Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Couple of Scorpions, A Neat RF-104G, Whatever Happened to ADC, Slick Chick, and Some More Cats,

Where'd I Get Those?

I've got a lot of pictures. Some people I know have more, and some people I know have a whole lot more, but at the end of the day I've got a lot of pictures. I know where most of them came from, but not all, 'cause I write such things on the photos when I get 'em; important stuff like the airplane type and serial number, the photographer's name, where and when it was taken, etc. Anyway I do that most of the time. Sometimes I don't, and that's the case with what follows. I have no idea where I came by any of these images of the F-89, or even when; they were just in there when I opened the folder!

That said, let's take a look at some pictures. And one more thing---if I got them from anybody who's reading this blog, please let me know they're your shots so I can credit them properly!

53-2634, an F-89D-65-NO of the 176th FIS, Wisconsin ANG. The rocket pod/tip tank assembly looks more like that normally found on the F-89H and J models, but my records don't show that this aircraft was updated. (I'll bet it was, though!)  Reader comments are welcomed! This particular image came off a medium-format contact print.
Friddell Collection

Another contact print image, this one depicts F-89D-5-NO, unit unknown. These tanks/pods are far more typical of the F-89D than those shown above.  Friddell Collection

This aircraft, 52-2135, was built as an F-89D-45-NO and then converted to F-89J configuration. She's a Juliet in this photo taken during her service with the 124th FIS/132nd FIG, Iowa ANG. By this time the Scorpions were nearly all painted in a standard scheme of overall Aircraft Gray with a black anti-glare panel. There's a bucket hanging off the port wing, presumably beneath an offboard drain. Any old Scorpion mechs out there who can identifiy the reason that bucket is there? The F-89 hung on far longer than it probably should have; this example wasn't retired until 1969!  Friddell Collection

And here's 52-2138, also of the 124th, undergoing line maintenance. The F-89 was slow and relatively short-ranged, but it was easy to work on!  Friddell Collection

A Spiffy Zipper

I don't know if I ever mentioned it or not, but I'm really a big fan of the F-104. One of the more significant operators of the type was Taiwan, yet we know next to nothing about their experience with the aircraft, although it can be surmised that some of them saw air-to-air combat against Communist China during the Cold War. We can also surmise that the RF-104Gs were kept busy. This photo is a little smaller than I'd like, but it's so neat that I had to include it today. Hat's off to Don Jay for this image.

4371, an RF-104G of the 4th TRS based at HsingTao AB on final with everything hanging. This bird is SLAR equipped and camouflaged. If only airplanes could talk...  Don Jay

Whatever Happened to Those Guys?

Long ago, in what now seems to have been a far-away land, there was an air force that was comprised of several various commands. One of those commands was tasked with defending the continental United States against aerial aggression and was known as Air Defense Command. In keeping with that name, and with their mission, they operated aircraft that were, for the most part, designed and developed as interceptors. There was, however, one glaring exception. The Lockheed F-104A was briefly used as an interceptor by them but lasted barely two years in the mission before being passed on to the Air National Guard. The type was briefly reassigned to ADC during the mid-1960s, then retired for good. Don Jay has provided a fine shot of one preparing to launch (although the shot may well be staged since there's no ground crew around the aircraft and it's not hooked up to any sort of GSE):

Scramble! Few shots sum up the F-104's role of interceptor better than this one! The airplane belongs to the 319th FIS and was taken during 1965 at either Homestead AFB or NAS Key West. Reaction time and rate of climb made the F-104A a superior interceptor, but its extremely limited radar and miniscule ordnance capability in the role rendered it nearly useless. That said, it was still quite an airplane!  USAF via Don Jay

Let's Look At a Slick Chick

Or better yet, let's look at three of them! Ben Brown's a Hun fan and sent in this shot a couple of days ago. That, my friends, is more RF-100As than I've ever seen in one place at the same time!

You don't hear a whole lot about operational F-100As and even less about the handful that were converted to RF-100A during the Slick Chick program. Here are three of the converted airframes in flight; there's a good chance that at least one or two of these were flying operational missions with Taiwan's 4th TRS shortly after this photo was taken. Of particular interest are the "cheeks" on the lower forward fuselage that accomodate the photo gear.  NRO via Ben Brown

Got a Thang For Them Drones

Here's a little bit more on that F6F-5K that we ran the other day, or a little more about the paintwork found on the type, anyway. I'm pretty convinced that airplane with the Sparrow hanging off of it is in Glossy Sea Blue; in fact I'd almost be willing to bet that it is. Tommy Thomason concurs, and that puts it to rest as far as I'm concerned. Not all drones were painted that way, though; most of the -5Ks were far more colorful in actual service. Tommy sent along a couple of shots of Pt Mugu-based Hellcats to show a couple of other schemes that could apply. (At this rate we should probably do a book!)

This b&w shot depicts a day-glo-painted F6F-5K as photographed in February of 1950. The light areas define the extent of the day-glo; the rest of the airplane is red.  NAWS via Thomason

A couple of Hellcat drones on the ramp at Pt Mugu. Note the distinct color separation between the day-glo and the red. These aircraft all feature a letter on the nose; the Sparrow-equipped bird we ran the other day was "H".  NAWS via Thomason

And a final shot showing the other side of the aircraft. Please forgive the quality of these photos; the images aren't very good but they were just too good to omit! NAWS via Thomason

A Little Bit More On "My Snoopy"

Remember that spiffy looking F-4D named "My Snoopy" that we ran a few days ago? If you do, you probably also remember a comment about the incorrect presentation of the serial number. Here's a comment on same from old friend Dave Menard:

That F-4D 66-8702 with the confusing radio call number can be explained (sort of). If she had left the factory in gray/white, that number would have been 68702 for 66-8702, but there was nothing in T.O. 1-1-4 on how to paint that with the tail code, just where and what dimensions. So one depot or local (GI) paint shop could/would put either the 66 or 68 under the AF and then the 702, so one had to know the full serial off the side of the intake. Huns had this done all the time!
If you look at enough photos of Vietnam-era airplanes you'll see a number of examples of this. Sometimes the incorrect presentation followed the aircraft through the greater portion of its life, e.g. mis-marked F-4s were still showing up as late as the mid-1980s! Some things never change!

Another Day Gone

That's it for today, ya'll. If things ever settle down around here I'll run a few more modeling pieces. Until that time I hope you're enjoying The Real Thing. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Go Fly a Kite, Some More on That Cat, Good Ideas That Really Weren't, An Earlier Cat, a Zip, And Some Thoughts On Hoarding

What Are Those Kids Doing This Time?

OK, here it is; a major diversion from our normal fare. No, I'm not running out of material and no, I'm not changing focus or direction. What I'm doing is rambling a little bit more than normal, and this is one of those childhood "there I was" stories, so feel free to skip down to something more to your liking should that prove necessary.

I spent several years of my childhood at Sheppard AFB, which is located in Wichita Falls Texas, otherwise known as The Tornado, Hail, and General Bad Weather Capitol of the Known Universe. If you've ever lived there you'll understand. If you haven't you probably won't. We aren't going to talk about any of those Bad Weather things, though, interesting though they are. Instead we're going to discuss another moderately common phenomena of the weather up there, which is wind.

Wichita Falls and, by association, Sheppard AFB, is a windy place, particularly in springtime. Kids like to fly kites in springtime, and a lot of wind is a Very Good Thing if you're of that kite-flying inclination. Most of my friends and I were so inclined, and each and every spring would see us out in the open areas behind our quarters (I don't know about you guys but we always lived on base) flying kites of every kind, mostly home-made out of newspapers and dowel sticks because it was tough to find pre-fabbed kites on base, besides which they tended to live short and relatively exciting lives at best so why spend the money. The base civil engineers probably hated them, since they were always having to pull them out of power lines, but we didn't care about that too much; we were kids, remember?

Our family arrived at Sheppard in late 1956, when ATC still flew T-28As and TB-25s; it wasn't anything unusual to have Mitchell's thudding overhead even though T-33s were becoming far more prevalent in The Friendly Skies of Air Training Command. Let's leave the T-Birds alone for now, though---this is a B-25 story.

One fine March day back in 1958 some friends and I were flying kites in the street in front of our quarters, this being the best way to ensure the undivided attention of the Air Police (they had yet to be re-named Security Police) at some point in the festivities. It was a blustery kind of morning, perfect weather for kites, and even the heaviest of newspaper-and-dowel contraptions became a graceful flying machine, albeit briefly, in the gale-force winds that prevailed that day. My friends and I were talking about that wind and what it might do to a kite when someone wondered aloud how high you could get a one to fly.

That sort of thing's not really the sort of topic of conversation you want 9-year-olds to indulge in, because sooner or later (it was sooner in this case) somebody will get the notion to Do Something About It, which is what we did. And what we did was pure genius, at least in our minds---we hauled down all the kites except for the one we adjudged to be the best flyer, and began tying the string from all the other kites to the string of that one until our chosen kite was all but invisible, way up there someplace with seven or eight rolls of string tethering it to the ground by way of the biggest kid in our group. It was a thing of beauty. (The kite, not the big kid.)

That was when the TB-25 came slogging across the base, right into the kite as near as we could tell. The airplane briefly shared space with our newsprint wonder, and then it (the kite, not the airplane) was gone, the only remnant being a thousand feet or so of cotton string that was rapidly coiling its way back to earth. We looked at that string, briefly discussed the event and our options, then executed that honored childhood tradition known as Going Home Right Now.

The APs got to our street about twenty minutes later, seems they were cruising base housing looking for kids flying kites. I think there may have been Statutory Ramifications for somebody later on, although I honestly can't recall what they might have been because nobody actually involved in that particular transgression got caught.

It was, in retrospect, a Seriously Bad Idea, maybe even a stupid one, although we couldn't have known it at the time. I do know that as a result of that day my kids had a rigidly-enforced one-spool limit on kite string while they were growing up; those Mitchells are long gone and most jet engines are highly allergic to kites. (Kids, don't try this at home!) It was a Lesson Learned and it provided a fond memory to boot. Ah, the ignorance of youth...

So much for mindless rambling! Let's move on to something you might be more interested in!

That 'Cat Revisited

You may recall the Sparrow-equipped F6F photos we ran last time. Here's a comment from Tommy Thomason:
The reason the F6F tail wheel looks odd is because it's a drone and the reason a drone F6F was used was because of concern that when the Sparrow was fired, the F6F wing/aileron might be damaged.* There is a pilot flying it in the airborne picture you included but my understanding is that the first Sparrow shot was from a remotely controlled F6F.

Given the difference in markings and the marked tonal differences in paint schemes between this aircraft and the one shown in our last installment, I've got my doubts that this particular airframe was involved as a shooter in the Sparrow evaluations, but it's a colorful represntative of its type and well worth including today. It was photographed while with the Naval Air Development Unit at Johnsville, PA.  That's a gas bag and not a documentation pod attached to the belly.  USN via Tommy Thomason

It Seemed Like a Good Idea At the Time

The late 1940s and early 1950s were an interesting time for the US Air Force. That service had just helped to win the War and had learned a lot of lessons in so doing, with most of them learned the hard way. One of those lessons was that it was next-to-suicidal to send large formations of bombers against defended targets if part of that defence included hostile fighters, and the USAF spent more than a little time and money trying to figure out how to get short ranged first-generation jet fighters enough range capability to provide a viable escort to those bombers. That requirement would go away once SAC began to integrate high-performance jet bombers into the inventory, but their B-29s, B-50s, and B-36s all required escort if any degree of survivability was to be incorporated into the basic mission. That escort thing led to a number of somewhat odd projects, several of which actually flew. Most of them involved the carriage of some sort of existing jet fighter by a mother aircraft; a parasite fighter, if you will. The folks at McDonnell tried an approach that was somewhat different from the norm, the results of which are shown below.

Here's XF-85  46-0524 perched on its ground-handling dolly. Although intended for use with the B-36, most if not all flight testing was done with a B-29. Wake turbulence from the mother ship made coupling in flight a challenge that was never fully overcome. Although the airplane was a fairly good performer for what it was, it was no match for the Soviet fighters of the day.  Greater St Louis Air & Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Another view of 524. The anti-glare panel is OD, while the airframe is in natural metal. One of the Czech specialty manufacturers did a kit of the Goblin a few years ago. I don't have it and am told it's a tough date, but it's also the only game in town in 1/48th scale should you be interested in such things. The XF-85 was underarmed and possessed of poor performance when compared to virtually anything The Bad Guys would have fielded against it. It's probably for the best that it never saw production or active service!  Greater St Louis Air & Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Yet Another Good Idea That Really Wasn't

Then there was the problem of airfield availability, something that couldn't always be depended on in advanced basing situations when the major potential enemy had The Bomb and, presumably, the will to use it. An STOL/VTOL fighter such as the Harrier (which was never considered to be a fighter anyway, but rather a strike aircraft) was still a couple of decades away, which meant that any sort of basing scheme that didn't depend on the availability of a fixed base concrete runway would have to be of a fairly primitive nature. That thought process in turn led to the developement of the Zero Length Launch System, or ZELL concept. This one actually worked after a fashion but the climb to the cockpit, coupled with a really scary launch and probable lack of anyplace to land once the mission was completed, made the concept marginal at best. The Air Force tried it with several different types of fighters, then quietly dropped the whole thing.

F-84G-15-RE configured for ZELL and on public display during the mid-50s. The concept just looks wrong; a notion that most program test pilots were in agreement with. It must've been quite a ride! This airframe (sans ZELL gear) ended up on display at the Evandale Community Center in Ohio during the 1970s.  Greater St Louis Air & Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Ode to a Simpler Time

Grumman's "Cat" family of fighters got its start with the F4F series of carrier fighters (the F2Fs and F3Fs were never given an official name and are therefore outside the scope of the "cat" theme); the early F4F-3s were the first to reach active service and did so in the "classic" painted aluminum fuselage/yellow wings/colored tail scheme, followed shortly thereafter by Wildcats in the more subdued overall lilght gray. Here's an example of the latter.

An overall light gray F4F-3A Wildcat photographed at Lambert Field. The Navy would begin the war with this subtype and use it through the first few months of 1942. It proved surprisingly versatile and that versatility, combined with the Navy's sound grasp of aerial tactics and outstanding training syllabus, made it an extremely viable fighter that more than held its own against technically superior Japanese types. The overall pristine condition of this specimen, coupled with its lack of squadron designators, would indicate that it was brand spanking new and had yet to be delivered to an operational unit. Take a look at the deflected elevators; that's not how the aircraft was supposed to be parked, but sure as you're born some modeler will build one that way!  Greater St Louis Air & Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Did Anyone Mention Lambert Field?

Lambert was a hummin' kind of place way back when. Here's more proof:

B-29A, s/n 44-62044 in the chocks at Lambert during 1949. Two short years later the type would prove its vulnerability as a bomber when pitted against Soviet-flown MiG-15s in Korea, but was still considered to be adequate for the job when this shot was taken. This Superfortress is really clean and bears only an 8th AF emblem on the vertical stab. Greater St Louis Air & Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Many thanks to Mark Nankivil for these images. If you're interested in contributing to this ongoing project of mine (the blog, that is), please drop me a line at replicainscale@yahoo.com . I'd love to hear from you.

An Aussie Spit On Display

Old friend Rick Morgan has been bouncing around outside the country again and sent a couple of shots from a sidetrip he took to a couple of Australian museums. I kinda like this one:

This Spitfire Mk Vc has been preserved at a museum in Port Adelaide, Australia. (Rick didn't give me the name and I'm too lazy to go surfing the 'net to find it---any of you folks know the name of this place?) I can just hear the Internet Experts jumping up and down about the colors. Me, I'm happy to see that somebody's restored and preserved an Aussie Mk V, and this one's a beauty!  Where'd I put that Special Hobby kit? Thanks, Rick!   Rick Morgan

This Zipper's a Tub

The Federal Luftwaffe used to train its F-104 drivers at Luke AFB way back when. (It doesn't seem that long ago, but it was!) The airplanes were all owned by Germany but bore USAF markings in deference to the fact that the training was being done inside the United States. Here are a couple of photos of TF-104G 61-3076 as she appeared during the 1976 BiCentennial.

The 69th TFTS operated the TF-104G while training German pilots to fly the "Zipper". This one's AF61-3076 in all her BiCi glory. Of interest are the white-painted upper wings and the similarly-painted underwing tanks.  Don Jay

A closeup of the tail. Don incorporated both the tail and drop tank markings in this view---what a gorgeous airplane!  Modelers might want to take note of the discoloration evident on the aft fuselage. It's not nearly as severe as it's normally represented to be on most models.  Don Jay

A Glimpse Back To a Simpler Time

It's been mentioned before by me; I read the boards. There are a handful of modeling sites that I visit almost daily, and I read the forums on most of them (which is why you'll never find a forum here!). One of the recurring topics is aftermarket stuff, resin, photo-etch, decals, etc., and sometimes folks are complaining about that aftermarket stuff because nobody's making exactly what they want for a particular project. While I feel their pain, I also have to laugh (in a kind, gentle, and completely understanding way, mind you), because I started trying to do Serious Modeling back in the mid-60s and I'm here to tell you that we never had it so good as we've got it today. Never. Not even once.

Nowadays there must be a hundred or more companies producing aftermarket decals, for example. Back in the 60s there were a dozen or so, maybe, and their offerings were limited; at the end of the day we took what we could get!

One of those decal manufacturers was a small company called HisAirDec, Inc. They producted a limited but surpisingly good (for the day) publication called HisAirDec News, which was usually (but not always) geared to the topics of their decals. They also put decals in their magazine, pre-dating the eastern European crowd by some 40 years, give or take. If you're young, or maybe just younger than me, you may have never heard of HisAirDec, and probably haven't seen any of their stuff either. I was going through some old decals a while back and found one of the few HisAirDec sheets I hadn't managed to cut up for some project or other and I thought you'd like to see what it looked like, so without further ado:

Here's the cover of HisAirDec Sheet 1-72008-39, for the Luftwaffe in the Spanish Civil War. I seem to recall that most if not all of their decals were in 1/72nd scale; at least that's all I've got. These were, to the best of my somewhat limited knowledge, the very first American-made aftermarket decals available to the serious scale modeler. I'm not sure but I think the -39 in the part number may have referred to the original price. I paid a whopping 49 cents for mine!

HisAirDec decals came in a little piece of folded card. Here's the back side of this one showing the directions for use. You'll notice that the only setting solution mentioned is Solvaset; that's because that's all there was back then. Sometimes we had to put a little bit of diluted Elmer's glue in the decal water too, to make sure the decals would adhere to the model once they dried. Sometimes we didn't.

And here's what the decals looked like. The instructions for use are printed on the top of the sheet, and the whole thing is one continuous piece of decal; you could've literally put the entire sheet in water and then applied it, instructions and all, to the surface of your choice. Each individual marking had to be carefully cut from the paper, as close to the edge of the markings as you could possibly get, and the film the decals were printed on was really thick compared to almost anything that's available today. I personally never thinned my Solvaset the way the instructions said to do it; I used the stuff full strength and sometimes that wasn't enough to get them to conform! We had yet to learn about coating the model with gloss prior to decaling and Dull-Cote was hard to find and mostly available in aerosol cans, so there was a fair amount of decal silvering going on. Oh yeah, and most of HisAirDec's decals were printed in black and white, although they eventually did produce a few in color. That said, these guys were true pioneers and innovators and we all owe a tremendous Thank You to them for their pioneering efforts. Long ago and far away...

Some Thoughts On The Preservation and Presentation of Aviation Photography

I've been doing airplane stuff forever, it seems, and actively collecting photography since the early 1970s. (There's not as much of it as there should have been because I was never particularly aggressive about it, but still I managed to acquire a fair number of images.) A lot of my friends were doing the same thing, and many of them were serious about the endeavor, resulting in collections that ran to several hundred thousand images. The mind boggles, right?  Many of the images are the collected work of others ("My dad was in the Air Force and he took these; can you use them?"), while many others are the work of the individual collectors; most of the folks I know who do this sort of thing are excellent photographers too.

That brings us to a rather interesting question: What are they doing with those images?

It would seem that people with pictures come in two distinct flavors; the Hoarders and the Sharers. The hoarders hoard; those are their images and they'll show them to you but that's the end of that story. They probably won't share them with anybody through any sort of publishing medium, saving them instead for some as-yet and quite possibly never-to-be published work that they're going to author someday. The sharers share. They might save back a few photographs for their own projects, but by and large they make their collections available to others. Most of the folks I know fall into the latter category.

This is the part where we need to clear some air. It would be easy to presume that I'm lobbying for any of you who hold unique photography to make it available to me for publication, and I certainly wouldn't mind it if you chose to do that. Then again, I don't really care if you make it available to me specifically or not, as long as you make it available to somebody. There's an interesting philosophical question to be considered here, so let's think about it for just a minute or two.

Each and every historical image is important to the overall recording of aviation history. Each one is to some extent unique. From the standpoint of preserving that history, it's important that some percentage of those images be made available for the widest possible audience to see, enjoy, and learn from. The medium may be a print magazine or book, a specialty web site or an e-zine. It may be a blog such as this one. It may be something else entirely.

The point to all this is simple indeed. We're all mortal. We all get old, and some of us will get sick. Sooner or later we'll all die, and when that happens it's moderately likely that very few surviving family members will really care one way or another what happens to all those old pictures unless maybe they can make a buck off of them. The easiest thing to do is simply pitch them. That's what we're going to term to be A Shame, because once those photos or slides hit the garbage that's it; they're gone forever, and so is that tiny fragment of history.

So exactly what am I saying here? It's simple really, and I bet you've already figured it out. Don't hoard those old pictures of yours. Scan 'em and e-mail them to the publication or organization of your choice. It certainly doesn't have to be me---I'd really like to make that plain because that's not what I'm after here---but it ought to be somebody. History is a fragile thing, easily distorted and easily forgotten. Those of us who have old photos have a resource and, to some extent, an obligation. What we do with those old pictures is our choice. I've made mine. How about you?

Let's Get Off That Ding-Danged Soapbox!

It's time to move on for another day. Be good to your neighbor and I'll see you again as soon as I can!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Of Chips, Corsairs, Big Pirates, and An Odd Cat

And That's the Way It Was

You've probably all noticed by now that I encourage correspondence. I don't post comments to the blog entries as a rule because I don't particularly care for the whole forum concept (as if you haven't heard me say that before!) but I do enjoy the letters, so keep 'em coming to replicainscale@yahoo.com . One of the messages I received today, from Kent up in Idaho, asked about the original Replica in Scale and, more specifically, about the paint chips we included in our very first issue---he wanted to know if we were the first to do it, and how/why we chose to include them.

It all goes back to why we started the magazine in the first place. There were some good IPMS-affiliated American pubs around at the time, The Time being defined as late 1970, when we first decided we might do a magazine some day. That was the IPMS-related stuff but as for commercial magazines, well, things were pretty thin. There was a major American modeling pub at the time but we didn't like it at all, and everything else was either British or otherwise foreign and, with the exception of IPMS Canada's RT and a couple of the foreign pubs that we couldn't read because they weren't in English, we didn't like them either. We figured it was Time, but we wanted to do things differently. (That was pretty clumsy but I couldn't figure out how else to say it!)

With Doing It Differently as a notion we held a series of preliminary meetings to decide our course of action and made an informal list of everything we disliked about the existing modeling periodicals, along with a list of the things we liked. One of the magazines we really appreciated was a Canadian armor publication called AFV-G2, and one of the things they did was to include real paint chips in every issue. Those chips seemed like a super good idea, and we'd only be doing a quarterly (we'd planned it that way from the beginning) so it didn't seem unduly labor intensive when we were discussing it. A Plan was born!

After a fairly lengthy gestation period it finally came time to do our first issue. The two feature articles were on the OV-10 Bronco (Bob Mills) and an AFV subject, a conversion article on how to make a Marder II from a Pz II (Greg Vickers). We figured color chips would be a great thing to include with both articles. And it really did seem like a good idea at the time. It truly did.

Anyway, we planned on printing 1,000 copies of that first issue so we went out and bought enough Avery labels to produce 2,000 paint chips, as well as a couple of bottles each of Floquil SP Lettering Gray and Floquil Mud. (It's probably best that you don't ask how we arrived at those colors, just in case you were wondering about how we done it.) I drug out my trusty Binks B and started painting. And painting. And painting. I'd originally figured on one coat---a quick pass and done---but each sheet of chips required several passes to ensure that the color was consistent. It took a long time to paint those chips...

Then we had to get them into the magazine, which was deadline sensitive. That operation involved Jim and myself as well as our spouses, and it took several hours to get all those chips into their proper place in the magazine, making sure they were as neatly aligned as our mental state would allow---things began to deteriorate pretty quickly after the first few hundred chips! At the end of it all we were absolutely exhausted, but the magazine had real paint chips. (To this day I can smell the aroma of "real" Floquil paint when I look at that first issue.)

Our mutual exhaustion led to a Never Again philosophy regarding color chips, making our first issue the only one where we included them. We didn't even put them in the reprint of I-1 that we did by popular request a couple of years later. (You can tell the two apart because of the chips, or lack of them, and the rather obvious fact that the reprint says "REPRINT" on the cover.) Once bitten twice shy, etc, etc.

And that's the story of those paint chips!

How'd That Happen?

The Vought O3U-1 Corsair was one of those long-serving but often unappreciated utility biplanes used by the Navy and Marines during the 1930s. The type was pretty close to being ubiquitous and could be found anyplace that the Nav or the Corps were using air assets with the exception of Training Command and was, thanks to being a Golden Age airplane, pretty colorful too. I guess that's probably why we've yet to see a kit of the type---the airplane was really good at what it did but it just wasn't very glamorous! (Vought didn't start building glamorous airplanes until they started doing that one with the funny wings, but that's a story for another time...)  Here, then, are a couple of photos of a seriously cool but highly unglamorous airplane:

Scouting Three shows how it's done. The SU-3 never possessed an excess of power so large echelon formations such as this one must've been quite a proposition! The interval is pretty good, but you can see some gaps. Those were the days!  National Archives, Neg No. Unknown

Some days are just better than others. This VS-3 Corsair is being recovered after ditching; note the deployed flotation bags. Hoisting points were a normal component of American miliatary aircraft and allowed for both planned operations (such as hoisting the aircraft onto or off of an aircraft carrier) and crash recovery. This bird isn't too badly banged up---it was probably back in the air a week or two after this photograph was taken.  National Archives, Neg No. Unknown

Just Look At Them Bags!

Vought also did a dive bomber, the SBU-1. This example for Scouting Two has also gone for a swim and is being hoisted out of the ocean for return to the Lexington. It's really obvious that this is a next-generation airplane when compared to the SU-3; note the more robust structure and the refinements to the airframe when compared to the Corsair shown directly above it. Note also that the flotation bags now deploy from the upper wing rather than the lower wing root. This sort of thing wasn't particularly uncommon Way Back Then.   US Navy via R. Morgan

Here's what one looks like when it's not in the water. Note how clean the overall design is. If the war in the Pacific had started 5 years sooner than it did the SBU-1 would have been one of our standard dive bombers---we probably got lucky on that one. This example is from VS-41.  US Navy via Rick Morgan

Even a Blind Squirrel Finds a Nut Every Once in a While

Used book stores can be neat places, although I can honestly say that I rarely go in them anymore. The bad ones are selling a lot of junk, and mostly the shops around here fall into that category. There are a few that are pretty good, but sometimes, or maybe even usually, the good ones are expensive. Sometimes, though, you go into one of the good (expensive) ones and find That Special Book. In my world that's an occurence that generally involves somebody else but once, a very long time ago, it happened to me. Allow me to share:

The year was 1975 or 76, and I'd dropped by A Bookstore of the Pricey Variety in a bad part of San Antonio. I doubted I'd find anything or that I'd be able to buy it if I did (they were proud of their books, ya'll), but I'd decided to give it a shot anyway. It was exactly as I'd expected; rows of shelves filled with grossly overpriced books, most of which had seen far better days. There was this one book that caught my eye, though. It was dark blue and relatively large format, and the price pencilled inside the front cover was $8.50. I made a quick scan to see if it had any companions and hi-tailed it for the sales counter. I'd already paid for it when the owner came by, saw what I'd purchased, and told me it was mis-priced. I responded that it had a price in it and that I'd given that amount, plus tax, to his clerk who had in turn rung it up. I'd spent money. I had a receipt. It was mine. That owner was unhappy but really didn't have much ground to stand on in the matter, so I kept the book. That's how I ended up with a new-condition 1944 hardback volume by Consolidated Vultee entitled Instruction Manual, Airplane General and Armament, PB4Y-2 Airplane. (It's often been said that I'm a little bit crazy. That would be crazy; not stupid! I'll pounce on that sort of deal each and every time!)

It's probably time to share an image or two out of that book---I hope you enjoy them!

 Sometimes people publish incorrect dimensions for their airplanes. I don't know whether or not anybody's ever commited that particular sin with the Privateer, but here's what Consolidated Vultee thought they were. With any luck this drawing will be of use to you.

A bomb chart. I think this stuff is pretty fascinating, but you may not. If it's not to your taste just go on to something else. I won't mind.

Here's where they put the armor plate. There's not that much in there but the vitals are mostly covered and it apparently got the job done!

This shows how the Navy and Consolidated thought the armor would function.

Howzabout a Couple of Huns?

I received a request for a little more on the Hun, so here are a couple of shots of same.

Sometimes it's difficult to weather an operational airplane, because it's tough to get photos showing how one looks in its natural environment; i.e. in combat. Here's an interesting study of the undersides of an F-100D of an unidentified unit taken during the Late Unpleasantness in Southeast Asia to illustrate the point. Note how utterly filthy the undersurfaces appear, and in particular how the muzzle blast from the guns (which is generally lubricant residue with a small amount of propellent granuals thrown in for good measure) is around the gun ports rather than streaming out behind them. That's a pretty common weathering mistake and it's found on a lot of models. As a rule of thumb, don't put streaks behind your gun ports unless you have a photograph that shows it. It probably wasn't really like that!   Friddell Collection

Here's an oddball for you. The aircraft was built as an RF-100A-10-NA and was later converted to RF-100A configuration ("Slick Chick"). It served with Det 1 of the 4707th SS/7499th SG, then was transferred to the Taiwanese 4th RS in 1959. It was withdrawn from service in 1960. I'm betting this airframe led an extremely interesting life!
Unknown via Wogstad

F-100D-80-NA when she was assigned to the 614th TFS/35th TFW stationed at Phan Rang AB. She's carrying 335-gallon drop tanks and a pair of M117 750-lb HE bombs. Of particular interest is the panel around the gun blast tubes; one way to minimize the discoloration down there is to paint them black! The airplane is relatively pristine, but check out the weathering on that tank hanging off the port wing! This Hun survived the war and was converted to QF-100D configuration.   Friddell Collection

So Where's the Blue Airplanes?

Good Grief, you guys---wasn't the Corsair and Privateer stuff enough? Guess not...

Here are a couple of photos of a blue airplane for you folks who just can't get enough of those Navy fighters, but with a couple of unusual twists:

Few airplanes say "Navy" like Grumman's F6F Hellcat. Here's a fine shot of an F6F-5N of VF(N)-90 flying off the Enterprise during early 1945. By this time the Enterprise had been made a dedicated night carrier with an air group specially trained for night ops. This Hellcat's getting a little bit shopworn.  Navy via Friddell

One thing you can do with an obsolete fighter is use it for tests. Here's an F6F-5K with an XAAM-N-2 Sparrow I missile under the starboard wing during early testing of the weapon. The centerline pod contains photographic equipment for documenting launch of the missile. Note the tailwheel extended and locked tailwheel on the Hellcat drone---thanks for the correction, Tommy!  NARS 416718

Here's a closeup of the round showing pylon details. This particular series of tests (all three photos) was taken at Point Mugu on 27 January 1950. Note the extensive stencilling on the missile body.  NARS 42783

This view shows the kink in the leading edge of the pylon, and gives us a little bit of detail of the camera pod too. Take a look at the back end of the airplane; it's on a towbar and the tailwheel is slightly off the ground! Of further interest is the absolutely filthy condition of the main wheels. Did I mention these were old airplanes?  NARS 412766

That's It For a Day or Two

I guess I owe all of you an apology. I'd originally thought I'd be able to crank out two installments at a minimum this past week, and was only able to do one. Bear with me while I figure out how to straighten out my now heavily-compromised schedule and we'll get these things back on track. Until then, be good to your neighbor!

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Brief Message, Guns A Go-Go, A Neat Idea For a Diorama, A Phine Phine Phantom, and A Thought About Wire

But First, A Brief Message

Look for a change in frequency of these things for a while. I've been cranking out an installment a day for most of the time I've been doing this but I've decided to back things off to a couple of times a week, at least for a while. Don't be concerned 'cause I'm definitely not going away, just changing a schedule or two so I can accomplish some additional stuff. And keep those cards, letters, and photos coming to  replicainscale@yahoo.com !

Beating the Air Into Submission

That's how helos do it. They don't really fly, you know; they just beat the air to death. (Then again, bumblebees and C-124s aren't supposed to be able to fly either, so go figure...) Most of the aviators I know are of the fixed-wing variety, but a few of my friends are rotary-wing guys too. I was talking to one of them this past weekend and came to the conclusion during the course of that conversation that I ought to run a helo or two, which means this one's for you, Brian! We're not going to do just any helo either, but that most unlikely of helicopter gunships, the ACH-47 Chinook (aka S***hook to those of you who remember green suits and jungles).

Once again, the pictures are courtesy of a former co-worker of mine. This time around it's Antonio "Tony" Cortez, who was with the 53rd Aviation Detachment/178th Combat Support Helicopter Company during 1966. Tony was involved with the operation of the aircraft during evaluation of the CH-47A as a gunship and took these photos:

The Army decided to try the CH-47A in the gunship role in 1966, and had three Boeing-Vertol produced items in-country by May of that year serving with the 53rd Aviation Detachment. These aircraft were attached to the 228th Assault Helicopter Battalion (1st Aviation Detachment, Provisional) at the conclusion of the evaluation period and served until attrition retired the force in early 1968. In theory the Armed and Armored (A/A) Chinooks were there to evaluate interim systems until the AH-56 Cheyenne could be introduced into the inventory but as things turned out Cheyenne was still-born and the CH-47s had issues ("They shook themselves to death every time they fired those fifties", according to Tony Cortez; "we spent a lot of time tightening things and replacing rivets.") In this photo you can barely see one of the M24A-1 20mm cannon (!) attached to the fuselage sponson above the XM-159 rocket pods. Those cannon, plus the cabin-mounted .50s and rocket pods, made the Chinook an extremely well-armed aircraft.   Tony Cortez

A slightly better shot of the M24 installation. While the 178th's Chinooks (nicknamed "Guns-a-Go-Go")packed a tremendous whallop, the CH-47 was far more useful as a utility bird, even though it was substantially faster than the UH-1 series in the gunship role. Advent of the AH-1 HueyCobra pretty much put the lid on the whole deal, since the Cobra was equally useful but far cheaper to produce and maintain than was the armed Chinook.  The aircraft was originally designated A/ACH-47A, which was quickly changed to ACH-47A.  Tony Cortez

If you've got a ramp, you'd may as well stick a gun on it! Armor shielding was limited in this position, and the ammunition cans were out in the open. Even though the mod was performed at the factory the Guns-a-Go-Go installation could best be described as ad hoc. The gunship Chinooks could carry either AN-M2 .50 caliber guns or 7.62mm M60s on the ramp and in the fuselage, but every photograph I've seen of the type in the field has shown them fitted with M2s. This aircraft was definitely the Bad Thing On the Block!  Tony Cortez

The three aircraft of the intial detachment were all named:  64-13149 was "Easy Money", 64-13151 was called "Stump Jumper", and 64-64-13154 was "Birth Control". The program consisted of four aircraft total, the first of which (64-13145 "Cost of Living") stayed in the ZI until required to replace 13151, which was destroyed in an accident.

By the end of February of 1968 the Guns-a-Go-Go force had been reduced to one aircraft and that, plus the fact the the Chinook was far more useful as an airlifter, caused the end of the program. It was an interesting experiment that created a unique aircraft.

Things They Won't Let You Do Anymore

Let me state right off the bat that I know next-to-nothing about this photograph, except that the aircraft shown was involved in the Louisiana War Games during 1941 while the type was undergoing evaluation by the Army. It's a Piper J-3 "Cub", and is a civil aircraft under evaluation; note the partially painted-over NC number on the starboard wing. A highly-sophisticated refueling system is in use while a troop of probably-bemused horse cavalry trot past. A Colonel named Dwight Eisenhower made several flights in the "Cub" during these maneuvers. Of particular interest is the grasshopper painted in yellow on the side of the fuselage. Is this a neat idea for a diorama or what?!   National Archives Neg No. Unknown via John Kerr

Another Shot From Gandy

Here's another shot from the Gandara collection to round out the photo portion of our day:

AF 66-8702, an F-4D-32-MC of the 13th TFS/432nd TRW named "My Snoopy", prepares to start at DaNang AB during March of 1968---love that nose art! The aircraft is transient at DaNang and was normally based out of Udorn, Thailand. The serial number is an anomaly; the corrosion control guys must've mis-read the tail code directive since its application makes it appear as though the aircraft was built in 1968 rather than 1966. This sort of thing happened more frequently than you might imagine during the early days of tailcode use during the Vietnam War.  I. Gandara

A Neat Discovery, Or I Shoulda Listened to Her in the First Place

You find things to help with your modeling in the strangest of places. Once, back when I was in college in the late 60s, I was walking down LBJ Drive in San Marcos, Texas, when I glanced down at the sidewalk and saw an amber-yellow plastic comb lying in the dirt on the sidewalk. I picked it up, determined it was indeed made of polystyrene, did a little jig in my mind (but not in fact, being long-haired and therefore Far Too Cool to do such a thing in public), and shoved it in my pocket. By that weekend two of the teeth had been cut from that comb, flattened on one side, and applied to the nose of an Airfix Bf109G-6 to complete its conversion into an Avia S99. That's a lesson in adaptability and thinking outside the box that produced what was arguably the best part of my Avia conversion.

Shortly after Jenny moved down here from Rhode Island she asked me if I wanted some of her beading wire for my models. I smiled, shook my head, and said probably not---I use annealled brass wire for almost everything I do that requires that sort of stuff, and there was just no point to adding something else to keep track of to my collection of modeling supplies.

Around that same time (and in complete contradiction to what I just said) I mail-ordered some colored wire from one of the myriad specialty guys that serve our hobby. It was thin (28-ga, I think); it was red, which was what I needed; and it cost five bucks for about three feet of the stuff. Jenny took one look at it, went to her beading box, and brought me a spool of the exact same thing with enough wire on it to last me several lifetimes. I looked at it and said something that rhymes with "oh smit".

"This is beading wire, isn't it?"

"Yep!" (She was grinning, but it wasn't malicious.)

"I messed up, huh?"


Darn the luck!!!

That little Expedition Into Ego on my part wasn't all that expensive in monetary terms, except for the enormous disparity in price between what I bought and what I could've had for free.  Beading wire comes in all sorts of diameters (called "gauge" in the wire industry; the bigger the number the thinner the wire), all sorts of colors, is extremely malleable (that means you can bend it easily in case you didn't know that), costs next to nothing, and can be found in any store that sells beading supplies. (You might have to mail-order the really super-thin stuff but it's still dirt cheap; a lot less costly than that three feet of wire I bought!)

Think, for a minute, about the enormous disparity in my thought processes between the time I pounced on that filthy comb on the sidewalk and the day I rejected Jenny's offer to use her beading wire. Somewhere in-between the two events I got complacent and decided I knew more than I really did, and it caused me to ignore something that turned out to be really useful to me. How many other useful things have I ignored by my same blissful presumption that I already knew about that, whatever "that" might have happened to be?

There's a Major Lesson to be learned here and no; I'm not going to explain it to you. I suspect you've already figured it out anyway, and continued discussion of the subject will just make me feel sillier than I already do. The point to be taken is this: It's a big world, and there's a lot of stuff in it. Never say no until you're sure that's really the answer, and think about it first. It's the right thing to do!

At the End of It All

That's it for now, Gang. I'll see you again in a couple of days. Meanwhile, be good to your neighbor!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Happy Snap Friday, A Book Review (No Foolin'), and Some Serious But Non-Profound Thoughts

Must Be a Friday Thing

Here we are, Friday afternoon, and we're all dressed up with no place to go. How shall we pass the day? Howzabout looking at a couple of photos, mostly random but, I suspect, also of interest. Sounds good to me---let's do it!

Most of you know Jim Sullivan as Mr. Corsair, a title he's more than earned over the years by virtue of a number of publications he's authored or contributed to on the immortal Hog. Maybe some of you don't know that he's an exceptionally good photographer as well---Jim's always had a passion for military aviation and it shows in everything he does. Our first photo was taken by him at NAS Patuxent River on 12 November 1973, and shows A-7A BuNo 152647 in her full high-conspicuity NATC markings. Of particular note is the shade of primer inside the opened fuselage access panel and her generally weathered condition. This airplane is being used!  Jim Sullivan

An absolutely gorgeous study of A-6E 159314 as she appeared on 22 April 1977 while serving with VMA(AW)-121. Judging from the pilot's rank and the aircraft's side number, I'm guessing this one was nominally assigned to the squadron commander. What a classy set of markings. This one's for you, BallPeen!  Jim Sullivan

Here's one from the other side of the fence. The airplane is a B-57E (AF 55-4274) from the 363rd TRW at Shaw on final approach in October of 1972. I still think this is an airplane that looks best in black, but these markings aren't too bad either...   Jim Sullivan

A Book Review; Holy Cow

Yep, I know I said I wasn't going to review stuff here, but every once in a while something really exceptional catches my eye and makes it worth doing. This is one of those times.

Aero Detail 32 Kawasaki J.I.A. Fighter Ki100, Giuseppe Picarella, 2010.

Remember that line in "Rocky" where one of the actors utters that memorable and oft-quoted line: "I coulda been a contendah."? That very statement could certainly apply to the Ki-100, one of those late-war compromise aircraft that ended up being far greater than the sum of its parts. Never the fastest fighter over Japan but certainly one of the most difficult to contest in air-to-air combat, the Ki-100 more than held its own against what could only be considered to be impossible odds during the last days of the war. It was quite an airplane.

Although a fair amount has been written about the type, particularly in the past few years, there's never  been a good one-stop reference on the airplane until now, and this book goes a long way towards filling the void in available Ki-100 information. Comprised of 70 pages, the book goes into the technical structure and detail of the aircraft, making extensive use of photographs taken prior to and during the restoration of c/n 16336 presently held at RAF Hendon. Those photographs are accompanied by a series of absolutely superb technical drawings by the author and will allow the modeler to put any level of detail he might desire into a replica of the aircraft. (The author is, by the way, the senior technical artist for Flight International, and is also Japanese aviation consultant to the RAF Museum at Hendon, both of which go a considerable way towards explaining the exceptional quality of this volume.)

Colors and markings are briefly addressed through a series of captioned side-views, and tantalizing if unfortunately brief mention is made of the alternate charcoal gray scheme used on some Ki-100s. One aircraft identified as being in the gray scheme is side number 22 of the 59th Hiko Sentai/3rd Chutai, which is illustrated in a photograph that shows a Samurai's helmet on the landing gear doors, but this detail is omitted from the color drawing of the aircraft. Even though the technical data is augmented by 6 pages of photographs of operational aircraft, this relative paucity of operational photographs will disappoint some readers. Keep in mind, however, that the book makes no pretense of being a work on colors, camouflage or markings; the title "Aero Detail" pretty much says it all, I think.

The only down-side to this book is the price, which is around $40 here in south Texas. That's a little bit steep for 70 pages and in our present economy that price may well keep the book from being purchased by some who would otherwise be inclined to buy it, but color printing costs money and most of the work, to include a great many of the technical drawings, is in color. In my world it was well worth the price.

Mr. Picarella has created a tour de force on the Ki-100 that could easily become the standard reference for the aircraft. It's difficult to imagine anything better on the structures side of things. We can only hope that someday we'll see a volume this good on camouflage and markings for the airplane!

I'm a cynic at heart and rarely give a whole-hearted endorsement to anything. This book probably the best thing we're going to have on the structure of the Ki-100 and I seriously doubt anyone will improve on it anytime soon. If you're into Japanese military aviation you'll probably want it. It's that good.

A Nice Fringe Benefit

This new iteration of Replica has been going for a couple of months now, and the feedback from our growing body of readers has been simply great. I've also been hearing from quite a few of the folks who were so vital to our success back in The Old Days and with whom I'd lost touch, and that's been pretty cool too. What I didn't expect to happen was something  that occured last night.

On the face of things it was simple enough; an e-mail (to replicainscale@yahoo.com , just in case you're inclined to write) with a name that was familiar. Turns out the message was from one of my best friends during my days at Misawa; he'd stumbled onto the blog, recognized my name, and then read through the 2-1/2 months of postings until he found reference to the fact that I'd been in Japan at the same time he'd been there. In my world that's what's known as a Special Thing.

That Special Thing works on more than one level, although I'm certain that Jackie never knew it back when we were hanging out; I know I didn't. You see, I've been attempting to build plastic models since I was 6 or so, and was just beginning to look seriously at the pictures in airplane books and magazines when we arrived at Misawa. I had no idea what any of the colors in those pictures were, or what most of the markings meant, but I tried to duplicate them as best I could. It was usually a pretty feeble effort on my part, but I tried.

Jackie built plastic model airplanes too, and between us we made quite a dent in the base hobby shop's stock of 1/72nd scale Revell kits. Shortly before Jackie's dad PCSd back to the ZI I went to an off-base hobby shop and bought some Lord-only-knows-what-scale-it-might-have-been Japanese-made kit of a generic Bf110. Somewhere along the line I also found reference to something described as "splinter pattern camouflage". That sounded pretty neat to me, that "splinter pattern" thing, although I didn't have a clue what it was, William Green notwithstanding. (You can say something like "pay attention" if you want to; I wasn't!) What I did next could have been easily anticipated, I think---I took several Testor colors (the ones in the little square bottles) and proceeded to make up my very own version of a "splinter scheme". You can imagine the results if you want to, but I'm not going to describe them to you; it's just too embarrassing to remember even at this remove.

Anyway, I bought the kit. I built it. I sort-of painted it. Then I showed it to Jackie and another friend, a relatively new arrival at the base named Mac and a guy who also liked airplanes. Mac took one look at my splintered Zerstorer and asked "why'd you paint it like that?" It seems that Mac had paid attention to those pictures where I hadn't, and actually had some idea of what a Luftwaffe "splinter scheme" might look like. I was mortified. I was embarrassed. And I started paying more attention to what I saw in pictures.

Fast-forward to October of 1965, when we left Misawa for Texas. I found a hobby shop that catered to the guys who were serious about building those little plastic airplanes and met Frank Emmett, who belonged to something called IPMS and who knew about things like splinter schemes. My course was set.

Anyway, let's get to a point before this ramble gets too far out of hand. I'd always loved models and modeling, and I got a wake-up call in Japan one day in 1964. Then, in 1965, I met a guy who had The Secret Decoder Ring, and who introduced me to that boon to the scale modeler, Serious References. It was an epiphany. Those three guys helped me to get a whole lot better at what I was doing and it happened pretty quickly too. Why do I mention it? That's easy; I think you should do the same thing for somebody you know. Don't be a jerk about it and don't be overbearing or unduly authoritative, because that sort of silliness only hurts our hobby in the long run. Be helpful. Be kind. Who knows; maybe you can help somebody the way my friends helped me. You could do a lot worse.

And that's what I know for a Friday. Be good to your neighbor and we'll see you next week.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

More On That Demon, A Different Kind of Tommy, Utility Squared, and a Spiffy Hawk or Two

A Possible Answer

When last we met I published a short photo essay on the McDonnell F3H-2 Demon as used by VF-14 aboard the Roosevelt when she was stationed in the Med during the early 60s. The third picture in the set showed a pair of Demons on what appears to be a lighter, but there are more than a few unanswered questions regarding the shot. I requested help from those of you who read this blog and received this response from Tommy Thomason:
What's really interesting about the third F3H picture is the fact that the aux inlet air door was open. I've never seen that on a fleet Demon, not to mention one late enough to have the MB seat retrofit.

However, in response to your question, my guess is that this are airplanes too broken to repair on ship and are being dumped (Naples? FDR was in the Med.) for either repair at an NAS or transport back to the states. One problem with this guess is that they not only don't look dinged, they have stuff on them (Sidewinder rails) that you'd think maintenance would pull before giving them up. Another possibility is that they were flown off to make room on the ship and then it was more convenient to float them out to the ship to get them back aboard. That doesn't explain why the wings aren't folded or the aircraft in the foreground has the slats extended and the flaps down, a very unusual shutdown configuration. One scenario that fits both that and bringing two aircraft back to the ship on a lighter is that 106's pilot had a hydraulic problem and landed ashore at a civil airport near a harbor, accompanied by his wing man.
And, while we're thanking Tommy for his input, let's also take a minute and give you a link to one of his blog sites, which is http://tommythomason.com/ . I've used the term "go-to guy" on a few occasions to refer to people I know whom I consider to be authorities and essential references in their given fields. Tommy's one of those people, and his site is well worth a look. Check it out!

A Different Kind of Tommy

Here's yet another photo in an ongoing series of "where in the world did I come up with this?" shots:

When's the last time you saw a Thomas Morse MB-3A in flight? Better yet, have you ever even heard of a Thomas Morse MB-3A? The Army Air Corps used the type as a trainer during the early 1920s, with some 54 of them in service during that time. We still couldn't figure out how to build an effective pursuit ship back then, but we did pretty good single-seat trainers. That would soon change...   USAF via Unknown

They Also Served

You won't find many kits, or books for that matter, of liaison types designed and built in the United States during the 1940s, but they played a key role in the overall air power picture and provided sterling if unsung service during the war. Here are a couple of photos of the Stinson L-5 to whet your appetite for a kit; this one would be a natural for one of the Czech companies to do!

Stinson L-5B 42-99574, which may have been the very first air ambulance for the type. Here's a scan of the tag sheet on the back of the photo:   Stinson 4387

It's interesting to read this description, and to remember that casualty evacuation by air was still a relatively new concept during WW2.  Stinson, attached to Photo 4387

Putting Gomer in the airplane. Human nature being what it is, somebody probably had to remind the "casualty" to be still and try not to laugh while the picture was being taken. No PhotoShop here; it was a far simpler time.  Stinson 4383

Buttoning up. Of interest here are the com gear just behind the pilot's head and the light color of the undersurface gray; Neutral Gray is by specification a somewhat darker color than what's actually on this airplane, albeit a color that seemed to wander all over the place in actual practice.  Stinson 4379

Don't Hold Your Breath For a Kit of This One

Way back during the 1950s, back when I was a kid, Comet (I think) and then Aurora did an off-scale model of the AeroCommander. As far as I know nobody has done one since, and it's highly doubtful that even the short-run guys would touch it as a kit nowadays. It's a neat little airplane, though, so let's look at a couple of photographs of it.

Here's AF55-4642, an L-26B-AD, in flight near Wichita. It's military, but you have to look to see it in this view; note the "United States Air Force" logo on the outer nacelles, and the tiny presentation of the serial number. (The aircraft does carry the full complement of stars and "USAF" logo, but none are entirely visible here.) In keeping with then-standard USAF practice the colors are probably dark blue over white. In 1962 the designation was changed from L-26 to U-4. This aircraft was surplused out and ultimately became N2268B.   USAF via Kerr

A fine in-flight study of 56-4023, an L-26C owned by the Army. This photo gives us a better idea of the way the markings were applied to the type while in military service; the "United States Army" logo appears on the nacelle as on the L-26B shown above, but the national insignia and underwing logo aren't hidden in this view. Colors are probably OD and white. This aircraft was removed from service in 1982 and subsequently acquired by Everett Community College in Washington. When the military's aircraft were redesignated in 1962 the Army's L-26s became U-9s, leading us to wonder about that whole "simplification" thing; the aircraft was an L-26 to both the Army and the Air Force prior to the designation change, after which one became the U-4 and the other became the U-9. Go figure!  US Army via Kerr

So Now You're Probably Ready to Look At a Classic Fighter, Right?

Then I guess I'd better oblige you. It's been a while since we've looked at anything from the Jack Jones AVG collection, so here are a couple of photographs to conclude our day:

Jack was nominally assigned to the 1st Pursuit (Adam and Eve) as an armorer, so it's not surprising that most of his photography was of ships from that squadron. Here's the nose of #25, which was assigned to Ed Liebolt.  The pilot of #20 sitting immediately behind is not known at this time.  Jack Jones via Friddell
#13, s/n P-8170 and shared by James D. Cross and Robert L. Little. Prop blades are black but lack yellow tips, and the airplane is getting to be a little ratty in appearance. Of considerable interest here is the set of jacks that support the aircraft at the wing roots. The tail appears to be resting on and tied down to the bed of the truck parked behind the airplane---when you're in the field you do what you have to do! This photo, and the one before it, were taken in Rangoon in early 1942.  Jack Jones via Friddell
Done For the Day
Well, maybe you aren't, but I am! Be good to your neighbor and we'll see you again soon.