by Tommy H. Thomason

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Sword 1/72 AD-4W Redux

 25 December 2021 Update: Ralph asked me to add the following to his review below:

"The build wasn't all doom and gloom. The resin parts were excellent, as were the decals, which are supremely thin, and include many of the fine stencils."

My detail notes after fondling the Sword 1/72 AD-4W kit sprues and trial fitting some of the parts are HERE (a subsequent post with that and two other links that might be of interest for understanding the various AD-4W configurations and detailing a model are HERE.

However, at that point I got distracted and haven't finish it yet. I was therefore very pleased to recently see a build by Ralph Koziarski (aka SoftScience) on Britmodeller. He wrote:

Whoa boy...I started in January and didn't finish until October of 2021. This is built from the Sword kit, and it was a fight from start to finish.

Like any short-run kit, the parts were clunky, and imprecise. Fit was mediocre at best, and a lot of details were missing.  The clear parts are very thick and fit especially poorly. What really made the whole experience unnecessarily frustrating were the poor instructions. Not only were they vague on where smaller parts should fit, they also had contradictory directions on landing gear doors (they want you to fit both kinds that are in the box, at the same time), and allude to details which are not part of the kit (e.g., drop tank sway braces). Its as if the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing, as the kit was being manufactured.  

Disappointing as the kit and the project were, I'm happy I pushed through, as the final product is hideous and cool, and now I can say I successfully finished a short run kit.

While not very complimentary (and I'm sure that Sword will take the comments on the instructions to heart), the result clearly indicates that, in the right hands, an excellent model can result!

Photos by Ralph Koziarski

Friday, November 12, 2021

Grumman C-2A(R) Monograph Volume II by Boerries Burkhardt


If you have any interest in U.S. Naval Aviation, I recommend without hesitation that you buy this monograph. And I emphasize "without hesitation", because Burkhardt self-published it and only printed 200 copies. It hasn't been available long and I just received #124, so you will regret dilly-dallying.

Order here:

It is a large (8" x 12") landscape-printed soft-cover book filled with excellent, large, color images of C-2A(R)s printed on high-quality paper. Most of the 100 pages are devoted to pictures but there is text briefly describing the history of the program (some of which was new to me and that doesn't happen often now) and that of the handful of squadrons that operated the Greyhound. Of particular interest to modelers will be the walk-around section providing closeups of interior and exterior details.

I was momentarily concerned that I had missed Volume I but it turns out to be a work in progress. This one primarily covers the second production lot of C-2As (the R stands for Reprocured; one wonders why, given the number of changes and improvements, that it was not simply designate C-2B). Volume I will cover the first production lot. I look forward to it.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

North American FJ-2/3 Cockpit and Landing Gear Color

For some reason, North American was allowed to deliver FJ-2 and -3 Furies with a decidedly nonstandard green cockpit color. This is a picture of the cockpit of an FJ-2 in a museum that appears to be authentic.

Bill Nourse via Jeff Wasal

For background, see

I haven't come across a specific specification for the color but in response to a question, have done some more research into how long North American continued to deliver FJ-2/3s with this cockpit color. Some have speculated that the changeover to a Dark Gull Gray interior occurred when FJ-3s began to be delivered in the gray/white scheme (note that the requirement for a DGG cockpit predated the one for a Light Gull Gray/White exterior by almost a year. However, color photos of FJ-3Ms clearly show that at least before overhaul and for the ejection seat headrest, the green persisted although I don't know for long in production.

Note that the FJ-3M to the left of the one pictured immediately above, same squadron, appears to have a Gull Gray ejection seat headrest.

This could mean that it had been through overhaul or that the seat had been replaced with a spare that was gray.
However, there's no question that FJ-3s at least eventually had DGG headrests although the cushion stayed green on at least some examples.

The other anomaly recently called to my attention was "black" landing gear on some FJ-3s. The usual color was "aluminum" paint with the interior of all the landing gear doors painted red, not just the edges, although there are white examples much later on.

In the following example, it appears that the coating was extended to the inside of the gear doors and the wheel wells but this may not have always been the case. 

I first made note of it in a screen shot of an F9F-5 Panther in the movie Bridges at Toko-ri.

It was a tar-like application similar to automobile undercoating. When "unpainted" F7U-3 Cutlasses experienced unacceptable corrosion susceptibility and were repainted in the grey/white scheme, the protection was extended in some squadrons to spraying a coat of parel-keytone on the landing gear struts, wheels, inside of the landing gear doors, and wheel wells.

It proved to be a terrible idea. It not only hid the development of existing corrosion on the landing gear structure, it precluded the readability of identification on wire and tubes in the wheel well.


Sunday, August 8, 2021

LF Models Piasecki HRP-1

 15 September 2021 update: Paul Boyer built the LF Models HRP-1 as one of the three operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, the original customer for it (the silver cylinders around the landing gear wheels are pop-open floats for emergency landings on the water).

His summary of the build:

Some build difficulties -  Lack of positive parts locators, weak instructions with respect to assembly process, poor fit of interior parts, no flanges on cabin or door windows (replaced with clear packaging tape slightly larger than the window and applied on the outside of the fuselage along with the addition of decals)

Very fragile rotors (THT note: delicate parts at 1/72nd scale)

Good decals

An illustrated history of the Coast Guard's use of the HRP-1 is available HERE

 The Coast Guard decals are in LFM-PE7250; the USMC decals are in LFM-PE7251

Although only 20 HRP-1s were produced by Piasecki, it represents a major milestone in the early history of helicopters and an amazing achievement for a young man and his small band of helicopter enthusiasts, rivaling and paralleling that of James McDonnell's fledgling company successfully creating a twin-engine carrier-based jet fighter, the FD/FH Phantom. In the unlikely event that anyone is interested, I wrote a paper on the Piasecki and the HRP for a Vertical Flight Symposium that is available for the asking.

I never imagined that an injection-molded kit would ever be produced of the Rescuer. As a result, a few years ago I bought Unicraft's resin HRP kit, even though I was aware from experience that it would be a challenging build at best and likely of marginal accuracy. I was therefore not disappointed when I opened the box, which I have done at least once a year without doing more than considering whether it was worth the effort to build it at all, much less correct its shape and size errors.

I was therefore very surprised to learn that LF Models in the Czech Republic was to release one in early 2021 and disappointed that its projected availability came and went with no update. Nevertheless, it came to pass and was well worth the wait. It is not only injection molded with a good representation of detail including the steel-tube framework in the forward fuselage and the internally mounted engine, it includes injection molded (not vacuum formed) clear parts, canopy masks, decals, photo-etched parts, and a printed representation of the instrument panel dials. It exceeded my expectations by much more than the Unicraft kit failed them.

The HRP was a huge helicopter for the time, dramatically so relative to the little two-seat Sikorskys. I regret to report that the kit is slightly huger than 1/72 but only by a 1/4" or 18 actual inches, which is only about 3 percent not to mention a bit difficult to rectify. I'm certainly going to live with it. Note that I have not built it yet so this is a preliminary review after a close look at the contents of the box.

The instruction sheet is pictorial. This early inboard profile (ignore the rotor-hub fairing depiction) may be of help in understanding and orienting the drive system:

The pilot and copilot seats in the forward fuselage were actually offset slightly to the left side for access from the cabin:

 Note that the pilot had an instrument panel with nine instruments on it as provided in the kit but there was also an upper instrument panel visible in the picture above as a narrow black rectangle above eye level.

The copilot only had a four-instrument panel in front of him.

The vents on the bottom of the engine compartment are well represented but not the big air intake (it was an air-cooled engine) on the top of the fuselage:

I'm not sure about the shape of the blade tips: the kit's are squared off but I'm sure that some, if not all, were rounded:

Note that the rotor diameter should be 6 13/16 inches (41 feet) when assembling it and the rotors did not in fact overlap. That was a later refinement of the tandem rotor concept.

Note that statically, the rotor blade themselves are relatively stiff but angle down from the hub attach point.

In the unlikely event that you see a picture of the attachment of the main landing gear to the bottom of the fuselage that is different from the kit's, that was an early configuration:

A couple of challenges for those wanting to add a degree or two of difficulty:

1. Folded (necessary for stowage aboard ship):

2. Lightened for ASW research with a dipping sonar:

Friday, August 6, 2021

Things Under Wings: North American FJ-4 Inflight Refueling System


Angelo Romano Collection

For an introduction to inflight refueling, see and

For tactical delivery of a nuclear bomb, jets were superior to the AD Skyraider in terms of survivability during both ingress and egress, as well as cruise speed but were notably inferior in range.  Inflight refueling was adopted by the Navy to increase the mission radius of its carrier-based jets, first with big AJ Savages providing en route fuel to F2H-2 Banshees and then with the "buddy" concept, in which the jet carrying the bomb was refueled by one carrying a store equipped with the hose and drogue system. The "tanker" would top up the "bomber" and then turn back with enough fuel to return to the carrier while the bomber pressed on to the target. This is an example of the increase in range provided (the A2U was an attack variant of the Vought F7U-3 Cutlass).

During the Malvina/Falkland Islands war in 1982, the British used an extreme example of this concept to deny the use of the runway in the Falkland Islands to Argentine fighters and take out air defense radars there with a Vulcan bomber taking off from and returning to a base on Ascension Island, 3,400 nautical miles away. See

Douglas developed the D-704 refueling tank for this purpose for its A4D Skyhawk. This is a illustration of the very similar store that the Navy subsequently bought from Sargeant-Fletcher:

The Navy, as was its practice at the time, contracted with North American for a modification of its FJ-4 Fury as a backup to the Douglas Skyhawk program. However, since it did not have the ground clearance necessary to carry the Douglas store, North American designed a "symmetrical" two-tank configuration that did, one tank containing the reel, hose, and drogue along with fuel and the other full of fuel. The hose reel was relocated to the midsection of the tank and the drogue streamed out of the bottom of its aft end.

 The bespoke FJ-4 tank didn't have much ground clearance either.

Sam Morgan provided a valuable insight into the configuration of the tanks when he noted that the black stripes used to position the handling cradle were in different locations:

Another view of the tanks:

I created this drawing of the reel tank from illustrations in the maintenance manual for the system provided by Jerry Wells and photos provided by Angelo Romano. The side-view outline is based on a partially dimensioned manual drawing that was clearly approximate in detail; for the rest I relied on photo interpretation. The status light configuration is notional since I don't have a high resolution image of the aft end of the tank; there were three lights, yellow/amber, green, and red. A hose "floodlight" for night refueling is also mentioned in the manual but I have no other information as to its location or configuration.

Note the side-ward bulge in the midsection where the hose reel was located to provide clearance with the bottom of it. There also appear to be two different diameter propeller shrouds: the larger one accommodates the blades of the D-704 pod; my guess is that the smaller propeller proved inadequate for the power required. Or it may have been a desire to standardize the pump.

The left-hand tank was identical in size and also in shape with the exception of the midsection.

The FJ-4B had an unusually large number of different stores pylons (as well as external fuel tanks). The one used for the IFR tanks:

Two triangular flat plates provided lateral stiffness to the pylon (the picture was taken of two pylons upside down on the ground; the small pylon is marked with Xs and the picture has been inverted).

Monday, June 21, 2021

McDonnell F2H Banshee Stores Pylons Location

Oops - I make a mistake in scaling the side view of the AERO 14 pylon, making it too long (the bottom view length is correct). I've revised the drawing accordingly and replaced it. Here is an illustration of the AERO 14 pylon.

Note that the side of the pylon scales to 8 inches in height.

This is a picture of a pylon in Larry's collection that was removed from a P2V.

The front end (left side) is 7.5 inches deep; the aft end is 6.5 inches deep. It was 32.75 inches long.

While working on another F2H project (click HERE for a work in progress), I finally realized that I had never seen a McDonnell document that identified the location of the F2H Banshee stores pylons by fuselage station (fore/aft location) or butt line (distance outboard from fuselage center line). A quick check also revealed that McDonnell F2H front and top view documents that show the pylons are inconsistent with respect to their location (in fairness, exactness in those particular drawings was not a requirement).

Fortunately Larry Webster lives nearby and has a disassembled F2H-3 in his backyard. He and I were able to get good-enough data using a tape measure to locate them within an inch or less. This is the result:

Note that with the exception of the pylons and the outline of the wing (which was taken from pretty good McDonnell lines and station drawings), the location of the rest of the detail is not quite as accurate and I may have included more F2H-3/4 features than just the fairings over the wing-fold hinges.

The odd placement of the stores pylons is the result of the F2H-1 not being required to have them (neither was the F9F-2 Panther). They first appeared on the F2H-2 and the goal was almost certainly to add them with minimal changes to the structure. There are eight, numbered from left to right.

They are all AERO 14As, which were capable of carrying either rockets or 500-lb bombs. However, actual loads varied with the size of the bombs. For example, eight five-inch rockets or eight 100-lb bombs were two options but a total of only two 500-lb bombs could be loaded and only on the two most inboard stations, 4 and 5.

The upper side of the two-inch wide pylons differed slightly in shape to conform to the lower wing surface and were numbered by station as a result.


Note that the two inboard stations, 4/5 and 3/6, are less that 12 inches apart, being squeezed between a large removable panel and the main landing gear. The stations on the outer wing panel, 1/8 and 2/7 are not only well outboard but staggered. Placing them outboard reduced the impact of the added weight on the wing structure. They may have been staggered because of either center of gravity or structural (including aeroelastic) considerations or both.

I previously covered the nuclear store option here: Nuclear Banshees

Another Banshee stores oddity is that the F2H-2B carried a nuke on number 4 station while the F2H-3/4 carried one on the number 3 station.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Sword 1/72 Grumman TBF-1 Avenger and Tarpon Mk 1

 A work in progress:

For a Hyperscale review and pictures of the sprues:

12 September 2021: For more on the difference in the oil cooler installation between the TBF-1 and TBM-3, see

15 August 2021: Added comparison of TBF-1 and TBM-3 power plant installation

 Sword Models has continued to build on their 1/72 TBF/TBM kit range by going back to the first Avengers, the TBF-1 (SW72136) and Tarpon Mk 1 (SW72137).

The Tarpon Mk 1 was essentially identical to the earliest TBF-1 with respect to the engine installation, middle crew compartment, and with one exception, the later aft fuselage windows. The significant TBF-1 differences from the TBM-3 were the engine installation and single forward firing machine gun. These are provided for by a new fuselage sprue.

Note that the TBF's four cowl flap segments have been replaced by four on each side of the TBM-3's cowling and the oil cooler door has been relocated.


In box and build reviews of the earlier TBF/TBM kits are available on line. Suffice it to say, the accuracy, detail, and quality of parts and decals are commendable, more than adequate to the purpose. Nevertheless, a few notes may be of interest.

Grumman was the winner of a 1939 competition for a new torpedo bomber to replace the relatively new TBD Devastator. Contrary to what appears to be a four-man crew in this photo of the prototype, there were only three although there were originally four crew stations.

The pilot sat up front, the "assistant pilot/bomber" sat immediately behind him with a rudimentary set of flight instruments and controls, and the gunner/radioman sat in the turret. However, the Bureau of Aeronautics suggested that it would be desirable for both the assistant pilot and the gunner to have access to the radio, which clearly could not be accommodated, or his parachute for that matter, in the turret along with a .50 caliber machine gun (his parachute was stored on the side of the fuselage above the cabin door; he did wear the harness). Moreover, the "bomber", more usually referred to as a bombardier, would use a Norden bomb sight located behind a window at the aft end of the bomb bay, for level-flight bomb drops.

In the TBD, the assistant pilot/bomber crawled under the pilot to access the bomb sight, which was located forward of the bombs.

The radios were therefore located back in what was called the tunnel underneath the turret along with a seat that could be folded down from the left side of the fuselage. An opening was provided in the right side of the bulkhead at the aft end of the middle crew compartment for the assistant pilot to move down to the tunnel position. It was certainly easier for him to get back there than for the gunner to get down there:

These were the original windows in the aft fuselage (note in the illustration above of the bombardier kneeling at the Norden sight that the window on the left side of the fuselage does not line up with one in the center of the door; they differ longitudinally by about one half  of the frame spacing).

This is the best picture that I could find of the middle seat.

No controls are evident other than foot troughs that would go to the rudder pedals and what appears to be provisions for a control stick. Also noteworthy are the arm rests and the lack of a shoulder harness requirement at that time. To access the passage back to the tunnel, the assistant pilot would climb down to his right.

In any event, the Navy decided to delete the assistant pilot requirement, permanently relocate the bombardier to the tunnel, and assign him the radioman responsibility. This was reportedly effective with the 51st TBF-1 and probably the cause for the redesign of the windows in the aft fuselage to provide more natural light at the tunnel position.

 Part of the reason for the move was probably the need to provide a location for more radio equipment, which more or less filled the center compartment although it was still accessible from the tunnel.

The Royal Navy Tarpons were delivered from Grumman with this later window configuration and probably no seat in the middle compartment but the Brits chose to reinstate the center seat (probably without flight controls) and replace the large window in the aft fuselage with a dome for better visibility downward. The gunner was assigned the radio responsibility as the "Telegraphist Air Gunner".

The Royal Navy practice at the time was to require a navigator for carrier-based aircraft, the thinking being that pilot needed all the help he could get to find the carrier on his way back. U.S. Navy pilots, on the other hand, were expected to do so on their own. Chart boards were provided that slid out from the instrument panel so they could plot their position relative to the movement of the carrier in their absence and be able to find it again without benefit of radio direction finding (this is a TBM-3 illustration).

According to Paul Fontenoy, the Royal Navy crewman aft of the pilot was designated as Observer, which covered. his responsibilities that included navigation, gunnery spotting, reconnaissance work, and level-bombing aiming.

The Sword kits provide both the early and later fuselage windows. The instructions aren't explicit about which should be deleted by being painted over but the marking and color scheme illustrations can be used as a guide for that. The access between the middle crew compartment and the tunnel is not represented but could be by simply modifying parts 14 (the forward and middle cockpit floor) and 7 (the aft bulkhead of the middle cockpit).

Two other small details to consider adding by reference to pictures (note that their presence was short-lived) are the light on the backside of the pilot's headrest (it signaled the other bombers in a formation to drop when the lead bombardier did) and an ADF loop under the aft canopy. Note that the fairing between the canopy and the turret (part C10) was retractable (the turret could be swung around to face up and forward) and probably one of the first bits of the actual airframe to be removed and never replaced.

The retracted fairing and the signal light:

The signal light:

And the ADF loop with the turret fairing slid aft: