Sunday, March 13, 2016

Another Look at the Eduard Dog, They Should've Been in TraCom, Another SpAD on a Deck, Shooting Stars, When Air Force One Had Class, and a Phew More Phantoms

Uncle Bobby

Those of you who follow this highly irregular publication with any degree of regularity (did he really say that?) will recall that I've had enough time in grade to be what we shall call older than dirt. In translation, that means that I've been both privileged and, on rare occasion, cursed, by the fact that I've known a lot of people in the hobby, but today we're going to take a positive spin and talk about one of that privileged variety, a fellow we're going to call Uncle Bobby. (That's actually his nickname in real life, too, but we're not going to use his whole moniker because so many people are sensitive about such things nowadays---he'll know who he is but you'll have to guess, so just roll with it, ok?)

Right, then; so what about Uncle Bobby, and why do we want to talk about him? The answer to that one is easy and, as always, there's a point to be taken from the discussion.

Uncle Bobby first showed up on the local modeling scene in 1969 or so, a transplant from Houston with an interest in aviation and model airplanes. He appeared one fine day at our local IPMS chapter meeting, introduced himself, and pretty much set us all on our collective ears with the model airplane he'd brought along to help establish his street creds.

Do any of you remember that year: 1969? Airfix, British Revell, and Frog were pretty much at the top of the heap in terms of kits of plastic model airplanes, with those Japanese upstarts Tamiya and Hasegawa steadily nibbling away at the established structure of the hobby (a veritable repeat of what Honda, et al, did to the British motorcycle industry of the era, but I digress). There were perhaps a dozen or so producers of aftermarket decals, one of which was the recently-emergent MicroScale, and a handful of people produced enamel paints specifically for the model airplane guys, although mix-your-own was still pretty much the order of the day way back then. The good modelers, or at least the ones who thought they were good, were all buying airbrushes (usually a Binks Wren B or a Paasche H) and attempting to use them and then, as now, there was an "in" crowd who defined the local definition of The Hobby, or who at least thought they did, and also, then as now, there was an established pecking order, and everyone pretty much had to conform to it or be cast out. Well, maybe not quite everybody...

When Uncle Bobby walked into that meeting room one fine Sunday afternoon back in 1969 he brought a recently completed Airfix TBD Devastator with him. The assembly work on that model was impeccable, with nary a one of the kit's thousands of rivets sullied in the process of assembly and finishing, and the completed airframe was a thing of beauty. The paintwork, pre-War silver and Yellow Wing, was superb, absolutely flawless, and the decals appeared to have been painted on the model. It was, for the time and place, quite a revelation. It was also more than a little disturbing to that "in" crowd we mentioned, because the superlative paint job had been done by hand, with a regular hobby brush, using paint from those little square Testor bottles, and adding insult to injury by utilizing the decals included in the kit! (Everybody knew that kit decals were absolutely worthless, even back in 1969.) Think about it, ya'll: A virtually stock kit using kit decals and painted with a generic hobby paint rather than something aimed at the discerning aircraft modeler, and using kit stickies. The heresy of it all! The horror! The horror...

And that, friends and neighbors, brings us to The Point, if you will. Think about what I just said up there: This new guy came in and, without an airbrush, aftermarket decals, or overpriced paint intended specifically for plastic model airplanes, and with a somewhat difficult kit to boot, knocked our collective appendages in the dirt, and did it all with grace and good manners. That TBD he'd brought along wasn't just better than what the rest of us were doing, it was a jump to a whole new level. It was a revelation.

Time marched on and Uncle Bobby eventually bought an airbrush, and somewhere along the line he began using aftermarket decals as well. Both of those things raised the bar that much higher for everyone concerned and, quite frankly, made him virtually unbeatable on the local contest circuit for as many years as he chose to compete.

Change up to Today, right now this minute, and look around you. Most "serious" modelers have airbrushes, some quite expensive, and aftermarket decals and specialty paints are the order of the day. Photo-etched and resin aftermarket parts have been added to the contemporary mix over the last 30 years or so, and it's gotten to the point where the actual kit is often the least-expensive thing in the scale modeler's bill of materials for any particular project. You have to have those things if you're going to be taken seriously in the hobby. That's the contemporary definition of The Game and everybody knows it, yet every once in a while somebody steps out of the woodwork using a basic kit, an old-fashioned paint brush and kit decals, throws in a little bit of scratch-building but minimal if any aftermarket, and just blows everyone out of the water with the results of their labors. Check out the completed model photos on all those other the modeling boards if you don't believe me!

Way back When, many years ago when I was racing motocross, it became evident that it wasn't necessarily the guy who had all the expensive and cool stuff who was the rider to beat. It was the guy who knew how to ride the damn motorcycle and wasn't afraid to try that ended up in the winner's circle and that, my friends, takes us right up to today's point, to wit: If you want to be good at something you need to jump in and actually try to do it. None of the fancy stuff will help you if you don't acquire the skills first, and sometimes it takes an Uncle Bobby to teach us that embarrassing lesson. Think about it, ya'll...

It ain't what you do; it's how you do it.
J Geils Band

The Eduard "Dog" Revisited

In many respects we've already beaten the Eduard P-39 kit into submission on more than one occasion, but yet another one is in the works here at the ranch and we'd like to re-visit and hopefully clarify a couple of the things we previously discussed.

Any P-39 kit, by any manufacturer, holds the potential of becoming a tail-sitter unless adequate care is taken to properly ballast the thing prior to joining the fuselage halves together. This is one of those "picture worth a thousand words" kind of deals, so take a look. Not all Airacobra kits are quite this ballast-friendly, but the Eduard 1/48th scale offering provides us with more than enough room to accomplish the task.

This view explains things a little better, and also shows how that carb intake splitter works. Those BBs I stuck in the nose aren't necessary at all, but sticking them in there made me feel better about the whole thing. The pair of .36-cal round balls proved to be more than enough weight for the job, although in retrospect a .44 and a .36 might have been better!

I stuck in this photo to show that everything closes up properly if you do things the way I just mentioned. This "Cobra" will grow up to be a P-39D so I'm using kit part A8 to cover that hole in the top of the nose. It has a nasty round boss underneath it, left there as part of the molding process, and your life will be easier if you trim that unfortunate blivet off of there---it probably didn't matter back when Eduard provided pre-molded ballast with the kit, but now that they've cheaped out and omitted it from their current P-39 offerings, you're going to want a place to put your weights. If you choose to add a roof to the wheel well and ballast the way I did it, that pesky boss will prevent the nose cap from fitting properly. A word to the wise!

At this point you're probably all thinking (quite possibly hoping?) that you've seen the last of the Eduard P-39 on these pages, but it seems as though I learn something else every time I build one, so it's fairly safe to say we're not done yet! Stay tuned...

A Movie You Need to See

OK, everyone reading this blog who likes airplane movies, raise your hand! Wow; that many of you? Let's try a different approach, then: Everyone reading this blog who's seen Angels One Five, raise your hand! Anybody? Beuller? Beuller?

Actually, that was kind of a set-up in a way, since most people have never even heard of Angels One Five, much less actually seen it, but it's one of those must-watch kind of movies if you're an aviation buff. Why's that, you might well ask? Well, for starters: It's a 1952-vintage black and white British film about a fighter squadron just before and during the Battle of Britain, and it features two real Hawker Hurricane Mk Is and a Mk IIc from the RAF and Hawker respectively, and five Mk IIc Hurricanes loaned by the Portuguese air force, along with a cameo performance by a real Bf110, which airframe was scrapped shortly after the completion of the film. The "Hurris" weather out beautifully as the movie progresses and the flying sequences are pretty darned amazing when compared to most other aviation films (and that includes aviation films from any era!) because real pilots of the era are flying the airplanes and there's virtually no "enhancement" of any of the images.

The cast does a better-than-average job, the action is properly understated, and the movie was filmed at RAF Kenley so the location smacks of realism. The plot is far more believable than most such endeavors can offer, and the movie is absolutely amazing on every level. It's available on DVD nowadays but can also be found for free on Amazon Prime (presuming you're a member) or really and truly for free on YouTube. It's a must-see even if your tastes don't normally run to that sort of thing. Recommended.

Just Another Hack

Or maybe not. I was looking for something a little bit different for this issue and Rick Morgan was apparently reading my mind---the photos you're about to view arrived literally within the past hour. They're of a subject familiar to most of us---the North American T-39 Sabreliner, but they're somewhat unique in that most of them represent aircraft in service with line squadrons rather than the far more ubiquitous TraCom birds. Let's take a look:

150969 was the station hack at P'Cola when Rick took her portrait at NAS Chase in March of 1979. The T-39D was a useful airplane and a highly capable one too; 0969 found a brief career in the civilian world after her service with the NAV was done. She was written off on 2 June, 2003, when the hangar she was stashed in collapsed during a windstorm in Laredo, Texas, a sad end to a beautiful airplane.   Rick Morgan

The RAGs needed hacks as much as anyone else did, and this T-39D from VA-122 was a beaut! BuNo 150970 was normally stationed at NAS Lemore, where the squadron was in full-time residence, but was at Pensacola on 14 August, 1978, while the squadron was working out of that facility. "Blip III" wears 122's trim better than the "Fruit Flies"attached to the squadron at the time. (And no; to the best of our rarely-certain knowledge Lt Gary Morgan is not related to Rick!)   Rick Morgan

Not to be out-done, VA-174 had a T-39D of their own, albeit one not quite as pretty in terms of its paint job. 150982 was photographed on the ground at P'Cola in February of 1980 while she was providing support for the RAG while they were there on a brief det. She went into storage a few short years later, but was in her prime here.   Rick Morgan

Shortly after her assignment to VA-174,150982 spent some time as a VIP ship, attached to the Commander, Caribbean Joint Task Force (CCJTF) and stationed at NAS Key West. We like these markings a little better; if only there was a decent injection-molded kit to represent them on! As an aside, it should be noted that the CCJTF was established during the Carter administration, leading at least one naval aviator to comment:  "The Soviets put a brigade of combat troops in Cuba and we responded with an Admiral and staff in Key West. That'll show them!"   Rick Morgan

150989 was another T-39D, but her squadron or any other significant information about her is lacking---she was photographed at Whiting in October of 1978 but that's about all we know regarding this shot. Her paint job, and more specifically its resemblance to some sort of generic corporate scheme on a civilian aircraft, coupled with its lack of national insignia on the fuselage, could well lead the conspiracy theorist down the rosie path. You're perfectly willing to follow that path too, since neither Rick nor ourselves know much of anything about the aircraft. (Answers, or even educated guesses, are encouraged. The address is replicainscaleatyahoodotcom, which is spelled in that goofy manner in hopes that I can avoid the rash of spam that normally accompanies any such mention of an addy in print!)   Rick Morgan

Let's close out this feature with a shot of 203 (BuNo unknown), which is a more-common TraCom bird assigned to VT-86---Rick shot her to illustrate what happens to a fiberglass radome when it's attached to an airplane that's been flown through a hail storm! We don't often think of such mishaps but they're not that uncommon in the world of military aviation; many years ago I got a surprise phone call from a young Ensign Rick Morgan, who'd lost the nose cap of a TA-4J he was soloing due to a bird strike near Randolph AFB. No naval aviators were hurt in the course of the adventure, the NAV fixed the "Scooter" the next morning, and Rick and I spent a pleasant evening talking about airplanes and looking at slides as an unanticipated result of the mishap. Military aviation accidents don't always have such benign endings, however, and not every loss occurs in combat. It's not a job...   Rick Morgan

The Sabreliner was once a common sight in the American military, and we've got other shots of it hiding around here someplace for their debut another day. Until that time, many thanks to Rick for providing these fascinating examples of the type in Navy service.

The Unsung Heros

Shortly after publication of our January issue I received an e-mail from Steve Birdsall, who commented regarding the folks on the flight deck who make it all work:

Phil, I really enjoyed the Skyraider photos. I share your admiration of the “unsung heroes” . . . I tried to capture something of that with the attached photo. It was taken late one afternoon in January 1967 on the flight deck of Ticonderoga on Yankee Station. That’s VA-52’s #311, Bu No 142023. I didn’t get the lighting quite right and it’s never been published, but I still like it.

And we like it too! Steve's photo captures the time and the place perfectly. Built as an AD-7 (an A-1J in the post-McNamara days of the Vietnam War), 023 was subsequently transferred to the USAF as 52-142023. Note the wear on the tips of her prop blades---that particular wear pattern was not uncommon on the Skyraider but is rarely illustrated in photographs or depicted on scale models.   Steve Birdsall

Thanks, Steve!

Plain and Simple

Aerospace has progressed by leaps and bounds over the past 50 years or so, which makes it worthwhile to take a look back at simpler times. Thanks to the generosity of Jim Sullivan we're going to do that very thing today!

If you're going to fight, sooner or later you'll have to learn to shoot, and 49-0506 was a Lockheed F-80C-10-LO assigned to the 3525th Aircraft Gunnery Squadron. Photographed in Wilmington, NC, in 1950, she typifies the simple day fighter that even then was rapidly disappearing from the inventories of the world's air forces.   Sullivan Collection

This image provides us with a better image of 0506, and in particular shows the details of the 3525th AGS' emblem on the nose. Sometimes basic is better, and we happen to think the F-80 is one of the prettiest of the fighters ever operated by The Silver Air Force. Your mileage may well vary, but that's our story and we're sticking with it!   Sullivan Collection

Not a bad way to earn a living! 45-8521, an F-80B-1-LO, is captured in its element over Colorado during 1954 while serving with the 120th TFS/Colorado ANG. None of the early turbo-jet-powered fighters employed by the USAF and Guard during this period possessed very much in the way of range, making external fuel tanks an absolute requirement. The lessons of the Korean War had been taken to heart and this aircraft is carrying a pair of Fletcher tanks on its wingtips, while those bumps projecting from the aircraft's wing leading edges contain cameras. We aren't at all certain why that might be and invite reader comments!   Sullivan Collection

The Guard knew how to fly! This four-ship is from South Carolina's 157th FIS and was photographed in flight near McEntire ANGB during 1954. Fletcher tanks are once again in evidence, and those simple markings suit the F-80 to a T! 44-85110 was originally built as an F-80A-1-LO and had been upgraded to F-80C-11-LO standard by the time this photograph was taken. 45-8603, 8643,  and 8487 all left the Lockheed factory as F-80B-1-LOs, In today's Air Force and ANG aircraft from mixed block numbers within the same unit can create significant logistics issues, but the F-80 was an extremely basic airplane and the differences between the block numbers didn't make a whole lot of practical difference. It was a simpler time...   Sullivan Collection

The F-80 was a ground-breaking airplane in its early days, and it only stood to reason that Lockheed would develop a dedicated photo-recon version of the airframe as time went along. 44-85449 was one such aircraft, purpose-built as an FP-80A-5-LO but redesignated as an RF-80A by the time this photograph was taken on the ground at Wilmington, NC, in 1949. The airplane is nearly devoid of markings but the stencilling and warning placards on the wing tanks are worth a second look. Note that the aircraft appears to be painted in overall silver.   Sullivan Collection

And here's an RF-80C under tow to close out this particular photo essay. Originally built as an FP-80A-5-LO, she had been up-graded to RF-80C standard by the time this photo was taken at Wilmington, NC, in 1950. It wouldn't be long before the RF-80 found a lasting place in the history of the Korean War, but she was still a peace-time bird in early 1950.   Sullivan Collection

One more thing before we go---do any of you hold images of American F-80s, either USAF, ANG, or Navy, in your photo collections? If so, we'd sure like to see them! That e-mail address is
replicainscaleatyahoodotcom .

An Airplane for the Big Guy

There was a time, not all that long ago, when American military transports had reciprocating engines, generally of the radial variety. They were noisy, their engines leaked oil like there was no tomorrow, and they were state-of-the-art until Boeing changed everything with their 707 (and derivative) family of transports. Mark Morgan was going through the photo archives at the AMC history office a while back and came up with these images of one of the most gorgeous transports ever built:

VC-121A 48-0610 had a somewhat unique history, being used by Dwight Eisenhower during 1952 when he was President-elect of the United States. Named "Columbine II" during that time frame, the aircraft still exists and the present owners are reputed to have intentions to returning the aircraft to flying status. We hope they're successful; nobody ever built a prettier transport than Lockheed's Constellation, and her return to the skies would be fitting indeed. Let's cross our fingers!   AMC via Mark Morgan

Here's a nose-on shot of "Columbine", along with her crew, during 1953. We don't normally keep up with Air Force One around here but we'd be willing to guess that the aircraft presently used for that mission has a somewhat larger crew!   AMC via Mark Morgan

Finally, here's a shot of a "normal" C-121A. 48-0616 led a relatively uneventful life with the USAF prior to her sale to Ethiopian Airlines, in who's service she crashed to destruction in 1957, fortunately without loss of life. It was a sad end to a proud bird.   AMC via Mark Morgan

USAFE Bugsuckers to End the Day

A few months ago we were pleasantly surprised to hear from a reader who also happened to be an old friend from the 1980s; Scott Wilson. Scott was a blue-suiter when we met him, and his time in the Air Force gave him ample opportunity for photography. As a result of that opportunity he sent us quite a bit of McDonnell Douglas Phantom imagery to share with you, and we've got a handful of photos to start the ball rolling today. You've already seen his photography here, but this issue begins an ongoing look at the F-4 in service with USAFE. Let's see what Scott's got for us!

You may recall a photo essay we did quite some time ago on the 86th FG in Germany immediately post-War, flying P-47Ds. Today's feature provides a linear progression of that article, with the then-86th TFW flying F-4Es out of Ramstein AB in the Federal Republic of Germany. 68-0401 provides a fine, if somewhat plain-looking, example of the type. The Cold War was very much in progress during the '80s and those AIM-7s and AIM-9s are the real McCoy; 0401 is loaded and ready for Bear (pun somewhat intended). She was assigned to the 86th when Scott took this photo in August of 1983, after which she served with the 108th TFW of the New Jersey ANG. She was subsequently transferred to the RoKAF, where we presume she finished out her days. Originally built as an F-4E-38-MC, she was a fine example of the type in USAFE service. Scale modelers note that her camouflage is of the wraparound variety, a fairly common practice by the mid-80s.   Scott Wilson

Being a maintenance type on an active flight-line provided an excellent opportunity for photography, and Scott took full advantage of it during his stay in Germany. In this classic shot we see 68-0440, another F-4E-38-MC, being pushed into an alert barn, once again loaded and ready to rumble. She's fitted with a TSEO pod on her port wing and is wearing the red and black checkerboard of the 86th's 526th TFS on her vertical stab. The airman riding the brakes as she's parked has his race-face on, as well he should. All of the USAFE tactical units were on the sharp end of things back then and would have been among the first units to face Armageddon should that disastrous event have ever occurred. They took the mission seriously.   Scott Wilson

Here's another bird from the 526th. 68-0465 was an F-4E-40-MC, and Scott took her portrait on 19 September, 1985. She's not armed, but this angle shows her to advantage, as all those old-time magazine editors used to say. Her camouflage is once again of the wrap-around variety, and that red and black spiral on her pitot is a particularly nice touch, we think. She survived her time with the 86th to end up on a pole at Jefferson Barracks ANG Base at St Louis, Missouri. We liked her better the way she was back in '85 but at least she was preserved, a dignity not provided to the vast majority of her sisters.   Scott Wilson

Finally, here's an example of an F-4E-41-MC with the 86th's 512th TFS on a TDY to Zaragoza AB in Spain when photographed on 13 July, 1983. Our sharp-eyed readers will note the yellow and black spiral on her pitot, or at least they might once they get past that big honkin' sharkmouth she's wearing. Note how the brilliant Andalusian sun changes the hue of her camouflage colors, and in particular the perceived shade of the FS 30219 Tan. We hate to continually state the obvious, but there are no absolutes when it comes to colors on an airplane---if anyone tells you there are, feel free to tell them that the guys at Replica in Scale said it's time to lighten up, Moriarty! 68-0506 went to the Hellenic Air Force in 1991 and eventually wound up on display at Larissa AB.  Scott Wilson

We have quite a few images from Scott's collection that we'll be sharing with you in the months ahead, so stay with us!

Another Movie You Have to See!

And we're going to give you the link to it right here, so you don't even have to go to the theater, buy a DVD, or do any of those other things we normally associate with such adventures! This particular film is from the collection of the Australian War Memorial and provides us with an eleven-plus minute look into RAAF operations out of Milne Bay during 1942.

The film was originally shot as a home movie and is in color, but sans sound. There is narration, however, and the film is absolutely remarkable for both the aircraft shown (including some USAAF P-39s) and for the graphic depiction of the horrible operational conditions those guys faced every single day in the Southwest Pacific. Bobby Rocker found the video for us and sent along the link, for which we are grateful indeed! Thanks, Bobby!

The Relief Tube

We don't have much in the way of comments or corrections today (where are you guys?), but we do have a comment or two to share:

First, from Rick Morgan concerning that photo essay we did on the Hasegawa P-40 last issue:

Phil- Love the piece you did on Hasegawa P-40s last blog. Always appreciated that aircraft and the P-40E specifically. Although few fighters looked better with sharks teeth (maybe the F-4E) I’ve never built one marked for the AVG (too “average”). I’d much rather do the 49th or some other obscure outfit- my last one was for the 11th FS in the Aleutians without the tiger head. Tillman, myself and a couple of others were waxing a couple of years ago about what was the “Best of the Second Best Fighters” of WWII. The P-40 is way up there; higher than a Hurricane I’d say (quite a few Desert AF units converted from Hurris to Kitty Hawks as I recall) and the Warhawk is certainly way up there in the “Valiant” column. The only other aircraft I’d say might rank higher was the F4F. Certainly nothing Russian; while the Luftwaffe didn’t fly anything I’d call “second best”.   Rick

Thanks for your kindness, Rick, and for the opportunity just presented! Folks, re-read what Rick said regarding The Best of the Second Best World War Two Fighters and think about it for a minute. On a personal level, I'd have to say that the theoretically outclassed Polikarpov I-16 family both could, and in many cases did, hold their own in aerial combat against the Luftwaffe in the early days of the war in the East, which adds them to the list in my mind if no one else's. That's my opinion; what about yours? If you've got a horse in this race, please drop us a line at replicainscale at yahoo dot com (but take out the spaces or all you'll get is frustration!) and let us know your opinion. It's not a contest and there are no prizes of any sort---there's also no right or wrong answer---but we'll publish what you send in and, since we aren't any of Those Other Guys, your submissions will be treated with dignity and respect!  Let's have some fun, ya'll; what do you say?

Rick, thanks to you and Barrett for a great idea! Let's see where it takes us!

And also related to the P-40, here's a comment from John Mollison:

Phil - Thank you. P-40s are beautiful airplanes…they have the shape, the style and the mission that embody whatever a ‘romantic’ writer wants. Your model makes me want to invent time travel and work with the tool…   John Mollison

For those of you who aren't aware of the fact, John runs a wonderful aviation art web site, a link to which is provided on this blog. If you haven't been there to visit we strongly encourage you to do it at your earliest convenience. It's well-worth a few minutes of your time to drop in and see what he's been doing!

Finally, we occasionally receive comments that take us back to the earlier days of the project, either correcting a caption for us or adding additional information. Erik, from the Netherlands, has done both in this comment regarding an AV-8 shot we ran back in 2010:

Hi Phillip. In your blog at 30 august 2010 you have a photo of an AV-8A with the text: "Mystery Meat. I know absolutely nothing about this shot, but it gives a neat perspective on deck operations with the AV-8A, so here you are. Note that the IFR probe has been removed in this photo. US Navy".  I had a closer look at the photo. - the model is an AV-8C because of the strakes on the gun pods, the retractable dam between the pods and the formation lights. - the photo was not taken on a US ship but a British ship, most likely the HMS Hermes. - The Sea King in the back and and the dress of the sailor are typical British. - Furthermore the extension of the deck and the lines / markings are for Sea Harrier operations (the so-called tram lines). Take a look at this picture: 

The AV-8C is most definitely on the spot of the first Sea King. Note as well the box on the edge of the deck in both photos. I never heard before of AV-8A/C cross decking on the HMS Hermes. Maybe you could post that question on your blog. Best regards, Erik

OK, guys, what about it? Does anyone out there know anything further regarding the photograph in question? Drop us a note at replicainscale at yahoo dot com (once again, without the spaces and with an at sign (@) and a dot (.) in the appropriate places, and help us solve this mystery!

Thanks for writing in, Erik!

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