07 July, 2011

Profile 50 - "11419" as flown by the SDANG

NOTE:  I'm taking a short break from WW2 planes to focus on a special Commission to do the aircraft of the South Dakota Air National Guard.  I hope you enjoy this diversion.

As a little kid, I have a distinct memory of the F-89 Scorpion.  I remember being utterly disappointed by it.

Page flip, P-80 Shooting Star.  Cool name, cool looking plane.  Page flip, F-84 Thunderjet.  Cool name, sorta cool looking airplane but with bombs. Cool!  Page flip, F-86 Sabre.  Holy of Holy - the crown jewel of all-things-jet fighter. I WANT ONE!!

Then the page flip, F-89 Scorpion.  Thud.  Not even the cool name could help this thing get past its Japanese sci-fi model-airplane aesthetic.  From the 1930's passenger-plane tail to the dunce-cap nose, this airplane wasn't designed by lovers of airplanes - it was designed by a committee of retirees and first-year engineers!  I sooo wanted this thing to have a red star painted on it instead of our star-n-bar.

I turned the page.  F-100.  Now we're truly cool again.  See how the mind of a ten year old boy is?

And today, my mind was no different.  Of the seven South Dakota Air National Guard airplanes I needed to do, I started with the F-89 to get it out of the way.  Poor old bird.  Even today, she gets no respect.

Yet, like her F-94 cousin, the Scorpion was the product of an era - a transition of technology, of tactics, of strategy, of culture.  In Northrop and the Air Force's defense, the F-89 represented a challenge as difficult - if not MORE difficult - than today's stratospheric technology of Stealth and Remote Piloting - just what would World War Three look like?!

Working on this big beast's lines, it was easy to visualize the F-89's paired crew, huffing rubber-scented oxygen, knifing through the thin air of 50,000 feet, sweating out the miles between it and the formation of Tupolev Tu-4s as they crossed the Mid-Canada Line...

If - and the "if" is rather horrifying to think about - WW3 would have made it to the USA circa 1959, the F-89 would probably have been remembered as a savior rather than the big clunky thing.

And I would have probably saved the Scorpion for last.

Oh - eagle-eyed readers will notice the subtle differences in markings behind the photo and my artwork.  My artwork represents 11419's an earlier paint job.