Sunday, December 8, 2013

FJ Redux, Bats Outa Hell, That Other F-15, and A Special Thanks

A Fond Look Back and A Brave New World

Here we are, Gang; yet another year very nearly gone. From a hobby perspective it was a great year, one of many and, oddly enough, maybe one of the very last of the great polystyrene plastic kit years. Yep, it's probably true. The advent of stereo lithography, aka 3D printing, has advanced to the point where people are making firearms and parts for real airplanes with the technology right now this minute, and there's a guy over on one of the AFV modeling sites who's already been making conversion sets and detail parts with it. His stuff looks pretty darned good too, easily as good as the plastic kits he's been making his parts for. We are, quite literally, quivering on the dawn of a new age of scale modeling, and the time probably isn't too far off when a "kit" will consist of a CD rather than a box full of plastic, a time when the truly exceptional modelers will be the ones who can successfully write programs, both for their own home-grown aftermarket parts and for short run kits (maybe extremely short---how about a run of one or two kits, just for yourself and nobody else?).

Think about it for a minute. Most of the cost of a plastic model currently goes into the tooling, with the actual molding and packaging of said model costing next-to-nothing in comparison. That's why we may never see a mainstream kit of the North American B-45, while at least one or two Zero or Spitfire kits are released each and every year (and we're not even going to mention the Luftwaffe subjects that manage to get kitted endlessly, in lieu of something else). It's all a matter of economics; even the companies who design and produce kits for what I'm going to call the specialist market ultimately have to make a profit in order to stay in business.

In comparison, nearly all the cost of that newly-emerging technology lies in the cost of the printer, and the available printers are getting both better and less expensive by the day. It's only a matter of time before hobby shops, of both the surviving local variety and the increasingly more common on-line ones, begin to catalog 3D printers as part of their normal offerings and begin to stock racks full of programs contained on CD rather than the currently normal plastic kits or aftermarket sets.

Sounds far-fetched? Maybe so, but it would pay to remember that Frog began marketing the first plastic model kits in the late 1930s as an alternative to the more traditional solid wood kits then being offered. Polystyrene kits came along after the second world war and have had a long and healthy run spanning nearly six decades (check out the copyright dates on the old Lindberg LST or Hawk Curtiss racer for an eye-opening example of just how long that run has lasted). Does anybody out there remember exactly why the hobby industry moved from wood to plastic? That's right---it was because plastic kits allowed even a novice builder a shot at something decent to put on the shelf, and at a nominal cost. As a result, scale modeling became Everyman's Hobby. That hobby for Everyman morphed into a hobby for the hardcore enthusiast with the passage of time, and that brings us to today.

There are still kids out there who build models but their numbers aren't nearly as great as once they were, while the kids who made the current hobby what it is today are becoming fewer with every passing year; plastic modeling is a classic Baby Boomer's hobby, pure and simple, and the time will eventually come when it's just too expensive for manufacturers to tool up for new kits, while existing tooling will inevitably wear out. Combine that with the serious scale modeler's natural desire for the best and most accurate model available and the time is ripe for change, probably first in the realm of conversion sets and then, ultimately, as complete kits. It's inevitable, and it probably won't be a Bad Thing. The advent of such "data kit"s certainly won't kill the hobby; a good modeler will still be a good modeler and a bad modeler will still be a bad one. All that's going to change is the way the parts are created, and where. Somebody still has to build the thing, and paint and decal it---even if you could dial in pre-printed markings for your kit you'd still have to use modeling skills to complete your replica. If you don't believe that, just compare today's kits and methods with those available to the modeler in 1933, or 43, or 53.

There's a bottom line here and it's one that's inevitable; plastic kits as we currently know them will probably be around for a long time, but at the end of the day it will be the digitally-produced kits that dominate the hobby, along with digital aftermarket. The now-"traditional" plastic kit will become something built by purists and dinosaurs, and that's alright with me. It's a big world out there and there's room for everybody in it. On a personal level I have no doubt I'll try one of the new-technology kits as soon as it becomes available, but I'm equally certain that I'll continue to build the "old" stuff too, simply because I like doing things that way. At the end of the day it's all a matter of choice and personal preference.

Don't expect to see the change come tomorrow, or next week, or even next year, but it's closer than you think to being a reality and, at the end of the day, it's probably going to end up being a Very Good Thing for our hobby.

Just sayin...

Farther Along With That Fury

In a veritable maelstrom (your word for today) of activity, I've been charging right along with that FJ-4B you first saw in our last issue. Here's where we are today:

Although it may not look much different than it did before, right down to the fact that it's sitting on a really cluttered workbench, there actually has been substantial progress. The sharp-eyed among you (and you have to sit this one out, McMurtrey---you've been embarrassing me entirely too much lately!) will notice side numbers on the flaps, as well one the upper surface of the starboard wing. Those were added thanks to the kindness of Tommy Thomason, who sent in a couple of photos that showed the way VA-144 did it on their airplanes. Sway braces have been added to the gas bag that lives under that starboard wing, and all the "junk in the trunk" beneath the canopy has been put into place. Still to be accomplished is the completion of the national insignia on the port wing---it goes over the fence---and the closing up of the red-orange lightning bolts on the fuselage spine. That's one of those things I wasn't entirely certain of before, but the photos provided by Tommy defined how it should look up there. In my world that's called Doing the Scary, but I'm getting ready to give it a shot. Let's see if Phillip can ruin the airplane in the home stretch! (Unfortunately, that one's a no-brainer. I've already managed to do that sort of thing far too many times to count!) I also need to make some vents for the new generator panel on the nose (as described below), along with a couple of other minor corrections thanks to those comments by Tommy Thomason.

Phil, Great discussion. Some answers and extra stuff:  Detail under canopy can be found at: , Horizontal tail span:  . Left-hand (only) guns removed and vents in gun access panel were the result of the addition of an emergency generator:  .

Note that all (?) rudders were gray initially for the change to the gray/white scheme. The FJ-4s weren't around long enough to get the change to white(?).  The rudder was not originally to be painted white but this requirement was formally introduced in December 1961. However, some rudders were white before that, particularly on aircraft that might be assigned to deliver a nuclear weapon, to minimize the thermal effect of a nuclear explosion on the thin-skinned control surface. Interesting point on barricade (not barrier) fences. My guess is that it was determined that they weren't required on airplanes operating from angled deck carriers. Did I miss a mention of the retrofit of the Martin-Baker seat? From  "The FJ-4s appear to have begun to be switched over in early 1961 at the first or second major overhaul after late 1960. The first reported ejection using the Martin-Baker seat was in September 1961. If you don't have a photo of the specific aircraft being modeled, the best bet is the original seat. The earliest example that I found of a MB seat in the FJ-4 is VA-144's 3rd deployment, November 1961 to May 1962. However, there is a picture of a reserve FJ-4B dated July 1963 with the original seat." (Your picture with the vent question answered above shows the Martin-Baker seat.) 


There are several lessons to be learned from Tommy's comments, the primary one of which is that I could have saved myself a whole lot of trouble by going to his site for information before I began the model. 20/20 Hindsight, as it were! (I guess I've just modeled one of those rare FJ-4Bs that had all the guns removed! Yeah; right...)

Anyway, this project is well on the road to completion in spite of that gun faux pas  (presuming I don't ruin it when I do that touch-up on the fuselage spine!). Stay tuned and, in theory, our next issue will show you a completed model. In theory...

A VA-144 FJ-4B launching off the Ranger in 1959. This photo shows the way the side number is presented on the flaps and starboard wing upper surface to advantage. It also shows the presence of guns, but there's no way of telling whether or not there are guns on the port side too unless someone out there has access to the NARF records for this particular BuNo---we don't. You might also note the scabbed-up appearance of that gas bag. Speaking of gas bags, make note of what's under the port wing; that's a Douglas tank, not North American. We'll explain all that next issue but for now it's worth knowing that sort of thing went on (it was directly related to the ordnance load carried).  USN

Here's a detail of that emergency generator cover Tommy was describing. Note that the gun ports have been completely eliminated and a pair of vents have been add on the aft part of the access panel. Everything under the canopy aft of the seat travels with the structure when it opens, which gives a completely different appearance to that area in each configuration.   Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

War Dogs

The 345th BG, aka the Air Apaches, were one of the premier medium bomb groups of the Southwest Pacific. Their exploits became legendary throughout the course of a nasty, brutal war that took place in the harshest and most unforgiving of environments and they not only survived but thrived, this in spite of heavy losses in combat against a highly motivated, professional and, at least for the first couple of years, experienced enemy. Often short of parts, always short of sleep, and battling not only the Japanese but the heat, humidity, tropical weather systems, insects, mud, dust, and snakes of their operational area, they carried out their mission in a manner that arguably made them the best of the best; the premier medium bomb group in General George's Air Force. It was no accident that the 345th was given the honor of escorting the Japanese surrender delegation to Ie Shima during the closing days of the war. They were something special in an Air Force where everyone was exceptional.

We've shared images from Johnathan Watson's collection with you previously and are going to publish a few more today; let's go back to the 1943-44 time period in New Guinea and take a look at some Air Apaches from the 499th BS. A couple of the aircraft we've depicted may be familiar to you and a couple may not, but the photographs shown are all originals and we don't think any of them have ever been published before. We hope you enjoy them.

Things look placid enough in this photograph and that airfield looks dry, but no place in the SWPAC stayed in either condition for very long. In this shot "Lucky Bat" is in the foreground, with "Hell's Belles" sitting in the near distance. That 6x6 is carrying a crated dorsal turret---presumably the "Bat" is about to get a replacement for her existing unit. The "Bat's" strafer nose is modified from the factory-equipped glass one, and those guns are all wearing canvas covers, an absolute necessity when parked on those dusty New Guinea air strips. On a more personal note, the whole concept of uniforms was a flexible notion at best in that theater, as exemplified by the assortment of clothing worn by the ground echelon standing in this photo. Author Martin Caiden wrote a book called The Ragged Rugged Warriors back in the 60s. Not everyone cares for Caiden's presentation of history, but the title of that book could sum up the experience of the AAF while fighting in the Southwest Pacific.  Johnathan Watson Collection

Here's another view of "Lucky Bat", providing us with an excellent view of her port gun pack (in this case a North American factory mod) and her overall highly weathered condition. That's a fin assembly for a 500 lb GP bomb lying on the ground just aft of her nose gear. Carrying s/n 41-30058, the "Bat" led a relatively lengthy combat life, but finally paid the ultimate price. She's being readied for another mission in this shot; note the sophisticated ground support equipment  displayed in the photo, as well as the tapered muzzle extensions on those gunpack .50s. In the finest tradition of Polystyrene Whining, we sure wish HK had done a B-25D instead of the J and H models they've released. We're just never happy, are we?  Johnathan Watson Collection

Here's a slightly better view of "Lucky Bat", apparently taken at the same time as our previous shot. Note how her name has been plated over by what appears to be an aluminum scab patch, and the definition of her "bat" markings on the nose. Her paintwork is a mess (and a scale modeler's challenge!), with the weathering on her prop blades being of particular interest---this photo absolutely abounds in detail! Assigned to the 499th BS/345th BG, the "Bat" finally bought it strafing barges on 30 July, 1944, with all aboard killed. She made at least 66 missions before cashing in, and could've been the poster child for General George's mediums.   Johnathan Watson Collection

And here's the 499th's "Wilda Marie". Noteworthy in this shot are her mission markers and kill markings (including a couple of meatballs just aft of the canopy) and the presentation of her name. In common with all the 345th's aircraft her paintwork is all beat to snot, and she's well-worn to say the least. She's also mission capable and ready to go again. Interesting details in this shot include the canvas cover on her dorsal turret and the pre-War AAC corcarde painted on her nose wheel cover. Her s/n was 41-30016, a B-25D-5 like all the others in this series. The inclusion of the bicycle and that motorcycle makes this a prime candidate for a diorama, we think.  Johnathan Watson Collection

There are famous B-25s and there are famous B-25s. When you get past all the rest, there's "Dirty Dora". She managed to survive 175 combat missions, including operations in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, only to be scrapped out at the end of her life. She's covered with personal names (look on the cowling and under the bomb scoreboard under the canopy) and her paintwork is unique. Accurate Miniatures included markings and paint masks for her in one of the several offerings of their somewhat-flawed (but salvageable) B-25D kit and she's well worth building, an homage to the boys from the 345th.   Johnathan Watson Collection

Every now and then you come across a photo that you just have to run and this shot is one of them. From her boarding ladder to her antenna mast, from her turret detail to her side guns, this photo defines a number of details not often generally seen. That name under her turret is special too; note how it's repeated, apparently in yellow, under the "main" presentation of same. Those turret covers were part of the North American field kit that accompanied every Mitchell into service---note how stiff this one is and how well it's keeping its shape after removal from the turret.  The Devil's in the details!   Johnathan Watson Collection

Loading up. In this view, a 500 lb GP bomb is being winched into the bomb bay of one of the 499th's Mitchells. In typical fashion, the bombs have been delivered to the aircraft sans fins and fuses, both of which are installed in the arming area. Of particular interest is the way the Bronze Green paint on the aft access door has been scabbed up by repeated use. Most folks wouldn't choose this approach to weather a model, but it's obviously the way the doors looked in service.  Johnathan Watson Collection

Here's another view of the same aircraft. We're running this shot because it gives an excellent view of that side gun as well as the way the turret cover was secured to the aircraft. The wear on the paintwork between the national insignia and that gun is worth a look as well; we strongly suspect the lighter color is Yellow Zinc Chromate. Modeler's who are fond of using aftermarket might want to note that those tires on the MLG are not excessively bulged or flattened.   Johnathan Watson Collection

"Hell's Belles" undergoing maintenance prior to a mission. Those unpainted aluminum bulges on the covers on her cheek guns are worth noting, as is that scoreboard. The artwork on her nose wheel cover is worth a second look too, as is her generally battered condition. Built as a B-25D-5 (41-30019), she paid the ultimate price during a raid on Jefman Island---she took a flak hit and went into the water inverted. There were no survivors of that crash, and no easy days in the SWPAC.  Johnathan Watson Collection

And here's "Hell's Belle's" in happier times, running up prior to her loss on the 16 June 1944 mission. Of interest is the staggered installation of the cheek .50s; this was normal in this sort of installation. The shot manages to be both evocative and melancholy, a reminder of a time of sacrifice long ago.  Johnathan Watson Collection

The 499th's "Doodle Jr", another B-25D-5 (41-30164), gets an ordnance check. The gun-pack covers have been removed and the flash hiders are fitted to the muzzles of the guns---they aren't present in any of the other shots in this essay. There appears to be slight discoloration from powder and lubricant staining in front of at least one of those guns, and that AAF insignia on her nose wheel cover is particularly tasty. "Doodle Jr" was engaged in a raid on Sidate airfield in Celebes when she lost an engine near Halmahera. Her crew survived the ditching and was picked up some three hours after entering the water---they were among the lucky ones. It wasn't always the enemy that got you in the SWPAC.   Johnathan Watson Collection

"Doodle Jr" in happier times, ready to rumble and on her way to the party. Note that her Plexiglas tail cone is missing---the B-25s in the 5th AF often had it removed and replaced by a .30 cal stinger gun, which wasn't particularly effective in actual use but added greatly to crew morale. The Insignia Blue of her national insignia has faded into the OD of her upper surface paint work due to the type of film used but is still there. Modeler's beware!  Johnathan Watson Collection

That's our look at the 499th BS/345th BG today, and we hope you've enjoyed it. Many thanks to Johnathan Watson for his willingness to share his collection with us.

A Little-Known Northrop

Everybody is familiar with Northrop's P-61 Black Widow; the aircraft has been relatively well-represented in the world of scale modeling in 1/72nd (Frog and Airfix) as well as in 1/48th (Aurora, Monogram, and Great Wall), and there's aftermarket and even a few decal sheets available in both scales. The P-61's first cousin, the F-15 Reporter, is far less known. Originating with the P-61 airframe, the F-15 was modified with a purpose-designed fuselage optimized for the photo-recon mission, and highly-modified engine nacelles, which mods gave the airplane an entirely different appearance in profile. Thanks to Bobby Rocker we have an opportunity to view one of those unique aircraft today.

Looking more like a racer than a purpose-built photo recon ship, 45-59316 (an F-15A-1-NO) was assigned to the 8th PRS/35th FG, based in Japan, when this photo was taken. Although the Reporter's service history included no combat whatsoever (operational missions concluded in 1948), peacetime aerial mapping of the Korean peninsula by the 8th proved of great worth when hostilities began there in 1950. A beautiful aircraft, the type was a maintenance pig from the beginning---introduced into service in Japan in 1947, it enjoyed barely one year of operational flying before being removed from active service. The last of the 8th's F-15As were scrapped out in March of 1949, and the only other user, Air Material Command, didn't keep theirs much longer. We're aware of only one kit of the type, a resin conversion from Lone Star Models, although there may be others we don't know about. Who knows what the Reporter might have done had it been more reliable (although we suspect it would have been savaged by the MiGs had it made it to the Korean War), but at the end of the day it was just another sidebar to aviation history.   Rocker Collection

Bobby Rocker's collection is both large and unique, and we're extremely grateful to be able to share images from it. Thanks, Bobby!

Thanks, GI!

In this, our last installment of 2013, it's worth taking a moment to remember those who stood up and fought The Good Fight during the Second World War. They came from all age groups and backgrounds; some were professionals but most were not, and their sacrifice and sense of duty was exceptional. They went in young and yet, at the end of it all, had become so very, very old. Their accomplishments, and the traditions they established, live on in the men and women of our armed forces today. We owe them all, past and present. Let's raise a glass...   L. Pepper via 3rd Attack.Org

Under the Radar

In this edition of Under the Radar, we look not at a specific title but at a family of publications that you may not be aware of.

The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia (series), Office of Air Force History, Government Printing Office, various titles and dates of publication.

Sometimes there exists a resource that's known to relatively few of the people who would be interested in it, and this series of publications is numbered among such resources. Commissioned by the Department of the Air Force, written by professional historians and published primarily as hard-bound reference books, the volumes in this series are most assuredly not for everyone---they are, without exception, serious, footnoted written histories. They generally have few illustrations and offer none of the color profiles so beloved of scale modelers, but their scope of coverage and detail is beyond reproach and offers an insight into the Vietnam War that few other books can convey. The reading is often dry and is invariably concise, but each monograph ("monograph" being somewhat of a misnomer since each volume typically runs from 300 to 600 pages) provides a unique reference for its particular subject.

You won't find these books at the trendy local coffee shop/nee bookstore, nor will you find them in hobby shops. They're often available directly from the Government Printing Office, but we've also found them in used book stores and once, but only once, in an aviation salvage yard (where we paid fifty cents each for a half-dozen titles in the series!). We recommend them without reservation but there is a caveat to that recommendation: If you're an historian, either amateur or professional, and you're interested in Air Force involvement in Southeast Asia, you can't be without these books. They're an essential reference. If you're primarily a scale modeler and are more interested in photographs, color profiles, or graphic "there I was" stories, these volumes are probably not for you. That said, those of you with particular interest in the air war over Vietnam will want the series for your library.

Happy Snaps

It's been a while since we've had an honest-to-Goodness air-to-air Happy Snap in these pages, so it's time to set things right!

We rely a lot on photography from Doug Barbier around here, and for good reason. During the course of his military career, both active duty and ANG,  Doug had camera access to a number of unique subjects. Add to that the fact that he's what most folks might call an extraordinary photographer and it all becomes clear---if Doug took it it's generally an outstanding photograph, and this "T-Bird" shot is no exception to that rule. The story behind the photo is a simple one; Doug was flying with the 57th FIS at the time (F-4s and T-33s) and wanted an air-to-air of "his" aircraft. He arranged a form hop with another pilot flying the bird that wore his name on the canopy rails, and this photo is the result. Maybe someday, if we're really lucky and some model manufacturer can figure out how to properly capture the lines of the T-33, we'll be able to build a model of this bird. Maybe someday...   Doug Barbier

The Relief Tube

We've already covered one of today's entries by publishing Tommy Thomason's FJ-4B comments and corrections up there in our lead article, so let's jump straight to a clarification of that Michigan ANG hearse we illustrated last issue:

Phil, (that photo) brings back a ton of memories... Remembering 1982 WT, 31 years ago, the six pack learned from it's first 1980 WT appearance that a team vehicle was a very cool thing! So when we learned that we would in the 1982 WT F-4 category, we started to find a team car. Can't say who thought of the hearse, but it was decided and a plan was made to paint it in the ADC gray colors with the six pack markings along with the 82 WT logos. Many modifications had to be made to the standard 1971 Cadillac hearse, making cup holders and a few secret compartments. SMSgt Bill Brennan, 191 FIS/ODC, drove the hearse down to Tyndall. We also drove a tractor and a (ex Army) 40 ft semi trailer that I signed for out of DRMO at Selfridge in late 1980 and converted in a mobile maintenance control and repair shop(s). LTC John Doty said that we would need such a set up after the November 1979 NORAD computer SNAFU of a false missile attack warning tape triggering a flush of all aircraft. Can't remember who drove the trailer down, but it had extra parts and equipment in it if we needed it. The trailer was much of a non-player during WT, however the hearse put in a max effort. It was the main player in daily party events. When it was not full of people, it always seemed to be parked in front of Tyndall Officers Club. More than a few zaps were placed on it by other units. To say that Colonel Dave Arendts was proud of his hearse would be an understatement!! At the moment I can't remember what happened to the hearse after 82 WT. Don't know if it went with to WT 84. Somehow a history of the 191 FIG at William Tell needs to be complied before we lose it all.

Many thanks to Bill Livesay for sharing his memories with us and for explaining that photo. Now then; do any of you have photos of it after it was zapped? If you do, we'd love to see them! That address is  .

Finally, from Ned Barnett:

Phil, you may remember me as the author of your in-depth article on the F-100 way back in the day (I think I was editor of the IPMS/USA article at that time, give or take a year or two). Anyway, thanks to the email list I’m on regarding 1/72nd scale modeling of US military aircraft, I just learned about your blog, and about how to reach you. Someone on that list suggested that you might be considering putting all your RIS issues on a CD – to me, that would be a godsend, as mine were wiped out in a basement flood back in ’86, and from then to now, I've never seen a better modeling magazine.

Thanks, Ned! The print edition of RIS was very much a labor of love for us and your comments make us feel pretty darned good! As for a CD-edition of those old magazines, it's something we'd like to do but is unfortunately very much on the back burner at the moment. If it ever happens we'll make certain you get a copy but it's likely to be a while. (Do any of our readers have extra copies of the magazine that they'd like to donate to a good cause?)

And that's it for this, our final edition of 2013. If you celebrate the season may you have the very best of holidays. If you don't, may your skies be filled with sunshine and your road be an easy one. Be good to your neighbor, and we'll meet again real soon.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Plastic Fury, Not What It Seems, A Rare One, And Some Sleds in the Guard

The Thing About Irony is That So Few People Get It

Ray Wiley Hubbard said that and it is, in my opinion anyway, one of the essential truths of our time. Irony is one of those ever-present things that haunts all aspects of our lives, each and every day. There's no escaping it even when it rears its, dare I say it; ironic little head, often in the most incongruous of places. (How's that for a profundity, ya'll?)

Here's the deal: A couple of issues ago I was rattling on endlessly (which is, after all, the only way I ever rattle on) about having a small collection of model airplanes that were sitting on a shelf, mostly-finished but nowhere near to getting themselves actually completed. I went to great pains to describe each and every project in sufficient detail to allow our readership to picture that project in their mind, and I think I might have even talked about what it was each of those models was lacking; the specific culprit that was keeping them from an honored place in the light of day on a display shelf.

Since that time several projects have actually seen completion around here. Yep, that's right! I went back, plucked a couple of those models out of storage, and finished them, or at least made substantial progress on them. The HMS Bounty has had her masts stepped, her bowsprit attached, and her boat (the great big one, whatever it is that sailors call it) has been started in a fashion far more detailed than Revell had ever intended way back when they cut the molds for the kit in 1956. The winter-camouflaged Fw190A-4 is complete, and so is the SG-77 (not SG-11 as originally and erroneously reported by me) Fw190F-8.

So where's the irony, you might ask. Well, if you've ever built an Eduard Focke Wulf, or an Eduard Anything for that matter, you're well aware that they inevitably give things like gun barrels as little round blobs that do an extremely poor job of replicating whatever it is they're supposed to be representing on the model in question. They're best replaced, and that's what I did---the guns on both of those 190s gave way to a really nice set of turned brass barrels, and they look 100% better than the kit offerings. Or maybe I should say they did look better, because the aftermarket I used provides the inboard guns in two pieces, which makes them a snap to install after the wing has been built and sanded. It's a great idea and it works like a champ as long as you make certain to get a good bond on the barrel sections when you attach them to each other and to the airframe. I apparently got a really good bond on one of them, and a not-nearly-so-good bond on the other. You can probably guess where this is going so I'm not going to describe what happened, or that it happened over a deep-pile carpet. Sadly, and contrary to Ray Wiley's quote that I cited at the beginning of this piece, everyone will probably see the irony in what happened within mere minutes of the model being placed on the display shelf. There just ain't no justice in this world!

Big sigh. Move on.

Why Can't We Get a Decent Fury?

If you've been with this blog from the beginning, or if you've ever bothered to go back and read all of the various issues we've published, you've probably noticed that I've got an affinity for the North American FJ Fury family of naval fighters. I like 'em all, from the tubby FJ-1 that started it all through the definitive FJ-4B that rang down the curtain on one of the most elegant of jet carrier fighters. With that as a basic premise, it should be easy for you to appreciate the fact that decent FJ-Anything kits don't exactly grow on trees around here. Yes; there are a few kits out there but none of them are particularly good. Let's elucidate.

In no particular order save that of variant, we've seen at least one limited production 1/72nd scale FJ from somebody, although I can't remember who did it, a good vac form from RarePlanes, as well as a nice but fiddly 1/48th scale kit from Czech Model. The FJ-2 was sortof-but-not-really kitted by Lindberg back in the 50s, and by ESCI's thoroughly confused FJ-2/-3 kit of the 80s. (It has to be one or the other; you can't do both from one kit, a fact which seems to have totally escaped ESCI at the time since they incorporated elements of both variants in a single airframe, creating a beast that was neither fish nor fowl in the process.) The FJ-4 was better served, sortof, in that Emhar did an injection molded kit in 1/72nd, RarePlanes did one in the same scale, and Matchbox, Grand Phoenix, and Hobby Boss all issued kits in 1/48th. In today's adventure we're going to explore the FJ-4 and FJ-4B in 1/48th scale.

To start things off, let's pull the Matchbox kit off the shelf, look at it briefly, and quickly put it away again. It was ok, but barely that, when it was The Only Game in Town, but that was a very long time ago. By today's standards it's not a very good kit and better offerings are out there.

Better could, and in fact does, define the pair of kits (an FJ-4 and an FJ-4B) issued by Grand Phoenix, but without going into an agonizingly long and somewhat pointless review we'll just say that it's a tough date and not one of their better efforts. It does, however, make a good source of detail parts for the Hobby Boss kits and comes with great decals---if you bought one during any of the various Squadron Shop sales your money wasn't wasted, because you can use a lot of the parts in that box as ad hoc aftermarket for the Hobby Boss kit. You can also build it if it's the only kit of the FJ-4 in your closet, but be advised that modeling skills are definitely required.

Hobby Boss is the kit of choice these days if your tastes run towards the last of the Furies, but you're going to work for your model if you choose to build it. Both variants, the FJ-4 and FJ-4B, are offered, but you can build either variant from either kit (exclusive of ordnance) so it really doesn't matter which one you start with.

We're going to try a different approach with this thing today and give you marked-up photos as reference for the details on the FJ-4 family in lieu of a long, rambling article. Things to watch out for on the Hobby Boss kit include an interior that needs help, and poor landing gear and wheels. The kit interior is best replaced with a resin one (although it's usable and easy enough to detail if you don't want to spend the money), and the nose wheel strut is too short. The nose wheel is usable, but the mains don't replicate anything normally found on the last of the Furies (or any of the earlier ones, for that matter). There are other issues to work out too, but those are the main ones you'll have to address.

One major detail you'll be interested in is the presentation of the speed brakes. The FJ-4 has "normal" components reminiscent of those found on the F-86, while the FJ-4B retains those brakes and adds an additional pair (with strakes) under the aft fuselage. They don't overlap between variants, so it's a good way to tell what you're seeing when you're looking at pictures of the real thing. Another item, and one that will be easy to destroy by accident, is the fuel dump mast, which the kit gives as a little stump hanging off a fairing behind the rudder. All it takes is a swipe or two with a file to give it the correct profile and it belongs there, so don't go cutting it off when you're doing the basic bodywork---it's easy to mistake it for a molding flaw!

I bet you thought we weren't going to show you the other side, but here you are! The FJ-4B (which almost all of the aircraft in this piece were since that's what I was building) was the fighter-bomber member of the family, and a whole bunch of the folks who build the kit do it up with a full (and full-fantasy, at least in the Fleet) load of five Bullpups and a guidance pod for same. You can build your model that way too, if you want to, but you'd do well to remember that the airplane was designed to deliver other ordnance as well. One of the things it could drop was a largish lump that eliminated the requirement for guns and some FJ-4Bs were so modified, this aircraft being one of them. Another structural thing to notice are the presence (or absence---it could go either way) of those little "fences" you can see on the leading edge of the wings in this shot. They aren't fences at all, of course, but are there to assist in snagging the barrier during emergency landings on the boat. The odd thing is that not all  FJ-4Bs (or FJ-4s, for that matter) have them fitted. Photographs are your friend!

The ultimate Fury had a lot of internal fuel capacity and could carry refueling pods under the wings, a reality that saw the type widely used as a tanker during its service career. This photo illustrates that feature, and gives us a look at a number of other details as well. Modelers should note that there's a transparency at the bottom of the intake, in the middle of the intake lip. It's got lights in it related to the carrier approach attitude indicator and is a piece of cake to add to the model---you need to do that, too, because the completed airplane won't look right if you don't.

I think this is a really neat photo, one that would make a great basis for a small diorama, but it also shows off a number of details to advantage. Of particular interest are the wheels and landing gear struts, both because of the detail shown and because it shows another one of the FJ-4 family's "typical" anomalies---that gear and those wheels are painted silver. It's pretty normal to find that on the Fury once you know to look for it. Those fuselage ducts are shaped incorrectly on all the kits of this airplane, by the way, and in addition to that the ones in the Hobby Boss kits are too tall as given. They're easy to modify and you need to do that.

All tactical FJ-4s and 4Bs were painted Nonspecular Light Gull Grey over gloss Insignia White and you would have expected them to have had an anti-glare panel on the nose as a result, but none did. They weren't supposed to have anti-skid walkways on the wings either, but 1463 puts the lie to that notion! The Devil's most assuredly in the details when you're dealing with the last of the Furies!

We've been talking a little bit about what color things were on the airplane, and you've been reading captions that describe those colors, but there's nothing like a good photo to prove the point. Shots like this really make me wish for a good FJ-4, but then again that helo in the background is another aircraft that has long deserved a decent kit. Someday...

This RAG bird is getting close to the end of the line but she shows off a number of her details quite well. The MLG wheels are worth noting; they're spoked, and the Grand Phoenix kit provides spoked wheels, but those Grand Phoenix wheels don't look anything like the ones on the airplane. The photo also gives us a good view of the vortex generators under the horizontal stab---all of the kits give us a "clunky" presentation of this feature, but in defense of the several manufacturers who have already kitted this airplane it would be pretty tough to get them in scale. I lived with that feature on my model but you're more than welcome to correct them if you're so inclined.

We don't have much to say about this shot that we haven't said in the photos we've already shown you, but it's a nice clear photo and well worth running.

The Fury also saw service in a couple of utility squadrons as well as in the reserves. These VU-7 birds are absolutely gleaming in the sun, and showing off their different tail treatments as well as their anti-glare panels---we'd mentioned before that the tactical FJ-4s didn't make use of them, but the utility birds did! The Engine Grey and yellow on those birds really stands out, doesn't it? Oh yeah, and notice the insides of the wing fold detail on side number 31---that's been painted yellow too. What a model this would make!

And here's a final shot of a utility bird to end our day with. You can pick out the details by reading the captions on the photo, but you should also notice the way the Engine Grey looks in these photos. It could be faded paint but it's just as likely to be the angle of the shot and the ambient lighting. Gotta be careful with color on a model!

And Speaking of models, let's talk a little bit about what I think is the best of the available 1/48th scale kits of the FJ-4 and FJ-4B, the Hobby Boss offering. Yes; you can get there with either the Grand Phoenix or Matchbox kits and you're welcome to do it if you want to go that route, but remember that the Matchbox kit is almost an antique at this stage in its life and will be a lot of work of you want to use it as a basis for a decent model. The Grand Phoenix kit is far better but is, as I'm wont to say on these pages, a Tough Date. You can get a really nice model from it but it's going to require substantial modeling skills, which is relatively pointless since that Hobby Boss kit is moderately easy to get together and is reasonably accurate to boot. That gives us what I'm going to call Perspective, so the HB kit is the route we're taking today. One more thing---a lot of internet modeling sites will give you a blow-by-blow description of how to build something, and tell you how many parts are in the box and what color they are. That's not my style, so I'm not going to do it that way. Instead, let's look at the areas that could stand a little improvement and go from there.

First, let's get the kit's dimensions out of the way in a really fast and loose manner, which is to say it looks like an FJ-4 and I'm making a leap of faith and saying that HB got the dimensions from someplace and they look ok to me. There was a time when I wouldn't have taken that stance but at this stage in the game close enough is close enough, besides which I won't lay awake at night worrying about something being 1/64th of an inch off if I'm not aware of it. Seems fair to me! The things that do bother me are few in number and all are fixable. Let's take a look at them.

First, the landing gear isn't all that hot and the nose gear strut is molded in the fully-compressed position, which you'd never find on a real airplane if the oleo was properly charged. You'll need to extend it or, if you're lazy, buy yourself a set of SAC landing gear made specifically for the kit (SAC 48018 at the Sprue Brothers site) (or use the one from the Grand Phoenix kit if you've got one of those). It's molded with the strut in a far more believable degree of extension and is worth the money. The wheels are another matter entirely, and you'll have to either make a compromise there or be a far better modeler than I presently am. It was  mentioned earlier in this piece, but I've never been shy about repeating myself so I'm going to say it again: None of the 1/48th scale FJ-4 kits come with accurate wheels for the mains. You can use the spoked wheels from the Grand Phoenix kit if that's what your model requires, or get the "solid" ones out of the HB kit, but neither one is particularly accurate and I don't think the aftermarket offers replacements for them. I'm going to live with the kit offerings but you may choose another route---if you do that and it looks good please write me and let me know how you did it! (  )

Next are the gear doors. They're too thick (most kit gear doors are) and their interiors aren't as good as they could be detail-wise. They're good enough, though, so you can probably use them as-is if you're lazy. One thing of interest about those doors is that they're often painted Insignia Red on their inner surfaces, although conventional wisdom says they should be Insignia White with Insignia Red edges. Photographs of the aircraft you're building are your friend! (And in that vein the landing gear and struts should be Insignia White too but are often painted silver. Pay attention to those photos!) It's also worth your while to remember that the FJ-4 family were products of North American Aviation, which means that most of the landing gear doors will be up most of the time and your model should reflect that, although it's not uncommon to see them down as well---you pays your money...

The basic airframe is ok, thank Goodness, but could stand a little refinement here and there. Three things you'll need to watch for require mention in that regard. First, the scoops on the aft fuselage are too deep and incorrectly shaped. They're also separate pieces so that's easy enough to fix. Second, there should be a transparency in the bottom of the intake lip---it's a cover for the three small lights used in the aircraft's approach attitude indicator suite and is also easy to make using a piece of scrap clear sprue and a jeweler's file. Finally, the wings may or may not have tiny "fences" on them for engagement with the barrier in an emergency landing on the boat. I looked at a bunch of FJ-4B photos and they're there sometimes and not there others. Once again, you'll need a decent photograph of the airplane you want to model in order to accurately replicate a specific BuNo.

Another thing you'll want to do, but only if you're building a straight FJ-4 fighter, is to fill in those additional speedboards that live on the lower aft fuselage. They were added to the fighter-bomber member of the family, the FJ-4B, but didn't show up on the -4. A word to the wise...

Finally, the kit's cockpit is sortof ok, but there there are two aftermarket interiors available for the model (AMS 48021, which includes all the stuff under the canopy, and Aires 484448 which doesn't; both part numbers are once again from the Sprue Brothers web site). That assortment of gear under the canopy is an essential part of the Fury "look", so you'll need to do something under there whether you buy it or build it yourself.

Paying attention to those things will result in a reasonable model of the FJ-4 or -4B, and you can certainly proceed from there if you're so inclined. (And if you're one of the many who purchased the Grand Phoenix kit in either of its iterations, don't despair! The plastic contained within those boxes is a challenge to be sure, but the kit comes with photo etch that includes those windscreen mirrors, an excellent resin cockpit and a nice set of wheel wells, and a white metal nose landing gear strut of the proper length! The kit can be had for next to nothing at model shows and it's a whole lot cheaper to get the necessary aftermarket that way than it is to buy landing gear and a cockpit set separately. If you go that route, the only thing you'll be missing is the stuff under the aft canopy and you should be able to scratch that up yourself. Just sayin'...)

This image will give you an idea of what can be done with the Hobby Boss FJ-4B if you take your time doing it. The model isn't complete by a long shot, but it's far enough along to give you and idea of how good the kit is. The model is 100% HB, with no aftermarket whatsoever at this point---I've even kept that fully-compressed NLG strut, although it will most likely have been replaced by the time you see photos of the completed model. Still to come are the intake warning stripes, a little bit of paint touch-up, plus some stencils. The airplane will, in all likelihood, carry just two pylons (stations 2 and 5), one of which will carry a gasbag and the other a big silver lump---note that on this model the troughs for the nose-mounted 20mm guns have been faired over to accommodate a mod sometimes performed on mission-specific FJ-4Bs. The IFR probe needs to be added, and I'll need to either find an AMS detail set or scratch up the plethora of stuff that's found under the aft portion of the canopy. The kit doesn't provide barrier stops on the wing and I didn't add them during construction---the idea of scratching up three identical sets of tiny handed parts just didn't appeal to me at the time! As noted up above someplace, they don't seem to have always been there, but I've got photographic evidence that they were on the bird I modeled. (All together now: Big Sigh!) I'll probably paint the little Gomer in the cockpit and put him in the finished model too; I used to do that all the time way back when I was building jets exclusively and am of the opinion that he adds to the ambiance of the model.

In theory you'll see photos of the completed project next issue, but that's what I said about that T-6G nearly a year ago. I'd like to hope that you're interested in seeing how this thing comes out, but if I were you I wouldn't hold my breath over it---my completions track record hasn't been very good of late!

The Magic of Hollywood

We get a fair amount of correspondence around here, and some neat things show up as a result. A couple of days ago one of our many friends from the old days (in this case the old days of the 1970s and 80s) dropped us a tantalizing photograph with no information attached except that it was a shot from a forthcoming movie.

Thanks to the diligence of Captain Banzai, aka David Aiken, here's a fine example of a Zeke 21 for your perusal. It's a non-flying prop for the movies, but Holy Cow, did somebody do a good job on it or what? We wish we could tell you a little more about it, but what's just been said is 110% of what we know. One thing we do know for certain---when that movie comes out, no matter what it's about or what language it's in, it's on our Must See list! Many thanks to David for sending the heads-up and this image to us. Banzai!

Tropical Storm in the East

When the American Volunteer Group, colloquially know as The Flying Tigers, first arrived in the Far East, they based out of what was then known as Burma, sharing airfields with the RAF. We don't know much about the photograph shown below and the photographer, Jack Jones (a former AVG armorer) couldn't remember (and quite probably never knew) the unit, although 28 Sqdn RAF is a prime candidate for the honor. At any rate, thanks to the fact that Jack took a camera with him and used it until he mustered out with fever in mid-1942, we get to look at a photograph you won't see every day.

The Bad Old Days in Burma. Jack mentioned in passing that "those British guys were long on guts but they just didn't know how to fight the Japanese". That was true enough, but nobody else really knew how to fight the Imperial Air Forces either, at least not prior to Claire Chennault's implementation of a hit-and-run strategy that involved a diving pass from altitude with associated refusal to enter into a turning combat with the Ki-27s and the Ki-43s the AVG most often fought against. It was a crummy war for everybody concerned. Let's raise a glass...   Jack Jones via Friddell Collection

The Lead Sled Finds a Home

While it's true that the Late Great Republic Aviation built one of the best radial-engined fighters of the Second World War, and that it also built one of the most legendary jet-propelled fighter-bombers of all time, what came in between sometimes left a little bit to be desired. We're specifically talking about the F-84 family of aircraft, of both straight and swept-wing variety. It wasn't that the Thunderjet or Thunderstreak were bad airplanes, mind you, but they were relatively heavy when compared to the North American F-86 family and suffered greatly as a result of that weight when combined with the often poor-performing first generation American turbojet engines. Although both sub-types eventually saw sterling service with the United States Air Force, the Air National Guard, and the air forces of a number of foreign operators, there was a shred of truth in the classic slur regarding those first and second-generation jets: If anybody ever builds a runway around the world, Republic will build an airplane that can't take off from it. Hot and high is not your friend in a heavy, underpowered airplane!

In all fairness most of the problem did indeed lie with those not particularly stellar engines, and there was even a time when the ramp in Farmingdale was rapidly filling up with F-84Fs that had no powerplants available for them. Most of the kinks were eventually worked out, and both the straight and swept-winged F-84s ultimately enjoyed long and mostly successful careers in their respective roles. A great many of them ended up in the Air National Guard, and we're going to look at several examples of those today thanks to the kindness of Mark Nankivil and The Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum.

We'll start off today's piece with an early example of an ANG F-84F. 51-1707 was an F-84F-25-RE and was assigned to Missouri's 110th TFS/131st TFG when this photo was taken in November of 1958. The guys in the 110th knew how to paint an airplane, and 1707 was easily as attractive as anything the regulars were flying at the time. She just screams "Silver Air Force", doesn't she?  RA Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

In stark contrast, 51-1808, an F-84F-30-RE was bare bones as far as markings were concerned. We think she belonged to Illinois' 170th TFS/183rd TFG  in May of 1960, which was when this photo was shot, but she could just as easily have been assigned to the regular USAF. The point to be taken is that she carries no markings of any kind that would indicate her unit. One thing she does carry are those big honkin' 450 gallon gas bags. None of the early jet fighters had very long legs and extra fuel was an essential if you actually intended to go someplace in the airplane.  P Stevens via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Paul Stevens took this portrait of 51-9313, an F-84F-1GK (built by General Motors rather than Republic) on the same day and, on the same ramp, which is what leads us to presume that 1808 belonged to the Illinois Guard---this airplane obviously does! She doesn't have aux tanks in this photo and her speed brakes are deployed, providing the scale modeler with some interesting detail. She's painted silver and carries a badge on the nose as well as extensive stencilling. The 170th kept their F-84s until 1972, when they transitioned into F-4Cs. 9313 survived it all and presently lives on a pole in Peoria.   P Stevens via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

51-1735, an F-84F-25-RE, sits in her natural metal (and totally un-decorated) splendor on an overcast day. The date is August of 1962, and we don't know the airfield or the unit. She's another bird that ended her days on public display but was very much The Real Deal (and over ten years old---note the 0 prefix to her serial number) when this photo was taken. Check out how busy that nose gear is---it's something that's tough to get right on a model.  P Stevens via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Those of you with a certain seniority on life may recall that "Rodan" was a flying monster of the "Godzilla" ilk back in the 50s, a creature that scared the dickens out of your average ten-year-old when viewed in the base theater. We don't know if fear is what drove the pilot of 51-1697 (an F-84F-25-RE) to paint that name on her nose, but we can see how it would have been deemed appropriate. She's another bird from Missouri's 110th TFS and very much resembles 51-1707 which we illustrated at the beginning of this piece---this photo is dated 1962 and on the face of things very little has changed in terms of markings.  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

We'll end today's essay at an airshow in August of 1963. Ohio's 162nd TFS/178th TFG was a star attraction at that show, although the airplane was nothing to write home about in terms of special markings; once you get past that ANG badge on her tail she becomes pretty much just another F-84F. 51-1747 was yet another -25-RE and was on public display in Indiana until 1996.  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

The F-84F was more of a fighter-bomber than she ever was a fighter, even though she managed to get herself painted grey to portray a "MiG" in the classic Korean War aviation movie The Hunters. She had a brief air-to-mud combat career with the French AF during the Suez conflict, but most of her days were spent preserving the shaky piece that was The Cold War. She, and the regulars and Guardsmen who flew her, were ready to go at a moment's notice, although it was probably a very good thing for all concerned that she never had to go up against the Warsaw Pact in an air-to-air combat situation. Still, she helps define The Silver Air Force of the 1950s; that shape is an iconic memory of a time that once was. (And if you'd like to know what it was like to live with her on a day-to-day basis we strongly recommend you find yourself a copy of Richard Bach's Stranger to the Ground and read it. You can thank us later.)

Many thanks to Mark Nankivil for sharing these photos with us.

Under The Radar

The Air Guard, Aerograph 2, Rene Francillon, Motorbooks International, copywrite date unknown, 180pp, illustrated.

Jay Miller's Aerograph project lasted but a few brief years, but the quality of work done by both Jay and the various authors who worked with him during the course of the project have guaranteed that the titles he produced became standard references on their specific subjects. The Air Guard has been around since the late 80s (we think) and contains, in a concise and easy to use format, a history of the Guard and all of the units that operated under its auspices. The text is authoritatively done by Rene Francillon, and the book is well illustrated. It has been a go-to reference from the moment of its publication and has not, to the best of our knowledge, ever been equaled, much less surpassed in terms of coverage of the subject matter. It's one of those books that belongs on every aviation enthusiast's shelves, yet a great many of the folks that have become interested in American military aviation since its publication are entirely unaware of its existence. Long out of print and now only available on the used book market, it's well worth seeking out and acquiring if you have an interest in either the ANG or the USAF. We recommend it highly.

Happy Snaps

As a matter of perspective, we've done a couple of ground-bound Happy Snaps of late, even though that's an anomaly of sorts when you recall that the entire purpose of this particular part of the blog is to present air-to-air photography submitted by our readers. Yes; we've got quite a bit more of said air-to-air to share with you. No; today's not going to be the day we do that.

Once upon a time, not so terribly long ago, there was an Air Force organization called the Air Defense Command, or ADC, a command charged with the air defense of the Continental United States. That command had airplanes, personnel, exercises of various sorts and, more to today's point, an annual competition known as William Tell. The competition was open to all ADC and ADC-gained units which means that the Air National Guard got to play too, reason enough for Michigan's 191st FIG to send a contingent to the festivities. In 1982 Michigan sent, along with its normal contingent of interceptors, a somewhat unique support vehicle. Doug Barbier explains:  Now this brings back some memories...... as I recall, they drove it all the way from Michigan to Tyndall - complete with that AIM-7 on the roof. Stylish transportation at its best!   Doug   Bet they couldn't do that today!   Barbier Collection

The Relief Tube

Sometimes we get a lot of comments and corrections for this section and sometimes we don't. Today is one of those Don't days, but we've got one thing we most assuredly do need to correct. Here are comments from a pair of folks regarding our mis-identifying Len Morgan and calling him "Les" in our last Under the Radar segment, even though we should have (and in fact did) know better. First, from writer and former editor (and, in this case, man of few words) Mike McMurtrey:

Len (short for Leonard) Morgan. WW II RCAF pilot, Braniff captain, and writer for Flying magazine. See here: And here:   His biography would make an excellent book in itself.  Mike

And from author and Historian of Things SWPAC Steve Birdsall:

Hi Phil - As one of the authors in the “Famous Aircraft” series – I did the B-17 and B-24 – I feel I should correct a minor slip in your review of the Childerhose F-86 book. It was Len Morgan, not Lou. Len was a Braniff pilot and a pretty good writer in his own right . . . as I recall he did the P-51, P-47 and DC-3 books in the series. He also had a regular column in Flying for many years. All the best - Steve

Thanks, guys---we should've known better!

And that's about it for this issue's Relief Tube, and for today's installment in general. We've got some interesting things coming up in the very near future (including some nice Berlin Airlift) photography, so stay tuned. It's our intention to publish again before Christmas but that's only three weeks or so away and this is a busy time of year, family-wise, so it may not happen as quickly as we'd like for it to. However things go down, you'll see another issue fairly quickly. Until then, be good to your neighbor!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

This Is Only A Test

A Ghost in the Machine

To cut straight to the chase, I tried to start another blog installment about a week ago and have been getting error messages off the blog software every time I've done it. Normally these sorts of things go away on their own, but it's been a while and this particular (and new, and darned annoying) problem hasn't gone anywhere, which means it's time to try to figure things out.

That's what's happening today---we're conducting a test. This is all the text you're going to get this time around and I'm running a photo too. The idea is to see what happens---with any luck all will be well. If not, at least we'll know. Stay tuned and please be patient with us!


                                                                  Isham Collection

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Not Fade Away, Some Forty-Niner Ns, Checkertails, and Nobody Had It Easy

Just Tell 'Em How to Do It

When I was a kid I'd build just about anything anybody cared to release in plastic, and it didn't really matter very much to me what it was. I built Revell, Aurora, Comet, and Monogram airplanes, AMT, JoHan, and Monogram cars, Revell and Adams ships, Bachmann birds, Hawk insects, Pyro dinosaurs, and just about anything else you could imagine that came as an unassembled plastic kit. My friends all did it and I did it too; it was a rite of passage in the 1950s and 60s.

Way back in the beginnings of this blog I introduced our readership to Jack Dusenberry, an old friend of mine from Misawa who was more interested in model airplanes than in the more ubiquitous (for our age group at the time, anyway) model cars. Jack got me started off in a slightly more serious direction in terms of modeling, and from that moment the die was cast. I became a prime candidate for conversion to a hard core modeler when my dad was assigned to Lackland AFB in 1965, a fact I mention because that transfer led me to discover Dibble's Arts and Hobbies (right down the street from my high school; how convenient was that?!) and ultimately introduced me to Frank Emmett, John de la Garza, Frank Garcia, Jim Wogstad, and Mike McMurtrey, among others. Serious Scale Modeling raised its siren's call and I answered. I was pretty lucky too, because those guys I mentioned up there, as well as so many others who are going to have to remain un-named today (there were a lot of those guys, because I wasn't a very good modeler!), mentored me and helped me get past all the mistakes we inevitably make when we set out on a new endeavor. I also bought a couple of how-to-do-it books by a well-known British modeler named Chris Ellis, which was when I discovered that the folks I just mentioned had already taught me what was in those volumes plus a great deal more. That helped me to form an opinion, which I'm going to share with you today.

There have always been books on how to do things, pretty much since people began, well, doing things! Of late we've seen a plethora (that's your test word for today; look it up if you don't know what it means) of publications, as well as DVDs, on how to build this kit or that one, or how to airbrush, or how to do almost anything you might want to do in terms of building a scale model airplane. In point of fact there is now, right now this minute, a Brand Spanking New Book on how to build the airplane kits of one particular manufacturer (and only that manufacturer) available for your perusal and potential purchase, and I have to admit that the concept seems somewhat peculiar to me.

In point of fact I own one or two of those How to Build the Whatever It Is Mk I books myself, purchased when I was in a well-stocked hobby shop and between marriages, which means I had a small surplus of spending money and a rather largish surplus of Lack of Good Sense. I bought those books, read them, and at the end of it all wondered why I'd spent the money. They seemed like a good idea at the time but, to be brutally frank about things, they really didn't teach me much of anything. That was the point where I stopped buying those How to Do It modeling books.

What does this have to do with anything, you might ask. The answer's a simple one; those guys I already mentioned, plus a bunch of others scattered across the country, are my de facto How to Do It guides. We look at each other's work and share ideas and techniques. We e-mail quite a bit. We send photos to each other. We discuss things and we learn. In consequence those various how-to-build-the-whatever-it-is guides rarely if ever grace any of our bookshelves.

That doesn't mean the aforementioned guides don't have merit, because they're generally authored by people who know what they're talking about and they're almost always worth a look. They can't and don't, however, replace discussion or that mentoring I mentioned up there in the beginning of this piece. The best way to learn is to do; there are no Silver Bullets in this hobby of ours, and reading a book isn't the same thing as talking to somebody like Brian Phillipson when it comes down to learning a new technique. It takes most people a while to ramp up, which isn't always the preferred thing in our instant gratification kind of world. Taking a little time to learn is what's needed, and if you develop some good modeling assets of the human variety I'm willing to bet you won't need very many of those guides. You can go spend the money on a kit or some stickies instead. Just a thought...

That's my story and, as usual, I'm sticking with it.

Puttin' It to Those Paint Pedantics One More Time

One of the few down-sides of this great hobby of ours is the fact that it's inhabited by so many instant experts, folks who know everything there is to know about everything there's anything to know anything about, and who will tell you about it (generally at great length) at the drop of a hat. Their world seems to be extremely buttoned down, and consists of phrases like "never was", "couldn't happen", "that's color shift in the photo", and on and on and on. You know the type and, unfortunately, you probably number at least one of them in your circle of modeling acquaintances. That's how the hobby is, and will probably always be---we're an opinionated bunch at best!

Anyway, I was rummaging through a couple of storage boxes of old models the other day, and came across a 1/48th scale Monogram F-111A I'd built way back in the 80s. (Those of you who might be inclined to write and tell me that Monogram never did a quarter-scale F-111 need to cool your jets---they picked up the old Aurora "Aardvark" molds, cleaned them up and added what detailing they could, and released the kit under their name.) That kit was what's best called an "opportunity", not too good and not too bad, but needing a lot of work to be brought up to any sort of reasonable standard. I was a Jet Guy in the 80s, and I had to have a 1/48th scale F-111A for the collection, so I bought the kit, and I built it.

That 428th TFS/474th TFW F-111A that I did off the Monogram kit came out ok, all things considered, and it held a place of pride in the collection for several years. A move from The Big City to the country saw it placed in a plastic bag and put into a box to keep it safe during the transit. The move was made and when it was over some models came out of their boxes to go back on the shelf, but that "Aardvark" stayed in storage. It sat there, ignored and forgotten, for a little over twenty years. I rediscovered it one fine Sunday afternoon, and took it out to marvel at my handiwork (or lack of same), and was amazed, not at my plastic modeling expertise, but at something that had happened to the model during those years of storage. Let's take a look.

Since we're talking about a problem and not about building a Monogram F-111, this is all you get to see of the model today. The photo shows the starboard side of the wing glove, all painted and pretty. That paint is Floquil, real, honest-to-Goodness Dio-Sol laden Floquil. It's been on the model since the year the kit came out, and is now tough enough to survive the ravages of solar flares and small children. It's cured. It's set. It's color fast and bullet-proof. Maybe.

Or maybe not. Let's go back and do a quick review, and you'll understand just how significant this second photo is. That old Monogram (nee-Aurora) kit had the option of operating swing-wings, and that's how it was built. Although capable of extension, the model spent the few years it was on display with those wings retracted, since having them at full span made the model too big for the shelf on which it resided at the time. They stayed retracted when the kit went into a box, and remained that way until it was removed from said asylum some eight months ago. The model  sat in a closed, dark box, in a climate-controlled environment, for 20+ years. It was painted with the best, most color-stable hobbyist's paint known to man, and the model exhibited color shift while in storage. Not much happened to the greens, or at least I don't think much happened to them, but that tan! Holy Cow!

Now to the Great Mystery, and a small conclusion. The tan was one shade while the model was out on display but it's obviously shifted on all the exposed surfaces, while the portion of the starboard wing that was hidden under the wing glove remained the way it was the day the paint was mixed. While it was out in the light, so to speak, it was in subdued lighting, and never direct sunlight. That's worth repeating---the tan wasn't two-toned while the model was on display---the shift occurred over a number of years, while the model sat in a dark box in air-conditioned storage. That's the mystery: How did it happen?

To my mind the damage started out during that handful of years while the model was out on display. I think the paint took just enough light to start the ball rolling, color-shift wise, and the years the model sat forlornly in a dark box couldn't save it. Much like skin cancer on a human being the damage had been done years before, while the model sat on a shelf exposed only to indirect sunlight (a window) and incandescent light. The tan paint shouldn't have shifted like that, but it did.

I'm not a chemist, so I'm not going to try to tell you why that paint changed, although I personally believe that the red (a constituent color of tan paint) faded over time, because red isn't a particular stable pigment. The point, in terms of this particular model and nothing else, is that the tan faded. There's a bigger point to be considered, though; one that may cause you some personal soul-searching.

We all like to believe that we're building for the ages. We want our models to last, and to stay just the way they were when they came off the workbench, but that's probably not going to happen. Clear-coats will yellow over time, thus skewing the color shades a little bit (and if you don't believe me I've got a ten-year old slightly-yellow bottle of Future I'd like to show you), and model paint can, and evidently will, fade or change hue with time. We're dealing with chemistry and pigments here, folks, and paint changes as the aromatics in it out-gasses over a period of time. Just because the paint is "completely" dry and sealed doesn't mean it isn't changing, albeit at a rate most of us will never notice. It happens on anything that's got paint on it, from your house to your car to real airplanes, so why shouldn't it happen to painted models as well?

That's the premise, so what's the conclusion? To my mind it's simple. The paint on our models will shift its hue over time. It's probably inevitable, with certain colors being more obviously effected than others. The Good News is that it probably doesn't matter very much at the end of the day. If that old F-111 model hadn't had operating swing-wings I never would have noticed the color shift it experienced, even though it was anything but subtle. There's now no doubt in my mind that some of my older models have also experienced a small amount of color shift, just like anything that's wearing a coat of paint will do. Now that I know it's probably happening I recognize it, but I also ignore it. It's a slow process and I honestly don't expect to have to be concerned about it during my lifetime. It ain't nothin' but a Thang, ya'll, but it's a Thang that'll give The Color Pedantics something else to worry about. For the rest of us, let's just build that model, paint it and seal it and decal it and seal it again, and then move on!

Opinions are welcomed. That address is .

Some Naughty Novembers

We've got a thing for the 49th FG around here. Maybe it's the fact that they were successful with the P-40 when a great many other units weren't, or maybe we're just fascinated by the Group's heraldry. Whatever the allure is, we're fascinated by the unit, which means we're always excited when we receive images we haven't seen before. Johnathan Watson recently sent us some photos of 7th and 8th FS P-40Ns with nose art you might not be familiar with, and we'd like to share them with you today.

"Scarlet Night" was one of those rare 49th FG P40Ns to operate in natural metal, albeit briefly while assigned to the headquarters group. We suspect she was at Middleburg Island when this photo was taken, since a couple of other bare metal 7th FS/49th FG P-40Ns were operating out of the place as well, but we don't have definitive proof one way or the other. The spinner is most likely blue and white, and the side number is black. She's a beautiful enigma, isn't she?  Johnathan Watson Collection

Some photos raise a whole lot more questions than they answer, and this shot of the 8th's  "The Bastard" proves the point. There's a name, of course, and some very obvious nose art, but there's additional artwork in white, including a white female figure that partially overlaps the intake cover just forward of the exhaust stacks. If any of our readers have a better shot of this airplane we'd love to see it! Johnathan Watson Collection

There's no name on this side yet, just the ubiquitous nude female figure, but the aircraft will eventually carry the name "Dorothy Mae" above the figure. Some of the 49th's nose art was extremely well-done and rivals any to be found anywhere in theater, but this one wasn't among those masterpieces. It makes the point, though, doesn't it? Note the white gauze behind the perforated intake cover---it was a common mod to P-40Ns serving in the SWPAC and helped eliminate some of the ever-present dust.  Johnathan Watson Collection

OK, scale modelers: Here's your Official Weathering Challenge for the day. #56 is beat to snot, to borrow a phrase from our youth. From those worn prop blades, which have virtually no black paint left on them, to the extensive staining on the nose (and no, Virginia, that's not the remnants of a green-on-earth paint job; the 49th's N-models were all OD over NG), to the dented (and unpainted) gas bag hanging under her belly, this is one airplane that's seen better days. Check out the mud and slop that P-40 is sitting in; in the SWPAC you could go from choking dust to heavy mud in the blink of an eye. The sharp-eyed among you have probably already noted that this is the second #56 we've shown in this essay. Is it the same aircraft as "The Bastard", or is it a replacement airframe? We don't know, but if you do we'd like to hear from you. The address is .  Johnathan Watson Collection

A handful of 49th FG P-40Ns are famous among enthusiasts and modelers because they've been published often and are therefore well known. "Empty Saddle" is one of those airplanes---everybody's familiar with the nose art, although it's worth mentioning that the actual rendition is somewhat more crudely done that is normally displayed on decal sheets. Aficionados of the 49th probably recall that this aircraft carries the name "Keystone Katie" on the port side of the nose.   Johnathan Watson Collection

One more thing before we leave The Forty-Niners today---the sharp-eyed among you have probably already noticed that all but one of the images we've just shown you are on the starboard side of the aircraft. That doesn't mean that that's all there was, however. From its earliest days the group tended to put nose art on both sides of their aircraft, not just one, and that art was often completely different from one side to the other. That makes these images all the more fascinating, and gives us a small research project to boot! Many thanks to Johnathan for the use of the photos.

More Memories of Misawa

Some of you may, by now, be speculating that we would devote this blog to Misawa Air Base and the goings on thereof if it were in our power to do so. The simple truth is that we loved the place, and thoroughly enjoyed our stay there. Allow us to reminisce for a moment and tell you why by means of a couple of There I Was stories. (We know you're probably sick of them by now, but we're not. Feel free to skip on down to the pictures if you'd prefer not to endure yet another story of mis-spent youth!)

Story the First involved a very simple adventure, mundane to most but formative to a 14-year-old Phillip Friddell. There we were (I'm using that annoying third person again), standing out in the yard in front of Jack Dusenberry's quarters one fine Spring afternoon in 1963, when jet noise caused us to look upwards. There it was; the first real F-102A we'd ever seen in our lives, and it was honking over the base housing area at what seemed to be a rather sporty rate of speed, all banked over (to the point where we could easily see the pilot sitting in the cockpit) and showing off a set of red and black checkerboards on its tail. It was a "Deuce", ya'll; a real live F-102A, and it was doing everything it needed to do to impress an aviation-struck teenager short of loosing a salvo of rockets. That was it---in that brief moment we knew beyond any doubt that we were going to enjoy living in Japan.

Story the Second was one of those things that a lot of folks don't think happens at American Military Installations, but they do, and in this case the hi-jinx resulted in an Article 15 for a pair of young airmen. The year was 1964, the last full year before the 4th FIS rotated back to the Land of the Big BX, and the place was the taxiway near the alert barns wherein the 4th kept a pair of '102s, loaded and cocked and ready to launch at a moment's notice if the whistle blew. Those alert birds were rotated out periodically for servicing, so there was a fairly constant stream of F-102s being pulled around the ramp by tow tractors.

Dragging airplanes around a flight line with a tug is a fun thing the first time or two you do it, but boredom sets in as soon as the shiny wears off that particular penny, which is what we presume caused the two young airmen operating said tugs to decide they needed to stage a drag race. Yep, you heard that right; a drag race. Each tug was hooked up to a fueled and armed "Deuce" which, in a sense, made it a fair competition for all concerned. A fellow conspirator served as the starting flagman, and it has to be presumed that another accomplice sat at the designated finish line, although he apparently got away before anybody could positively identify him. Imagine, if you will, how totally out of place it is to have a pair of jet fighters, firmly attached to tow tractors, sitting side by side on a taxiway while a third airman stands in front of them twirling his arms in the air in the finest Gentlemen, Start Your Engines tradition. The start was apparently something to see (and was seen, in the control tower and elsewhere), but the finish was relatively anticlimactic once the Security Police got there. The story was all over the base by the next morning, and the tug drivers were minor-league celebrities for at least ten minutes. They probably didn't want a career in the Air Force anyway.

Story the Third was an ongoing one and probably made for great stories in the O-Club stag bar, but Story the Third was a scary story too in as much as it involved periodic incursions of Japanese airspace by The Bad Guys and intercepts of said Bad Guys by those checkerboard-adorned fighters. Things apparently got a little sporty from time to time (one of my friend's dads once told me of a twilight chase through the nearby mountains trying to catch a snooper), but it was all in a day's work. It's why they were there; it was all part of the job.

At any rate, the 4th FIS was a rarity in PACAF, a fighter unit that had spent The Big One flying in one of those other theaters of operations rather than in the Pacific. We're not interested in that North African and European service today, though, so we're going to skip right past it, at least for the moment. Instead, we'll take up the story in February of 1947, when the squadron took over the P-61s formerly flown by the 418th Night Fighter Squadron and assumed station at Yontan, Okinawa. The squadron transitioned to F-82s during 1949 (and briefly flew combat missions in them over Korea during 1950-51) and did TDY in Japan---the 4th gave up the last of its F-61s while there. The F-82s bit the dust in 1952, replaced by F-94s, which lasted until their replacement by F-86Ds in 1954. For our purposes the final chapter in the 4th's history began with the acquisition of F-102s in 1960, which the squadron kept until rotation back to the ZI in 1965. In Okinawa they were stationed at Yontan, Naha, and Kadena Air Bases, while their sole base in mainland Japan was at Misawa. Thanks to the kindness of Marty Isham we're going to take a look at several of the 4th's aircraft flown during their stay in the Far East.

OK, Gang: It's an F-61B from the 4th and it's operating out of one of the bases (probably Yontan) in Okinawa, but once you get past that we're stumped. We can tell that it's flying form with another Black Widow and we know the unit, but that's it; no serial number and no markings of any kind reside on that airframe! We presume it's had a visit to an overhaul facility and is being test flown prior to a visit to corrosion control for paint, but that's as much as we know. Scale modelers, here's your challenge for the day!  Maj J. Redrup via Isham Collection

Here's what a ramp full of F-82Gs looks like, just in case you've never seen such a thing before. The place is Okinawa, although we aren't entirely certain of the base, and those fighters are all Plain Janes without a distinguishing mark to be seen. On the face of things it's a boring photo, but it documents the 4th early in their ops with the Twin Mustang, which makes it of considerable interest to us.  Maj J. Redrup via Isham Collection

This is a poor shot at best, soft and out of focus, but it shows an F-82G in the air over the Ryukyus, which makes it of historical value. We can't make out the buzz number on the aft fuselage but we can definitely see the squadron markings. Kind of makes you wish for a decent kit, doesn't it?  Maj J. Redrup via Isham Collection

Since we've just run two photos of F-82Gs where we can't see much of anything, it's time to make amends. Here's 46-0394, in flight during the last few months prior to the commencement of hostilities on the Korean peninsula. "Dottie Mae" was a looker but she didn't last long; she was reassigned to the 68th FIS and lost in action over Korea during March of 1951. Would any of our readers care to educate us as to the doohickey hanging off that outboard port wing station?  Maj J. Redrup via Isham Collection

And here's "Call Gal", 46-0400, all tarted up with command stripes. Another transferee to the 68th, she crashed to her destruction near K-14 on 7 December, 1951. This shot provides us with an excellent view of her silver landing gear struts and the interior of her MLG doors, as well as her silver wheels---modelers would be doing themselves a considerable disservice by painting everything Jet on an F-82!  Spry via Isham Collection

The 4th gave up their F-82s for F-94Bs but retained their all-weather fighter role. This ramp shot was taken at Naha shortly after the transition, and shows a lineup of really pretty 4th FIS Starfires. It's interesting to consider that, at the end of the day, the F-94B was a highly modified F-80, and that it was a state-of-the-art interceptor while assigned to the 4th. Things were a whole lot simpler back then.  Larry Chase via Isham Collection

51-5475 sits for her portrait on the ramp at Naha during 1952. All that wear and tear suggests she's led a full and possibly hard life but she's holding up well, and the squadron badge and lightning flashes on her flanks really compliment her lines. She was an F-94B-5-LO, and her appearance here typifies the way the Starfire looked in PACAF service.  Minert Collection via Isham

You just never know where a sharkmouth will turn up, do you? In this form shot 51-5477 carries the marking on her gas bags as well as her nose---what a subject for a scale model! USAF via Isham Collection

After a stint in F-94s the 4th transitioned once again, this time to F-86Ds. It was during this period that the definitive red and black checkerboard markings were adopted for the tail. 52-3958, an F-86D-45-NA Sabre, shows off those markings and a command stripe while sitting on the ramp at Misawa during 1954. The nose cap on the gas bags is also red, and that anti-glare panel is olive drab. The "Dog" wasn't the prettiest of the Sabres but simple markings such as the 4th's checkerboard really showed off her lines to good advantage.  Isham Collection

56-4004 sits off the wing of what we think is a C-46 (PACAF used them in Japan for hauling ass and trash until the mid-60s) while overflying northern Honshu. Her checkerboard has yet to be added but there's no doubt as to her unit or purpose. It should be noted that F-86D radomes were often black, but they could also be dark green or, sometimes, olive drab. This one appears to be faded black. It's something to watch out for if you plan on building a model of the "Sabre Dog".  USAF via F Klais via Isham Collection

You've all seen this shot of 52-4247 before; we ran it a year or so ago, back before we were watermarking our images, and it's subsequently turned up all over the internet, generally without provenance, on user groups and in photo-sharing sites. (Heavy sigh...)  Note the difference in anti-glare panel treatments between the two aircraft in this photo---the one on 4247 is olive drab while the one on the unidentified aircraft immediately behind her appears to be black. That "gap" between the anti-glare panel and the radome is normal for the "Dog Ship".  Menard Collection via Isham

The Opposing Team often flew near, and occasionally into, Japanese air space during the Cold War. Sometimes they got away with it but more often than not they got themselves intercepted. This photo shows what appears to be 52-4055 flying formation with a Beriev flying boat after one such intercept. The guys flying for the other side were highly disciplined and professional aviators, which made this sort of thing easier than it could have been---the chances of somebody (on either side) going cowboy and doing something stupid were relatively slim. Note the angle of attack on the "Dog"; the Sabre didn't like to stooge around at prop airspeeds!  USAF via Isham Collection

Any of our readers who've been at Misawa during the winter months will feel right at home with this image! The 4th got F-102As during 1960 and flew air defense missions with them through most of 1964. Misawa was snowbound (but almost always functional) from late November until early March; 56-0959 (an F-102A-51-CO) is being readied for flight, although it's going to take a while to get all the accumulated snow off her! The 4th kept a pair of "Deuces" in Misawa's alert barns at all times, guaranteeing that at least one section of interceptors could launch quickly if needed. There were no other USAF interceptor squadrons operating out of northern Japan during the 1960-64 time frame, which placed a great responsibility on the F-102s of the 4th.  Thomas via Kerr via Isham Collection

If ever there were a classic shot of the 4th FIS this would have to be it. F-102A 56-0960, another -51-CO, was the squadron commander's bird when the USAF photographed her flying in close formation with F-100D 55-3765. Both aircraft were assigned to the 39th AD (the two-colored Alars on the tail of that "Hun" indicate wing level maintenance; prior to 1961 the 416th TFS wore blue markings and the 531st wore red) in what would be the twilight of the classic period of USAF operations at Misawa. "Red Striped Rascal" was immortalized on a MicroScale decal sheet in 1/72nd scale, and we think there may be a SuperScale sheet out there for her in 1/48th as well. You gotta love the Silver Air Force! (And yes; we know those "Deuces" were aircraft grey, so don't write in to tell us about it!) USAF via Isham Collection

Under the Radar

Every once in a while you find one of those books that becomes a favorite just because of the way it's written. Today's offering is one of those special books.

The F-86 Sabre, R.J. Childerhose, Arco Publishing, New York, 1965, a modest number of un-paginated pages, illustrated. Way back in the middle 60s there existed a series of aviation titles known colloquially as "The Morgan Books", so-named because Len Morgan caused them to be written and published. For the most part they're brief, and not what the contemporary enthusiast would expect in the way of an aircraft monograph. They're also factual and well illustrated by Richard Groh, and the ones on specific aircraft contain portions of the appropriate flight manuals as well. They're deceptively good books, particularly when we consider how old they now are. What sets this particular volume apart from its Morgan siblings is the author's writing style---Ray Childerhose, aka "Chickenhouse", flew Sabres with what was, at the time, the RCAF, which means he knew of which he wrote, and he wrote what he knew with great humor. The book is informative, extremely well-written by a man with a passion for the airplane, and is hilarious. We bought our copy in the late 60s and loaned it to contributor Rick Morgan sometime back in the mid-80s. When he returned it we asked him what he thought of it. His answer? "I'm still laughing!" He thought it was one of the funniest aviation books he'd ever read, and we have to agree with him. Humor can be a Very Good Thing!

If you want a copy for your own library you'll have to get it through one of the on-line booksellers or maybe at a trade table at a scale model show, since it's been out of print for many years. It cost a whopping three bucks when it was new, and probably won't set you back much more than that today. It'll be well worth the effort too. Don't believe us? Just grab a copy and flip to the chapter entitled "Forty Americans Cornered Over Bitburg". You'll understand what we mean. Recommended.

Mud Doesn't Care Who You Are

We're always talking about the crummy operating conditions prevailing in the SouthWest Pacific during the Second World War, and we've repeatedly illustrated that point with photographs sent to us through the kindness of Bobby Rocker. Here's another photo of that sort of thing to emphasize what we're talking about. We suspect, with no way of being absolutely certain, that this P-40 engine change is taking place in the Solomons. We know beyond any doubt that the airplanes belong to the RNZAF, and we're pretty certain that arguing that Allison into position in the bug-infested heat and humidity can in no way be described as fun. We rarely think of that side of the war but it was the harsh day-to-day reality; nobody would've ever gotten off the ground if it weren't for the guys doing this in all sorts of weather conditions. There were no easy days.  RNZAF via Rocker Collection

The Relief Tube

We've got a couple of comments to share  with you today, so let's get started:

First, from Doug Barbier:

Phil, that last Happy Snap (in our most recent issue) certainly caught me by surprise. It was a sad day in more than one way - I flew as #3 in the last mission the unit flew - a 6-ship demonstration for the rest of the unit. The only flying we did after that was to ferry the jets off to either another unit or the boneyard. So it was my last flight and the last of the fighters for the 171st. As an aside - I drove 777s not 747s but the end result was the same. My son Geoff took the picture. Doug

Thanks, Doug, and apologies to Geoff for not properly crediting the photo.

In that 80s T-33 piece we ran a photo of an NAS Key West ramp full of ANG T-33s and commented that we didn't know what the occasion was. If you recall we asked the photographer, Rick Morgan, to explain what was going on. Here's his response: 

Phil: The gathering of ADC-related T-33As at Key West occurred on 5 Dec 1980 and was related to an Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI) of the “Tarpon” radar site at the base as well as the Aerostat blimp that was tethered at Cudjoe Key. Three of the T-birds were from the 46th ADW at Tyndall (53-5818, 58-0632, 58-0527), 125th FIG (FL ANG) 53-5325, 177TH FIG (NJ ANG) 57-0715.   Rick

Thanks, Morgo! (And, for the record, we've got more T-Birds on the way as well as some pertinent comments from a former T-33 driver, so stay tuned!)

And that's it for today. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon!