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Beginner’s Guide to turbine jets

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turbine Guide Jets Beginner

Beginner’s Guide to turbine jets

Learn what it takes to join the turbine jet community
Article and photos by Peter Goldsmith
Featured in the June 2014 issue of Model Aviation.

Jets are one of the most aspirational and biggest growing segments in fixed-wing RC. Ten years ago, the buzz at the field was about 40% International Miniature Aerobatic Club (IMAC) type aircraft. People would boast, “I own a 40 percenter.” Today, the buzz is about jet turbines.

Most of the larger segments of RC are seeing event attendance stabilizing or reducing, but the jet community is seeing substantial growth. This is largely because jets are just so cool, and are now heavily supported by the explosion of decent-quality, highly prefinished ARFs. Turbine operation has become easier and there are more options for the consumer.

I see many of my old friends whom I competed against in F3A and IMAC gravitating toward jets. It’s fulfills our need to immerse ourselves in the hobby. It’s said that we are in tough economic times, but the jet community seems to still find a way to fund its projects and attend events.

Choosing a Model

You first need to determine how much you plan to spend. Although the cost of entering the jet scene has reduced dramatically in recent years, it’s still expensive. I use the term “emotional debt level,” which means how committed you are to investing on your next aircraft. If you only want to experiment, your emotional debt is low and you have an exploratory limit that you’re prepared to spend. If you want to immerse yourself, your emotional debt is high and you will be more willing to spend more.

Based on my experience, you get what you pay for. There are no cheap shortcuts. Invest in the best equipment you can afford—whether it is the airframe, turbine, radio equipment, servos, etc.—and you will be assured of greater success.

There are many airframe choices, so I will make suggestions based on my experiences. A great place to start for a first jet would be a BobCat or a KingCat. Both designs are great-flying, easy-to-set-up aircraft with basic systems incorporated for the entry-level jet pilot. They are in the higher price range, but are the pinnacle of jet engineering. If you’re emotionally committed to getting into jets, this is a great place to start.

For those of you who want to try before you commit, the balsa ARF models are a less expensive alternative, but you must be resourceful in organizing the support equipment for completion and have savvy modeling skills. If your skill level is high and you’re comfortable flying faster aircraft, then Bandits and Shockwaves are great choices. They are slightly more complex and fly faster, yet are well engineered and have good service and support and offer spare parts.

If you want to try a Scale jet, I suggest most of the early jets or jet trainers. Scale jets are cool but they cost slightly more and are more complex. I currently own a Skymaster MB-339, a T-33, a BAe Hawk, and a Cougar. All of these jets are good aircraft with no bad tendencies and are supported by several worldwide distributors. If you’re a good pilot who knows someone who can teach you the basics, I recommend any of these models.

The basic airframe is generally 50% of the investment. Fuel cells, gear, tailpipes, radio equipment, and the turbine engine are additional expenses. The best jets have complete systems. They have their own gear, tanks, wheels, brakes, tailpipe and so on—all specifically designed for that aircraft. These manufacturers offer a “go fly package” which removes all of the guesswork and, in most cases, will save you some money.

Popular jet brands have a good network of field support. If you need a landing gear component, setup advice, or even someone to test-fly an aircraft, the companies have representatives at most of the larger jet events and are happy to accommodate your needs.

Beginner’s Guide to turbine jets

The author’s Skymaster BAe Hawk 100. A JetCat P120-SX powers this 37-pound Scale jet trainer. A Spektrum DX18 with a full telemetry system is used for guidance. Trailing link landing gear makes the Hawk ideal for grass fields.

Beginner’s Guide to turbine jets

The Skymaster F-9F Cougar’s docile handling characteristics make it a fantastic first Scale jet. It is powered by a JetCat P140-RX and weighs 39 pounds. Photo by Barry Vaught.

Importance of Waiver

The AMA regulates turbine use by requiring that each pilot have a turbine waiver. Although the process may seem simple and rudimentary, please take it seriously. Jets are complex model aircraft—treat them with respect. Even if you’re the most experienced, talented, and skilled RC pilot who has ever existed, you have some learning to do. You need to spend some time with an experienced jet pilot who can teach you the basics.

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