Why Now Is the Time to Start Jet Aeromodelling


Model airplanes conjure up plenty of “standard” imagery – putting them together, adding a little glue, and heading to the park to see how she flies.

But there’s so much more to the world of jet aeromodelling, and now may be the perfect time to get started in this rewarding pursuit.

Through the lens of Brett Becker, a noted expert and award-winning model aviator with more than three decades of experience, our latest podcast explores everything the world of model aviation and competition has to offer. Listen in the player or read the following summary.

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Meet Bret Becker

Bret Becker is an expert and award-winning aeromodeller who’s been fascinated with aviation since he first experienced the movie Top Gun as a kid. The adrenaline rush from the film, combined with being able to see the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds at air shows ignited his passion for jets and launched him into the world of model airplanes.

He acquired an early start in high speed pylon racing and over the years developed an appreciation for scale models. It turned out that the world of R/C Jets captured his interest for both high performance flying and scale all in one satisfying hobby.

Over the past 30 years, he has honed and refined his skills as a designer, builder and pilot of model aircraft, winning accolades and awards for jets that have set speed records, been featured in articles, competed at scale competitions and even retired to the Academy of Model Aeronautics Museum and Hall of Fame.

The Evolution of Model Aviation

Model airplanes have come a long way. In Becker’s own journey in model aviation, he’s seen models get increasingly complex and inch closer and closer to the real jets and planes he admired so much as a child.

“Things have changed so much since I first started,” said Becker. “Prior to the internet, the way that you would find out what was the latest and greatest was either going to trade shows or reading the most recent magazine that was on the shelves at a magazine stand or bookstore.

Now, like so many aspects of modern society, the advent of the internet and the ballooning growth of technological innovations has allowed more people with a passion for model aviation than ever before to find others who share that passion.

Perhaps the biggest change, however, is simply the technology behind some of the world’s most impressive model airplanes and jets.

Electric Ducted Fans and Other Technological Leaps Propel Model Aviation to New Heights

In the past, the only way to make a jet-powered model airplane was to use a combustion engine, an expensive, time-consuming and unreliable proposition.

“Back 20 or 30 years ago, there was a very small community of people who were actually willing to put all of that effort into a model that might not even survive its first couple of flights,” Becker said.

Since then, with the help of companies like Schubeler Technologies, electrically powered models are more reliable, allowing them to last longer – and for new entrants into the field to start from a better position.

It was actually an introduction to Daniel Schubeler, in the late 90’s, that gave Bret a glimpse at the future of model jet performance.  While attending an aeromodelling event in San Diego called the Mid-Winter Electrics, Daniel was one of the very few people at that time to have an electric ducted fan from Schubeler technologies and a custom airplane called the Vector.

“Nobody had really seen anything like this in terms of its performance,” Becker said. “He was able to put on an incredible high-speed flight that was longer than anyone else. We were able to see this was the future. And now we’re here!  Jets are more accessible. You can get lithium power batteries. The cost has come down and it’s just allowed the average modeler to be able to have that performance and make it affordable.”

Schubeler’s electric ducted fan solutions are part of a movement that’s seen such technology become the most popular choice for model aviation, particularly for airplanes under 30 pounds or so. They don’t use fuel or require tweaking and caring for many moving parts, are generally consistent and reliable over the lifetime of the plane and are more lightweight and portable.

“Nowadays, you can be fairly early in the hobby with very little experience and buy something off the shelf and be successful,” Becker said. “They’re much more convenient. You can fit them in your car. You don’t have to deal with fuel like a turbine jet would. For the average modeler, electric powered airplanes are a very convenient way of taking a day off on the weekend, going to the field, having a couple batteries charged, and going out there and having fun without having to work on the airplane at the field.”

The electric ducted fan technology from Schubeler Technologies is enabling modelers to build more advanced jet aircraft, whether it be for scale competition or for custom designers. Aeromodellers are now able to design, build and fly model airplanes that would have never previously been possible. Being able to rely on the EDF technology and their power system allows the designer to focus on another aspect of the model that might be challenging.

“You can design airplanes that are difficult to fly, or airplanes that are designed to go really fast, or airplanes that are supposed to be in the air for a really long time,” Becker explained. “Now, there is a trend in that electrics are getting bigger. And And Schubeler makes some ducted fans that are larger than any of other manufacturers that I’m aware of. They are very high-end, and they can power air frames that you would think that only jet powered turbine aircraft would otherwise be able to fly. And those are absolutely incredible and they’re very high end. But again, they are very efficient and reliable.”

Bret’s model XB-70 Valkyrie

One of Bret’s award-winning projects was a model of the North American XB-70 Valkyrie. The inspiration for this build stemmed from a move to Dayton Ohio, home of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, which has the only remaining full size XB-70 in the world.

“As a fan of aviation,” Becker recalled, “I was looking forward to seeing the XB-70 at the museum, but I wasn’t expecting much more than that. However, seeing it in person gave me a completely different perspective for the size and the complexity of this aircraft. I thought to myself, it would be incredible to make an RC version of this scale jet.”

At the time, there were not many modelers working on XB-70s, other than a few small kits that were not extremely detailed or representative of the full scale and impact of the jet. Becker was thinking of doing a scratch build by himself and reached out to a friend in California who had built one in the past.  As luck would have, that friend had crashed his custom designed XB-70 and was willing to let Becker use model to jumpstart his project.

“The plane needed some significant repairs,” Becker said. “So, I brought it to Ohio and spent a year gutting it, re-installing everything and making some structural changes to it. I also spoke to Daniel Schubeler at an event, and he was very interested in the airplane and the project. Schubeler fans were the go-to and they would provide the longest flight time that I could get with the space that I had for batteries.  Daniel was extremely helpful in providing advice on what fan units it would take to get an endurance of six to seven minutes for scale competition.”

In early 2017, Bret’s XB-70 was competition worthy and he received his first invite to participate in the elite Top Gun Invitational. Top Gun is a world famous, invitational scale competition for R/C aircraft. An XB-70 model had never previously competed in scale competition and its electric ducted fans added to its uniqueness. 

In 2017, Bret completed the required flight rounds and impressed the Top Gun Community receiving a Special Recognition award.  In 2019 Bret and his XB-70 received a 5th place finish in the expert class. 

Bret’s model Lockheed U-2

The current project that Bret is working on, a Lockheed U-2C jet model, will also be competing in the 2020 Top Gin Invitational. However, there’s more on the line than just winning an award. This project represents a legacy build designed by an aeromodeller named Rene Saenz.

“This was a composite project that Rene worked on for several years,” Becker explains. “He was extremely passionate about this model and the quality of the work that he did was incredible. It has thousands and thousands of rivets, which represent the full-scale rivets on the airplane, both on the wing and the fuselage. Unfortunately, Rene passed away and never had the chance to see his model completed. I have been given the honor to take this project and complete it as Rene would have liked.”

For the past 4 months Becker has been working on the project, motivated by the ingenuity of Rene Saenz, who had already crafted a design that is Top Gun worthy.  Bret is working on making the first flying U-2C from Rene’s molds. The plane will be designed to use a 120 millimeter EDF from Schubeler Technologies to help achieve the a seven minute flight time to compete.

“In scale competition,” Becker explains, “they’re not only judging the airplane on the ground, but they’re also judging how realistic does it look in the air. When it comes to model jets, sound is a big component, and there is nothing that sounds like a Schubeler fan which sounds like a turbine. The sound is so realistic and it’s always appreciated by spectators.

Bret will be competing with his U-2C in the32nd Annual TOP GUN October. 28th – Nov. 1st, 2020 in Lakeland Florida.

The Best Time to Start Flying is NOW

Based on more than 30 years of experience, Becker doesn’t think there’s ever been a better time to get into aeromodelling than now. There are complex model airplanes available right out of the box such as an F-18 Hornet or an F-14 Tomcat. These kits make it easy and fun to get started and flying fast. Then, hobbyists can develop as they see fit.

 “I think the most important part of this hobby is to keep it fun,” Said Becker.  You can go out and purchase an airplane and if you want to make it unique put on your own paint scheme. If you’re interested in having the highest performance of any jet at the field go research the latest and the greatest technology and try to upgrade your jet. Those small additions are what make the hobby fun and make each project something to look forward to. Half the fun is envisioning what you want your model to either look or perform like, and making that happen, making that dream a reality. I think if you keep that in mind, you’re never going to stop loving the hobby.”

To learn how Schubeler is leading the way in the industry, contact us today.

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