ScaleBirds P-36 Flies

ScaleBirds’ P-36 was carefully scaled to accept a wide range of existing small engines.
ScaleBirds is a Verner dealer, so the 125 hp Verner 7-cylinder was a given on the prototype. No conclusive performance tests have been run yet.

Recidivist AirVenture attendees know Sam Watrous at ScaleBirds has been developing his Lite Fighter concept with a prototype P-36. Previously a static display, the P-36 has now flown 10 hours says Sam, who emphatically reports, “Its one sporty little airplane!”

Of course, that’s just what we’re looking for, and Sam’s pirep on his prototype continues with good news about control harmony and general handling. If anything Sam thinks he might, maybe, tame down aileron response but that’s a judgment call yet to be made.

Two changes already incorporated into the prototype on display in the ultralight area this year are oleo landing gear struts and flaps. Neither was fitted when first flown and Sam says the little guy was a bit bouncy without some dampened movement in the gear, so he added the oleo struts. The flaps are there to further slow landing speeds and have proven so effective he’s considering shortening those.

Some things—such as pilots—don’t scale down, and ScaleBirds was careful to retain a cockpit with RV-8-like dimensions. The triumph is they did that with minimal stylistic awkwardness.

The gear is fixed on the prototype but customers will have their choice of retractable (the standard option) or fixed gear. Sam reminds us the original P-36 was exported as the Hawk, and many of those had fixed gear with big spats. Ground handling is just fine says Sam.

Performance is good with the 125 hp Verner 7-cylinder radial but an impressive range of engine options fit the P-36. These include Rotax, Viking, AMT, Jabiru and the narrow deck ULPower engines.

Faux gun butts, underslung rudder pedals and O.D. green certainly suggest a fighter interior but nothing beats sitting on the centerline of the machine. Mainly to stay to scale, the P-36 uses 6.00-6 main tires.

The P-36 is just the beginning of Sam’s Lite Fighter concept and it takes little imagination to see a P-47 or Hellcat coming from this prototype, not to mention a P-40 derivative. Actually there are plenty of WWII fighters to be made here, including a Zero or even a Spitfire says Sam.

Those fabric control surfaces are also lighter; Sam says he saved 18 lbs by using fabric instead of aluminum on the tail controls alone.

All of these possibilities will build on this P-36 bones, which is an all-aluminum airframe offered as a pre-drilled, pulled rivet kit for quick assembly. Purists can go for flush or round head rivets if they want but that would be much additional work.

Metal wings and fabric control surfaces are true to the era; the flaps are simple split units.

Sam says he’ll get five beta kits into the hands of trusted builders this fall, with regular kit sales expected about a year from now. In something of a twist he’s also looking to source the aluminum parts building to a qualified outside vendor to avoid tooling up for production himself. Kit pricing is expected in the $40,000 to $50,000 range.

Lining up on your buddy before going, “ta-ta, ta-ta, ta” ought to be plenty accurate.


  1. Any information on available kits or complete scaled planes for sale, very interested! Thanks Bob

    Bob Biddle
    33054 Hwy 72 North
    Loudon Tennessee, 37774


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