Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Polka Dots, King of the Sea, Famous Mustangs, One of a Kind, and Another Voodoo

A Road Less Traveled?

A year or so ago Jenny and I were in one of the several fine brick and mortar hobby shops that still exist in South Texas, passing away a pleasant (for me, anyway) hour or so looking at new plastic and talking to the proprietor, when she came over and said she wanted me to build another biplane, at which point she handed me the then-new Eduard MAG Fokker D VIII. For a lot of people that would have been one of those "thanks but no thanks" kind of moments, but I've always harbored an affection for the oddballs of military aviation. With that as a perspective, there was nothing to do but buy that kit. Czech, Romanian, and Hungarian Fokker D VIIs---how cool is that?!

Ok, so maybe it isn't very cool to you, or even to most people, but I happen to like that kind of thing. Humor me.

The real point here isn't what I like, much as I would sometimes like to think so. Nope; it's about a way to relieve what some might call The Modeling Doldrums, that affliction we all suffer from time to time. For example:

Every passing year sees at least one, if not more, new kits of the immortal but occasionally boring Messerschmitt 109 released to a seemingly never-jaded modeling public. Pick a variant and unless it's a G-12, T-2 (as a primary kit, not a conversion!), or a recce version there's a kit of it somewhere. We're choking on them. After all, how many pointy-nosed airplanes with black crosses can any one person build?

There's another road to take, though, even though it's one relatively few modelers choose to follow. Yes; that German fighter was produced in the many thousands, but countries other than Germany used it in active service---Hungary, Romania, Switzerland, Bulgaria and Spain all jump immediately to mind, and there were others in addition to those. For the most part their camouflage schemes mimicked those of the Luftwaffe but their national insignia and markings certainly didn't, which provides the modeler with some room to stretch out and explore something a little out of the ordinary.

That sort of philosophy can extend to virtually any combat aircraft as well; it's definitely not limited to those flying machines used by Germany during the 1940s. It's easy to find American, British, and other aircraft in the air forces of countries you wouldn't normally consider modeling. The list could be, and very nearly is, endless in that regard.

Then there are the airplanes that are slightly out of what most modelers would consider to be their normal context. My mind jumps to any Second World War aircraft in a post-War setting in that regard, a category that allows us to build P-47s and P-51s on occupation duty, B-24s (one, at least), flying as a weather ship, or the TB-25s of the Air Training Command during the 1940s and early 50s. For the most part such projects entail little more than markings changes, although that B-24M or TB-25J I just alluded to would also entail some mild conversion work in the way of the elimination of gun turrets---no big deal to accomplish and yet another way to put something really unique on the shelf,

Familiar post-War aircraft (or pre-War, or whatever) markings variations offer yet another road to the modeler who's getting just a little bit burned out by their "normal" interests. Think about the North American T-6 Texan for example, and about it's service with the air forces of nations all around the globe. The varieties offered there, for just that one type of airplane, are virtually endless. Add the MiG fighter of your choice, or almost any Sabre variant, and suddenly you're looking at more airplanes than you can model in a lifetime.

And those are just the markings variations! If you're willing to perform a little kit surgery, a whole different world can open up to you! The Soviet Union used two-seat P-39 conversions for training during the Great Patriotic War and re-engined more than a few P-40s with Klimov powerplants as well. The American Navy slung Bat missiles under some of their PBJs and used them in combat. A lot of wartime aircraft ended up converted for use as hacks and trainers in the post-War world too, which opens up yet another area of possibilities, and that's not including those aircraft that were modified for test or research purposes.

The point is this: Virtually every kit you acquire can be easily modified into something a little bit out of the ordinary if you take the time to research the subject and then expend some elbow grease (which could be as simple as purchasing a new decal sheet or a different bottle of paint) which will in turn add to your personal knowledge, enhance your skill sets, and maybe even break you out of a down period in your modeling career. Yes; there are people out there who are essentially one-trick ponies---their collection is extremely focused and their choice of subject matter limited as a result. In my world that's their loss, and it's an easy problem to fix. It's all a matter of choice. All you have to do is choose.

Snoopers in the Far East

Several years ago we received a series of photographs from John Gluhak, who had spent a portion of his Air Force career with the 45th TRS in Misawa during their days flying Republic Aviation's RF-84F Thunderflash. We meant to run them at that time but mis-filed them in a folder that had nothing whatsoever to do with RF-84Fs, Misawa, or anything else even remotely related to those things. Today is our day of atonement for that mistake, and we offer our sincere apologies to John Gluhak, who provided us with these really neat images:

The Man himself! A young A2C John Gluhak mixes paint on a typically cold Misawa ramp during the late 1950s. We usually think of the pilots and aircrew when when we're considering the operational conditions on those bases of long ago but then, as now, it's the folks doing the less glamorous but no less essential maintenance jobs that make it all happen. Note how that high-tech piece of ground support equipment (the ladder!) has its aircraft number and flight letter painted on it. Such things had a way of disappearing sometimes...                              John Gluhak Collection

Take a look at this guy. M/Sgt "Pete" Peterson was the Line Chief when John Gluhak was with the 45th, and he's typical of the breed. He's sitting in a relatively comfortable office in this photograph, but you can bet he spent his share of time in places that were considerably less hospitable during the Second World War and probably in Korea as well. The line chiefs made it all happen, and Lord help you if you screwed up something on one of their airplanes. It was never the pilot's airplane either; they were simply on loan to the flyers from the chiefs. The overused term "unsung hero" comes to mind...     John Gluhak Collection

Let's go flying! We suspect this was taken over Lake Towada, a volcanic lake near Misawa, but we've never seen it from the air so we're not certain of the fact. What we are certain of is that the 45th were good at what they did and flew some really pretty airplanes to boot.   John Gluhak Collection

Of course, the days weren't always perfect and sometimes the recce guys had to dodge clouds in order to get their pictures. It was tough enough to do in peacetime and would get a whole lot tougher a few short years later in a different airplane over the Republic of Vietnam.   John Gluhak Collection

You fight like you train, and the guys in the 45th trained a lot. This RF-84F was caught on the break just prior to a photo run over northern Japan on a training flight. This view shows us just how big those gasbags were, but the Thunderflash was a thirsty second-generation jet and she wasn't going to get very far at all on what little fuel she could carry internally. Those tanks were a necessary evil.   John Gluhak Collection

The Air Force's tactical jets have been fly-by-wire since the F-16 entered service back in the 1980s, but prior to that it was all done manually, with no computerized assistance. That's something to remember when you look at a photograph like this one---Lead is flying for the formation while Two and Three are both locked in on a portion of the airplane in front of them and flying on that reference point entirely by hand. This photograph makes it all look so easy, but it isn't.   John Gluhak Collection

Maybe three aircraft in formation don't impress you? Ok; here's a flight with a few more! This shot includes most of the 45th in flight over Aomori Prefecture on a pretty and almost cloudless day, looking good for the camera and anybody on the ground who happened to look up to see what all the noise was about. This sort of thing wasn't all that common even in the 50s, but it made for good public relations when it happened. The normal day-to-day ops of the "Polka Dots" couldn't have been further removed from the placid-looking shot you see here.   John Gluhak Collection

It wasn't all fun and games even in peacetime. The young man is Lt. Pritslaugh from the 45th and he's receiving a bravery citation for following a wing man who'd passed out in his aircraft. The Lieutenant ended up going past the Mach in a dive and ended up pulling out at tree-top level---that's what happened to Lt. Pritslaugh. We have no idea how things turned out for the guy he tried to help and would really like to know more about the incident. If you have anything to add, our hopefully spam-proof e-mail address is replicainscaleaty ahoodotcom.   John Gluhak Collection

Let's leave our photo-essay on the 45th TRS and their RF-84Fs with another shot of Airman Gluhak, this time taken in front of the squadron orderly room. Many thanks to John for sending us these photographs of a remarkable time in his life.   John Gluhak Collection

An Early Neptune

We gave you a teaser last issue and showed you a picture of an early Lockheed P2V-3, a conversion from the classic Hasegawa P2V-7 kit perform by Ed Ellickson. While we were teasing you we promised we'd show you a few more shots in our next issue. Well, gang, it's our next issue, so guess what?

Let's start this off with the e-mail Ed originally sent describing his project:

Dear Mr Friddell, 

 Since running across your Replica In Scale blog a couple of years back, I have thought about writing to you many times, but never got around to it. Your August 2016 column finally brought together the "perfect storm" of factors to make me sit on my duff and "get 'er done".

 First, I would like to thank you for the joy you brought me years ago, when you began Replica In Scale magazine. After seeing the first issue at the local hobby shop, I promptly subscribed (and would do so again!)and stayed with you until the end -- a demise that I still recall with sadness.

 I have been building -- off and on -- for a good while. I built my first plastic model in 1954, one of the old Revell box scale B-25 Mitchells. I used tube glue, and had no paints, but it started a wave that was to sort of last until even now. (I sure would love to have some of the old airplanes that I glued up, and then tossed out of the upstairs window to see how they would fly. Some were luckier, like the Lindbergh F9F Panther that at least had a tether to fly around on for a while Those were the days.
But, to the present. 

Your mention in the current blog of your being stuck for a while on the Korean War era hit me right in the wheel house. Some years ago, I happened to run across the last surviving P2V-3 Neptune extant, and took a few really bad photos, mostly of some details rather than overall shots. I told myself I would return one day, and take some better shots, and build a model of the darn thing. 

Well, certain rats in Florida decided to make a reef out of the airplane, and I never got any better shots. Apparently, no one else did either. Or at least, they've not appeared in public. The ones I got are not overall shots, and wouldn't be of much interest to your blog, else I would send them along. What I did do, was wait several years for some other adventuresome soul to make a kit of the plane, or a conversion kit, or some specific parts, so I could create the model. Nada. During this waiting time I researched as much as I could about the -3, and found that in addition to the usual maritime patrols, these aircraft were used for a time for the road interdiction mission, until things got dicey, courts-martial was threatened, and the whole affair was classified for some 50 years. (Hidden enough so that the same thing was repeated in 'Nam with other aircraft). Interestingly, this twin-engined plane was bigger than a B-24, so at least until the advent of the C-130 gunships, it was probably the largest plane to ever fly this mission. Further, most of the books about aviation during the Korean War don't even mention the aircraft as being there at all. 

In any event, toward the end of last December, I sat down and decided what the heck, if no one else will do it, then I'm gonna have to do it myself. In my case, during the late 60's, it seemed like the Brit modelers were the best around for detail and just crazy conversions. (I would like to think that your magazine helped to turn the tide a little more toward our side of the pond!), so I figured why not bring it straight to 'em and see how I did. For that reason and others, I ended up doing a build thread over on, where I ran a detailed thread showing step-by-step how someone else, particularly the newer modelers, could do a pretty fair old-school conversion. I showed which tools, gadgets and techniques I used to get the old Hasegawa 1/72 P2V-7 Neptune converted to a dash 3 version. 

I have attached a few photos for your perusal. ( I know that you have strayed from the path of The One True Scale, but I'm sure that God will forgive you one day.) I thought you might find the model of interest, as it fills a gap for that era, and also because I willingly give you some credit through your publishing efforts, for helping me amass the skill to pull this off. Also, with the exception of some Lockheed-made models of the -3 in wood or metal, I'm betting that this is the only model ever made of a P2V-3, either in plastic or resin or any combination thereof. In that sense, I think it is also historic.

The build thread is at: It is entitled "The Lockheed P2V-3 Neptune -- A Forgotten Warrior", and I hope you get a chance to take a look. Your fan, Ed Ellickson -- aka "TheRealMrEd"

And so it began. Not that many people seem to build the P-2 in any variant, much less one of the earlier ones---Jim Sullivan's P2V-5 conversion that we ran back in our 25 May, 2014, edition is the only other one we can think of---so Ed's conversion came as a breath of fresh air to us. Here's what the model looks like:

Here's a 3/4 rear view showing the tail turret that replaces the Hasegawa kit's MAD boom, along with the underwing rockets and added lumps and bumps. It may not look it, but there's a whole lot of work involved in back-dating the Hasegawa kit to this variant!    Ed Ellickson

Here she is in profile. Compare that nose contour to that of the -7 and you'll see that, once again, there's a bunch of work that ends up looking so very simple in the finished model. It's not.   Ed Ellickson

And our teaser from last issue. The Neptune was a big airplane, much larger than you might think, but we'd really like to see a 1/48th scale kit of any variant of it. Fat chance, right, but you can hope. Right after we see that FJ-3 we've been whining about ever since we began this project...   Ed Ellickson

One final thing: That comment in Ed's letter regarding truck-busting in Korea really got us going but we can't find anything more on the subject than what we've stated above, even though P2V-3s from VP-6 did shoot up a train or two and some coastal targets early in the war. We asked our usual Navy go-to guys if they had any further information and came up with a blank, which leads us to as for further information. If any of you hold photography or anecdotes about the P2Vs used in Korea, we'd sure like to hear from you. That somewhat-confounded-to-confuse-the-spammers e-mail is replicainscale atyahoodotcom.

Iwo Mustangs

The whole reason for the American invasion of Iwo Jima was the ongoing requirement for airfields that could be used for the aerial bombardment of the Japanese home islands. Iwo fit that bill perfectly, first as a recovery field for damaged B-29s and later as a base to both the B-29s and their P-51D escorts. These photos from the National Archives via Bobby Rocker illustrate both the operational conditions and aircraft of that time and place.

The 21st Fighter Group's 46th Fighter Squadron arrived at Iwo fairly early in the game. "Tiny Gay Babe" and "Three of a Kind" are relatively famous members of the squadron, primarily because of this photograph. Note that both aircraft carry over-sized aux tanks but neither are fitted with the AN/ARA-8 "Uncle Dog" antennae so typical of Mustangs used in this theater of operations. "Three of a kind also appears to wear an OD anti-glare panel, not unusual but still somewhat of an anomaly for the time and place.    National Archives via Rocker Collection

Murderer's Row. These P-51Ds are from the 21st's 531st FS and are all neatly lined up on Iwo 2 in 1945. Although a ramp such as this posed a tempting target for any enemy aircraft able to get close to it, a strike on Iwo was, for the most part, beyond Japan's capabilities by that point in the war---their hands were full defending the home islands. Although it's possible to detect one or two OD anti-glare panels on aircraft in the far distance, most of these birds carry the newer black coloring and, once again, none of the aircraft are fitted with "Uncle Dog".   National Archives via Rocker Collection

Thanks as always for your kindness, Bobby!

A Unique Bird

Back in The Day, whenever that might have been, Jim Wogstad and I visited a great many air shows on the day before the actual show, this being done for the purpose of catching arrivals without having to contend with The Maddening Crowd on the day of. Mostly we managed to capture images of variations on The Same Old Thing but every once in a while we'd get lucky and discover something truly unique, as typified by these shots taken at what used to be Kelly AFB on 17 May, 1986.

We honestly weren't expecting anything out of the ordinary that morning, but then it was Kelly and you just never knew what would show up on their ramp, either transient or, in this case, for a public display of American air power. The day was somewhat overcast and providing us with perfect lighting, while the guys at Kelly Ops were their usual helpful selves as they checked us in and handed us off  to our PAO escort. So far it was just another day in the neighborhood, but that was about to change dramatically!

How about this to make your day? The airplane is the one and only NC-131H, 53-7793, and we captured her while she was being used to support STS training within AF Systems Command (note their command emblem on the parasite nose). Actual space shuttle cockpit time was somewhat limited and that extra cockpit allowed some hands-on, non-simulator training for the approach and landing regimes of the flight profile in an honest-to-goodness real airplane. Aside from that nose and the winglets, the sharp-eyed reader will probably notice the Allison 501-D22G's that replaced the aircraft's as-built R2800-99s. It was a unique airplane in every respect.   P Friddell

That added cockpit offered an excellent field of view to the pilot in training, as demonstrated by this head-on shot. The cockpit itself could be easily modified to replicate the aircraft the NC-131 was simulating, providing an excellent simulation platform for any number of unusual aircraft. Those prop blades are interesting as well; the 501-D22G was capable of producing over 4,000 shaft horse-power, making paddle-blade propellers an absolute must. The airplane certainly looked clunky and unwieldy, but its real-world performance was more than acceptable.   P Friddell

Here's a view of her other side for anyone who might have an interest in such things. The "extra" cockpit has its own access via a hatch on this side of the aircraft while the regular crews gets in and out in the same old way, through a cabin door on the port side. In many respects the NC-131Hwas just an ordinary Samaritan as long as you didn't count the new engines, the winglets, the nose, and a few other odds and ends...   P Friddell

53-7793 was assigned to the Air Force's Flight Dynamics Laboratory within Systems Command for most of its service life, as identified by the large FDL banner and emblem painted across both sides of the vertical tail. It was a simple logo for a somewhat complex mission!   P Friddell

Finally, to make absolutely certain everybody knew what the airplane was being used for!   P Friddell

The Air Force got quite a bit of mileage out of 7793 before they retired her to the National Museum of the Air Force in 2008. She's definitely a relic from a different era, but she made possible a number of the innovations now taken for granted in aviation.

We Keep Finding Stuff Around Here

and we often have no idea where it came from! This photo has all the earmarks of an official USAF image so that's where we're presuming it came from. However we came by it, it's a drop-dead gorgeous example of The Silver Air Force at its best, and we'd like to share it with you today:

The airplane in question is 56-0189, an RF-101C-50-MC operating with the 363rd TRW out of Shaw early in the recce Voodoo's career. Those yellow squadron markings are particularly tasty and the OD anti-glare panel on the nose compliments them nicely. As with virtually all USAF 101s the interior of the gear doors and speed boards are Insignia Red. Now, if we only had a kit! (And yes; we know there are a couple of kits out there already. Like we said...) Oh yeah; one more thing: You might want to take a look at the background of this shot too---that H-19 and SA-16B are certainly worth a gander!   Friddell Collection

And it's time to go!

Yep---we're running a little bit behind the power curve again so that's it for this thrilling adventure! Tune in next time, etc, etc, but until then be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon! (More or less...)