The Oldest Meteor

Have I mentioned the Meteor before? I ought to look through the annals of this blog but I don’t honestly think I have. My friend Paul Bird the architect used to talk about form following function when we were students together, and to a certain extent the early jet aircraft were expressions of that philosophy I think. The meteor is another of those Iconic aircraft shapes which I associate with my childhood, or youth, and I do remember being excited when Airfix and Frog released their models of the F.3 and F.4 respectively.

(Above) White-painted Gloster Meteor F.3 EE239 ‘YQ-Q’, of No. 616 Squadron at B58/Melsbroek, Belgium. A flight of Meteors was detached from 616 Squadron to 2nd TAF to provide air defence against the Messerschmitt Me 262, being joined by the whole Squadron in March 1945. During the initial deployment, the Meteors were painted white to aid identification by other Allied aircraft. Royal Air Force- 2nd Tactical Air Force, 1943-1945. http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib//54/media-54754/large.jpg

The reason for this particular ramble is that my sister Hilary referred me to a UK news item about the retirement of an airworthy Meteor night-fighter at Bruntingthorpe over the weekend. I still haven’t worked out which one it is / was although there can’t be too many contenders. I have a feeling it must be NF.11 / TT.20 WM167 but I’ll be happy to be proved wrong.

I am struggling to remember if I’ve ever seen a Meteor flying around. I did take a photo of a very rusty example stored on the outer fringes of Duxford airfield in the early 80s. if my memory serves, this was either F.4 VT229 or F.4 VT260, both of which are preserved in the USA. There was a Javelin next to it, if I recall correctly.

So that got me thinking. Where are the oldest Meteors located? I know I’ve seen the prototype DG202/G at Cosford, and someone on Wikipedia is at great pains to point out it’s the prototype F9/40 and was never actually called a Meteor. OK, fair enough, but after that?

Gloster F9/40 prototype (can you call it a Meteor?) DG202/G on display at the RAF Museum London in November 2011 Photo by Nick-D CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons
  • F9/40 DG202/G, first prototype with the RAF Museum. Picture above
  • Meteor F.4 EE531, noted at the Midland Air Museum located at Coventry Airport near Baginton, Warwickshire. If you’re going to be strict about the F9/40, then this is the oldest complete production Meteor in the UK.
  • Meteor F.4 EE549 at the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum (on the site of the former RAF Tangmere) Chichester, W. Sussex. EE549 was the “Star Meteor” which set the world absolute speed record of 616 mph on 7 September 1946.

Argentina? I know that the Fuerza Aérea Argentina received a number of ex-RAF and newly built Meteors. It turns out several of them are preserved. Here’s a list of the older examples in the order of their former RAF serials, remixed from the Wikipedia page:

  • Meteor F.4 I-027, ex-EE527, Museo Regional Interfuerzas, Santa Romana, San Luis. Four digits senior to EE531 at Bagington, this then is the oldest complete production Meteor extant.
  • Meteor F.4 I-025, ex-EE532, displayed on plinth on the Avenue of the Air Force, outside the Escuela de Aviación Militar, Córdoba.
  • Meteor F.4 I-029, ex-EE537, being restored for the Museo Regional
  • Meteor F.4 I-019, ex-EE553, displayed on plinth at the Northern Roundabout of the Avenue Spinetto Santa Rosa, La Pampa. Painted as I-021, condition poor.
  • Meteor F.4 I-014, ex-EE575, displayed on plinth in Goya, Corrientes.
  • Meteor F.4 I-038, ex-EE587, Junin Aeroclub, Junin, Buenos Aires.
  • Meteor F.4 I-041, ex-EE586, Museo Nacional de Aeronáutica de Argentina, Morón, Buenos Aires.
  • Meteor F.4 I-031, ex-EE588, Liceo Aeronáutico Militar de Funes, Funes, Santa Fe. Ogden locates this aircraft at the Aeroclub Las Parerjas, Las Parjas.
Gloster Meteor F.4 C-041 (ex-RAF EE586) taken at the Museo Nacional de Aeronautica in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2006 Photo by Francisco Infante via Wikimedia Commons
Gloster Meteor F.4 C-025 (ex-RAF EE532). Third oldest extant production Meteor displayed on plinth on the Avenue of the Air Force, outside the Escuela de Aviación Militar, Córdoba in 2012. (Arqueologia Aeronautica)

In the United States there are actually four Meteors as follows:

  • Actually airworthy is Meteor T.7 N13Q, ex-G-BWMF, ex-WA591 at the World Heritage Air Museum in Detroit, MI
  • Wouldn’t you know it. Kermit Weeks has Meteor F.4 N229VT, ex-VT229 under restoration or at least in storage at Fantasy of Flight, Polk City, FL.
  • Meteor F.4 VT260 – (I must dig out my photo) is at Planes of Fame in Chino, California. (Picture below)
  • Meteor NF.11/TT.20 WD592 is at the Air Force Flight Test Center Museum, Edwards Air Force Base, CA.
Gloster Meteor F.4 VT260 on display in the ‘Jet & Air Racers’ hangar at the Planes of Fame Museum, Chino, CA, USA. February 2016. Photo by Alan Wilson from Stilton, Peterborough, Cambs, UK. CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

We then come to the issue of bits of old Meteors. I tracked down a couple in the UK just as I thought I’d finished writing this article.

The Imperial War Museum has what it describes as a cockpit section of F.3 EE416. This aircraft was delivered to Martin-Baker in November 1945, and it was from EE416 that the very first live ejection test in the UK was carried out on 24 July 1946.

The Jet Age Museum in Gloucester has the cockpit and nose undercarriage leg of F.3 EE425 which was presented to the museum by the son of the former Chief test Pilot at Gloster Aircraft. https://jetagemuseum.org/meteor-f3-cockpit-ee425/

How about Australia? I came across a reference to Meteor F.3 EE427 was sent to Australia post war and re-serialled A77-1. Unsurprisingly it made the first flight of a jet aircraft in Australia, but was damaged in a heavy landing in Darwin in early 1947. (Written off 2/14/47 after heavy landing at Darwin, NT. Broken up 5/21/47. Struck off charge 5/11/49). From what I can gather only a few odd bits survive at the Darwin Aviation Museum, previously known as the Australian Aviation Heritage Centre. You can see some photos of the aircraft itself in complete and derelict state (and indeed the piece that’s on display in Darwin) at http://www.adf-serials.com.au/2a77.htm

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Earthrise over Compton crater

I had a yen to go and look at some pictures from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter earlier and I was amazed to see this. The original caption reads: “The Earth straddling the limb of the Moon, as seen from above Compton crater … WAC E1199291151C (Earth only), NAC M1199291564LR (Earth and Moon); sequence start time 12 October 2015 12:18:17.384 UTC [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].”

The image isn’t an artificial construct in the sense that it’s not two disparate images mashed together as you see so often on social media claiming to be some new phenomenon. It’s a composite of a number of images taken with the Narrow Angle Camera and the Wide Angle Camera (NAC and WAC, who knew?) and painstakingly assembled. The color for earth was overlaid based on the data the WAC is capable of seeing. The team at Arizona State University say on their website that a human eye would see more color since the eye is more sensitive to a larger range of visible wavelengths. In their words “the view here combines the 604 nm (orange), 556 nm (yellow-green), and 415 nm (violet) bands displayed in red, green, and blue, respectively.”

It’s still amazing.

For more details on this image (including the chance to download the full 300+Mb TIF) visit http://lroc.sese.asu.edu/posts/895. For more about LROC itself check out the sites at http://lroc.sese.asu.edu/about and https://lunar.gsfc.nasa.gov/

The LRO was launched in June 2009 and actually started delivering images in the Fall of 2009 (on September 15, 2009, which is as auspicious date for the Brits among us). Its primary mission was anticipated to be just one yea, with a science mission of 2 years. It’s had two 2-year mission extensions and is still active nine and a half years since launch.

A lovely little PR touch was added, according to Wikipedia
“Prior to the LRO’s launch, NASA gave members of the public the opportunity to have their names placed in a microchip on the LRO. The deadline for this opportunity was July 31, 2008. About 1.6 million names were submitted.”


Gary’s Pictures

To say my friend Gary Allman is pretty good with a camera is like saying Yehudi Menuhin could play the fiddle a bit.

Standard J-1 at the NMUSAF, October 2018.
Photograph by Gary Allman – breakfastinamerica.me Used with permission

Gary visited the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Envious, moi? But of course. However, I knew he would bring back a number of terrific images and he has not disappointed.

I scooted through the Early Years gallery way too quickly when I was there in 2002, so some of his photos are a revelation especially in the light of recent studies.

The Standard J-1 pictured above was supposed to be a supplement or replacement for the JN-4 “Jenny,’ but the fact that the J-1 was more difficult to fly must have blighted its career as a primary trainer. According to the NMUSAF website this one has a 100hp Curtiss OXX-6 engine. They still made about a thousand of these types although a number were cancelled after the Armistice

Other items from the Early Years gallery are at: https://www.breakfastinamerica.me/2018/early-years-gallery/

In the Cold War gallery I was amused and interested to see the B-57 Canberra lurking behind the F-104 and F-106. I don’t remember seeing it before, but I was in complete sensory overload by the time I got into this area of the museum.

Cold War Gallery at the NMUSAF – October 2018
Photograph by Gary Allman – breakfastinamerica.me Used with permission

I had no idea, but now I know, the F-106 on display (58-0787) is the so-called “Cornfield Bomber” which landed sans pilot in a Montana field in February 1970. The trainee pilot had ejected after the aircraft went into a spin, and for whatever reason the force of his ejection caused the aircraft to right itself and make an uncontrolled soft landing in the field, which advantageously happened to be covered in snow. February in Montana? Yes, I would say snow cover would be quite likely. The aircraft was repaired and returned to service. The museum acquired the aircraft in 1986.

I just noticed by the way that the F-104C (56-914) in Gary’s pictures has roughly the same scheme and appearance as the example used in the Star trek episode “Tomorrow is Yesterday” which was the subject of a recent blog post.

Gary’s other images of the Cold War gallery can be found at https://www.breakfastinamerica.me/2018/cold-war-era-gallery/

I haven’t been to Dayton for more than 15 years and a few things have clearly changed. The new fourth hangar now houses the Presidential and research aircraft collection. This saves a bus ride with an armed guard across Wright-Patterson AFB which was a little edgy back in the day. A few of the odds and ends which I was telling Gary about before his visit seem to have been removed from display. Whether this is long-term or short term given the collection shuffling that occurred when Memphis Belle was installed is another question. I certainly enjoyed finding, and gibbering at, the tail of B-17G 42-97683 and the engine and other artifacts recovered from B-24D 41-24301 Lady Be Good when I was there. The Museum certainly looks much more spacious although Gary said that a number of artifacts were pretty crammed in there.

A certain B-17F 41-24485 Memphis Belle at the NMUSAF, October 2018
Photograph by Gary Allman – breakfastinamerica.me Used with permission

I think I came to my own conclusion about why the powers that be have Memphis Belle up on jacks in the flying position. I wonder if it’s because they don’t want a whole load of greasy fingerprints on their new restoration and so have out it mostly out of reach? I know that was something of an issue with the nose of the NASM’s B-26 Flak Bait, to the extent that there was some debate as to whether the bare spot which had been worn in the paintwork should be left alone in some future restoration, but at least I have an answer to satisfy myself. I will go and have a look to see if there is any news on the B-17G 42-32076 Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby which was displaced to make way for Memphis Belle

It was a very enjoyable experience looking at those photos. Sometime I hope to go back there again myself.

Gary’s other galleries from this visit are at:

Tomorrow is Yesterday

It seems appropriate to use a title from Star Trek for my first post of the new year. Happy New Year to the readership, by the way. It’s good to have so many of you along.

It’s no secret that my experience in the class at PSU in which I sat last semester rekindled my desire to build a few models. I honestly promise I’m not going to turn this blog into Adventures in Plastic, although the last three posts have had a distinctly modelling feel.

Today I was getting my PowerPoints and other online materials ready for the new semester which starts on January 14th. It was much less painful than I was expecting (I admit I haven’t tried to merge my PowerPoints with any for the revised textbook yet) so I thought I’d do a little bit of online window shopping.

I think I said before there are a few aircraft shapes which I find entrancing, including the Spitfire, BAC (English Electric) Lightning, TSR.2, and T-38. I may have also mentioned that the F-104 does something for me too, and I haven’t had a model of a Starfighter since I was quite young. So while idly perusing the pages of the web I found it strangely pleasing to see that, a couple of years ago, some enterprising (groan!) executive had paired an F-104 with the Enterprise itself to recreate the episode “Tomorrow is Yesterday. ” If you look it up you will see it’s the nineteenth episode of the first season of Star Trek. I was pleased to see it was written by the wonderful Dorothy (D. C.) Fontana, and was first broadcast in January 1967.

I won’t go into the plot details here since you can pretty much deduce them from the kit box. I remember watching the episode several times over the years. The fact that we’re approaching the 52nd anniversary of its broadcast is something to note.

Meanwhile I’m going back to those other pages and see if there is a decent F-104 to be picked up at a reasonable price.

Kangnam Style

I know I’m not the first to make this joke and I won’t be the last. It is not my intention to turn this into a blog about aircraft modelling, but I wanted to record an update on my F/A-18 model situation. I thought about it long and hard. I considered. I dithered. In the end I took the cheap plunge and bought the Kangnam F/A-18 kit from Sprue Brothers Models via Amazon.

On the cutting mat: the bits of the Kangnam F/A-18 I actually wanted to complete my 15-year old Testors model (on the right). In the box: the bits I don’t want.

To correct any impressions which have been circulating – the kit isn’t Chinese. It comes from South Korea – hence the very awful joke in the title of this article. It has acquired something a reputation on the web for being a terrible kit. There are no serious reviews, in fact just one that I found saying it’s the worst kit the reviewer has ever seen and stay away. I dunno, I made some fairly awful ones when I was growing up. There was a 1:48 scale Spitfire which had a total of about a dozen parts. In the late 80s I made a Japanese 1:48 scale P-51 that I ended up throwing away (after I’d finished painting it!) because the forward fuselage where it met the canopy looked too stunted, and the canopy itself looked way too big. This at least looks something like an F-18 and has more detail than my infamous 1960s Spitfire.

Sadly, the instructions and painting guides are pretty confusing, especially as one painting option is for a two-seat TF-18 (as it was then) which this thing very definitely isn’t. The decals supplied are pretty cringe-worthy and are going in the spares box once I’ve taken a closer look at the warning tabs and triangles.

All this having been said. If you’re a parent, shopping for a young modeler, and don’t want to flash out the huge sums of money that go with the mainstream F/A-18 kits ($75 easily), then this might be the way to go. Compared with some of the tat I put together in my younger years it has a little bit going for it.

In my case – with a half-finished F/A-18 sitting on the shelf – I would have easily spent over $50 on an aftermarket ejection seat, underwing pylons, weapons, and wheel well interiors (and I only wanted the undercarriage doors). An aftermarket resin seat alone is $7.99 As it is, I ended up spending about $10 on the Kangnam model and got all the bits I was looking for. The single reviewer had doubts about dimensional accuracy – says the external fuel tanks are too small – but I have nothing against which to compare. If you are reading this article and you have a mainstream manufacturer 1:48 Legacy F/A-18 (not the Super Hornet) in your collection, do me a favor. Measure the length of your external fuel tanks and let me know. 🙂 I am still very interested in modeling a Desert Storm F/A-18C in either USMC or USN livery depending on the availability of aftermarket decals. Some seem to have gone out of print in recent years.

A couple of things have arisen from this foray into modern modelling whihc I might blog about. One is the NACES ejection seat. Naval Aircrew Common Ejection Seat (?) I forget. But it’s an interesting attempt at standardization by the United States Navy getting one type of ejection seat in a number of aircraft. I will read about it.

The other topic is the story of the Hornet and Super Hornet. I kept reading about “Legacy” Hornets and then discovered that the E and F models of the F/A-18 are about 25% bigger than the A, C, and D models. There must be quite the story in there.

Meanwhile I’ve been deploying some of my newly purchased Milliput (thought I’d never see it again when I came here) on the Kangnam ejection seat to give it a more hefty look like the NACES version.

A Round Tuit

It’s big, it’s heavy and it’s been this way for maybe 15 years. Testors F/A-18 Hornet. 

Well, it’s been a fun semester. So much fun that I didn’t write half the things I intended, well, not in here anyway.  The World History:  Military Aviation course at PSU was a lot of fun.  I gave my presentation on the TSR-2 on the very last day of dead week.  We had presentations on the B-24,  C-130, F4U Corsair and the Sopwith Camel from the other students. John Daley told us about the A6M2 Zero as well. We had a good time talking about the late James Stokesbury’s  book A Short History of Air Power and we had some frank discussions about errors, omissions and possible sub-editing.

As you may have gathered, inspired by all of this I did make a couple of models while I was on the course.   Not only the TSR-2 and B-24 but also an F-111, all in 1:144 scale.  The F-111 fitted with my narrative on the TSR-2 story quite well. One day I want to do a little more research on the fascinating political history of the TFX / F-111 and the number of times the Convair / General Dynamics plant in Fort Worth has been at the center of  some degree of controversy.

Emboldened by all this, I went to visit a site in the house which has been more or less undisturbed for quite a while.  This is the place where I put down the Testors F/A-18 Hornet in about 2003, thinking “I’ll get around to finishing it some day.”

I bought it in the Joplin branch of Hobby Lobby ages ago. It was on sale for a ridiculously small amount of money.  It’s big and it’s heavy, being mostly made of die-cast metal.  You can see from the kitchen scale picture it weighs two pounds and three quarters of an ounce (928.44714 grams) in its current state. I started putting it together and as you can see filled in some of the more egregious gaps in the nose.  And that was where it stopped. “Oh, I’ll get around to it.”  The human condition in a nutshell.

I have the box in which it came.  It’s empty. I use it to hold a few assembled models.  I do not seem to have any of the remaining bits. No ejector seat, no undercarriage doors, no underwing pylons, no arrestor hook, no fuel tanks or weapons (if there were any).  I think those pieces are in the house somewhere but I have no idea where.

The trouble is, I’d like to finish this thing.  I’d hate to discard it.  I have been looking for any kind of box, container, envelope that might contain these items but to no avail. 

My next thought was aftermarket accessories. I can certainly get a fairly nice ejector seat,  but undercarriage doors and pylons?   Someone was selling pylons a few years ago but not any more.  I could get a new wheel well detail set including the undercarriage doors but the surgery involved on this lump of metal is just too much.

I noticed on the Web that there is a much derided 1:48 Hornet kit by a Chinese (?) company called Kangnam, and the sub $15 price tag online makes me think seriously this might be a cheap way to get some or all of  the bits I want.  I can see a few risks in kit bashing at this level but the price tag of the whole kit taken against the total cost of aftermarket parts makes me think it just might be worth it.  I’d much rather adapt a few parts than try to make my own from scratch.   I can worry about aftermarket decals later. I was thinking of a USMC Desert Storm scheme simply to emphasize the mass of the thing but that’s for another time

If any of the readership out there has any thoughts on this I’d be very happy to hear from you.   If you happen to have a surplus 1:48 Hornet that we could haggle over, so much the better!

Unfinished Business

Happy Thanksgiving to any and all readers inside or outside the USA. I’m thankful for the opportunity to hold forth like this from time to time,  and thank you for listening.

One thing that sitting in on John Daley’s course on military aviation history has done is revive my interest in model aircraft.  You’d never have guessed.  I’ve been doing it since I was a boy, with occasional gaps for College, differing employment, emigration, all the run of the mill reasons.

John wants his students to make a model as part of the course, and give a presentation about the aircraft’s significance. I wanted to make a new model but I didn’t particularly want to do anything that would take up a lot of space.   As a result I’m planning on using a 1/144 scale model of a BAC TSR.2 because I know very well no-one in the class will have heard of it, and it gives me a chance to wax as lyrical as any aviation enthusiast of British origin normally does about the TSR.2, usually after a couple of pints,  but I’ll settle for my classroom mug of coffee. 

Incidentally, if you ever fancy trying it, the Chinese “Great Wall” model of the TSR.2 in 1:144 scale is a little marvel.  Someone on Amazon slagged it off as an “itty bitty toy”  which I feel is pretty unfair. It is seriously lovely, delicate and captures the appearance and feeling of the real aircraft, which is no small achievement (pun!) given its size.  It’s eight inches long from stem to stern.  I wanted to make another model for scale size comparison. The B-24 is useful for that purpose.

Show and Tell. My 1:144 Scale TSR-2 masked up awaiting some paint, and my nearly complete 1:144 scale B-24 Liberator for scale reference. If you’d said to me a while back that the TSR.2 was longer than a Liberator I’d never have believed you. 

I fancied hauling out one or two of my older 1:48 models with a view to seeing them to a state of completion and perhaps showing them too.

I knew a few years back that my Focke-Wulf 190D-9 was in trouble. The JV44 markings and paint scheme so beautifully supplied by Dragon back in the 1990s for one of the aircraft of the Platzschutzschwarm  (airfield protection flight) turned out to be inaccurate, to say the least.  Just plain wrong.   I have amassed enough photographic and published reference in the 20 odd years since the kit came out to know where they erred, and what to do about it.

FW 190D-9,  1/48 Scale.
Dragon FW 190D-9, 1:48 Scale. Shame about those JV44 markings but we’ll be looking at some rectification work in times to come. Hint of red on the undercarriage door.  🙂

Never mind.  I have a nice old Fujimi model of a Bf109 which I wanted to make as a late G model. It had a lovely Reichsverteidigung (Defence of the Reich) scheme for “Yellow 9,” an aircraft of 9/JG54 in March 1945, so it said.   Those coloured bands have fascinated me since I was a teenager.

The 1987 Fujimi Bf109 Paint guide.
The 1987 Fujimi Bf109G-K  Paint guide.    Perhaps I should have had a bad feeling.  Excuse the color accuracy of my scan. 

So I went ahead and used that.  I recently applied some matt varnish to the glossy blue band which troubled me for many a year.  I was liking the way it looked.

My 1:48 Fujimi Bf109G-14 model
My 1:48 Scale Fujimi Bf109G-14 model, not exactly complete. I love the way it looks, but now even this has issues with its historical veracity. 
Incidentally that’s not a tropical filter, just a trick of the light in the picture. 

So I wondered, what can I do to finish this thing off?   I thought I’d look up some pictorial reference  for the aircraft. Here came that sinking feeling.  There isn’t any pictorial reference.  I can’t find a pic of any Bf109G-14s serving with 9/JG54, much less this one.  Darn.   The publication date on the painting instructions is 1987.  Shoot. I was really starting to like this.

If anyone out there has any helpful reference suggestions I’d be interested to hear them.   I have seen a similar looking Bf109 G-6/R-6 with additional cannon “gondolas” under the wings, the older style fin and rudder, and RLM 74/75/76 camouflage.  As you may see if you’re that kind of geek, mine has what I think is,  or intended to be RLM 81/82/76.  I’ve lost any underwing armaments  that may have come with the model although that’s not a serious problem. There are quite a lot of aftermarket parts around.   I certainly don’t want to repaint the while thing. I probably do need to wield my trusty 35-year old Paasche VL airbrush on the Fw190,  since JV 44 seemed to spray a lot of green around on their Me262s as well as the four Focke Wulfs. That red underside is not going anywhere, I’ve become much too attached to it.

The things people do when they’re having fun.  🙂