Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Day of Dogs and Cats; Uh-Oh, Long Ago and Far Away, A Hellcat, A Nifty Boat, and A Bunch of Other Stuff!

Long ago and far away (or long ago, anyhow), your editor had hair, and said hair was not overrun with the silver and grey so indicative of an increasing seniority on life. You could buy a hamburger for a quarter at Burger Chef, and another quarter would get you fries to go with it. You could, in fact, have a meal for less than a buck if you stuck to the basics. You could buy a new Volkswagen Beetle for $1,200, give or take, or a Corvette for under $7,000. Everybody knew who the Beatles were, and you could still buy a real Coca Cola without having to import it from south of the border. Times were simpler.

Plastic kits of model airplanes were far less prolific in those bye-gone days, and the Scale of Choice for most people was 1/72nd. Airfix and Frog were co-Kings of the serious plastic modeling world, with Revell's burgeoning 1/72nd scale lineup a serious challenger to the throne and a couple of upstarts from the Far East called Hasegawa and Tamiya waiting in the wings. People built Revell B-57s and put them in 1/72nd scale collections claiming/hoping that they were "close enough" to the scale when they were, in reality, far too small. The same thing happened to the by-then ancient Revell F-89D which, in a similar vein, offered the opportunity to possess the only Scorpion in town outside of the tiny one offered in the Monogram Air Power set. Lindberg issued a small series of poorly-done Luftwaffe subjects in the scale and people snapped them up as fast as they could find them. Any kit was better than no kit at all.

Aftermarket didn't exist in any form other than a sheet of styrene, presuming you could find one for sale, and a tube of DuPont Spot and Body Glaze, aka "Green Stuff", was the modeler's best friend. Custom decals were limited to the offerings of ABT, HisAirDec, and a handful of others, and were stiff, thick, and often inaccurate. Testor, Pactra, and Floquil were the paints of choice, with the difficult-to-obtain Scalemaster, Frontier HQ, and Official lines offering slow-to-dry and dubiously tinted colors as "serious" alternatives to the more mainstream offerings. Airbrushes were generally Binks or Paasche single-action units and few people owned them. Weathering was limited to exhaust stains and heavily-overdone gun streaks if it was done at all.

All of the "good" scale modeling periodicals came out of Great Britain back then, with America's Scale Modeler offering a distant third or fourth-best Colonial alternative, and various IPMS/USA chapter publications offered the only serious insight into the potential of the hobby.

Things began to change in the late 1960s, with the arrival of Monogram's 1/48th and 1/72nd scale P-51Bs, kits that are laughed at nowadays but were ground-breaking in their day; their arrival was equal in stature to the buzz created by the release of Tamiya's recent 1/32nd scale F4U-1. Better and better kits followed apace and we eventually arrived, year by year and product by product, at the present time. Airplanes we never thought we'd see kitted are now being kitted, and we've got aftermarket, kits, references, decals, and paint quite literally coming out of our ears. We're inundated. Swamped. And, for the truly serious scale modeler, we aren't that much better off than we were way back in 1968.

Consider this: Those of us who build in 1/48th scale have waited years for a decent kit of any Grumman F9F-6 through -8 variant, and now we have a Cougar tub, with promised single-seaters to follow. We've wanted a single-seat McDonnell Voodoo of any flavor in that scale for just as long, and now we've got one. One of the major players recently decided to do the ultimate mid-war Me109G for us, and we got it too. All of those kits were highly anticipated, and all of them were major let-downs when they arrived; the F-101 and F9F-8T were both difficult to build and inaccurate to a considerable degree, while the much-bandied 109 was just too darned big for its scale, in addition to possessing some accuracy issues of its own. Given what came before, all three of those kits should have been as near to perfect as a plastic model airplane could be, but they aren't nearly as accurate as the kits Monogram was beginning to produce back in the late 1960s and are often as difficult, if not more so, to build in terms of fit. Where's the improvement? We certainly can't see one.

The point is simple. Those of us who were building back in The Day were ecstatic to get any new kit, no matter how poor it might have been (and a great many of them were damned poor), because that new kit gave us a shot at building something we couldn't have built before. The same thing could have been said about each new decal sheet or new manufacturer jumping into the game. We were grateful! We probably should be grateful for that big 101 we just got as well, and really grateful for the two-seat Cougar, except that after 45+ years those kits should have been a whole lot better than they are, and they're so far from the standards that Monogram, among others, set back in the aforementioned late 60s that some of our more knowledgeable friends won't even buy certain of  the new kits, much less build them. Time marches on, technology improves the breed, and we're still getting kits that in some respects can't play on the same field with models the boys from Morton Grove were producing four decades ago. It is, if we accept the premise that there's a learning curve that should have been imprinted a long time ago, time for certain plastic model manufacturers to get with the program, if you catch our drift.

Funny how the circle is a wheel...

How Do You Spell "Potpourri"?

We don't know either, but it's been a long time since we've published anything and we've accumulated a fair amount of stuff over the past few weeks, some of which is pretty neat, so we're going to temporarily deviate from our normal format and publish a few of the better things we've received of late, plus some airplane pictures. We hope you enjoy the show!


Rick Morgan found this one while surfing the internet and passed it on. It's pretty remarkable in and of itself and yes; it's a real photograph, not photo-shopped, of a real airplane that really did what the picture illustrates.

How do YOU say "Oh Schmitt!"? Rick had never seen this photo before, and we certainly hadn't either, so we asked our Resident Authority on Things Icelandic if he could provide an explanation. Said RAoTA jumped right in with the following comment:

Well, there is only one way to do it and that is to forget to lock the wings after they have been folded down. Unlike the USN Phantoms ( I think), the USAF versions could not fold and lock the wings from the cockpit, it had to be done by the ground crew. We frequently put 3 jets together in a shelter at Selfridge - you stopped short, they folded the wings and you taxied in with about 18" on either side - almost like parking on a carrier. When you pulled out you stopped, they unfolded the wings, locked them (separate step) and off you went. The only indication that the wings weren't locked was a small pin (think half the length of your index finger and about the same diameter) that stuck up just inside the fold line. It was supposed to be painted red. That was it. No warning lights, nothing else. In the one I know about from Kef, both pins were painted gray - the same color as the wings - which made them very hard to see. The ground crew folded the wings down but forgot to lock them, the WSO did not see the pins sticking up (you couldn't see them from the front seat) and as they rotated for takeoff, both wings folded up from the air load. That was the saving grace - if only one had folded it would have been all over. But double ugly being the brute it was, the pilot just delayed the rotation a bit and they went flying. Since it was a maintenance test hop, they weren't loaded with the 3 external fuel tanks they normally carried, which was another very good thing as they would undoubtedly have exceeded the tire limit speed before they got going fast enough to fly with that much weight.They launched a chase ship to see what was going on, which was where the pictures came from - cameras were required on all alert jets to photograph the "opposition" and the WSOs were used to taking photos- burned down gas, did a controllability check to see what speed they were going to have to fly on final and landed. The only other photo I have seen was taken from underneath and behind the jet. I am "assuming" that it only happened once, but will have to find that other photo to see if they were carrying CAP-9s. It would be sad if they managed to do it twice! BTW---most of the ground crew at Kef had never seen an F-4 until they got to the Island. Most were C-141 or SAC guys getting their "required" remote tour and they showed up knowing absolutely nothing about the jets. Ditto for the T-birds. The mx chief on them had assembled them from crates but the other guys had never seen one before, which was the reason my 2 piece T-33 tailpipe became a "shorty" in flight - with the aft end of the exhaust pipe sticking out the rear end and the middle resting on the bottom of the fuselage - they remembered to bolt it to the engine but forgot to bolt the two portions together in the middle. When it fell apart in flight, it was not conducive to providing the jet much in the way of thrust and did a very good job of lighting up the overheat warning light - at 4,000' and 85 miles out over some very cold water - it took 83% rpm to maintain level flight and the overheat light went on a 82%. We dumped all the chaff to lighten it up, set the power at 82% and had a hundred feet or so of altitude left coming over the coast line, straight-in to the east-west runway... You learned to preflight!
Doug Barbier

And who'da thunk it?  Thanks, Rick and Doug!

It Ain't Like It Used To Be

Back in the days of The Silver Air Force, each May saw every Air Force base worth its salt holding an open house in honor of Armed Forces Day. Constant reader Norm found one of those air shows on You Tube and sent us this link. Sit back, grab a Cold One, and take a gander at the stuff some of us grew up with!

The way we were, in a manner of speaking.  Thanks, Norm!

A Spiffy Cat

Old friend Jim Sullivan seems to have taken yet another sabbatical from Chance Vought's immortal F4U to produce an interesting model of another Navy fighter from the Second World War. The markings are unique, and Jim provided a photo of the actual airplane to go with it.

"Lolly", sitting on an airstrip Somewhere in the Pacific. Jim didn't have any information as to unit, time or place, so all we know for sure is that she's an F6F-3 and she's wearing some highly unusual conspicuity markings.   Sullivan Collection

Here's a photo of Jim's model, based on the much-maligned but actually quite good late 90s Hasegawa 1/48th scale kit. Here's what Jim had to say about it:

It's the 1/48th Hasegawa F6F-3 and was a pleasure to build. When I saw the photo of the actual plane, the markings were quite unusual and I just knew I had to build it. It's from a Navy squadron that was island-based out in the South Pacific in 1944. Although I've tried, I have yet to nail down the actual squadron it was assigned to. My thanks go out to Pip Moss and Joseph Osborn who made possible the custom decals for the plane and pilot's name. It's pretty much an OOB build with the exception of the Eduard instrument panel and the TD weighted wheels and vac canopy. It's airbrushed with MM enamels. A fun build for sure and I hope you like the way she turned out.

Here's a photo of the other side of the model. We really like the way it turned out and are tickled to death that Jim chose something so unique to model, and have to wonder if Mssrs Moss and Osborn shouldn't go into the custom decal business!

Not One You See Every Day

You may be familiar with the various flying boats produced by the American aviation industry prior to the United State's entry into the Second World War. They were large, most of them, and designed to span the oceans of the world. The Pan American station at Wake Island, as well as those in other places in the far reaches of the pacific, were established to support a facet of air transport called "Clippers" (a PanAm term that apparently took off, no pun intended, and was generically applied to the whole gamut of aircraft which fell into the trans-Pacific flying boat category). That terrible war accelerated the development and employment of the big boats and the end of the conflict saw them relegated to history, but they were something when they were in their prime. Thanks to Bobby Rocker, we have an opportunity to view one of those clippers, but not in the guise you might expect.

And here's the star of our show, a Boeing 314 in warpaint. Several "Clippers" were purchased by the War Department and operated by PanAm crews on transport duties throughout the war. This example is shown moored off NAS Alameda and is carrying an N-number rather than Navy markings. She's also wearing a large American flag on her nose, implying that the photo was taken very early in the war. That camouflage is something special, and we even have a kit to apply it to---the old (late 1960s) but still viable Airfix offering in 1/144th scale. We're not going to begin to guess at those colors, but it ought to be easy to get there in a "close enough is close enough" sort of mode. We smell a project!!!            Rocker Collection

It's All in the Details

Which is as good a way as any to describe our next photo.

The place is Funafuti in the Ellis Islands, and that OS2U Kingfisher is in the process of being beached. Several details make this photo well worth the running (and well worth wishing we had other views of it!). First and foremost are those enormous national insignia---we suspect those on the upper surfaces mimic them, which makes the lack of a side view of the aircraft particularly frustrating, since we think, but have no way of knowing, that the fuselages corcardes are on the largish side as well. Of equal interest are the red and yellow stripes on the face of the prop blades. The blades themselves appear to be black, and those red and yellow tip stripes should be complimented by one in blue, but that doesn't seem to be the case in this instance. Finally, the aircraft is armed with a pair of 100-pound GP bombs painted yellow (that's a standard Navy treatment for the early war years, so don't go writing us telling us they're practice bombs, ok?). This is the sort of photo that makes us long for an up-to-date 1/48th scale kit of the Kingfisher!  Someday...
USMC via Rocker Collection

Size Counts

It's no secret that we've got an interest in the events and aircraft of The Great War, and we've even built a few models of them for the collection, including several examples of that most graceful of First World War German fighters, the Albatros. The boys at Eduard made a great deal of their reputation for manufacturing superior plastic kits off their renditions of the Albatros DIII and DV, and those kits have been in production for quite a few years, which makes it odd indeed that both are possessed of significant problems concerning their undercarriage.

Of the two aircraft, the DIII has the simplest problem in terms of fixability (a word I sort-of made up on the spot, although I think the hot rod guys use it quite a bit too). Its wheels are too small in diameter, which makes the whole airplane look a little odd as a result. The solution to that particular problem is a simple one; call Roy over at Barracuda and ask him to sell you a set of his Albatros wheels. They're the right size and offer more detail than the kit parts to boot---it doesn't get much simpler than that.

That's the fix for the DIII. The DV, our personal favorite of the pair (of course!) has an issue far more profound. Here's a photo that explains it far better than we can with words:

Here's the photo---can you spot what's wrong? It's pretty obvious, we think, but in case you can't figure it out, check out the length of the undercarriage struts on both models. The one on the right is bone stock, 100% as Eduard delivered it into our waiting hands, and those struts are too short by a whopping 3mm or so on each leg. That gives the kit a sort-of Low Rider stance once it's built, and it makes the finished model look seriously goofy. The model on the left has had its struts lengthened by the requisite amount and now sits as it's supposed to. It's an easy fix if you've got a little bit of experience under your belt, but it's something the serious scale modeler shouldn't have to contend with in 2014!

You can buy a set of replacement struts from the really nice guy who runs Pheon over in England, should you be so inclined, but he's frequently out of stock on the item. We've been trying to persuade an American manufacturer of resin bits and pieces to work up a replacement for them and that may or may not happen---we have no way of knowing. What we do know is that Eduard seems to have no plans to replace those struts any time soon. The kit sells well as-is, so why should they, right? (Wrong!)

Anyway, if you're going to build an Albatros DV or DVa for your very own collection you're going to have to fix those struts if you want it to look right. Just sayin'...

A Tale of Lost Love

It's Rocker Day around here, we suppose, but Bobby's recently provided us with a whole slew of photos from the SWPAC and we figured we should share a few of them with you. for example:

"Shirlee" belonged to the 35th FG and was sitting in the mud on the ramp when she posed for this photo. The nose art says it all---"Shirlee" is crossed out and replaced by the poignant expression; "She Couldn't Wait". It may seem odd to make more than a passing mention of the significance of the name, but far too many GIs and sailors ended up losing sweethearts and wives while they were off fighting. That's just one more thing to add to the rain, mud, mosquitos, heat, disease, and Japanese. Did we ever mention that it was a crummy war? A really lousy, crummy war.     Rocker Collection

And While We're on the Subject of Mud

Here's another image from the Rocker collection to show how bad things can be, even when they're good.

The F-5s belong to the 8th PRS, and their ramp is at Dulag in the Philippines. They've got Marston matting, electricity, ground vehicles, and proper support equipment. They've also got standing water, mud, mosquitos, and malaria. Sometimes things stink even when you've got it good!   Rocker Collection

And here's another view of having it good when things are bad, or maybe having it bad when things are good! Either way this 17th PRS F-4, sitting on the ramp at Henderson Field, illustrates the same thing in a different setting---real maintenance stands and Marston matting, albeit with the same water, mud, mosquitos, and associated tropical diseases included in the deal too. Note the design on the nose-wheel cover; we can't quite make out what it is, but it adds character to that haze-camouflaged airplane.   Rocker Collection

Contrast that with the maintenance conditions surrounding "Shrimp", a P-39D undergoing engine work at the 4th Air Depot in Townsville. There's not an inch of matting in sight nor any sort of ground support equipment although, in all fairness, the simple removal of panels wouldn't require any. Check out the footwear on the mech closest to the camera. It could be that he was styling for the cameras, although those could also have been the only shoes he had (those socks are awfully white, though). Either way, the working conditions are pretty lousy.   Rocker Collection

In addition to all the other problems associated with performing maintenance in the SWPAC, there was one potential situation that was always present, particularly in the early days---the prospect of an assault by Japanese ground troops. This 7th FS/49th/FG P-40E was based near Darwin, Australia, during The Bad Old Days of 1942. Darwin underwent a number of air raids during 1942 and the early part of 1943, but in the event neither the town nor its associated bases were assaulted by ground forces since none ever made it to Australia. That wasn't taken as a given during 1942, however, and there are a number of sidearms, plus one M1 Garand, present in this shot. There were few easy days in the SWPAC.   Rocker Collection

More Invaders

Reader John Horne sent us a bunch of A-26 Invader photography a while back (a practice that we whole-heartedly encourage; that address is ). While we've already run a few of them, there are certainly more to go so without further ado...

"Sayonara"/"Jamee"/"Figmo", an A-26B of the 6th TTS, sits on the ramp at Clark in 1957. There's some nose art on her that we can't quite make out, but she's also trimmed out in yellow which is colorful enough for us!   Olmsted John Horne Collection

And here's a detail of that 6th TTS squadron emblem. It's easy to ignore the various USAF squadrons of the 50s that did such mundane things as towing targets, but their job was essential to the training of the guys flying the combat aircraft. It's interesting to note that this aircraft once boasted a the early six-guns laterally-displaced nose.   Olmsted via John Horne Collection

Here's another target tug, this time from the 4th TTS out of Ladd AB, Alaska, also during 1957. Although she's unadorned by names or nose art, she's an interesting (and colorful!) bird because of the arctic conspicuity markings applied over her target tug paintwork. 44-34184 was rebuilt as an A-26K in 1964.   Menard Collection via John Horne

Here's a color shot of the 4th's "Stinky" to prove the point about that color. Bright paintwork was the norm when an aircraft was a dedicated rag-dragger, and this shot of 44-35254 certainly lived up to the reputation. The Jet nacelles and cowlings definitely added to the beauty of the scheme, although we're not so sure about the white that trimmed the vertical stab!    Menard Collection via John Horne

"Involuntary" flew during the Korean fracas and is seen here on the ground, most probably in Japan. Her yellow trim, name, and mission markers stick out like a sore thumb but would have been all but invisible at night unless illuminated by a searchlight or flare. She was one of the ones the Bad Guys missed but she bought it just the same; she crashed to destruction during takeoff on a 31 August, 1951, mission, with no survivors. She was serving with the 731st BS/3rd BW out of Kunsan at the time but was on the ground at Iwakuni when this image was taken.   John Horne Collection

"No Sweat" was another aircraft from the 731st at Iwakuni. The opened bombardier's hatch appears to be finished in a battered rendition of Jet in this photo but is could also be/should be Insignia Green instead. Note that some of the red stencilling on this airframe appears to be somewhat crudely applied. It wasn't all that unusual to see that sort of thing on the A-26s operating out of combat zones, another note for modelers to remember.   John Horne Collection

And here's a nose shot of "Los Angeles City Limits", also from the 3rd. In her case the Insignia Red stencilling prevalent on the nose of "No Sweat" is missing entirely, either due to a repaint in the field or, quite possibly, to a nose swap. There's that Jet bombardier's hatch interior again; it sure looks black to us!   John Horne Collection

Let's end this essay with a shot of an RB-26 from the 11th TRS/67th TRW being prepared for storage at Clark Field during 1957. The light-colored streaks you see are preservative, not some funky paint job. What's interesting about this particular aircraft is her antenna suite and the presence of a dorsal turret (sans guns). At first glance she still has her ventral turret as well, but that's actually a cover for part of her electronics fitment. Do any of our readers have a schematic of those antennae?   Olmsted via John Horne Collection

We've still got a few shots from John's collection yet to run, but we're saving them for another day. If you can't wait until then and need another A-26 fix right now this minute, might we suggest that you sashay over to Gerry Kersey's 3rd Attack.Org site, which we link to on this blog. Gerry's doing a great job of preserving the heritage of the 3rd and his site is well worth the visit. Tell him Replica in Scale sent you!

A Warbird You Don't See Every Day

A couple of years ago we showed you a Pilatus P.2 trainer, formerly of the Swiss Air Force, undergoing restoration near Liberty Hill, Texas. She's complete now, and here's what she looks like:

If you ever get a chance to look inside this one, take it! Besides being a rare bird in the extreme---she's one of only two in the United States and the only one flying---her interior bears more than a passing resemblance to that of the Bf109E, a type operated by the Swiss Air Force during the Second Great Unpleasantness. Her ground handling characteristics are similar as well, although she certainly doesn't have the performance of the Teutonic fighter she was built to emulate; her Argus engine sees to that. Still, she's a neat old bird, shown here as Simon Diver, a key member of her restoration team and also her pilot for the delivery flight to her owners in Southern California, formates with a camera ship to celebrate the occasion. Her trip from South Central Texas to The Sunshine State was, for the most part, uneventful, and Simon is now without an old airplane to restore. Anybody got a derelict warbird laying around that needs to be rebuilt?   via Simon Diver

Long Ago and Far Away

Although Greenland is a relatively long way from anywhere, it's also approximately halfway to everywhere, or at least it is if your idea of everywhere coincides with the distance between the United States and Western Europe. Back in the 50s it was normal for American fighter units to stop there when transiting between the two continents. An example of that is shown to us today thanks to the kindness of Mark Morgan.

One of the 20th TFW's T-33As sits on the ramp taking a little gas while transiting through Sondrestrom. There's no snow on the ground but Desolate and Barren is still Desolate and Barren, snow or no snow. This sort of thing was all part of the job, and still is to this day. Oh, and check out the F-80 tip tanks on that bird!   USAF via Mark Morgan

Goose Bay isn't Sondrestrom, but it's almost as desolate and every bit as barren. Our friend TR-005 (from the photo immediately above) is first in line in this shot as the 20th TGW's "T-Birds" taxi in on their their way across the Pond. F-80 tip tanks are the norm within the Wing, which in theory makes this deployment of 1952-1953 vintage. Mark?   USAF via Mark Morgan

Happy Snaps

In keeping with today's theme (a little bit of this and a little bit of that), here's a bit of photography that could have been termed gorgeous had we not defaced it in order to deter The Picture Pirates from stealing it to publish elsewhere:

A section of VAQ-139's "Cougars" formate high over the Pacific during one of Air Wing 14's many deployments to the region. Military aviation is fraught with adventure and often times danger, but there are the quiet times too, when the guys in the airplanes can reflect on the beauty of it all. Thanks as always, Morgo, for this outstanding shot!   R Morgan

The Relief Tube

Of which there isn't one today, except to say that we've decided that, effective this issue, we're going to run any photograph we know for certain to be of official origin sans (that means "without", in case you're a Picture Pirate and don't know what the definition of that word is) watermarking. We think it's the right thing to do.

On the other hand, we're going to continue to watermark anything we receive from any contributor that has been either photographed by them or is from their collection. Those of our readership who have grown up with the hobby in our contemporary age of Right Click and Save probably don't have much of a perspective on that whole provenance thing, but those of us who earned our spurs in print can tell you how difficult it is to search out the guys with the photography and, oftentimes, persuade them that it's ok to allow their photos to be copied and put into print, electronic or otherwise. Citing provenance is the right thing to do, and stealing (as opposed to copying for one's own private collection) is not. Just sayin'...

And that's it for this time. We had what seemed to be a non-stop series of personal events going on over the past six weeks or so which contributed in great measure to our present delinquency, but we'll try to do better in the future. Then again, we've made that promise before, haven't we?

Anyway, we're going to try! In the meantime, be good to your neighbor. We'll do our best to see you again soon!