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Erich Goldbach
24 articles

Tamiya 1/48th Scale Skyraider of VA 215

August 29, 2014 · in Aviation · · 20 · 1.9K

Well, it seems like forever and a day since I've posted model anything on this great site. Life has been crazy-laid off-job search-landed new job and so on. I am truly inspired every time I log onto this site- such great talent and comrade- good stuff. Yesterday, I took a keen interest in Ramon R. Lomeli's article on his Able Dog of VA215 “Barn Owls” while serving on board of the USS Hancock circa 1966 because a great long time family friend of mine by the name of Bruce Whitcomb was also assigned to VA-215 Barn Owls and flew off the USS Hancock. As a kid growing up, Bruce was always bigger than life, navy pilot, airline pilot, and private pilot, driver of many fast cars and motorcycles. He is truly a gentleman first class, and possesses one wicked dry sense of humor to boot! About 10 years ago, I built him a model of the he flew while on flight duty on the Hancock. Building that model for Bruce was truly an honor for me and I am happy to know that he truly appreciated my gift and displays it proudly in his study. Awhile back, that model was damaged during a cross country move and found its way back to my workbench for an overhaul and an upgrade to the display case that houses it (carrier deck, Barn Owls badge and his Navy Wings). Along with the broken model and his Wings came a short history of his aviation career. I thought some of you would enjoy it….

                                Chronology of an Aviator's Career 

-Entered Navy pre-flight training Sept 1957
-Primary training: Soloed in T34 Mentor, March 13, 1958
-Basic training: Flew T28 B and C
-Carrier qualification flying the T28C, landing on the USS Antietam August 28, 1958
-Instrument training in the T1A (TV2) - final phase of basic training
-Advanced training in the AD Skyraider, AD6 & 7 (AIH)
-Navy Wings and Commission June 1959
-Assigned to VA 215. Made two cruises to Westpac. USS Lexington and USS Hancock
(Made Centurion on the Hancock-100+ landings)
-Assigned shore duty NAS Miramar. Flew T1A, S2F COD, C45 (SNB), C47 and C117
-Flew F9F8T as instrument instructor
-In 1964, after 7 years and 3 months in the Navy, returned to civilian life and was hired by American Airlines, February 8, 1965.
-Flew DC 6 & 7 as engineer and co-pilot on Electra and Convair 990 out of Chicago
-Transferred to San Francisco early 1967 and flew the Boeing 707 and 747 as co-pilot.
-Transferred to San Diego February 1974 and flew Captain on the 727, 707, 757, 767 and MD-11
-Retired September 6, 1997

Reader reactions:
6  Awesome

5 additional images. Click to enlarge.

20 responses

  1. AWESOME! Your display has made his Spad come alive!

  2. Brilliant Skyraider Erich, welcolme back 🙂

  3. That is a great looking Skyraider! I love it and am inspired to build another one because of it! Nice work on the deck as well, and congrats on the new gig! Awesome, dude!

  4. Looks great Erich.
    Nice Spad mate.
    I like the story behind it as well.

  5. Great story, Erich, and a very nicely presented model, I'm sure he really appreciates it.

  6. that is sweet

  7. Great story and an outstanding model to go with it.

  8. Wonderful build and presentation...I love it!

  9. Hello Erich...That is one sharp looking Skyraider. Very nicely done and thanks for the story behind the build.

  10. Thank you guys for the kind comments on the Skyraider!

  11. I always knew Naval Aviators were so awesome they could transform space and time. He soloed before he learned to fly! 🙂

    Excellent model.

  12. Yep, Naval Aviators are pretty awesome, but even they can't transform time and space- I, however, can hit the wrong key! Glad you liked the model.

  13. A great looking A-1 and a stunning story.

  14. Erich,
    Your skill continues to shine. I have
    seen this and it is gorgeous. Two fingers and a burger to you.

  15. said on July 7, 2015

    I was in aviation machinist mate 3rd class attached to the VA 215 barn owls on the USS Hancock in 1962 and 63. I loved your article and would love to get information on how to get a model so I could build one of the planes I work done back then thanks again for the great article and would appreciate a response.

  16. Hello Gerald,
    Glad you liked my model and enjoyed the article about it. It seems that it is possible that my friend was on board the Hancock when your were attached to VA 215. Below are a couple of links to a model webstore where you can find models of the Spad. The two links are for 1:48th and 1:32nd scale kits. Please feel free to contact me anytime if you need any other help getting your kit.


  17. Erich, I can only say this: OUTSTANDING! Knowing Mr. Whitcomb is an honor, I'd say. He had quite a career. Your rendition of his plane is as I already said: outstanding. Thanks for sharing the pictures as well as a glimpse into your friend's career. I love SPADs anyway & this one is a joy to see.

  18. Hello Erich,
    My name is Trent Whitcomb, and I’m one of Bruce’s nephews. As you may know, Bruce recently passed unexpectedly.

    I visited him in December of 2019, and I got to see your fine work in person once again. He spoke so highly of you, was so proud of the model, and had it displayed prominently on his desk with other aviation memorabilia. Bruce donated the model to a museum (I’m not sure which one). You are a true craftsman, Erich. The detail is stunning!

    Bruce was indeed one of the greatest men I’ve ever known and I miss him a great deal. I’ll never forget his visits to Minnesota when I was a wee lad. On one of his trips, he bought a nearly new 1980 Ferrari 308GTSi. Because it was winter, we stored it in our garage for him until spring. When he picked it up to drive back to San Diego, he wanted me to drive it. I don’t think many relatives would let a 14 year old boy drive their new Ferrari, but he insisted, and remember how proud he was when I didn’t kill it.

    Thanks, Erich. Your work meant more than you can know to a true Officer and Gentleman.

    Warmest regards,

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