Saturday, May 28, 2016

Another Yellow Airplane, They Wouldn't Let You Do It, Japanese Zippers, and A Trick From An Old Dog

Perfect in Every Way

Well, they've gone and done it. The folks at Eduard, the very ones who had given us the world's best and most absolutely accurate 1/48th scale Me109G-6 a year or so ago have, with minimal fanfare, re-tooled and reissued that tragic kit to a by-now heavily jaded modeling public and it (the kit, not the jaded public) has every appearance of having been re-worked and turned into the edifice that was originally promised to us all those months ago. Hard tooling isn't cheap, and it says a lot for Eduard that they were willing to do the things they've done to correct that model. Most people wouldn't have bothered, and we're truly impressed that the Czechs listened to the wailing and gnashing of teeth coming from the scale modeling community, and that they did what they did to fix things. Way to go, Eduard!

With that statement as an introduction, let's take a ride, you and me, to those fabled days of modeldom past, and let's consider where we are, how far we've come, and how truly appreciative we should be to The Big E.

There was a time, and it really wasn't all that long ago in the grand scheme of things, when the plastic aircraft modeler was literally out in the wilderness, taking and working with whatever kits he or she could find and doing their best to create something decent from them. Let's take that notion and run with it, and see if there's any relevance to what we're discussing today.

Take scale, for instance. That Czech 109 was out of scale in a couple of areas, and it's now been fixed. I can remember building Nichimo's generic more-or-less Spitfire Mk V way back in the late 60s, and being truly happy to get the kit because it had cannon and cannon bulges for the wings. The fact that it was actually 1/70th scale rather than 1/72nd didn't bother me in the slightest---I built the kit and displayed it proudly in my 1/72nd scale collection. That same company also offered a Mitsubishi A5M4 in 1/70th, and I built more than one of those as well. At the same time I was doing that, my friend Frank Emmett was building a Revell F-89D to go with his 1950s USAF collection and no; I don't mean their relatively modern (1990s) Scorpion, I'm talking about their original mid-50s release, which was a whole lot smaller than it should have been to be anywhere close to 1/72nd scale. That said, the kit had one irrefutable advantage when all was said and done: It was available, and if you squinted your eyes just a little bit the size was close enough, because if you wanted an F-89 it was the only kit of that airplane that was even remotely close to 1/72nd scale.

Or how about detail? OK, how about detail? Let's see now...

Hawk was an early manufacturer in the world of scale model airplanes, and for years their F4U Corsair was the best kit of the fabled F4U out there in 1/72nd scale in terms of dimensional accuracy, although there was no cockpit, no wheel wells, and no detail to speak of. The same was true of almost all of Hawk's other kits until the 60s when their P-47D, F8F, and Lysander became available, but even then there were no cockpits and little significant detail anywhere else. Hawk wasn't alone, either, because all the other guys who were making plastic kits during that time were pretty much in the same boat. Detail was highly objective, and the kit manufacturers gave us what they thought we wanted and we were glad to get it, too, whatever it was, because there just wasn't that much available to the serious modeler until things started improving in the late 1960s.

You say you don't like Eduard's 1/48th scale Bf109E? It's definitely got some problems, but there was a time when the best Emil in that scale came in a box that said "Monogram" on the top and not only was it the best 109E out there, it was the only 1/48th 109E for a number of years.(And No, I'm not counting the Aurora "Bf109". You can. I'm not.) If we wanted an Emil in that scale, that's the kit we built. We tried to figure out what the interior looked like, and then tried to fix it. Some of us tried to detail the landing gear, and a few intrepid souls attempted to put in wheel wells. We sanded off rivets. We did everything we could, with varying degrees of success, to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse, not just with that kit but with almost every kit we had available to us at the time.

Or maybe take things a step further. One of the Chinese manufacturers released a couple of kits of Grumman's Cougar a year or so ago. The pieces in those kits don't fit together very well, and there are some accuracy issues too, but there's an old close-enough-if-you-squint Revell F9F-6 sitting in my storage building (the one Jenny calls The Hangar) at this very moment. There was a time when it was waiting to be combined with a Monogram F9F-5 Panther to produce what would hopefully have been a decent replica of Grumman's seminal swept-wing naval jet fighter. Now it's just sitting out there, a fine example of a first-release Revell Cougar, and I can look at it and remember the days of my childhood instead of arguing with it in an attempt to build a decent model. With that for a perspective the Kittyhawk F9F-8 doesn't look quite so bad, does it? (Maybe you'd like to go kit-bash yourself a Cougar. I'd rather not, thank you!)

And the list goes on and on. Technology truly has evolved by leaps and bounds, and there's now precious little reason for any manufacturer with decent funding (a significant caveat, that) to produce an inaccurate model airplane. They can mostly do better than they presently do, and that's what they should do. In the meantime, nobody's making any of us go out and buy those kits. I'm not saying we should be grateful for any old piece of horse poot that gets itself put in a box and called an authentic scale model, but I am saying that it's possible to raise the bar so high that very few horses can jump over it.

We live in a culture of instant gratification and that's what makes scale modeling such a neat hobby, because we have to put a little bit of ourselves into each model we build if we're going to end up with anything worth having, and if we're going to grow and become better modelers. If something about a kit bothers or offends you, don't buy it, and with that statement we've come full circle.

When Eduard released that first Me109G-6 I took a close look at it and decided the pain wasn't worth the gain although I did buy a "Royal Edition" of that kit, but only because I collect that series. I've seen the newest Eduard Gustav and the difference between the two kits is night and day, although I'm more than certain someone will eventually find something to complain about in the revised issue. Let's put a positive spin on it, though. There was "something to complain about" with that original kit; in point of fact there was a lot to complain about, and Eduard listened to the modeling public, spent a lot of money, invested a lot of time and effort, and fixed the kit. That's virtually unheard of in our hobby, at least on such a significant scale, but Eduard did it and my hat's off to them for having the moxy to do it.

In the meantime I'll continue to build, continue to comment when I think something is worthy of same, and cross my fingers that all of the manufacturers will man up and take Eduard's approach to things when there's a significant issue with a new kit, although we all know that probably isn't going to happen. At the end of the day, I truly hope I can remember that this is a hobby, and that I can have the good sense to build what I think is worth building and ignore what I think is not. It can't all be the kit, ya'll. At some point the modeler has to do their part as well. It's the singer, not the song.

Takin' it too easy,
Takin' things for granted...

The Fabulous Thunderbirds

One We Always Forget

It's always easy to forget the trainers (unless, of course, you happened to actually train in one) and it's particularly easy to forget some of the less-glamorous examples of the species. That's the fate that's generally befallen the Beechcraft T-34B Mentor, a late 1940s design of Walter Beech's originally done as a private venture since the immediate post-World War 2 American military wasn't particularly interested in funding a new primary trainer for the Navy. Logic and, perhaps, a smattering of good sense dictated that the NAV couldn't keep the increasingly-dated SNJ series on line as their primary trainer forever and the T-34B was eventually accepted for the task, going into service in 1955. Operated primarily out of the Navy's 1950s training facilities, the piston-engined T-34 Bravo stayed in service through the early 1970s.

Last issue we took a look at some yellow SNJs. This time around we're going to examine some yellow T-34Bs. We think you'll agree that it's an airplane will worth our interest.

The date is 2 November, 1955, and the place is NAS Whiting Field, where BTG-1 is accepting their T-34Bs in the type's commissioning ceremony there. Mentors rarely wore a whole lot in the way of colorful markings (unless, of course, you happen to consider an entirely yellow airplane to be colorful) and this one is particularly plain, without even normal wear and tear to sully its pristine paintwork. That's soon to change...   National Archives via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried
. The yellow

NAS Pensacola's ITU was operating the Bravo Mentor by September of 1955. This gorgeous air-to-air shows 140676 in flight near the field. Modelers; take note of the pristine finish, the natural metal canopy framing, and the way the shoulder harnesses are stowed in the aft cockpit. To the best of our knowledge there's only one main-stream kit of the T-34B available, Hasegawa's early 1970s 1/72nd scale offering. It's a good kit, mind you, but it's still the only kit and there's nothing bigger out there at the moment. There's something wrong there, we think!   National Archives via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Here's where it all begins. Our fledgling brown-shoe is walking out to the airplane for a flight out of Whiting in December of 1955. Flight gear is minimal, but then so is the airplane. Repeat after me: It was a simpler time!   National Archives via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

You could be forgiven for thinking this shot was taken at a civilian flying club, but the early and mid-50s were in many ways the last gasp of the Second World War naval aviator. A simple cotton flight suit, brown shoes, and the most basic of flight helmets accompany the 1940's vintage parachute worn by these fledgling airmen. The T-34B didn't look like much but was actually a competent trainer, well-suited for its purpose. The Whiting Mentor's all belonged to BTG-1, and the yellow paint was appropriate to the mission.   National Archives via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Then as now, the military aviator lived by the check list, as depicted in this obviously staged but entirely typical pre-flight being performed on BTG-1's WC 303. There's not a whole lot to go over prior to flight in the T-34B, but it's an essential process that ensures that both instructor and pupil are more likely than not to return to earth in the airplane rather than under a parachute. In aviation it's the little things that kill you, nine times out of ten. Reducing those odds is what it's all about.   National Archives via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

In its original form this photograph was captioned "stud on the wing", a description that could certainly suit the occasion, but the shot is also a fine example of the NAV's practice of having aircrew wear their helmets when manning up. Wearing that helmet may or may not make any difference on a sunny ramp at Whiting, but it could mean the difference between a successful boarding and launch and a painful disaster on the deck of a pitching aircraft carrier. In the American Navy you train for what you're going to have to do.   National Archives via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

The Mentor was based on Beechcraft's civilian Bonanza family of general aviation aircraft and it's not a particularly large aircraft, as this photograph of our intrepid aviator sliding into the cockpit well illustrates.   National Archives via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

This shot is for the scale modelers among our readership and shows us that not all markings were as crisply-painted as the aftermarket decal manufacturers and Internet Experts would have us believe. That's a point worth noting if you're at all serious about your model building.   National Archives via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

This photo shows a young Tony Longo climbing into NAAS Saufley Field's station weather recce bird back in 1956. Those black and white stripes are somewhat uncommon on the T-34 and would make for an interesting model.   Tony Longo via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Here's another view of Ensign Longo standing in front of that Saufley weather aircraft, showing a few more of the aircraft's markings and Tony's flight gear to advantage. Note that on this aircraft the canopy framing is yellow, not natural metal, and the anti-glare paneling is in flat black. Of further interest is the surprising amount of stencilling on this bone-simple aircraft.   Tony Longo via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

The heroic on-screen antics of the cast of Top Gun have influenced the way most people see naval aviators since the day that movie was released, but this photo is considerably closer to reality. Here we see a young Ensign George Shattuck re-flying a mission in true fighter-pilot style, an activity indulged in by military aviators of all experience levels since the dawn of powered flight. Up and at 'em!   George Shattuck via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Here's one for the folks back home. If you're a naval aviator you'll totally understand this picture. If you're not, you might do well to consider that in a very short time the capabilities of these young men will far exceed the confidence shown in this photograph. This photo and the one immediately preceding were both taken at NAAS Saufley in 1959, quite literally the last days of peace before the opening rounds of Navy involvement in Southeast Asia. Thanks to men like George Shattuck the NAV would be ready.   George Shattuck via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

It's hard to believe nowadays, but there was a time when American military airfields were literally choked with airplanes. These T-34Bs from VT-1 on sitting on the ramp at Saufley in 1959, a reminder of simpler times.   National Archives via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

TraCom still possessed a few T-34 Bravos as late as 1984, as defined by this VT-5 bird (144090) taken at an air show at Randolph AFB in May of that year, but somehow it just wasn't the same without that yellow paint!   Friddell via Replica in Scale

This was a more likely fate for the Bravo by that late date; a T-34B of the Navy's recruiting service used for preliminary evaluation of candidates for flight training. 140818 was based out of a hangar at San Antonio International Airport in October of 1984, and was photographed at a CAF air show in Hondo, Texas, later that month. Those eval aircraft carried pretty paint jobs but, like the red and white ones remaining in active service, it just wasn't the same...   Friddell via Replica in Scale

Our parting shot is of a T-34B from BTG-1 at Whiting Field in December of 1955. In our view, no further caption is needed!   National Archives via Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

In so many ways the T-34A and B would make the ideal private airplane, presuming your druthers ran towards F4Fs and F4Us rather than Cherokees or Acclaims. They would also make ideal subjects for large-scale model airplanes, but it's highly doubtful we'll see a kit anytime soon!

That Magnesium Cloud

If you happen to be interested in American military airplanes of the 1950s, you've got at least a passing familiarity with Convair's B-36 Peacemaker. They were immense, they were powerful, they were complicated, and they would have been, in all probability, meat on the table for the various designs of the MiG Bureau that would have attempted to counter them in any sort of shooting war.

Designed in the dark days of the Second World War, when the United States presumed that it would end up fighting the Axis alone, the airplane was highly impressive but also obsolescent the day it went into service. It was, in every respect, an anachronism, but the USAF had a bunch of them and they held they line until the far more modern, not to mention capable, B-47 and B-52 phased into the bomber fleet in the early through mid-1950s. In spite of that they were America's "big stick" for several years, and they served in Curtis LeMay's Strategic Air Command, thus falling under restrictions as to what could and could not be photographed by service members---that's the reason we see so few photographs of operational B-36s. We were going through the archives the other day, looking for something entirely different (which, of course, we didn't find!), when we came across these images. They tend to be more evocative than informative, but they're worth a look because of their relative rarity.

Your editor was privileged to live on a SAC base operating the B-36 when he was a young child; our family was among the cadre that opened Limestone AFB (later to become known as Loring AFB). That meant that B-36s were part of our daily life, although General LeMay's security directives insured that precious few of them were ever photographed by anybody actually stationed at the base. We mention that because this image is how most of us can relate to the B-36; as an airplane on public display. 51-13730, an RB-36H, was static at Chanute when John Kerr photographed her in August of 1983. She's huge and she's impressive, but she's also dead, a display piece to remind us of the Air Force's role in the Cold War.   John Kerr

This view, although relatively poor in quality, shows the B-36 in her salad days as an operational bomber. This one is being de-iced on the ramp at Thule AB in July of 1953---SAC had several bases outside the Continental United States from which the B-36 could operate, and all of them were chosen for their ability to launch aircraft that could strike the Soviet Union in a shooting war. There's a better than average chance that 1078 is bombed up and ready to go, the primary reason why photography of the type in actual service was so severely restricted. We aren't familiar with the circumstances of this photograph but can almost guarantee you that it was a happy snap, taken surreptitiously by the photographer.   Robert Burns via Kerr Collection

Depending on who you know, it's entirely possible that this sort of thing is the way you'll see an operational Peacemaker captured on film. This photo was taken out the window of a taxiing transport (maybe a C-47?) at Andersen Field on Guam, date unknown, but it captures both the aircraft and the mission to perfection. Note how relatively plain the aircraft's markings are; SAC was not a gaudy command while Curt LeMay was in charge!   John Kerr Collection

Another B-36 taxis out at Andersen as our unknown transport rumbles past a parked B-17. No, it's not much of a shot, but we're darned lucky to have it given the Strategic Air Command's security policies during the 50s.   John Kerr Collection

Many thanks to the late John Kerr for spending a lifetime actively pursuing images such as these, thus adding tremendously to our knowledge of American military aviation.   John Kerr Collection

How Come It Worked So Well For Them?

We don't know the answer to that question, but the simple fact of the matter is that the Japan Self Defense Force was a prime operator of the Mitsubishi F-104J Starfighter for a great many years, and were one of those nations who not only got all of the performance originally promised by Lockheed out of the airframe but also did it with an enviable safety record, that latter being a feat not often accomplished by air forces using the once-berated "Widow Maker".

A complete operational history of the type in Japanese service is beyond the scope of this occasionally humble blog, but a collection of photography isn't. Toshiki Kudo, a long-time friend of contributor Rick Morgan, provided Rick with the majority of the images you're about to see back in the 1980s, while one of them was supplied to your editor by a retired blue-suiter many years ago. Let's take a look:

By the 1980s camouflage paint had become the order of the day on the F-104J, but natural metal finishes were still very much in vogue when Carl Brown shot this 203 Sqdn bird on the ramp at Misawa in May of 1970. Much has been made of the Starfighter's limited abilities as an operational aircraft, but apparently no one ever told that to the Japanese. The 203rd operated out of Chitose AB, way up on Southern Hokkaido where the weather can be, to put things mildly, deplorable. Dedication and professionalism made the "Zipper" work in that environment, just as it eventually worked with all of the other air forces using it. Sensationalism in the popular press was every bit as rampant back then as it is now...   Carl Brown

In spite of that comment regarding the weather around Chitose, there were sunny days up there in the north country! Toshiki Kudo shot this 203rd Sqdn aircraft on the ramp there back in the early 80s, by which time the squadron had transitioned to an overall grey with white wings and horizontal tail paint scheme. 36-8535 is carrying a LAU-3 19-shot rocket pod, illustrating the F-104J's value as a multi-role fighter. Some airplanes get a bad rap early in their careers and never quite manage to lose it. The F-104 had one of those lousy reputations, but it was entirely capable of getting the job done once the J-model arrived.   Toshiki Kudo via Rick Morgan

The F-104J did it all in JSDF service. In this view, a pair of "Zips" from 204 Sqdn sit on the ramp at Naha configured for the air-to-air mission. It's certainly true that long range intercepts in poor weather could scarcely be called the F-104's forte, but the airplane was still entirely capable of effective point-defense when required, and the Japanese most assuredly knew how to fly the mission.  Toshiki Kudo via Rick Morgan

76-8706 taxis out at Naha in July of 1980, configured for the air-to-air role with a pair of inert Sidewinders attached to the under-fuselage stations. It's a little-known fact, but an un-refueled F-104 of any flavor had longer legs than the F-4 Phantom, but you could never say the aircraft was blessed with exceptional range and those gas bags on the wing-tips are going to be worth their weight in gold in the JSDF's normally operating environment, which includes a lot of flight time over a large and unforgiving ocean. The paint is essentially a variation of Aircraft Grey.   Toshiki Kudo via Rick Morgan

Here's a side view of 46-8625 of 207 Sqdn, also taxiing out at Naha in July of 1980 but this time sporting a natural metal finish. The Japanese Starfighters operated in a fascinating array of camouflage schemes, making the type a natural for the scale modeler.   Toshiki Kudo via Rick Morgan

By June of 1982 some 207 Sqdn F-104Js had adopted a paint scheme similar in concept to that of the American F-15 and F-16. The unit and national insignia presentation pretty much negate any benefit this paint job would have offered in the way of concealment, but they could both be toned down in a matter of minutes with a can of paint and a spray gun. Like the other 207 Sqdn aircraft we've seen so far, 46-8616 is configured for the air-to-air mission.   Toshiki Kudo via Rick Morgan

It's July of 1985 and this silver-painted 207 Sqdn bird (76-8693) is coming over the fence at Naha. This shot provides us with an excellent view of those AIM-9 stations hanging off the belly of this bird.   Toshiki Kudo via Rick Morgan

Here's another shot from July of 1985, this time showing the 207th's 76-8693 taxiing, but this aircraft is a bird with a difference---can you spot it? That's right, folks; 8693 is wearing a really tasty shark-mouth on her nose. You don't often see that sort of thing on the Starfighter which is a shame, because it really looks good there!   Toshiki Kudo via Rick Morgan

Our final F-104J shot drops back to December of 1979, when the JSDF's 46-8614, assigned to the APW, was working out of Naha. She's painted in silver lacquer and really looks good that way, we think.   Toshiki Kudo via Rick Morgan

One thing we didn't mention in any of our photo captions, but something that very much is worth mentioning, is the appearance of the sheet metal covering the afterburner section of all of the aircraft shown here. We've seen quite a few scale models depicting this area in every color under the rainbow, but the reality is somewhat different. Just sayin'...

Many thanks to both Toshiki Kudo and Rick Morgan for making it possible for us to share these images with you.

Sometimes the Old Ways Are Best

Or at least I think so. You don't have to buy into the concept, of course, but there was a time when we didn't have aftermarket anything and detailing necessitated a substantial amount of scratch-building, and we honestly weren't all that badly served by having to do things that way. Take, for example, a colored (or clear; it really doesn't matter) cover for a wingtip navigation light. Nowadays a lot of model companies provide them, almost as a matter of course, but some still don't.

There are a couple of reasons for that state of affairs, all of which are rational and make a great deal of sense. On the most basic level there's cost to the manufacturer, a piddling amount in the wide wonderful world of tool and die making but an extra cost nonetheless since a certain amount of design time is involved in addition to that whole tool-making thing. Then there's size; sometimes those lens covers are just too tiny to make their incorporation in a kit worthwhile, since not all modelers are sufficiently skilled to deal with installing itty-bitty parts and the companies who sell the kits want everybody to be successful with them so they'll continue to purchase such things. That philosophy is why you'll often see the positions for those wing-tip lenses scribed into a given kit's wings, leaving it to you, the modeler, to paint them or otherwise make them look like what they're supposed to represent.

We've discussed the reasons; now let's discuss the options available to apply to a wing that's got the wing-tip nav lamp covers represented by lines scribed into the solid plastic of same.

The easiest thing to do is to simply paint the appropriate area of the wing silver, then over-paint it with a clear acrylic such as that sold by Tamiya (Clear Red, Clear Green, etc.). That actually works pretty well if the lens cover is colored on the real airplane, but on most airplanes those covers are clear with the bulb underneath being the thing that makes the lamps flash red or green (or, in some cases, blue), which in turn means you're still going to have to deal with some sort of lens that isn't solid plastic, or at least that's what you're going to have to do if you want the cover to appear the way it's supposed to on the real airplane. If that doesn't matter to you then you might want to stop reading at this point, although the skill we're about to discuss is one you really ought to have in your bag of tricks anyway, just in case.

So we've just dismissed The Easy Way. What's next? The answer to that question ought to be obvious: Let's cut out the opening for those pesky lamp covers with a razor saw, or shape them out with a jeweler's file, making certain in either case that we've got a properly-sized and cleaned up opening, one that's in scale (which the manufacturer's scribed opening might or might not be, by the way), and then put something in there to simulate the plexiglass that generally covers such things on a real airplane. I've read in other places that some people actually go to plastic supply houses and buy pieces of real plexiglass in order to simulate those covers, but that's not necessary. Think about the problem for a minute, with an eye towards what you can use, and neat things will happen!

One material should jump into your mind almost immediately, since your authentic plastic scale model airplane will probably come with a canopy if it's modern enough to also have navigation lamps built into the wing-tips, is clear sprue and that canopy comes on clear sprue---all you have to do is cut a piece of it that's long enough and file it to shape on two sides so it will fit into the opening you've just put in the wing-tip, then cement it firmly in place, let it dry thoroughly, sand it to shape, and polish it out.

What if the covers are colored instead of clear? What do we do then? Well, for starters you could just over-paint the clear covers you just made with some of that Tamiya clear paint we discussed a minute ago or, if you don't want to go that route, you can cut and install tinted plastic, and old toothbrush handles can be a fine source for that. My personal favorite material, however, and the one that we're about to show you, are the colored pegs that come in those Hasbro Lite-Brite sets that have been around since at least the mid-1960s if not before. Here's what I'm talking about:

Here's a shot of the pegs we'll be using on a brand-new Airfix Meteor F.8. The kit offers to-scale scribing for the nav light covers and it would be easy to deal with them just by painting with an appropriate color of clear paint (Tamiya acrylic or similar) after final painting of the airframe. Yep; you can do that, or you can lay a little Old School on the problem. Any guesses which road we're going to take?

This particular technique is simple in the extreme, and will help the appearance of your finished model no end if you do it correctly. The first thing you'll want to do is cut out the shape of the cover. In this case Airfix provide scribing that's very neatly to scale, which means about a minute's work with a knife, saw, or file. Once you've got that bay cut out (and please be careful when you're doing it, both for the sake of the finished model and for your fingers!) you'll need to put a couple of flats in the plastic you're going to use for the covers so it'll fit the wing. Be careful with this because it needs to fit snugly, with no gaps. After you're satisfied with the shaping of both the lamp bay and the cover, attach said cover with the cement of your choice making sure that you've got a good bond. It's a really good idea to use a strong cement for this because you're going to be doing a fair amount of shaping and polishing and the goal is to keep the cover attached to the airplane while you're doing it---it's easy enough to make another one if you have to, but why not head that whole problem off at the pass and do it right in the first place?

This is what it should look like after you've glued that block of plastic in place. Pretty nasty, huh? Ok, now that you've got that out of your system, go do something else for a while (like maybe 24-hours worth of A While) and let everything cure out properly so you can do that heavy-duty sanding we talked about. This is as good a time as any, I suppose, to mention that I think cyanoacrylates (that product often known as "Crazy Glue") are a bad idea for this kind of work. They're really good in tension but their shear strength is lousy no matter who makes the stuff, and you want those covers to stay put while you're working on them. Yes, Virginia; this is the voice of experience speaking...

There's shaping and then there's shaping. In my own personal view of that particular evolution we'll need to sand the cover to shape with fairly rough sandpaper but allow it to stand just a little bit proud of the wing surface to ensure that we don't accidentally change the contour of that component. When you get things down to what you're seeing here, or pretty close to it, switch over to 600-grit wet or dry (or the equivalent) and finish off the sanding process. You'll know when you're finished because you'll have a smooth wing surface with a clear green (or red, or maybe even just clear) nav light cover embedded in it.

Sort of like this! Everything's smooth and flush, and without any gaps, and all that's left to do is final polishing. Too easy, GI!!!

And that's all there is to it! You could, if you wanted to and if the airplane you were modeling had a clear cover with a colored bulb, vacuum-form that cover and put a colored "lamp bulb" under it, using a piece of stretched transparent red or green sprue or, if the scale were large enough, one of the tinier MV lenses, or maybe just drill a hole in your solid lamp cover and stick a piece of colored sprue up there. There are all sorts of ways to skin this particular cat, but the one we've just discussed is exceptionally easy to do and works extremely well on 1/48th or 72nd scale model airplanes, although you'll probably want more detail if you're building in 1/32nd or larger. This particular Old Guy tip is pretty useful for the smaller scales, though, and I think you'll like the results if you try it. Just take your time...

Happy Snaps

It's been a while since we've had a Happy Snap, hasn't it? Let's end that particular drought with a photo I like a lot:

If you're an American, and if you pay any attention at all to what passes for the news nowadays, you're probably well aware that the media have gotten themselves all excited because the Russian Air Force has resumed making low passes over warships from time to time and flying close to the borders of various and sundry nations that could fall into the category of  potential adversaries in a conflict. We're guessing those folks must have fairly short memories or maybe be on the youngish side since overflights of that sort (by everyone concerned, and not just limited to the aircraft of any one specific nation) were once the norm, way back during those halcyon days of the Cold War. This photo, taken by Rick Morgan while on a WesPac cruise in August of 1985, illustrates that point to perfection. The aircraft is a Tu-95 "Bear B" of the then-Soviet Navy (at least I think it's a "Bear B", but I'm not all that good with Tu-95 variants!) and it's cruising serenely near the boat---note the tail-guns, which are un-manned. It wasn't unusual for the opposing aircrew to wave at one another back in the Old Days, or take each other's photos if the aircraft were close enough to allow it. We consider this to be a beautiful photograph taken by professional aviators of an aircraft flown by aviators equally professional. Hi, Ivan!!!                          R Morgan

Thanks for this great shot, Morgo

The Relief Tube

Yep, we actually have something to add to an older article today (look for "Not Bored With Fords" in our archives), submitted by a reader known only to us as Big Red Lancer:

VF-154 F8U-1s were on their maiden cruise in 1958, aboard USS HANCOCK, not USS Hornet... Photo is from Hancock's 1958 cruise book... 

Thanks for the correction, Lancer! Folks, keep us honest over here---if you see something you know to be wrong, drop us a line at replica in scale at yahoo dot com (run all those words together, but you already knew that, right?) and let us know about it!

That's it for today, ya'll. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon!