LED afterburner lights

Written by Don Slusarczyk Jets As seen in the Fall 2019 issue of Park Pilot

>> When I was growing up, Labor Day weekend meant going to the Cleveland National Air Show in Ohio. One of my favorite parts of the show was the last act of the day, which was either the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds or the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. The rumble of their engines as they flew by is one of the reasons that I love RC EDF (electric ducted-fan) jets so much. Consequently, I find it difficult to pass up an EDF that is either in a Thunderbirds or Blue Angels color scheme.

When Freewing, and its US distributor, Motion RC (motionrc.com/collections/freewing-rc-airplanes), announced the release of a 90 mm McDonnell Douglas F/A-18C Hornet in Blue Angels livery, I had to order it right away! It was not long after the airplane arrived that I spotted some photos on RCGroups (rcgroups.com) of lights that could be retrofitted into an aircraft to simulate the orange glow of an afterburner when flying. This added scale realism would really put the finishing touch on my jet, so I contacted the seller, Gooniac’s RC EDF Creations, through his Facebook page (facebook.com/gooniacsrcedfcreations).

The afterburner LED kit comes preassembled for an easy retrofit into your airplane.


I placed an order and approximately a week later, the afterburner lights arrived in the mail. The set I ordered was specifically for the 90 mm Freewing F-18, but there are versions available for other popular EDFs on the market. There are some minor design variations depending on fan size and whether the aircraft uses an inrunner or outrunner motor.


The installation is easy. After the EDF hatch has been removed, take the fan unit out of the fuselage just far enough to access the aft metal cone on the back of the fan. The cone is mounted with two setscrews that need to be loosened to remove them.

Install the new LED cone using the setscrews and make sure to line up the LED power leads next to the motor leads. Use a couple of zip ties to keep the wires bundled.

The LED cone mounts to the back of the EDF unit with two setscrews.


I used a long piece of .047-inch wire with a hook on the end to pull the power leads up through the fuselage. You might need to loosen the plywood ESC mount a little to get the wires to feed through easier.


A fishhook makes pulling the power leads through the fuselage an easy task.


When the wires are pulled through, connect the power leads to the included LED driver board. (I have my driver board in the nose area close to the flight battery connector.) Reinstall the EDF unit and hatch back into the fuselage and you’re done.


A lens on the back helps disperse the light inside of the ducting.


To connect it to your radio system, you can either use a Y harness on your throttle channel or plug the servo lead into a spare channel on your receiver. I had a spare channel available, so I chose this method because it also allowed me to test it without having to run the EDF unit. If you do put it on a spare channel, you will have to create a mix in your radio with the throttle as the master because the afterburner lights are triggered to turn on and off based on the throttle stick position.


To power the LEDs, plug the JST connector into your flight battery’s balancing tap and make sure the micro power switch is in the on position. To test the lights, advance the throttle stick past halfway. The lights will turn on and as you add more throttle, they will become brighter. When the throttle stick is reduced, the lights will dim. At approximately half stick, they will turn off. The lights are very bright and I can see them easily during the day when I fly.

If you are looking to add some scale realism to your EDF jets, contact Gooniac’s RC EDF Creations and get a set for your favorite airplane! For those without Facebook access, the company can be reached by email at goniac33@gmail.com.

The orange glow of the afterburner lights really adds to the aircraft’s realism when flying.





I have Gooniac also on my FW 90mm Inrunner Blue Angel F18. In bright daylight I thought the lights were dim over 200 feet away. So I painted both thrust tubes gloss white and it made a big improvement.

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