Ever seen a radio-controlled model aircraft do 300 mph? Visit Metropolis, Missouri, this fall.
- By Ed Regis
- Air & Space magazine, September 2004
(Page 4 of 6)
“It happens,” Valdez says later. “It’s nobody’s fault. You can do whatever you want here, as long as you maintain that oval pattern. And we were both doing it.”
“This was my third flight of the day,” McLeod says. “And everything was going real good until…I speared him from behind.
“The engine’s come out quite well,” he adds, eyeing his SimJet 1200 turbine as it cooled on the ground. “I haven’t run it up yet. It looks like it might have ingested a little bit of dirt, but there’s no damage to the compressor blade and it spins over smoothly, so that’s usually a good sign.”
Indeed, a little FOD (foreign object damage) is nothing insurmountable here, not with the presence of the Repair Technology International trailer and turbine mechanic Carlos Villarreal. Based in Miami, Villarreal travels from one jet rally to another with his mobile repair shop, in which he can rectify practically any engine failure short of a major burnup in just a few hours.
“I have a balancing machine in the trailer, I’ve got a lathe, I’ve got all kinds of welding equipment—everything I need.” His workbench is covered with what seems like hundreds of wrenches, screwdrivers, drills, pliers, torches, and so on, all neatly stowed in their allotted spots. He has an endless supply of ceramic ball bearings, bearing housings, combustion chambers, turbine wheels, compressor wheels, glow plugs—the works. Jet engine repairs are not cheap—a simple bearing change, the most common fix, is $295—but at least you’re flying again.
Spend some time on the rally grounds and you realize that the emblem of BVM Jets is omnipresent. The trademark appears on hats, jackets, T-shirts, coolers, and the wings and fuselages of the models. BVM stands for Bob Violett Models, a top manufacturer of radio-controlled jets. “Probably 40 percent of the aircraft out here are Bob Violett’s kits,” says Vernon Montgomery, a modeler from Mississippi who is flying a BVM F-4 Phantom II.
Violett flew the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk during the Vietnam War. “I flew a combat tour over North Vietnam,” he says. “I got shot at a lot, dropped a lot of bombs and rockets and missiles—flew 83 missions off the USS Hancock.” He flew the Vought F8U Crusader with the reserves, and in peacetime, he flew Lockheed Electras and Boeing 727s for Eastern Air Lines for 18 years.
“I started off as a modeler very early in life,” Violett says. “They say I taught myself to read to be able to build models around five years old—that’s how the story goes.” In the early 1980s he started building models and selling them out of his garage. Today he runs a factory in Winter Springs, Florida, oversees 20 employees, and keeps expanding the technical boundaries of turbine-powered model aircraft.