Want to know more about those RC Jet Powered model aircraft?

F16 Model plane kit
F16 Model plane kit

With either a JetCat or a Wren turbine which operate on Jet A1 fuel exactly the same as the real jet turbine engines found in that Qantas jet that lands at Adelaide airport, these model aircraft are an incredible piece of engineering. When you hear them before seeing them, you’ll swear your hearing a real jet engine.

Jet turbine driven model helicopters
Jet turbine driven model helicopters

How fast?

I don’t really know yet. The US FAA has placed a speed limit on these models of 377kmh (234mph) however these pilots report faster speeds than that. To put a little perspective around this, a Cessna 174 (typical single engine 4 seater) has a top speed of 320kph (200mph) at sea level.

The helicopters seem to get speeds up to about 140km/h, a little slower than their real life counterparts but not much.

These engines use the same fuel as their the full size versions, Jet A1, 1-K kerosene. So when you are around these planes, you’d swear your at the airport. Fuel consumption varies but as an example, the JetCat P160 uses 454 grams (16 oz) per min at full power.

How the engine works
They really work the same as the full size engines with the main difference being the size of the parts used. They have a compressor, combustion chamber, turbine and exhaust nozzle. Air enters the engine and is compressed by the compressor. The compressed air is moved through the combustion chamber where the air is heated, making it expand (and compress even more). This air moves through the turbines at very high speed which makes them spin. A shaft is connected to the turbines and back through the front of the engine which connects to the compressor blades turning them. The air from the turbine stage exits the engine through the exhaust nozzle at very high speed (about 2,000km/h or 1,300mph) which pushes the engine and plane through the air.

With the helicopter, there is a second shaft connected to the turbines which goes through a gearbox to drive the helicopters rotor. In this version the air coming out of the turbines is exhausted and not used for thrust.

Two good articles that explain this with illustrations is:

Some of the engines and power plants

JetCat P160 Jet Turbine engine
Helicopter powerplant using a JetCat Turbine engine.
Helicopter powerplant using a JetCat Turbine engine.
Alternative helicopter power plant using a JetCat Turbine engine
Alternative helicopter power plant using a JetCat Turbine engine

How much?

If your anything like me, I have to know what would a hobby like this cost me? Well here’s what I found out so far. Please note, I don’t sell these and the prices here are what I found the things for on the Internet at the time of writing.

Prices range from AU$3,400 for a JetCat P80 to AU$7,600 for the JetCat P200. For helicopters, you would spend about AU$7,300 for a SPH5 Helicopter Power Unit.

I’ve found kits start at about AU$1,200 for a Boomerang Intro ARF Jet Kit and work up from there. The sky really is the limit as some of the planes are really impressive with enormous amounts of time going into their construction.

Controllers, computers etc:
You need to be able to control these models and they don’t come with a controller. Most hobbyists have a tendency to like a particular controller so its left up to the individual. Priced that I found started from about AU$199 for a simple 4 channel radio kit to AU$3,350 for a Futaba 14CH Radio Control System.

So for a full kit, one should expect to start at about AU$6,000 when you get the other bits that are not included, with most hobbyists spending much more.

A tip:

If you don’t have experience in flying these models, start small and cheap. When they crash, there is usually nothing left.

The next two pictures are of a B52 Remote Control model aircraft which was flown by someone with experience. You can see the results anyway.

Remote control B-52 aircraft before takeoff
Remote control B-52 aircraft before takeoff
Remote control B-52 aircraft crash site
Remote control B-52 aircraft crash site

Comment from a YouTube viewer explains a little what happened:
pete2778 (6 March 2007) I was there and saw this happen, RAF Barkston Heath, Lincolnshire, England, August Bank Holiday Weekend in 2005. It was the BMFA national championships. It was blustery but many other models were being succesfully flown. The problem was that the roll spoilers on the B52 become very ineffective past a certain angle of roll, a gust pushed it beyond that angle and the rest was history. Sure looked realistic, most realistic model crash I’ve ever seen!

Where can you buy (in Australia)?
This is not exhaustive, it’s what I found in a short time of looking. If your a dealer, and want to be listed here, feel free to drop me an email 

Dealer City/State  Web Address 
ModelFlight Forestville, South Australia http://www.modelflight.com.au/
Intairco Hurstbridge Victoria http://www.intairco.net/

Clubs in Australia that fly jet powered aircraft:

Club City/State
Web Address