The Things We Used to Do
We (that's me, of course, being all journalistic again) used to work in a hobby shop a very long time ago, which is where we met future RIS partner Jim Wogstad. A friendship was formed, which led to considerable discussion about the complete and utter lack of any sort of decent American scale modeling magazine, which in turn led to the project that birthed the original print version of Replica In Scale way back in the early 1970s. Somewhere between the two was School, or what passed for a collegiate career at any rate, which in turn led to the necessity of Gainful Employment once we left said educational endeavors. That requirement for the acquisition of Filthy Lucre in turn led to a job at an area museum as an exhibit preparator, working (a term to be taken very loosely) for that future RIS partner we mentioned way up there in the first sentence.
We had a lot of ideas, Jim and I, but most were unworkable. One that wasn't, and the one we're going to discuss today, was PFWOG Plastic. The premise was a simple one; the Mattel toy company had manufactured a very sophisticated bit of educational "toy" called a vacuum-form. Said toy wasn't on the market very long because they operated with electricity and generated a fair amount of heat, which we presume led to the occasional juvenile burned fingers and other general unpleasantness of the sort that creates Potential Litigation. The bottom line was that the thing was discontinued. That honestly wasn't much of a problem in the early 1970s because you could still pick up a new one in the toy store of your choice for next to nothing, but once you ran yourself out of the plastic it came with you were essentially out of business---the colored stuff wasn't a problem, since you could cut .005 or .010 sheet styrene to the proper size, mash it down onto those little pins in the unit's platen, and go to town. Nope, the colored plastic was easy.
The problem was that most of us bought our vacuum-forms so we could do canopies, and there were often failures when trying to do that. Sometimes you could salvage the screw-ups but more often you couldn't, so you ran out of the packages of clear in your set pretty quickly, which created both Demand and Opportunity. That's where PFWOG came in.
Remember that part where we mentioned the museum and the preparation of exhibits? That was the catalyst, because we had a moderately large (18x18 inches, if an increasingly fading memory serves us correctly) vac-form at work, and we had sheet butyrate to use with it. We were sitting there one day, making lily pads for a museum display out of, what else but sheet butyrate, when Inspiration struck. We had a source of clear plastic that was proven to work in a vacuum-form!
Striking while the iron was hot (that's a metaphor, not the literal truth), we transported ourselves to one of San Antonio's plastics supply houses and bought a couple of rolls of .003 and .005 sheet butyrate. (There might have been some .010 in there too, but we honestly don't remember that one.) We zipped over to Jim's place and started in on those rolls with a paper cutter, making proper-sized squares to fit in the platen of that little toy vacuum-form. The stuff worked like a champ!
We spent a couple of hours cutting it out and packaging it, 25 (or maybe 50, we forget) sheets to a pack, put in a tiny sheet of photocopied instructions, and hiked ourselves down to the then-legendary Dibble's Arts and Hobbies where we managed to persuade a somewhat bemused Ray Johnson to carry the stuff.
Ray actually sold some of it too, but not very much, and Jim and I avoided getting rich on that particular Great Idea, or any other Great Idea we ever had for that matter. We had a lot of fun with it though, and we've both still got a package or two of it hanging around, packages that have assumed the role of Cherished Memories of Days Long Gone. (Sounds impressive, huh?)
The bottom line, of course, is that you can vacuum-form sheet butyrate and attach it to a model with white glue. It comes in really minute thicknesses (think about just how thin .003 really is) and comes in transparent tints too. It's useful stuff and, as far as we know, nobody but us ever tried it. You can pick up a roll of it for way cheap at almost any industrial plastic supply house, and that roll will probably last you forever.
You can thank us later.
Rhapsody in B Major
There was a time, not all that long ago, when the United States was engaged in an extremely active "peaceful" conflict with the former Soviet Union known as The Cold War. That particular event lasted from the end of the Second World War until shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall and wasn't really all that cold since shots, albeit clandestine ones ((usually) were often fired and people occasionally died. That Cold War led in turn to the development and employment of a number of weapons systems and the conversion of some existing ones into aircraft suited for the requirements of the conflict. Today's feature concerns one of the latter.
The Boeing B-50 was a logical outgrowth of that company's wartime B-29 Superfortress and proved itself a considerable improvement on that classic bomber, it's increased speed and altitude capability proving to be of considerable utility when it was decided to modify the type into a reconnaissance platform. It stayed in service until 1954, and overflights included both the periphery and certain lightly-defended areas of the interior of the Soviet Union. Several RB-50s were shot down in the process, and the type was sensitive enough that at least two noted aviation photographers of our acquaintance, when asked if they had any images of active service aircraft, promptly informed us that they wouldn't have been allowed to photograph the aircraft even had they wanted to.
With that perspective in mind, it's time to look at some pictures, most of which come from the remarkable collection of Ron Picciani. Let's take a look at the spookiest of the Superforts.
We didn't really mention it up there but all of the RB-50s shown were assigned to the 338th SRS when photographed and all were flying out of Forbes one way or another. If any of our readers have images of other aircraft of this persuasion we'd love to see them. That e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
An Extra Leg
Every time we write about the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter we mention its distinct lack of range, which was one of the many reasons the type was never very useful to the US Air Force. External tanks were quick in coming to the type and, thanks to that Sargent-Fletcher catalog we discussed a couple of issues back, we've got a dimensioned drawing of one of the principal ones used on the "Zip". With any luck it'll be of use to the modelers in our audience. (For that matter it might prove useful without the intervention of luck at all---you just never know!)
Under the Radar
There's a fellow in Australia you need to know about if his works aren't already familiar to you. His name's Ian K. Baker and he publishes a series of what he calls "colouring books", mostly pertaining to the aircraft of all sides during the Pacific War. They're camouflage and markings books pure and simple, but are sketchbooks---you need to know that up front---and are extremely well done. The text accompanying each drawing is well-researched and accurate, at least as near as we can tell, and we consider them to be essential reading if your tastes run to the subjects covered.
Not all of his works are currently in print, and we honestly don't know how many there are at this point since our personal collection stops at Number 51, but they're well worth the trouble should you want to buy some of them. The folks at Red Roo are the sole distributors for the series as far as we know, so you're going to be doing a little mail-order with The Land Down Under in order to obtain your copies, but that just adds an element of adventure to the deal.
One more thing; these monographs are privately published and are apparently gone once stocks are exhausted, which means you'll need to jump while the iron's hot if you see a title you'd like to have for your own library. It's a classic chance to use that old Snooze and Lose metaphor. 'Nuff said!
You Gotta Like Gerry Kersey
OK, let's get it out of the way right at the start: Gerry Kersey's a class act. He's a likable guy, and he's also a guy who has respect and admiration for the former members of the 3rd Attack Group during World War II and Korea, and he's the owner of a website called 3rd Attack Group.Org, the link to which can be found up there towards the top of this publication where it says "Links to Friends and Other Interesting Places".
So what kind of site is it? It's history, for starters, and includes some exceptional photography contributed by former members of the group, and to the other medium bombardment and attack outfits involved in the Pacifi War. It's also an homage to those remarkable young men of so long ago, and it keeps track of their current goings on, their memorials and, unfortunately, their passing. It's a site of amazing images and unbridled respect, and it's well worth a visit.
Here are a couple of photos from Gerry's site, used with permission (we state that for those of you who still persist in taking and publishing other people's photos without provenance).
One more thing---when you get to the aforementioned site you'll see a couple of photos you probably saw here at Replica first. Gerry contacted us a while back for permission to use the images. You get the drift of where this is going, right? RIGHT!
Where Do They Go When They're Done in the Fleet?
It's not like there's an Old Folks Home for elderly naval aircraft or anything, but the useful ones tend to end up in the Naval Reserve, where they sail on (we couldn't rightfully say "soldier" given the subject matter, could we?) until the day finally arrives and they move on to the bone yard or to some park to end their days up a pole. Last time around we promised you some A-7Bs and today we're going to fulfill that promise but with a twist; all of the birds you're about to view were with the NavRes when photographed. The Reserves currently are and, since the close of the Second World War, always have been, an essential part of the NAV's force structure. Let's take a look at Those Other Guys for a minute:
We run a lot of Rick Morgan's photography around here because he's a really good photographer and has had the opportunity to shoot some fascinating airframes. Most folks don't know that Rick's older brother Mark has been in the photography game for a while too. Here's the proof:
The Relief Tube
It's that time again, folks; time to once again prove right all those folks who insist we don't know much of anything about much of anything. Yessir, it's time for the Relief Tube so, without further ado:
First, a couple of additions to the A-7A captions from last time around from Rick Morgan, who told us Phil, what would Sunday night be without a comment on the blog? VA-37 were Cecil-based; they were attached to AirPac's CVW-11 for their first deployment, to Vietnam, in December of 1968. The RAG A-7A is from VA-125; AirPac had two A-7 training units at that time. VA-122 had the A-7Es, former A-4 RAG VA-125 picked up the A-7A/B roll in September of 1969 and kept it until they disestablished in 1977. Rick
Thanks as always, Morgo!
Next up is a kudo from reader Robert Little, who used one of our articles as inspiration for a model; since that's one of our goals around here we're understandably tickled by the compliment: I was so inspired by that homely-looking FG-1D up there in the section "Can You Hear Your Bluebird Sing" that I decided to build it as a fun project (most of my projects these days are), a nostalgia build of sorts, hope you don't mind. I linked that image as well as your blog. Robert
Robert, we definitely don't mind and are, in point of fact, quite flattered. For those of our readership who'd like to take a look a what Robert's up to these days, you'll want to check out robsworldin172nd.blogspot.com. It's a pretty neat site and well worth a visit.
Finally, a reader known only as Slacker sent a link to an old 526th FBS video that somehow ended up on YouTube. It's pretty much in the same vein as the classic The Geiger Tigers and is worth a looksee if you've got eight minutes you can spare. The link, which we sincerely hope will work for you, is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQL9Kxxd88s . Enjoy!
That's it for this time, folks; there ain't no more! We'll see you again in a week or so, give or take. Until then, be good to your neighbor!