Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando Color Photographs Part IV

All photographs from the NASM Hans Groenhoff collection.

C46A_01
A fine photograph of a C-46A in natural metal, with OD / NG camouflaged aircraft in the background. The national insignia became standardized with the insignia blue border in August 1943, the transition from OD / NG to natural metal occurring late in the same year.

C46A_05
A C-46A in flight wearing the red bordered national insignia which was authorized briefly during the summer of 1943.

C46A_11
A beautiful “glamor shot” of a NMF finish C-46A leading another in camo.

C46A_16
A standard International farm tractor in service as an aircraft tug, perhaps he should secure the boarding ladder before attempting to move the aircraft?

C46D_02
A line-up of C46D’s and P-40N’s outside of the Curtiss factory for a presentation ceremony to highlight production for the Press. This appears to coincide with the transition from Olive Drab to natural metal finish as evidenced by the P-40’s.

C46D_06
An interesting perspective of a C-46D. Wheel hubs were left in natural metal, even on camouflaged aircraft.

C46E_01
A line-up of C-46E’s. Note the barred national insignia is carried on the underside of the starboard wing, a quick way of determining if the image has been reversed. Also, the insignia is painted perpendicular to the fuselage, not parallel to the leading edge of the wing.

C46E_02
The C-46E differed from other Commandoes by having “stepped” cockpit glazing which makes them resemble the Douglas C-47 Dakota. Other differences are the three-bladed props and fuller wingtip contours.

C46E_04
A fine study of a C-46E from the nose. The “double bubble” fuselage shape was a Curtiss innovation and is still in use on airliner designs today.

C46E_06
Seventeen C-46E’s were produced, but they never left the continental United States and were declared surplus at the end of the war. All were purchased by Slick Airways which provided cargo services for the oil industry. Slick purchased the brand-new aircraft for the princely sum of $14,530 apiece.

Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando Color Photographs Part III – Exterior Details

All photographs from the NASM Hans Groenhoff collection.

21C46_Fam_01
Technicians make adjustments to the Pratt & Whitney R-2800-51 radial engine on this C-46A. The inside of the nacelle is in natural metal with stenciling visible.

 

22C46_Fam_03
Another view inside the engine panels, this time on the port engine. The panels locked up out of the way allowing for easy access.

 

23C46_Fam_04
A view from under the nacelle showing the arrangement of cooling slots and cowl flaps. Curtiss engineers located the cowl flaps on the underside of the nacelle so as to not disturb the airflow over the wing and thus reduce lift.

 

24C46_Fam_05
Hydraulic fluid leaking through the fuselage panel seams can be seen in many photos showing the underside of the nose. The streamlined teardrop fairing housed the direction-finding antenna and was commonly called the “football”.

 

25C46A_02
Another staged photograph of troops and Jeeps being loaded into a C-46. This angle gives a good view of the Curtiss Electric four-bladed propellers.

 

26C46A_07
This photograph would be interesting enough just for showing details of the cargo door interior, but what is particularly fascinating is what is being loaded – the nose section of a Sikorsky R-4 helicopter. The R-4 was the world’s first helicopter to enter large-scale production.

 

27C46A_08
This view gives a good impression of the size of the C-46’s vertical stabilizer.

 

28C46A_20
Nice details of engine maintenance, including the configuration of the work stand.

 

29C46A_13
A Curtiss technician on top of the starboard nacelle showing details of the exhaust and cooling arrangement. Exhaust staining and oil spills are weathering opportunities for skilled modelers.

 

30C46E_07
A C-46E showing the Troop Carrier Command logo on the nose. Note the stepped “airliner” windscreen and three-bladed prop of the “E” model.

Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando Color Photographs Part II – Factory and Interior Photos

All photographs from the NASM Hans Groenhoff collection.

11C46_Prod_01
Curtiss factory technicians posed “at work” for the photographer, giving a good view of the interior structure of the wing. Hundreds of thousands of women worked in the factories during the war, then went home to farm their own food in “Victory Gardens” in their backyards after their shifts.

12C46_Prod_02
A technician works inside the nose of a C-46 while others make adjustments to the port engine. Even at this early stage there is evidence of hydraulic fluid leaking through the fuselage seams under the nose of the aircraft, something commonly seen on Commandos.

13C46_Prod_03
A fuselage taking shape on the factory floor. Modelers should note the different hues of the natural aluminum finish. The forward access door to the lower cargo bay has not been fitted, giving a glimpse into the interior.

14C46_Prod_04
The port wing assembly is fully painted and marked prior to attachment to the aircraft. This wing is from the first group of C-46’s ordered as evidenced by the red center to the national insignia. The primer on the leading edge of the wing will be covered by a de-icer boot on the finished aircraft.

15C46_Prod_06
A fine overhead view of the forward fuselage at the Curtiss Buffalo NY plant showing the arrangement of antennas and the navigator’s astrodome.

16C46_Prod_07
The spacious cargo compartment of the Commando, looking forward towards the cockpit. Tie-down points are visible on the floor, passenger seats are seen folded along the fuselage sides.

17C46E_Prod_10
A rare contemporary color photograph of the cockpit of a C-46E.

18C46E_Prod_08
Even more rare is this view of the switch panel located on the roof of the cockpit. Note the color coding of the switch groups.

19C46_ProdCere_04
A nice perspective of the production floor which gives an overview of the assembly line. There was constant pressure to shorten production times and improve efficiency for all manner of war materials, often the introduction of design improvements would be postponed to prevent any potential delays in production.

20C46_ProdCere_01
A presentation ceremony outside of the Curtiss plant for three C-46A’s and several P-40 Warhawks. The OD / NG camouflaged aircraft all wear inscriptions saying “City of ___” on their noses, the P-40’s in desert colors lack national insignia and serial numbers.

Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando Color Photographs Part I

All photographs from the NASM Hans Groenhoff collection unless otherwise noted.

01C46A_01_RA
The first of many! This is the first production C-46A, serial 41-5159. It left Curtiss-Wright’s Buffalo plant on 11APR42 and was accepted by the USAAF two months later. Too late for the colorful “yellow wings” era, the Commandoes left the factory in the standard Olive Drab over Neutral Gray camouflage until late in 1943 when they were delivered in Natural Metal. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)

02C46A_03_RA
The first Commando flying alongside another Curtiss product, the P-40E Warhawk. Notice the differences in the national insignia between the two aircraft. The C-46 still retains the red center to the insignia which was ordered to be removed from USAAF aircraft on 15MAY42. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)

03C46_Fam_06
The seventh production C-46A demonstrates its utility as a troop transport for the photographer. The Commando could carry up to forty fully-equipped infantrymen, seen here exiting the aircraft via the vehicle ramps.

04C46_Fam_07
41-5166 again, demonstrating the cargo capacity. The spacious fuselage allowed a wide variety of bulk loads to be carried, with room for more in a separate compartment in the lower fuselage. Here a Jeep is being unloaded using the cargo ramps; up to three Jeeps could be carried at a time.

05C46A_04
A rather worn Commando in colorful markings, the distressed paint job would make an interesting challenge for a modeler.

06C46A_06
A C-46A displaying the red-outlined national insignia authorized for a short time during the summer of 1943. On many USAAF types subassemblies were provided to the primary contractor already painted in whatever shade of Olive Drab the subcontractor deemed appropriate, resulting in tonal differences in aircraft components.

07C46A_09
By late 1943 the USAAF had begun to establish air superiority and ordered that aircraft be delivered in their Natural Metal finish. This sped production, lowered costs, and saved weight on the finished aircraft.

08C46D_08
The C-46D featured doors on each side of the fuselage which allowed for the rapid deployment of up to fifty paratroopers per aircraft. A fine photograph showing paratroopers posed in the open doorways.

09C46E_03
Seventeen of the “E” model Commando were completed, but none were finished in time to be deployed. The C-46E featured a stepped “airliner” windscreen which makes them appear similar to the rival Douglas C-47 Dakoda at first glance.

10C46F_Chinese_01
Factory-fresh C-46F’s outside of the Curtiss plant at Buffalo, NY in Chinese markings. 44-78627 never made it to service, being lost on her delivery flight to Chinese forces.

Boeing Stearman N2S PT-17 Primary Trainer Color Photographs

Stearman_01_N2S-2
Commonly called the Stearman, this aircraft was known by several names and designations depending on the contract, country, and engine type fitted. It was one of the major primary trainer types used by the United States and its Allies before and during the Second World War.

Stearman_02_Group_RA
This beautiful 1942 photograph from the NASM Rudy Arnold collection illustrates some of the major designations. Furthest from the camera is a Royal Canadian Air Force PT-27, the Canadians called them Kaydets. Next is a USAAC PT-17, which is almost touching wingtips with a Navy N2S-3. Nearest is a PT-17 in Chinese Air Force markings.

Stearman_03_NAS, Corpus Christi, Texas
The American pilot training program was a massive undertaking and utilized almost 10,000 Stearmans along with several other types. Here a group of Navy instructors and trainees walks along the apron at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas.

Stearman_04_N2S Yellow Perils, 1942-43
Pilots of the Morning Wing get their flying assignments by class. The leather flight jackets were a status symbol. Undoubtedly hot in the Texas sun, they would be needed in the Stearman’s open cockpits.

Stearman_05_Rodd Field, Corpus Christi, Texas
Sailors wait atop the upper wings to fuel the aircraft in turn. The Stearman was a rugged design, fully aerobatic and simple to produce and maintain.

Stearman_06_N2S and N3N NAS Corpus Christi
One of the more derisive nicknames for the aircraft was the “Yellow Peril”. This swarm of N2S and similar N3N trainers taxiing for take-off at NAS Corpus Christi would certainly represent a significant hazard to air navigation once aloft!

Stearman_07_HG
This early 1943 photo shows USAAF PT-17s in overall aluminum dope. U.S. aircraft had previously carried the national insignia in six positions, but the insignia under the port and over the starboard upper wing were removed at the start of 1943. The removal job was perhaps a little overzealous on the higher aircraft, the “ARMY” lettering has also been painted over leaving only the “U.S.”. (NASM Hans Groenhoff collection)

Stearman_08_HG
A clear view of the undersides as this Army Stearman banks away. The single-strut landing gear is shown to good advantage. (NASM Hans Groenhoff collection)

Stearman_09_HG
The Stearman found its way into the civilian market, and they were sold off by the hundreds as surplus after the war. Their robust construction and simplicity make them very popular, often with the same pilots who had earlier learned to fly at their controls. Here a Stearman is being used for crop dusting, the forward pilot position having been converted into a hopper for the payload. (NASM Hans Groenhoff collection)

Stearman_10_HG
An atmospheric scene and an excellent diorama subject. Several Stearmans are still flying today, with many more preserved in museums. (NASM Hans Groenhoff collection)

Curtiss SB2C Helldiver Color Photographs Part II

SB2C_01
A factory-fresh Helldiver in the “three-tone” standard camouflage which actually consisted of up to five tones. In this photograph the subtle difference between the Non Specular Sea Blue on the wing leading edge and the Semi-Gloss Sea Blue on the wing upper surface is visible if you look closely.

SB2C_02
The Helldiver was not popular. The Navy demanded 880 changes from Curtiss before the design was accepted; crews labeled it the “Beast” due to persistent controllability problems and maintenance issues. Initial carrier qualifications aboard the USS Yorktown (CV-10) were a disaster – she deployed with the SBD Dauntless instead and her Captain stated that the best use for the Helldiver was as an anchor.

SB2C_03
The Helldiver crew consisted of a pilot who was an Officer and an enlisted gunner / radioman. This photograph shows their standard USN flight gear. The Navy’s leading ace CDR David McCampbell stated that he felt sorry for the crews assigned to fly the Helldiver.

SB2C_04_Matanikau_MAR45
An SB2C-4 aboard the Casablanca-class Escort Carrier USS Matanikau (CVE-101) in March 1945. The Matanikau was used to train naval aviators, hence the large Orange Yellow “buzz numbers” under the aircraft’s port wing. Helldivers were only used from the large fleet carriers in combat, being tricky to handle at low speeds.

SB2C_05
A beautiful LIFE Magazine photograph of a Helldiver in flight. The numbers on the nose were to aid in delivering the aircraft to the forward areas, these were usually (but not always) removed when the aircraft was assigned to a squadron.

SB2C_06
Seen from an unusual angle, the style and position of the national insignia date this photograph to the first half of 1943. Note the Intermediate Blue which wraps around the front of the cowling, a detail which is sometimes overlooked. (World War Photos)

SB2C_07
The leading edge of each wing was equipped with a slat to improve lift at low speeds. These were interlocked with the landing gear so that whenever the landing gear was lowered the slats were deployed.

SB2C_08
Another LIFE Magazine photograph showing a white AN/APS-4 radar pod under the starboard wing. This is an SB2C-5, the last production model. An Essex-class carrier is underway in the background, her camouflage indicating a post-war photograph.

SB2C_09_Hancock_NOV45
An SB2C-3 over a battle group, escorted by a Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat. The horseshoe marking identifies this Helldiver as being assigned to VB-7 operating from the USS Hancock (CV-17).

SB2C_10_Luzon_1945
An Army A-25A Shrike is seen at Luzon in the Philippines with a B-25 Mitchell in the background. The Shrike did not see combat with the USAAF but was used in secondary roles.

North American P-51D Mustang Comparison Build, Hasegawa, Airfix and Tamiya Kits in 1/72 Scale Part III

P51Comp_015
The models were painted with Alclad lacquers and Testor’s Model Master enamels.  All the models came with recessed panel lines on the wings.   Most of these were filled with putty on operational aircraft, so I filled the appropriate lines on all the models.  The natural metal areas were painted Alclad Dark Aluminum, the painted wing color is Alclad Aluminum with a few drops of Alclad light gray primer added to dull it down a little.

SUMMARY

I’ll give you what I consider the pros and cons of each kit, and what I did to get them to the configuration I desired.  The one big caveat is this – what I feel compelled to change other modelers might not give a hoot about or even notice – and visa-versa.  Build the model you want how you want and have fun.

 

HASEGAWA

First is the Hasagawa kit with decals from AeroMaster sheet 72-175.  This is the oldest kit of the three, and needed the most work.  The cockpit and wheelwells were replaced with Aeries resin and the flaps dropped.  The contour of the upper cowling was given a more rounded profile with a file.  The upper wing joint needs filed back a bit at the wing root joint to get some dihedral on the wings.  The ventral antenna should be moved back about 3-4 mm.  I cut the flaps off and replaced them with the spares from the Airfix kit so they could be shown dropped.  The kit decals had creamy whites and orange reds.  I used the instrument panel decal, but it split into four pieces so the rest of the kit decals went into the trash.

On the plus side, this kit has nice surface detail.  There are many additional parts included to allow the modeler to make several modifications and alternate configurations.  Good to have the options.  In addition to the two types of drop tanks, the kit includes both the Hamilton Standard cuffed propeller and the Aeroproducts propeller usually seen on the P-51K.  Oddly, both the Airfix and Tamiya kits provide additional clear parts for the blown sliding canopy “Dallas” hood but Hasegawa does not.  Hasegawa does include both shrouded and unshrouded exhausts and the dorsal DF fitting seen on some Mustangs.  Duplicate parts are also included for the ventral inlet scoops and radiator door, but the differences were not obvious to me.

P51Comp_016
“Little Freddie”, piloted by Lt. Freddie Hutchins, 302 FS, 332 FG.  Hasegawa kit, AeroMaster decals.
P51Comp_016b
The underside of “Little Freddie”.

AIRFIX

This is the new Airfix kit, with markings from Eagle Strike sheet IP7208.  This kit does a lot of things right, the most obvious being the ability to drop the flaps without the use of a razer saw.  Two sets of flaps are provided, tabbed to pose them up or down as the builder prefers.  The second big thing done right is the wheelwells, which go all the way back to the main wing spar, just like the real thing.  The wells benefit from a little clean-up to remove the inner lip and thin the lower wing edge.  They will still be just a little shallow, but only a little.  If you want to paint the wells in natural metal with only the spar in Zinc Chromate like the early “D”, this kit provides your best opportunity.  Fit was good overall, with the exception of the clear parts.

Which brings us to the liabilities.  The problem which gets the most attention on the Web is the panel lines.  Yes, they are wider and deeper than those of other kits.  I have reduced them here with coats of Mr. Surfacer.  It helped quite a bit, at the expense of some extra time and sandpaper.  The smaller parts also present some problems, due mainly to the soft plastic and large sprue gates.  Some parts were molded badly on my example.  The drop tanks have several errors, and are best left off or replaced.  There are some minor fit issues with the forward windscreen.  This is the first time I have built a kit with the clear canopy molded separately from the lower frame.  I gave it a shot, but I have to say I prefer a one-piece canopy and will replace it with a vacuform piece in the near future.

P51Comp_017
“Cripes A’ Mighty”, piloted by Major George Preddy,328 FS,  Bodney, Norfolk, Dec. 1944.  Airfix kit, Eagle Strike decals.

TAMIYA

Last of the three is the Tamiya kit.  Markings are from Super Scale sheet 72-697, which performed flawlessly despite languishing in the stash for years.  The panel lines here are recessed and nicely engraved, the molding is sharp.  If you want dropped flaps with this kit they must be cut loose, but they are molded as one piece with the upper wing panels and can be filled out with a few lengths of half round.  The wheelwells are deep and have some really nice detail, but only go back to the well opening, not to the spar.  In the end I replaced them, but I’m sure many modelers won’t see that as being worth the extra effort.

The Tamiya kit surprised me with a couple of fit issues.  The fit of the main wing can be fixed with some careful trimming at the center of the rear edge, above the radiator scoop where it will be hidden.  Of more concern is the fit of the forward windscreen – it’s about a millimeter wider than the fuselage.  On any future builds I will try shimming the upper cowl out enough to improve the fit.  The main canopy is in two pieces, and I think a vacuform piece would improve the appearance here as well.

P51Comp_018
“Honey Bee” Piloted by Capt. Barrie S. Davis, 317 FS, 325 FG.  Tamiya kit, Super Scale decals.

 

P51Comp_019
“Daddy’s Girl” piloted by Major Ray Wetmore, 370 FS, 359 FG, East Wretham, Norfolk.  Tamiya kit, Fündeckals decals.

 

 

Curtiss SB2C Helldiver Color Photographs Part I

All photographs from the NASM Hans Groenhoff Collection

SB2C_01_HG
The XSB2C-1 prototype first flew on 18DEC40, here we see the aircraft in its original configuration over a snowy landscape, resplendent in the Yellow Wings scheme. Notice the shape of the tail and the width of the panel between the cowling flaps and firewall.
SB2C_02_HG
Here is the XSB2C-1 prototype BuNo 1758 again, as re-built after August 1941. Here we see the engine has been moved forward 12 inches (30 cm) and the area of the vertical stabilizer has been increased. More photos of the prototype in this configuration are posted here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2020/09/30/curtiss-xsb2c-1-helldiver-prototype-color-photographs/
SB2C_03_HG
A fine study of an SB2C-4 from the nose. There is a Yagi radar aerial under each wing and the leading edge slats are extended. The Zinc Chromate Green primer on the landing gear and covers shows clearly. The yellow warning tips on the propeller blades have an unusual stripe.
SB2C_04_HG
The same aircraft from a different angle. The interior of the wing fold is also in Zinc Chromate Green primer, unlike the wing folds of the Avenger which were painted in the upper surface camouflage color. Recognition lights are carried under the end of the starboard wing.
SB2C_05_HG
A posed photograph of the wing 20 mm cannon being “loaded” on an SB2C-4. The aircraft carries a large identification number 254 for its delivery flight on the nose. In the background we can see that aircraft carries the number 2625 in an unusual script on her tail. Also notice the wing fold color on the background aircraft is red.
SB2C_05b_HG
Another view of 254 from the same series, this time with the wings folded. Note the interior of the wing fold on this aircraft is painted in the Zinc Chromate Green primer.
SB2C_06_HG
Another SB2C-4 but this time in an overall Orange Yellow scheme.
SB2C_07_HG
The USAAF also operated the Helldiver as the A-25A Shrike. Note the repetition of the serial number under the wing of “Torchy Tess”.
SB2C_08_HG
An in-flight shot of 41-18774 in her standard Olive Drab over Neutral Gray camouflage with Medium Green splotches.
SB2C_09_HG
Nose and landing gear details of an A-25A Shrike. 900 Shrikes were produced, cut down from an initial order of 3,000 as the USAAF learned that fighter-bombers were more effective and versatile than dedicated dive bomber designs.
SB2C_10_HG
Forward fuselage details showing the red stenciling and canopy details. No USAAF Shrikes saw combat, many were passed on to the USMC which used them mainly in training and auxiliary roles.
SB2C_11_HG
The Royal Australian Air Force ordered 140 Shrikes but cancelled the order after receiving the first 10. While the color of this negative has shifted it does show the RAAF markings to good advantage.
SB2C_12_HG
The Curtiss production line showing the different primer shades used on the various components. National insignia have already been applied even though the final camouflage colors have not. A-25A serial number 41-18774 can be seen in the background.