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@tcinla Tom Cleaver

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According to my mother, the first word I said was “airplane” (“oh-pane”) at around 11 months of age when a P-38 flew over the park we were in. I’ve had a love affair with airplanes and the people who are involved with airplanes ever since, which has become my career as an aviation historian and author.

I built my first model, a Strombecker all-wood P-80 (that dates me!) at age 6, after watching my father build other wood models for me. I quickly graduated to plastic models when I found Mr. Twist’s Fix-It Shop on South Gaylord Street in Denver, with its corner shelves full of wondrous kit boxes. I built my first biplane (a Hawk Models Nieuport 17 – still available from Testors) before I was old enough to know that “biplanes are hard.” With time out in the 1960s after graduating from high school for the Navy and college and “The Sixties” I returned to the hobby in 1970 and haven’t left since.

I became a screenwriter in Hollywood in the 1980s, after first getting published as an aviation author in the 1970s in Air Enthusiast Quarterly. I love the4 fact that William Green, who wrote the first “serious aviation book” (All The World’s Aircraft 1954) that I got my father to buy for me was the first person to publish me. I’ve flown the back seat of an F-4E Phantom for an article on the Wild Weasels in Air Force Magazine, and had 20 minutes stick time in Jim Nissen’s 1918 Curtiss JN-4D Jenny back in 1979 for an article in Plane and Pilot, and been in everything in between over the past 47 years. When I worked in politics in Sacramento during the 1970s, I was a member of a club that flew Stearman N747JR (we called ourselves in as “Boeing 747 Junior”) and got around 100 hours in that fun machine.

I’m one of the original members here of iModeler, and consider it the best model club on the planet.

Author of “Fabled Fifteen: The Pacific War Odyssey of Carrier Air Group 15”, “Pacific Thunder: the Pacific War from Wake island to Leyte Gulf,” “Tidal Wave: From Leyte Gulf to Tokyo Bay,” “The Frozen Chosen: The First Marine Division and the Battle of Chosin Reservoir,” “Holding The Line: the Naval Air Campaign in Korea,” and “MiG Alley: The US Air Force in Korea – 1950-53” which will be released on November 26.

You can order all of them here:

“Cobra II” P-39 air racer – 1946 Thompson Trophy winner

"Cobra II” at the 1946 Thompson Trophy Race: The P-39 known as “Cobra II,” was a Bell P-39Q-10BE, AAF 42-20869, assigned to the 430th Army Air Force Base Unit, Ephrata AAB, Washington, a Combat Crew Training Station, in April 1944, assigned to [...]

Celebrating the Fourth with the Condor Squadron

Since there weren't any July 4 parades here in LA due to the plague, the Condor Squadron did some entertaining for folks. Here's some shots from the join up over my house in the San Fernando Valley, the pass over Santa Monica Beach (notice it's[...]

Planet Models 1/48 Hughes H-1 racer

HISTORY The Hughes H-1 was the last privately-designed aircraft built specifically to set records. It set both the world air speed record for land planes, and a transcontinental speed record. Many have speculated that the design was influential[...]

A “pro tip” for us all.

Well, I am certain that everyone who has, at one time or another, thought to themselves, "Tom, you're so negative," will be happy to know that I am indeed. Negative. Got "the call." Shelter in place. Wear a mask. Practice social distancing. So[...]

1/48 Modelsvit Bf-109D-1

HISTORY Developed from the V10 and V13 prototypes,the Bf-109D was the last model of the Jumo-powered 109s to enter service and it was built in larger numbers than the previous three subtypes combined. The Bf 109D was the standard version of the[...]

Stolen from the LHS Modeler’s Estate Sale – my next project

Soo... the LHS opened back up this week ("no shoes, no shirt, no mask, no service") and I happened to drop by. Noticed a bunch of older kits on the shelves again, and asked Dave "is there a modeler's estate sale on?" Receiving the affirmative, I[...]

Eduard 1/48 Bf-109G-10 (Erla)

HISTORY By the Spring of 1944, the Bf-109G-6, which had been the primary production version of Messerschmitt’s fighter since the previous fall, was falling behind in the relentless race for performance. Beginning in the late spring, many airfr[...]

Sad news: Flying Heritage Collection is gone in family dispute

Just heard "through the grapevine" that Paul Allen's Flying Heritage Collection and Armor Museum in Washington State is closed, permanently. Word is that his sister wants his toys converted into her money as his heir. In the words of a knowledge[...]

I Will Run Wild hits the big time

Just got this passed along this afternoon from the publicist handling "I Will Run Wild." Not bragging (well, proud for sure) but this sort of thing almost never happens to books in this genre, and sure has never happened to me. Kirkus Reviews [...]

Eduard 1/48 Bf-109G-4/trop

Somehow, I did this model in 2018 and wrote a review, and then it ended up in "The Department of Lost" for two years till I rediscovered it this past week when I couldn't find the review at M2. HISTORY The Bf 109 G-series was developed from t[...]