I am pretty passionate about building and flying park jets, in the nearly four years since I got serious about this hobby, I have tried a few ARFs and other types of scratch built planes, but always come back to park jets pretty quickly. There is just something about the creative process and ability to experiment without spending a whole lot money that I find so attractive about scratch built foam park jets. I am certainly no expert, but I have learned a lot about park jets in the four years I have been in this hobby, much from my great NAMC partners Stephan and Dave, and probably much more from trial and error...heavy on the error!
I am often asked through my You Tube channel, the RC Powers forum and e-mail what park jet people should build both from beginners and folks who have been in this hobby for awhile and are looking for something different. So as I pondered these questions, I started to formulate several ideas for a series of articles that hopefully will distill what I have learned over thousands of park jet flights.
So first a bit of background on my experience in the hobby. First, I grew up with the Air Force, my Dad was a pilot and when I was old enough, I joined the Air Force as well, I wasn't a pilot, but a fighter controller/air traffic controller. Since I was a very small boy, I have always loved fighter jets. Something about their raw power combined with grace and agility has always brought me back to those early days of childhood. No matter how many times I hear or see a fighter jet fly overhead, I still smile and get chills up my spine. Throughout my career, I was lucky enough to have back seat rides in a few different fighter jets, mostly the CF-18 Hornet and I can tell you there is no amusement ride that could ever compete.
So when I first saw RC Powers' videos on their cool scratch built foam park jets, I was instantly hooked and knew that was what I wanted to build as my main focus in the RC hobby. My first park jet was the F-35 V2 which was billed as a trainer and the plans were free, so off I went. I had already learned the essentials of flying using a Bixler 2 from Hobby King, so the F-35 V2 was not the first RC plane I ever flew. Here is a picture of that first plane that got me started.
I still see many people struggling getting started in the hobby, making many of the same mistakes I made and many new ones. Although I have never read it, RC Powers recently released a Park Jet ebook might also be very helpful if you are quite new to the hobby. When I first started, I bought all the RC Powers audio and video series and found them all to be quite helpful.
I know it can be very difficult to get straight answers in this hobby, I still often see a new person and even experienced folks posting a question on the RC Powers forum and they get ten different answers, none I suppose being wrong, but it can be quite bewildering. I paid attention to a lot of the "big voices" on the RC Powers forum early on and all it did was help me try to build and fly like those people did, not like I truly wanted to build and fly.
I hope in this series of articles not to dwell on gear so much as what I have learned about the basic airframes themselves. Throughout the rest of this blog, I have posted lots of info on gear if you are looking for more info on those items. I have learned there are several different qualities park jet air frames possess depending on what a person is looking for, so hopefully the experience I have gained might be helpful to folks trying to pick their first park jet or something different from what they have flown previously. When I first started, I built every new plane that came along, many of them disappointing which resulted in crashes or me just getting bored with them very quickly as they had limited performance or just didn't suit my flying style.
Again, I will caveat I am not an expert by any means and although my opinions are my own, I will try to remain as objective as possible to help you narrow down what sort of park jet might be right for you. If nothing else, I hope it will give folks food for thought before they buy their next set of plans.
I know that some of my personal opinions will come through in this series of articles, I'm only human. If you disagree with them, that is fine, my feelings will not be hurt. I am not trying to lead you down a particular path or stand in judgement of how others like to build, fly and set up their park jets. I will say however that I feel pretty strongly that as their core "mission" park jets fit into the "sport/aerobatic" realm of RC flying. Certainly you can fly around very slow and docile without doing any aerobatics or at the other end of the spectrum thrash your plane around doing flips and rifle bullet rolls and other 3D type maneuvers, but I see park jets as being planes that allow me to really hone my scale (ie flying like the real plane) flying skills and performing some pretty cool aerobatics. I say this because if you want a really docile, floaty plane, or one that can perform almost 3D style maneuvers, that is fine. However, what you might find yourself up against with certain planes (NAMC planes in particular) is that the planes are designed to be precise, agile and aerobatic planes with a broad speed envelope, so you might be working against the design without making significant modifications of your own.
I am going to base my thoughts on the most basic power setup, the very popular 2212/6 2200 Kv motor, 6x4 APC prop, 40A ESC, 2200 3S battery combo, or the "mild" setup from our Recommended parts list. Personally, I think this is the best setup for folks just new to park jets and I think most well designed park jets should be able to perform well with this set up. For more intermediate and advanced guys, certainly if the plane can handle the weight, go for whatever power system you like. However, if a park jet is designed so that it will only fly well with a big, heavy power system, it is probably not a good place to start in my experience.
I know especially if you are a beginner, it is very tempting when you watch You Tube videos of guys ripping up the skies with their planes to want to do that right away. If I could give you any advice at all, resist this temptation with all your might! Like so many things in life, if you try to run before you walk which I did far too often when I started off, you will run into a lot of frustration and fill a couple garbage bags with busted up planes.
As I wrap up this intro, I just want to say that throughout some of the articles I might pose some questions and I'm not trying to be "preachy" here, but I encourage you to seriously consider them and be very honest with yourself to help you identify what you want out of your plane and your flying experience. It took me almost two years to really get honest with myself about what I wanted out of my planes and I spent a lot of time and a lot of foam figuring that out. I won't say it was wasted time as I learned a lot from it, but I certainly would have saved myself a lot of frustration and a lot of foam. I hope that by thinking about some of the ideas I discuss throughout this series of articles it might help you streamline your decision process on which park jet is right for you.