Sunday, March 3, 2013

We Actually Finished Something, A Couple of Early Scooters, and A Few 'Cobras,

Serving No Model Airplane Before Its Time

It's often said that the road to a warm and largely uncomfortable place is paved with good intentions, and we tend to believe that. We also tend to believe that it's our mission in life to infrequently complete a model airplane of some sort and show it to our long-suffering readership just to prove that we can, in point of fact, move something from a collection of tiny plastic pieces into a completed edifice in less time than the normal span of an adult human life. In other words, it can be done!

Today's polystyrene offering is an example of just that. We began this particular project six or seven months ago, and it's been sitting, mostly completed but without transparencies or final detailing, for five or six months---so near and yet so very far, as some folks are fond of saying. It could've sat a whole lot longer too, but we woke up this morning (Sunday, to be exact) in a Finish Something kind of mood. The airplane you're about to see was closest to completion, so it's what we snagged and commenced to work on.

And here's what we came up with. The model is a replica of one of Horst Carganico's JG-5 birds, a BF109F-4 fitted with his then-trademarked Bf109E-3 canopy set. The decals rather obviously came from one of those Kagero books the model is sitting on, and the paint was our old standby ModelMaster Luftwaffe colors (the ones the internet modeling fraternity so love to hate!). The kit, with one minor exception, is the venerable 1/48th scale Hasegawa offering built bone stock except for the canopy set, about which more later.

Here's a top view showing that canopy set, which still needs to be faired in with a little bit of white glue but can otherwise be called complete. We built this particular model for two reasons; the paint scheme (JG-5 had a number of desert-camouflaged 109Fs assigned to their unit and, much like JG-3, which was also assigned to the Northern Front at the time and also repainted their airframes to better work with the topography around Murmansk) and the early 109E canopy set. We were concerned about that whole canopy thing for a while, but that was before we surmised that the canopy set from a Hase 109E just might fit their 109F airframe. We were right for once, and the resulting model provided us with something different for the collection with virtually no effort on our part. Can you spell Win-Win?!

Here's another view of that canopy showing just how easily it went on. The aft set still requires just a tiny bit of fairing in with the aforementioned white glue, but everything pretty much fit like a glove otherwise. Existing photographs seem to show that the head armor wasn't always fitted to this aircraft, which provides it with another bit of personality rarely enjoyed by more run-of-the-mill 109s, and those modified desert colors put the whole thing over the top. The interior has the ubiquitous Eduard belts and harnesses, as well as their instrument panel and a few (but not many) cockpit details, but what you see here is pretty much straight from the box. We stole the crosses and swastikas from an old Third Group decal sheet, while the kill markings, chevrons, and the tiny cartoon mouse on the port side of the nose came from those Kagero books the model is sitting on. Weathering was lightly done since existing photographs depict a well-cared-for airframe.

We've been experiencing a severe bout of Modeler's Lethargy of late, and haven't done much of anything with plastic as a result. If we'd just sat down and worked on this model it probably would have taken a grand total of twelve or fifteen hours to complete---once you've built a couple of the Hasegawa 109F or G kits you can pretty well do them in your sleep---which made this a nice, easy and relatively pain-free way to get a few of our chops back. It was, as we're somewhat fond of saying around here, an easy date.

One more thing before we go; we happen to like those 109Fs and Gs and were, at least until recently, picking up every discounted Hasegawa kit of same that we could find. We've recently stopped doing that, preferring instead to await the arrival of Eduard's recently-promised late variant 109 family. If those kits are anything like their 109Es they'll be a knockout, and we can barely wait! Life is good if you're a fan of Herr Willy's progeny...

Tinker Toys in the Med

If you've been with us for any length of time at all you'll remember Frank Garcia, a friend of ours who spent his hitch in the NAV helping man the V2 divisions of the FDR and the ShangriLa. We've run a handful of Frank's black and white photography in the past, but had forgotten we'd duped a few of his color shots too. Today's as good a day as any to run a couple of them so without further ado...

In 1960 the FDR had two squadrons of AD4-2N Skyhawks aboard, VA-46 and VA-172. We've been scouring our records (with absolutely no success whatsoever!) to determine the unit this "Tinker Toy" belonged to and suspect, with no way to be sure until we overcome our inability to properly arrange our library, that this bird is from VA-172. (We await the inevitable flood of corrections: That address is .) Note the Light Gull Grey rudder on this bird, not the norm in 1960 but not that unusual either.  Frank Garcia

In contrast, here's one of VA-46's A4D-2Ns from the Shangri-La, sometime during 1961. Note the difference in application of the radome paint between this aircraft and the one shown immediately above. The rudder appears to be grey once again, and the squadron markings are somewhat minimalist but very appropriate to the airframe. The A-4 family could be boarded without use of ladders but it was a precarious operation at best, and not officially condoned. Note the boarding ladder attached to both of these aircraft; it was a ubiquitous piece of gear wherever the Skyhawk was to be found.   Frank Garcia

In our world these two images raise more questions than they answer. Rick? Tommy? Jan? Where are you guys? (Or anybody else who feels inclined to make us smarter than we really are!) You know the address!

Back in the Bad Old Days

The 35th Fighter Group was one of the early players in New Guinea, fighting it out in the heat, mud, and rain during the Bad Old Days of 1942. Reader Jonathan Watson recently contacted us with a correction to a photo caption, which in turn led to our request for more photography. Johnathan graciously obliged with the images you're about to see.

The 41st FS of the 35th FG was a plank holder in New Guinea, establishing a presence there early in the war, back when General George was still getting the 5th Air Force on its feet. The nose art catches the eye immediately, but that dented gas bag tells a story all its own. There are no yellow prop tips evident on this bird, just black blades. This un-named ship is in pretty good condition in this photo, but the chances are good that she won't stay that way long. This is an early aircraft with the group---check out the exhaust stacks and nose armament for confirmation!   Johnathan Watson Collection

Bob Pryse sits in the cockpit of another un-named yet beautifully decorated Airacobra. This bird's beginning to show the wear and tear imposed by her environment, but that nose art is pristine (and well-executed!). Nose art (or, in the case of the P-39, door art) was evident in the 5th AF from the very beginning, and became somewhat ribald far earlier than many people care to acknowledge.   Pryse via Johnathan Watson Collection

"Julie" was a looker. The apparent native of the Keystone State (a guess on our part, but with strong evidence to support it) provides a great deal of color to the P-39's otherwise dull exterior. Modelers may want to note the jumble of cables and instrument feeds just in front of the instrument panel, and the paint chipped off the interior ventilation duct just in front of the exhaust stacks---it's a feature to be found on virtually all of the 35th's "Cobras". 42-18810, a P-39Q-5-BE, got to the group fairly late in the game but still saw combat.   Johnathan Watson Collection

Here's Lynn Smith on the wing of "Phyllis", another Q-5-BE. She's missing a gear door and her leading edge paint is beginning to go South, and the sweat dripping off young Lynn's torso is ample proof that the SWPAC wasn't any sort of a vacation, even if you were ground echelon rather than aircrew. There were no easy days...   Johnathan Watson Collection

Lt Fred "Tojo" Harries sits on the wing of his P-39 accompanied by his crew chief and one of his mechs. Everybody's smiling in this shot but you can bet nobody's very comfortable. This P-39 is most likely a D-model and is fairly well beaten up, but it's still a viable warplane. You used what you had available in the SWPAC.   Johnathan Watson Collection

Making-do was a way of life in the 5th AF, as depicted by this armorer and his somewhat less than sophisticated work stand. The door art is notable, as is the highly unusual demarcation line between the aircraft's upper and lower surface camouflage colors. That kill marking tells a story; we sure wish we knew what it was!   Johnathan Watson Collection

More high-tech maintenance, this time on the gun bay of an unidentified P-39. Note the canopy section lying on the wing; you could pretty much remove the entire top of a P-39 if you took off enough panels. Like all of its contemporaries it was a simple aircraft to service and maintain unless, of course, you were doing that maintenance in 100 degree heat and 98% humidity. Everybody knows about the Japanese, but there were other enemies in the Pacific that were every bit as deadly.   Johnathan Watson Collection

Bob Pryse admires what appears to be an unusual set of kill markings on the nose of his P-39. His flying kit is somewhat unorthodox (and obviously missing a few items) but not that unusual, at least in the early days. "Pappy" Gunn's biography (the one we read back in 1960) mentioned him disrobing during a long over-water flight in a B-25 and having his clothing blow out the cockpit window as he descended on final approach. It's hard to imagine an airplane without climate control nowadays, but that sort of convenience was years in the future in 1943. You did what you could...   Johnathan Watson Collection

Many thanks to Johnathan for these remarkable images. We'll be seeing more from his collection in oncoming editions so stay tuned!

Happy Snaps

It's been a while since we've done anything with this part of the blog so it must surely be time! Rick Morgan spent his entire naval career as an aviator, both as an NFO and as a pilot. This photo was taken during his days as a Prowler ECMO and captures a side of NavAir few of us ever see.

We're guessing Rick was in the ECMO I position while taking this shot, and may well have been aircraft commander as well (the pilot isn't necessarily the AC during EA-6B ops; sometimes but not always). In any event, he provided us with a unique view of F-14A, BuNo 160918 from VF-41, formating off the starboard wing of his ride. Scale modelers beware! That pre- and post-shading the Humel Pottery school of modeling is so fund of would be baffled by this paint job---the panel lines don't really pop out, but the touch-ups, spilled fluids, and salt damage sure do. There's a lesson to be learned, we think!   Rick Morgan

The Relief Tube

All of you who've been with us for more than a few months have probably noticed that our last couple of issues have been less lengthy than is our norm. It's not a change, but rather a reflection of our sincere desire to get this project back on some sort of schedule again. The extended photo essays are still part of The Plan (as much as that concept ever applies around here) and will be back before you know it, but today's edition is another truncated one. We hope you'll understand and bear with us while everything gets sorted out again.

Now let's get down to Brass Tacks. First on deck is a photo provided to us by Ron Picciani of an F-86L that may be familiar to you, since we ran a far more cluttered shot of it a couple of years ago. Ron was kind enough to send a different, non-air show view of the aircraft to share with us:

0150 looks a little different without all that airshow clutter around her, doesn't she? Check out the markings on her gas bags---she's gone from being just another Sabre to being an airplane well worth modeling. Thanks, Ron!   Picciani Collection

That "Scooter" we took at Bergstrom back in The Day elicited a couple of comments since we managed, with the very best of intentions, to mis-identify the squadron and the background of that blue Zoom Bag. Let's get started with a comment from Jan Jacobs:

Just a couple of comments on the A-4E in adversary markings. The aircraft has an "AD" tail code, so it's not VF-126 and is probably VA-45 instead. Also, the dark blue flight suits were available in the supply system and were actually U.S. Navy issue. Not many squadrons had them, but a few did. Jan Jacobs F-4/F-14 RIO (USN/USNR 1972-87) Managing Editor, The Hook magazine (1989-2011)

Jan wasn't the only one to notice our clanger, though:

Hi Phil, A couple of comments on your A-4 photo. The tail code on the airplane is 'AD', so the airplane was most likely from VF-43 or VF-45, I believe. Of course, it could have 'changed hands' to VA-126 and they hadn't gotten around to putting on the tail code 'NJ' yet. As for the non-military zoom bag, I think it is a military issue flight suit. Around that time there were blue, Nomex flight suits available, although we usually got the green ones. My squadron, VF-213, issued each member a blue one, since it was our squadron color. Anyway, it was a military issue flight suit. So maybe the driver in the photo is a former Black Lion, or maybe that squadron also went with blue for awhile. Keep up the good work. Kolin

And finally, a correction from Gerry Asher regarding what should have been the Cleveland Air Races last issue!

Phil - I enjoyed the "Where does it go" editorial - definite food for thought. I knew Dave Menard - spoke with him just a week or so before his death - and in his case, I am pretty sure he had his stuff pre-figured for somebody. Tex Johnston's "Cobra II" looked sweet - but if you haven't been bombarded already, "Reno" is anachronous to this period of air racer - everything revolved around Cleveland up through 1949, except for the intermission for WWII... All my best, Gerry

Please remember that we're still collecting photos of F-100 models, any scale, any time period, to incorporate into a special Dave Menard tribute issue somewhere down the road. We're also accepting photos of the real airplane, if you'd like to contribute. It's the same old address we always ask you to use: , so please get in touch if you'd like to join in.

Thanks for your kindness and for your patience while we once again get things sorted out. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon.