Sunday, May 24, 2009

Profile 32: SNEEZY as flown by Donald "Mac" McKibben

"Olive Drab" is the official name but in reality, the color runs everywhere from forest green to sludge brown. Sun, rain, oil, sand all played a role in altering the hue after the plane left the factory. We'll never know exactly of the true shade of SNEEZY's Olive Drab. Instead, a handful of people make their educated decrees - "a little browner..." or "...kinda more darkish sorta."

To someone watching the process, I bet we appear nuts.

Yet, SNEEZY, a Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, blew a fast one at me when her pilot revealed the airplane was polished with car wax. And, not some government issue car-wax, but the best stuff girlfriend* Nita could find back in Long Island. Mac recalls that she "...virtually corner(ed) the market for Simoniz (and shipped) it off to me in Bodney (England)." No kidding about cornering the market - there's at least four Buicks in a single P-47; can you imagine the number of cans it took to complete the job?!

And I wonder, "How on earth do I get a car-polish sheen on this thing?!" Well, you be the judge. Mac maintains the polish didn't so much change the color as it did merely add sheen. However, the main reason for the polish wasn't about the shine, but the speed.

Drag is "cubed" as velocity increases. In other words, the faster something goes, the resistance from drag grows stronger and stronger. The result of eliminating dust, dirt and scratches through a thorough polishing has been estimated to have provided as much as a 10 knot increase in airspeed! Those extra mph's could mean life and death, adding an extra second to close in on a surprise bounce or another inch distance away from an otherwise mortal bullet.

Suddenly, little details of paint become rather more interesting, don't you think?

The photo below shows Mac on SNEEZY's wing, and Crew Chief, Luman Morey. Though Mac trusted his life to Morey's mechanical prowess, he maintains that plenty of his own sweat was scrubbed into SNEEZY's Simoniz job.

*Nita later became Don's wife.
**"Sneezy" is named after one of Snow White's seven dwarves.
***Yes, Walt Disney's Sneezy had a tan coat. Mac's had a blue coat.
****Oh - Bill Creech (profile 17) Simonized his squadron's F-100s in Vietnam. Ironically, they were the 352nd FS.


Photos courtesy of Don McKibben via the 352nd Fighter Group Association.