Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Unglamorous Guppy, The Hog in the Corps, and Mo Mustangs

Gotta Love That Buckeye

If you were around American naval aviation in the 1970s, 80s, or 90s, you probably saw a whole bunch of North American T-2 Buckeyes flying around. Several hundred were built, and a fair number of my friends learned to fly jets on them. They were, to put it mildly, a ubiquitous airplane.

Unfortunately, they were also an airplane that was badly neglected by the modeling world, with the only injected representation of it being the now-aging (but still perfectly buildable) Matchbox kit in 1/72nd scale. Anyway, that's how it was until now. Our Czech friends over at Special Hobby have just released what appears to be an absolutely gorgeous kit of one of our favorite airplanes, although we have to admit that gorgeous part is an in-the-box assessment; the truth is yet to be told (which in translation means we have to build the thing!). Anyway, we/me/I got pretty excited last weekend when I saw the kit on the shelf at King's , and grabbed it immediately. Once we/me/I got home from that adventure we drug out some slides, not for ourselves but for our readers. Here, Friends o' Mine, are a whole bunch of reasons to build yourself a "Guppy". With any luck we can consider it to be Inspiration!

The month was June, the year was 1983, and this VT-26 Buckeye (158583) was getting a going-over before being hooked to a tug and taken back to the line at Chase Field. The airplane typifies the T-2C in squadron service; most of them were pretty plain aircraft once you got past the orange trim. If you wanted to build yourself a straight-up, everyday working TraCom bird, this one would be a pretty good choice.  Friddell

Here's a variation on the theme, this time from Kingsville's VT-23. She wasn't a fast mover in the traditional sense, and she wasn't a combat veteran either, but the "Guppy" produced a whole pack of Navy and Marine aviators who went on to get themselves in harm's way, as the cable news folks love to say. My friend Frank Garcia had a good eye, don't you think? I really like what he did with this shot, and wish he were still with us. We lost a pretty good photographer when Frank went West, ya'll.  Frank Garcia

Somebody (Verlinden, maybe?) used to make a tug and towbar set that would allow an enterprising modeler to duplicate 158594 from VT-26 being towed back to the line. We've seen more than a few dioramas of jet aircraft being towed with only a crewman on the tug, completely ignoring the fact that there's always someone in the cockpit on the brakes, at least at naval air stations. It's a point worth remembering.  Friddell

Every once in a while you'd find a "Guppy" with a little extra color. 156703, a Charlie-model from VT-19, is wearing a cheat line and a squadron badge while transient at Selfridge, where Ron Kowalzyk shot her in April of 1984. Once again note how simple the markings are, and how pretty the airplane is.  The "Guppy" was a pretty neat airplane, ya'll.  Kowalzyk

Of course, you don't have to stop with cheat lines and squadron badges---you can get a little whimsical too, as demonstrated by this VT-9 bird. We've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating---this airplane was not assigned to the Lexington. This particular aircraft was used for CarQuals, and ended up with the boat's name on the side as a result. In actual fact the "Lex" didn't have fixed-wing assets permanently assigned to her while she was a training carrier. It's something to remember. Oh yeah, and 064 was from VT-9 and was photographed on VA-45's ramp at NAS Key West in 1981.  R. Morgan

It's a fact that a swept-wing jet can't turn with a straight-winged jet, which may have been a small measure of justification for assigning the "Guppy" to VA-43 for use as an adversary back in 1983. Whatever the rational, it made for an unusual-looking airplane, to say the least. Friddell Collection

Here's a different flavor of camo on yet another VA-43 bird. She was getting ready to go up to play with that "Scooter" that's beginning to taxi out behind her when Rick Morgan took this study at Oceana in November of 1989 while he was flying as ECMO 1 in a Prowler. In our opinion this is one seriously neat photo!  R. Morgan

Then again, maybe you don't care much for camo, but prefer a somewhat more colorful aircraft. If that's the case, this "Guppy's" for you! 157057 was a BiCi bird from VT-26, photographed during 1979, and is wearing a name ("City of Beeville") in addition to her red, white, and blue paint job. This airplane could be The Test of All Tests as far as a modeler's painting skills are concerned. Anybody game?  Frank Garcia

1986 saw the 75th anniversary of naval aviation, and more than a few airplanes ended up with commemorative paintwork as a result, as demonstrated by this Buckeye I photographed at NAS Corpus Christi during April of 1986. She was a looker!  Friddell

This particular "Guppy" was a dual-purpose commemorative aircraft, celebrating both the 75th anniversary of naval aviation and the Texas Sesquicentennial all at the same time. She was from TraWing 2 and was flying out of Beeville when I photographed her at a Bergstrom air show in 1986. Kinda pretty, don't you think?  Friddell

So, what's the Buckeye all about? Ask any naval aviator who was trained during the last three decades of the last century. He or she'll tell you. Or maybe you can figure it out by looking at this picture.  D. Balcer

Or maybe this one.  R. Morgan

There was a time when she was the Big Thing in a young naval aviator's life.  Friddell

She's gone now, like so many fine airplanes before her. Time and technology did her in, but she's a lasting memory for thousands of Navy and Marine aviators. Go build that kit, ya'll, and pay a little tribute to The Mighty "Guppy". She was quite an airplane.  Friddell

Wartime "Hogs"

This isn't really a naval aviation issue, although you may be thinking it is given our choice of topics so far. Look at from the perspective that we're on a roll and everything's ok, right? Right! That said, it's time to take a look at one of our favorite Naval fighters from the Second World War, the Chance Vought F4U Corsair. Some of the images you're about to see are unique and, so far as we know, previously unpublished. They're all photos of Marine birds (always a Good Thing) and come from the Rocker archives. Let's see what we've got!

Guadalcanal was a relatively calm place by the time the Corsair began operations from the island, but it was still far from being a rest area. If you were an aviator Adventure was always close at hand, and the "Hog" was kept busy flying combat missions over the Solomons until well into 1943. In this photo we see Marine Major Weissenberger manning up at Fighter Two on that stinking island. Since we don't know the date we don't know the unit either, but the picture definitely tells a story. Check out the strap hanging out of the cockpit and the missing tailhook, both points to consider for a model. Rocker Collection

Every once in a while we run into a photograph that's simply exceptional in every way, and this is one of them. The caption identifies the aircraft as being from VMF-213, but the badge on her fuselage is that of VMF-122, who weren't at Munda. Smart money says she was transferred from -122 to -214 after a stint at The Canal. However she got there, she's been pretty badly shot up; take a look at her wing and aft canopy. Somebody brought this one home after a really bad day at the office. The "Hog" could take it! Oh yeah, and check out her cowling too---the name "George" is barely visible there. What a neat airplane!  Rocker Collection

VMF-218 had their Birdcage -1s at Borakoma when this photo was taken in 1943. The Japanese were a foe to be taken seriously from the first day of the war until the very last, but there were other enemies out there as well. One look at 465 shows how quickly the climate and operational conditions could wear out a perfectly good fighter. Those of you who model might want to check out the leading edges of those prop blades for an idea of how they wear in an abrasive environment. It's easy to get that one wrong.  Rocker Collection

So you say you want to weather your model? OK, then; here's your chance. Check out this Birdcage sitting on the deck at the Turtle Bay airstrip on Espiritu Santo, paying particular attention to the lower sides of her aft fuselage. Can you spell "MUDDY"? Yes, Virginia; the SWPAC was a muddy place. Here's the proof!  Rocker Collection

Greg Boyington was a legend during the war and became even more of one in post-War years, although revisionist historians have tried to diminish that legend as time has passed. He was hard-drinking, and a little bit of a brawler. There were times when he stretched the truth. And there were times when he proved himself a remarkably successful fighter pilot in one of the toughest arenas of the war. This F4U-1A was assigned to Boyington's VMF-214 and was apparently flown in combat by him---it was photographed at Bougainville during 214's stay there, and is a great illustration of a typical Corsair in operational conditions. They weren't all beat to pieces, you know.  Rocker Collection

Here's the Man himself; Greg Boyington is preparing to man up 883 at Barakoma strip on Vella LaVella. A lot of people thought him a hero, although it's doubtful he ever felt that he was one. He was an effective squadron commander and was thoroughly exhausted, quite literally all used up, when he was shot down and became a prisoner of the Japanese. Even heros get tired sometimes.  Rocker Collection

VMF-216 spent some time on Bougainville, flying out of the airstrip at Torokina. These F4U-1As are well used but obviously in good shape and ready to rumble. The "Hog's" personality comes through in every photograph we've ever seen of her; some airplanes were born to be classics!  Rocker Collection

When you weren't slogging through ankle-deep mud you were choking on dust! These "Hogs" from an unidentified unit are getting ready to taxi out for a strike from their base on Majuro in 1944. They're fairly clean and appear to be new airplanes. Those side numbers are unusual---it's rare to find them that far forward on an airplane in a combat zone.  Rocker Collection

Here's a fine example of how coral dust could ruin the paint (not to mention the engine, guns, and all the other mechanical components) of an airplane. This VMF-222 F4U-1D is sitting on the ground at Green Island and is pretty much beat to snot, although odds are she was a relatively new aircraft. Check out the ground crewman sitting behind her---time to read was where you could find it in the Pacific.  Rocker Collection

Here's another well-used "Hog", this time from VMF-221 at Bougainville. Modelers take note that there are grease and gun stains aft of the cartridge case ejection chutes, but none around the gun ports. There's a lesson there, folks!  Rocker Collection

If you're going to be in a fight you're going to get a little bloody sometimes. This F4U-1A is from an unidentified unit on Torokina and has been recently savaged by a Japanese fighter. This one got home, but a lot of them didn't.  How do you spell "valor"?  Rocker Collection

The Corps called it Bloody Pelelieu, and when they'd captured the place they built an airfield there. This F4U-1D was from VMF-114 and was lugging a drop tank full of nape when this photo was taken. The Corsair was superb at air-to-air and equally at home moving mud. She had evolved into a true fighter-bomber by the time the -1D entered service, and rapidly became the sweetheart of the mud Marines.  Rocker Collection

The "Hog" got around. These birds are shown on the ground at Iwo after the island was more or less secured. Paint jobs are a mix of GSB and tri-scheme, and the airplanes are fairly clean. That wouldn't last for very long.  Rocker Collection
They fought in two American wars and performed superbly. They served until the mid-1950s, when the last AU-1 was retired from service, and more than a few went on to join the Warbird circuit. We can only hope that these F4U-1Ds, derelect at Miami in 1964, were among those that made the jump to a second life in the civilian world.

Many thanks to Bobby Rocker for this remarkable essay on that most remarkable of Second World War fighters. Semper Fi!

'Stangs From the MOANG

As long as we're doing something on the Corsair today we'd may as well give The Other Guys equal time. We'd normally do that with another F-106 installment, but the simple fact is that we've been sitting on a pile of Missouri ANG P-51 photos courtesy of Mark Nankivil and it's time to show them to you.

The 110th FS operated their P-51Ds out of Lambert Field in St Louis. This snow-bound lineup was photographed on the ground there in the winter of 1952; the 110th's birds were never flamboyantly marked, generally featuring only a colored spinner and, on occasion, a name. Note the retractable tailwheels; they went away after the USAF's experience with the mud encountered during operations in Korea, but these aircraft still have their retractable units in place.  Nankivil Collection

The 110th had Mustangs for several years and bridged the changeover from the AAF to the Air Force. This P-51D is still carrying its PF-prefixed buzz number---that would change in 1947. 44-73187 is essentially a World War 2 P-51D, and wouldn't have been at all out of place in the skies over Hitler's Europe.  Nankivil Collection

This shot of a MOANG P-51 undergoing maintenance gives us an excellent view of the airframe structure surrounding the engine, as well as the typical attire worn by the squadron's line personnel. That Ike jacket on the pilot standing in the center of the photo is pretty classy, don't you think?  Nankivil Collection

The 110th also operated a couple of RF-51Ds for a while. This excellent study of 45-11660 shows that variant's camera ports to advantage, as well as its DF loop and late canopy. Most iterations of the Mustang were subtle in nature, but the classic lines of the airplane remained right up to the H-model (never flown by the 110th, before you ask!).  Nankivil Collection

The P-51 was a gorgeous aircraft when cleaned up and in flight. There's not much here in the way of markings, but it really doesn't matter---pretty is pretty. Check out that oil streak just aft of the "2" in the aircraft's nose number. If the P-51's engine was running that streak was there---modelers take note!  Nankivil Collection

Guard pilots are former active duty pilots, and the Guard units of the late '40s and early 50s all contained quite a few WW2 retreads in their ranks. You can easily imagine this flight winging its way over Germany or Japan, but in point of fact they're over rural Missouri. The photo is fascinating because it shows three completely different forms of fuselage markings, all of which were the norm for Guard birds at the time this photo was taken.  Nankivil Collection

And speaking of gorgeous air-to-air photos, it's pretty hard to top this one for sheer beauty. These aircraft are identically marked, which takes some of the fun out of things, but they sure show off the classic lines of that airplane. We like it!  Nankivil Collection

If it goes up, it will come down. There's nothing that says it has to come down in any sort of a dignified manner, though. This bird has apparently endured a classic example of an aviator's headstand and mostly survived the experience. The aircraft appears to be salvageable. That wasn't always the case.  Nankivil Collection

If it goes up it will come down, Part Two. It's considered to be good practice to put your airplane down on the same runway you left from or, if that's not in the game plan, to put your airplane down some place some how. Most folks don't choose a neighborhood for that down-putting, but sometimes that's how it works out. The Packard-Merlin is a wonderful engine right up to the point where it quits working---that's when you stick the airplane any place you can. This pilot was lucky...  Nankivil Collection

If it goes up it will come down, Part Three. This 110th P-51D suffered an unknown in-flight emergency and came down outside of Mt Vernon, Illinois. This appears to be a text-book belly landing, all things considered, but we're guessing the airplane was a write-off. Any landing you can walk away from...  Nankivil Collection

Happy Snaps

We didn't do anything with our F-106 project this time around, but to partially make amends we'd like to offer up this photo by ADC authority Marty Isham as a consolation prize of sorts:

Every once in a while you get to take a ride in a tub, which is what Marty was doing when he shot this portrait of 59-0149 from New Jersey's 49th FIS/177th FIG on 9 June, 1988. You can't tell from this photo, but the GIB (that's Guy In Back, in case you weren't familiar with that acronym) is astronaut Gordon Cooper. Our readers take some pretty neat photos, don't they?  Marty Isham

The Relief Tube

Today's the day you get to ask What's Going On Over There? We've had a couple of abbreviated editions of this missive in a row, and they've both been late, which makes that a Fair Question. The answer is simple. Between work and family I've been really busy of late. I apologize for the abbreviated editions and ask your patience---we'll be back to normal before you know it!

You might have also notice some issues with our photography over the last week or two; it went goofy on us, and a number of older photographs de-linked themselves to boot. Our blog host has corrected that issues and the photos now work the way they always have, and all those broken links have been fixed---thanks to Google for the quick repair, and apologies to our readership for the lapse in quality.

Finally, although we do have several entries for the Relief Tube we aren't going to run them today because your editor has just about run out of steam and it's time to get this issue launched. We'll catch up next time. Meanwhile, be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon. We will. I promise!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

An Unusual Visitor, Sixes For Two, A Pacific Legend, and Learnin' to Fly

What Are Those Guys Doing Here?

That little fracas in Southeast Asia during that took place during the 1960s was quite an interesting affair. Most of us are familiar with the "normal" side of things, but there were quite a few sidebars to the conflict too; goofy things such as FJ-4Bs flying limited Alpha strikes into Laos during 1962, or somewhat unusual drones overflying interesting places. Another sidebar would surely be the unusual transients that occasionally showed up in Vietnam, Republic of. Let's start our day with a couple of those visitors.

Few people think of the Cambodian Air Force when they think of the Vietnam War, but that nation did possess a small air arm. We showed you one of their T-28s a few months back; here's something a little more unusual. This MiG-15UTI was photographed at Bien Hoa during June of 1970 during a rare visit out of country. The aircraft is about as plain as you can get---overall grey with a red nose. Her aircraft number, 2832, is presented on the vertical stab only, with nothing on the nose. Modelers take note of the antenna wire, which runs to a small mast just inside the larger one. That large mast didn't do anything except sit on the fuselage and look like an antenna mast, but it remained on the MiG-15, totally disfunctional, until the last one left active service. Check out that VNAF pilot for scale; the MiG-15 was a tiny airplane.  J. Elliott

Cambodia also operated the MiG-17; 1721 was a beautifully-marked example of the type in squadron service. The Fresco wasn't much bigger that the MiG-15 that preceded it and was quite an adversary in the hands of a skilled pilot, although there were relatively few skilled Bad Guys flying the type during that war. We know of several photographers who had the opportunity to visit Cambodia during the war, but most of the photographs we've seen were of poor quality because they had to be taken on the sly. That particular level of security went away the second these guys crossed into South Vietnam, allowing us a rare view of two of their aircraft.  J. Elliott

The MiG-17 was quite an aircraft, and packed a punch too. This nose-on view shows her gun pack partially winched down, which allows us a look at the single 37mm and twin 23mm cannon that armed most Vietnam-era MiG-17s. That doohicky laying on the starboard wing (which is on your left in this view---gotta pay attention to those things!) is the fairing for the 37mm gun. Check out that windscreen too. Most of the flat center panel, the one the pilot would generally look through, is blocked by the gunsight, and the quality of the transparencies is poor. Contributor Rick Morgan had the opportunity to sit in a Fresco once upon a time and commented that looking through the windscreen was a lot like trying to see through a Coke bottle that had a shoe box in the middle of it. The MiG-17 was definitely a no-frills aircraft!  J. Elliott

A Graceful Tub

Once upon a time, Convair (remember Convair?) built a then-state-of-the-art interceptor known to the world as the F-102A. That airplane, fondly known to the aviation fraternity as the "Deuce", was advanced enough that it was felt a dedicated two-seat transition aircraft (a trainer, in other words) was required. The resulting airplane was both ugly and distinctly subsonic, and is the airplane usually voted most likely to have inspired use of the word "tub" when describing the modification of a single-seat-anything into a two-seater.

That was the "Deuce". When Convair designed the F-106 (originally the F-102B, if you recall) they spent a little more time on the two-seater, and came up with an airplane that wasn't that far removed from the single-seat F-106A. It was a neat airplane, and today we're going to take a look at it.

57-2546 was built as an F-106B-60-CO and was assigned to the ADWC when I shot her at an airshow at Randolph in May of 1982. That canopy framing is typical of the Bravo Six and is not unique to this airplane. Neither, unfortunately, is the TAC shield on her vertical stab. Like so many of her sisters she ended her days as a QF-106B and was destroyed in 1995.   Friddell

57-2513 was almost devoid of markings when Vince Reynolds took her portrait in October of 1979. The "Six" was a clean airplane and could be brutally fast under the right conditions. She was a -31-CO and was never converted to drone status; you can see her today at the Yanks Air Museum.  Reynolds

July of 1984 saw Mark Morgan doing that airshow thing, where he caught the 186th's 57-2517 (another F-106B-31-CO) early in the day, before the public was allowed aboard. 2517 was converted into the now-ubiquitous QF-106 but survived  the program after a ground accident. She was subsequently surplused out and was in private hands at one time (she may still be, for all we know!). The F-106 would make for an expensive warbird...  M. Morgan

Those Montana birds got around! I shot this one on the transient ramp at Kelly in 1982. 57-2518 was built as an F-106B-35-CO and got herself converted to QF status at the end of her life; she was ultimately shot down by an AIM-120. This shot is for the modelers among our readership---check out the taxi light and the deployed RAT. You might also want to check out that taxiway behind her. Kelly was an interesting place in the '80s.  Friddell

Airplanes get new clothes from time to time, just like people do. 57-2513 was assigned to the 2954th CLSS when I photographed her on the ramp at Kelly in 1982. There's absolutely nothing of significant interest about her except for that vertical stab and the wingtips. She had a little flash but was basically a shy kind of girl. Then she grew up...  Friddell

And got all flashy, running around with a fast crowd as a B-1B chase aircraft. Go back up a few shots and you'll notice that she's the same bird Vince Reynolds photographed in nothing but a coat of Aircraft Grey. It makes for an interesting evolution of colors!  I think Mark Morgan might have shot this one but I'm not sure---how about it, Mark?  Friddell Collection

As long as we're looking at chase planes we'd may as well look at this one too! 57-2535 was an F-106B-35-CO when photographed at Kelly by John Parchman during 1988. Her tail markings are Insignia Blue rather than red, and she's noteworthy because she's got her weapons bay doors opened up. Assignment to a prominent test program couldn't save her, though; she was converted to QF status and went down at the hands of an AIM-9M in 1993.  Parchman

June of 1982 saw Kelly AFB hosting an ANG convention, with most of the Guard's tactical and air defense units in attendance. We often see active duty aircraft going into the Guard in their old age, but sometimes it works the other way around. Compare the photograph of that test bird immediately above with this one; anything seem familiar to you? She was a classy lady right up to the time she was expended as a drone.  Friddell

And finally, here's a shot featuring a detail you don't see every day; 59-0158 has her weapons bay doors opened and her launch rails deployed. Tom Ring shot her as a transient at Ellington in September of 1981. She's of special interest because she survived the QF-106 program to be ear-marked for a display aircraft at Edwards.  Tom Ring

That's it for today's edition of Six into Nine (with appropriate apologies to Jimi), but we aren't done with this particular song yet---stay tuned for more in the weeks ahead!

It's All a Matter of Being in The Right Place at the Right Time

And Lockheed's P-38 Lightning was every bit of that. She was born as an interceptor, and went to war in the frozen high-altitude climate of Western Europe, where she proved to be indifferent at best. General George wanted her for the Pacific, even though a great many people predicted she would fail there once put into combat against the far more nimble fighters of the Japanese. In the end she proved them all wrong, and was developed into an aerial killer par excellance.

The 54th FS was an early operational user of the P-38. This G-model is apparently on long final, or maybe just tooling along with her gear down while pacing a significantly slower aircraft. The Lightning was a rocket ship by the standards of the 1940s, and there was no such thing as a slow P-38. The flaps are deployed on this aircraft too, giving us an excellent view of their appearance in that mode.  Rocker Collection

The 54th operated out of Adak, without the glamor or notoriety of her more famous sisters assigned to warmer climes. That's Lt. Herb Hasenfus grinning at us from the cockpit, but you can bet he didn't smile all the time---that mud would turn to ice overnight, and the snow was no pleasure to work out of either. The guys in the Aleutians had it rough, but almost nobody remembers that nowadays. They ought to.  Rocker Collection

A fair number of P-38s ended up on Guadalcanal once the place had been more or less secured. This shot is soft on detail, but it's a perfect illustration of the fact that the Japanese weren't the only enemy in the Pacific. Those muddy runways devoured a whole bunch of airplanes, but they didn't stop operations.  Rocker Collection

The P-38 saw the war through, from the Bad Old Days at New Guinea and the 'Canal to the Philippines, but the conditions never changed much. Mud is mud, and tired is tired. There were times when the enemy was just a sideshow to the day-to-day drama of "routine" operations.  Rocker Collection

The 35th FS was one of the 5th AF fighter outfits to make it through the war pretty much from beginning to end. Dick West's "Helen" is seen preparing to taxi at Nadzab during the latter stages of the conflict. The airplane is devoid of drop tanks so it's probably intended to be a short mission; the P-38 flew the short hops too, but its forte was long-range operations. It was ideally suited for ops in the Pacific thanks to those twin engines and adequate internal fuel capacity.  Rocker Collection

By 1944 most of the Pacific belonged to the United States, but that was a condition that could never be taken for granted. The 35th was at Wadke on 5 June, 1944, when a Japanese air raid reduced Dick West's P-38 to pots and pans. The Golden BB apparently came in the form of a 250-kg bomb that hit directly in front of the aircraft with the result seen here.  Rocker Collection

This photo may possibly illustrate another of Dick West's airplanes, but then again it may not. Logic says the 35th couldn't have been full of airplanes named "Helen", but we honestly don't know. We do know that the's a P-38L, and that she belonged to the 8th FG when photographed at Mindoro in 1944. After that, it's anybody's guess!  Rocker Collection

"Barely Yours" was another P-38L from the 35th. Notice how the prop blades have weathered out, particularly in the area of the data block at the base of the blades. That's a detail often overlooked by modelers.  Rocker Collection

49th Fighter Group ace Robert DeHaven is most often associated with the P-40, but he spent some time with the P-38 as well. Here we see his Lightning immediately post-War, quite possibly in Japan. The guys in that picture look a lot older than they actually were, and appear to be fairly grim too. There was a reason for that.  Rocker Collection

The 80th FS was another unit assigned to Nadzab during 1944, as typified by Howard Fotheringham's P-38J. Between the white theater markings and green squadron colors the airplane is a veritable Easter egg, but her muddy parking apron brings us back to reality. Fighting in the Southwest Pacific was no picnic even if you were on the winning side.  Rocker Collection

The 475th was established as a hand-picked group of trained killers, and was a hot outfit from its establishment until the end of the war. This unidentified pilot typifies the breed. Yes, we say it over and over again, but those guys were young, most of them, although they didn't stay that way very long. It's easy to imagine this guy driving his best girl around town in a jalopy, or mowing his dad's yard. He's typical of the young men who fought in that war. We hope he made it to the end.  Rocker Collection 

Tommy McGuire was one of the ones who didn't make it. He was often described as a misfit, and only came into his own in the cockpit of the P-38. A close competitor with Dick Bong for the title of America's leading ace, he was killed in combat on 7 January 1945 while trying to save one of his flight members from attack by Sugimoto Akira, a highly-skilled Ki-43 pilot. McGuire had attempted to turn while low and slow and encumbered by drop tanks, causing his P-38 to stall and spin in.There are those who will tell you McGuire died out of greed, trying to beat Bong in the scoring race. To some extent that may be true, but he was also worn out, and quite possibly a little bit burned out as well. The thing to remember is that he died trying to save another pilot. Let's lift a glass...  Rocker Collection

Dick Bong flew several different P-38s during the course of his career, and not all were named "Marge". This example was photographed at Nadzab and shows Bong's scoreboard at the time. The airplane is filthy, and the operational conditions are miserable. We always remember the aces, but we rarely think of the mud. Unlike many of his contemporaries Dick Bong survived combat to become America's highest-scoring fighter ace of all time. He died while flight testing the P-80; very few of the AAF's top-scorers in the Pacific lived to a ripe old age.  Rocker Collection

A T-Bird is a T-Bird is a T-Bird

While we're talking about Lockheed aircraft, let's take a quick look at a lesser-known example of the breed. We all know that the Air Force caused a two-seat trainer, the T-33, to be developed from its F-80 fighter, and we know that the immortal T-Bird subsequently trained tens of thousands of pilot over the course of its career. Some some folks may not know that the Navy operated the aircraft as well, and even had their own specific variation of it. Let's look.

This is what most folks think of when somebody says T-Bird. It was a ubiquitous member of the USAF's arsenal for over two decades, and is typified by this study of 52-9883, a T-33A-1-LO here photographed with Michigan's 127th FG. This is how most of us think of the T-Bird. Those fuselage stripes are tasty, aren't they?  Barbier

The NAV (and the Marine Corps, as seen here) first acquired the T-Bird as a direct purchase, the aircraft being designated the TV-2. The aircraft was a standard T-33 in every respect, its only real modification for naval service being a new paint job. The TV-2 wasn't of much use as a trainer, at least not for the Navy, and frequently ended up as a station hack, as seen here.  Vince Reynolds

Although the basic T-33 was (and still is) a delight to fly, it could never be considered to be a naval aircraft. That changed when the basic design was modified into the T2V-1, an honest-to-goodness carrier aircraft.  Mods were numerous and included a general strenghening of the airframe and landing gear, installation of a tailhook, a new vertical tail, leading-edge slats, and a revised cockpit that included a raised seating position for the instructor in the back seat. Those accumulative mods changed the T-Bird into a distinctive variant known as the Sea Star.  Vince Reynolds

The Sea Star remained in Navy service until the 1970s, when it was replaced by North American's T-2 Buckeye family of trainers. 144165h was photographed in July of 1959 while assigned to NAS Anacostia, and could define the type as far as appearance is concerned. The hook is well-depicted in this photo, as is the humped-up aft canopy, necessitated by the raised seat for the instructor. That vertical stab is somewhat remeniscent of the F-94C, don't you think? Gotta keep it in the family!  S. Miller

Happy Snaps

There are Happy Snaps and then there are Happy Snaps. Today's offering is courtesy the camera of Rick Morgan, and might be termed "somewhat unusual".

Bear hunting! The year was 1985, and Rick was flying with VAQ-139 near Guam when he shot this intercept by a section of VFA-25 Hornets. It's our understanding that these sorts of affairs were generally friendly in nature, with lots of waving and picture-taking, punctuated with the occasional uplifted middle digit to provide spice to the proceedings. We consider this to be a classic image of the Cold War.  R. Morgan

The Relief Tube

Let's lead off today's offering with an explanation as to why we didn't publish anything last week. The simple truth is that a combination of minor illness plus employment demands, coupled with the length of time it takes to put one of these things together (and it takes longer than you might think) made publication impossible last time around. We'll try, as always, to do better, so stay tuned as it were. There are Good Things ahead.

One more thing before we get to our reader's input and corrections: You'll notice a change in the way our photographs are presented when you click on the images to enlarge them. That's a function of the blog software used, and we had nothing to do with the change. It's apparently universal---we went to the other sites that we know use that software and they're the same, so it ain't just us. We aren't sure whether we like it or not, but we can't do anything about it one way or another. We hope it's ok with you.

It's time to talk airplanes!  Last issue we ran a couple of photos of an airplane we described as Mystery Meat, and asked for identification. I expected a response, our readership being what it is, but I never expected to hear back from anybody five minutes after the posting went up, which is quite literally what happened. Mike McMurtrey was the first respondent, but he wasn't the only one:  That tri-geared cub is a YL-21 modified for aerodynamic research by the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory at Mississippi State University. They installed Cessna spring landing gear and a nose wheel. The hump on the cowling covered a pump that sucked boundary layer air into the wings. They even tried one without a prop to fly it as a glider in the same configuration. There are also pictures of one of these planes with a set of double tires on each side. Note that it belonged to the Army and not the Air Force. There were two YL-21s: 51-6495 and 51-6496. They were PA-18-135s special ordered in 1950. Mike

Steve Shefflin also checked in on the subject: Hi Phil, First, let me say how much I love your site. I download so many of your great photos to my wallpaper that I am in dire danger of filling my hard drive. Regarding your mystery photos, I too believe it is a modified Piper L-21 Super Cub. After staring at the partially visible serial numbers, and doing a little research, I think that it may be one of two YL-21 Super Cubs: 51-6495 or 51-6496 (c/n 18-749/750). I could, however, find no information regarding any tricycle landing gear mods. Finally, what in the world is that strange bulge on the upper cowling? Steve Sheflin  Take a look at Mike's response just above, Steve. I think he's got that hump figured out!

Another reader known only as Norm way up there in New Hampshire also nailed the airplane:  What a great web site! I check in every day to see if there is something new. I'm that nifty fiftie and sixties birds vintage. Bird in question is a Mississippi State research bird. BTW: They still have their square tail Bird Dog flying. Norm

We've begun a series of photo essays on Convair's remarkable F-106, and co-conspirator Dave Menard had this to say about the airplane:  Phil, Latest blog in this morning and as usual, interesting as hell! In the write up for the Six, mention is made that none went to "furren" AFs. I wonder. Reason for wondering is while on an officially escorted photo shoot at McClellan AFB in the spring of 1973 when I was stationed at Mathe r(across town from McClellan) and noticed some A and B model Sixes with 100% cocooning on them sitting on a barge waiting to go downriver to SF Bay to be loaded on a ship(?). Serials were in large(3 or 4 inch) stencils on both sides of their noses, but I did not write them down for reasons forgotten. McClellan was THE depot for the Six (as well as the F-100, F-105, A-1, to name some more) so logically, any Sixes for export would have left after full rebuilds. Hmmmmm. Have wondered over the years where they went. They were not Deuces as I do know the difference. Guess we will never know…Cheers, dave  Looks as though we've got another challenge for our readership! Does anybody know where those Mystery Sixes ended up? There's no prize for the answer but we'd really like to know!

And speaking of Sixes, here's a comment and a correction we snuck in that correction last week!) from Mark Williams: Phil, very nice selection as usual! You snuck a Monday post in on me, and when I checked your blog I realized I was a few days late! I'll take it though!

I really enjoyed the F-106s! As you can tell by my e-mail address, I'm sort of a fan. I never got to work on them myself -- I started as a crew chief on KC-135s, and ended up as a Flight Engineer on C-130s before I retired (nine days ago to be exact!)  I noticed you described 58-0780 as, "New York's 49th FIS". I kind of think that might confuse some readers into thinking that the 49th was an ANG unit, but it was not. They were active duty, and now the 49th FTS out of Columbus AFB, MS. In fact, a bunch of the old active FIS's are FTS's now. The 5th FTS is out of Vance AFB, OK now, and the 87th FTS is out of Laughlin AFB, TX.

BTW, I also caught you accurately described that 56-0461 is on display at the Sawyer museum, but did you know they repainted the tail number to accurately depict an actual 87th FIS aircraft? It's painted as 57-0231. I was there for the dedication ceremony exactly five years ago today! Personally, I'm not a big fan of changing tail numbers, but it wasn't my display. Anyway, great post! Keep sneaking in a few F-106 photos. Maybe I'll send a couple of mine sometime! Have a good weekend, Mark O. Williams  Thanks for the corrections, Mark! As always, they're appreciated.

And finally, it seems our mention of those childhood favorites, the Colby books, struck a chord with at least one of our readers, Gary Kato:  Phil, Not long ago I was trying to remember who made some of the military picture books that I used to check out often at the Public Library when I was a kid. Colby! I don't actually remember aircraft books but I do remember a military vehicle book or two. Finding your blog motivated me to find my issues of RIS and Aerophile. I only had 2 issues of RIS but I remember thinking it was a great magazine. Back then there weren't that many magazines doing things for modern aircraft model builders.Thanks,  gary And thanks to you for writing, Gary. Those Colby books encompassed just about everything as I recall---I can distinctly remember aircraft, warships, and military vehicles in the series. I keep hoping I'll run across the aviation titles in a used bookstore some day!

And that's about all we have for today. We've had some remarkable submissions of late so good things lie ahead---stay tuned for The Further Adventures of Whatever It Is We Do Around Here. Meanwhile, be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon.