Saturday, September 25, 2010

Misawa Memories, Mystery Meat, Stranger in a Strange Land, and That Big Warhawk

Long Ago and Far Away

Or at least it seems that way sometimes. My dad was career Air Force and was assigned to the 39th Air Division at Misawa AB, Japan, in October of 1962. Coincidentally, or maybe not, since the USAF of the 50s and 60s was pretty much a family affair where everybody's paths crossed everybody else's sooner or later, a young airman named Dave Menard had been assigned to that very same base just a few months earlier. I was in high school at the time and spent my leisure hours messing around with motorcycles, while Dave, even then, was photographing and collecting pictures of airplanes. The following images are from his collection and depict some of the aircraft from Misawa in the early and mid-50s. They give us a fascinating glimpse into how it was in The Silver Air Force, at least in PACAF, during those magical days.

A lot of folks don't know it, but the P-61 Black Widow lasted far longer in PACAF than in the other USAF commands. This tantalizing shot was taken on the ramp at Misawa in the early 1950s. The name "My Joan" appears to be in yellow, or possibly white, but the insignia red serial number of the aircraft is invisible against the overall Jet (that's what the Air Force called that gloss black) of the airframe. The unit is not known, and reader comments are invited!  Menard Collection

Here's another shot of "My Joan". That tower and hangar were there when Dave arrived in early '62, and were still there when I left in late '65. As for the airplane; we just don't know much about it!  Menard Collection

The 49th FG was associated with Misawa for a number of years, and operated several types of aircraft from that base during their tenure there. F-80C-10-LO 49-0557 sits on a typically snowy Misawa ramp prior to her assignment to Korea, where she crashed to destruction during a training flight in January, 1951. Although there are no markings to show it, she was assigned to the 7th FBS at the time.  Menard Collection

"Lady Hades", another ship from the 7th FBS, poses for her portrait. That serial number can make you crazy if you don't know what you're looking at; 44-85262 was built as a P-80A-5-LO, then reconfigured to F-80C-11-LO standard prior to assignment to the 49th. Pretty confusing at first, huh? She's almost a Plain Jane except for that nose flash and the name. The 7th started out being called the "Bunyaps" (after a mythical Australian creature), later changed to the more familiar "Screaming Demons". Me, I prefer "Bunyap". It's a P-40 thing, I guess...   Menard Collection

There was a time when you could paint a name on an airplane without it becoming the object of a congressional, or at least a command, investigation. Here's a really spiffy example of same: "Sassy Lass", another P-80A rebuilt to "C" standard sitting on the ramp at Misawa. Do you think that pilot's proud of his bird?   Menard Collection

Sittin' on the ramp in Northern Honshu. This unidentified F-80C is probably from the 9th FBS but it's hard to tell from this angle, tail stripe notwithstanding. Those underwing tanks are a treat, and something that's infrequently modeled. Check out the paintwork on the generator sitting behind the starboard wing!  Menard Collection

49-0550, a 9th FBS F-80C, sits on the ramp prior to preflight and launch. This may well be the same aircraft depicted in the shot immediately above, but it's hard to tell. The photo provides a far better view of the pylon tanks.  This one went down at Pyongyang, Korea in May of 1951.  Menard Collection

This red-trimmed "Flying Knights" F-80C is about ten kinds of pretty, although the name "Stinky" does make you wonder (it does fit in with the skunk's head nose art immediately below the name). We'll probably never know for certain, but it makes for a classy airplane all the same. This is yet another P-80A-5-LO upgraded to F-80C standard, in this case as an F-80C-11-LO. Menard Collection

"Ali-Baba II", 56-8315, a P-80A-5-LO rebuilt to F-80C standard, shows off its 7th FBS livery for the camera. Note the thin black cheat line on the blue nose flash and gear door. How about that Eisenhower jacket on the Amn 3C standing in front of the airplane?   Menard Collection

Me, I could look at PACAF F-80s all day long, but it's just barely possible that some of you have had enough for one day. Just in case that's true, let's change the water a little bit and see what the 49th's straight-winged F-84s looked like during the Misawa period:

Given the paint job, I'd have to guess this to be the 49th FBW commanding officer's aircraft. 51-1327 was an F-84G-25-RE and was posed getting ready to launch when this shot was taken. Note the boarding ladder and APU by the nose, and the RATO bottles positioned aft. This was shot at Misawa, where the F-84s of the 49th performed an air-defense mission, but 1327 appears to be carrying a pair of 500-lb GP bombs. It must be time for a trip to the bombing range!   Menard Collection

Getting there is half the fun! These Forty-niners from the 9th FBS are passing gas over the mountains of Northern Honshu during an excercise---note the 250-lb GP bomb on the pylon under 240. Of particular interest is the dark anodic finish to the aft fuselage of that airplane. Makes you wish for a color picture, doesn't it?  Menard Collection

If it's color you want, it's color you'll get! Unfortunately, it's not a color shot of that 9th FBS bird above, but it's still interesting. Here's 52-3197, an F-84G-25-RE of the 8th FBS sitting on the ramp. Check out the refuelling probes on the wing tanks; the one on the port wing is in natural metal, while that on the starboard wing is yellow. The underwing pylons are yellow as well, and the name "Cynthia II" adds class to the shot. (That ramp full of 8th TFW "Huns" in the background ain't too shabby either!)  Menard Collection

Let's go to the air show! Armed Forces Day in Japan used to be pretty much like Armed Forces Day any place else where the Air Force had a facility. In this shot we see a Japanese father and his young son in the process of checking out a "Blacksheep" F-84G. Those were the days!   Menard Collection

Comin' home. An 8th FBS F-84G recovers at Misawa, date unknown. Gotta love those silver airplanes! Menard Collection

Now then, you've seen the Shooting Stars, and you've seen the Thunderjets. What more can there be? Well, since it's almost closing time for this particular segment, why don't we show a couple of 49th FG birds you probably didn't expect to see? Here then, without further ado:

Yep, it's fuzzy. Sometimes slides can be like that. Whatever this picture may lack in clarity, it certainly makes up for in interest. When's the last time you saw a 7th FS F-86 with a big honkin' name on the nose? "Fantasy" poses for the camera, a little bit the worse for wear but providing a tantalizing look at a really pretty airplane. Focus. FOCUS!   Menard Collection

"Tuck it in, Two!" Formation shots are always neat, and this one's especially pretty. "Portland Rose", an F-86F-30-NA Sabre of the 7th FBS, lies alongside the photographer's ship in this gorgeous air-to-air shot. These aircraft are clean; no tanks or pylons. Oh, that silver Air Force!  Menard Collection

So you want 7th FBS Sabres in close formation, eh? Far be it for me to deny you that simple pleasure. These guys are dragging along their gas bags, but it just don't get much prettier, does it?   Menard Collection

Feet wet and they aren't even in the Navy! Here's a parting shot of the 49ers for you; "Maria", a 7th FBS F-86F, climbs out on a training hop. Do you think that pilot's enjoying his day?  Menard Collection

OK, OK, that's enough of the post-War 49th for tonight. Thanks to Dave Menard for sharing these marvelous images with us. Wow!

Every Now and Then You Just Lose Track of Things

Which is exactly what happened here. I received these T-Bird shots way back when I first started this project, and I downloaded the pictures for use (thank goodness!). Then I accidentally deleted the original file, thus losing the original contributor's name. I think, and I stress think (not that I ever do very much of that) that the shots came from Don Jay, or maybe Mark Nankivil, but I'm honestly not sure which! They've been on my list of photos to run for months now but I never did because I couldn't credit them. It's finally time. If they're yours, please e-mail me at and I'll put a credit line on them. Please! (And a unit ID wouldn't hurt either!)

If it's gotta be a mystery, at least it's a pretty one! Here's 56-3679, an Alaskan Air Command T-33A, sitting on the ramp at Elmendorf in all her natural metal and Conspicuity Red splendor. That red panel on the nose gear doors is particularly tasty...  Unknown, but hopefully not for long!

And a view of 56-3681 from the same unit. Note that this aircraft is in Aircraft Grey with the usual arctic conspicuity markings. The gas bags are a little the worse for wear, but otherwise it's a Clean Machine.  Unknown, but hopefully not for long!

Remember those names on the 49th FG birds? Well, thing got a whole lot more subdued in that regard as the 50s passed into history. -3681 is carrying nose art, but you'd never know it without taking a really close look. Snoopy just shows up everywhere, doesn't he? I bet we'd know the story behind those kill markings if I hadn't dumped the original file!  Unknown, but hopefully not for long!

And more kills! Repeat after me: Don't dump files. Don't dump files. Don't dump files...   Unknown, but hopefully not for long!

Holy Cow, Ya'll; It's a Rooski!

Texas is a big place, and you just never know what you might find if you keep your eyes open. Here's an example of that:

In the town of Forney, Texas, east of Dallas on US Highway 80, is this MiG-17, parked just off the westbound frontage/service road in front of DeRidder Antiques. According to the employee on duty, the airplane was purchased from a museum in the Netherlands "about 15 years ago." The wings were removed and the disassembled aircraft was placed in a standard 40-foot container for shipment to the US. The owner is not really interested in selling it, according to the employee. These photos were shot on September 18, 2010 by yours truly...  Note the stanchions placed to guard the starboard wingtip from further damage.  Mike

Protecting a wing tip, Texas style. That lamp post provides a really nice touch!  Mike McMurtrey

The view from the road. That "home furnishings" sign on the building in the background puts an interesting spin on things, don't you think?  Mike McMurtrey

And here's where it lives. That "Southpark" school bus in the background is just about ten kinds of choice. Don't mess with Texas, ya'll!  Mike McMurtrey

Bunyap From a Different Day

A few pictures ago we looked at some 7th FS F-80s, F-84s, and F-86s. Here's another 7th FS 49er to end the day with; the 1/32nd scale Hasegawa P-40N-5 that's on my work bench right now. We've made some progress:

"Daddy Please"/"Milk Wagon Express" is zipping right along, albeit far more slowly than I'd like. Here's the starboard side more-or-less showing how it'll look if it ever gets done. That spinner should, I repeat should, have been easy to paint, but once again I managed to snatch defeat straight from the jaws of Victory. That happens when you rush things, and I rushed things on that spinner. The situation is easy to salvage, though, and that'll be my next chore for this project. There's a little more canopy painting to do, and some seam-sealing (I use white glue for that sort of thing; on this model it'll mostly be done on the landing gear knuckles), then the airframe will be done. The big Hase Warhawks really look the part, don't they? 

And the Other Side. The N-model had tell-tales sticking out of the wings to show that the mains were down and locked, and I need to drill a couple of holes so I can add those. There's the usual touch-up to be done, and weathering, and so on and so forth, and blah blah blah (as Jimi was wont to say in concert), but we're getting close. Remember last time around when I said this airplane had the usual 49th FG oddities about it? This is as good a time as any to talk about 'em. First, this was two different airplanes at two different times, Side Number 10 and then later on, Side Number 00. When it was #10 it had a white spinner; those blue areas were added when it became 00. And that blue around the intake lip is peculiar too; the pin stripe on the nose is definitely in all the photos of this ship, as either 10 or 00, and the area in front of it appears to be darker than the OD/Neutral Gray around it, which leads me to believe it was dark blue. I could be wrong, and this is most assuredly an Educated Guess on my part, but I'm sufficiently convinced of the notion to paint the airplane that way. Feel free to not do it on your model if you so desire. And if you can prove, not conjecturize but actually prove, that it was one way or another, please get in touch with me! Lordy, I like P-40s!

And that's what I know. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Another Modular Hawk on the Bench, More Hogs, Some Mustangs, And a Couple of Spiffy Skyrays

Long Time Gone

Or, where I've been. It's New Job time again---what an odd little economy we've more or less got---and we missed last week due to the requirements thereof. Missing a week isn't my first choice, but if I don't pay the bills I can't do this blog; it's a classic case of priorities, as it were. Anyway, we're back again and, I think, with some really special stuff; let's us get started, whaddayathink?

Another Modular Hawk

There's something about the P-40 that has an appeal for most modelers, and I have to admit I'm hooked on the airplane too. For me it's mostly the early ones, most specifically the "E" models in use in the SWP back during The Bad Old Days of WW2, but I'll occasionally do an "N" to break things up a bit and, if I'm really in the mood to shake the tree, I'll build one in 1/32nd scale. That's what's happening today or, more specifically, for the past three weeks. Here's where I am as of today:

First, there was the simple act of getting the kit. I saw a release notice on one of those internet scale modeling sites and immediately put in a call to My Favorite Local Hobby Shop, the employees of which were convinced that such a marvel did not exist and that I was, in fact, chasing the 1/48th scale Hase offering of same. It took about 6 weeks before I was able to convince them that the 1/32nd scale kit really existed, and another two weeks after that to get it. Oh well, I'm stubborn, and I wanted the kit. I kept after it, and I eventually got it. There's a lesson therein.

Anyway, I got the thing, and now it's mostly together and partially painted and, as usual, it's going to be finished as an aircraft from the 49th FG; this time the 7th FS using some exceptionally nice decals made by the folks at Zotz. We're not going to to a blow-by-blow account of how to build the thing, because I figure you've already got some modeling skills to your credit, but there are a couple of things that could stand mention.

First, everything on this kit fits, which is in direct opposition to the ranting, raving, wailing, and general silliness you may have read on the internet about Hasegawa's 1/48th and 1/32nd scale Warhawks. All it takes is a little care when you're removing the parts from the sprues and cleaning them up, plus a little finesse when you're aligning things and Zip-Zap-Zoop; you've got an airframe! The Hasegawa P-40s are eminately buildable.

Second, there's not much of an aftermarket for the type. The cockpit can stand some Eduardizing, as it were, but that's mostly to get the various placards, etc, that you'll need to complete the interior. Those placards, plus a set of belts and harnesses, will finish off the almost-adequate kit cockpit very nicely. (I've only seen one release of the "N" model in 1/32nd, the Every-Schoolboy-Used-to-Have-the-Picture 1 of 15,000 bird. The only decals given with the kit are for that airplane, making the aforementioned Zotz sheet an essential.)

Third, and as to be expected with any airplane assigned to the 49th FG in the Pacific during the war, there are some questions about the markings. We'll get to those in modest detail later, but the bird I'm doing makes for the usual Interesting Study in Contradictions Regarding Airplanes of the 49th. If any of you hold original photography on the airplane, please wait until I've completely finished the model and couldn't possibly go back and un-do the damage, then scan and send those photos to . Right on!

 Here's where we are so far. Sharp-eyed readers will notice that there's a lot of work to do on that spinner before we call it Done. Masking it most assuredly was not my finest hour! The transparencies have been faired into the fuselage but not yet masked and painted, and the major paintwork (sans those transparencies) has been done. I'm not certain about the cut line where the white conspicuity markings on the emennage meet the aft fus and may alter them later, or maybe not. Colors are Testor ModelMaster enamel, with RAF Azure Blue being used for the pale blue tail stripe; it seems to be an excellent match right out of the bottle. The poorly-masked spinner is done with USN True Blue, and I've used Insignia Blue forward of that little white trim stripe on the nose, because the photos I've got all seem to show a color that's slightly darker than the surrounding area up there. That may be because the white stripe makes it appear darker, but there's no way to know for certain without a color photo of the area and we already know that nobody's going to send in a photo until after the model is done, right?

The starboard side of the airplane, offered mainly because of those dark green splotches. They were the norm on AAF aircraft of the 1942-1943 era and seem to have been a standard feature on the P-40N. They also seem to have had a well-defined pattern rather than being just a random thing. The best explanation of them that I've seen, and the one that I'd recommend to you, is a drawing in Ian Baker's excellent Aviation History Coloring Book 44; Green Splotches, White Splotches; Another Look at USAAF Camouflage 1942-1943. As with all of Mr. Baker's offerings, this one is superb and well worth its modest price. The placement of the blotches on the model were taken directly from that monograph. Note the area under the canopy; it's OD to match the surrounding fuselage. You don't want to follow Hasegawa's painting instructions back there, gang!

We'll come back to this P-40 in a later installment, when it's a little bit farther along. Meanwhile, how about some Real Airplane Pictures for a Monday?

Props Are Good, and Hogs Have Props

You see a whole lot of Chance Vought F4Us on this site, and there are reasons for it. First, and most important to me; it's my site and I happen to like the airplane. Also, frequent contributors Jim Sullivan and Doug Siegfried like the U-Bird too, and they send in some neat stuff from time to time. Finally, there are really good kits of the Corsair out there in any scale you could think of, and of almost every variant ever produced. In my world that's motivation enough to do yet another photo essay on the type so here, without further ado, are some more F4U photos for your enjoyment:

A prime example of how to load one's britches on the flight deck. An SNJ takes the wire on the FDR while an F4U-5 gets stupid overhead. The adrenalin level in those cockpits, and on the boat, must've been something else---if you look carefully you can see the LSO coming out from behind his wind screen to marvel at the festivities. I'd love to see the plat camera footage on this one!  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

133843, a Marine AU-1 from an un-named unit, shows off its pylon suite; the AU could carry a lot of ordnance! Of interest is the frequently seen Non-Specular Sea Blue anti-glare treatment on the upper fuselage decking and cowling.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

The AU-1 saw considerable service in Korea during the "police action". This VMF-212 bird, "Miss Penny", is one of the more famous AUs of the period. Note the natural metal main landing gear and tail wheels, and the pylon suite. There are some oddly-shaped areas on the forward mlg doors, which could be painted a light blue but which are more likely to be silver duct tape picking up a blue sheen from the airframe. A mystery, as it were! Gotta love that arrow on the forward fuselage!  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

A Korean War veteran friend of mine once called that particular place "a very cold corner of Hell". I suspect he was right. This photo shows 129362, an AU-1 of VMA-323, getting ready for a mission. The fuse extender on the 250lb GP bomb is remarkable, and could provide a neat touch to a model. The spAD in the background is probably an AD-2, although it's tough to tell from this view. The shot, most likely taken at Kimpo, portrays typical operations for the Corps during the Korean War.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Another AU-1, this time 129401 from VMA-323, sitting in a revetment. This shot reveals the exhaust pattern on a well-used Corsair, and may be of interest to modelers. Note that the squadron code ("WS") has been applied to the mlg doors as well as the usual vertical stab.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

If it goes up it will come down sooner or later! This landing falls into the "any one you can walk away from" category, and depicts an F4U-5N from VMF(N)-513 after a slight misfortune. The Corsair was a tough airplane and could take a lot of abuse, although that twisted aft fuselage would indicate that this bird became a parts source shortly after the picture was taken. A lot of profile illustrations show the squadron's -5Ns in overall black; a few of them may have worn that color but this aircraft wears the regulation Glossy Sea Blue.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Some MO Birds for the Morgan Boys

It's been a long time since I first met the Morgan Brothers, Rick and Mark, but I think they're from Missouri, or at least they have an interest in airplanes from that State. That said, here's a selection of MO NG birds from the early 50s in honor of that interest (and for our mutual enjoyment as well):

There was a time, Way Back When, when almost every American military pilot learned his craft in North American's T-6 Texan. Here's a fine study of a 110th FS/71st FG AT-6D in flight to start the ball rolling. Of special interest is the lack of national insignia on the fuselage, although the star is evident under the starboard wing. Most ANG fighter units had at least one AT-6 (later T-6) on strength for proficiency training. Neat shot!  G. Sommerich via Mark Nankivil

A pair of MONG Mustangs on the prowl. The large discs on the aft fuselage appear to be in black, although dark blue could be equally valid; your guess is as good as mine! Note that the second aircraft is carrying a nose number, while lead is not. Spinners appear to be white but may also be yellow. Fred Roos via Mark Ninkivil

Here's that disc again, this time on aircraft No. 5. The mystery deepens when you look closely at the image, because the spacing of the "MO" and "NG" would barely allow a conventional national insignia to fit between them, and there's no indication that one was ever there. Sounds like an opportunity for a Relief Tube entry to me!  Fred Roos via Mark Nankivil

Taken on the ground at Lambert Field, this P-51D depicts a Missouri Guard bird early in its career. Note the pre-1947 national insignia (which appears to be greyed-out in finest WW2 ETO tradition) and the nose number. The early buzz number treatment is noteworthy; the P-51's "PF" became "FF" after the 1947 changeover to the USAF. It's really odd to see that greyed-out star on a post-War CONUS bird... G. Sommerich via Mark Nankivil

PF-105 flying a little form. There's nothing other than that nose number to indicate any sort of unit affiliation, although the aircraft does appear to have a red spinner. Of interest here is the oil streaking on the cowling, so typical of an operational Mustang. G. Sommerich via Mark Nankivil

And PF-106, bearing the nose number 16 and with an interesting spinner configuration; the aft portion is obviously in natural metal, while the forward part is apparently painted yellow (although it could just as easily be white). These guys were probably flying over Germany in the same kind of airplane just a few short years before! G. Sommerich via Mark Nankivil

Virginia Mayo was a popular actress of the day---here PF-650 (nose number 1) pays tribute to her. The photograph has obviously seen better days, but the airplane is pristine! Sure wish those guys had put a little more color on their birds---there's just not much there once you get past that red spinner. G. Sommerich via Mark Nankivil

Mustangs can crash too. This 116th FS P-51D exhibits all the classic signs of the results of a torque roll on takeoff. (A friend of mine once told me that his dad, who'd flown P-51s after the war, once informed him "you never straight arm a P-51!". Truer words were never spoken!) Then again, it may have landed long and flipped once it got to the over-run. Whatever happened, it provided a classic Bad Day for somebody!  G. Sommerich via Mark Nankivil

A slightly later time frame, but once again torque roll seems to have been the culprit---look at the way the vertical stab is bent over. Everybody loves the P-51, but it's an airplane that can kill you in a heartbeat if you don't pay attention. Civil Mustang owners re-learn the lesson every year, it seems...  G. Sommerich via Mark Nankivil.

Remember the Skyray?

Frequent contributor Mark Nankivil's dad was a naval aviator during the 50s and 60s. Mark's sent along a couple of really nice "FORD" images taken by his dad, and I think that offers a nice round-out for our day:

Here's an F4D-1 from VF-20 getting ready to take on a little gas. The Skyray was a tiny airplane, and a ferocious performer. It was also woefully underarmed and short-ranged to boot, making it relatively useless in anything other than the fleet defence or point-defense interceptor roll. It was also one of the most beautiful jet fighters ever designed. This photo really defines the type's good looks.  Nankivil Collection

And THE F4D scheme, an F4D-1 from VF(AW)-3 out of North Island. This has got to be one of the prettiest fighter schemes of all time, even if those AIM-9Bs comprise the type's total armament!  Thanks, Mark!  Nankivil collection

The Relief Tube

Mark Morgan has sent along a comment or two on the F-94 photos we ran a few installments back:

Phil - WHOOPS, I goofed big time and left off a couple of items. The first shot with the 2nd FIS F-94As was taken at Nellis, the photo was marked by the Nellis photo lab on the back. I assume the event was oneof the early fighter gunnery meets.

The -94C shot is Burbank, my old plant (as distinguished from Plant B-1, which was further north near the railroad tracks). That hanger in the center background is where the Skunk Works was located while I worked there, 1/87-5/89, with the office building on the far side, out of sight. I fully expect that hanger had several U-2s under construction at the time this photo was taken; the aircraft in the foreground are pre-delivery F-94Cs and T-33As. Sad to say, this entire historic old complex is now gone, bulldozed in order for Lockheed Martin to get it off the California tax rolls. Sigh.. last time I rolled through there was May of '04 while I was doing the Noble Eagle road trips, was shocked to see everything removed..MK
A quick note from Tom Gaj regarding the Boeing T-43; the type flew its last operational mission last Friday, 16 September, out of Randolph AFB. The honors of that last GATOR flight fell to 73-1153. And another one bites the dust...
And please remember, I'm always looking for photographs and hard information on American military aviation of all eras, but in particular from 1919 to 1975 or so. If you've got anything of that nature that you'd like to share, please contact me at . I don't make money off this thing so you won't either, but full credit will be given for your contributions.
That's it 'til next time, so be good to your neighbor. We'll talk again soon.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Road Goes Ever On, Those Ryans, The Falcon, A Noisy 'Vark, 'Varks on the Prowl, Token Rhinos, and a Spiffy Hoover

The Only Thing That Stays the Same is Change

Some of us (not all of us, unfortunately, but some of us) are lucky enough to have a Neighborhood Hobby Shop, and those of us who are extremely lucky have that rarest of rarities, a Really Good Neighborhood Hobby Shop. I must've been living right, because I've been blessed with two of the latter during the past 40 years; one in San Antonio and one in Austin.

The one in San Antonio was a classic Mom and Pop kind of deal, and Mom and Pop were really special people who, among other things, understood their customer base and molded the shop to reflect their customer's interests. They eventually decided to retire and sold the business and, although it still exists and is apparently still thriving, it just ain't the same place. Times change, I guess (remember that guy who said "you can never go home"?), and shops change to reflect the new owner's interests. That's a Good Thing by and large, unless of course the aforementioned new owner's interests don't happen to parallel your own, in which case it can be a Bad Thing.

The shop in Austin was, and still is, a family business, but very much one in change at the moment. I suspect the economy is largely to blame since it's wreaked havoc with discretionary income at almost every level, but other things seem to be changing as well, including the focus of the store. That's not entirely bad either, but it's uncomfortable to us Old Guys, who tend to get spooked when Things Are Different. Change can be Bad when you have a little seniority on life...

So, what's it to you? I've got a thought on that too (I've always got a Thought On That; it's how I am!), but it's not what you might think.

It would be easy to presume that I'm about to complain about the perceived (and it's probably my own perception and nobody else's) change in things at the little shop that resides in Babylon on the Brazos, but that isn't it. It's more primal, and more universal, than that.

Let's cut right to the chase for once, and yes; I know that's not my style. Let's do it anyway, though, and let's talk about all the Mom and Pop hobby shops out there, not only the ones I have or have had a personal stake in. The simple, sad fact is that those nameless people who created our present economic mess managed to nail the lid on a whole lot of small businesses in the process, and among those small businesses have been more than a few Mom and Pop hobby shops. Disaster looms large in the future of a great many small businesses at the moment, and that takes us to the moral of today's story. If you're lucky enough to live near one of the surviving M and P shops, please support them to whatever extent you can. The hobby will be a far lesser place without them, and a really nifty part of our culture will be gone forever. In the end, we'll all lose.

And with that bit of seriously morose journalism behind us, let's move on to something that's a whole lot more fun!

Goin' to School

Everybody who flies had to learn how to do it, which without exception involved some sort of trainer. This country has produced some of the world's best, but a lot of people have forgotten the Ryan STs. Let's try to stir up a little bit of interest in them today!

First, is there anything we can build if we want to model one of these things? The answer to that one is a resounding "Well, sortof." since there have only been a couple of kits of same; an elderly but perfectly usable PT-20 from Hawk and a couple of offerings by the 1/72nd scale Czech folks. My own personal interest lies in that Hawk kit, but I'm hoping the following images will stir your personal interest no matter which scale you happen to prefer.

Ryan decided they needed an entry in the competition for a primary trainer for the AAF, and came up with this beauty; the first YPT-16 (39-717). 15 aircraft were built, with this example was most likely photographed near San Diego; all 15 airframes were initially operated by the Ryan School of Aeronautics at Lindbergh Field, where aspiring military aviators underwent a 12 week primary course before passing into the Army Air Force training system. Check the deflection on that rudder!  Ryan 1430

Beauty! The PT-20 was next in line, with 40 or so being built. This classic study could define what flying's all about. An external longeron running beneath the cockpits was the primary difference between the YPT-16 and the PT-20.  Ryan 2301

The retrofitting of a Kinner R-440-1 into the PT-20 resulted in this bird; the PT-20A, and a total of 27 airframes were so converted. Most operational Ryans had those gorgeous landing gear fairings, and the spinner,  removed during service. That external longeron is really visible here.  Ryan 2999

The installation of a Kinner R-440-3 132 hp engine transformed the PT-20A into the PT-21. Note the evolution of the landing gear fairings and wheel pants. Of particular interest in this shot is the beautifully-laminated wooden prop.  Ryan 4154

In many respects the PT-22 Recruit was the ultimate Ryan trainer. Up-engined yet again with a 160 hp Kinner R-540-1 engine, the PT-22 offered significant performance advantages over the Ryans that preceeded it, and all were delivered sans landing gear covers and wheel pants. The Navy got into the Ryan picture too, and ultimately bought 100 PT-22s, designated as the NR-1. My personal preference is for the inline Ryans, but the radial-powered PT-22 family sired most surviving airframes. This is another one of those "beauty of flight" photos!  Ryan 5224.

The Netherlands ordered 25 Ryans as the S-T-3, and some were outfitted with floats. With the advent of war the order was taken over by the Army, who designated the aircraft the P-22A and added it to their training fleet. If memory serves there are a set of floats (and maybe Dutch decals) in that 1/48th scale Hawk kit...  Ryan 3135

Most aircraft-producing nations had a crack at building an airplane out of non-strategic materials during the course of the war. Ryan took a shot at it with the PT-25, which had an airframe largely made from plastic-bonded wood---it was in essence a totally different aircraft from the Ryans that preceeded it. 5 were built but the type wasn't accepted for production. Not exactly what you'd call "pretty", is it?  Ryan 6912

This 1943-vintage shot shows a PT-25 in flight. The airframe was substantially cleaner than that of its antecedents, but it just doesn't look right somehow.  Ryan 7146

Timeless beauty. A PT-22 sits on the Purdue ramp, giving us an excellent view of the unfaired landing gear and the aircraft's minimal rigging in the process. A large number of Ryan STs ended up in civilian hands after the war, and more than a few still survive. Just the ticket if you wanted to own a practical warbird!  Friddell Collection

An Unexpected Curtiss

Everybody knows about the 1920s-1930s Curtiss Hawk pursuit family, and a couple of you are probably even aware of the Curtiss O-1, a series of Hawk-based observation aircraft briefly used by the Army Air Corps during the 1920s, what what about the attack version of the O-1 Falcon? Here's a photo of one for all you Golden Age folks:

Here's an October, 1927 shot of the Curtiss A-3A Falcon attack bomber, looking every inch like a Great Big P-1! A grand total of 76 A-3As were built, and 5 ended their days as dual-control trainers. A further 78 aircraft were constructed as A-3Bs, those aircraft incorporating significant structural components from the O-1E observation aircraft. Armament was sketchy in those days; the A-3A had two .30 caliber Brownings in the cowling, with two more in the wings, while the B-model improved on this with an additional pair of wing-mounted Brownings. The type was capable of delivering a whopping 200 pounds of bombs. It was probably a Very Good Thing that we weren't involved in anything more serious than the Banana Wars during the late 20s!  US Army Signal Corps T-3514

How to Have Fun at an Air Show

I know, I know; there's no way to enjoy an air show with all those people hanging around the airplanes cluttering things up, which is why Jim and I always went the day before whenever we could. (It's amazing what press credentials can do for you!) Our next shot was taken during one of those forays:

A Cannon-based F-111D from the 27th TFW taxis to its parking slot on 19 May, 1990, the day before an air show at the Late, Lamented Kelly AFB. Soon-to-be prematurely deaf civilian personell assist in the parking chores as Jim and I shoot the festivities from a strategically-placed B-4 stand. Those inert AIM-9s made the whole thing worthwhile and yes; we were wearing ear protection. Crazy we were; stupid we weren't!  Friddell

On a Somewhat More Serious Note

Friend and former co-worker Tom McDonald was a KC-135 co-pilot during the latter stages of the Vietnam fracas, and managed to take a few photos during his operational chores. Here are a couple to illustrate a somewhat more serious side of the F-111:

The 347th TFW flew F-111As out of Korat during the 1974-1975 time frame. Tom caught two birds from a 4-ship as they formated on his starboard wing while the other section was passing gas. Note the fully-extended wings and loose formation.  Tom McDonald

Suck it in for the camera! There's more separation than meets the eye in this photo, but those guys are still pretty close, and flying darned good form to boot! The pylons are empty but the gun probably isn't. Tom McDonald

The early F-111s were good; the last ones were simply incredible. This is one airframe that deserved a better fate than it eventually received---the late F-111s had capabilities that would make you stand up and say Mercy!  Tom McDonald

Last Chance! A No. 6 Sqdn RAAF RF-111C (A8-146) holds at Last Chance during RAM '88. The Aussie 'Varks are gone too, victims of budgets and a lack of spares. The 6 Sqdn guys I talked to at RAM loved 'em! (How do you spell "LOUD"?)Friddell

And While We're at Last Chance

Let's look at a couple of RF-4Cs going through that pre-launch thing.

Let's leave this particular part of our day the way we came into it, with noise! This is another Last Chance shot taken at RAM '88. It was taken during a particularly heavy launch cycle and I didn't note the unit, although I'm thinking it may have been the Birmingham Guard. Maybe. You guys shoulda been there with me---the ground was shaking when I took this one!  Friddell

Finally, a Token Gray Airplane

A while back we ran a couple of shots that Rick Morgan took at the end of Operation Desert Storm. So far we've looked at Tomcats, Intruders, and Prowlers in this series. Now it's time to check out The Mighty Hoover!

The S-3 community was transitioning out of the submarine-hunting business during the Desert Storm fracus, but that didn't stop them from having great nose art! Here's "Eyes of the Storm", S-3B, BuNo 159743 from VS-24, to prove you don't have to be a fighter guy to have great nose art!  R. Morgan

A shot detailing the markings on the front of the airplane. The nose art didn't last too long, but it was pretty cool while it was there; a morale-builder, as it were!  R. Morgan

And the back end. I really like that tail-code presentation! Sharp eyes will detect a pair of F-14s in the pattern at the top left of the photo. Fly Navy!  R. Morgan

And a reason to for me to never build a "modern" S-3: Boring, boring, boring! They don't all look like this, but enough of them do to make me lose interest in a Great Big Hurry. Howzabout you?  Friddell Collection

And Finally, The Relief Tube

Here's today's installment of corrections, additions, and Stuff That Just Doesn't Fit Anywhere Else:
  • First, here's a link to a site Mark Morgan found that gives us an idea of the sort of stuff that used to be at the MASDC facility at Davis Monthan. Watch out, gang; you can get lost in there! http://www.dhc/- (If it won't load put .html at the end of the string!)
  •  From Mike McMurtrey, who helped design the recent Squadron UC-78 kit and who's now working on a book about same comes a request regarding a Bobcat that's upposed to be at the Shooting Star Museum in Devine. I'm going to roadster down there when it gets a little bit cooler (South Texas has two seasons---Summer and January), but in the meantime do any of you guys have info on this? Maddog; this sounds like your kind of deal!
  • Another question, this time from reader Stacy Baird regarding what may have been an aircraft munition but which is a total mystery to me: In 1970 when I was in Vietnam out of Camp Evans in I-Corps, I saw some rounds lying on the ground that I had never seen before or been able to identify. They had gear teeth as if to spin the round. (They were) maybe one to one and 1/2 inches in length, had a blue tube-like thing that appeared to be made out of aluminum. Does anyone have a picture and knowledge of this item - Probably an Air to ground cannon of some sort. Can anybody help Mark out with this?
  • I got an e-mail from an old friend yesterday asking about VMF-113 during their WW2 and Korean days, specifically asking if Navy wings were worn on the squadron's G-2 jackets during those time periods (the ones that werestamped on a piece of fabric along with the pilot's name). A simple view of period photos could explain this one, but I know you guys have more information than just that! What about a tutorial, Navy guys?
  • Last time around we ran a couple of Phantom Certificates from Mark Nankivil. He's sent another to round out the set:

And that's what I know for a Monday. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon!