Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Big Banshee, A Demon or Two, The Neglected Orion, An Interesting E-3, and a Plastic Butcher Bird

That Big Banjo

When last we met, we were discussing that almost-famous workhorse of 1950s American naval aviation, the McDonnell F2H Banshee. The type was a mainstay of the early 50s Navy and saw action in Korea, but its most capable variants were destined to serve only in peacetime, holding the fort until the advent of more capable platforms. It's a really spiffy airplane, and well worth another look.

Much like the F2H-1 and -2, there are no decent kits of the larger -3 and -4 variants. That's a shame, too, because the type had all the color you'd expect of the Navy during that era, even if its performance was somewhat lacking. What follows are several prime examples of why we really ought to have a kit of one of these seminal McDonnell fighters.

Beauty. This ATG-1 F2H shows the Banshee in its final livery of Light Gull Grey over White. The "Banjo's" flight refuelling probe was often decorated with a barber pole treatment as seen here, in this instance adding the only color other than the arrows on the wing tanks. The photo was taken in August of 1956; the changeover to the new scheme was mandated in February of 1955, with all carrier birds delivered after July 1st of 1956 to be in compliance. Existing glossy sea blue airframes were to be re-painted within one year of the original spec change. The Glossy Sea Blue Navy was going away, never to return.  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

This is more like it! 127686 is an F2H-4 from VF-11's Red Rippers, June, 1954, while assigned to Air Group 10. The Navy flirted briefly with natural metal finish for its carrier fighters. That proved to be a Bad Idea all around, but sometimes you have to learn the hard way. This "Big Banjo" shows the transitional silver scheme to good effect.  Fahey via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

The Reserves made extensive use of the "Big Banjo". This four-ship of -3s is in the grey/white scheme and has little to offer in the way of color other than the orange Reserves fuselage band. Nobody would ever descibe the F2H series as being long-ranged and the lack of tip tanks guarantees these guys won't be going very far. Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

It pretty much goes without saying that the Marines had their own F2Hs. BuNo 127614 is from VMF-214, once again in the grey and white scheme and, once again, without a whole lot of color. There's a band of small stars around the nose of the wing tank (which appears to be painted gold but could easily have been painted silver as well) but that's about it for flamboyant markings on this bird.  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Canada once had an air component to her Navy and operated F2H-3s for a brief period of time. I think the "Big Banjo" looks pretty goofy without wing tanks, but maybe that's just me. When all is said and done, all I want is a decent 1/48th scale kit of any F2H variant. But I''m not going to hold my breath...  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

That Airplane in the Middle

There was another McDonnell fighter that came between the F2H and the F4H Phantom. The F3H Demon was another one of those successful failures that were so common during the halcyon days of the 1950s. Military aviation was progressing by leaps and bounds, lept sometimes it leapt and bounded just a bit too far. The Demon wound up being an ok fighter, but never a great one, its primary contribution being the design elements it leant to it's younger brother, the F4H Phantom. Today isn't the day for an extensive look at the type, but it's a nice opportunity to run a couple of photos.

The F3H first flew in Glossy Sea Blue, but all of the production aircraft were delivered in the later Light Gull Grey over White scheme. This pair of Demons are sitting on the ramp in St Louis and show how a little paint can make an airplane look completely different. This shot was taken in October of 1955. Those test booms went away when the airplane reached production. Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

This is a little more like it. This VF-14 F2H-2 preps for launch in September, 1956. "Fighting Fourteen" was the first squadron to equip with the Demon, and got to learn first-hand that the type wasn't quite ready for prime time. Greater Saint Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

The shape of things to come. An F2H-3 towed to the cat while a well-worn F4H-1 is prepared for launch. The intakes and horizontal stabs on the F4H belie the Demon's parentage---the F3H wasn't much of an airplane but it gave birth to one of the world's classic fighters. McDonnell's gone now, and so is its offspring McDonnell-Douglas, but the aircraft The Little Company That Could sired became legend. Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Something You Don't See Every Day

Time was when military aviators were concerned about enemy aircraft and highly sophisticated ground defenses. The times began to change during the latter days of the Vietnam War when shoulder-launched SAMs first came into common use. The earlier weapons of that sort almost invariably used infra-red sensors for target acquisition, thus leading to the developement of flare dispensers so that potential targets could have at least a modicum of protection. Here's an example of the sort of countermeasures that were developed.

Maddog John Kerr sent this photo to me about twenty years ago and I never could figure out what to do with it. Today I did. 152758 was a P-3B used briefly for testing defensive systems by the NATC; here she's seen dumping a load of flares for the camera. It's a neat photo and the markings are pretty spiffy too; just the thing for backdating that Hasegawa P-3C that's been sitting in your closet all this time. 758 was eventually transferred to Australia.  John Kerr Collection

The Navy's patrol community were no strangers to offensive warfare, having chased the Japanese navy with bomb and torpedo-armed PBYs during the Second World War. The P-3 has long had the ability to sink surface ships as well as submarines, although that fact is not well appreciated, it seems. This shot was taken on 18 November, 1969, and shows an Orion of VP-10 armed with an AGM-12 Bullpup. Bullpup's guidance parameters were limited and would have made ship-killing with the P-3 a dicey proposition at best, but it was better than nothing. US Navy 1147444

Here's an AGM-12 on the wing of a P-3C from VP 36 out of Sigonella, date unknown. This view provides a really good look at the tracking flares in the aft end of the missile; Bullpup was command guided, and the pilot of the aircraft aimed it by watching the flares and guiding the missile via a tiny joy stick mounted in the cockpit. Guidance parameters were limited and the launch aircraft pretty much had to fly in a straight line and follow the missile until it impacted its target. Operational use of the weapon in Vietnam proved it wasn't particularly useful, but it stayed in the inventory for a number of years.  US Navy K-116380

Evolution of Some Classy Nose Art

For those of you who might not know, friend and frequent contributor Rick Morgan was with VAQ-141 during Desert Storm and killed a couple of SAM sites with well-directed AGM-88 HARM shots. He also took a photograph or too, including these immediate post-war photos of VAW-124's E-2C 161552. They're of particular interest because of the evolution depicted in the nose art, from "Classic" to "Miss B. Havin". The word "classic" is appropriate indeed. Thanks to Rick for these photos.

Here's the way it started. The name is "Classic", and the nose art isn't too shabby, but there's change in the wind...   Rick Morgan

"Classic" morphs into "Miss B. Havin". Note the addition of the squadron commander's name under the cockpit window. The nose art was on the left side only.  Rick Morgan

Special Note from the Replica Staff---this photograph has been deleted. Ed.

And a closeup of the nose art. This artwork is as good as any we've seen on an airplane, of any era. That painter was good!  Rick Morgan

It's Not As Bad As They Say It Is

It, of course, being the 1/48th scale Tamiya Fw190A-3. The kit was, if the truth be known, an absolute revelation when it first came out, being pretty darned accurate and, wonder of wonders (at least in the  World of Quarter-Scale Wulfs), easy to build. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, the Focke Wulf Gold Standard for a number of years.

Time has passed, more than just a little of it, and times have changed. It's not that the kit has all that many competitors, because it doesn't; the museum-quality Eduard kits don't include any of the short-nosed "Butcher Birds" as of this writing, and the Hasegawa kit isn't enough of an improvement to make it a quantum leap of any sort. The Tamiya Fw190 has aged gracefully, it seems.

Still, the internet is full of complaints about how bad the kit is. Those complaints seem to fall into two camps; the interior is too simple (true, sort-of), and the landing gear is gooned up. That's true too, but the condemnation falls into the "sort-of" category too. Let's take just a minute and talk about it.

That oft-criticised interior consists of a well-detailed bucket, a pretty nice instrument panel, and a seat, along with a couple of detail components. It can look pretty good if it's carefully painted, but it's definitely not up to contemporary standard, which leaves room for (dare we say it): Aftermarket. There are probably other detail sets out there but I'm a big fan of Eduard, and they offer two sets that will work for the Tamiya A-3; a complete set that replaces the interior and adds additional detail to other areas of the airframe, and a Zoom set, which is mostly for the interior. I've gotten to be really cheap of late and prefer to use the Zoom offering, although I've worked with both and would recommend either. That takes care of the interior.

As for those horrible landing gear, they really aren't too bad. The wheels are definitely too small in diameter; everybody says so and for once everybody's right, and it's really easy to get the angle of the main mounts skewed if you don't pay a lot of attention to what you're doing when you install the gear. Replacement wheels are available through the aftermarket and a little bit of Modeling 101 will fix the landing gear problem unless you plan on entering your model in a national-level contest, in which case you probably aren't reading this missive anyway. That pretty much addresses the Major Issues, such as they are.

But we digress. (I do that a lot, in case you haven't noticed.) Let's take a look at the model.

Here's your basic Fw190A-3, this one marked for an aircraft from the 9th Staffel of JG-1 when based at Hasum, Denmark, in March of 1943. The decals came from Third Group sheet 48-026 and seem to be pretty accurate, although I may not be the best judge of that. The interior of this model has been enhanced with photoetch from the appropriate Eduard Zoom set, and brake lines are made from extremely fine brass wire. An antenna was also added, made from stretched sprue. Otherwise the kit is bone stock, right down to those "horrible" wheels.

A different view of the same side. Paint is Testor ModelMaster, which is pretty much reviled by some folks. I wasn't there when this airplane was flying for real, and the folks who don't like the Testor colors weren't around either, so I'm guessing the colors are about as close to right as anything else. Then again, I could be wrong. Point is, the paint looks pretty good and the tonal values are where they should be if you convert a color shot of your model to black and white. Of course, that whole color thing can get the best of friends rolling around on the floor, kicking and screaming---I would suggest you do your best to figure out the paint thing (there are a lot of really good references on the topic available these days) and don't beat yourself up too badly if somebody you don't even know decides to criticize what you did. This is a hobby, remember?

Here's what the other side looks like. I'm a big fan of the Tamiya Fw series for one simple reason; they're all quick and easy to build, with no surprises and, for the most part, no significant accuracy issues. This model looks ok, I think, but it does suffer from skewed landing gear, which I noticed after everything had set up hard as a rock. (I use Tenax, so when it's set it's set!) I didn't fix it, either. Such is life...

One final note. The Tamiya kit does have a couple of minor issues with panel lines. The Third Group instruction sheet for these decals addresses that and provides line drawings of what needs to be changed. That constitutes a Class Act in my world and I thought you should know about it.

The Relief Tube

Of which we don't have very much this time around. Tommy Thomason wrote to ask that I remind you all that the McDonnell F2H-1 Banshee was actually longer than the prototype F2H-2. That in turn reminds me to remind you all to check out Tommy's excellent blog site at  or his companion site at Tommy does excellent work and his site is a must-read if you're interested in American naval aviation. Trust me on this one. (And read this week's Relief Tube, please!)

Additions to This Installment's Relief Tube

One of the things I really enjoy about this project is the feedback I get from our audience. Only a few hours had passed between the time I posted this installment of the blog and I'd already heard from both Rick Morgan and Tommy Thomason offering comments and corrections. I figured you'd be interested so here, a whole week early, are those comments. First, from Rick:

Phil: F2Hs are such a fascinating subject- the ATG-1 shot is from VF-52 on Lexington about 1956. They had a typical Group (if you can ever call and ATG ‘Typical’, because they were not) for that period, a day fighter unit (VF-111 F9F-8), night fighters (VF-52), jet attack (VA-151 F7U-3), and prop attack (VA-196 AD-6) as well as the cats and dog dets: VAW-11 AD-5W, VFP-61 F2H-2P, VAAW-35 AD-5N and VAH-6 AJ-2s. I suspect the F7Us and AJs spent a lot of time on the beach during cruise though.

Aviators I’ve talked to from that period thought the F2H was a great airplane to fly; steady, long-ranged (longer than the F9F at least) and a good boat plane. RADM (and F6F ace) “Whitey” Feightner, who was CO of VF-11 with F2H-4s was a big proponent of the type although it was still a whole generation behind its shore-based contemporaries, like the MiG-17 night fighter.

As for the Demon, it probably ended up as the best of a bad lot of aircraft, certainly better than the F4D or F2H-3/4 as a carrier-based night fighter but still a generation behind land-based aircraft. As you state it DID lead to the world-beating F4H; I’ve always maintained that the F-4 is the result of a mating between the F3H and F-101.

The VAW-124 nose art story was a good one. They tried the first version, “Classic” and pretty quickly decided it wasn’t that good, so they painted it out and found a squadron member that knew how to handle an airbrush, which is how “Miss B Havin” came about. They ended up winning the CVW-8 nose art contest after the war with it and somehow managed to hide it through fly-off to Norfolk after every other squadron followed CAG instructions to remove the art prior to the first port call (Haifa) in late May. (OBTW: I was with VAQ-141, not 140 during DS) (Now corrected. pf)


Rick also sent along a couple of photos that we'll look at next time.

Tommy had a comment as well, which corrects a major clanger I dropped in the second Banshee piece:

"Tommy Thomason wrote to ask that I remind you all that the McDonnell F2H-1 Banshee was actually longer than the subsequent F2H-2."

 NOOOO - See original email below. The F2H-1 was longer than the XF2H, not longer than the F2H-2. The -1 and -2 were the same length. (Now corrected. pf) Attached is the old Tailhook Topics article on converting the -2 to the -3/4. This is now OBE in 1/72. In 1/48, you need to add a bit more stretch to the Hawk Banshee, which is an XF2H in length (see above). F2H-2to-4.jpg (132KB)

Best regards,

Thanks for keeping me honest, guys!

And now back to our regularly-scheduled program:

Whoever sent me that spiffy T-Bird from a couple of issues ago still hasn't come forward to claim credit for the photography and I really wish he'd do that. If he, or you (I'm not any too sure how to phrase that) is out there, please get in touch with me so I can credit the photos properly. Please?

In the same vein, I'm always looking for original photography for this site. By now you've probably figured out where the emphasis lies around here, so feel free to get in touch with me at if you have anything you'd like to contribute. It's the right thing to do.

And that's what I know, so be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Some Banshees, Adventures With Bambi, and More From Elmendorf

Playin' That Banjo

A number of American aircraft companies have fallen by the wayside during the past half-century, mostly due to things such as poor business management, mergers, acquistions, and all that other Big Business stuff that's so much a part of our lives these days. One of the better-known victims of that Big Biz silliness was The Little Company That Could; McDonnell Aircraft Corporation. During the relatively short time they existed as an independent company (prior to their merger with Douglas) they produced a series of naval fighters that were at worst competent, and at best world beaters.

That last statement (the one about the world beaters)  refers, of course, to the immortal F4H Phantom in all its many variants, but we're not going to talk about Phantoms today. Nope! Today belongs to The Most Famous Little-Known McDonnell Product of All Time, the F2H Banshee. More specifically, it belongs to the F2H-2 variant, since that was the one most of us would want to model if there were any decent kits to work with beyond the excellent but aged 1/72nd scale Airix offering. There have been other kits, of course, the most significant of which was issued by the late, lamented Hawk company back in the 1950s, but none of those others were very good, Hawk included, and it doesn't look like we're going to get a new "Banjo" anytime soon. Phooey! I said Phooey and I meant Phooey. Phooey!

Now that that's out of the way, let's look at a couple of pictures.

A nice way to start any day! Here's an in-flight of a VMF-122 F2H-2 (BuNo 123266) that demonstrates the clean lines of the airplane. This particular example is sans gas bags and hard points and shows the basic airframe to excellent advantage. The tie-down point on the aft fuselage is of particular interest to modelers because it shows how big that particular component really is; Airfix got it right even though it looks grossly over-sized when you look at the kit. Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Taxiing on the boat. This evocative shot of 123333 depicts a -2 from VF-34 on the Antietam ca. 1953. Of particular interest, at least to me, is the extended barrier probe in front of the windscreen. The airplane is pristine, the tip tanks somewhat less so. The application of Corrogard on the leading edges of the wings and empennage is worth noting. Check out the way that pilot's gold helmet is glinting in the sunlight!  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Coming aboard. This VF-44 F2H-2 is off the Intrepid, ca. 1954. The barrier probe is extended and the hook striping is nicely shown. Of particular interest is the HVAR on the starboard pylon; we can hope it's inert and the pilot isn't bringing a live round back to the boat! An odd thing here is the closed canopy; it was standard procedure to have it open when launching or recovering if the aircraft's design allowed that particular component to be slid back. The Corrogard on the nose of the wing-tanks is shown to advantage. This bird is trimmed in yellow.  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

I don't know about you folks, but I absolutely love photographs like this one! This lineup of Fighting Twelve -2s was photographed at Cecil Field in June of 1954 and shows a number of intriguing  details. Of special interest to the modeler is the wheel well interior and the wing hardpoints. It doesn't get a whole lot prettier than this! Fahey via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

This VF-62 F2H-2 is off the Coral Sea but was photographed at NAS Jacksonville in June, 1954. Like most other Navy aircraft of the 1950s she's spotless! Squadron markings are in white, making for a striking aircraft.  Fahey via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

The Reserves flew the "Banjo" too, as attested to by this photograph of 125024 from the Oakland Reserve unit. She's getting a little long in the tooth and the Glossy Sea Blue is beginning to fade, but she's still every inch a fighter! Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

That old Airfix kit gives the option of converting the kit to an F2H-2P. Here's something you could do with that were you so inclined. A photo Banshee of VMJ-1 (MAW-3) sits on the PSP in Korea, date unknown. Check out the mission markers on that airplane---talk about a high-time airframe! Would somebody please give us a 1/48th scale kit of this bird?!!  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

A four-ship from VMJ-1 formates somewhere over Korea. Pretty airplanes and great form too. Note that only Modex 8 is carrying the squadron's red and white trim; the other three aircraft are overall GSB. That tie down point sure sticks out, doesn't it?  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Another shot taken at JAX in 1954, this shot illustrates an F2H-2P from VC-62. As with most Navy and Marine aircraft of the period she's a Clean Machine, but there's some serious staining evident on the fuselage national insignia. Those aux tanks got scabbed up pretty easily since they were constantly having fuel hoses drug across their surface; a nice detail to remember if you're modeling a photo Banshee. Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Shape of things to come... This F4H-4 "Big Banjo" from VF-11 shows the ultimate evolution of the type; bigger, heavier, more capable, but maybe not quite as pretty. On the other hand, this bird's really tricked out with trim paint and unit badges. Maybe we'll look at some of these supersized Banshee's in a future installment. Anybody interested, or on a more general note, do you have some photographs of your own you'd like to share? You can get in touch with us at if you're so inclined. Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Whitetail Deer Are Good For Supper But Not Much Else

Which means, of course, that you've got to endure yet another There I Was Story. It's a tough life but bear with me; we'll have some more pictures in a minute or two.

So anyway, there we were; Jim and I on our way back from a day-before-the-airshow shoot at Laughlin AFB. The show was apparently a bust, although we didn't go back The Day Of to find out. The pre-show pickings were slim, maybe eight or nine airplanes and all of them something we'd seen and photographed before. It was a great chance to get away with an old and valued friend, but the three-hours-each-way drive from San Antonio to Del Rio just wasn't worth the pain, and we were glad to be going home in Jim's Brand Spanking New Chevrolet Beauville Van. New. Brand new. Shiny. Unsullied by anything more substantial than South Texas insect carcasses, although that was about to change. Read on.

It was twilight and I saw them first; a small heard of Whitetails off to our left as we headed north on Highway 90, and warned Jim to watch out for them. There's no doubt he would've watched out for them too, had they not jumped across that highway at near-supersonic speed, pretty much right in front of us and some 15 feet or so ahead of the aforementioned Brand Spanking New Chevrolet Beauville Van before either of us had time to do anything more than render a maximum-volume rendition of that time-honored portender of Bad Things; OH SMIT! before it all went south.  And Bad Things were indeed about to happen.

As luck would have it we only smacked one deer, but that one was enough to do us in. Bambi's Brother took out the front bumper, grille, hood, air conditioner compressor, and radiator of that van. When the radiator was compromised so was the remainder of our day, since the coolant didn't work very well when it was on the outside of the engine and all of our coolant was rapidly exiting the vehicle, heading for the asphalt beneath us. Nobody was hurt (Good News, that) except for the accursed deer, but we were well and truly stranded with night coming on.

We stood there beside the newly-immobilised van for 15 or 20 minutes when a car finally came by. The driver saw us, stopped, and turned around to see if we were ok. Turns out he was a sergeant assigned to Laughlin returning to the base from a day trip to San Antonio and he'd smacked a deer or two himself in his time. (Everybody does that sooner or later if they live in South Texas long enough.) He couldn't fix the van, of course, but he promised to go find a phone (this all happened during Those Pre-Cellular Dark Ages) and summon help, which he proceeded to do. Another twenty minutes or so passed, and Salvation appeared in the form of a Texas State Trooper. He took a look at us and the remains of the van, ran the ubiquitous plates and license scan, and offered to take us into Uvalde where we could find help. We accepted the offer and jumped into the back of the black and white, ready for further adventures. They weren't long in coming.

The trooper took us to the one towing company in Uvalde where he knew someone would be available to help us. We thanked him, and he went back to his patrolling while we initiated negotiations with The Driver of the Tow Truck. The games were about to begin.

I think we both knew something was wrong when we met our Brand New Best Friend. The trooper had taken us to the house trailer where said BNBF lived, which meant we got to see our BNBF's choice of television viewing material, which in this case turned out to be one of those lady wrestling shows that were so popular back in the 80s. The empty beer bottles and apparent lack of any sort of Mrs. BNBF in the trailer attested to a life style but who were we to judge, and besides; the guy was nice enough and offered to take us, and the somewhat compromised Brand New Chevrolet Beauville Van, the hundred or so miles to San Antonio. We said yes to his offer. We had no choice. Our BNBF hooked up to the van, and we were on our way.

The wrecker itself was pretty normal for its breed; a 4 or 5 year-old Chevy pickup with towing mast and dual rear wheels. It was a little loud, which might've been because of the complete lack of any sort of muffling system, and it was fast because that unmuffled engine was the very biggest one Chevrolet put in a truck at the time---454 whopping American Cubic Inches.

It honestly wasn't so bad that the tow truck was fast, although I've got to admit that I personally had never before ridden in a tow truck that was hooked up to a full-sized van, and neither Jim nor I had ever been in a tow truck of any sort that was rocketing down the road at an indicated 85 mph with a great big honkin' van attached to it.

That could've been, and should've been, the worst of it, but our BNBF was an eye contact sort of a fellow so we spent the next hour and a half blasting down highway 90 while being regaled with stories of all the assorted vehicles he'd pulled out of the bar ditch, and all the rollovers he'd seen, and on and on. He never looked at the road once; not one single time. He was an Eye Contact guy, remember? Prayers were said.

Anyway, we pulled into Jim's driveway sometime around midnight. The tow truck woke up the neighborhood and every single dog, large and small, within it. There was no doubt we were home; Mr 454 made sure of that. But we were home!

So, you might rightfully ask, what's the moral of this story? I can honestly say there isn't one. The shoot was a bust, the van was quite literally a bust, but we were safe. Everybody involved in the incident survived without a scratch except, of course, for that accursed Whitetail Deer (and that was, in the mind of pretty much anybody who lives in South Texas and has smacked a deer with their vehicle, no great loss). Life went on, and we had a pretty good There I Was story to tell.

Those things happen when you're serious about chasing airplanes. It could've been worse.

A Couple More Photos From The Frozen North

New contributor Richard Bitler sent along another image or two from his stay in Alaska, and they're a good way to end the day. Without further ado:

I don't know about you folks, but I've always had a soft spot for the DeHavilland U-6 Beaver. Richard shot this one back in '61; let's hear about it:  Here's U6A, 52-6124 on Skies, after all it's Alaska, April, 1961. Unit unknown. There were a number of U-6s on base and they were all highly polished natural metal with red arctic markings. Note the black under surfaces. The U-6s that the 23rd Infantry Division at Fort Richardson (next to Elmendorf) had were painted white with red arctic markings. During the summer, some of the USAF and US Army U-6s were mounted on floats and taken to a lake on the military reservation and operated off of the lake. I remember seeing a U-6, mounted on floats, minus the wings, on a Air Force flat bed truck being hauled out to that lake. How I wish I had a slide of that.  Richard Bitler

Here's one you don't see every day...  VC-137C, Air Force One, SAM 26000, June 1960. President Eisenhower was on board the aircraft when he stopped at Elmendorf on his way to Japan. The 707 to the right carried the press corps. Note the orange Presidential scheme. All of the photos I've seen of VC-137s attached to the Presidential flight are in the blue and white scheme for Presidential air craft. Also, this may not be a C model. It could be an earlier VC-137A due to the date the slide was taken.

We haven't done a whole lot with rotary wings to this point, but this one's really special. Let's hear what Richard had to say about it: An H-21B Shawnee (Flying Banana). I did not take this slide. It's a copy of a slide taken by one of the guys in my outfit, so, I don't have the S/N and I don't know the unit. I believe there were two H-21s on base. And I'm not sure, but this may not be a B model, it could be an A. The date on my slide is Jan. 1961.

Thanks again for sharing these, Richard. What neat airplanes!

The Relief Tube

First, a quick comment from Richard Bitler regarding the images he sent us last time around:

Here's something for the Relief Tube about the photos of the T-33 and RB-57 I sent you. The leading edge of the wings on both the T-33 and RB-57  in the photos is unpainted natural metal. The leading edge of the rudder, on both a/c, is light gray.

And finally, here's the usual plea to keep those cards, letters, and airplane pictures coming to . Meanwhile, be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Some 45th Thunderstreaks, More From Alaska, More ANG Mustangs, Nordam Decals, and a Big P-40

I Got a Thing For Polka Dots, Ya'll

Which means, of course, that we're talking about the world-famous (at one time, anyway) 45th Tactical Recon Squadron from Misawa AB, Japan! Everybody remembers the Polka Dots' RF-101s, probably more because Hasegawa put markings for them in intial release of their 1/72nd scale RF-101C kit than for any other reason, although it's possible that some remember them from their Korean War days in RF-51s and RF-80s as well. What more than a few people probably don't know (or remember, which is pretty much the same thing in my book) is that the 45th also had a romance with Republic's RF-84F during their time with the 39th Air Division at Misawa. Dave Menard was kind enough to share some images with us, so let's see what the Polka Dots looked like in their Thunderstreaks!

Oh yeah, I probably ought to mention that the 45th operated at least one hand-me-down RF-84K in addition to their more conventional F-models. Here's what Dave had to say about that:

Since you asked, here is what I know. At least one RF-84K was palmed off on the 45th TRS that I know of. Have no idea why or how many came to Misawa and possibly Kadena for use by the sister 15th TRS, but when SAC got rid of them, suspect that TAC did not want them, nor USAFE, so stuck PACAF with them. I had a 4x5 air to ground negative taken over Misawa's ramp during an inspection of some kind and all of the 45th RF-84Fs were lined up wing tip to wing tip along the eastern edge of that huge ramp. There on the end was a K, 254, I believe, but the neg was too damned "thin" to print! One could read the tail numbers on some of the a/c with a good glass but printing was impossible, darn it.

Heard from an old 45th head that when that K landed at Misawa, the tower informed the pilot he must have landed too hard as the stabs had bent down from the excessive force! One would need to get their hands on all of the record cards for all the Ks to find out where they wound up. MICH ANG got several and I think IOWA ANG also..............

Enjoy these now! cheers, dave

Here's a two-ship from the 45th in flight over Northern Honshu---pretty rugged down there, isn't it? This classic shot has been published before but shows the 45ths polka dot treatment as applied to the RF-84F to good advantage. Menard Collection

Another polka dot in flight. 887 looks pretty Plain Jane until you look under the "U.S. Air Force" legend on the nose. There's a really tasty lightning flash there, apparently in red. I'll bet there's a name on the other side too. Why, you might ask, do I think that?  Menard Collection

Here's why! It's a three-ship from the 45th in flight over the northern Pacific, and they all have names on the nose. 926 appears to say "Bandit" and there's art to go with the name, although you can't really see it in this shot. 900 is "Mr. Magoo", also with appropriate artwork, while 926 is, unfortunately, impossible for me to read in this shot. Anybody know what those names are? Drop me a line at if you do. We'd love to see these up close! Menard Collection

Before we go, it's only fair to tell you that MicroScale once did an RF-84F decal sheet and there are markings for a bird from the 45th included thereon. I don't remember if there's nose art on it or not (and am frankly far too lazy to go dig that sheet out of the hundreds of other MicroScale decals in The Airplane Room) but those polka dots are a darned good start, and the 1/48th scale kit of the Thunderflash isn't nearly as bad as the internet might lead you to believe it to be. I smell a project...

More Birds From Seward's Ice Box

A couple of installments ago we ran some T-33 photos taken at Elmendorf in the early 70s. One of our readers was stationed there a few years earlier than that time frame and sent in a couple of really tasty shots for us to admire. Let's take a look at what Richard Bitler has contributed to our Silver Air Force project:

The T-33s in your blog a few weeks ago brought back some memories and sent me digging through my slides that I took while stationed at Elmendorf, AFB from Dec. 1959 to Dec. 1961. I've attached a copy of one of the slides of T-33A, 56-1662. The date on my slide is Feb. 1961. Note the arctic scheme in orange instead of the usual red. All of the T-33s at Elmendorf at this time were in the same scheme. I have no idea when the scheme was changed from orange to red. And I have no idea what the object is on the underside of the fuselage near the trailing edge of the wing. Maybe some of you readers can shed some light on this.

Also attached is a copy of a slide I thought you'd be interested in, that was taken the same day, of two of the three RB-57As that were also at Elmendorf, 52-1466 and 52-4163. Unfortunately, I don't have the SN of the third one. Note the heavy black "line", on the wing tank just forward of where the orange ends. I remember seeing a crew chief remove a large circular filter from that slot after one of the a/c had returned from a mission. Also, there was an opening in the front of the wing tank. I guess that was air sampling. I stood up in the bed of a pick-up once, and got a look at the upper surfaces of the wings. The National Insignia was outlined in natural metal but the orange was continued around the "USAF", similar to what you see on the F-89s with the Arctic Red scheme. I assume the wings on the T-33s were the same. As you can see both a/c were in very clean condition. As to the unit these a/c belong to, I really can't say. Going through my notes, which are not all that good, the best I can come up with is the 5070th Air Defense Wing. Again, maybe some of your readers can shed more light on the unit(s).
Beauty! The unit's unknown but 56-1622 is absolutely gorgeous in that arctic conspicuity paint. She ended her days in Pakistan but was every inch a member or the Silver Air Force when Richard photographed her back in '61!  Richard Bitler

Not a T-Bird but my-oh-my! These RB-57As are a real treat, pudding bowl canopies and all. These aircraft were apparently used for air sampling---remember, this was back in the days when everybody did their nuclear weapons testing above ground. These Martin RBs just may win the prize today! Richard, thanks for sharing!  Richard Bitler
You Can't See Much, But You Gotta Like What's There!

I figured we'd hear something from the Morgan Boys after we ran those MOANG Mustangs a few installments back,  but I didn't expect this. Here's what frequent contributor Mark Morgan had to say about a really neat photo:

Enjoyed the MOANG photo sequence, here's something from across the river: two F-51Hs of the INANG 113th FIS, launching from Scott,  photo, taken prior to the 113th returning to state control and the activation of the 85th FIS in its stead.  I pulled the photo out of the 375th Air Mobility Wing archives.  MK
You can't really see much of the airplanes, but it's a pretty neat photo all the same. The P-51Hs have rocket rails under the wings; the Mustang wasn't much in the air-to-mud arena but that wouldve been her role by the time this shot was taken. Check out that ramp in front of the hangar!  375th AMW via Mark Morgan

Once More Into the WayBack Machine

which was, if I remember correctly, a regular part of the old (and treasured, at least by me) "Rocky and Bullwinkle Show". It's also a pretty good way to introduce our next segment, which concerns a decal brand I'll bet most of you have never heard of; Nordam.

I think I paid fifty cents for these decals back in 1968, and was darned glad to get them. I never did get around to building the Corsair to put them on, which would've been a detailed Hawk kit, I think, but I've kept the stickies all these years. If memory serves they haven't yellowed any, because they looked like that when I bought them from Dibble's Arts and Hobbies in San Antonio. And yes, I was danged happy to get them!

Nowadays most decal instructions are printed in the four-color process, and some even include photographs of the subjects covered. Things were a little bit different back in the 60s. Nordam apparently did at least three other sheets, since this one is Br-4, but I don't have a clue what they might be. These decals were somebody's labor of love, no doubt about it. It was a simpler time...

A Second Look at a Big Honkin' P-40, But Not the One You Thought It Would Be

It's been three years, give or take, since Hasegawa released their 1/32nd scale P-40E Warhawk kit. I was impressed with it the first time I saw it (and considered it to be the quantum leap that it is over the 1968-vintage Revell effort in this scale), but apparently most people weren't, since you almost never see them built. That's a pity, because it's a darned good kit. Let's take a look:

Hasegawa P-40E Warhawk, 1/32 Scale, Kit # ST29

We’ve needed a good 1/32nd P-40E forever, it seems. The Revell offering of same dates back to 1968; it was one of that esteemed company’s first three offerings in the scale. It was a ground-breaking model when it was new and it’s still possible to build an outstanding replica from the kit, but it definitely shows its age and getting a good model from it requires more than a little bit of experience on the part of the builder. In point of fact, your never-humble reviewer had one on the stack, ready to start, when Hasegawa announced the impending release of theirs. It’s a good kit. It’s also over forty years old, so it’s time we had a new one, right?

OK then, we’ve determined we needed a new P-40E in 1/32nd, and a new one we now have, so what have we got?

Well, here's what we've got, for starters. I've never understood that whole "here's the box with all the pieces in it" school of thought, and I honestly don't care how many parts there are in that box either. Me, I'm just interested in what I can make out of the kit, so here's a photo of same. This is my representation of Preddy's "Tarheel" while with the 9th FS/49th FG ca. early 1942 near Darwin.

Let’s get the negative stuff out of the way first. They messed up the windscreen big-time by putting in an extra, totally nonexistent frame on each side. Some have surmised that they were trying to replicate the clear vision window that appears on the port side of the windscreen of the P-40L through N but messed up and put it on both sides instead. That may be what happened, but there’s another possibility too; I say that because the window etched in that windscreen has no similarity at all to the one found on the later ‘Hawks. Take a look at page 19 of Hess’ 49th Fighter Group, Aces of the Pacific, Osprey, 2004; there’s a photo there of Tom Fowler sitting in a P-40E at Darwin during 1942. Look at the windscreen, and you’ll see the “extra” frame, after which you’ll notice that it’s actually the windscreen bow, and it’s on the other side of the cockpit. It looks like an extra frame because of the angle of the photo, but it isn’t one. I’m thinking that photos like that one, plus a dollop of inaccurate drawings, led somebody to add this particular spurious feature to the kit. The Good News is that it’s entirely fixable; it took your correspondent (that would be me, for those of you not blessed with the gift of Victorian hyperbole) approximately 30 minutes to fix the canopy by the simple expedient of sanding out the old frames (taking care not to sand a flat in the windscreen) and hitting them with successively finer grades of polishing paper until the kit part was all shiny and clear again. It couldn't be an easier thing to fix.

Here's a shot of the place where that evil, wicked, mean and nasty extra windscreen frame used to live. It took all of 30 minutes to make it go away using 600g sandpaper and a succession of polishing cloths. Those shoulder harnesses are from some generic Eduard side of US belts and yes, Virginia, they are properly drooped, and mounted, behind the seat frame. That ring sight came from a set of brass ring and bead sights that may have been made by True Details, although I honestly can't remember. They were sold as 1/48th scale parts, but I think they work better here. That's a big honkin' piece of South Texas House Dust that's partially obscuring the serial placard on the fus and no; I'm not going to go back and re-shoot this. You're stuck with what you've got...

A lot of folks have said nice things about the level of detailing in the cockpit, and it is indeed a nicely detailed cockpit. It is also, however, not entirely accurate and is oversimplified to boot. This is pretty much in line with what seems to be the standard from Hasegawa as far as 1/32nd scale cockpits are concerned: Provide an adequate, if not great, cockpit, and let the modeler replace it if they think they need more. Strange as it may seem, I don’t disagree with that philosophy at all. The stock cockpit is adequate for most needs, there’s always that Eduard photoetch set, and maye even a resin cockpit, although I'm not sure of that. You could also use the kit-supplied pilot figure if you wanted to dodge that particular bullet. He’s definitely not your Hasegawa Pilot Figure of Yore; this guy is excellent, well up to standard, and would make a worthy addition to the model were you so inclined. I wasn't, but that’s just how I am. You might like having the little guy in there.

You can see a little bit of the cockpit here, and also see how the color has shifted due to the position of my lighting. The cockpit detail is more than adequate if somewhat spurious in a few places, and there's little need to invest in aftermarket unless you're planning on entering your model in competition. A set of belts and harnesses are a necessity in this scale, but a set of generic Eduard belts should fix you right up. One other thing while we're here; Hasegawa gives you lenses for the little blue navigation lights that were on the really early P-40s up through the "D" model. They don't belong on a production "E" and need to be installed, sanded smooth, and painted with the rest of the airframe.

Here's the other side showing, what else; the other side of the cockpit. Notice that the aforementioned South Texas House Dust cluster is now gone. Check out those tubular exhaust stacks. They're kit stock and look pretty good, I think. As a bonus, you get another view of where that spurious windcreen frame used to be in this shot.

Our final gripe, and it’s really more of a comment than a complaint, concerns the exhaust stacks. They’re entirely correct, beautifully molded, and fit like a glove. They look great on the model too, but some later E-models came with fishtail exhaust stacks, and all the kit provides are the earliest, tubular style. That will limit markings options to some extent—take a look at any of the several histories on the 49th FG and you’ll see what we mean. The 49th was probably the first outfit to be successful with the Warhawk in combat and they were initially equipped with very early E-models (including a fair number of “export” aircraft), but examination of photos shows both styles of exhaust treatments on their airplanes at Darwin. There's an opportunity for QuickBoost, I think...

Here's a better shot of the exhaust stacks. They're each made up of two pieces and the seam mimics the seam on the Real Thing, the end result being a nice set of early P-40E exhaust stacks. Check out that nose art; Milton Bell mad that dragon decal for me before anybody had come out with aftermarket for this kit. Thanks, Milton!

There's been a lot of criticism of the way Hasegawa designed the fuselage on this kit, with some folks citing (and complaining about) the modular approach the manufacturer have taken with the thing. I strongly suspect that the folks doing most of the complaining haven’t actually built the kit yet, because all those pieces fit, and fit well. I was able to simply press the fuselage panels into place after they’d been cleaned up, then run a little cement in the seams and sand them smooth. The two halves of the tail are a little bit sloppy in their fit, it’s true, but they aren’t so bad that application of a little Modeling 101 won’t fix things toot sweet. You’ll also have to smooth out the lower aft fuselage after you’ve plugged the two holes back there, but that’s no big deal either. There goes another Cherished Myth Born of Internet Modeling right down the old tubes—the Hasegawa Warhawk is extremely buildable right from the box.

This is something I did that you might want to try for yourself. The kit provides a lot of little clear parts you can use to replace the molded-on nav lights with. I don't like the way they look, so I paint the nav lights flat white, and then hit them with the appropriate Tamiya clear (but tinted) acrylic color. I think the effect looks pretty good, but you might not agree with that, in which case I invite you not to do it. That wire is part of the IFF suite that graced the early P-40s. It didn't hang around for long, and I honestly don't know if George Preddy's No. 85 had it or not, but it certainly could have so I modeled it. Once again, if you don't want to...

There are the usual optional “not for use” parts on the trees, and we can hope that the E, K, and N models released to this point won't end up being the end of the line for this particular family of kits. A bomb and a drop tank provided for external stores. Hasegawa also supply us with the ring and bead sight that sat on the forward fuselage of every P-40E ever built, but the ring part of that ensemble is an unusable blob of solid plastic—replace it with an etched one out of your aftermarket collection and move on.

The wheel wells are adequately detailed, but you should know that the P-40E was fitted with canvas wheel well liners at the factory so you may not see much of that particular detail at all, depending on how you choose to model that area of the airplane. The flaps are molded up, which is a Good Thing in our books since few real airplanes are parked with flaps down, certain North American Aviation products notwithstanding. The main gear struts are modeled properly, being compressed but not overly so, and the model has that P-40 “sit” to it.

It's a Big Ole' P-40, ya'll. George Preddy flew two different No. 85s with the 49th; this is the early one that was lost in the training collision that resulted in the death of Lt. Sauber near Darwin. The airplane had "TARHEEL" painted on the left side of the nose, which I replicated using dry transfers. The 49th FG's "Java Flight" (made up from survivors of that campaign) had the "Java Dragon" painted on the right side of the nose, while the spinners of the "Dragon Flight" aircraft have been described as being painted red. Surviving photos, at least the ones I've seen, are all in black and white but seem to show the front half of the spinner in a different color from the back part, so that's how this one was done. It makes sense to me. About three months after I finished this model one of the decal companies came out with markings for this airplane. Ain't it always the way?

All the clear bits are provided, including a fair number that you may opt not to use (for the nav lights) or be instructed to omit or paint over. Such is the nature of The Modular Hawk. One thing you probably will like is the way the quarter panel windows and windscreen are handled (those accursed extra frames notwithstanding). Hasegawa’s approach to these components makes short work of a normally tricky part of any P-40 build. The actual canopy is provided twice to cater for either an open or closed canopy. Whichever you choose, sand off the little triangular doublers found at the base of the windscreen back by the canopy. Those show up on later P-40 variants, but generally not on the E model.

Surface detail on the airframe is subdued and appropriate, and could provide a standard for other manufacturers to follow. In keeping with their more recent efforts, Hasegawa have molded the holes in the ends of the blast tubes for the guns, a nice touch for sure and one that kept me from drilling off-center holes in 6 guns—YES!!! Dimensions are right in there, and the model looks like a P-40 once done. Furthermore, everything fits. Amost no filler was used in the construction of this thing. (And regarding filler, there are 5 little panels in the nose that do have to be filled in for an accurate E. Hase shows you which ones to fill; it just can’t get much easier than that!)

Hasegawa likes to give you little bitty clear pieces that don't belong on the airplane. One of them used to live in the front of that landing gear knuckle, but it doesn't belong there. Fill it in, sand it smooth, and paint over it. Looks like the Dreaded Color Shift is back, huh?

Decals are provided for two aircraft; John Landers’ “Texas Longhorn” (ET601) from the 9th FS/49th FG ca. 1942, and Ed Rector’s #104 from the 76th FS/23rd FG as operated during July of 1942. Those decals are a little thick by contemporary standards but lay right down when applied and are perfectly usable, far better in fact than Hase's poor (and largely unfounded) reputation for crummy decals would suggest. This last is a Good Thing, since there are few aftermarket decals in production for the P-40E in this scale, at least not right now this minute.

All things said, I like this kit, and I like it a lot. The shortcomings, and in particular that goofy windscreen treatment, guarantee that this is only a really good kit, but not a great one. It could’ve been great, you know, and it wouldn’t have taken much effort for Hasegawa to do it. Still, it’s got to be one of the best P-40 models ever done, and it’s a worthy stable mate for Hase’s quarter-scalers. Thanks, Hasegawa!

The Relief Tube

Well, once again I've missed the obvious on a Navy airplane (and am really surprised we didn't hear about it from Tommy or Rick!). Here's a correction on one of those F4D shots from Mark Nankivil:

...the posts you made earlier with the Skyrays should be VF-23 for the one being refueled. The Skyray did have a quartet of 20mm cannons along with the Sidewinders. That's my Father on the VF(AW)-5 example. My friend Mark Frankel has a book coming out from Specialty Press on the Skyray and Skylancer - I've reviewed some of the chapters and provided some of the photos in the book including the cover photo which was from a slide my Father shot 53 years ago! Sure glad I kept them safe all these years.

We ran a shot of a Warbird last time around, and I knew the caption would get a comment or two. Valued friend and one-time mentor Maddog John Kerr has been shooting Warbirds ever since I've known him and had this to say about that:

Yes Phil, it is me, old warbird lover, and yes I agree that a lot of them are no where close to correcting markings, paintjobs radios, etc.  However, you need to come out the darkness and check out some of the great restorations of the past 10-12 years.  Old Mad Dog.

John included a shot of a restored Brewster FG-1 that definitely looked like The Real Deal, but he didn't take the picture so I didn't run it. I'm holding out for some Maddog originals on this one! How about it, Maddog?

And That's What I Know

Which means it must be That Time again. Be good to your neighbor and we'll see you again real soon!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

More From Misawa, On Warbirds, Tulsa Stratojets, More of That Warhawk, a Late Lightning, a Shape, and Getting Some Relief

Back to the North Country (Northern Japan, That Is)

Without further ado, or any ado at all for that matter, here are another couple of images from Misawa AB, Japan, taken during the late 1950s/early 1960s. Misawa was a humming sort of place back then, and seemingly a haven for all sorts of neat airplanes. Let's look.

A "Hun" on the ramp. Not too colorful, but a "Hun" nontheless. 56-3333 was an F-100D-90-NA, photographed shortly after her assignment to the 39th AD (most likely the 531st TFS) during the winter of 1964. Dave Menard was on the ramp trying not to get "detained" for taking this shot, while I was a sophomore at Misawa HS a half-mile away. 3333 was later converted to QF-100D status and expended. Long ago and far away...   A1C David Menard

This "Hun's" a little more like we'd expect to see. F-100D-40-NA 55-2870 was also expended as a QF-100D drone at the end of her life, but she's in all her 531st TFS livery in this shot. Sharing the ramp with her is F-102A-50-CO 55-3463 of the 4th FIS. That's the base steam plant in the background. Misawa's ramp was usually well patrolled and closed to non-authorized personnel, which makes me wonder about the two Japanese civilians visible in front of the small building on the left.   Menard Collection

I think we can safely say we've saved the best for last! SB-17G 43-39361 was built as a B-17G-110-BO, then converted to SB-17 configuration post-War. This shot was taken near base ops at Misawa in 1950, making it contemporary with some of the F-80s we looked at last time around. That must have been a fascinating ramp!  M. Zelnak via Menard

We Don't Do Warbirds Around Here, Except for This Time

A lot of my friends like Warbirds, and I have a couple of friends who prefer them to almost any other form of aviation. Me, I could take 'em or leave 'em, mostly because I don't much care for the way they get restored. If you're wondering what that might mean, try thinking of your average Warbird as a Great Big Model Airplane, being painted and marked by the person building same. Sometimes the results are pretty good, but sometimes they aren't, and it honestly kills my soul to see a vintage airplane all tarted up looking like a badly-done model airplane.

You could counter, of course, by saying that each airplane is privately owned and the owner gets to do what they want. I'd certainly agree with that notion, but my personal preference is to do it Right if you're going to do it at all, and a lot of warbirds just look odd to me. The modern com gear and associated antennae don't help, and I don't much care for those "N" numbers either, even though they're both necessary and, generally, tiny. It's a personal preference and nothing more. (On the other hand, we do get to hear and see them fly, for which I say a great big THANK YOU to all the folks who take the time and spend the money to keep those treasures in the air!)

That said, today I'm going to offer up a photo of a Warbird for your consideration:

Hoo-hah! If you have to own a Warbird, this is the way to do it. This sort of thing could almost make me like Warbirds!
Don Jay

On the Ramp at Douglas Tulsa

The old Douglas facility in Tulsa was quite an operation while in its prime, although a lot of folks aren't all that familiar with the place. It may therefore come as a surprise that a fair number of Boeing B-47s were built there under contract, while a bunch of them were overhauld and modded there as well. MarkNankivil sent these shots in several months ago, and todays a good day to run them.

There may be one or two of you out there who don't know what a nose dock is. This shot explains the concept better than words could ever do; a ramp full of B-47s are undergoing what would amount to IRAN on the Douglas ramp. At least three different fiscal year's worth of production are represented here. Of interest is the B-47 recovering on the active runway in the background.  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Pretty birds all in a row. These Stratojets are of interest because they show us yet another sort of nose dock---that's two different kinds to use in a diorama, ya'll. Note the legend "Mod Unit" painted over the numbers on the aft fuselage. These B-47s are being reworked.  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Sometimes You Just Get Bored, Ya Know?

Which is what's happened to me with two different projects (three, actually; theres that still-not-finished A-4C that we started this whole thing with almost a year ago). I've just gotten bored. Not burned out, I don't think, but seriously, severely bored.

First up in the Boredom Sweepstakes is that big P-40N I've been working on. It's almost done, in point of fact it's so close to finished that you can almost smell it, but I've ground to a stop on the thing. It's probably the masking of that doggoned spinner---the bottom half came out just fine but I've re-done the tip twice now and I'm still not happy with it. I've also been balking on the canopy and windscreen, both of which are easy enough to mask because of the way Hasegawa designed the kit (all the frames are engraved). That one falls into the realm of the cosmically unexplained; I just don't feel like doing it.

Anyway, here's where we got to before the project ran out of steam:

It's on its gear, has most of its decals, and now sports twelve, count-'em; twelve, individual exhaust stacks up there on the nose. A lot of the weathering has been done and it's been squirted with DullCote. In this view you can't really see what a mess the spinner is, but it comes right off of there and will soon be repainted. Well, maybe not soon, but it will be repainted. Someday. Those Zotz decals were interesting to work with too; the nose are went on as good as any decals I've ever used, while the national insignia suffered from a little bit of silvering, an issue that was ultimately resolved with the application of full-strength SolvaSet. Go figure.

If you saw one side you have to see the other. That awful spinner demarcation is shown to advantage (?) here, but the view also shows us the nice tire/wheel ensemble provided with the kit. All P-40 wheels were spoked alloy, but the pre-N versions mostly seem to have worn wheel covers. The wheels, and therefore the tires as well, on the P-40N were of a smaller diameter than those that came before, this being because the N-model was a "lightweight" variant of the Warhawk. The Hase kit gives both early (big, as found on their P-40E and K offerings) and late wheels, a nice touch. I didn't manage to mess up the demarcation on the wheels, although in fairness that's mostly because the wheels themselves are separate components, not molded to the tires. Yay, Hasegawa!

The sharp-eyed among you may also notice that the images are a little soft this time. That's because Jenny just got me a Brand Spanking New Digital Camera and I don't have a clue how to use it yet. This is what happens when you close your eyes and jump right in. It'll get better...

And the Other One I Burned Out On

Everybody builds a P-38 sooner or later, and nobody builds more than one, or at least nobody I know does. I think that's because the airframe is a pain in the wazoo to model, with alignment issues abounding in most kits. This one got started over a year ago, and it's been sitting like this for the past six months. All it needs is some touch-up and its transparencies but, once again, it's stuck where it is.

This photograph has been deleted by the staff of RIS.  ed.

Here's Hasegawa's P-38G marked as "Hold Everything" from the 431st FS/475th FG ca. 1943. The decals are AeroMaster (the decal company that some of the Internet Experts love to hate) and went on without a hitch. They're a lot more accurate than I could've done by hand, and gave me an opportunity to build a colorful mid-War SWPA Lightning from the Pacific's premier P-38 outfit. The kit doesn't quite have that characteristic P-38 "squat" and the mlg doors are a bear to align, but otherwise it wasn't a tough build at all. The Hase Lightning kits have a reputation for being difficult but I'm here to tell you it just ain't so! They do have too many pieces in some areas, but if you're the least bit careful you end up with something that sure looks like a P-38.

Here's the whole reason for this model getting built. Almost everything our side flew in the Pacific ended up looking beat to pieces after a short period of operating off dirt airfields in the tropical sun. This P-38 is actually an exercise in fading; there are at least four shades of OD, plus a little zinc chromate primer courtesy of a colored pencil (lightly sprayed-over with one of those afore-mentioned olive drabs so simulate paint worn down to primer) on that airframe. I think it looks ok but I'm not quite done with it yet. Time will tell. Time might also tell if the transparencies ever get painted...

Almost a Boring Airplane

Sometimes you come into a photo that's just plain boring until you start paying attention to what it is. Here's an example:

143562, an FJ-4B from VA-216, is about as Plain-Jane an airplane as you can get. This example is on the static line at an early-60s airshow and is nothing to write home about until you notice what's hanging underneath it. I'll guarantee you nobody at that airshow knew what it was! (PC? What's PC?)  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Here's another one that's pretty boring; this time it's an FJ-4B from VA-146 in flight. The shot's of interest to us because of the weathering on the pylons (note the Mil-P-8585 Zinc Chromate showing through) and the Corrogard on the leading edges. Although the shot's a little soft, it also gives us a fair idea of stencil placement, even though you can't actually read them.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried
VF-216 again, and still no squadron markings! There's a colored fin tip but that's just about it---143569 is just about as plain a fighter as you'll ever see. We've included it because it provides a lot of detail for the modeler. The sharp-eyed among you (and I'm presuming that to be just about everybody) will notice the lack of underwing stations. I'll bet the FJ was a joy to fly in this condition!  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

And one final FJ-4B shot, just to show we haven't given up on colorful airplanes. This VF-151 bird is sitting in the static line at yet another un-named airshow, but this time sans hardpoints and with a little bit of color. The squadron markings are subdued and tasteful and really work well with the Fury's lines. The tiny little stars around the tail of the big star are a nice touch.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

The Relief Tube

We've got a couple of comments and corrections ( ) to share with you this week. Let's see what's going on:

First, from Don Jay:  Hi Phil, Just looked at your latest edition of replica in scale. Some info for you:

The T-birds are not mine but I can help to pinpoint the time frame for you as between 10/78 and 4/79. In the background of -3679 is 53-5285 which arrived 10/78 and departed 4/79. I think (caution) that all the T-Birds belonged to the 21st Composite Wing. They were used for targets, ecm-spoofers, liaison, and to keep  (the) HQ staff happy with some flying time. Thanks Don! Now, will the real owner of those T-Bird photos please stand up?!

And a kudo from a reader known only as Yeepie Jeepy:

I've always loved the FJ-4. I'm not sure why. they look pretty ungainly on the ground with that long nose wheel strut. On the other hand, they look really good in flight. Kinda like the Sabre Jet's brawny cousin. Thanks for sharing the pics.

Thanks Yeepie, and thanks for giving me a chance to define something for our readers. Although most blog sites allow reader comments with moderation (or sometimes without---how crazy is that?), we don't do that around here. I mention this so nobody takes offense if a comment doesn't show up on the blog---we'd love to hear from you but please send your comments to rather than to the comments part of the blog. It's easier for me to deal with it that way since this is still a one-person show. And I couldn't agree more with Yeepy about the FJ!

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