Top Gun’s Monstrous Mentor — Mike Barbee’s Immense 36% Scale T-34B

Top Gun’s Monstrous Mentor — Mike Barbee’s Immense 36% Scale T-34B

Mike Barbee is no stranger to scale competition. He has flown at Top Gun for the past 24 years, and along the way, he has built and competed with eight different airplanes. He is currently the president of NASA (National Association of Scale Modelers), and is the East Coast chairman for the U.S. Scale Masters Association. We  caught up with Mike as he was finishing up his newest competitor for the then upcoming 25th annual Top Gun Scale Invitational. Here’s what he had to say about his monstrous aircraft.


Mike placed 3rd in Expert with his T-34 at the recent 2016 Top Gun Scale Invitational

  • Why did you decide on the T-34 as a Top Gun project?
  • I have always liked the flying characteristics of the T-34 Mentor, and last year I won the AMA Nationals with my 26% scale T-34C. My newest plane for top Gun is 10% bigger than that, so it should fly even better. The new Mentor is a B-model. It’s 36% scale and has a wingspan of 141 inches, a length of 119 inches, and a weight of 114 pounds.
  • What is the Mentor powered with?
  • The plane is a Bob Patton design and features a molded fiberglass fuselage; the wings have precision foam cores. Bolted to the firewall is a 4-cylinder DA 200cc boxer engine from Desert aircraft. It’s equipped with Pro-flow mufflers and the engine has a complete baffle system for cooling.
  • What did you use to finish the model? Is there any reason you chose this particular scheme?
  • I used the PPG base coat/clear coat paint system with white and jet glow traffic yellow colors, and all my markings are applied using ProMark paint masks. I picked this 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 took more photos in Indiana where the aircraft is based.

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  • What about on-board systems? How long did your project take?
  • For the radio, I am using a Futaba 18MZ and a123 batteries built by electro Dynamics’ Andy Low. The retractable landing gear are handmade units by Bob Patton. They are electrically driven and feature a servo-operated gear door system I designed myself. I estimate the build time for the Mentor at about 2,800 hours because it was not a simple kit build. As far as the retracts and engine cooling went, it required a lot of design work I was not used to. All in all, I think it all came out great.
Updated: July 14, 2016 — 2:07 PM
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