Sunday, February 2, 2014

No Easy Days, A Nifty Sabre Kit, Dogs and Masters, and Those Other Guys

A Rebirth of Enthusiasm

Have you ever been stuck in a rut? More specifically, have you ever been stuck in a rut of the modeling persuasion and, more specifically than even that, have you ever been stuck in a modeling rut and not realized that you were? Well, folks, that's where we, or more specifically I, spent most of last year. Two Bf109Es, an Me109F, and a quartet of Fw190s, all from the Eastern Front, managed to add themselves to the collection during the course of 2013---all Luftwaffe aircraft and all representing operations in one specific geographic location. I had a great deal of fun building them and was, for the most part, happy with the way those models came out, but there was a catch; to wit:

It was pretty obvious that my modeling world was narrowing down considerably. It's true that I started that T-6 a while back, but it's been languishing on the shelf, ready to go into Corrosion Control for a paint job, for the past 8 months or so. There's a mostly completed A-4E that's been sitting there a whole lot longer than that (I started it way back when I started this blog!), and that Albatros DV I keep mentioning that only needs a little bit of touch-up and rigging to be complete, but none of those things are sitting on the display shelf at the moment. They're all works in process. What actually did get done, and all that got done, was a bunch of Second World War German stuff. I was in a rut.

Late last year, while in the throes of looking for yet another Eastern Front German aircraft to build, I had an epiphany (today's word) and drug out the fairly recent Hobby Boss FJ-4B kit, which resulted in the articles you've been following for the past couple of issues (you have been following them, right?). It got itself both built and finished (mostly, since I never completely finish anything), and is sitting on display as I type these words. That inspired me to drag down a Hasegawa F-104C kit and start on it, which resulted in a SEA "Zipper" from the 479th TFW being added to the collection---all it needs is to have the canopy painted and attached and a little bit of touch-up and it's done, and that particular project caused me to venture into the out-building Jenny likes to refer to as The Hangar and drag out a Monogram F-4D that I built way back in the 1980s and begin restoration work on it, which in turn caused me to pull out the Academy F-86F kit and begin work on it too. I was, and am, on a roll---all of these things have transpired over the course of the past three weeks! I managed to loft the front wheel out of that rut, to use a term from my motocross days, and move on to Other Things, specifically American jets. (That's where the original Replica in Scale hung its hat, if you recall, which means that the project has come full circle, sort-of.)

There's something else to be considered here too. A couple of months ago Doug Barbier was chiding me about mostly building shake-and-bake Japanese kits of recent manufacture instead of the tougher, but often more interesting, kits of the 80s and 90s---specifically the classic Monogram "Century Series" kits. He was right; those Hasegawa and Eduard Luftwaffe birds were easy dates in the truest meaning of the word. I could've built them in my sleep. The Fury was a lot tougher than those kits, and Some Modeling Skills were definitely required. The F-104 was a slam-dunk, of course, but the F-86 is causing me to clean out the cobwebs and remember how we used to do things back in The Good Old Days when there was more to modeling than careful assembly, and the restoration of that Phantom has become a minor challenge all its own. And you know what? I'm having some serious fun with all this! I had to drag decals out of the spares box for the FJ and deal with a very slight mod of the basic kit, and it was fun. It's been forever since I've built anything that was representative of USAF involvement in The Late SouthEast Asia War Games, so I had to mix the two greens since we live out in the country a great many miles from the nearest hobby shop and I wanted to paint the airplane in colors I didn't have on hand---so mix the two greens I did, and it was fun. I'm correcting small things, adding details where needed, and polishing the airframe on that F-86 so I can make it all shiny and silver, and that's fun too.

Fun. Isn't that why most of us got into this hobby? That's the reason I started doing it, way back when I was five or so years old; because it was fun. Fun's why I've stayed with it all these years, and fun's why I still do it, except that I wasn't having nearly as much of it as I used to (remember that part way up at the beginning about being in a rut?). A simple change of focus made things all better for me, and made the hobby fun again. I'm really digging on those jets, ya'll!

So what's really going on here? Did I simply change out my hobby fixations and move from one area to another? No; I don't think so, because I've also been arguing with the AmTech Hs123 which is, if you recall, the old Esci offering reborn. It's on hold at the moment because I'm building American jets instead of German fighters and fighter-bombers but I'll get back to it some day, just like I'll get back to doing some more airplanes from The Great War. I think the point to be taken is that we should all move around a little within the hobby and do things that aren't necessarily a primary interest for us. Look on it as a hobby within a hobby, if you will. It worked for me, so there's no reason it shouldn't work for you too---it's definitely worth a shot and I'll bet it ups the Fun Factor for you just like it did for me.

You can thank me later.

None of It's Safe

"It", of course, being military aviation. As enthusiasts and modelers we all tend to look at the glamorous side of things but rarely, if ever, give a thought to the more mundane side of the picture. A lot of us tend to read about, and build models of, fighters and fighter bombers, bombers, and other related examples of airborne death and destruction, but it's a rare modeler indeed who spends much time messing around with the far more mundane military transport.

With that as a premise, we're going to rely on the good graces of historian Mark Morgan and share some official USAF images of transports with you today. You'll notice a trend to those photos right away, but we've never been shy about stating the (extremely) obvious so we're going to let the cat out of the bag and tell you that all of them depict what happens when things go wrong in aviation. It's worth remembering that the guys who fly and crew the transports and tankers have a job that's every bit as risky as that performed by the ostensibly more glamorous fighter jocks.  Let's take a look.

42-72614 was a C-54D that came to grief at Isachsen Air Station in Canada's NorthWest Territory, the first of three crashes she was ultimately involved in. There's propeller damage on numbers 2 and 3 engines, but the accident appears to have been a straight-up nose gear failure. The airplane was perfectly repairable and it's doubtful that there were any injuries aboard; if you have to prang an aircraft, this is the way to do it.  USAF via M Morgan

In contrast, C-54E 44-9066 bellied in at Resolute Bay with the result you see here. We suspect crew injuries were minimal, but with the wing spars broken the airplane was a write-off. The photo lends credence to the old adage about any landing you can walk away from, but it's not the preferred method of arrival.  USAF via M Morgan

When the airframe ends up looking like this there's a really good chance somebody got hurt. The aircraft is, or at least was, a C-82A (42-57798), and she's at rest on Resolute Island. We could make jokes about the affinity for transports wanting to prang on that particular piece of real estate but there's no humor to be found in an airplane crash. Things could be worse, it's true, but this is bad enough.   USAF via M Morgan

Here's another C-82A. The aircraft is 48-0572 and she's down hard at Isachsen, where she crashed on takeoff in 1949. We have no idea what caused this particular event but the airplane's a total write-off. One thing's for sure: Bad weather combined with snow and ice makes for an accident waiting to happen...   USAF via M Morgan

Here's another shot of a winter mishap to prove the point. 44-77292 was a C-47B that ground-looped at Ernest Harmon AFB in 1950---the airplane was BER (Beyond Economical Repair) and she was written off after evaluation. We're guessing that everybody walked away from the crash but the condition of that nose makes us suspect that there was a fair amount of drama in the cockpit for a few seconds. There were no easy days...   USAF via M Morgan

Easy to Overlook

It's often been mentioned, both by ourselves and by others, that we're living in a Golden Age as far as our hobby is concerned. There's no doubt that adage is true, but all the new uber-kits we've seen over the past few years should really be taken with a grain of salt---while it's true that some of them are absolutely amazing in terms of buildability and and detail, that doesn't mean that the older kits available to us should be ignored. Take, for instance, the Academy F-86F, the very same one I mentioned up there in our opening editorial.

Academy isn't the first company that generally comes to mind when experienced modelers think of accurate and easy-to-build model airplane kits, but that's a reputation that isn't entirely correct. While a great many of their offerings leave a little bit to be desired, it can honestly be said that some of their kits are as good as anything out there, requiring a minimum of work to produce an outstanding model airplane. Don't believe me? Well, then; take a look at this:

Here's the beginnings of a Sabre; in this case Lt Col George Ruddell's "MIG MAD MAVIS". What you see here is 100% out of the box in terms of plastic. The natural metal finish is a base coat of Floquil "Old Silver" that's had a few selected panels masked and shot in tones of Testor ModelMaster metallics. The big decals, ie the striping and all markings, came from the appropriate AeroMaster Korean War F-86 sheet, while all of the stencilling is off a 20+ year-old MicroScale F-86 sheet. There was a fair amount of sanding required, due primarily to the inclusion of removable gun panels (why is it that nobody who kits the F-86 ever replicates the gun panel that really matters, the one that provides cockpit access when it's lowered, as an option!) and a four-piece fuselage to allow the kit's engine to be displayed. I'm building most things with a modular approach these days (thanks, Frank) and in this case it made all the decaling a snap. You may or may not agree with the philosophy but I think it's the way to go if all the big pieces fit together reasonably well. I spent hours of fabrication and a small fortune fabricating that sophisticated fixture to hold the fuselage...

Academy has often been accused of missing details and having dimensional issues with their kits. While that's probably a true statement in some instances, their F-86F is pretty darned accurate and is also the only out-of-the-box Korean War Sabre available to us in 1/48th scale. Part of that accuracy may well come from the kit's parentage; it appears to be pretty much a direct copy of the Hasegawa offering in the same scale, except that Hasegawa's kit is distinctly post-conflict in any of its various offerings thanks to the configuration of the scoops provided on the fuselage moldings, among other things. Academy's offering is a straight-up F-86F-30 fuselage coupled to a 6-3 wing, which makes life somewhat easier in terms of ease (and accuracy) of assembly (as long as you want to do an F-86F-30 with a 6-3 wing!).

I really can't say enough good about this kit. While it's true that the details are a bit softer than those of the Hasegawa offering the model is apparently derived from, everything looks pretty good once the pieces are all stuck together. Besides that, the kit provides a nicely-done engine, an engine stand, all three of the pylons associated with the F-86A through F, North American drop tanks, Korean War-era Misawa tanks (which are what I used on the model), and a couple of pilot figures, one standing and one seated, and reasonable reproductions of both types of nose wheels. On the other hand, the kit's decals look good on the sheet but are really thick and don't work especially well when you try to use them on a natural metal finish, but that's why The Deity made aftermarket, isn't it?

As with any model, the kit has a couple of minor issues that really ought to be corrected, and you can only get a hard-winged bird from it---it's molded with a decent representation of the 6-3 wing, while most of the available aftermarket decals are available for slat-winged Sabres, but there are ways around that. Stay tuned...

We LIKE the P-39

That's right; we have to admit to a considerable fondness for that beautiful but flawed little Bell fighter. Part of it is because "flawed" is a relative concept that traces back to an American (and British) combat career that was less than stellar to say the least. The exact same fighter, flying in a different operational environment by aircrew who understood the aircraft's limitations and worked around them, proved to be the mount of choice by a great many Soviet pilots, in who's hands it became an ace-maker. In other words, it ain't what you do, it's how you do it. That notion takes us to the study of a few P-39 photographs, supplied to us by Bobby Rocker. We're taking a somewhat different approach than we normally do this time around in that we'll be concentrating on the pilots and ground crew as well as the machines. Let's take a look.

 Edwin Schneider flew with the 41st FS and was posing proudly with his P-39D when this photo was taken. The airplane is pretty beat up, a condition that was the norm in the SouthWest Pacific, but Edwin is looking pretty dapper. We think (subject to correction) that he's wearing RAF flying boots, most likely snagged in a trade with one of 75 Sqdn RAAF's pilots. We can't say a whole lot about the airplane, but check out the boot on the NLG strut. It's OD canvas and will be found more often than not on operational P-39s based in the SWPAC.   Rocker Collection

This P-39Q was photographed at Torokina during late 1943 and provides us with a nice shot of the opened cockpit door. That starboard door was the one most often used for entrance and egress on the P-39 (which featured a door, complete with roll-down windows, on either side of the fuselage) since the throttle and mixture controls lived immediately forward of the port door. That doesn't sound like much of a deal at first, but when we remember that they could hang up or snag on personal equipment worn by the pilot it becomes pretty important. Oh, and there's that canvas strut cover again. (Check out the prop too; they're completely lacking any sort of colored tips.)   Rocker Collection

Here's something you just don't see every day---an airplane named for a public school! We don't know the meaning of that white circle on the door and can't tell you much of anything about the airplane beyond what we've just said, but the photo is of value because it shows the dark green that Bell used for the landing gear on the P-39 to advantage, as well as illustrating one of those instances when that canvas cover we keep talking about is not in place on the strut. The fuel stains on that gas bag are worth a look too, particularly if you happen to be a modeler.   Rocker Collection

A good day on the ramp! This is what an engine change in a P-39 looks like, just in case you were wondering about that. The notable thing is that this ground crew has proper GSE to perform the chore with, a condition that was far from a given in the Pacific. We particularly like the gun bay detail in this photo; it's really clear and helps to put the installation into an easily-understood perspective. The airplane is a Q-model but it doesn't have it's under-wing gun packs installed---they could easily be removed and left at the home drome if the mission didn't require the extra firepower.   Rocker Collection

And while we're talking about maintenance...  This photo, taken at Bougainville, provides us with another shot of the gun bay. The airplane is a Q-model and this time the guns under the wings are mounted, although in this instance both guns and gun covers have been removed by the armorers for maintenance. The nose-mounted cannon has been removed as well and is being worked on by those guys standing beside the trailer. We happen to like this photo a lot and think the whole deal would make for an excellent diorama if you were so inclined.   Rocker Collection

They Weren't All From the 3rd

Korean War A-26s, that is. The 452nd BG, a former Second World War B-17 outfit that was reconstituted as a reserve light bombardment group during 1947, in the midst of the budding US Air Force's Wing Base Plan, could have been the Poster Child for that notion. Originally a unit on paper only, the group began receiving aircraft (the Douglas A-26 Invader) in mid-1949, in California. With the outbreak of the Korean conflict the 452nd initially transferred to Itazuke AB in Japan and then to Miho AB, their station until a mid-1951 transfer moved them to K-9 (Pusan East) in the RoK. Always a USAF Reserve unit, they stood down in 1952, transferring their aircraft to the 17th BW prior to transition back to the ZI. Their brief tour of active duty saw them in the thick of things with a sortie count of some 15,000 combat missions, nearly half of which were flown at night.

Several months ago we received an e-mail from one of our Australian readers, John Horne, asking if we might be interested in some unpublished Korean War-vintage A-26 photography. The images you're about to view are from John's collection---we're grateful to him and for his kindness in sharing them with us.

"Pasadena Pistol Packer", s/n 44-34580, runs up on the ramp at Miho prior to a strike. Those nape tanks and 5-in HVARs spell major bad news for somebody, while the mission markers aft of her propeller warning stripes prove that it's not her first rodeo. She's well-maintained but equally well-worn; check out the wear on the cowling paintwork if you don't believe us. Assigned to the 729th BS, the "Packer" was lost in combat on 26 February 1951. Tonne via Horne Collection

Sometimes you have a serial number to go with the artwork and sometimes you don't. "The Flying Irishman" is a classic example of the latter. Note the vertically-displaced guns in this photo---the A-26 could have either 6 x.50 calibers displaced horizontally in the nose, 8 x .50 calibers displaced vertically, or the glass bombardier's nose of the C-model, all of which were interchangeable. Once night operations began in earnest for the 452nd there was a distinct preference for the Charlie-model's glass nose. As impressive as all the added firepower of the gun noses might have been, they weren't really necessary to the mission and caused problems with pilot vision during nocturnal operations.   Horne Collection

Here's a shot of 44-34562, "Chili Lilli", on the ramp at Pusan. Those mission markers tell a story, as do the well-worn prop blades and cowlings. She was another bird that didn't survive to be transferred to the 17th; she was shot down in combat on 28 February, 1952.  Horne Collection

Several of the Group's aircraft were around long enough to get salty, and "Myakinazz" was numbered among them. Built as s/n 44-34683 and assigned to the 730th BS, she survived substantial combat with the 452nd and was among those aircraft transferred to the 17th prior to the 452nd's rotation home. This shot may well have been taken during the transfer period---that's a well-dressed (and happy!) bunch of aircrew sitting under her nose!   Perry via Horne Collection

44-35915, "Pop Gun Pete", was a glass-nose assigned to the 429th. While some Air Force units had resident artists who's work was good enough to have appeared on billboards in the civilian world, most of the art found on the 452nd's birds was somewhat primitive, as exemplified by this photo. We sometimes need to be reminded that those guys weren't painting their airplanes for a generation of scale modelers yet-unborn; the reality of the situation could be grim with or without nose art. "Pop Gun Pete" was lost in combat on 21 February, 1951.  Horne Collection

The artwork on "Our Leading Lady" is of a far higher caliber than that found on other aircraft within the group, but all we can tell you abouther was that she carried a "C" nose and was photographed at Pusan in 1951. The striping on her nose gear door is of interest, as is the apparently brand-spanking-new nose wheel tire she's wearing. Anybody out there have a serial number for her?  Perry via Horne Collection

One of the things we've always admired about the USAF is the effort they've put into naming their aircraft. 44-34344, "Sterile Carol, She'll Never Be a Bomma", provides us with a fine example of a clever nickname, although we can honestly say we have no idea what significance the name had to her crew---maybe she was a hack? We do know that she was flying with the 728th when this photo was taken, but we honestly don't know anything more about her.  Perry via Horne Collection

"Maiden's Delight" is another unknown glass-nose---we can't pin down whether or not she was built that way because we don't have her serial number and the 452nd was known to replace hard-nosed Invaders with the more useful (to them) "bomber" nose as they evolved into the nocturnal mission. At any rate, this photo was taken at Pusan in 1951 and provides us with an interesting view of the scallop some of the 452nd's aircraft wore on their cowlings.   Howk via Horne Collection

44-34313, "Junio", sits on the ramp at Pusan early in 1951. We have no idea why she's got that Public Affairs Office collection of ordnance posed in front of her, but it must have meant something to somebody at the time. From our perspective, it's confirmation of some of the weapons the 452nd normally carried during the course of operations---noet that there are no 5-in HVARs to be seen in the shot. "Junio" was lost to ground fire on 27 December, 1951.   Bruch via Horne Collection

"City of Santa Rosa", s/n 44-34324, was assigned to the 729th when this photo was taken. We're going to guess that the photo was taken at Pusan based on that ramp and the background of the photo, and we're going to go way out on a limb and say that she apparently hasn't seen much operational use yet.  Dallas via Horne Collection

Almost half of the 452nd's missions were nocturnal in nature, but a great many of the outfit's aircraft remained in natural metal throughout their time in the theater. This photo illustrates one of their black aircraft to advantage although, once again, we don't know the serial number!   Howk via Horne Collection

Many thanks to John Horne for these remarkable images!

While we don't do it often, it's not entirely unusual for us to make requests for specific material from time to time, and this is one of those instances. We've had a request for photography of Korean-War era 10th TRS A-26s which we can't fill---we have absolutely nothing in our files for that unit during their stay on the peninsula. If any of you have that sort of thing in your collection and would like to share them with us we'd sure like to see them. The address is  .

Under the Radar

MiG Alley, Sabres vs. MiGs Over Korea, Warren Thompson and David McLaren, Specialty Press, 2002, hardbound, 190 pp, heavily illustrated.

Ok, ok; we know what you're going to tell us. The book was recently published and is on a mainstream topic. It isn't obscure, and everybody's seen it, so why run it here in our obscure or lesser-known books department? The answer to that one is simple: Although it's a mainstream sort of book and is one that every enthusiast of USAF history should own, we've seen it on relatively few bookshelves and therefore presume that only a few of you bought it when it was new.

While we don't normally consider "picture" books to be essential references, this one is different. For starters, Warren Thompson is an acknowledged authority on the topic covered, as is David McLaren. Almost all of the photography featured in the book is in color and well-complimented by the text, and a great deal of it is of the "rare" variety since it was taken by aircrew. As a bonus, several appendices are included and they're complete and highly usable as references in their own right. The book is, to use an overworked hack term, a goldmine of information, both photographic and textual, and the volume should be an essential component of any aviation library that leans towards the Korean War.

We haven't seen the book for sale in a retail outlet for a number of years but presume that the magic of the Internet will turn up one should you wish to add it to your collection. That's a quest well worth undertaking; the only negative we have regarding this volume is that it points out once again how badly the scale modeling community needs a decent kit of the F-86A, E, and early F (and preferably in 1/48th scale)! Recommended.

Happy Snaps

Mostly we run photos of older aircraft around here, since that's where our primary interest lies, but every once in a while we receive one of those photos that we just can't say "no" to. This photo is one of those.

Reader Kolin Campbell is one of the lucky ones; a military aviator with an eye for photography. We're not certain of the year this was taken but we know for a fact that F/A-18F is over China Lake, and it looks really cold out there! It's an evocative photo and we're privileged to be able to run it. Many thanks to Kolin for sharing this image (and others, so stay tuned!) with us today.  Kolin Campbell

The Relief Tube

I'm more than certain there's enough information in the "In" basket to allow us a healthy Relief Tube for this issue, but I'm equally certain that it'll be another week before publication if we wait while I go digging for the stuff and we're late already, aren't we?! Yep; I thought you'd see things our way so, until next time, be good to your neighbor! We'll meet again soon.