Monday, May 31, 2010

Cactus, A Little More on the Invader, A Spad in the Med

Tribute to the Hard Corps

Those of you who read history, and I'm presuming that would be almost everyone who's interested in this blog, are aware to one extent or another about the struggle for Guadalcanal. It was a pretty tough fight in its early days, a struggle against a well-trained, highly-motivated and aggressive enemy who held most of the advantages. The initial assault on the island (and on neighboring Tulagi) was a Navy show at the beginning, quickly transitioning to a Marine affair as the corps was able to get aviation assets on the ground. Let's do a quick photo essay on the Marines at the 'Canal. It's the right thing to do today, I think.

Field conditions on the 'Canal were primitive at best. Here's one way to refuel a fighter; not the preferred method, but it works. This photo was shot in the October/November 1942 time frame, after the worst of the fighting was done. Still, "That Damned Island" was a dangerous place.  Admiral Nimitz Collection via Bruce Smith

Taxiing out for a mission. The Wildcat could be fitted with a centerline auxilliary tank and that tank was used early on. The later, 58-gallon underwing tanks were preferred when available and it wasn't unusual to see a tank slung from the port wing only. The Bad Guys were never far away on The 'Canal.  (Note the presentation of the side number on the nose; this is actually Number 21; the photo has been printed backwards.)  Admiral Nimitz Collection via Bruce Smith

Sometimes aviation writers use the expression "often seen", which would describe this moderately famous shot. Still, it provides the flavor of air ops in the Solomons and is well worth inclusion for that reason. Note how the fabric covering on the rudder shows up as a completely different shade than the adjacent fin and rudder trim tab. Modelers beware!  Admiral Nimitz Collection via Bruce Smith

Another one we've seen before, but interesting because of the side number treatment on the aircraft in the foreground. The Wildcat on the left has its side number in black and the number is fairly small, with the tops of the numbers even with the top of the right-hand star point, while the one on the right has a much larger presentation in white.  This photo really tells the story of Marine air in the Solomons.  Admiral Nimitz Collection via Bruce Smith

The Japanese Naval Air Force bombed the Guadalcanal complex of airfields with a great degree of regularity, particularly in the early days, but it was the warships of the Imperial Navy that wrought the most damage. Here a Marine F4F-4 burns in the aftermath of a nocturnal Japanese bombardment.  Admiral Nimitz Collection via Bruce Smith

This admittedly poor photograph is remarkable because it depicts a Marine Wildcat on patrol near Guadalcanal. Air-to-air photographs of any Marine aircraft operating out of the island are rare in the extreme, making this shot significant. Up and at 'em!  Admiral Nimitz Collection via Bruce Smith

Tribute. A young Marine aviator sits on the wing root of his fighter, posing for the folks back home. Thanks, Gyrene, to you and the thousands of others who stood up when you were needed. We all owe you, and your kind, a debt we can never repay. Semper Fi!  Admiral Nimitz Collection via Bruce Smith

A Variety of Color

Yesterday we ran a photograph of a "Nimrod" B-26 operating out of NKP, Thailand, during the Vietnam War. It was in camouflage, which I'm sure you all noticed. Here's a scan of the appropriate page from T.O. 1-1-4 defining that camouflage should like like according to regulation:

The Air Commando Invaders didn't always conform to the standards defined by 1-1-4. By the time yesterday's bird was photographed most B-26s had black bellies, and there were other variances in the official scheme as well. It's stuff like this that makes it fun!  Friddell Collection

And now for something completely different! Here's N8417H, an A-26 owned and operated by CalSpan during the 1960s. There was a time when the Invader was popular for corporate use because of its speed and range---remember that there was no such thing as a purpose-built corporate aircraft back then! In theory the civil A-26s had it all but the noise, coupled with the fact that entrance and egress was through the bomb bay, limited its appeal to some extent. The Howard 350 and 500 quickly took over the converted warbird corporate marketplace and the introduction of the Lear Jet quickly relegated the converted bombers to relic status. They sure were pretty, though...  John Kerr Collection

Calm Before the Storm

The Douglas AD Skyraider series, redesignated the A-1 during the 1962 realignment, had an operational career that spanned two major conflicts before its retirement. Most of us think of the "spAD" in one or the other of its wartime guises, but a great part of its career was spent in non-combat deployments. Rick Morgan sent in this shot a few months ago and I've been putting off running it til an appropriate time. This holiday would seem to be that day.

 BuNo 137456, a VA-176 A-1, traps aboard the Saratoga during her 1967 cruise to the Med. Note the SEA mission markers under the canopy. "Sara's" Air Wing during this cruise (CVAW-3) boasted one of the weakest attack components of the era, with just VA-176 and VA-216 (A-4Bs) aboard; there was no medium attack component on this deployment. There's a "Vigi" from RVAH-9 in the background. Of interest to modelers is the staggered placement of the A-1's underwing pylons---they weren't evenly spaced and that shows up well in this photo. If memory serves, every kit of the Skyraider got this detail wrong. This was the last Med deployment of the single-seat A-1s.  USN via Rick Morgan

A Thought. Just a Thought.

Today's a special day; a holiday that honors this nation's fighting men and women. Take a minute to thank a GI, active or retired, the next time you meet one. It's the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, be good to your neighbor and we'll see you again real soon.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Maddog, a Nimrod "Invader", and Some Neat Stickies

Owed to a Maddog

Or ode. Or whatever flight of grammatical fancy you might prefer, because it's That Time again; it's time to pay some dues. This time around the recipient of my highly dubious homage is the guy that got me started in serious aviation photography; John Kerr.

I met John back in the late 1970s, shortly after he'd retired from the Air Force. I think, although I really can't remember, that he showed up at one of the local model club meetings, or maybe he was a friend of someone who showed up at such affairs. Whatever the case, I was introduced, but not to anybody named John. He was introduced as Maddog, which was highly fitting once you got to know him.

Maddog had been shooting military aviation for several years by the time I met him, and was the first serious aviation photographer I had personal access to, which means he was the first photographer to take me on a "real" shoot. John showed me his cameras, and showed me the ropes. I'd begun shooting for Aerophile by then but was very much in a learning phase when Maddog began teaching me some of the tricks of the trade. He suffered my ignorance and my tyro's mistakes, and helped to turn me into a better photographer before it was all said and done. He, and my former Replica in Scale partner Jim Wogstad, taught me far more about photography than I ever dared to think I might know. (They also caused me to invest heavily in Nikon, mostly because they both shot Canon F-1s. I'm like that, doncha know...)

I wasn't the first or only novice John leant advice to, and I'm certain I wasn't the last. You'll see some of his photography in here from time to time, and I'm truly grateful for the chance to run it. Thanks Maddog, for your time and your patience. I only hope I learned from it all.

Maddog back in April of '85 at NAS Corpus Christi. He and I were shooting an airshow ramp together that day, along with my 9-year-old daughter. John had me outnumbered in the camera department; I generally carried only two, a Nikon F2 and an F3. John usually had his Canon F-1 and at least a couple of AE-1s as well. I shot a brick of K-25 that day, and John cranked out half a brick more than that---those were the Good Old Days. Thanks for mentoring me, Maddog!


The Douglas A-26 Invader had a lengthy career in Southeast Asia. It was a favorite of Maddog's (he'd crewed them in SEA during his Air Commando days) so this shot's for him. It's the least I can do!

A B-26 (they got redesignated after WW2, remember?) from the 609th ACS/56th ACW stationed at NKP during the Southeast Asia War Games. This bird's undergoing preflight and is loaded to lay some serious hurt on somebody. Of particular interest is the flight suit of the crewman (the pilot?) at far left---the Air Commandos had an idea of fashion sense that differed somewhat from the "real" Air Force.  Don Jay

Does Anybody Out There Remember Authenticals?

Today's going to be a short one. Since we've already started out on a Tribute kind of thing, let's end the day that way too. Many years ago there was a decal company called Authenticals. They were different than most because they were done by an IPMS chapter rather than by a commercial company. Their work was superb and groundbreaking in many ways. One of their members, a fellow named Don Thorpe (remember Don?) helped out with a sheet of  1/72nd and 1/48th scale hinomarus. I've got a couple of those old sheets and still use them from time to time---they've aged quite well. Here's what David Aiken had to say about them:

Factory fresh meatballs match the US Insigina red it 'faded' the meatballs DARKENED which was matched in 1967 to the attached decal (LONG out of business). Many have tried and none have succeeded to make such "six month combat" decals.
Be wary of the gray instruction sheet as a couple of things are in error...

1) yellow surrounds or yellow wing bandages (which were really WHITE on a cloudy day)...

2) a "RED surround to a white surround"... we finally got a better LOOK at a GREEN surround to a white surround of a meatball on a plane being prepared for an overall upper surface green plane.

The 1967 study may have been early yet very leading edge research by Don Thorpe.

The original research for this sheet was Don Thorpe's and the decals were produced by IPMS NorCal, which later became IPMS San Francisco. I think I liked the old name better, but the decals were, and still are, great. Those NorCal guys did outstanding work, ya'll.

A very old model of the Ki-84 using the 1/48th Tamiya kit, right down to the pilot figure! The hinomarus are all Authenticals, from the sheet I bought when it was new in 1967. I started this model the month it was released in the United States (1973 or 74, I think) and finished it in 2003. There are more mistakes on this one than I care to point out but those decals, which are, after all, the point of all this, were great!

And a closeup of an Authenticals hinomaru under the port wing of that "Frank". Authenticals decals were always thin enough and layed down really well with just a light application of decal solvent as long as you put them on top of a gloss surface. I can't remember if I used SolvaSet or MicroSet on these (my money's on MicroSet) but they layed right down and conformed beautifully to the model. And yes, I know the colors are off on that Ki-84---do you remember the part where I said this was an old model?

Another Day, Albeit a Short One

But we'll be back again before you know it! Be good to your neighbor and we'll see you again real soon.

Monday, May 24, 2010

An Oriental Hillbilly, An Uncredited "Doo", and a Cat in the Dark

When an Oldie Really Is a Goodie

A long time ago, way back in the early 1970s, a Brand Spanking New model airplane company sprang into life in Japan. It called itself Mania Hobby Co. Ltd, and it produced some of the finest plastic model airplane kits ever seen, not only rivaling but actually exceeding the best the big, well-established Japanese companies could produce with its very first issue, a 1/72nd scale Nakajima Ki-27 "Nate". To put it mildly, that kit was astounding, with optional canopies, optional landing gear parts, auxiliary tanks to be fitted to the "B" model (the kit could yield either of the primary production models of the airplane), plus a decal sheet to make the best of aftermarket companies drool; I think there were 12 or 15 different markings variations on that decal sheet. The kit was a revelation.

Then, in the late 1970s, Mania dropped another bombshell on us and produced a second kit of the Ki-27, this time in 1/48th scale. It too was a revelation, with an interior far better than that generally found on plastic kits of its day and engraved surface detail that had to be see to be believed. The kit didn't provide optional landing gear and only offered 5 sets of markings, but it was still the Best Thing Out There when it was released. Mania was bought by Hasegawa shortly thereafter (or taken over, or seized, or whatever may have actually happened to them; I'm not really too sure how that happened) and the "Nate", along with an excellent (for its day) F4U-4 and Kawanishi "George", were subsequently released under the Hasegawa label. All three kits reappear from time to time, with the Ki-27 often bearing an outrageous price tag. (By way of contrast the Corsair and "George" are always very reasonably priced. Go figure.)

Anyway, the "Nate" is an excellent kit, and doesn't need a whole lot of effort to build into a superb model of this outstanding little Japanese fighter. We haven't done any modeling for a while so let's go ahead and do some of that right now with the "Nate"!

The box art on an original-issue Mania Ki-27. Their initial 1/72nd scale kit came in a plain brown cardboard box with no artwork on it whatsoever---they'd come a long way by the time they produced their quarter-scaler! Even more tantalizing was the side of the box that illustrated their next kit, a Mitsubishi A5M2a "Claude". We never got that "Claude", but the "Nate" has been a staple kit in the Hasegawa lineup for over forty years; not a bad run at all!

The front page of the instruction sheet. All 5 markings options were given in full color, something that's rarely found in today's kits. Every single thing about  this kit, at least in its original boxing, is simply incredible!

The rest of the markings sheet. Note how the drop tanks are indicated for those aircraft that were documented as carrying them. This kit was a Class Act!

And the original decals. The irregular white "blobs" evident on the sheet are insect damage created by the bugs in my attic. I suspect these decals are entirely useable; I built one of these kits 3 or 4 years ago and used the kit decals for the walkway and Sentai markings---they worked like a champ and settled right in with a very light application of SolvaSet. Did I mention that this is an extremely buildable kit?

Page One of the instruction sheet. The interior is basic by today's standards but exceptionally well-detailed by those of its day. The Ki-27 has a tiny cockpit opening and you can't really see a whole lot in there once the kit's been assembled. I detailed the instrument panel and added the ubiquitous Eduard lap belts, but the interior is bone-stock otherwise. The engine will benefit from careful painting and assembly but, much like the interior, is so thoroughly hidden once things are together that extensive detailing is a wasted exercise unless you plan on building the model in a maintenance setting with the cowling removed. Conventional wisdom regarding Japanese colors changes the way some folks change their socks, but as of today Those Who Know Such Things are fairly well convinced that the "Nate's" interior was a darkish blue gray, so that's what I did on the interior of the one I'm building right now. I did, however, leave the floor (which is the top of the wing on the real airplane) and the seat in aluminum. You don't have to do that if you don't want to.

Here's the rest of the instructions! Most of what you'd want to watch for is on this page, so let's talk Model Airplane for a minute:
  1. There's a hole in the top of the port wing, part #5, to allow you to mount the gun camera, part #26. That part isn't shown in the original instructions at all except for the exploded diagram of the whole kit, which is just as well since it wouldn't be mounted on a combat aircraft anyway. Leave it off and carefully fill the hole with an appropriately-sized piece of plastic rod.
  2. Part #3 is the lower wing, and it's got holes in it for parts 19 and 20, the auxiliary fuel tanks. If you're going to use them you'll need to correct the filler caps at their front, which are very poorly represented. If you aren't going to use them fill in the holes with rod or stretched sprue like you did for that gun camera mounting hole. On the other hand, those little pegs sticking out of the tops of the wings, which come up like that when the airplane is on the ground because they're part of the landing gear struts, are best cut off and replaced with plastic rod inserted through the holes you'll need to drill once the pegs are removed.
  3. The landing gear are handed, so if you build them per instructions (part 14 to part 17 and part 16 to part 18, each with a wheel trapped between) it's impossible to put them on the wrong wing. If you accidentally do that you might want to consider a different hobby---it's that basic! (But be careful of the wheel detail---it's handed too!)
  4. The gunsight is represented by part #44 and it's pretty poorly designed. Cut off the sight at the base of that rectangular piece it's attached to and mount said rectangular bit into its slot in the forward fuselage, making sure that "handle"-looking thingy is facing aft, not forward as shown in the instructions. Fill and sand until there's no trace of the insert left, and mount the gunsight after you've painted the airplane.
  5. The horizontal stabs are parts 7 and 8. They're handed too, so make sure they're on the correct sides of the model, and they don't fit very well so you'll be doing some body work back there. 
  6. Part #23 is the pitot tube. It's a little on the clumsy side and is one of the few parts that really shows its age. It can be replaced easily with an assembly made from Evergreen rod, and you might want to think about doing that. It'll look a lot better than the kit part.
  7. There's only one way you can mount the cowling and engine assembly to the fuselage, and it's almost impossible to screw it up. Almost. Do that dry-fitting thing and make sure you know which way it goes, and which way your annular oil cooler is aligned because it's a major part of this airplane's character. You are paying attention to the pictures in the instructions, right?
  8. Parts 32 and 35 are the exhaust stacks. Paint 'em however you normally paint your exhausts on a piston-engined airplane and install them after the rest of the model has been painted and decalled.
  9. Parts 21 and 22 appear to be offboard fuel drains. They look neat when they're installed and they're really easy to break off if you don't add them last. I have yet to see them in a photograph of an operational airplane, so they're going to be omitted from the "Nate" I'm presently building although they're on the first one I did, as are the aux tanks. You can put them on if you want to. (I think their presence may be tied to those aux tanks, which I'm not using either.)
  10. The kit gives two canopies and turnover pylons. When this kit was first released Mania thought they were doing a Ki-27A and a Ki-27B. Nowadays everybody else thinks they did a Ko and an Otsu. Whatever you call the model, make sure that you use the correct turnover pylon for your variant---that goes for the canopy too. Part #30 with canopy part #45 are for the Ko (or A) while parts 31 and 46 are for the Otsu. You might want to pay attention here.
  11. Part #24 is the antenna mast and it needs to go on really late in the assembly phase of things. The hardest thing about it is eliminating the molding seams. It ain't no thang, ya'll.
This is a really simple kit, and the toughest thing about it is figuring out which scheme to use. You'll need some basic modeling skills to get the big pieces to fit, and you can plan on using a little bit of filler and sandpaper, but it's an easy date and it looks really good on the shelf once it's done. I'd strongly suggest getting yourself a copy of Kagero's Nakajima Ki-27 Nate (Monograph #11) for the photographic references and drawings contained therein, but you really don't need anything else and you could, quite frankly, do an acceptable model with nothing more than what comes in the kit. Doncha love it when a plan comes together?!

Here's my first "Nate", a Ki-27 Otsu representing an aircraft flown by Yonaga Hyoe, who led the 24th Sentai/2nd Chutai in Nomonhan during August of 1939. Decals are from the kit and the paint is Testor ModelMaster enamel. It's possible that I'll go back and add an antenna wire someday, but don't hold your breath on that one---this model is now several years old and low on my rework list.

Plan on using a little bit of putty on this model. In this shot I've already filled the holes for the aux tanks but not the ones for the (presumed) offboard drains. The horizontal stabs still need a little work.

And the top side. Note that I've opened up the holes for the landing gear struts and filled the one for the gun camera. The struts will be done with steel-painted Evergreen rod. You can really see the seat in this view but it'll partially disappear once the canopy's in place. (You can't see much of anything in there unless you either open the canopy or use a vacuum-formed one; I'm not inclinded to do either. Call me irrresponsible!) Oh, and note the putty at the aft end of the horizontal stabs. There's a big seam back there if you don't correct that part of the model. Still and all it's an easy kit, and you could get most of it done in a weekend if you wanted to.

I've mentioned ad nauseum that I don't have much personal time anymore so I won't dwell on that just now, but it's going to be a week or two before this thing goes to the paint shop. If it actually gets finished I'll run a photo or two in a later blog.

Bangin' in Maine

Way Back When, in one of our early printed efforts, we did a piece on the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo. You've probably already figured that the "Doo" is one of my favorite airplanes---here's a fine shot of one from the Maine ANG for your consideration:

Here's a great study of F-101B 57-0415 when she was serving with the "Maine Bangors" 132nd FIS/101st FIW. Maine lost their ADC mission in 1976 and converted to tankers, thus ending a long association with fighters and the interceptor mission, while 0415 was converted to RF-101B configuration. Somewhere in the general mess I've made out of the last couple of weeks I've lost the credit line for this photo---it's embarassing but true! Could whoever sent it to me (Don?) please contact me so I can credit it properly? Jeez, Louise!

A Cat in the Dark

Are you folks tired of that whole NavRes "V" thrash? Me too, at least for right now. Let's look at an airplane that doesn't have a goofy prefix to its BuNo, an F6F-3N of VMF(N)-534. The airplane was assigned to Orote, Guam, when this shot was taken on 21 August 1944. Japanese aerial opposition had been pretty well eliminated by the time the Marines were able to get night fighters on the island and their aircraft consequently spent a lot of time dropping bombs in day ops. Note the taped-over outboard gunports and the generally nasty condition of the airframe. USMC via Bob Marshall/Jim Sullivan

All That's Left

is one lonely little minute, so be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again later this week.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The V-Plot Thickens, And Some Clarified Zippers

Mystery in Glossy Sea Blue

Mark Nankivil started it all a blog or so ago when he sent in some really tasty photos of St Louis Navy Reserve Hellcats and Corsairs, a couple of which had their Bureau Numbers prefixed by the letter "V".  I'll be the first to admit that my archives could be more complete than they presently are, but there's a lot of stuff there and I had nothing, not one scrap of information, on the practice of placing that letter in front of the BuNo on anything the Navy flew during the 1940s. Nothing. Zip. Nada. That led in turn to a call for help to Rick Morgan and Tommy Thomason, both regulars around here and both People Who Would Know, except this time they didn't know either. The mystery deepened. Somewhere in there I forgot to ask Jim Sullivan about it, but he was kind enough to provide some insight that clears things up a little bit. Then Mark Nankivil, the guy who started this whole thing, provided further information. It was a Group Effort to be sure, and we finally began to Get Somewhere.

That was when I started looking at some of my older enthusiast's publications, mostly because I'd looked everyplace else and come up with a dead end each and every time. First up was Bill Kilgrain's 1973-vintage monograph, Color Schemes and Markings; U.S. Navy Aircraft 1911-1950, IPMS Canada. There, sitting on the cover and thumbing its nose at me was a photograph of a St Louis FG-1D with a V-prefixed bureau number! Unfortunately, there was no textual comment regarding same, although there was an annotation that the Reserves sometimes placed the letter "N" in front of the aircraft's type designation (see that NF6F-5 photo) to designate a training role, which was corraborated by Rick, Tommy, and Jim. The corollary mystery of the "N" prefix was thereby solved, but that still left the "V" with no explanation.

Another reference that seemed to be of use was an old Squadron/Signal publication entitled Navy Air Colors Vol.2, 1945-1985 by Tom Doll, Berkley Jackson, and Bill Riley. That series of books, often overlooked by "serious" aerospace historians, cites regulations and specifications and is a largely ignored treasure. It doesn't clear up that "V" business either, but it does define the orange-yellow stripes, numbers, and "US NAVY" under the horizontal stabs. Another piece of the puzzle fell into place regarding those photos. We were getting somewhere!

That brings us up to Right Now, and here's what I think we know:

  1. The "N" prefix means trainer, and was used by the Naval Reserves immediately postwar to define aircraft with a training mission , which in many respects seemed to be the Reserve's role 1945 to 1947.
  2. The orange-yellow stripes and markings weren't really an anomaly but rather a defined practice cited in regulations.
  3. The Mystery "V" has yet to be satisfactorily explained and will remain that way, at least to me, until we can find a document that authorizes it. If any of you have that document please scan it and e-mail it to me at . Please!
Meanwhile, here's some of the ongoing correspondence I've been priviledged to receive on the subject:

From Tommy Thomason:
Short answer - I don't know. I have read (United States Navy Serials 1941 to 1976) that the purpose for this marking was not known but that the practice had died out by 1950. Remember that, post war, the services had more airplanes than they knew what to do with or could afford to operate.
It probably has something to do with the retention plan for that particular aircraft and was associated with the immediate post war practice of adding an A- or N- ahead of the aircraft designation painted on aircraft, as in A-F6F-5. No prefix meant a first line aircraft capable of unlimited combat operations. A- meant a second line (obsolescent?) aircraft. N- meant suitable only for training.

The V prefix presumably meant something like it was not to be put into overhaul but stricken at the end of the current service tour. The only two examples I've seen are an A-F6F-5 with the BuNo preceded by V and an N-SB2C-5 with no V. It may be that all N aircraft were to be stricken at the end of the current service tour and this particular F6F-5 was on its second service tour so it was headed for the bone yard as well, whereas an A-F6F-5 on its first tour would not have a V and go to overhaul so it could do a second tour, but it would come out of that first overhaul with a V ahead of the BuNo.

But I'm really making things up, other than the A- and N- practice, which is from Elliott Volume 2. In that Elliott, he also says that the V is "an accounting code not intended for aircraft display."
From Mark Nankivil:
Thanks to Mark Aldrich, we now have an answer to the question!

"As far as the "V" prefix goes, it was reasonably common on reserve birds in the 1945-46 time period and was meant to indicate heavier-than-air. This coincided with the brief usage of the "N" prefix for the type designation for reserve aircraft as shown on the FG-1 and F6F images you scanned. Those are great examples of a seldom seen marking that was fully endorsed by BuAer."
From Rick Morgan:
Guys: The more I look at this , the more I suspect the “V-Buno” is not for “heavier than air”. While I can’t find the ‘smoking gun’ quite yet, a lot of period documentation talks about the V-6 program, which apparently was the post WWII reserve program, which is also referred to repeatedly as the “Voluntary Reserves”, which is what we later called Selected Reserves, or SelRes. Right now, and it’s just a guess, I tend to believe the Reserves were assigned a distinct group of aircraft and that the V-buno was one way they were distinguished from the Active Duty force. This appears to have lasted from 1946 to Korea, when the war, with its call-ups and mass movement of airframes, made the whole thing irrelevant. Of course you could ask why they didn’t use “R”, to which I have no answer.

Two things that might help (other than finding the instruction that would clear it all up!): A shot of a Lakehurst Reserve blimp and its Buno- is it a “V” or “Z”?

Another thing would be a shot of an active duty aircraft with a “V-buno”…. Although I haven’t seen one yet.

Ain’t this fun?
And finally, from Jim Sullivan:
Just read your latest article from Replica In Scale. I believe that the 'V' prefix was briefly used to designate a Reserve aircraft. I wouldn't want to state that as a fact, but that is the way I understood it. After the close of WWII, the Reserves had some funky ideas about markings as seen on their planes. One of those was the use of the 'N' before the aircraft type, i.e, NFG-1D or NF6F-5. Another was the deletion of the fuselage insignia and the use of international orange numbers and letters. That lasted only a short time as the transition to more standard markings soon returned. Reserve aircraft then carried forward the use of the international orange fuselage band and maintained that for many years. I have attached several shots of Corsairs in the early Reserve markings. Two are from NRAB Minneapolis, MN and the other is from NAS New York. The two Minneapolis birds were shot by the late Bob Stucky and the New York Corsair is in my collection but I am unsure of the identity of the original photographer.
So we're no closer now than we were before, but we've definitely got some Heavy Hitters working the problem! Stay tuned, folks; I doubt we've seen the end of this one! Meanwhile, how about a couple of photos from the collection of Jim Sullivan to sweeten the pot a little bit?

BuNo 88231, an FG-1D out of Minneapolis showing the early orange-yellow bands and numbers. The aircraft type is prefixed by an "N" but the BuNo is given simply as 88231. Note that this aircraft exhibits the typical rocket stub launchers common to late-War Navy and Marine aircraft, while the St Louis-based FG-1s and F6Fs shown in our last installment were fitted with rails. So much for standardization! Bob Stucky via Jim Sullivan

Another Minneapolis bird; an FG-1D that's displaying its orange-yellow wing markings to advantage. Note that the tailhook is in place. The antenna treatment (not a topic of discussion in this missive but interesting nontheless) is shown to advantage. The BuNo is 88395 and is sans "V", but the "N" is in front of the type designator.  Bob Stucky via Jim Sullivan

And finally, here's 92215 flying out of New York. Once again we have the early treatment, but this time the legend "NAS NEW YORK" appears in orange-yellow under the cockpit. There's no "V" anywhere in sight but the "N" is there in front of the designator again.  Sullivan Collection

One final thing to consider: Rick Morgan pointed out that the single-charecter unit letter on the fins of the St Louis birds actually superceded the two-letter designation system ("U" for St Louis and "F" for Fighter, then simply "U" for St Louis). The St Louis birds with the later International Orange fuselage band all seem to have that "V" in front of their BuNos, as does the earlier shot of the Hellcat. All of the aircraft we've seen with the early orange-yellow treatment have the "N" prefix to the aircraft type designator, but only those from St Louis have the "V". Finally, the air-to-air shot on the cover of Kilgrain's book (which I'm not showing because of that copyright thing) has the International Orange reserve stripe with a "V" in front of the BuNo.

One final question and we'll leave this subject for tonight: Was the "V" in front of the bureau number unique to St Louis? You've now seen all the photos of this topic that I've been privy to. Anybody out there know the answer?

A Zipper With a Can

Several installments ago we ran some photos of two-seat F-104s, one of which was fitted with an enormous "can" behind the afterburner, presumably to reduce the Zip's considerable IR signature. All I had at the time was speculation, but now there's more, this time from Hubert Petzmeier, a fellow who runs a must-visit F-104 site at   .

The aircraft was flying out of China Lake during June of 1963 and was in fact performing trials involving the attempted masking the F-104's IR plume. F-104D 57-1315 was the testbed. The mod obviously never made it to production!  USAF

And a SLAR Zipper That Wasn't
Also from Hubert, and with considerable clarification of that Chinese F-104 with the funny nose:

- It was not SLAR equiped, it was LOROP (Long Range Oblique Photography) in the extended nose
- there was NO F-104 equipped 4 TRS, it was the 12th TRS.
Hubert also supplied a really neat shot of one of the birds, but I can't get it to download to this blog so you're going to have to visit his site to view it. Here's the link to the specific picture:  . Check it out, and spend some time on Hubert's site. It's well worth your visit. Thanks, Hubert, for explaining that photo for us! 

And a Fond See You Soon

That's it for tonight, ya'll. Be good to your neighbor, and we'll see you again next week!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Back in the Saddle, Some Oddball Bureau Numbers, Oopsie!, A Neat Ramp, and Some Misawa Huns

OK, We're Done With The Movie and Back To Normal (More or Less)

Whew! It's been a busy few weeks, but that's behind us now and it's time to get going again. The movie was a lot of fun to do but exhausting, particularly when piled on top of my regular job. On the other hand, it's something I got into all by myself (and it was a lot of fun, and a great experience too!) so I really can't complain too much. Still, it's good to be back, and without further ado I think it's time to look at some airplanes!

A Tiny Mystery in Glossy Sea Blue

Just when you think you've seen it all, something else pops up to confuse the dickens out of you. This time it's a prefix to the BuNos on a couple of post-War Navy birds. They're Reserve aircraft from St Louis and both bear the letter "V" in front of the Bureau Numbers. I had (and still have) no idea of the significance of that letter, so I asked my two Official USN Go-To Guys, Rick Morgan and Tommy Thomason, about it. They didn't know either, so we're back where we started. Take a look at the following shots and feel free to contact me at if you know the significance of them. Please!

Here's an FG-1D, BuNo V-88212,  from the St Louis Reserve taken in the winter of 1952 by Gene Sommerich. The setting seems to be Lambert Field, and there's that pesky "V" sitting in front of the BuNo. This one's a puzzler!  Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

And another puzzler for you! According to the data blocks on the vertical stab and rudder this aircraft is an NF6F-5, BuNo V94286. It's also from the Reserve outfit at St. Louis (and even says so under the cockpit) but the markings are an anomaly. Note that the side number appears to be in the same orange as the Reserve band around the aft fuselage, and the word "NAVY" seems to be in the same color beneath the horizontal stab. The aircraft has its outer guns removed but retains its rocket rails. Mystery Meat! Gene Sommerich photo via Mark Nankivil at the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum

Sometimes Things Just Plain Go Wrong!

Grumman's immortal F6F Hellcat was reputedly easy to fly, even for an ensign right out of flight school, but it was a high-performance aircraft that could easily ruin your day if you didn't pay attention to what you were doing. Neither Mark Nankivil nor myself have any idea what caused this accident, but it's a good 'un! It's also a walk-away, which is the best kind to have if you're going to wreck an airplane!

Side number U-24 (BuNo 78957) of the St Louis Naval Reserve comes to grief, giving us a great view of its undersurfaces. In the NF6F-5 shot immediately above we saw that the outer guns had been removed from the wings, leaving only the inboard weapons in place. U-24 has retained its center guns but the inboard and outboard weapons have been removed. Note that the inner wing surfaces where the flaps retract appears to be in a color other than Glossy Sea Blue. Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

The Power and the Glory

The closest I've been to this next shot was the transient line at the late, lamented Kelly AFB, when a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico forced NAS Corpus Christi to send all its aircraft inland. VT-27 was operating T-28Bs at the time, and they all bounced into Kelly to sit things out. The noise, and the sight, was something I'll never forget, and it's easy to transfer the memory of those sounds to this next shot.

We're going to say this is an active ramp! Here's what a squadron of FG-1Ds look like when they're preparing to launch---can't you just hear them?! Note the directors getting the aircraft onto the taxiway, an the aircraft at the rear of the pack that still has its wings folded. St Louis has gone from the single letter tail code to "UF"; note that both the code and the side number are repeated on the forward landing gear doors. Of additional interest are the SBC-2s and PBYs in the background of the shot. This just may be the photo of the week, gang! Greater St Louis Air & Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

A Little More About That Aussie Spit

Sometime during my Adventures in Movieland Rick Morgan sent some additional information regarding that Spitfire Mk Vc I ran a couple of weeks ago. Here's what he had to say about it:
The shot was taken at the South Australia Aviation Museum; I was actually at Port Adelaide to see their National Railroad Museum, which is practically next door. What I found curious is that the airplane are in a hangar that is several KM from a runway. I probably should’ve asked how they got them there.
Apologies to the folks at South Australia Aviation Museum, and a heart-felt Thank You for preserving and restoring that airplane!

More Misawa Madness (But Not Really)

You've heard me mention a fondness for the aircraft of the 39th Air Division stationed at Misawa during the late 50s and early 60s---I've rambled on about it to the point of tedium, I think. Old friend Dave Menard shares the same passion for the Hun, and for Misawa, and has provided a couple of shots from his collection for our enjoyment today:

F-100D-50-NH, s/n 55-2879, at Misawa AB Japan in 1961. The 39th AD had a classified mission during this time period and good photographs of their Huns are tough to come by. This shot depicts "Little John" complete with command stripes.  USAF via Dave Menard

And the other side, marked this time as "Schatze II". You'd almost think you were dealing with the 49th FG back in the Bad Old Days in Darwin with those differing nose treatments on the same airplane. The 39th AD's aircraft shuttled back and forth between Misawa and Kunsan AB, ROK, on TDY deployments. The mission was secret and PACAF strongly discouraged photography as a result. Menard Collection

That's It For Today

The internet is acting up again over here, which means I need to go out and cut down the tree limb that sways back and forth between my antenna and the one that serves our community (the old sit-com "Green Acres" comes to mind here). It's as good a time as any to put the day to rest, I suppose. Be good to your neighbor and we'll see you a little later in the week.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Holy Cow, Kid; Where Did You Go?!

Conspicuous By His Absence

OK, so where have I been? What happened to the new stuff that should've been here last week and this? What's going on?

The Short Answer is nothing, really. I had to reduce the frequency of this project to a couple of times a week because of employment commitments, which I knew would be a burden for a while. Then, on top of that, I allowed friends and family to persuade me to try out to be an extra in a film that's currently being filmed in South Texas and I did it, knowing full well they'd never pick me. It turns out I was wrong and they did pick me, and I've been spending a whole lot of time on a movie set as a result---that's in addition to the regular job thing. The end result is that I've been getting home dead-tired and too exhausted to produce anything you'd want to read, so there wasn't much in the way of a blog last week, and probably not this week either.

Unfortunately, there probably won't be much of one next week because of the same commitments, and there's a fair chance we won't be back on any sort of schedule until week after next. I apologize, but it's the best I can do just now. Please keep watching this space and I'll be back before you know it.

Thanks for your patience, ya'll, and be good to your neighbor 'til we meet again.