Thursday, November 29, 2012

That Unknown Fruitfly, Cry Havoc, and Another 109

Charlie the Fruitfly

Every family of military aircraft has at least one member in it that nobody really wants. In the case of the LTV A-7, that unwanted family member was the Charlie; the Navy's A-7C. An interim type that fell between the A-7A and B and subsequent E in the production cycle, the Charlie-model was essentially an Echo with the older TF-30-P-8 turbofan fitted in place of the E-model's definitive TF-41 powerplant. The NAV ended up with 67 Charlies while awaiting the arrival of the A-7E, and the type saw combat before ultimately being converting to E-models (or TA-7C models) themselves (VA-82 and -86 off the America).

A handful of Charlies survived post-war to be utilized in test and evaluation squadrons, and some 36 of them were subsequently converted not to A-7E but to TA-7C standard. Today we're going to look at those Tail-End-Charlies that weren't converted to anything and managed to remain C-models until the end of their service lives, except, of course, for 156777, which did become a TA. See how we are? Oh yea, and we don't apologize for that horrible play on words about Tail End Charlies. It was there, just sitting and waiting for us, and we  had to do it!

156797 was serving with the Naval Air Test Center when David Balcer photographed her in September of 1979. She survived a service career to end up as a museum exhibit in California, at the Naval Weapons School in China Lake. Few people ever model the NATC birds, which is a shame. They certainly don't lack for color!  David Balcer

Most of the Charlies were subsequently brought up to Echo standard by virtue of the installation of the A-7's definitive TF-41 powerplant, but a handful remained as straight C-models. 156777 was serving with VX-5 when photographed at a public air show in January of 1980, shortly after which she was converted to become a TA-7C. You might want to take note of that filthy weather---military aviators regularly fly in that sort of clag. It's not a job; it's an adventure.  David Balcer

In stark contrast to the photo immediately above, the sun was shining and there wasn't a cloud in the sky when this photo was taken at an airshow in October of 1981. It became the norm to remove the outboard stations on the A-7 during the 80s, but it's early enough in the decade in this photo and 772 is still wearing hers.  Tom Ring

We'll end today's brief essay with yet another airshow bird, this time at NAS Pt Mugu during 1984. 156797 was assigned to Pt Mugu and was carrying a full load of dumb bombs for the public when this shot was taken. (The type could do that in the Real World too, but it couldn't go very far with all that weight and no extra gas!) The bird ended up staying on at Pt Mugu and is currently on display there.  M Morgan

Cry Havoc!

Attack Squadron, that is. The Douglas A-20 was a key element in the success of the AAF in the Southwest Pacific. In theory the type should have been limited by her lack of range, but in practice her versatility, coupled with her performance, made her the ideal platform for low altitude attack as envisioned by General George. Here, thanks to Bobby Rocker, are some images of the A-20G during the final days of her service. Most are identified as being from the 417th, but a couple are not. We expect to hear from Gerry Kersey shortly...

When we think of the A-20 we all tend to think of it roaring over the jungle, or maybe the ocean, at minimum altitude with guns blazing, and the airplane most assuredly did her share of that sort of thing. She could also function as a "normal" bomber, however, and that's the role she was performing when this photo of "Sack Time" was taken. Note the way the bomb bay doors are positioned when opened; this is a detail most modelers miss.  Rocker Collection

She's named "Sally" something-or-other, but we just can't make out that other name. Aside from that, this shot illustrates both the bomb bay doors and pilot's canopy in their opened positions. Notice how light the covers on her mains are; we're guessing they're in squadron colors but have no way to be certain. It's time for somebody to write in and tell us what's going on here; that address is .  Rocker Collection

There are famous A-20s, and then there are famous A-20s. "Green Hornet" was one of the better-known examples of the type, thanks in great measure to the inclusion of her markings in the Matchbox kit of the A-20G. This photo shows those famous markings to good advantage, and also illustrates how tight and cramped the A-20's cockpit was.  Rocker Collection

The Havoc wore her share of ribald nose art, as illustrated by the 417th's "Amorous Amazon". The airplane is fairly beat up but the nose art is pristine. It was all a matter of priority...  Rocker Collection

"Georgia Bull Dog II" was a little more restrained, but the nose art was extremely well-done by any standards. We suspect that's Charlie Weir in the cockpit; like all of his breed he was young, and yet so very old. There were few easy days in the SWPAC.  Rocker Collection

Here's "Milly" of the 3rd Attack. She's beat to snot and is carrying another name (look just in front of the skeleton's face) that we can't quite make out. We don't know the details of this shot, but those guys sure look a lot alike! Maybe they're brothers? We hope they both made it home in one piece, but there were never any guarantees of safety in the 5th.  Rocker Collection

There's nose art and then there's nose art. We would tend to put "Contented Lady" in the latter category, but maybe that's just us. The airplane is obviously well-used and has, to be somewhat blunt about it, been through the wringer, but the mission markers and nose art are pristine, as is the paint beneath them. You did what you could...  Rocker Collection

Sometimes you might have time to get everybody together for a family portrait.  Rocker Collection

That's when you'd get everybody in the same place at the same time, all in their best uniforms, and pose in front of the airplane.  Rocker Collection

Sometimes you'd take the same shot a couple of times, just to make certain it was right.  Rocker Collection

It could be just a few guys in front of the airplane.  Rocker Collection

Maybe just the ground echelon.  Rocker Collection

Or maybe it would be a whole bunch of guys on the airplane.  Rocker Collection

You hope you put the right name on your ship, because there are people out there who want to kill you and every little bit helps.  Rocker Collection

Because at the end of it all you're going to have to go again, and it's as easy to buy the farm on the last day of a war as it is on the first. Let's lift a glass...   Rocker Collection

Under the Radar

Voodoo Warriors, The Story of the McDonnell Voodoo Fast Jets, Group Captain Nigel Walpole, Pen and Sword Aviation, 2007, Hardbound, 303pp, illustrated.

McDonnell's F-101 Voodoo was a seminal aircraft for the USAF. It was intended to be a long-range penetration fighter and also had quite a career as an interceptor, but its main claim to fame was a brief and violent career as a recce bird in the skies over Southeast Asia. Group Captain Walpole flew the type as an exchange pilot, which means he knew both the Voodoo community and its people intimately, which in turn made him uniquely qualified to write this book.

The volume is well-written and highly readable, and is as technical as anyone could want. The technicalities are well balanced by well-told accounts of the "One-O-Wonder's" operational history and the two facets put together provide a remarkable history of this often-neglected aircraft. A bonus is the selection of photographs, a great many of which are previously unknown to us; they lend greatly to the story told. We found the book to be impossible to put down and read it cover to cover in one sitting. You may not choose to do that yourselves, but we strongly suspect you'll spend more than a little time absorbing it. We consider this book to be an essential volume if you're interested in the topic and recommend it without reservation.

Enter the Eduard "Emil"

Those of you who were with us Way Back When, in those halcyon days when Print was King, probably remember that we had an editorial stance regarding Things Luftwaffe. We've mellowed considerably since those days and have rediscovered the heraldry and, therefore, the interest we once had in modeling things with black crosses on them, and in consequence we've built quite a few WW2 German fighters over the past several years. That renewed interest takes us to the sort-of new Eduard Royal Class Bf 109E offering in 1/48th scale---we recently obtained one, were suitably impressed, and thought we'd share our enthusiasm for the kit with our readership.

Let's start out by mentioning that Eduard's 1/48th scale "Emils" (their Royal Class kit accomodates all of the major variants of the type, all of which will ultimately be offered individually) are more or less an offshoot of that company's star-crossed 1/32nd scale offering of same, but not really. That big 109E had, and, by and large, still has, more problems than you can shake a stick at, and getting a decent replica out of it is a difficult chore at best. By contrast, its smaller-scale siblings offer far more detail, more logical assembly, and far fewer problems to deal with. They're what Eduard should have done with the 1/32nd scale kit but didn't.

So what do you get if you buy one of the new Es? We'll qualify our response to that particular question by stating that we lucked into a Royal Class boxing of the model, which comes with more bells and whistles than you can imagine; two kits with three sets of wings (so you can build an E-1, an E-3 or -4 with modified E-1 wings, or straight E-3/-4/-7 wings), multiple canopy sets, substantial photo-etch, Eduard's own "Brassin" wheels, stickies for 12 different aircraft, a 1/4-scale Bf 109E instrument panel, and a metal coffee cup. There's a lot of stuff in that box.

That said, let's get down to business. The basic kit (by which we mean the plastic parts for the airplane and nothing else) is close enough to dimensional accuracy to be acceptable without undue Modeler's Angst, and surface detailing is both engraved and petite. It's well-detailed in terms of cockpit area and landing gear, and it comes with a nicely detailed DB601 engine and cowl gun suite, of which more later. It also comes with a gas bag, bombs, and all three associated stations to hang them off of. One of the windscreens (there are 3 different ones in the kit) accomodates Adolf Galland's famous telescopic sight (which is also included), even though we doubt many people will chose to build that particular airframe. Both spinner styles are included, and all the kit is really missing are the Fiesler air intake mod and extended wings to allow the construction of the Bf 109T-2; otherwise you can build every 109E variant from this kit and do a great job of it in the process.

As for problems, there are two that actually bother us; that funky bulge that was in the upper fus of the 1/32nd scale kit, just aft of the cockpit opening, is still there, albeit less-obtrusively done, and the wing slats are still marginally too wide, but just barely. (We'd also like to have seen a cover for the tailwheel well included with the kit since some Es had that, and because everything else you could possibly want seems to be included in the basic kit!)

That's just the basic kit, you understand, with no aftermarket. Since Eduard also includes really nice instrument panel decals (or at least they do in the Royal Class iteration of the kit) you honestly don't need much more than a set of belts and harnesses to be able to produce a really nice model straight from the box, which makes the inevitable "Weekend Edition" kits the bargain of the century should your taste run to early 109s.

As for the "candy" that comes with the model, the photo-etch is done to excess, or at least it is in our opinion. If you want to build an "Emil" that's hard down for maintenance you might be able to use all that stuff, but we suspect most people will leave the vast majority of it on the frets. The same thing applies to those "Brassin" wheels and tires; they're nice, but so are the kit items, right out of the box. You pays your money and you takes your choice...

Construction of this uber-kit is actually quite simple, but that's with a couple of caveats. First, this isn't really a very good model for the newby or ham-fisted. Many of the parts are petite, and more than a little bit of care is required in order to get things together properly. Secondly, as just as important, is the fact that the modeler is going to have to out-guess the instructions in a couple of critical areas. It's easy if you want to build a model with everything hanging, but if you intend for your airplane to be buttoned up you'll become Fast Friends with Step 15, which tells you how to put things together with the cowling closed and the engine and gun deck suitably modified to allow same. Breech those instructions and you'll end up with a frustrating mess that you'll probably condemn to the trash heap.

The rest is all downhill, as they say. Painting instructions are more than adequate, and the kit decals, at least in the Royal Edition boxing, are absolutely superb and among the best we've ever used. We like this kit, and we recommend it.

Here's what you end up with if you've got a little experience under your belt. Both models are from the Royal Edition issue of Eduard's Bf 109E, and both were built entirely from the kit, although the JG5 bird utilizes decals from one of those Kagero books on the Luftwaffe. We managed to break the pitot tubes on both models while removing them from their sprue, but replaced them with items scratched up from plastic rod; no harm, no foul! Tires and wheels are kit stock, not "Brassin", and virtually no photo-etch was used, mostly because it really wasn't necessary for completion of the models.

Almost, but not quite, the same view. We're including this shot so you can see the leading edge slats better, since they're a little bit too wide. They didn't bother us enough to make it worth our while to fix them, but if you can't live without doing that you can easily cut off the offending section of the slat and use it as a filler for the wing opening, after which you---what else---put the modified slats on the airframe. We didn't, and still don't, think it's noticeable enough to mess with, but the choice is yours.

One thing Eduard still hasn't fixed is the bulge that they put on the upper fus just behind the canopy. It's always possible it's supposed to be there, of course, although we doubt that. At any rate, it's only noticeable if you paint your model in the "high demarcation" Battle of Britain scheme and then look down at your model from directly above. Otherwise, you just can't see it, so we didn't worry about ourselves about it. You can fix it if you want to, but then you'll have to put those really petite rivets back on the fuselage, which is honestly a whole lot more trouble than it's worth, at least to us. You pays your money, you takes your choice...

So here's the Bottom Line: The 90s-vintage Tamiya and Hasegawa kits are still very nice and perfectly buildable, and the new Airfix offering is quite a bargain at the price, if somewhat clumsy in comparison to its competition. On the other hand, Eduard's new kits are, at least in our opinion, the new Gold Standard for the type and are easily our kit of choice which it comes to modeling any variant of the Bf 109E. Follow the instructions, learn the kit, and you'll be absolutely amazed at the results.

The Relief Tube

We received a really interesting question from Pablo Zielger, one of our Argentinian readers, that we ended up deferring to Marty Isham and Doug Barbier regarding the fitment of an AIM-9B on an F-102A:

Here's the photo that started it all, which originally appeared in the forum over at ARV and was submitted by Grant. The original photographer is unknown to us at this time.

Mr. Phillip Friddell,

My name is Pablo Ziegler, from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I'm a regular
reader of your blog and a fan of the work you perform from Replica In

I've been following your excellent articles on F-102 Delta Dagger, and
it becomes clear for me your interest in this wonderful airplane.
Since I am trying to find information on a particular bird, I dare to
write this message, which I hope is not a nuisance!

Some time ago I found a curious picture of the F-102A 61016, through
the forum of Aircraft Resource Center. This is the link:

It really surprised me to observe the installation of AIM-9B missiles
in an F-102, and I would like to both make a model of that plane and
necessarily find out a little more about it. Beyond the information
given in that thread, I could find little or nothing about FC-106,
except brief notes about the units in which it operated (*). Nor could
I find more photos with this installation, or a precise date for it.
So, I have not clear, for example, if this aircraft was equipped with
the IR Ball, or some other characteristics of the airframe or the
scheme in that moment.

(*) USAF 318th FIS, at McChord AFB, WA. / USAF 325th FIS, at Truax
Field, WI. / USAF 48th FIS, at Langley AFB, VA. / Arizona ANG 152nd
FIS, at Tucson APT, AZ. / 10/1969: Transferred to the Greek AF. /
114th Wing, at Tanagra AB, Greece.

I know that the search is complex, but I dare to share these questions
with you, hoping to have a "clearer picture" of this aircraft.

I thank you in advance for your time, and I'll follow your excellent
work through "Replica In Scale".

By the way, If you need any information of your interest about
argentine aviation, be sure to contact me!

Warmest regards from Buenos Aires,


That simple request got the ball rolling. Your humble editor had nothing in the archives with which to answer Pablo's questions, which in turn resulted in an e-mail to Mr. ADC himself; Marty Isham. Marty wasn't too sure either, and forwarded the request on to Doug Barbier, who had this to say about the "mod":

Marty & Phil,

My 'real' computer', which has all the a/c data cards for all of the deuces on it is sitting on the floor in the bedroom in pieces, so you'll have to wait a bit for the assignments, but the AIM-9 in the photo is definitely a "dummy" or captive version & it is certainly the early external pylon, so with the Buzz number present, we'll call it c.1965. Don't know if that jet is also the one with the refueling plumbing & IR, but that would have made it '65'-66 again..... but it really brings up some interesting questions - not the least of which is just exactly HOW they got that launcher hung on the pylon? The early deuce pylon / tank combination was basically a 'one piece' affair, so they would have had to break one apart (which was easy enough to do), and they did NOT have the "standard" 28" lug spacing (although the later one did), so it must have been a very jury rigged affair. Second, although you really only need 28VDC to launch an AIM-9,  the wiring in the deuce was certainly NOT capable of handling any missile on the pylon - you'd have had to have added a seeker head 'uncage' capability, wiring to get the the aural tone to pilot earpieces, etc, etc - not to mention finagling some sort of weapons selection, seeker head uncage & trigger capability.

     Remember, in those CV jets, what was a "trigger" in every other a/c, was a "pilot consent switch" in the delta's - which is to say you were simply allowing the computer to shoot when IT was ready, NOT when you pulled it. In fact, if you pulled & then released the "trigger" before the computer was ready to launch a missile, nothing happened at all. This isn't to say that it would be particularly difficult to do, but it would have required some seriously extensive rewiring and a 'one of a kind' test bird would certainly have never been assigned to a tactical squadron - esp one as far away as a Guard unit in Hawaii. Tyndall, Edwards, White Sands, OK. Guard unit? Nope. Enroute to SEA? Far, FAR reaches of "maybe". Jack Broughton talked about trying to get the AIM-9 on the SIX but HQ USAF wouldn't hear of it & TAC hated that jet. So I'm guessing it was a gag. Heck, we loaded not one. not two, but FIVE gun pods on one of our F-4's - wall to wall Vulcans. You might have been able to fly with them, but there was no way you were ever going to shoot all of them - but it sure looked impressive on the ramp! BTW - if you look really closely on that bombed up Six in Korea, the MER is mounted BACKWARDS on the pylon - apparently that was the only way they could get it on. That's my 2 cents worth.


Thanks for your question, Pablo, and thanks to Doug for that detailed response. There's yet another model to add to the bucket list...

Here's a comment from someone we know Back in the Day. Those of you who have been at this hobby for a while may remember Gordon Stevens, if not by name then at least by his company, RarePlanes, who were reknowned for producing some of the best vacuum-form kits around. Gordon recently read one of our F-51H pieces and had this to say about it: 
Dear Mr Friddell -
Just checking out your July blog on the elusive P-51H and enjoying the many
pictures. A couple of times you had bemoaned the lack of a model kit of this
version of the Mustang, yet I seem to remember seeing a 1:48 kit - was it
Aurora - way back in the 1960s. I am more sure about a 1:72 scale vacform
from the RAREplane stable of just the fuselage which was to be mated to
modified P-51D wings and I also know that several thousand of them reached
the USA between 1970 and 1990. One result is shown in my picture where I
used the wings from an M-News P-51H Mustang injection kit, but rejected the
fuselage - because it was actually a plain P-51D - and used the vacform
fuselage instead. But the M-News kit had a decal for 484481 'Ahm Available'
which allowed the colourful banding on my model.
Sincerely -
Gordon Stevens
Poole, England
Boy, does that photo ever bring back memories! We built a couple of RarePlanes kits Way Back When and, in point of fact, had the remnants of one (a Dewoitine D.510) on the shelf until just a few years ago. The folks raised on Tamiya and Hasegawa probably won't understand, but there's a lot of satisfaction to be gained from building one of the oldtimers, particularly if it's a vacuum-form kit. Oh yeah, and we built that Aurora kit about a hundred years ago, and got another one a few years back thinking we might make something out of it---no joy, as it were. Thanks, Gordon, both for your comments and for triggering an interesting walk down memory lane!

And finally, from Joe Vincent:

Just joined your blog and am now catching up on past issues. Presently on 12/18/2010. You were wondering what “DNIF” in the name of a P-47N nose art meant. In case no one else has come forth, DNIF is USAAF and USAF-speak for Duties Not Involving Flying. If you were grounded for a bad head cold you “went DNIF.”
Enjoyed the issue on Dibbles. I used to go cross-country to SAT, and always made it a point to visit Dibbles.
Love the blog, especially the photos. I used to have a copy of all of the paper RIS. Can only find a few now. I’ll try to send you some photos when the honey-dos slack up. Some of my buddies at FedEx let me copy their Kodachromes from the 50s (F4U-5N, RB-57A, etc.)


Thanks, Joe, and we look forward to seeing your photography, which leads us to an entirely shameless plug to our other readers who might have photography they'd like to share: Please consider scanning it and sending it on to . Full credit will be given for all photography used, and we'd all love to see it!

That's about it for this time and Yes; it really is 2 blogs in 2 days. We figured we owed you after that long silence!

Be good to your neighbor until next time---we'll see you again real soon!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

That Monogram Texan, A Couple of Forty-Niners, and How It's Done

Texan Redux

So here we are again, much further down the road than originally anticipated but back nontheless. When last we met we discussed Monogram's seminal AT-6 kit and gave you a few tips regarding the building of same. We're a little further along than we were before but still don't have the thing finished, so there's no model photography since there just isn't that much more to see, except that the bodywork is done and we've squirted yellow paint on the airframe and it's looking a lot like a T-6. We'll count that as an up-side (and ignore that run-on sentence we just made!).

A couple of weeks ago we got an e-mail regarding the project asking about the nuances between the various AT-6/SNJ variants. Since an understanding of what we're building is pretty essential to the whole modeling process, we figured today was as good a day as any to discuss those variations. (See how we gracefully slid out of having to show you pictures of something that isn't a whole lot further along than it was the last time we spoke? Clever, we are!) Here, then, is a quick and dirty overview of the T-6 Thing as it applies to the scale modeler.

BT-9, BT-14, BC-1/SNJ-1 and -2, A-27, and Harvard I: These are all beyond the scope of what we're doing here today, so we aren't going to cover them. There are, quite frankly, enough differences between the early members of this family and the later ones to make things more of a thrash than we're willing to get into right now. All we're going to say about the matter is that the mating of a Special Hobby 1/48th scale Wirraway with the Monogram T-6 kit, or maybe just the modification of the afore-mentioned Wirraway, could yield some interesting results Texan-wise, but we aren't going there just yet.

BC-1A, AT-6: You can start with the Monogram kit and not have to do a whole lot to it. You'll want to incorporate the provision for armament if not the guns themselves, but omit the wing gun. If you're doing a BC-1A you'll need to add a big honking DF loop between the wheel wells, and that's about it as far as visual differences are concerned.

AT-6A/B, SNJ-3 and -3C: At this point we're pretty much dealing with the model as Monogram intended for it to be built. You'll want to mount the gunner's seat facing aft and retain the kit's wing gun, and you can also add a pair of bomb racks if you'd like. The SNJ-3 is a dead look-alike for a standard T-6 unless you want to add provision for a tailhook, at which point your model will become a replica of an SNJ-3C (that "C" presumably means "carrier" and is the suffix applied to all shipboard-capable Texans).

AT-6C/SNJ-4 and -4C. This variant was built with the notion of saving critical aluminum by using wood for certain airframe components, and a great many of these sub-types were built that way. You can tell them from the other members of the family by serial or BuNo, of course, but you can also tell, at least on the silver ones, by the appearance of panels painted with aluminum dope. Another giveaway is the configuration of the panel lines on the aft fuselage, which are much-reduced from those of a "normal" T-6. Not all AT-6Cs and SNJ-4s had the wooden aft fus, though, so you'll need to pay close attention to your subject if you want to model one. You might also want to note that the 85 or so SNJ-4Cs operated by the Navy all had the aluminum rear fuselage.

AT-6D/SNJ-5 and -5C:  This variant is 100% visually compatible with the all-metal AT-6Cs and SNJ-4s. The only difference is the replacement of the 12-volt electrical system with a 24-volt system, which means you're pretty much dealing with markings variations and nothing else.

XAT-6E:  North American built one of these. It was an experimental variant that saw the Pratt and Whitney Wasp replaced by a 575hp Ranger V-770-9 inverted V-12. Superior streamlining outweighed brute force in this instance and the "E" model was the fastest member of the family, but the anticipated engine shortage never materialized and the XAT-6E became a sidebar to the Texan story. The airplane could make for a fascinating conversion were we so inclined, but we aren't, which means this is the last you'll hear of the variant on these pages.

AT-6F/SNJ-6:  This variant saw the elimination of all the guns and bomb racks. A revised aft cockpit cover (that would be the one at the very back end of the canopy stack) saw the elimination of most of the framing there, and the "F" could be fitted with an external 20-gallon aux tank, as well as a spinner virtually identical to that of the "G". It was also the last T-6 variant to use the tall antenna mast in front of the windscreen. The Navy doesn't think any of their SNJ-6s were ever fitted with tailhooks so we don't either.

T-6G/SNJ-7 and -7C: The Golf was an interesting airframe, re-manufactured from earlier variants and not a new-build per se. Modifications included the raising of the rear seat by 6 inches, and the addition of internal fuel bladders, neither of which would be visible on a model unless the builder was showing one in a totally torn-down overhaul scenario. The spinner of the "F" model was retained and made standard, and the canopies were simplified with fewer frames. A large, football-shaped DF loop was generally mounted aft of the canopy, although a smaller more handily-faired unit was often fitted, particularly on the T-6s used by foreign governments. The "Gs" were often flown without wheel covers (you can use a P-51 wheel and tire to duplicate this feature) and perhaps more often without landing gear doors. The tailwheel was similar in functunality to that of the P-51 but you don't want to go fitting a Mustang tailwheel to your T-6; it was the system that was modified, not the hardware. As a final note, the Navy had 6 SNJ-7s; three with and three without tailhooks.

LT-6G:  This was the Bad Actor of the family, modified for FAC and combat liaison work during the Korean fracas. The aircraft featured different com gear, six underwing hardpoints, and provision for the addition of gun pods. Their buzz numbers were generally prefixed with the letter "L", which makes the large "LTA-XXX" painted on the side a fair indicator of the LT variant if you don't happen to have a serial number reference handy. The Occidental kit of the T-6, which we aren't overly fond of, has most of the underwing equippage necessary for the conversion to LT-6G status if you just can't live without one in your collection.

All Those Foreign Members of the Family: We're going to leave those for somebody else to discuss; we're just doing the American versions here.

Our personal favorite Texan has got to be the T-6G, so we're including a couple of photos from Dave Menard's collection for inspiration to those of you with similar interests. You might want to note that we're making good on a promise here; since The Picture Pirates just can't seem to bring themselves to put credit lines on the photos they lift from this site, we're helping them out by forcing them to deal with something a little bit more substantial than what we've done in the past. We apologize profusely to our readership for taking this step but this thievery thing has got to stop somewhere.

This, to us, is what the T-6 was all about. Our earliest personal memory of the type was the the overall yellow ones we saw at Sheppard AFB as a child, and this one fits right in. Sharp-eyed observers will note the instrument bag in the aft cockpit and the lack of landing gear doors, although the aircraft is fitted with wheel covers. Menard Collection

A whole bunch of ex-USAF T-6Js (reconfigured "G" models) ended their days in the service of other countries---these are destined for the Federal Luftwaffe. Note the exhaust configuration, appropriate since these aircraft were orginally RAF Harvard IVs. Lighting can make a whole lot of difference in the way colors appear on an airplane, ya'll.  Lt. Col. D. Callahan via Menard

A significant photo; this shot was taken in 1955 by Dave Menard the week before he enlisted in the Air Force. Some people just have an eye for photography, and Dave is one of the best! Modelers may want to note the "No Step" legends on the leading edge of the wing, the anti-glare treatment, and the extremely visable zinc chromate primer inside the cowling. That red trim is really nice, don't you think?  Dave Menard

Finally, here's one for the folks who enjoy conversions. TA-608 was used by Captivair at Perrin AFB to teach cockpit and egress procedures. Notice the highly-modified cowling and that ramp full of T-6Gs. If there was one thing the Silver Air Force had a lot of it was Texans!  Col R. Merritt via Menard

Some Famous Birds

It seems like we say this every time we run any sort of photography from Bobby Rocker's collection, but he has some amazing images and we feel fortunate indeed to be able to share them with you. Today's offering is a somewhat different look at a couple of P-40Ns used by the 49th Fighter Group but apparently passed on to the 110th TRS late in the war. The shots all came from official sources and are therefore fair game for reproduction, but we wish you'd do the Right Thing and credit Bobby's collection if you decide to run them someplace else!

"Kansas City Kiddie" was originally with the 8th FS/49th FG. The photo shows the nose markings to what some folks might call good advantage, but the image is especially useful because we can see that underwing bomb racks were fitted to most of the 49th's "N" models. The suntan on those guys was a fringe benefit of assignment in the Pacific, but brutal working conditions and lack of sleep, even at this late stage of the war, meant that nobody was on a picnic!  Rocker Collection

"Island Dream" was another famous bird from the 49th. She's relatively beat up and tired in this photo but don't let appearances deceive you; the P-40 was a tough customer even in her dotage. "Dream" is bombed up and ready to rumble. Note the generally worn appearance of her wheel covers and prop blades, as well as the extensive staining.  Rocker Collection

"Daddy Please" was another old-stager from the 49th. Even her gas bag is beat to snot, and her general appearance borders on the disreputable. The overspray on her white leading edges is interesting, as is her prop. Old soldiers (and old airplanes) never die...  Rocker Collection

Rib Tape Redux

A while back we decided to show you how to simulate rib tape on a biplane using colored pencils as a quick and effective way to simulate the effect. We never quite got back to show you the completed model, although it's our intention to do that some day, but we found something else that might actually prove to be more useful to you in the long run.

You're probably all pretty sick of hearing that we moved a while back but move we did, and we're still finding stuff as a result. One of those things we recently found was a semi-ancient periodical entitled Historic Aviation, the February, 1969 edition of same to be exact. We were looking through it and there it was, right there on pages 26 and 27; an explanation of How Rib Tapes Work, or at least how they're applied to real airplanes. That's something we all ought to know, because it will create understanding which will, in theory at least, make us all better modelers. Read and heed, as it were.

The Relief Tube

It's been a long day and an even longer time since we've published anything, so we're going to call it quits for today, press The Magic Twanger, and get this bad boy in print. We'll be back soon (a LOT sooner than this wait has been) with another thrilling installment, so stay tuned. Until then, be good to your neighbor!


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Long Live the King, Long Ago and Far Away, and One You Don't See Every Day

It Just Never Got Much Better

Kitwise, that is. Nowadays we're all a little bit spoiled by the various offerings coming from those companies who provide us with the kits for our hobby. Even an economy that seems to be spending most of its time hiding in the cellar hasn't stopped the new releases, and it seems as though we're getting a new "dream kit" almost every month. Those new kits are great examples of the kit maker's art, putting all that came before them to shame. Or maybe not.

We've talked about the Once Mighty Monogram several times before, and each and every one of those times we've taken the position that the offerings from Morton Grove were, and in many cases still are, right up there with the best ever made. There's no doubt some of our readership will argue with that, mostly because they don't care for raised detail and are put off by the fit issues that all older kits, not just Monogram's, have experienced. In that one respect they're actually right for once; a great many "classic" kits have problems with fit that would lead most of us to drink, and Monogram's offerings are all too often right up there in the lousy fit department.

OK, then, what is it about those old Monogram kits that make them so wonderful? That's easy; a great many of them are more accurate in dimension and shape than the whiz-bang wunderkits that have replaced them. It's true that some of the really old offerings were pretty dicey in almost every respect, but The Big M turned over a major leaf when they released their ground breaking P-51B way back in the middle sixties and most of what followed was absolutely superb, albeit with the occasional gaffe to keep us all on our toes. Take today's example, for instance:

Somewhere back there in the mid or late 1970s, we forget which, Monogram decided to produce a 1/48th scale AT-6 Texan. That was a pretty amazing thing in and of itself since very few people ever bother to kit trainers, but Monogram did it and it was quite simply a revelation at the time. There had been only one previous kit of the AT-6 in that scale, Aurora's ancient AT-6/SNJ offering, and it had become distinctly long in the tooth (not that it had ever been very good in the first place). The Monogram kit was a quantum leap ahead of that and is, for that matter, still our Texan of choice in 1/48th, handily eclipsing the far more recent Occidental/Italeri offering of same. It is, and always has been, The Best Game in Town, and today we're going to take a quick look at it.

Monogram originally offered the kit molded in silver, with parts to allow a more-or-less accurate model to be built of any T-6 variant from A through F (or SNJ from SNJ-2 through -5), as long as the moder knew which details to tweak. A mid-80s attempt at marketing saw the kit offered as a racer, which was significant because that kit included the spinner, upper cowl deck, and canopy set to allow the kit's completion as a T-6G (as long as the modeler added the ADF fairing or DF football found aft of the canopy). There was a remarkably detailed single-piece engine, beautiful landing gear, and an interior that was almost adequate out of the box, needing just a small amount of detail and a set of belts and harnesses to be presentable. The nay-sayers all had bad things to say about the rivets, and the fit, but those rivets belong there since the real thing is absolutely covered with universal head rivets. As for the fit; well, it is pretty awful in places, but in theory we all possess the modeling skills necessary to fill a couple of seams, don't we? DON'T we?

So, besides that fit thing, what exactly are the issues with this beloved dinosaur of a kit? Lessee now...

The tailwheel and strut are clunky and awful, simply screaming for replacement. We're not entirely certain what we need to replace them with, but they need some serious help.

The mains are pretty darned good and honestly just need a little bit of cleanup, and the tires aren't bad either. The wheel covers are another story, requiring a little help in order to look right. Of course that won't matter if you're building a T-6G with open wheels; just rob the wheels and tires off the P-51 kit of your choice and life is good.

The gear doors are pretty thick. That's why there's sheet styrene, so replace them with a scratched up set if you feel the need or ignore them if you don't.

The engine is over-simplified and doesn't have a gajillion parts we'll never be able to see once the model's been assembled. If that matters to you then you'll need to go find yourself An Expensive Resin Engine to replace the kit offering with. If, on the other hand, you know how to use a paint brush and fine wire, the issue becomes almost entirely irrelevent. Of far greater concern is the cowling, which has a small "dent" in it to accomodate the single nose gun mounted on the early T-6s back when it really was an attack trainer. You'll have to fill it with a little putty, then sand it to make that dent go away. It's just a little more Modeling 101; you all should know the drill by now.

The spinner's a little clunky. If you're building a T-6G and if that bothers you then you can always steal the spinner off that Occidental kit.

The horizontal stabs are a little too thick and that, my friends, is truly a major problem. Since it's highly unlikely that any of the aftermarket resin folks will bother to issue a set of T-6 stabs in our lifetime, said worthies being far too involved in creating detail sets we honestly don't need, we're going to have to either ignore the issue or rebuild what we've got. The somewhat deranged staff over here at Replica (that would be me) is going to do the former because we're inherently lazy and don't want the extra work, but those stabs do need some help if you're of an ambitious nature. Don't say we didn't tell you.

The fuselage steps (those little tab thingys sticking out of the port fus) are too thick and too clunky. Yep. They are. You can replace them if you want to.

The landing lights are very Old School and need replacing. We advise cutting out the "lamps" that are molded into the wings and replacing them with MV lenses. You'll be amazed at how much that one little thing will add to your completed model.

The upper cowl decking provided for the gunless variants doesn't fit. It doesn't, in point of fact, come anywhere near to fitting, at least not on the kit we're presently building (the current issue "Revell" made-in-China edition). You're going to need your modeling skills for this one, but since the fix requires little more than filling and sanding you're still in pretty good shape.

If you're building a T-6G there's no ADF antenna or football and most of the real airplanes (but not all) had one or the other. You'll need to scratch up the former or steal the latter from a B-25J or Hasegawa P-40 kit if you want to build a "G". It ain't no thang, ya'll.

The pitot tube is clunky and doesn't look right, but you can surely fix that problem without any help from us.

The kit offers a cowl gun, a wing gun, and a gun for the aft cockpit, but it doesn't have any ordnance whatsoever if you want to build an LTA-6 or one of the French birds as used during their difficulties in Algeria. You can get most of the underwing stuff from the Occidental kit if you're so inclined, and those (or their Italeri reboxes) are easy enough to find at almost any large model contest, at least here in the States.

Finally, Eduard once offered a detail set for the Occidental kit. You won't need much of what's in there if you're building the Monogram kit but some of the details can be useful. The trade tables at your annual contest may be the place to go to look for these, although your favorite local hobby shop (if you still have one) may be able to order the set from Stevens International, a major distributor that used to have quite a few of the older Eduard detail sets in stock.

So, what conclusion have we reached today regarding this "dinosaur" of a kit? Well, folks, we'll give it to you plain and simple: We'd like a new kit of this classic airplane, preferably by Tamiya (if you're giving us our druthers), but the simple truth of the matter is that the old Monogram kit is, much like its cousin the F-100, still the best game in this 1/48th scale town and the game we're likely to have for some time to come. That's our story and, as usual, we're sticking with it.

Here you go: It's a T-6 (or SNJ), Type 1, Class 1, Mk 1, by Monogram. This is about where we are with our kit today but there are still some things we can learn from the photo. First, the upper cowl decking for the T-6G was not a part of the original kit and it doesn't fit very well as a result---the other side is a whole lot better than this side in terms of fitting the airplane and yes, that's a piece of Evergreen strip stuck to the rear part of the joint. Yes; the step there really is that big, at least on the kit I'm working with. It probably wouldn't be an issue if I was building the original iteration of the kit, but I'm not. Check out that pitot tube while we're looking at this shot, because it really does look that clunky and will have to be replaced before we call this project done. All those rivets stay, however; they're as close to scale as you can get and they belong on the airframe. We'll ultimately swipe over them with some polishing cloth just to knock them down a bit, but they're an essential part of the character of the Texan and they need to be there.

Here's another view that illustrates how things don't quite fit. There's a lot of gap in that upper cowl deck and a big sink hole in the intake on the port side of the fuselage, so there's a lot of putty there to fill them in. Contemporary modelers, particularly the younger ones or the ones new to the hobby, would cringe at any kit with that much bodywork required, but it was the norm back in what some folks might call The Day. A lot of the kit's detailing is soft, but that's as much a function of where the thing was molded as anything else---this model is the recent Revell offering and is manufactured in China. Everything, and we mean everything, is better defined and far more crisp on our 1987-vintage kit that was manufactured in Morton Grove.

 Those belts and harnesses are from Eduard's somewhat dubious WW2 USAAF and USN set and they help the model immensely even thought they aren't accurate for the T-6 or SNJ. As we mentioned earlier, there's also an Eduard detailing set available for the Texan in 1/48th, but it's meant to be used with the Occidental kit and a lot of the stuff in there isn't necessary for the far-better-detailed Monogram kit. If you happen to be a modeler of the Old School you'll do most of your cockpit enhancement with what Monogram provided.

This shot illustrates a few more things that will require fixing before we can move on. The lips on both those scoops need refinement, and the model's presence will be greatly enhanced by a set of MV lenses in the landing light bays. The kit's flap bays are detailed and we even painted them in Testor's version of Mil-P-8585Y "Zinc Chromate", but military T-6s and SNJs were rarely if ever parked with the flaps deployed in real life so they'll end up being retracted on our model. That's a shame, because there's adequate detail in those flap bays, but them's the breaks. That little hook-shaped thingy on the lower cowl is a sensor probe and is supposed to be there so don't knock it off (or be prepared to replace it if you do!). The wheel wells could stand a little rework too, but we aren't going to do it, and the "zinc chromate" application is wrong if it's going to be representing properly-applied primer; the appliciation specs for this material call for enough coverage to effectively seal and prime the metal, not an even color coat, which makes this one of those times when a splotchy paint job is ok. We might go back and change that, but then again we might not...

Here's how the interior looks, sortof. The instruments on the student and instructor's panels were picked out with silver colored pencil and the switches painted appropriately, while the necessary cockpit placards (and there are a fair number of them in the T-6) were left-overs from various Eduard sets---you're looking for size, shape, and color for that sort of thing, not a word-for-word copy, so whatever fits is perfectly adequate. If you don't care for that particular philosophy then we heartily recommend that you don't do it that way, but it works just fine for us.

We ran this shot because we wanted you to see how thick and clunky the boarding steps are. They belong there, so we'll either thin and re-shape what's already on the kit or maybe we'll replace them. The jury's out on that one at the moment. We've got a little bit more to do in the cockpit, including a set of buckles on the student's shoulder harnesses, but that's an adventure for another day.

Stay tuned as we progress with our T-6 project. The intent, at this moment anyway, is to end up with an overall yellow '50s USAF trainer, although that could change. The point to be taken here is that we're having a whole lot of fun with this kit and suggest you give one a try for yourself.

Things Were Different Back Then

A terrible war had been won but there were still bad guys in the world, and the actions of said miscreants occasionaly caused the Air Force to deploy fighters to Europe. One of the earliest, staged in direct response to the Soviet blockade of Berlin, was the 1948 trans-Atlantic deployment of a portion of the famed the 56th Fighter Group to Furstenfeldbruck in an action named Operation Fox Able. Thanks to the efforts of Mark Morgan (we think---if these didn't come from Mark would the real contributor please stand up so we can give credit where credit's due?) we have some unique photography of that deployment to share with you today.

***And a special note: Within hours of the posting of this blog we'd heard from Mark Morgan, who said the photos weren't his, as much as he wished they were. That leads us to our 2nd Best Guess, Mark Nankivil of the Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum, so we've changed the credits. With luck we got it right this time!!!

****And, of course, we got it wrong again! Just when we thought we had things figured out we heard from Doug Barbier, from who's collection these photos actually came. Working on the theory that the third time's the charm, we're going to change our credit lines again. It's the last time, we promise! Maybe...

Getting there is half the fun! While the 56th F-80s, under command of Col. Dave Schilling, made the hop on their own, they couldn't carry the support elements required to operate the group in their fighters---most of that assemblage made the trip in C-47s and C-54s. This photo was taken during a gas stop at Goose; it's a long way to anywhere in a C-47.  Michigan Air Guard Historical Association via Doug Barbier

Partying down in the Goose O-Club. It was, as they say, a simpler time.  Michigan Air Guard Historical Association via Doug Barbier

If you're in the service you do a whole lot of waiting. The place is Goose Bay, and those pilots wouldn't have looked terribly out of place in 1944. It took a while for the flight clothing and equipment to catch up with The Jet Age.  Michigan Historical Air Guard Association via Doug Barbier

Overflying the Atlantic always meant the possibility of taking a swim in same. In this shot we get to take a look at the apex of 1948 survival gear, the immersion suit. It was as good as such things ever got back then, but at the end of the day it only prolonged the amount of time it would take a downed pilot to freeze to death. Rescue options were limited at best.  Michigan Historical Air Guard Association via Doug Barbier

Opened up for maintenance, probably at Goose. The F-80 was an extremely simple airplane, both to fly and to maintain, making its participation in Fox Able One easier than it might otherwise have been.  Michigan Historical Air Guard Association via Doug Barbier

Once the 56th was settled in at Fursty it was possible to enlist the assistance of the local workforce with certain aspects of aircraft maintenance. The young fraulein was hired to paint the flags on the 56th's F-80s prior to their departure from Fursty---it's a really neat glimpse into the way things once were.  Michigan Historical Air Guard Association via Doug Barbier

All good things must come to an end. After a 45-day deployment at Fursty the 56th deployed back to the CONUS, and in this photo Col. Schilling's aircraft is preparing for departure. As much as we love those old Monogram kits we'd sure like to see a new-tool F-80!  Michigan Historical Air Guard Association via Doug Barbier

Goin' home. You'll need gas if you're going to cross The Pond. This shot was taken at RAF Odiham; what an idea for a diorama!  Michigan Historical Air Guard Association via Doug Barbier

Many thanks to Doug for the contribution.

They Also Served

When we think of the SBD we most often think of its sterling service in the Pacific during the Second World War, but a significant part of Dauntless operations took place flying seemingly endless anti-submarine patrols in That Other Ocean. Reader Pat Donahue built a model of one of those Atlantic-based SBDs and sent us a few photos. It's a really spiffy model and we thought you'd like to see the pictures too, so without further fanfare:

The kit is the venerable Accurate Miniatures offering in 1/48th scale. The so-called "Atlantic" scheme is difficult to pull off in either of its iterations but we think Pat's done it to perfection. The model is extremely clean but really shows of that particular camouflage variation to advantage.

Here's a better view. A-M did their own aftermarket set that included, among other things, an aerial depth charge. Now there's a thought!

Here's a view that illustrates how the camouflage works from above. The SBD-5 is an aircraft with classic lines and the paint job really shows them off to advantage.

And here's The Other Side. We normally put a little wear and tear on our own personal models, but it would be a shame to do that to this one.  Beauty!  Thanks, Pat, for sharing these with us.

Under the Radar

Sometimes it's the Mainstream that sneaks up on you. Take today's topic, for instance:

USAF Plus Fifteen, A Photo History 1947-1962, by Dave Menard, Schiffer Publications, 1993. We first saw this book some five years ago during a visit to Frank Emmett's home, were suitably empressed by it, and then promptly forgot we'd ever seen it until this past weekend when we discovered a copy for sale at Hill Country Hobbies in San Antonio. If you enjoy the photography we run on this site you're going to want a copy of this for yourselves too. Let us tell you why.

Dave Menard is a friend of many years. He's also the owner of one of the best collections of early USAF photography in the country, with extensive files running into the tens of thousands of images. Fortunately for us all he enjoys sharing those images with others; hence this book.

USAF Plus Fifteen is a photo book pure and simple; 142 pages of color photographs of The Silver Air Force. The pictures presented contain quite a few fighter types, as you might expect, but there's an excellent representation of the bombers, transports, and trainers of the era as well. The photography is well reproduced and is by and large unique, making the work a must-have for any aviation historian's personal library. We can't recommend it highly enough and stongly urge you to track down a copy for yourself if it's not already in your collection. Just thumb back through the pages of this blog and see what Dave's offered in the past. This book is all of that on steroids---it just don't get no better!

The Relief Tube

We've just got one lonely little Relief Tube entry for today, but it's a pip:

Phil: Barrett Tillman started a thread on Zippers today- he pointed out this neat video on the Luftwaffe-
One of the usual suspects, the legendary “Youthly Puresome”, retired A-4 and reserve F-8 driver, had several dets up in Cold Lake against the Canadian F-104s with Crusaders and reported thusly in his own unique style-
Still have the drawn documentation of each fight, used for debriefing purposes. Canuckian chaps great guys, learned not to do any turning: blow thru at heat's speed, go out and come back thru. Their best defensive move was to go head on, beak to beak, because they had no frontal cross section. Of course, we always tried to approach any merge with angle off. Eagle can elaborate, but my memories of flying the thing mostly involve buffeting anytime I pulled on the pole.
But ain't they purty.

OK, ya'll; everybody here knows how much we like the F-104. Just watch the clip and enjoy. Thanks, Morgo!!!

And that's all there is for today. Be good to your neighbor and we'll see you again real soon.