Sunday, September 25, 2016

Just Lazy, One of a Kind, Another Texan, One Man's Graduation, A Movie Star, and Some Neptunes

To The References!

I used to know this guy, way back in the 60s when I was working my way through college at Dibbles Arts and Hobbies, who's most immediate claim to fame was something he said pretty much each and every time he'd come into the store. Someone would raise a question about a new kit, or a way to convert an older kit into a variant other than what the manufacturer had intended, or a new decal sheet, or pretty much anything having anything to do with scale modeling, and Don's first and most immediate comment would be an ardently-presented rendition of his favorite saying: "To the references!" That imperative would cause us to begin pulling books down off the shelves so we could all look up the airplane in question and then either settle, or perhaps prolong, the discussion. Which way things went honestly didn't matter very much because the exercise was a lot of fun in and of itself and we all learned from it.

That was then, and this is now. The references we used some 50+ years ago are still around for the most part, as are countless other books, but for most people the go-to reference of choice now lies within a collection of cold and impersonal electrons known as the internet. It's all there, isn't it? Anything you ever wanted to know about pretty much anything is hiding somewhere on the web, so you really don't need much besides a computer in order to document that new model you're building. Nope---no more costly and largely boring reference books, and no more exorbitant cash outlay to build your very own library. All you have to do is click a mouse and you're there, information at your fingertips as it were, and for free.

There is, however, one tiny little catch to the whole thing. That free information you can drag off the 'net isn't always entirely correct and is, in fact, quite often wrong! Yep, you heard me; a lot of that free information to be gleaned off the internet can be anywhere from a little bit to a whole bunch incorrect, which often places things into a category we might choose to call "useless". Here's why:

Back in the pre-internet days research was done manually, by what we could hope was the exhaustive study of source documents and photographs that were sometimes easily available in a public (or private) library, or were perhaps more difficult to access because they lived in a repose of genuine study such as the National Archives. Serious research could, and often did, take substantially more time than it took to author any of the books that resulted from such a study.

There were, of course, different kinds of authors back then, just like there are today. Some, the good ones, would take the necessary several years researching a book that they were subsequently able to write in several months. The other kinds of authors, and there were several varieties of them, were generally content with using secondary sources in order to gather their information, and their work showed it. That difference is why some of those books have easily withstood the test of time and are go-to references even today, while others from the era are found in the sale bin at Half Price Books.

Let's take that state of affairs, update it somewhat, and apply it to the internet. First, there's a lot of good news out there, because there are a ton of source documents that have been scanned by the agencies or companies that control them and have been placed on the 'net for free, there for everyone to use for research. What we once had to accomplish by making a trip to DC, or Maxwell, or any of the other repositories of knowledge that we utilized can now be done by spending the same amount of time on the internet presuming, of course, that the researcher is willing to take the time to actually read those documents, organize them in a meaningful way, and make use of them. Most people don't do that, because it's a whole lot of work to properly research the docs and then actually make something of that research.

What happens all too often is a quick and dirty search of the most obvious things to be found by means of a computer, and then the regurgitation of the information thus discovered (and often misunderstood) as gospel truth. Sometimes that works but more often it doesn't, because it's no longer the age of print and there isn't a team of editors fact-checking references (presuming references are even given) to make sure everything is as correct as it can be. The sad fact is that most web sites occasionally exhibit sloppy or incomplete research that ends up being published as The Gospel Truth for all to read and assimilate.

There's a huge exception to that, of course: The First Person Account, wherein somebody who was actually there and participated in the event, whatever it was, provides a written account and shares it with us all. That sort of thing is generally treasure beyond compare, because you get to hear what the guy who did it has to say about it. Yes, it's often opinion, but it's first-person opinion and can constitute primary research presuming, of course, that we're savvy enough to read it and compare what was said against what we already think we know.

Here's the point, then. A whole bunch of what you need in order to research that airplane, or those markings, or that flyer's exploits, is indeed out there in Internet Land, just waiting for you discover it and do something with it, but it's masked by a tremendous amount of incomplete and misleading information (which we might want to call "horse poot") and you're going to have to dig a bit in order to make use of it. Very few modelers will actually take the time to do that and will continue to rely on the efforts of others, perpetuating the problem in the process. What are you going to do?

To the references!!!

An Easy Way to Do It

A couple of months ago I purchased a 1/48th scale Eduard Spitfire Mk XVI and actually built it, which was followed by one of the new Airfix Spitfire Mk Vbs, which I also built. That wasn't enough to slake the thirst, as it were, so I'm presently hip-deep in a Pacific Coast Spitfire Mk XIVc, and, after completing two other iterations of the "Spit" family,  finally started thinking about what it was I was doing! The primary objects of my concern this time around, and probably yours too at one point or another if you choose to build a Spitfire of any flavor, are those darned wing-walk stripes that usually appear on the upper wing panels on models of Dr. Mitchell's Finest, represented for the most part by really fiddly decals included with the kits that are almost always a royal pain to work with. That pain led me to consider alternatives which drove me back to those halcyon days of 1969, which was when I first figured out how to deal with such things as this.

You'll want to paint your walkway black before you do anything else as far as painting is concerned. If you normally pre-shade before you paint you will have already addressed this step. If you don't pre-shade, you need to paint the area that's going to contain the stripe before continuing.

No matter how you address the issue of painting the stripe, you'll need to let it dry thoroughly before you do anything else. Once the paint is completely cured, take some of that really skinny tape the model car guys use for pin-striping and put it where you want your stripes to be. I used a tape width appropriate for the walkway stripes on a 1/32nd scale model, but the stuff comes in various sizes so there's pretty much something for everybody out there if you look for it. A special note for the worriers among our readership---that tape comes in lots of colors including metallics, a fact that concerns you not in the least! We're only using it to mask something for painting so the color it comes in is completely irrelevant. Just sayin'...

Next up, you'll want to paint your final camouflage the way you normally would. After that's dry, carefully peel the tape away and---SHAZAM---you've got your walkway stripes! Not only that, but they'll be straight and won't have any of that unsightly decal silvering that often comes with such things because they aren't decals!

This is the way it'll look as you get closer to the finish line. The model itself has a few warts on it, but I'll put those stripes I painted up against anybody's!

While we're here and discussing this particular kit, there are a couple of other things I think I ought to mention before we leave the Pacific Coast Spitfire XIVc:

The kit is pretty easy to get together and would make an ideal first short-run kit for someone with modest skills. There's minimal photo-etch and resin, and almost everything fits together pretty well too. What's provided in the kit is largely accurate but there are a couple of tiny issues you should be aware of if you choose to build one for yourself.

The model as given is a Mk XIVc, and the decals that come with the kit are, with one exception, for the Mk XIVe variant. The difference between the two isn't huge but you'll have to relocate the shell ejection ports for the 20mm guns if you choose to model an XIVe and move the fairings on the upper wing surfaces too---those fairings are separate parts so your only difficulty will be in moving the ejection ports. The decals that work for the model straight out of the box, as a Mk XIVc, are for RB159/DW-D from 610 Squadron. All the others are for the e-winged variants which means you really can't use them on a box-stock (unmodified) model. (And a further note for anyone contemplating building Lacey's YB-A; the colors should be grey and green, not dark earth and green, and the airplane did not feature clipped wings. Of course it's a XIVe as well, but we figured you'd want to know...)

While we're dealing with the wings, there should be a small opening in the starboard wing root, up towards the fuselage, to accommodate the gun camera. It's not on the kit but it's a five-minute fix with a sharp drill. To the references!

The airplane's pitot tube hangs off the port wing out towards the tip and the kit supplies that component, but it doesn't provide the small blade for the airplane's IFF  gear that lives under the starboard wing in more or less the same location. Another easy fix with a bit of styrene strip.

The kit provides both the early flared and later tubular exhaust stacks in resin. If you're building RB159 you need to use the flared ones.

The Mk XIV Spitfire dispensed with the familiar radio antenna mast located immediately behind the aft canopy transparency in favor of a whip antenna positioned about halfway down the fuselage spine. It's easy to add this with fine wire, stretched sprue, or similar.

If you've got a Tamiya Spitfire Mk VIII, IX, or XVI laying around, you'll want to steal the extra set of bulged gear covers and use them to replace the ones PCM gives you. PCM's are perfectly flat and not appropriate to this variant of the "Spit". While you're at it, and if you happen to be building RB159, you might want to steal one of Tamiya's aux tanks for it as well. There's an excellent photo of that aircraft on page 268 of Profile Publication #246, Supermarine Spitfire (Griffons) Mks XIV and XVIII that presents a 3/4 belly shot of her in flight and defines use of the external tank---the same photo also shows the flared exhaust stacks and IFF antenna! You can also find quite a few photographs of it if you Google "610 sqdn spitfire xiv" and then click on "Images". You'll want to do that too, because the kit's painting instructions only show the left side of the airplane and the other side is different in terms of markings placement. Dare I say it? To the references!!!

There's a bulge under the fuselage, back behind the trailing edge of the wing, that's for something called a "boat antenna". The bulge is correct, but there should be a tiny bit of antenna sticking out the back of it---you'll want to drill a tiny hole in the appropriate place and insert a small piece of stiff wire or similar to replicate it. Not a big deal, but it needs to be there.

The round tube that goes from the back of the pilot's bulkhead to the bulkhead at the rear of the opening for the aft-most transparency isn't given or its presence even indicated on the instructions, but it should be there. Get yourself some Evergreen rod or similar and it's a five-minute fix.

In short, it doesn't take very much work to get a decent model out of Pacific Coast's Griffon-engined "Spit" and it's well worth your time to build one. Just remember that it's a short-run kit so fit twice, fit once more, then glue! Forewarned is forearmed...

A Bright Idea That Should've Worked. 

We're all familiar with McDonnell's fabled F-101 Voodoo family, and everybody who's read anything at all about the airplane also knows that it was FAST when in a clean configuration. Unfortunately, the performance degraded seriously when the airplane was encumbered with external stores of any sort and it then became distinctly sub-sonic, somewhat of a detriment if your intended purpose was strategic weapons delivery. McAir addressed that subject early on during the development phase of the "tactical" Voodoos. Here's one result of their experimentation:

The airplane was F-101A-5-MC, s/n 53-2427, and the photograph was taken on 08 July 1955 while the aircraft was involved in testing the Model 96 store, a weapon which might have eliminated several of the speed and stability issues experienced with the "fighter" variant Voodoos. That goofy-looking, and large, store had the ability to contain a W-15 warhead along with 750 gallons of JP-4. The pod was enormous by the standards of the time, some 32 feet long and 42 inches at its greatest diameter. If you look closely you can see two of the three stabilizing fins at the rear of it in a manner similar to that employed on the Mk 7 weapon---the centerline fin is folded up for ground clearance and can't be seen in this view. All in all it was apparently a good idea that just didn't work out, although the same concept was later employed on Convair's B-58 Hustler with a small modicum of success.    Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

We can only speculate about how well the Model 96 did or did not work in practice, but at the end of the day the Air Force stuck with two gas bags and a Mk 7 for their Doomsday loadout for the Voodoo. Many thanks to Mark Nankivil and the Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum for sharing this unique image with us, and to Jim Wogstad for explaining the technical nuances of the store to us.

A Nifty SNJ

When we ran our SNJ piece a couple of issues ago we inadvertently omitted this photograph, which had hidden itself in a nest of similar black and white shots. It crossed our mind to just move on and not run it but it's such a nifty shot that we couldn't do that---we had to share!

And here she is in all her yellow glory: SNJ-6, BuNo 112218, a station hack from Hutchinson, Kansas photographed during the mid-1950s. She's an absolutely gorgeous example of her type and would make an excellent subject for a model---here are a couple of things for you to consider should you choose to go that route: First, her paintwork is the classic 50s TraCom deep yellow, and her anti-glare panel is either a bronze green, black, or OD. Her wheel hubs are painted the same yellow both inboard and outboard, as are her struts, The windscreen frames are yellow as well, but the actual canopy seems to be framed in natural metal. Another apparent anomaly lies in her prop hub, which appears to be the same black as the propeller. The aircraft is an SNJ-6 so there's no tailhook fitted---most members of the SNJ family had a corresponding tailhook-equipped variant designated with the letter suffix C (for "carrier", we presume) appended at the end of their designation but there were no carrier-capable SNJ-6s. Oh, and you're on your own as far as the color of that fin-tip is concerned. We think it was Insignia Red but it may well have been something else. At any rate she's a pip of an airplane, and we're pleased as can be to run the image for you!     Tailhook Association Collection via Doug Siegfried

Graduation Hun

Or, in actuality, one of a whole team of Huns. The year was 1968 and the place was Colorado Springs, Colorado, at the Air Force Academy. A young Gary Emery, best-known nowadays as the proprietor of San Antonio's Hill Country Hobbies, was well on his way to becoming an Air Force officer and was already an accomplished photographer, as these images attest:

Any aviation photographer who's been at the craft for any length of time at all knows that you have to get pretty darned close to your subject when you're shooting ground to air, even if you're using a long lens. That's in an ideal world. If, instead of a telephoto lens on an SLR, you're shooting with a Kodak Instamatic, you've got your work cut out for you. Gary had an eye for composition that only improved with time and, in this case, a unique opportunity. We consider the results to be little short of amazing!   Gary Emery

 There's low and slow in an airplane, and then there's LOW AND SLOW---this image presents us with a fine example of the latter condition. That's an interesting runway, isn't it, what with all the bushes, that barrier, and those stripes painted down the middle of it---oh, WAIT! That's not a runway; it's a public road, maybe even US 85! HOLY COW! The How and Why is a story for another day, but we'll say that the airmanship exhibited is pretty much the norm for American military aviators and has been for many, many years and no; they don't normally get to do that sort of thing anymore. As for the photography---what can we say?  Wow!        Gary Emery

Gary's photography only got better with the passage of years and acquisition of more capable gear. With any luck we'll be able to show you some more of it in the months ahead.

How Lucky Could They Be

The USO spent most of the Second World War trying to bring a little sunshine to the guys out on the pointy end of things, and every once in a while that effort involved the bringing of prominent movie stars to the troops. One such example was Ann Sheridan, a well-known movie star and pinup girl ("The Oomph Girl") during the war and a movie and television star afterwards, with a stellar career lasting until her untimely death from cancer in 1967. She was apparently a hit with the troops too, at least if this photo is any judge:

It wasn't unusual for movie stars and pinup girls to have their images painted on the side of someone's airplane but this was one of the better examples of that sort of thing, painted on the aircraft by Sgt John Johns immediately prior to the arrival of Ms. Sheridan, Mary Langdon, and Ruth Dennis on one of those USO tours. The B-25J was named "Sheridan Express" and was a glass-nosed gunship from the 491st BS/341st BG, and was sitting on the ground in Yangkai, China, in 1944 when Ms Sheridan and company posed for this photo. For our readers who might be interested in modeling this aircraft, at least in 1/32nd scale, the markings are available on the recent Zotz decal sheet B-25 J Mitchell at War Part 2 which is still available if you look for it. Fun helped them fight!   Rocker Collection

Some GSB Neptunes

Those of you with long memories, or maybe just the ability to use the search feature at the bottom of each and every one of our blogs, may remember that we ran a few photos of Vietnam-era P-2 Neptunes some time ago. Whether you do or don't remember is irrelevant to what we're doing today, though, because we're going to drop back even further into the past of a patrol bomber that was there for every minute of the Cold War, performing every mission imaginable and doing it all in the most capable of manners.

 Let's start our day with an airplane that was, perhaps, the most famous of her breed. "The Truculent Turtle", a P2V-1 specially modified for  an attempt at a world distance record, flew non-stop from Perth, Australia, to Columbus, Ohio, during September of 1946. BuNo 89082, stuffed with fuel, four crew members, and a baby kangaroo, departed Perth on the 29th headed for Washington, DC. Bad weather over the Pacific delayed her sufficiently to cause her to recover in Columbus rather than her intended destination, but the 11,235 miles she covered still set a record that wasn't broken until 1962. The NAV had a winner on their hands with the Neptune, and "The Turtle" has been restored and resides today in the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, a fitting berth for a lady of her accomplishments!   USN via The Tailhook Association

Sometimes it can be tough to keep track of things when the subject is Navy airplanes, and this P2V-2 is a fine example of that sort of thing. Her parent squadron was established as VPB-144 in October of 1944, demobilized in 1946, then changed to VP-144 in May of that year, even though the squadron had no aircraft or assigned personnel at the time. The designation changed again in 1947, as did the squadron designator, and the unit became VPML-4 (designating heavier than air land-based patrol squadron). Still a squadron on paper only, VPML-4 received their first aircraft, Lockheed P2V-1s and, later, -2s, in November of 1947. Finally, in 1948, the designator system changed one final time and the various patrol squadrons took back the far simpler VP designator. (Whew!) This photo was taken over the east side of Glacier Bay in Alaska during 1948, just prior to that final unit designation change. The airplane is somewhat unique as she's been modified for photographic mapping, hence the bulge below her cockpit. Mods like this are one of the many reasons we're fascinated by the Neptune!   Tailhook Association Collection

Neptunes at PAX River! These -2s are lined up ready for flight test during August of 1950. The P2V was something special even at this early stage, although the aircraft as shown would probably have been better suited to the anti-shipping role made famous during the Second World War than anything else. That would change as the Neptune matured.   Lt RC Timm via Navy Historical Center via Tailhook Association

Here's a three-ship of VP-7 P2V-2s formating near NAS Quonset Point in June of 1950. Another squadron that once carried the VP(ML) designator, VP-7 was stationed at Quonset Point in July of 1950, when this evocative shot was taken. Those great big airplanes are tucked in pretty tightly, proving once again the expertise and professionalism of the American naval aviator.   Tailhook Association Collection

One of the lesser-known Neptune sub-types was the P2V-3Z, two of which were built for use as VIP transports. This example, BuNo 122987, was sitting on the ramp at Glenview when Clay Jansson took her portrait in 1952. The extra windows and lumps and bumps for com gear are particularly noteworthy. The aircraft could be armed, and at least one of them, 122986 of VR-23, managed to put in a brief appearance in Korea during that conflict.    Clay Jansson via Duane Kasulka via Tailhook Association

Here's 122987 a little later in her career, re-painted and sitting on the ground (quite literally!) at Dayton Municipal Airport in April of 1953. Her tip-tanks are gone and there's been some changes to her armament and markings, but she's still the same airplane underneath it all. What a pretty bird!    Bill Swisher via Tailhook Association

 By July of 1950 the P2V-5 was in flight test, working out of Pax River. This photo, although somewhat soft in focus, serves to illustrate the purposefulness of the type as an ASW and patrol platform. The -5 still had nose guns and the tail turret and was, for all intents and purposes, a WW2-era patrol bomber, but that would change soon enough.   Navy Historical Center via Tailhook Association

124270 was a P2V-3W and was assigned to the NAV's  HATU (Heavy Attack Training Unit) when this photo was taken. The -3W was an attempt at an AEW platform and some 30 aircraft were modified to this configuration, although their success in that role was somewhat questionable. Of particular interest to us is the profile of her nose, which has been altered to better accommodate her AN/AP20S search radar.   Bill Swisher via Tailhook Association

The P2V-6 was fitted with an extended weapons bay to accommodate the role of mine-layer and the P2V-6F, as illustrated here, was the first Neptune variant to carry auxiliary jet engines (in this case J-34s) under the wings---it's fitting that this bird is cruising with both recips feathered, flying only on jet power! Although still carrying nose and tail turrets, the -6 family, as typified by 126515 shown here, was rapidly approaching the aircraft's final configuration.    Spangenberg Papers via Hal Andrews via Tailhook Association

This P2V-4, 124238, is what we might call an odd bird. She was assigned to China Lake and appears to be fitted with the nose off a Douglas A-3 Skywarrior. The -4 was meant to be an improved ASW package, but that doesn't seem to be the purpose of the mods to this aircraft! That e-mail address is replicainscaleatyahoodotcom!    Bill Swisher via Tailhook Association

The old and the new! Both aircraft are P2V-7s, but Modex 10 in the foreground still carries the nose and tail turrets as fitted to all of the previous Neptune variants, while Modex 12 is carrying the "observation" nose and MAD gear stinger in place of her tail guns. The comparison portended the shape of things to come, and the era of Glossy Sea Blue naval aircraft was about to fade away.   Tailhook Association Collection

When the NAV changed over from their classic Glossy Sea Blue paint in 1957, the patrol bombers adapted a new scheme of Insignia White over Engine Grey as illustrated by this Oakland Reserve P2V-5F photographed on the ground at Alameda in October of 1960. With that nose and the addition of the MAD boom she looks very much like the ultimate P2V variant, the -7. That sort of thing can really trip you up if you don't have a BuNo to reference! To further confuse things, the P2V-5 became the P-2E during the 1962 McNamara "simplification" of US military aircraft designations, but that's a story for another day.   Clay Jansson via Tailhook Association

We'll close out our look at the P-2 family with this wonderful air-to-air of a Martin P5M-1T Marlin flying in loose formation with a P2V-5T over South Texas. Both aircraft are from VT-31 out of NAS Corpus Christi, and both are types whose days are numbered. This photo was taken in November of 1961; in only a few short years both types would be playing out their swansong over the coasts and deltas of South Vietnam. The day of the Blue Bombers was gone forever, but they left quite a memory in their passing.   Tailhook Association Collection

Many thanks to Doug Siegfried and Mark Aldrich of the Tailhook Association for sharing these fascinating images with us. Now where's that old Hasegawa kit...

The Relief Tube

We're taking a different approach to things today and telling you about something we're about to do, rather than trying to correct something we've already done! One of our readers, Ed Ellickson (aka "The Real Mister Ed") sent in a series of photographs of a really nice conversion he did on the Hasegawa P2V-7, turning it back into a Korean War-vintage P2V-3 of VP-6, along with some interesting notes and comments. We'll be running those photos and comments next issue, but here's a teaser to wet your whistles while we wait:

You don't see the P2V modeled very often and rarely see anyone taking the time and effort to recreate any of the earlier variants, which makes Ed's P2V-3 replica somewhat special. We'll show you a little more of it next time but until then, be good to your neighbor! We'll see you soon!

Friday, September 2, 2016

A Couple of Strafers, A Glass-Nose, The Real Deal, It's Been a While, Maybe I'm Amazed, and Some Euro Bugsuckers

A Small Circle of Friends (with apologies to Phil Ochs)

The other day I was indulging myself in that often-entertaining pastime I call Reading the Boards and discovered that an old friend/adversary, Classic Airframes, was in the process of being re-birthed via its purchase by Special Hobby. That's an action that makes a lot of sense business-wise since SH had produced a great many of the original tools and kits for CA, and it's going to put a lot of one-of-a-kind models back in our grasp at reasonable prices. It is, essentially, a Good Thing for the hobby.

There's a caveat to that Good Thing, however. In simplest terms, those Classic Airframes kits can be a bit fussy to build (an understatement, that), with some of them being so difficult that the average modeler will have considerable trouble getting an acceptable model out of the contents of those kit boxes. They're not, and this needs to be stressed in the strongest of terms, an easy date. They're great kits for expanding your horizons, replica-wise, but they're also a scale modeler's test of tests in many respects. Add to that difficulty the fact that, in common with almost every other brand of plastic kit on the market, some of them have significant dimensional or detail errors, and you could easily find yourself driven to the Why Bother end of the modeling spectrum. When you weigh everything at face value it's pretty easy to just walk away from those kits and a lot of people have done that very thing; they've attempted one or two, seduced by the siren call of a unique subject, and have punched out part-way through the project muttering things like "never again" as they go.

Let's put things in perspective, though. The aspect of scale accuracy is probably the easiest issue to deal with by uttering one simple statement: Every manufacturer of plastic kits, no matter what the subject, occasionally incorporates accuracy errors into their models. It happens to everyone and is not unique to any one company and, in all honesty, Classic Airframes got things right a whole lot more often than they got them wrong. Their track record for scale fidelity is, quite honestly, as good as anybody's and probably better than most.

Once we accept the fact that their accuracy was pretty good we get to confront the true bugaboo of their kits; ease of assembly. They're not easy to build if you happen to be a novice or average modeler and getting a really nice model out of one of them can be pretty tough. That said, let's consider the down side of those old CA kits for a minute. For starters, they're all short-run in nature and are produced from tooling that's not on the same page as that used by a Tamiya or Airfix. Component detail is acceptable for the most part, but sometimes things just don't fit properly, a condition exacerbated by the multi-media nature of the kits---each and every one of them contain resin and photo-etch parts that are not in the kit as nice-to-have-if-you-want-to enhancements but rather as essential parts of the model. You don't get a plastic interior with a resin option---you get a resin interior, period. Some of the earlier kits feature vacuum-formed canopies as well, and they all are of the fit twice/modify a few parts/glue once ilk. Allow me to repeat myself here: They are not particularly easy to assemble no matter what you've read on certain of the modeling boards.

Now that all that is out of the way, let's look at the positive side. First and foremost, Classic Airframes offered a great many subjects that the mainstream guys wouldn't, and for the most part still won't, touch with the proverbial ten-foot pole, which in turn makes most of their kits unique. If you want a 1/48th scale Hudson or Battle, for example, you're going to be building a CA kit (at least until the reborn Airfix gets around to kitting those particular airplanes). Their subject matter has a lot to offer, and CA kits can be a bit pricey on the second-hand market. Having them available again will be what we can term a Good Thing.

Of course, there is that buildability thing to contend with. None of them are easy if you don't have the chops to deal with their issues, and some of them will leave you talking to yourself as you build them. In my personal world each and every Classic Airframes kit I've ever built has been a Six Month Model---I'd build for a while, get frustrated and put the thing away, then go back and work on it a little bit more, then put it away again, and so on and so forth, eventually ending up with a completed model airplane for the shelf. Most of them came out looking pretty good at the end of the day, but it was a struggle to get there each time/every time. Maybe it was just me (and it certainly could have been!) but my cynical side has to wonder if some if not most of the other people reviewing and building those kits for publication didn't have the same issues but chose, for whatever reason, not to comment on them.

On the other hand, you'll never never never grow as a modeler if all you build is the easy stuff. Repetitiously building easy kits will certainly hone your skills and you'll improve to some small extent with each new one you build, but you'll never make the jump to competent modeler if you don't challenge yourself from time to time. It's important for us to remember that Classic Airframes was a limited-run company who's kits were produced for them by Special Hobby and Sword, both of whom are well-known limited run manufacturers themselves. They were never intended to be Everyman's Model Airplane, but were meant for the journeyman or expert modeler from their very inception. That's the nature of the beast.

Here's the point, then: If you've got the skill sets you've probably already built a couple of CA kits and welcome their return to the marketplace. If you don't have the requisite abilities you're going to be challenged a bit if you choose to build one of them, but that takes us back to that whole growth thing, which also applies to any limited run kit and not just those of Classic Airframes. You're probably in the hobby because you like airplanes and you enjoy modeling. There are a great many kits out there you can build without any grief or angst whatsoever and you can easily get through your entire scale modeling career without ever touching a limited run kit, but you'll never grow to your full potential as a modeler and you'll be missing out on a whole bunch of stuff that isn't available any other way if you choose not to push your limits from time to time. It's a challenge that's worth accepting.

 Are you ready to stretch out a bit?

Pappy Gunn's Kids

Or a couple of them, anyway. Most of you are aware of Paul "Pappy" Gunn and his part in the development of the B-25 and A-20 strafers so beloved of the 5th Air Force during the Second World War. They were a devastating weapon against soft targets such as air field revetments and parked aircraft, and their part in the reduction of both the JNAF and JAAF during the conflict cannot be understated. Here are a couple of fine examples of the type in service, photographed on the ground in New Guinea during 1943.

This isn't the best photograph around, but it's valuable because it illustrates the B-25 strafer in its earliest form, with the nose partially painted over. The forward-most part of it has not been painted (see where those panels are extra shiny?) and you could, if you wanted to, look up in there and see the details of the gun installation. Moving around a bit, it's impossible to see the covers on the gun packs attached to the sides of the fuselage but we'd be willing to guess that they're the earliest type, with one large cover over both guns, and there doesn't appear to be any sort of blast shield forward of the muzzles. The nose-wheel cover is unpainted, and the airframe is pretty beaten up; check out the leading edge of the port wing inboard of the engines for proof of that! Those ground echelon guys are working in conditions that could be considered primitive at best, but they're getting the job done all the same. "Torn Sail" was a B-25C or D from the 3rd BG's 8th BS.   Richard N Davis via Gerry Kersey/3rd Attack.Org

"Mortimer" (B-25C 41-12443) is a little better known, and is from the 3rd BG's 90th BS. Originally destined for the Netherlands East Indies Air Force, she was impressed by the  AAF in March of 1942 and converted later in the year to become an early strafer---all of the 3rd's strafers were initially assigned to the 90th. Of interest is the early cheek pack and home-grown blast shield forward of the gun muzzles. Parts of the former bombardier's position appear to be in unpainted aluminum, probably replacements for damaged plexiglass panels that were there originally, and the transparencies that were painted over appear to have been crudely done with a brush rather than a spray gun. The shark-mouth is of interest as well---it looks menacing but not particularly well-done; application appears once again to be by brush and is not particularly neat. There were limitations to what could be done when the maintenance environment was totally out in the open...   Richard N Davis via Gerry Kersey/ 3rd Attack.Org

Thanks as always to Gerry for his dedication to the acquisition and preservation of images such as these!

And While We're at It

Not every B-25 in the SWPAC was a strafer, as illustrated by this photograph:

"El Aguila" was a fairly well-known 13th BS/3rd BG B-25C and a prime example of what a war-time Mitchell looked like in more or less standard trim. The nose is in its stock, as-built, configuration and she's very much a bomber, although she probably would have gotten the strafer treatment had she survived the initial attacks against the Japanese in New Guinea. Of particular interest is the attire of the GI sitting on that tug; check out his outrageously non-uniform footwear! It's the last thing you'd expect to see in that particular environment, but there it is! We learn something every day...   Patnaude via Kersey

Let's Raise a Glass

Ok, so you've seen a couple of B-25s sitting on the ground in peaceful, if somewhat uncomfortable surroundings. Have you ever stopped to think what they were actually doing over there? We're guessing you probably have, but if you haven't...

It all looks so peaceful; 250 knots indicated, a couple of hundred feet off the ground, and flying into a river valley in New Guinea. On the face of things it's a young aviator's dream---getting to flat-hat out away from the prying eyes of superior officers anxious to give you an Article 15 or a general court-martial for breaking all the rules. The problem is that you aren't breaking the rules at all---you're down there on the deck, lining up on the parked aircraft and revetments around a Japanese airfield to strafe them and drop a load of 28-pound parafrags on them, and everybody on the ground with any sort of a weapon is shooting at you trying their very best to kill you. It's an adrenaline rush you can easily do without, but this isn't the first time you've done it and it won't be the last. With any luck you'll get home, but maybe you won't...   via Gerry Kersey

 Here's an enlargement from our previous photo showing the B-25, the 8th BS/3rd BG's "WEEDOODIT", in somewhat better detail. We're guessing her pilot (Bob Miller) and co-pilot (Dwight Turner) could see the tropical birds and monkeys in the trees from that altitude and have no doubt they could see the Japanese on that airfield shooting at them as well. It was a tough war no matter which side of it you were on. Let's raise a glass...   via Gerry Kersey

Many thanks to Gerry Kersey of 3rd Attack.Org for the detailed information regarding these aircraft!

Where Are the Phantoms?

Yep; it's been a while since we've run anything on the McDonnell F-4 Phantom II, but here's a photo to make up for it:

The late Kelly AFB's 182nd TFS/149th TFG was a prime Air Guard operator of the F-4C back in the late 70s and early 80s. In this photo we find 63-7419, an F-4C-15-MC, taxiing out preparatory to launch in September of 1981. She's on her way to the bombing range at Matagorda Island---check out the TER rack and practice bombs under her port wing---and she's very typical of the 149th's birds during that time period. It's possible that she's carrying a nickname too, but the unit painted those on the inside of the nose gear doors so it's impossible to tell from this photo whether she was named or not. The 149th is still in the game, flying F-16s, but we honestly miss the howl and the roar of those J-79s!   John Kerr

Never Throw Nothing Away

Bad grammar, that, but good advice and here's a reason why:

I've been in a sort of modeling slump lately, just sort of piddling around with this kit and that and not getting inspired enough to actually do much of anything other than make a mess. My modeling chops were AWOL, at least temporarily, but the desire was there so I went looking for something I could work with that wouldn't be much of a loss if I messed something up, and that particular search took me to an old Pyro re-issue of Inpact's 1966/67-vintage 1/48th scale Hawker Fury. I'd started it years ago and had a serviceable interior in the buttoned-up fuselage, which meant the hard work was all done. A quick examination showed that the kit didn't need a whole lot more in order to become a good, solid place-keeper on the shelf, so the die was cast!

A quick trip to the paint shop produced this result. Clever engineering on the part of Inpact made wing assembly a snap and the rest of the kit pretty much fell together, although a tiny bit of putty was required here and there---the model is, after all, taken from molds that are some 49 years old! Reviews by people far more versed in the Fury than I am suggest that the kit has some issues but is, on the whole, somewhat more accurate than the far more recent Airfix issue of the airplane in the same scale. Given the parameters of this particular build (building something and getting my chops back) a contest-level standard of accuracy wasn't required, so everything you see in this photo (except for the interior, which you can't see in this photo) is 100% kit stock.     Replica in Scale

There was, however, one tiny little problem: Decals. This particular Fury is part of a series that Inpact produced way back in the day, and the kit decals were problematical even in their original kit (P202). Inpact went tango uniform in late 1967 and the tooling was picked up by Pyro; the four airplanes in that 'Tween the Wars RAF fighter series have subsequently been re-released by Pyro, Life-Like, and, I'm told, the reborn Lindberg. The decals (except maybe in the Lindberg releases---I've never seen one so I can't comment) have been mediocre to poor in each and every release and gross laziness on my part precluded cutting masks for the markings. Oh, what to do!

And that's the part where we come to the notion that you should never throw anything away if you're a serious scale modeler. Allow me to present, if you will, the solution to my problem:

We used to get a lot of stuff from the cottage industry back when we were doing the original Replica in Scale and this decal sheet was sent to us for review sometime between 1973 and 1975. It's Replica Decal's sheet #4 and I can honestly say I have no earthly idea what was on sheets 1 through 3, or if there was ever a sheet #5. The only thing that really matters in my world, at least at this moment, is that they produced this one and sent it to us for review! It is, in theory at least, the answer to my current problem. I'll let you know how things turn out!                   Replica in Scale

So there you have it! That 42-year-old decal sheet has survived several moves and at least a couple of offers to sell or trade it to someone else, but I've kept it all that time because I'm a sucker for those old Inpact kits and I knew I'd want the decals some day. It's time to airbrush the Fury portion of the sheet with MicroScale Superfilm and see if they can be used. Cross your fingers, folks!

A Phew More Phantoms to End the Day

A while back Scott Wilson sent us quite a stack of F-4 photos taken during his stint with the USAF and we've been running them, a few at a time, for the past couple of years or so. Here are a few more for your viewing pleasure and scale modeling inspiration. They're all of aircraft assigned to the 26th TRW stationed at Zweibrucken AB, Federal Republic of Germany, during the 1980s.

Let's start off with a shot of 69-0371, an RF-4C-43-MC from the 26th TRW's 38th TRS. She's typical of her breed while the type was still in active service with NATO; well-maintained and fully mission-capable but just the least little bit scruffy looking. By the time Scott took this portrait of her a great many European-based RF-4s had gone to wrap-around camouflage, which was better suited to low-level operations than the classic SEA camo she left the factory with, but she was still wearing her original paint job in this shot. Her days were numbered when this photo was taken; she crashed to destruction in West Germany in July of 1986. There were no easy days in USAFE.   Scott Wilson

In this photo we see the wrap-around scheme that had pretty much become the norm for the F-4 by the mid-1980s. 71-0249, an RF-4C-48-MC, was sitting on the ground at Zweibrucken AB in what was then the Federal Republic of Germany when Scott took this photo of her on 22 October, 1983. All of her markings are of the plain black, low-vis variety commonly seen during this time frame, even including her squadron stripe on the vertical stab tip. The sharp-eyed among our readers will note that she's carrying a travel pod on her port inboard station. 0249 was a survivor and is currently on display at Kirtland AFB in New Mexico.   Scott Wilson

The Phantom is one of those families of military aircraft that looks really good wearing a sharkmouth on their nose, and RF-4C-49-MC 71-0254 is wearing a prime and somewhat unique example of that style of decoration. She's carrying a travel pod on her port-side inboard station and is apparently getting ready to deploy to another USAFE base. Some of her paintwork is a bit worn---check out the patches of Mil-P-8585 Zinc Chromate primer on her inboard starboard pylon---but she's otherwise in pretty good shape from a cosmetic point of view. One thing, though---note the different paint schemes on those gas bags; the starboard one is typical of those fitted to aircraft with the wrap-around camouflage scheme, while the port tank is done up in the older SEA scheme replete with light grey undersides. It's details like that that make this interesting!   Scott Wilson

And while we're discussing those little things that make an airplane interesting...  At first glance RF-4C-51-MC 72-0146 isn't anything very special, but take another look! The low-vis paint and wrap-around camo is easy enough to spot, but then there's the paint on that starboard gas bag---what's up with that? She's wearing a really tasty sharkmouth too, but what's that little black spot on her intake splitter plate?   Scott Wilson

Was it a zap or a somewhat lewd kill marking? If you guessed either way you got it right! 0146 apparently lost a wrestling match with an F-111E during her stay in Europe and got herself zapped to commemorate the event. We strongly doubt that the guys in the 26th TRW were particularly pleased by the decoration applied to the aircraft, but that marking wasn't the only one the airplane had to endure.  Scott Wilson

Here's the other zap; a cartoonish F-111 stenciled on the starboard intake cheek with the legend "Hosed by an F-111" painted around it. Talk about adding insult to injury!   Scott Wilson

Finally, here's a somewhat clumsy enlargement (done by us, not Scott!) that shows the intake zap in a little better detail. It's the little things that make this interesting!   Scott Wilson

One final note before we leave Zweibrucken's RF-4Cs for the day: We've said time and time again on these pages that military aviation is, and always has been, a dangerous occupation. To prove that point (as if it ever needed proving), 72-0146 bought the farm near Wales, crashing into the sea in July of 1986 and killing both crew members. The Air Force call that an operational loss, but it's no less tragic than if the aircraft was lost in combat. Let's all extend a Thank You to the men and women who willingly risk the odds every day they serve! There are no easy days...

Happy Snaps

It's definitely been a while since we've had a Happy Snap for your enjoyment, but here's one to break the fast:

 January of 1990 found Rick Morgan at NAS Key West, which gave him the opportunity to do a little air-to-air work over the Caribbean. In this photo we find an F/A-18A (163119) of VF-15 pulling up alongside Rick's photo ship to look things over. The markings on this bird aren't nearly as dramatic as they would have been just a few short years earlier, back during the NAV's Easter Egg period, but they're well-designed and certainly compliment the lines of the aircraft. Thanks for the image, Morgo!    Rick Morgan

One more thing before we leave this part of the blog: If you're a military aviator, either current or former, and you've got some photography you'd like to share, we'd love to see it. Please feel free to contact us at replicainscaleatyahoodotcom . (We apologize for having to write it out like that, but the internet's version of those junk mail guys have become a fairly regular nuisance and that's the best way we've come up with to deal with the problem! Just put an @ and a period in the appropriate places and you're there!)

The Relief Tube

We fooled ourselves and ran this issue's Relief Tube entries the last time so there's nothing new for today, but we'd like to take a moment to congratulate Doug Siegfried on his recent retirement from The Tailhook Association's publication, The Hook. A former "Stoof" driver, Doug has always been one of our go-to guys for imagery of Naval aviation and most definitely one of The Good Guys from an editor's point of view. This project has been all the better because of his help and we're proud to have worked with him. Blue skies, Doug, and may your retirement be all that you've dreamed of!

That's it for this time, but we'll be back before you know it. Until then, be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon!