Convair B-36 Peacemaker Models Are Big. Really, Really Big.

It is big.  That is the first impression, and it is undeniable.  It is the biggest model airplane I have ever seen.  Is it the biggest model airplane in the world?  Reportedly not, but a brief search reveals the all-knowing internet is thoroughly confused on that point.  It is, well, big.  And impressive.

How big is it?  It is a 1/9th scale B-36, with a wingspan of 26 feet.  It was built by James Pappas in his mother’s attic in 1952, at the same time Convair was building the real thing at Fort Worth.  Think about 1952 for a minute – no CAD, no scale plans, no internet, no fancy tools.  A drill, a saw, a miter box, and a whole lot of Balsa.  The model was built to a flying standard, but there is debate about whether it was ever actually flown.  The story of the model is here:  http://www.rchalloffame.org/Exhibits/Exhibit41/index.html

Last week Ed Crotty of the RC Hall of Fame donated the model to the Academy of Model Aeronautics in Muncie, Indiana.  I went along to help move the model, which was a bit of an adventure!

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The model was living comfortably in the ceiling of a basement in Cleveland.  It was supported by wires anchored into the overhead, and ladders had been propped under strategic points to support it during the move.  Still a nice looking model after sixty seven years!
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Ed Crotty (on the left) discusses the move plan with Michael Smith, Director of the National Model Aviation Museum.  Even with the vertical tail removed the model still was a “head knocker.”  The aft ends of the engine nacelles are visible on the upper right.
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The nose section seen from under the wing.  Interestingly, there was canopy ribbing but no sign of glazing on either the canopy or the nose section.  The gunners’ sighting domes are represented, as are a range of SAC insignia and unit markings.  These markings were vinyl so would have been added after the original construction.  There are no markings present on the vertical tail.
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The propellers, jet engine pods, and flaps had been removed beforehand to facilitate the move.  The model was originally equipped with 1950’s vintage engines, including the jets.  It was built to run under power so it could taxi on its own at the very least.
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Ed demonstrates the bomb bay door operation for Michael.  All four bomb bays featured operable doors, which still worked easily after all the years.  One has to admire the workmanship and planning needed to pull off a model like this.
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The landing gear was operational and fully retractable.  The gear doors and flaps were also articulated, but had been removed prior to moving the model.
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A view up into the wing box from below.  The bronze rods extend deep into the wings, their original purpose is not obvious but it was eventually determined that they were part of the gear retraction mechanism.  The rod below the bell crank was intended to be on top, it being wedged under the crank necessitated removal of much of the hardware shown here before the wings could be released from the fuselage.
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Some of the “smaller” components outside on blankets, waiting to be loaded.  The model was designed to be broken down into assemblies to make transportation more manageable.  Some of the structure of the tail section is visible, hinting at the intricacy of the assembly.
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Most modelers secure their projects into various sorts of boxes to transport them to shows.  Here Michael secures the B-36 model into a box truck.  Every bit of the floor space of the cargo box was needed.
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The nose section is a separate assembly, and shows off some of the internal structure in this view.  While there were original engines with the model, there were no radios or evidence of radios ever being mounted within the model.  Perhaps Mr. Pappas intended to mount a radio receiver on the platform visible here at the rear of the nose section.

15 thoughts on “Convair B-36 Peacemaker Models Are Big. Really, Really Big.

  1. Crazy that he built that in a small attic using only photos as references! Gotta love the funny stuff cooked up in the 1950s at the dawn of the jet age when everyone’s mind was focused on either jets or atomic bombs. “Six turnin’, four burnin'” Or, “two turning, two burning, two smoking, two choking, and two more unaccounted for.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Though I like this aircraft, it was long gone when I was six yrs old. The B-47, our first all jet bomber, had replaced it by 1956, and soon after, the B-52 took its place. Reminds me of Eisenhower’s speech warning of the “military/industrial complex” in 1961 which I remember first hand!

    Liked by 1 person

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