We featured William Jackson’s re-finished F-86 Sabre Jet in Pilot Projects a few months back, and the jet looked so amazing we had to know more details on how he achieved this “next level” look. Bill is located in Wooster, Ohio and is a retired network engineer who started flying RC in 1984, so he’s been at it for a while.
A little context is in order to set the stage for the absolutely amazing job he’s done on the F-86. The Sabre Jet is a 120mm foam EDF ARF model from HSD Jets USA. The high-density foam is nicely finished from the factory, but it looks like a foam jet. Bill’s makeover looks like a masterpiece, and it’s hard to tell that it is made from foam.
William said, “I had no plans to do a full makeover but every time I worked on it, I would make some small change.” He wanted something for himself to fly at local events that he was proud of. Small changes indeed! We ran into Bill at Top Gun 2023 and saw him collecting the Special Award for Best EDF Jet.
To create his breathtaking model, William’s first step was a full strip and repaint. He also added functional landing lights extend and illuminate just like the real thing. He also added a cockpit upgrade, sliding canopy, and even leading-edge wing slats.
This was more than just cleaning up a paint job. He removed the existing paint and decals using an acetone wash. Once down to the bare foam, he filled in the inaccurate factory panel lines and any defects with Beacon Foam-Tac lightweight filler. He then brushed on five coats of Minwax water-based Polycrylic in thin layers. The Minwax protects the foam and gives a hard base for the primer and base coat paint to adhere to. It also removes the “painted foam” appearance and gives his jet a realistic look.
The next step was several light coats of primer and a lot of sanding. Once smooth, Bill created the panel lines and rivets. The rivets are individually made with a Dremel bit that was cut to a 45-degree angle. The panel lines were formed by laying down 1/64-inch chart tape in the correct scale locations and spraying two coats of primer then pulling the chart tape while the final coat of primer was still tacky.
When all the imperfections were sanded out, Bill finish painted the F-86 using PPG automotive paint. The next step was to apply the decals and markings. Finally, he sprayed the entire model with an automotive clearcoat to seal the finish and protect the markings.
William chose a rarely if ever modeled scheme of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) Blue Sabre show team. The team transitioned to the F-86 after flying P-51 Mustangs and operated them between 1962 and 1967.
The sliding canopy and leading-edge slats and landing light all took several months of work to get perfected. He didn’t use any 3D-printed parts were used; he made all the customizations from balsa and light plywood. The sliding canopy is servo-operated with a custom designed arm activated by a small servo. William says it took a lot of work to get the canopy operating properly, but the result was well worth the effort.
We have rarely seen slats, or leading-edge flaps on an RC model. Many full-scale aircraft are equipped with slats, but they aren’t commonly duplicated features on our models. The purpose of the slat is to extend the leading edge of the wing downward and outward giving it more wing area and a higher lift airfoil at lower speeds while retracting into the wing for high-speed flight. This has the effect of lowering the stall and landing speed for high performance aircraft.
The slats William designed for the Sabre Jet are a fairly simple design and similar to the full-scale in that they aren’t servo (or hydraulically) actuated. They are weighted so that they extend at low speeds but as the aircraft accelerates, the air pressure pushes the surface back into its seat until the aircraft slows down to land and the weight allows it to extend.
Not stopping there, William added functional servo-operated speed brakes and modified the drop tanks so that they can release in flight. The cockpit is a work of art, and the Heads-Up-Display, or HUD, is illuminated by a green LED. Speaking of lights, the Sabre is equipped with a full LED lighting system that mimics its full-scale counterpart.
If you want to learn more about how he modified the F-86 look up “William Jackson’s Custom RC Planes” on YouTube, where he shares a ton of information on this and his many other projects. Make no mistake, when you start watching these videos it’s very possible you will find yourself down a rabbit hole and will never be satisfied with a stock RC foam jet again!
Thanks for sharing, and congratulations on Best EDF Jet, William!
By Andrew Griffith
Photos by William Jackson