Tailhook Topics

by Tommy H. Thomason

Saturday, September 22, 2018

XFL-1 Redux

My post on the differences between the XFL-1 and the P-39 (https://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2015/09/modeling-bell-xfl-1-airabonita.html) included a comparison of the respective wing planforms. As it happened, the P-39 outline was taken from a Bell wing station drawing that I've since discovered wasn't rigorous about the actual shape of the wing tip. The post was also created before I mastered Illustrator and started to use a dimensioned box around a drawing to allow it to be accurately scaled.

Recently I discovered that the P-39 outline was being taken as being accurate by at least one modeler. I was chagrined to discovered that it was not, certainly with respect to the wing tip. I therefore went back and created as accurate a P-39 wing planform drawing as I could from the data available to me. It's posted here: http://tailhooktopics.blogspot.com/2018/09/bell-p-39-wing-planform.html

I then redid the XFL-1 drawing, which was based on a detailed Bell wind-tunnel model drawing. I was happy to see that it overlaid perfectly with the one in the original post. I then added the P-39 drawing to it along with a dimensioned box.

(Note that the root of the XFL-1 wing is closer to the fuselage centerline than the F-39's.)

The original post has been updated with this drawing.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Sword TBM-3W

August was a good month for 72nd-scale carrier-based modeler enthusiasts with the arrival of the Special Hobby FH-1 Phantom (see prior post) and the Sword TBM-3W. While the former was excellent kit, there were earlier options. The latter was particularly welcome because it was unrepresented other than by relatively crude conversions.

There are two issues available: SW72114 shown above with decals for US Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force; and SW72115 with decals for Dutch and French TBM-3Ws.

The radome is integrally molded with the fuselage halves. Its complex shape and removal of the lower turret fairing looks to be well represented except for maybe a small area at the very aft end of the radome.

The cockpit is adequate to the scale, needing only seat belt and shoulder harness for completeness. The seat is a little undersized and there would generally be a seat-back cushion and seat-pack parachute in it. The landing gear is delicate and the tail gear is remarkably complete. The tail gear looks a little more extended than a regular TBM's, but that's mostly if not completely because the fuselage forward of that is significantly less deep.

No interior is provided for the radar operator but even if the modeler goes to the trouble of opening the compartment door, a scratch-built one wouldn't be very visible.


If you want to move closer to perfection, adding "flutes" to the exhaust stacks provided would be more obvious, although not all TBM-3Ws had flame suppressors.
Note how close the main landing gear is to the radome. These were also painted white on many airplanes.

One caution is that not all TBM-3Ws had the external tailhook, since that depended on which TBM-3 was used for the conversion (see http://thanlont.blogspot.com/2015/07/post-war-eastern-tbm-variants.html), including the one, VS-892 25ST, for which decals are provided in the kit.
The odd representation of the star in the national insignia occurs because part of it is painted on the crew door, which is open.

Another detail with some variation are antennas. The most obvious is the relay antenna on the vertical antenna (the operational concept in the beginning, was to transmit the radar signal down to a ship).

For example, this is a depiction of the antenna suite typical of a Canadian TBM-3W2. For lots more, see http://jproc.ca/rrp/rrp3/avenger_equipment_details.html



Thursday, September 6, 2018

Special Hobby FH-1 Phantom and XFD-1 Conversion

As I've written and said before, the FD/FH Phantom was a significant and unlikely achievement. Two companies, with no experience with jet airplanes (and little with airplanes - see XP-67) or jet engines, were able to produce a viable carrier-based airplane, folding wings and all, that was combat ready.

Not many were produced, as the rapid pace of jet engine development almost immediately resulted in bigger engines with more thrust, which resulted in the larger, faster F2D/F2H.

Special Hobby recently issued an excellent 1/72 scale FH-1 kit of this significant milestone in carrier-based aviation.

 Click HERE for the markings options provided.

It's a very detailed kit, particularly the cockpit, which is built up from plastic, decals, and photo etch to a degree not usually found in this scale and will be challenging. The assembly instructions for it take up a full page in the instruction sheet.

One external detail that caught my eye were two oval depressions on the belly just inboard of the jet exhaust pipes.



These are depressions where JATO bottles could be attached, allowing for a shorter deck-run takeoff if the catapults were hors de combat or just plain broken. Compare to the actual airplane:
Clear plastic parts are provided for the lights on either side of the hold-back door.

JATO came in handy when a Marine was forced to land, belly-up, on a beach after his engines quit due to fuel contamination. A recovery team dug holes under the wheel wells so the landing gear could be lowered. Then the holes were joined and the resulted hole expanded forward to create a ramp so the airplane could be towed onto ground level. The belly tank was removed, the inboard flaps replaced, the fuel system flushed and filled, and JATO bottles fitted for a takeoff from the beach.

Paul Boyer has already built the kit for a review in Fine Scale Modeler.

Peter Zanella asked me what changes would be required to convert this kit to the XFD-1 that made the U.S. Navy's first carrier takeoffs and landings.

This is a summary of the differences:

This is a comparison drawing of the nose, canopy, and vertical tail differences:

Creating an XD-1 Canopy would be the hardest part of the conversion.

For its at-sea carrier evaluation, the XFD-1 was modified to have a fixed Davis Barrier activator in front of the windscreen (it was retractable on the production FH-1s).

It was sort of a canted tripod.

Finally, it's worth repeating that the XFD-1 did not make its first flight, as it is commonly understood, on one engine: https://thanlont.blogspot.com/2016/07/mcdonnell-xfd-1-phantom-first-flight.html

Saturday, July 7, 2018

What Color Are the Wheel Wells On a (insert airplane type)?

This is a work in progress...

One of the least likely modeler questions to be answered accurately is the color of the wheel wells and the interior side of the landing gear doors on an overall-all blue carrier-based airplane. For earlier color schemes, they were usually the same as the underside. For the gray/white paint scheme, they were white.

One problem is these surfaces are almost always in shadow if they are visible at all (while this is not true of museum examples, the color—like the configuration—is not necessarily to be relied on). Another is that the paint specifications at the time were not very specific with respect to them.

From late 1944 to the introduction of the gray/white scheme, wheel wells appear to have been considered by most airplane manufacturers as "structural spaces" on which more than one coat of zinc chromate primer (yellowish) were to be applied. (There was no mention at all of the color of the interior side of landing-gear doors.) The second and subsequent coats of zinc chromate were to be tinted with black enamel and aluminum pigment paste. This resulted in a green color, which made it obvious that the second coat had been applied. A subsequent bulletin issued in August 1946 specified that the color was to be Interior Green.

Note that while the Navy's specification might have been somewhat vague in this respect, each manufacturer's production documentation was very specific and had be be approved. One example of an approved practice not delineated in the existing specification was McDonnell's painting the interior side of the landing-gear doors red. Probably the most accurate restorations are those done by the National Air and Space Museum. These are my photographs of the wheel wells of its FH-1:



Note that the landing gear and wheels are blue. However, this FH-1 when in service had aluminum-colored landing gear.

Vought, on the other hand, delivered its F7U-1s with Interior Green on the inside of the landing-gear doors.

However, the answer is further complicated by the fact that Navy airplanes usually went through repair and overhaul at a Navy facility during their service life and the process documentation was not necessarily the same as the original manufacturer's or even other Navy R&O facilities. One example is the painting of wheel wells and landing gear. F2H-2s might have been delivered from McDonnell with red interiors on the gear doors and aluminum-painted landing gear:

But coming out of a Navy R&O facility, they were blue.

My impression is that the overhauled airplanes had blue wheel wells in general as well.

Gray scale pictures of landing gears can also be misleading. For example, this North American FJ-1 had Interior Green landing gear since that was another local option, so to speak, at the time.

My guess is that the wheel wells and gear door interiors were also Interior Green at the time but if you Google "Newsletter Volume 23 Number 9 09-16 LISMS NL.pdf", Steve Muth's pictures of a derelict FJ-1 clearly show that at some point, the wheels wells were painted blue.

And if those examples indicated a lack of surety, note that this F3D has a blue hub on the main landing gear and an aluminum-painted one on the nose landing gear.


Note that some landing gears were painted white, which I think provided some degree of increased safety for deck crewmen working around propellers and engine inlets at night on a carrier deck.


More later,

Monday, June 11, 2018

Modeling the Jolly Rogers' History

There are many themes on which to focus your modeling efforts. One of my favorites is an air group on a specific deployment, such as the first one of Enterprise (CVN-65) in 1962. Befitting the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, some of the aircraft types CVG-6 were also deploying for the first time. Others were tried and true.

Of course, there are difficulties - there is no 1/72 kit of the A3J-1 for example and some of the colorful markings will have to be created somehow.

Another theme is to build all the airplanes flown over time by a specific squadron, or at least squadrons using the same nickname. This has become easy-peasy from a markings standpoint for an iconic one like the Navy's Jolly Rogers thanks to a Russian decal producer, CtA, which stands for Cut then Add.

The "Bones" adorned so many different types that they have to be covered in two parts.

I've noticed an error on one that I looked at closely, the FJ-3, The band on the nose should be white, which was the trim color for the second squadron when the airplanes were painted blue, not orange-yellow, the trim color when the airplanes were painted gray/white (see http://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2009/12/changing-from-blue-to-graywhite.html for a complication).


However, this decal is easy to replace by painting the nose white and masking off the marking when applying the overall blue.

 Unfortunately, they relied on an online profile in this particular instance, which led them astray. In other instances, their scholarship is obviously good and even shared. For example, see https://ctamodels.com/images/skywarrior3.pdf

CtA's product line is eclectic at the moment, with decal options for aircraft from different countries. And even the movies:
See their website here: https://ctamodels.com/buy-cta-decal-here

An RA-5C build with Welcome to the Jungle decals is HERE.

CtA accepts PayPal and ships promptly from Moscow. The decals I got in Connecticut were in a package that could have been left by my mailman on the beach at low tide for a week without getting wet. If we support them with direct purchases, they are more likely to be profitable and encouraged to expand their range and even take requests.

Friday, June 1, 2018

AD-4W Skyraider

I thought I'd already done a post on the AD-4W but if I did, I can't find it. So here's a primer based on information that I provided to a kit maker.

Basic AD notes:

1. The vertical fin and rudder were angled three degrees to the left with an an asymmetric airfoil that lifted to the right. See http://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2017/08/relying-on-museum-pieces-for-accuracy.html

2. The powerplant section including cowl flaps was angled down by three degrees.

The AD-4W was similar to the AD-4 with the following notable exceptions:

1. Addition of a large belly-mounted radome

2. Landing Gear

The landing gear reverted to the early AD configuration with no doors covering the retracted wheel. The wheel retracted into a round opening on the underside of the wing aft of the main wing spar. The retraction mechanism folded into a truncated triangular opening forward of the spar similar to this AD-5Q.
Jim Robbins Photo

The catapult hooks were relocated from under the inboard wing to the main landing gear strut. This resulted in a different forward-facing landing gear door.

Left main landing gear shown. The forward facing door was sometimes removed for flight.

3. Wing

A "stall strip" was added to the leading edge of the right wing only, roughly the maximum width of the well for the gear retraction mechanism.

A fixed slat was added to the leading edge of the outboard wing panels.
(Underside of right wing. Note pitot.)

The outboard wing panel stores pylons and all guns were deleted although the openings for the attach points for the pylons appear to have been retained. Early type AD pylons were retained on the inner wing panels to carry external fuel tanks.

4. The oil cooler outlet was relocated from the belly to each side of the fuselage just aft of the cowl flaps.



5. Addition of a fairing aft of a new sliding cockpit canopy to house electronic-component cooling system (the windscreen remained the same).

Note the inlet and outlet providing air for a radiator at the aft end of the turtle back.

6. Addition of crew-compartment doors on each side of the mid fuselage. Note that the U.S. Navy AD-4W door's window was not bulged like the Brit airplane's.

7. The "armor" plate added during AD-4 production on the side and belly of the forward fuselage was not installed.

8. Auxiliary vertical fins were added to the horizontal stabilizer to restore directional stability lost with the addition of the radome. Both were angled to left by three degrees like the vertical fin.
 (Before you whinge about the dubiousness of photo interpretation, which would normally be appropriate, this fin orientation is stated in the Douglas AD-4W maintenance manual, with a caution that they are not therefore interchangeable.)

9. The dive brakes were deleted. Unlike the AD-5W, the lower speed brake well was covered over.

10. An HF antenna was added to the top of the vertical fin.

Unfortunately, even Douglas Skyraider drawings are not necessarily accurate in shape. This is a work in process using Douglas drawings attempting to define the location and shape of the crew door and the electronics turtle back.
All published AD-4W drawings are at best a close approximation of the unique details.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Things Under Wings: VA-195 Kitchen Sink

I provided the configuration of the A-1 Skyraider of the Toilet Bomb caper during the Vietnam War here: http://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2013/04/things-under-wings-va-25-1-skyraider.html.

Here are details and clarification behind the Kitchen Sink equivalent during the Korean War. For movie coverage, see http://www.buyoutfootage.com/pages/titles/pd_dc_500.php#.WuTAysgh1-U

There is some confusion about the size of the bomb and the rest of the ordnance carried. It was a 500-lb bomb according to my go-to guy for ordnance, Jim Rotramel, not 1,000-lb as in some reports. Based on the referenced movie footage, it was loaded with two other 500-lb bombs on the wing pylons and on the most outboard pylon on the right wing, a strike camera pod.

Note that the side number is 507. One mention of this mission has it also carrying Mk 54 "depth bombs", probably because the bomb was also pictured under 502, which was loaded with Mk 54s at the time.
The bomb was almost certainly painted a nonstandard gloss black although it appears in some photos to possibly be dark blue like the airplane. However, this very contrasty picture of yet another AD, 511, loaded with it strongly suggests that gloss black was the color.
Note that sink was asymmetric, with a big back-splash on its back side (to the right on the airplane) and a working surface on its right side (to the rear of the airplane).

A view from the right side when displayed on 502 (no fuse fitted in the nose).
A view from the left side of 507 with pilot LTJG Carl B. Austin.

The airplane was an AD-4 with the armor kit installed. These Skyraiders had a flush center-line rack/shackle (see http://tailhooktopics.blogspot.com/2015/07/douglas-ad-1-skyraider-pylons.html) so the bomb was snugged up against the belly with separate sway braces. The sink was strapped to the bomb (see the movie footage).

Unfortunately, I don't know the BuNo for 507.

The strike was from Princeton (CV-37) on 25 August 1952. The kitchen sink was reportedly dropped on Pyongyang.