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Turbine engines originally appeared for use in model jets. It wasn't until just a few years ago that we saw the first turbine engines being adapted to model helicopters. We now have very reliable gas turbines that have been designed from the ground up for our rotary models. As engine and controller technology has matured we have engines that are are simply started by the push of a button. Engine startup, complete inflight operation and shut down is managed electronically which interfaces with our radio system.

Along with the technology is responsibility to keep our jet models safe. See the fire in the background of the OH-58D, it's not a digital effect, the fire is real. As many have found out already, to fly a gas turbine powered helicopter at an AMA sanctioned flying club, there is stringent and mandatory testing required to become certified to operate and fly our turbine models. This section was created to provide a rich information resource to help modelers interested in gas turbines get accurate and current documents needed to become certified. Becoming certified essentially comes down to being issued a turbine waiver from AMA that extends their liability insurance coverage to your gas turbine model.

Why do we need to go through all this just to fly a turbine helicopter? Safety is the primary reason. Unlike two stroke fuel powered helicopters, gas turbines operate at much higher temperatures and typically carry 2 to 3 times the amount of liquid Kerosene in addition to the gaseous butane/propane fuel. Crashing a gas turbine helicopter near takeoff can result in a explosion and a fireball 50 feet in the air. Due to this potentially lethal situation and the high fire danger, we as an organization of modelers cannot risk beginners operating a gas turbine.

       

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Our responsibility as a distributor for JAKADOFSKY Jet Engines goes well beyond simply selling and supporting the engines. When looking for a helicopter turbine engine, first it must be AMA approved. This approval means that the engine has been tested by AMA to verify the engine will not break apart during common operator mistakes and electronic failures. JAKADOFSKY's engine was certified by AMA in April 30, 2003 and is published in their approved engines list.

Certification Process

Part of the certification process is written, where you will submit a questionnaire in your own words that describes the common dangers, safety regulations and operating knowledge of your radio, gas turbine and helicopter. Two contest director certifications are needed where an AMA approved contest director and one AMA designated gas turbine contest director observe your ability to fly a 60 class helicopter (not turbine powered) safely in fast forward flight exceeding 50 mph.

March 2004 update, AMA no longer requires the Ground School Certification, formerly Doc 517.

The following documents are published by the AMA and are available here or on their website, www.modelaircraft.org to be reviewed and studied before submission. Successful and satisfactory completion will qualify you to hold a turbine waiver, issue by AMA that will allow you to fly your gas turbine helicopter at any AMA sanctioned flying field.

  • Doc 510-A Safety regulations for fixed/rotory wing model aircraft gas turbines
  • Doc 510-D Turbine qualification flight attestation  (required)
  • Doc 510-F Turbine waiver application for rotory wing  (required) x 2
  • Doc 902 AMA membership application  (current)

Gas Turbine Reference Documents

In addition to the certification forms, AMA maintains several documents for modelers to locate turbine manufacturer/distributors, approved waiver holders, approved engines and instructors for gas turbines. Here are the more relevant documents for helicopters.

  • Doc 510-K AMA Accepted designated contest directors for turbine sign-off
  • Doc 510-M AMA Turbine waiver holders
  • Doc 510-P AMA Sanctioned event statement of compliance - rotory wing

Information and Online References

While the AMA is the governing organization that approves gas turbine waivers in the United States, there are plenty of good websites that provide information regarding both turbines and model helicopters in general.