1/144 Hobbycaft NB-36

Gallery Article by Douglas Conrady on Jan 24 2020



In the late 50's, the USAF was wanting to develop a nuclear powered plane. Why not, the Navy got nuke ships and boats, and the Army got nuke artillery. After a tornado messed the nose up of a B-36 in Ft Worth, the USAF had their test aircraft. This aircraft was to test the feasibility of a flying nuclear reactor. Yes, an active... flying... reactor. After giving it a nose job, complete with LOTS of lead shielding, the bomb bay equipment was removed and the reactor was installed. Two vents were added to the lower aft sections for cooling. The aft upper sight blisters were replaced with vents too (I think exhaust). After several test flights, the program was cancelled. By then, ICMB's were coming of age and faster aircraft had been developed. As a side note, whenever this plane left the ground, it was followed by a camera plane, a weather plane and a cargo plane full of airborne, to parachute down, you know, just in case....

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This started life as a Hobbycaft RB-36. This kit.... ugh, I had to go find a new type of glue to deal with it. My normal Testors wouldn't cut it. I went with Plastistruct's plastic weld. Good stuff, just make sure you are outdoors and no open flame within 2 counties. The fit wasn't bad, wasn't good either. I chose not to correct the wing issue. You know, the one where the wing angle is upside down. After I built the airframe, I took the nose off for conversion. For the conversion, I had ordered a kit from Click2detail. They are now on shapeways. You cut the nose of at a normal panel line, stick the new nose on and viola! a NB-36 starts to show. There are 2 pieces that go on the tail. One covers the gun turret hole, the other goes right under the rudder. Where that part goes had to be cut out of the kit tail. The vents for the side install over the lower aft gun sight locations. There is one more smaller vent near the nose on the starboard side. That one was installed just by sight. The flight surfaces were installed with standard construction. I primed the plane and painted the silver. When I first bought the conversion parts, I was able to get a pdf for the decals. It was sized for normal letter size paper. I hit the print button and proceeded to decal the plane. I did most of the NB specific decals first, before tackling the wing striping. Somewhere before the wing striping, I realized I forgot to add nose weight...... Good thing lead is soft. I added 4 large fishing weights as best I could through the windscreen slot. Squeezed in a healthy amount of white glue shook it around and let it dry. Lastly was the landing gear and props, no troubles there.

I believe that sums it up. Other than the kit being a bit of a pain, all went well. I've had thoughts of doing the Russian version, to have a matched set of nuclear powered aircraft....... maybe someday.

Please email me if you've got any questions or comments.

Thanks for looking and don't throw rotten tomatoes!

Douglas Conrady

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Photos and text by Douglas Conrady