Being an old retired guy with a little time on my hands, I decided to resurrect my dormant model-building skills and construct models of the Navy aircraft in which I have flown as a Naval Flight Officer. From the time I was six years old in the mid-’50s until the late 1970s I built both plastic and balsa models. For almost 40 years the model-building skills lay dormant until the late 20-teens. A collaboration with FCM decals located in Brazil using some photos that I had taken resulted in a decal sheet of VF-301 Tomcats. I had an old Monogram 1/48th F-14A still in the box (partially started, but not finished in the mid-80s when I was actually flying in the aircraft in the Miramar Reserves) that had followed me through two moves, so I finished it as “my” aircraft using the FCM decal sheet.
On a 2019 trip to Seattle to visit the grandkids (and my daughter…) I dropped by Skyway Models in Renton where I found a 1/72nd decal sheet which included a VF-121 F-4J that I had flown in while undergoing Phantom training in 1972. I had a Monogram 1/72nd F-4J in the stash, so I took the decals and built the model with the addition of decals that I made myself to complete the markings.
After this one was made, I found some TwoBobs decals for a T-2C of VT-4 to go on a Matchbox T-2C that had also been purchased back in the 1980s and sat in my stash until I got it out. I had four flights in T-2C Buckeyes during Basic Naval Flight Officer training with VT-10 at Pensacola in 1971/72.
Next in line was an RVHP resin kit of a North American T-39D with markings of one of the aircraft I had flown in at NAS Glynco, Georgia, during Advanced NFO training in the spring of 1972. It was the first resin kit I had done, and it had its challenges, but nothing too bad. The markings, as I had done on the VF-121 F-4J, were home made using Micro-Mark decal paper printed using a rather old Canon inkjet printer. Graphics work was done on a Mac using Adobe Illustrator. Lettering was done with the Long Beach shareware font ( https://www.tlai.com/med_des/lbusn.html )
Then came a model of an F-4J from my fleet squadron, VF-21. It’s an Academy kit using Micro-Scale decals (mostly) with some home-made decals mixed in for accuracy.
After leaving the active-duty Navy in early 1977, I joined the reserves and began flying with the Miramar Reserves in January 1978. For the first three years, I was with a sub-unit (VF-1285) flying in VF-301’s F-4N Phantoms. Again, I raided my 1980s stash of models and rescued a Fujimi F-4S that I had originally bought in the early 80s when I was flying in those aircraft. Now, in the 21st century, I finally had the means to print my own decals, so I made an aircraft that I had actually flown in.
Another VF-301 Phantom was next, this time an F-4N from Hasegawa that I had flown in while in VF-1285 from 1978-81.
Another dip into the stash from the early 80s brought out a model of a TA-4F Skyhawk. In the summer of 1972 while in the preliminary stages of F-4 ground school, all pilots and NFOs in my class went through a course given by VF-126 covering instrument procedures. The pilots got several hops, while the NFOs got one flight in a TA-4F. Contacting some photo collecting friends, I was able to score a few pictures of VF-126 aircraft, and even the exact aircraft I had flown in. As the Hasagawa kit’s decals were for Blue Angel #7, I made up all the decals from scratch.
Hasegawa 1/72nd scale TA-4F in VF-126 markings from the early 1970s.
While I was in VF-21 from 1973-75, the aircraft had two different paint schemes. They were similar, but in mid-1975 the radome paint was extended to go underneath the aircraft. Using a VF-21 “special edition” 1/72nd kit with VF-21’s CAG bird, I backdated the decals on the rudder, nose gear door, and on the aircraft sides to reflect that aircraft that I had flown in during the summer of 1975 before I left the squadron.
In March 2022 I chanced across a photo of the F-4J from my first Phantom flight in September 1972. Using the photo, I created a decal sheet and put them on an Academy 1/72nd F-4J kit.
After building the VF-121 Phantom from my first flight, I decided to make “bookend” F-4 as a VF-301 F-4S from my last Phantom flight before transitioning into Tomcats in September 1984.