us can ill-afford since our hobby falls somewhere in-between employment, a family (or at least friends and a Significant Other), or maybe school. There's only so much leisure time available to most of us, so why waste it?

We need to use some common sense in our approach, of course, and we'll use the Douglas DC-3 family of transports as our final example. The cockpit on any 1/72nd scale or larger DC-3/C-47 kit I can think of will most assuredly benefit from some extra work. So will the portions of the interior visible through the passenger or cargo doors back on the port side of the aft fuselage, but with a considerable caveat, because the passenger door in a commercial DC-3 isn't all that big, which means we might want to do a whole bunch of detailing or the first inch or so fore and aft of said door, and probably the aft bulkhead too since it's pretty much sitting right there in full view, but the rest of the cabin could easily be handled with selective detailing of what can be seen through the cabin windows (which ain't very much, I'm here to tell you!). The same concept would apply to a military transport that has those big honkin' double cargo doors, but in that case you'd extend the cabin detailing a little bit further forward because you can see further up inside that dark tube that is the cabin.

The point to be taken here, and we've said it more than once on these pages, is that the scale modeler is dealing with illusion to a great extent. We do, quite literally, trick the eye into seeing what isn't there and that eye will actually see detail in the hidden area in that DC-3 cabin if we do our job correctly when we're detailing the area around the passenger door. The concept works, and works both well and almost every time, in cabins, cockpits, wheel wells, bomb bays, and any other semi- or completely hidden places in a model.

That's if you're building for yourself. If you're building for a contest you may decide to put a little more detail in some of those hidden areas we've just discussed, mostly because there's a breed of judge that thinks that sort of thing is necessary in order to win or place, but it can be as easy to fool the guy holding the tiny little bore light as it is to fool the general public if you've done your part in a credible manner. Remember that part about modelers and illusion? It's true, ya'll; it really is.

That's my story and I'm most assuredly sticking to it! Mostly...

Just in Case

We've had a couple of folks ask for our e-mail address here of late. We normally put it somewhere in each issue but in a somewhat garbled and goofy manner in order to avoid being inundated by spam. Here's that address again, but in a somewhat less jumbled form:

replica in scale @ yahoo  .  com

All you need to do is run all the letters and that "and" symbol and "dot" together into one moderately long string with no spaces in-between and you're there!

Lord I Feel So Lonesome; Can't You Hear Me When I Moan (with apologies to Robert Johnson)

Americans have a sense of humor, particularly when things aren't going as well as they should. We're going to open up today's edition with a little ditty once sung in the 3rd Attack (ne 3rd BG) during The Great Unpleasantness in the Pacific some 60 or so years ago. The words are from a wartime song that 3rd Attack vet Dwight Turner held on to for all those years and provided to us by way of Gerry Kersey. The photography comes to us thanks to Bobby Rocker and Gerry. The song itself is humorous, particularly if you've got a few Fosters under your belt. The truth behind the song, unfortunately, isn't funny at all:


42-66633, a P-38H-1-LO from the 80th FS, sits forlornly on the beach at Barakoma. Her pilot flew her until the last minute, as attested to by those bent props, and he walked away apparently unscathed. That's the way you wanted to do it if you had to go down, but it wasn't always the way things turned out. It wasn't always the Japanese that got you in New Guinea...   Rocker Collection

This guy's a flight surgeon, assigned to the 80th FS and out on the flight line at 3-Mile. We usually don't think about flight surgeons much, or about the job they performed in truly miserable conditions in the Pacific, but they were an integral part of it all. His flight suit is worth a second look, as is his footwear and, while we're at it, let's take a closer look at that "ramp" his L-3 is parked on. The 5th was The Little Air Force That Could, making do with less in the midst of generally terrible operating conditions, and that's worth thinking about the next time you see some Hollywood Hero up there on the silver screen winning the war all by himself. That's the myth. The reality is in the eyes of that flight surgeon.   Rocker Collection

Every day was a new day, and there were precious few easy ones. 43-21313 was a 3rd BG A-20G-40-DO, which made her a relatively new airplane when she had her picture taken from another Havoc formating off her starboard wing. She's not beat up yet but she will be soon enough, and her crew will be more than a little the worse for wear too. At the end of the day it was an equal-opportunity war, one that was lousy for everybody in it.   Signorino Collection via Gerry Kersey

To prove the point, here's "Daisy Mae" of the 89th BS undergoing an engine change at Dobodura Strip #4. You could, we suppose, use the word "primitive" to describe what's going on here, but that really doesn't express the back-breaking labor, not to mention the heat, humidity, and insects, sleep deprivation and sheer exhaustion that were part and parcel of each and every maintenance activity in New Guinea. "The New Guinea Blues"? Sing it, Brother!   Rocker Collection

Cape Gloucester on an easy one; 200 feet agl, 225 knots indicated, hills, airplanes that have seen better days, and a whole bunch of Japanese who believe just as strongly in their cause as you do in yours and are ready to die for it. Yep, it's an easy one, all right...   National Archives via Rocker Collection

Dagua was another tough nut. These B-25s (from the 38th BG, we think) are giving the place the once over but it ain't easy. Those guys are going flat out nearly on the deck and dropping parachute-retarded 28 pound parafrags, which were highly effective against unprotected airplanes and personnel alike. When you're that low your airplane is bouncing around like there's no tomorrow and the noise, from enemy ground fire, bursting bombs, and your own guns and engines, is deafening. Throw in a dose of adrenaline that's pegged off the meter and you'll begin to understand what those guys did almost every time they went out. Sometimes it wasn't about winning; it was about getting home so you could go out and do it again. And again...  National Archives via Rocker Collection

The 499th BS works over Hollandia. Check out the relative size of the "Tony" and "Dinah" parked on the airfield in comparison with those B-25s and you'll get a feel for what the term low level attack really means. What you can't see is the Japanese gunfire directed at those Mitchells, and it doesn't all miss, either. Even the good days were bad when you had The New Guinea Blues.   National Archives via Rocker Collection

New Guinea ate airplanes, and it ate people. It was equally fair to all, Allied and Japanese; who you were didn't matter to New Guinea. It would wear you out, and burn you out, and make you old before your time. Sometimes it would take your life and sometimes, when it was all over and you'd survived, with everything finished and all said and done, you'd wish it had. It was a lousy place to be, and a worse one to fight in. It was where they wrote "The New Guinea Blues" and you honestly can't understand the song if you weren't there, but we can try. We owe those guys that much, anyway...   Rocker Collection

We build our model airplanes, and we recite the history to those who would listen, and sometimes we close our eyes and imagine what it must have been like down there, in New Guinea during the war. And many of us---no, almost all of us, totally miss the point.

Those guys were uncomfortably hot pretty much all the time, and often smelled of dirty airplanes and sweat. They flew when they were fit, and when they were tired, and sometimes when they were sick if they could get away with it. They flew in airplanes that weren't always 100%. They contended with some of the worst aviation weather in the world and did it on a daily basis. They all went out, and most of them came back. The ones that survived took or, for those few still living, will take, New Guinea with them to the grave. That's worth remembering as we recount their deeds and build our models. We owe those guys, and we owe Bobby, Gerry, and the other historians and collectors who continually and unselfishly add to our understanding of the war in the Pacific.

They call it "The New Guinea Blues".

A Long Time Ago

That's when I built this issue's model; a long time ago, back around 2005-2006 I think. I was on a Great War binge at the time and Eduard's seminal Albatros DV was calling my name---who was I to refuse the invitation?

Anyway, the Eduard Albatros truly is a seminal kit, easy to build with relatively few errors (although it is possessed of at least one problem that just might leave you talking to yourself before you're done building the thing) and an excellent appearance once it's completed. Those of you who have been with us for a while know that kit reviews only rarely live on these pages and you aren't going to see one here today either; just a quick and dirty run-down of the kit as it pertains to the production of a decent model.

In point of fact there are only a couple of things you really need to know about this kit. First and foremost, it's comprised of relatively few parts and they all fit as intended with relatively little cleanup. Those parts are pretty accurate too, and you can get a really decent model, with just that one little caveat that we'll get to in a minute, with the most basic weekend edition release of the kit, although we strongly recommend getting the ProfiPack version of it or, at the very least, getting a set of seat belts/harnesses and Master gun barrels to spruce things up a bit. All those extra photo-etched bits and pieces will make a lot of difference to your completed model and are well worth the price of admission.

ProfiPack parts won't, however, fix the clanger that Eduard incorporated in the the kit back when they designed it, and you may want to fix it (read that "HAVE to fix it if you want things to look right")  on your model---I didn't correct it on the model you're about to see because I didn't know about it at the time I built the thing, but it just screams out "Look at me I'm wrong!" once you know it's there.

The easiest way to explain the problem is to look at the photographs of my completed model, focusing your attention specifically on the undercarriage. See how goofy it looks down there; sortof like a low-rider modification if you can imagine such a thing. That's because Eduard missed the length of the landing gear struts and they're some 3mm too short both front and back! It looks as goofy as it sounds, too, and it really needs to be fixed by carefully splicing a 3mm section into each side of the gear and then equally carefully sanding that splice to the proper cross-section. It's not really hard to do and your model will appear somewhat cartoonish if you don't do it, but it's your choice. You pays your money...

Anyway, I actually took a few photographs during the construction of this one and I think I deserve some sort of award for remembering to do that, even though it probably won't ever happen again. In spite of that the photos do exist, so here's a quick and dirty rundown of the project for your perusal:

You really should use the ProfiPack version of any of Eduard's Great War kits in order to get the most bang for your buck, but I didn't do that on this particular model---everything you see except for the seat belts and harnesses and the gun jackets were made of polystyrene and came with the kit. You'll want to pay attention to the way everything fits as you go along but this is one of those models that will almost build itself if you'll let it.

There are those belts I mentioned, but everything else is plastic that came with the kit. Both the cockpit and the engine could stand the detailing provided in the ProfiPack versions of this kit (there have been many releases over the years) but you can put a pretty nice model on your shelf with a bone stock model too. Note the shiny areas on the seat around the belts---that's cyanoacrylate and will disappear under a coat of flattening agent before we finish with the interior.

Everything in that interior fits perfectly if you let it, but it takes a little tender loving care to do that because the attachment points for many of the pieces are what we might describe as vague and quite possibly even nebulous. Just be careful and pre-fit everything and you won't have any problems. Don't do that and you will. Have problems, that is...

Now we get to have a little fun! It's easiest to paint these things as you go along, and this photo shows how to do that. I used one of the kit's schemes, from Jasta 12, so I needed to paint a black tail on the model. That was done with Testor gloss black paint from one of the little black bottles, thinned to the consistency of water and airbrushed on. This is how it came out after several thin applications of paint. Yes, it's really shiny. So was the paint on those airplanes when it was newly applied, because the guys painting them were generally using glossy paint. The aircraft tended to weather out quickly once exposed to the elements and a significantly unkind operational environment because those flying machines were constructed primarily of wood and canvas. The real thing wouldn't have looked this way for very long, but it would have appeared like this for a while. A very, very short while...

The nose is black too. We'll mask off the black and paint the "plywood" of the fuselage next. The masking on the upper surface of the wings was done with post-it notes cut to shape, easy to do and quick.

Now we're going to jump way ahead in the finishing process---the plywood is done and the guns and gun feed fairings have been added. The fuselage decals have also been applied straight from the kit; no aftermarket is required if you're ok with the schemes offered in the kit. Eduard does superior decals, ya'll!

Here's the undersides. I generally mix my own colors for anything I build from WWI, but that under surface blue is Testor ModelMaster RLM 65 blue. I think it looks right but you're more than welcome to use something else if you'd rather.

See what I meant about those kit decals? They're really, really good. And no, Virginia, I didn't even try to put graining in the natural plywood of the fuselage. Nowadays I do that sort of thing, but it wasn't in the game plan back when I built this one. In all fairness, it won't look that bad once we're done, but it most assuredly would look better if some intimation of wood grain was on the model. Big sigh...

I think it's pretty easy to get the wings on any Albatros fighter, but maybe that's just me. Whether it is or not is irrelevant in both theory and in fact, but here's the easy way to do it, using a slow-drying (a few seconds, as opposed to cyanoacrylate of the Dries Right Freaking Now The Very Instant You Touch The Model variety). First, install the cabane struts onto the fuselage per the instructions, taking great care to set them at the correct angle. You'll have a little bit of wiggle room even after they're cured in place, but Life will be substantially easier for you if you get things right, or at least really close to it, the first time around. Once you've done that, repeat the process with the wing struts by installing them to the undersides of the upper wings---do not start them out on the lower wings unless you're one of those folks who enjoy unnecessary pain in your life. Once everything has cured once again, set the upper wing in place and use a piece of wire or similar to put a tiny drop of cyano on each cabane strut where it mounts to that wing (making absolutely certain to use the mounting holes, which will probably benefit from a slight opening-up with the appropriate sized drill before you start doing this) and let them cure. Repeat the process with the wing struts where they mate with the lower wings, and you're done. The Albatros fighters are probably the easiest biplanes out there to attach the struts and wings to if you use just a tiny bit of good sense and patience while you're doing the work!

Here's another place where you'll benefit from using the photoetch in the ProfiPack versions of this kit. See the red circles sitting in the insides of the wing crosses in the photo? Besides illustrating that the decal blisters inside them need to be punctured and properly re-seated with decal solvent, they also show where Eduard did a little bit of less-than-desirable molding on this kit. There's a rectangular cover living there on the real airplane and the ProfiPack rendition of the model provides it as a photo-etched part, but the Plain Jane polystyrene kit doesn't. It really needs to be there too, or the wing will look odd to you once you know it's supposed to be there.

And here we are, all rigged and ready to go, mostly. I didn't put turnbuckles on 1/48th scale models back when I built this so there are none on this piece, but there should be. The prop should also have those characteristic German laminations on it and it doesn't, but the biggest problem is that accursed undercarriage, which is too darned short and shows it! Lengthen the struts and the model will look like an Albatros. Leave them as they are in the kit and it will look like it came from someone's cartoon studios during the 1930s. The choice is yours...

The rigging is stretched sprue, attached to the model with tiny dabs of white glue and tautened by passing a hot soldering iron tip near the rigging after the glue has dried. (Be CAREFUL if you try this particular technique yourself, since you can easily destroy your rigging or even your model if you do it incorrectly! You can also burn yourself as well, but you're way too smart to do that, right?) It's a method that's quick, relatively easy, and allows for simple repair if something is damaged, plus I've been doing it for almost 50 years and actually know how to use the technique, which is more than I can say for any of  the others presently in use. You have to go with what you know, don'tchaknow?

Here's the other side, more to show you that there actually is one than for any other reason.

Boy oh boy; is that airplane ever shiny! In real life it would have been like this, in this kind of pristine condition, for about 15 minutes or until somebody started the engine, whichever came first. I think it looks nice, though. Your mileage may vary...

Finally, here's a warm, entirely-too-saturated-with-incandescent-light image to illustrate the difference between a DV with modified undercarriage struts and one, coincidentally, the very one we're discussing today, with undercarriage struts that are 100% kit stock. The two models are sitting pretty much nose-to-nose and it's really easy to see how much difference that 3mm actually makes, and how goofy the finished model looks if you don't accommodate it. Pheon Decals used to offer a set of resin struts to replace those on the kit but they've been unavailable for quite some time and nobody else, to our admittedly uncertain knowledge anyway, has stepped up to address the issue, which leaves us with the necessity of cutting and lengthening those provided with the kit ourselves. I don't think it's all that hard to do but Eduard's Albatros DV and DVa kits are easy enough to make them viable projects for the intermediate modeler in every other respect, and it's a shame that they don't re-tool that area of the model so they'd look like they're supposed to once they've been completed. Oh well; someday, Maybe.

A Picture to Prove a Point

You may remember the discussion we had in our last issue regarding the painting of models, and how operational conditions could impact the appearance of real airplanes on active service. That piece caught the attention of Steve Birdsall, who was kind enough to send along this image for your perusal. It's an airplane he had the opportunity to fly in on more than one occasion and one that will featured in an article by him in the next issue of Aviation History. Here's what he had to say about it:

Hi Phil – I read your latest edition and the bit about aircraft paint being touched up when it “gets scabby enough” resonated. I thought you might be interested in what could be considered a classic case of that situation . . . 43-48356 was an AC-47 at Bien Hoa, South Vietnam, where it was known as “The Leper” because it couldn’t seem to hold a coat of paint.

 I flew in it a couple of times and I have a story about it coming up in the next Aviation History. Anyway, I thought you might like to see the attached photo of it, taken in February 1967 by a Seventh Air Force PIO, Captain Ray Quillin.     All the best – Steve

And here she is in the flesh; 43-48356 in all her tattered glory, sitting on the ramp at Bien Hoa. Originally built as a C-47B-1-DK, she was apparently bailed to the RAF and later returned to the USAF where she was converted to FC-47 configuration at some point in her life. She was shot down on while launching for a mission on 23 March, 1967---all seven crew members on board escaped the crash. You'll have to read Steve's article in Aviation History for the whole story, but modelers take note: It's doubtful you'll find an airplane on active duty that's in much worse cosmetic condition than "The Leper", which makes this photo well worth studying.   Capt Ray Quillin via Steve Birdsall

Many thanks to Steve for sending the photo to us!

You Probably Need This Book

Most of you know, or know of, Doug Barbier by now. For those few of you who may not be familiar with him or his work, he's a retired blue-suiter and airline pilot with considerable stick time in the T-33, T-38, F-4, and F-16, among other aircraft. He's an excellent writer and a superb photographer as well, and those of us who know him have been urging him to share his expertise and write a book, any book on any subject, for a great many years now. He's retired from his "real" job (a substantially vague and somewhat nebulous concept in his case, since "retirement" has only caused him to become more active than he previously was) he's had the time to actually sit down and write that book, with the result you see before you:

World's Fastest Single-Engine Jet Aircraft, Barbier, Doug, Specialty Press 2017; 228pp, illustrated.

The Convair F-106 Delta Dart has been one of those great enigmas of American military aviation, an interceptor everyone knows about but few actually know about. Designed as a follow-on to Convair's own F-102 Delta Dagger, the F-106 was the ultimate interceptor in every respect; a cutting edge aircraft who's capabilities were never explored to their fullest potential and which could offer many contemporary military aircraft a run for their money in certain performance envelopes.

In spite of those abilities the aircraft has gone largely underappreciated by aviation enthusiasts, and until the publication of this book there has been precious little available in print regarding the type that was worth having. This title changes the game substantially, and for the better in every respect. Its text is concise yet extensive and provides considerable detail of the design and development phases of the F-106's history as well as its active service.

The F-106 was designed as a weapons system and that aspect of the aircraft is covered as well, both in text and in photographs. Cockpit evolution is covered photographically, as are the rest of the changes made to the airplane throughout its development and service life. (There were more changes than you might imagine, so that aspect of the work is particularly useful!)

Illustrations are both photographic and graphic (factory drawings) and are exhaustive, with 144 photos in color and 229 in black and white---a great many of the photographs were taken by the author while many others were shot by individuals well-known to the serious aviation community which means that all of the photos presented are useful to the enthusiast or aerospace scholar. Reproduction of those images is excellent throughout the book.

Finally, it has to be noted that the folks over at Specialty Press are a class act in every respect, and the production of the book is flawless. Images are crisp and clear, layout is concise and user-friendly, and the paper used is of the thick, coated variety. Those of you who already own works by this publisher know the quality in everything they produce; their books are meant to be used as references, not just looked at once and put away.

The F-106 has been largely ignored by aviation journalism, but this book more than makes up for the paucity of titles available to date. It's one that we recommend without reservation if your interests run to such things and whets our appetite for further titles from this author.  You can even get your copy autographed by the author if you order directly from Specialty, at least while supplies last!

Now then, would anyone like to see Doug author a book on the "Hun"? Can we see a show of hands? Can I get an "AMEN"?

Many thanks to the folks at Specialty Press for our review sample.

Late and Getting Even Later

Yes indeedy, we've allowed ourselves to get about as late as we've ever been with one of these things, so it's time to publish! We're still working on another piece for this issue which has, by default, just become our lead article for next time---we didn't think you'd mind!

One more thing before we go: We've recently received a couple of requests for an address to send photos and the like to. Lately we've been printing that out in a manner that's allegedly incomprehensible to The Spam Brigade, but this time we'll give it to you straight and get ready to bear the consequences. Just do    replica in scale @ yahoo  .  com (but you need to run all those together like you normally would in an e-mail address). That will get pretty much anything you'd like to send to us.

And that's it for this time; a somewhat truncated edition but an edition nonetheless. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon!