We’ve all heard the expression, “I’d Rather Be Flying” And after a long cold winter, I could not agree more! Without a doubt you and everyone else in the hobby has certainly noticed the trend toward almost-ready-to-fly (ARF) aircraft and more recently the availability of plug-and-play models at your local hobby shop.
This has widely been viewed as a positive movement in our hobby for getting more people flying quickly, while also providing many unique model choices for enthusiasts. The pitfalls however is that often development and manufacturing care doesn’t meet the user’s needs and expectations, resulting in only short term success.
In the sophisticated world of RC jets the plug and play options have been limited to small electric powered models. Larger models being marketed as ARF’s primarily come as a painted bare airframe requiring the owner to provide all the onboard systems and layout. Often also providing the builder with countless hours of head scratching, and in some cases reengineering and reinforcing, in an attempt to get his new model flying.
That is until now.
For more than 30 years, Bob Violett Models (BVM) jets has been a brand synonymous with providing well engineered designs, industry leading quality, and reliable customer service to the jet community. BVM have recently taken their experience and thorough testing program to the ARF market by partnering with China based Premier Aircraft to develop and supply a new type of large scale jet. After significant BVM testing and a number of design refinements, BVM has released their first offering under this partnership, a 1/6th scale F-16, and is the basis for this article. Utilizing Premier’s manufacturing center to execute under BVM’s strict guidance and recommendations is proving to be a successful combination.
Acquiring a new BVM F-16 starts with the buyer, who can reach BVM direct at their Florida headquarters, or via any one of their many outstanding field reps around the world. The F-16 is built to order and available in a number of standard schemes or in a custom scheme with details provided by the buyer. Some additional delivery time may be necessary for custom schemes. I elected the standard 3-tone military grey scheme with some custom markings on the vertical fin as seen in the accompanying photos. Dealing directly with BVM couldn’t have made the ordering process and exchange of painting details any easier. At the same time I also ordered the optional ordnance package, which includes a number of scale missiles and fuel tanks with their associated mounting pylons.
While my F-16 was being built I set about collecting the limited number of items I would require to complete my jet once it arrived. After all, the beauty of this approach is that within a few evenings of receiving your new model you can be enjoying it in the air. The owner needs to supply a radio receiver and batteries of their choice, as well as their own turbine and associate ancillaries (including UAT/CAT) to install and operate it. I chose Futaba guidance and a Kingtech K140G turbine for power. With ample power to fly this 30 lb. dry airframe and internal fuel valves, the K140 also would further reduce my assembly time. The essential scale pilot is also an item sourced separately by the owner, and is available via BVM. The scale cockpit is included with the kit and is secured between the fuselage and the canopy hatch. For a more scale appearance I raised the back of the ejection seat one inch before installing the pilot. Once he was secure I used some silicone to attach the cockpit to the bottom of the canopy hatch so it can be taken on and off as a single assembly.
During construction BVM provided reassuring status updates which avoided me having to overcome language, time and distance obstacles had I ordered factory direct. From previous experience I can’t overstate the value BVM provides on this front. During my wait I was also able to see a pair of examples of this new F-16 first hand from club mates who had ordered prior to me. In both cases I was thoroughly impressed with the quality and obvious attention to detail that could clearly be of BVM influence.
A week before the successful maiden flight of my new F-16 (more about that later), two large cardboard boxes safely arrived via DHL Global. One for the airframe and the other for the optional ordnance. After inspecting the outside of the boxes I couldn’t resist opening them to reveal my new jet. I was pleasantly surprised to not only find every component carefully wrapped and secured in its own bubble wrap packaging, but both boxes were lined on all sides by reinforcing sheets of thin plywood.
It took about 2hrs to completely remove all the parts and loosely assemble the complete airframe for the first time. Most of that time was spent unwrapping the protective bubble wrap. The attached photos demonstrate just how complete this airframe arrives out of the box, and two things were immediately evident. First, it was clear that the factory had taken great care in the fit and finish and had assembled the model before crating it up. In fact, the onboard air system still had air in it! The second thing that impressed me is just how big and light this airframe felt. Granted the turbine wasn’t on board, but despite its size I was easily able to maneuver the entire model by myself. The finish is very well done with an accurate 3-tone grey scheme, well masked markings and a consistent matte finish. I couldn’t resist adding the ordnance for some photos, and was pleased that all the predrilled pilot holes lined up perfectly with the supplied pylons.
The BVM supplied photo-illustrated manual made assembly very straightforward. It walks you through removing items that are secured inside the airframe for shipping, as well as giving hints and assembly tips along the way. One helpful suggestion was to order a pair of extra-long ball drivers, one 2.5mm the other 9/64th. While the airframe appears to have a familiar mix of both metric and imperial bolting, the key mounting bolts for the fin, stabilizers, and wings are all a common head size. Another nice feature of this assembly bolting is that the factory has installed a c-clip on the end of each bolt to prevent it accidently backing out in transit and becoming lost.
The model features all high voltage, metal geared, brushless servos, and high voltage digital air valves. All the components in the airframe are installed and pre-wired so the owner just needs to fish all the air/fuel lines and servo/lighting wires through the fuse where they all accumulate under the forward cockpit hatch. All the leads are clearly labeled thus simplifying what can often become a confusing task.
Let’s run through some of the main systems in the F-16, starting with the smoke/fuel system. From the factory the airframe comes plumbed with dual fuel tanks over the CG, totaling 3.3L as well as dual forward smoke tanks, totaling 2.2L capacity. Both systems use 6mm tubing and have their own dedicated vent connections with nicely machined magnetic plugs and reminder flags. The smoke system comes plumbed with its own BVM electric pump as well as stainless steel injector stick. For added fuel capacity I elected to remove the smoke pump and plumb my smoke tanks into the main fuel tanks with these empting first before the main saddle tanks. This also gave me the opportunity to check all the secured connections within the tanks and nothing appeared to be rushed or forgotten by the factory. Also, as you can see in the attached photos, inspection of the hidden glue joints revealed consistent and complete clean coverage along all joints. The user needs to add his/her own fuel pump, filter, UAT/CAT and manual shut off valve all of which I did under the forward hatch for easy access.
The air system is controlled by individual one way electronic valves, with a dedicated valve each for gear up, gear down, doors open, doors closed, and brakes. Synchronizing the actuation is all done via a pre-programmed electronic sequencer which worked flawlessly right out of the box. The sequencer is also adjustable by the user if needed and I reduced the delay between the doors and gear slightly as a matter of personal preference. The sequencer also digitally displays air system pressure in Bar and radio battery voltage. The brakes use very little air and operate off the same air system for simplicity. BVM shows in the manual how to properly lubricate the brakes to soften the non-proportional braking action and to date this has worked well without locking up. Another nice feature of the air system sequencer is a built in failsafe. Should you forget to add air or the system gain a leak and lose air the gear is automatically dropped and locked. My limit is set for 3bar and in testing on the ground has worked repeatedly. Another nice feature of the electronic valves is that without power they can be operated manually by pressing a small button on the top of each valve. A BVM fill valve and pressure gauge reading in PSI also comes pre-installed in the forward equipment bay.
As mentioned previously, the F-16 comes with all high voltage servos. Their connections are well labeled and come in a nicely shielded servo lead long enough to reach the radio compartment. I’m using a Futaba HV RX and Powerbox iGyro to handle the radio signal to the model, and this is driven by a pair of 2-cell 1900mAh lipo rx batteries.
A very nice scale feature of the F-16 is that it comes will a full complement of navigation, anti-collision and landing lights all pre-installed, wired and programed. The associated lighting controller allows the user to set a 3-position transmitter switch to control the lights by having the lights off, all on with the exception of the three landing lights, or a third position with all lights on. Also the lighting controller in coordination with the retract channel automatically turns the landing lights off when the landing gear is retracted, and turns them back on when the gear is put back down. Despite their intensity, even in direct sunlight, the lights use very little battery power and are run off the main RX batteries. One of the only options I added was a simulated afterburner ring which I aquired from Details4Scale and it runs off it’s own controller and 6.6V LiFe battery.
Following the recommendations in the manual my model balanced perfectly on the recommended CG without having to move anything from my preferred locations. No equipment is required in the nose cone and thus can be conveniently removed reducing the fuse length by 12 inches for storage and transport. My layout can be seen in the accompanying photos and may provide some ideas for other owners. The manual also shows a couple different layout configurations in the radio and turbine areas. This forward compartment does get busy but provides convenient access to all the important systems. I added a faux carbon tray in the center of the existing one to hide the visible plumbing, and also provide somewhere to mount my RX switch and onboard turbine data analyzer. Care had to be taken to avoid equipment on this tray from interfering with the cockpit floor when installed. One item that was included that I elected not to use was a molded turbine bypass. The diameter of the K140 was slightly too large to fit within the supplied bypass, but I have seen smaller diameter turbines fit and perform well.
It took me less than a week of evenings to complete the equipment installation on my F-16 and get it ready to fly. A very useful touch from BVM is the inclusion of full size templates with the manual for setting the control surface throws and neutral points. These have turned out to be spot on. I always like to do a turbine run test with all the installed equipment and plumbing in the airplane, with the exception of the turbine itself. That gets mounted on a secure stand next to the model, pointed away for obvious reasons. This allows safe adjustment of startup settings and once everything is operating smoothly, then the turbine can be mounted in the model.
After going over all the settings and doing the necessary range checks with the turbine off and with it running, everything was set for The F-16 to officially become an airplane and fly. By following BVM’s setup recommendations the first flights went off without a hitch. The F-16 only required a couple clicks of up elevator trim and it was grooving along very well, the Kingtech K-140 providing ample power. The model slows nicely with the added drag of the doors open and gear down. Despite using no flaps, the approach speed was predictable and landings were uneventful. Ninety-five percent of my flying is from grass runways and to date the F-16 has exceeded my expectation for ease of handling and durability on grass.
Flying the F-16 using the high rate recommendations provides precise response and you quickly forget you’re flying a complex scale jet; rather it has the feel of a sport jet. With the lights clearly visible in full sunlight and the K140 effortlessly pushing the F-16 through the sky, I couldn’t help but marvel that I was out flying and only a week had passed since I started unboxing the model. I’ll be the first to admit that I was skeptical on just how well a sophisticated jet like a 1/6th scale F-16 could be supplied in a PNP format. I’m very pleased to report that my skepticism was unfounded and the new BVM PNP F-16 as exceed all my expectations for looks, performance, and grass field reliability. Perhaps this new offering from BVM may be your next hanger addition…but trust me it won’t keep you there long if you also “would rather be flying”!
Wing Span: 65.5” (with Missile Rails)
Weight: 30-31lbs. (Dry with turbine and smoke system)
Thrust: 140N Class (31-32lbs. thrust)
Fuel Capacity: 3.3L
Smoke Capacity: 2.2 L
Kingtech Turbines: www.kingtechturbines.com