Not quite lost art

I was poking around the web looking at flight jacket artwork last night and was somewhat startled when I bumped into a photo of one of my paintings that I had nearly – okay, maybe fully – forgotten was used for the frontispiece of Hell Bent for Leather by Nelson and Parsons many years ago. I of course remember that the cover of the book featured one of my paintings, but the other paintings of mine that are inside the book tend to fade into the background of my mind.

The frontispiece painting is on a large faux leather portfolio case, with the tableau 27″w x12″h on the bottom half of the case. I realised today that I never did get a good photo of the painting in digital form — the photo I took for the authors was strictly analogue, the negative long gone or at the least buried amongst thousands of others — so I dug the case out from behind a bookcase, dusted it off, and rectified that situation this morning (you can click these for a larger size):

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The pin-up is based on this Alberto Vargas painting, which was the gatefold artwork in the August 1943 issue of Esquire magazine:

Vargas August 1943

Here’s a closer look at my variation:

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The pilot and copilot are the WWII cartoon characters Hubert and Sad Sack, respectively. Sad Sack appeared in the U.S. Army Yank weekly magazine and the Hubert panels were in the Army’s Stars and Stripes newspaper, some samples below:

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HubertPub

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scrollLast night, I also ran into this high-quality copy of a photograph that I had seen only in much smaller form years ago in Vintage Aircraft Nose Art:

Rosie's Sweat Box

The name is a reference to Rosie the Riveter, of course. Many jacket artists in WWII just couldn’t capture faces well, but this artist certainly could. I love the care that went into this painting – again, you can click to see the detail – and note that it’s from the 401st Bomb Group based in Deenethorpe, Northamptonshire, the group that had the finest jacket paintings in WWII. However, the story behind the aircraft is a sad one indeed. The entire crew of the B-17 Rosie’s Sweat Box died in a takeoff accident at Deenethorpe exactly 70 years ago this past Wednesday.

To interject a bit more reality:

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Riveting crew work on a B-17 at Douglas Aircraft, Long Beach, 1942. Douglas and Vega joined Boeing in building B-17s during the war.

I won’t go if the dress code says “leisure suit”

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I think I would have already had The Pan Am Experience by now if I lived anywhere near L.A.:

Your Pan Am experience starts on the main deck with a cocktail and beverage service in the First Class cabin. Each stewardess that greets you will be adorned in her original 1970’s Pan Am uniform. Our Pan Am crew will offer various video & audio selections while you sit back in your Pan Am Sleeperette seat and sip a cocktail.

Soon after, you’ll climb the winding staircase where the crew will set your table for a truly memorable dining event. In classic Pan Am style, you’ll be offered your favorite cocktail and served a delightful gourmet meal. Everything from the china to the glassware is authentic with careful attention to the exquisite service delivery of the era and menu offerings of Pan Am.

After dinner, you will have an opportunity to view the vast collection of airline memorabilia and view other film production sets.

“Pan Am makes the going great” was Pan Am’s slogan in the early 1970s. I still remember the excitement of my first commercial flight, on one of Pan Am’s first two 747s when I was ten eleven years old, so yes, please.

My first flight of any kind was less than a year before that, and was in a canary yellow – 3M’s Post-it® colour trademark be damned – Piper Cub that I had helped repaint, flown by its owner, a veteran TWA Flight Engineer. The door’s paint was still drying, so we flew in the vicinity of the now long-gone Tewksbury, Mass. Airport (Tew-Mac) for half an hour without it. Scared? Nah, I was too young to be scared. Plus, I was flying, dammit!

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Pan American World Airways went out of business in 1991, but its name lives on, and still in the world of transport, in the form of Pan Am Railways, which bought the rights to the Pan Am name in 1998. I took this photo of one of their engines idling just a few blocks from my house two winters ago:

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On a peripherally related note, I just received from the UK this spiffy print of a Geoff Nutkins painting of the B-17 Mon Tete Rouge II of the 452nd Bomb Group that was based at Deopham Green, Norfolk in WWII. It’s one of a limited edition of 500 prints produced in 1980.

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He painted this several years before I used the same source photo of the aircraft when I painted my Boeing Belle flight jacket painting. I thought it was the perfect angle of a Flying Fortress for the back of a jacket, and didn’t find out about his painting until a few weeks ago, when I looked up “Mon Tete Rouge II” as I wrote that “Boeing Belles” post. After I saw his eBay listing for the print, it took just a few hours before I decided to order it.

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The photograph that we both used was black & white, and we each figured the lettering on the nose must have been red given the name (translation: “My Redhead II”), but I found out during that recent search that the lettering was actually blue on ship 42-97069. At the time I painted the jacket, my research indicated that the wingtip colouring on 452BG aircraft was yellow, so I believe that’s correct in my version.

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I’m not sure where I’ll put the print yet, but it may replace the B-17 print I have in my office at the moment, or I may rearrange this wall to accommodate both:

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Boeing Belles

The latest addition to my office desktop Boeing gallery arrived in the mail today from Hong Kong. Now I have my three favourites, the B-17, B-747, and B-314, in the same 1:200 scale. You can click on any of these to see a larger size.

The detail is pretty good on the new model:

Especially given its size:

This Boeing Belle I painted years ago on one of my flight jackets – a little more eye-catching, I think, what with Rita Hayworth and all. The painting is about 16″x16″ on the back of the jacket and the lettering is done in Boeing’s logo style of the 1940s.

I took that photo of the painting in March so I could have Rita and the Mon Tête Rouge II on the back of my new phone, too, courtesy of Skinit.

Memphis Belle flies again

After writing about B-17s and the 1990 “Memphis Belle” film the other day, I looked at this video once more, remembering that my takeoff from the National Warplane Museum grass strip featured the same wide leftward swing of the B-17’s tail into the wind that’s in the sequence starting at 2:28 – rather exciting when you’re inside the aircraft:

I lamented that the DVD I have, from the following year, is in that old “widescreen, but not – ha ha!” format, where there’s black stripes not only top and bottom but left and right, just as you see when you play the above, so the actual resolution of the video is horribly limited, to put it mildly – maybe one-quarter of full HD quality. It doesn’t look very good on my 42″ set, where it’s reminiscent of those first postage-stamp videos Windows 3.1 could play. But then I noticed in the YouTube recommended video list Memphis Belle – Take Off – Available May 6, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that the film was released on Blu-ray just a few months ago. This weekend, I’ll be able to watch it properly for the first time since I saw it in the cinema.

Aviation history, connected

Boeing 747 Rollout 1969-09-30

RA001 on 30 September 1968

I was reading this article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on the long-overdue restoration of the prototype Boeing 747, shown above on its rollout day – rolling, yes, but without working engines yet – and got to wondering if the Museum of Flight still had “Bomber” Bob Richardson’s B-17F as well.

I found that they do, which pleased me because I once flew in that B-17 in the days leading up to the 1988 Wings of Eagles Airshow at the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, New York. I was a volunteer and arrived a couple days early, staying in the SUNY Geneseo campus dorms overlooking the NWM field. I got to talking with the museum president, Austin Wadsworth, a couple days before the airshow was to start, and he invited me to join the pre-airshow press flights the following morning. Those flights were to be in two B-17s. I remember my dropped-jaw excitement and exactly what he said as I left: “Get here early.” I needed no extra alarm.

The next morning, I arrived at 6:30am and then proceeded to have the time of my life, flying off the grass airfield in the museum’s B-17G, Fuddy Duddy, up to Buffalo, then swapping between Fuddy Duddy and Bomber Bob’s Kathleen, at that time the only F-model B-17 still flying, as they took groups of reporters up for separate promo flights over Niagara Falls. By the time we returned to Geneseo six or so hours later, I had a grin on my face that lasted for weeks – one that returns as I type this.

When we flew back to Geneseo in the afternoon, I took this photograph from the bombardier’s position in the nose of Kathleen shortly after takeoff as we banked away from Lake Erie:

Departing Buffalo, at about 800 feet

Richardson had stopped in Geneseo to be at the airshow with Kathleen on his way back to Seattle from the UK after participating in the shooting of David Puttnam’s “Memphis Belle” film (which was way, way over the top but still entertaining). I remember that he died the year after I flew on his aircraft. I didn’t know him well, but from all accounts he was quite a guy. I’m still grateful that he welcomed me on his aircraft that day with only an hour or so’s notice from Wadsworth.

The airshow that followed was, in a word, spectacular, with a total of six B-17s present along with nearly a hundred other mostly WWII-era aircraft. I think it was the largest gathering of B-17s since the production of the “Twelve O’Clock High” film in 1949, and I don’t believe that number has been seen together since, either. Just five B-17s participated in the “Memphis Belle” filming.

I took this shot early on Saturday morning, opening day of the airshow, before too many people spoiled the opportunity. Fuddy Duddy is at the far end, and Kathleen is the only olive drab aircraft:

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Six B-17s at the 1988 Wings of Eagles Airshow, Geneseo, New York

The following year, I returned with an 8×10 of my six tails shot and presented it to Wadsworth along with my thanks for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “Ah…proof it really happened,” he said with a smile.

That next year, the airshow featured five B-17s, a Consolidated B-24, and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum’s Avro Lancaster:

I read another pleasant bit of news just now when I searched to verify I was recalling his name correctly: The National Warplane Museum name has returned to Geneseo, with Austin Wadsworth still in the left seat. I figure if anyone could pull off another large flock of B-17s one day, that’s the man right there.

Here’s Bomber Bob Richardson’s B-17F today in the Museum of Flight:

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