by Tommy H. Thomason

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 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

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:

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

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:

Here are details and clarification behind the Kitchen Sink equivalent during the Korean War. For movie coverage, see

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 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.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Grumman F9F-2 Panther Length

2 April 2018: I've added some additional illustrations to explain the length change.

Well, there's your problem.
The F9F-2 Panther length is frequently (including on the National Naval Aviation Museum website) as 37' 6" (sometimes 37' 5 3/8"). That's almost certainly based on the original XF9F-2 SAC (Standard Aircraft Characteristics) chart as shown above.

However, the actual length was 37' 11 5/16" as shown, rounded down to 37' 11", on an F9F-2 SAC chart.
Note that this is exactly the same drawing. Only the overall length dimension with the nose cone closed has changed.

If it had been redrawn, the outline would have looked more like this Grumman dimensioned drawing.
The length change appears to have been limited to the vertical fin and extreme aft fuselage. I wouldn't spend too much time worrying about the slightly different wheel locations; in any event, I don't have enough data to establish which is correct. The original SAC drawing may be incorrect with respect to the location of aft end of the fuselage surrounding the tailpipe. It appears that on the XF9F-2 prototypes, it is farther aft, consistent with the production F9F-2's.
Close examination of XF9F-2s indicates that most if not all of the length change was the result of substituting a rudder of increased chord.
Note that the bottom of the production fin and rudder was different from BuNo 122477's , mainly by eliminating the narrow extension downward of the rudder and a triangular bit of the bottom of the fin immediately ahead of it.

Another view of the bottom of the production fin: