Tigersharks. Nighthawks. Stealth Bombers.
What do they all have in common (besides being mega-cool and awesome)? They’re planes used by the United States military, and if you want to build one, you can’t use just any screws. No, seriously. Defense contractors are obligated by United States law to source their materials from companies that are Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) compliant.
What does that mean?
It means that stainless steels or other specialty metals that are to be used in the construction of military planes need to be melted in the United States or “qualifying country.” (If you’re curious, the “qualifying” countries, are, essentially, allies of the United States.) And if you need help finding DFARS-compliant stainless steel, there are strategic sourcing agents that can help.
Of course, even if you obtain all the right materials, and a killer prototype for a high performance fighter jet, there’s no guarantee that it will fly. Occasionally, a defense contractor will build a plane for the military, only for it to go unused, for whatever reason.
Model Airplanes Are Inner Child-Compliant
Ok so maybe looking for DFARS-compliant steel is too much work, and you might not be able to build your own life-size Viking Shadow — you’ll have to leave that to Lockheed Martin. But you’re never too old to put together a model air plane, right? They’re made of plastic so you won’t need steel — DFARS-compliant or otherwise — and they cost a lot less, too. Model planes might seem boring if you think all its going to do when you’re done building it is sitting on a shelf.
However, some model airplanes can, in fact, fly. Many model planes have an elastic motor — a long rubber band that you wind up before the plane flies. Another common “powerplant” for a model plane is compressed gas — usually CO2. Some model planes even come equipped with eternal combustion engines. (These engines usually run on methanol.)
So the bottom line is, even if you can’t land a job a Boeing or American Airlines, you can still play with planes all you want, albeit on a much smaller scale.