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Southern hospitality reigns at this annual helicopter fun-fly.
Article and photos by Jennifer Orebaugh
Featured in the July 2014 digital edition of
Model Aviation.

The Huntsville Heli Flyers club hosted its annual fun-fly event April 25-27, 2014. Located at the corner of Chase and Higdon Roads in Huntsville, Alabama, the club was formed approximately 22 years ago, and resides on the grounds of Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University. The fun-fly has taken place since 2008 and is considered an opener of the heli flying season.

Many sponsored pilots, company representatives, distributors, and manufacturers make their way to this northern Alabama fun-fly, with some coming from as far away as Minnesota, New York, Indiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. It was a good respite for those coming from the north where it was still thawing out from a rough winter.

Two weeks before the event, the weather looked questionable, with 40-70% chances of thunderstorms the entire weekend. Those percentages disappeared, and a brief storm overnight on Thursday was all that transpired. A couple of days started out overcast, but all ended with high-70° and low-80° temperatures, with partly cloudy to sunny skies.

Many pilots and their families chose to stay on-site in campers; approximately 20-25 RVs lined the stretch behind the flightline, with canopies containing chargers and work tables in front of those. Others reserved rooms at local hotels for the weekend. A few pilots chose to make their way to Huntsville Wednesday into Thursday, while most showed up on Friday morning for the festivities.

Each day started with a pilots’ meeting to go over rules and safety.

Sponsored pilots and representatives from Futaba, Team Thunder Tiger, and Hobbico: (L-R) Tim DiPeri, Ben Minor, Nick Maxwell, and Frank Noll, take a moment to smile for the camera during the morning pilot meeting.

Huntsville Heli Flyers club member, Tommy Whitaker, emceed the event.

One flightline station was dedicated to Scale helicopters. Several flew throughout the day on Saturday after winds died down.

Multirotors and FPV were popular, with several pilots demonstrating how the equipment was used.

Tommy Wood from Elev8ed Photo used his DJI S1000 to videotape the event. His videos are available for viewing on his YouTube channel.

Jamie Robertson from Team Align flies low and slow inverted for Tommy Wood of Elev8ed Photo. Tommy placed several GoPros on the field in “The Box” and had professional pilots fly around them for a different perspective.

The club crew, including club president Richard Zappe, vice president Ken Abbott, treasurer Scott Roark, safety officer Courtney Bane, event emcee Tommy Whitaker, groundskeeper Troy Blackwell, and CD Daniel Hiatt, did an excellent job setting up the field, collecting prizes for the raffle, and making all pilots feel welcome.

This year, the Scale heli pilots were included in that welcome, with a dedicated flight station at one end of the field where they were able to fly their gorgeous giants. Friday was unfortunately too windy for any attempt at getting wheels off the ground, but Saturday provided light enough winds for several of them to make passes.

Professional pilots were abundant, and included well-known names such as Matt Botos, Bert Kammerer, Kyle Stacy, Ben Storick, Jamie Robertson, Nick Maxwell, and Todd Bennett. All flew unbelievable flights, and were open to helping other pilots with setups and answering questions at any time. Up-and-coming pilots proved themselves as well, such as two of the youngest heli pilots there, Mason Dumanski and Ryan Robertson. Their helicopters are almost bigger than they are, but when the boys put them in the air, they showed that their diminutive size didn’t matter.

The ever-growing segments of multirotors and First-Person View (FPV) were also popular. A couple of pilots offered spectators the chance to view FPV on platform screens or through goggles, on both multirotors and an RC truck. Tommy Wood, from Elev8ed Photo, captured the entire event on video not only from a DJI Spreading Wings S1000 octocopter, but from GoPros on the field that he arranged in “The Box.” He invited the professional pilots to fly “smack” 3-D in that box to capture a different perspective of their amazing talents. Videos from Elev8ed Photo are available for viewing on its YouTube channel.

Video provided by Elev8ed Photo's YouTube page at

Ryan Robertson and Mason Dumanski (shown) were two of the youngest pilots at the flightline. Ryan represents several companies, including SAB Heli Division, while Mason is a sponsored pilot for TSA Helicopters and Futaba.

Kyle Stacy, Rochester NY, was one of many pro pilots who attended the event. Kyle is a sponsored pilot for SAB Heli Division and flies Goblin helicopters.

Team Align’s Ben Storick (L) and Jamie Robertson prepare their helicopters for a tandem flight.

Synergy R/C owner Matt Botos, and Team Synergy pilot Rob Cherry fly in tandem.

Pilots flew their helis such as this MSH Protos owned by Greg Alderman until sunset then switched to night rigs equipped with LED lights.

The fun didn’t stop after the official 5 p.m. closing each day of the event. Many pilots hung around the field after hours and took advantage of the longer daylight, flying until they could no longer see the sky. At that point, LED-lit helis and multirotors ascended into the darkness, looking like blinking lights of UFOs.

Saturday afternoon’s raffle offered big prizes to excited pilots. Pilots were given raffle tickets with registration, and all were eligible for prizes donated by many manufacturers and distributors. Prizes included programmers, hats, blades, etc. The grand-prize raffle was open to anyone who wanted to purchase tickets and consisted of a Synergy N7 from Synergy R/C Helicopters, an O.S. 105 motor, Futaba 14SG radio, and HV Futaba electronics from Hobbico, and Byron Fuels nitro fuel. Randy Rivers was lucky winner, taking this great package home to build and fly.

Although the event went on through Sunday, bad weather was approaching in the afternoon, and most pilots packed up early and headed back home. A few of those who lived closer took advantage of the open flight stations and flew until their batteries were low or their fuel was gone.

As one of the opening fun-flys to the season and the chance to finally see some of my heli pilot friends for the first time since the previous summer, this is one event I try not to miss, and always look forward to. If you’ve never been to Huntsville in April, you should put it on your calendar for 2015.

—Jennifer Orebaugh

Mason Dumanski’s TSA Infusion flies inverted and effortlessly through the air. Mason, from the Evansville IN area, drove down with his parents, Jamie and Amber, to fly at the event.

Castle Creations’ Clint Akins takes his turn at the flightline, with Troy Blackwell spotting for him. Safety was paramount at the fun-fly, with spotters required for all pilots.

(L-R in background): Steve Helms, Futaba representative; Amy and Matt Botos, Synergy R/C Helicopters; and Frank Noll, Hobbico and Thunder Tiger; with Randy Rivers, raffle winner of the Synergy N7 package.

Matt Botos, owner of Synergy R/C and Rail Blades, skids to a stop with his Synergy N7.

All eyes are on the sky when the pilots perform autorotations and blade stops.

Nick Maxwell, Team Thunder Tiger and a member of the FAI F3C USA World Championship team, brought several helicopters to the event, including his F3C Steady 700 with Nick Maxwell Products three-blade rotorhead. Nick is also the designer of Helix Rotor Blades.

Additional Photos


Elev8ed Photo YouTube channel

Huntsville Heli Flyers Facebook page

International Radio Control Helicopter Association (IRCHA)

Huntsville Heli Flyers Heli Fun-Fly Flickr Album

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