Road to Top Gun: 36% T-34B Mentor

Road to Top Gun: 36% T-34B Mentor

Mike Barbee is no stranger to scale competition. He has flown at Top Gun for the past 24 years, and along the way there were eight different airplanes. He is the president of NASA, (National Association of Scale Modelers) and the East Coast Chairman for the U.S. Scale Masters Association.

 T-34B Mentor

Mike says: “I have always liked the flying characteristics of the T-34 Mentor, and last year I won the AMA Nationals with my 26% T-34C. My newest plane for Top Gun is 10% bigger than that so it should fly even better. The new T-34B is 36% scale and it has a  wingspan of 141 inches, a length of 119inches and a weight of 114lbs.

 T-34B Mentor

The plane is design by Bob Patton and features a fiberglass fuselage and foam wing cores. Power comes from a Desert Aircraft DA 200cc boxer engine equipped with Pro flow mufflers. The engine has a complete baffle system for cooling.

 T-34B Mentor

I used PPG base coat/clear coat paint  with white and jet glow traffic yellow colors. All the markings are painted using Pro Mark paint masks.  I picked the plane as a tribute to my Marine Corps buddies. We had our 40th reunion in December. I served from 1966 to 1972, and that was when I decided on the color scheme. The pictures I had of the plane were taken at Oshkosh 2011. I also got more photos in Indiana where the aircraft is based.

 Futaba 18 MZ

For the radio I am using a Futaba 18 MZ.  I am also using A123 batteries built by Electro Dynamics’ Andy Low. The retracts are hand-made by Bob Patton and are electric with servo operated gear doors I desgined myself. I estimate the build time at about 2800 hrs because it was not a kit. As far the retracts and engine cooling went, it was a lot of design work I was not used to.”

Road to Top Gun: 36% T-34B Mentor

Here a pic of engine and nose gear mounted on the firewall.



Updated: July 20, 2015 — 10:15 AM


  1. Awesome plane. If I had one that large, it would be hangared in my garage some there is no way to get it into the basement. I would love to see it fly. I have a much smaller version of the T-34 some years back and I have to agree with Mike, great flying characteristics.

  2. I am interested in more detail on cooling, i.e. exit air

  3. Mike, Great work, very nice. Can’t wait to see it. I have two of the Top Flite version and they do flight great ! Yellow is your color ! Regards !

  4. Looks good Mike. I hope to see it at Toledo!


  5. Mike, aren’t you totally glad that we have the 2.4 radios. I can’t imagine putting that airplane into the air with the old 72 mhz systems to control it. Not that the old systems were bad, reliability wise, it was just that a transmitter turned on in the pits could result in catastrophe 🙁

    It is a work of art, put it in a museum before it gets any scratches 🙂


  6. Hey Mike, the plane is beautiful and I hope to see it in person~will you have it at Toledo? The NATS? Will see you at one or the other.

    Tom Poole

  7. I’m selfish, don’t shelve it. I want to see it fly at Top Gun. Wonderful job!

  8. I would love to own and fly that plane she’s beautiful

  9. Best workmanship I have seen lately. Truly a thing of beauty. Def a thumbs up.

  10. Will you have it on display at Toledo next month?

  11. They say that a man must be born, grow, write a book, plant a tree. I would do one of these instead of writing the book. Fantastic your work. Congratulations!

  12. Awesome plane Mike and I love the color scheme. Bring it to Somerset for the “Warbirds Over Cumberland” in June, I’d love to see it along side Bob’s. Love to see You at least!

  13. great looking aircraft. flow a real t-34 once and it was outstanding.

  14. Is it really a model or a small life size? 😀 (long shorts or short longs )
    Beautiful build and plane, love the front strut and mechanism

  15. ‘Lordy’ ! That’s got to be the most beautiful plane I’ve ever seen! I could spend hours going over that piece! I gotta’ tip my hat to you sir…most impressive, to say the least!

  16. Love to see it fly!

  17. Mike, that is amazing work! I fabricated race cars from the ground up for 13 yrs, so I can truly appreciate your craftsmanship. My father flew T-34’s in the Air Force, prior to B-47’s. I would love to see your work in person someday. Best regards,
    Ike Larkin Moscow, KS

Comments are closed.

Air Age Media ©
WordPress Lightbox