By Gerry yarrish Photos courtesy of Mike BarBee
Mike Barbee poses with his newest competition plane for Top Gun. The 36% scale Mentor is immense!
Top Gun’s Monstrous Mentor
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 recently caught up with Mike as he was finishing up his newest competitor for the upcoming 25th annual Top Gun Scale Invitational and here’s what
he had to say about his monstrous aircraft.
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
Why did you decide on the T- 34 as a Top Gun
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
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
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 — i can’t wait to bring the
Mentor to top Gun!