One of the things I love about the RC hobby is that it allows you to choose your desired level of commitment. You can pick up a $30 model from the toy store and have just as much fun as someone with a custom trailer full of high-dollar equipment. While this column often explores projects on the lower end of the spectrum, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the most complex and expensive RC models around: jets.
What is a Real RC Jet?
There are all sorts of RC models that look like jets, but they are not true jet aircraft. Some are powered by electric motors that drive ducted fans, while others have discreetly located propellers. I'm not knocking those faux jets (I own several myself), but the subject of this article is models that are powered by genuine jet engines.
Because the turbojet engines intended for RC models operate just like the powerplants found on full-scale jets, they are tough to beat when it comes to scale realism. They look the same, they sound the same, and their exhaust even smells the same. I have taken photos of RC jets where it is virtually impossible to distinguish whether the aircraft is a model or the real thing.
Of course, not all RC jets are scale models. There seems to be about a 50/50 split between scale subjects and sport models that are unique designs. There are a few turbine airframes that appear boxy and utilitarian. Most, however, are sleek and curvy. Those complex, rounded shapes are possible thanks to the use of molded fiberglass and carbon fiber components. There are also some jet airframes that employ traditional balsa construction techniques. It is not uncommon to find elements of both building styles within a single model.