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Written by Jennifer Alderman
Why do you fly?
Event coverage
As seen in the December 2017 issue of
Model Aviation.

Bonus Video

If you enjoy any type of RC rotorcraft—whether it is a Scale, 3-D, Speed, FAI competition, 100-size, or 800-size—you know that many pilots and spectators attend the IRCHA Jamboree, held in Muncie, Indiana, at the International Aeromodeling Center (IAC) each August. This year’s event took place August 2-6.

The IRCHA Jamboree is a chance to see friends and extended family members whom you might not see regularly, as well as a chance to browse and buy from vendors, take in competitions, and fly with some of the best helicopter pilots in the world.

But have you thought about why pilots choose to fly RC helicopters and congregate in Muncie? Is it because of the speed, the sound, or the building and tinkering with electronics, or because of the challenge of learning new and different maneuvers? Could it be because of the memories it evokes—watching a loved one fly, learning to fly at the hands of someone special, or teaching someone else the intricacies of rotor flight?

Jesse Kavros, an MSH-sponsored pilot, flew his Protos in several demonstrations throughout the event, including the company’s Power Hour. Jesse grew up around RC helicopters because his father flew them for many years. “He never pushed me to fly, but seeing how much fun it was got me into it,” he said.

Many of the pilots who attend the Jamboree were practically born into the hobby. Jesse Kavros, an MSH-sponsored pilot, has photos of when he was a toddler, sitting next to his dad Perry’s helicopter. “[I have] many good childhood memories [of] going flying with my dad,” he said. His love of helicopters not only came from those times spent with his father, but also because of the challenge.

“I enjoy the challenge, but on top of that, spending time with my dad was invaluable. I enjoyed it then, and I cherish it now,” said Jesse. He still flies with his dad, for both work and play, although Perry has not attended the Jamboree in a few years.

Kyle Dahl flies for Mikado, and grew up at the flying field with his father, Dave. “[I] started flying planes at age 4, helis at 8! The flying field was only one part of it, though. My dad and I would always work on models together in the garage and he would teach me how to build, or I would just watch and hang out.”

Kyle is no longer living at home, but when his dad comes to visit, he said that they still work on models or go to the flying field.

The IRCHA board used social media much more this year than in the past to relay information, conduct contests, and post videos and photos. Here, Dan Lucente, IRCHA’s vice president of operations, demonstrates one of several pairs of Spectables by Snap glasses that were used for Snapchat. The glasses allowed users to have views of areas of the Jamboree that people don’t usually see.

Robert Montee, who competed in the AMA Nats this year (which took place July 31-August 3) and is also an IRCHA Ambassador, remembers his father talking about RC helicopters. “I came home on Christmas leave in 2001 and my dad was playing with an Align T-Rex 450. He showed me some hovering, and I told him I would love to try it.

“A few years later, he passed away, and another few years [after that] I got into RC helis. He was definitely an inspiration for this. I think he’d get a real kick out of attending a fun-fly with me if he were still here.”

Photo Gallery

IRCHA Jamboree 2017

Although many pilots have had a parent or grandparent teach them to fly, others have reversed the role of instructor and student, teaching older or younger relatives. Chris Reibert is a third-generation RC pilot who has already introduced the fourth generation—his two young children—to the hobby.

“It has come full circle,” he said. “Papa [his grandfather] never got into helis, but still enjoys watching me fly them. My dad didn’t try them until I got him into them in 2012. A season of tethered buddy boxing and I had him soloing the following season. He quickly moved up from a small micro to his Synergy E5 in a matter of a few seasons.”

Transportation to get around the IAC and to the different IRCHA flightlines is a must! Many rode shuttles or rented
or brought their own golf carts, while some used Segway two-wheel scooters. Others used innovative and humorous
modes of transport, such as Rene Gotier’s mini car.

Chris, who is the contest director for the Northeast Model Helicopter Jamboree near Rochester, New York, missed this year’s Jamboree, but hopes to someday bring his family to the event, including his kids. “Hailey and Logan love coming to the field with us, and cheering my dad and [me] on!”

Family and teaching others are only two reasons to fly RC helis—there is also the difficulty factor that comes with every helicopter built or maneuver attempted. Whether it’s trying a new skill, competing in a contest, or tinkering with mechanics, many pilots find helicopters challenging.

Robert Montee calls out Known maneuvers for Mike Dipalo during the final round of F3N Freestyle Nats. This last round of the RC Helicopter Nats was held at the center stage area of Site 4 for spectators to watch and learn what is involved with FAI-style competition. The final music portion of the F3N Nats will be held at center stage in 2018.

Cleveland Coleman flies helicopters because of the build, the analysis, troubleshooting, and, what he says is the most fun of all, “… the amazing maneuvers that you can do whether inverted, on the side, or just around the hover position.” Cleveland has a mechanical engineering background and finds it natural to build and analyze the models and how they move and fly. “If I can fly from my deathbed, I will until the end!” he quipped.

On that same note, Corey Vadasz stated that he enjoys 3-D helicopters because “… there are many more orientations to work [on]—so much more trick capability than 3-D planes.”

Although some pilots travel to the IRCHA Jamboree to challenge themselves with 3-D helicopters, others enjoy the speed aspect. Ben Chance not only competes in Speed helicopters, he is also the secretary and cofounder of the Model Heli Speed Flying Association (MHSFA), the organization that puts on the IRCHA Speed Cup contest, which was held at Site 5 this year.

Eight-year-old Rhys Wyatt (R) traveled with his parents from Australia to attend the Jamboree. Flying 700-size helis, Rhys not only competed in IRCHA’s Got Talent and made it to the top six pilots who flew before the Battle of the Brands Saturday evening, he also flew during a demo with well-known Align pilot Alan Szabo. His smile says it all!

Ben notes that you don’t have to be a 3-D heli master to compete in Speed. “Any average Joe can take their everyday heli, with a few minor flybarless controller adjustments, and go fast! Of course, [there is] the pure adrenaline rush with the gimbals in your hands as you push the limit of skill and technology.”

Scale entails slower flight, but Mike Zaborowski, who competed in both the RC Scale Helicopter Nats and the IRCHA Scale Nats, finds that every flight still comes with a large risk, but one he is willing to take. “The time it takes to build the machine and have it gone in a flash—I like the pressure of that.”

Mike enjoys the discipline that comes with the competition. “My mistakes are very easy for all to see. It’s hard to hide within a maneuver. Calling out the maneuver and then having to complete that maneuver better than the next guy is a great challenge.”

Welcome to the IRCHA Jamboree! As the sign indicates, the event is an international affair, not only drawing pilots who speak Japanese, German, and Spanish as shown on the sign, but also from countries such as Israel, France, Australia, United Kingdom, and Vietnam, as well as from across the US.

The full-scale aircraft stories and histories behind helicopters also intrigue Mike. “Each is different, and there is [also] a story behind each one, [even] from the notes of the real machine, [from] building, to test-flying, to tuning.”

Every pilot has a story behind why he or she flies RC helicopters. Whether it’s because of a family connection or the thrill of building, flying, or competing, there are many reasons why the IRCHA Jamboree is a must-attend annual event for so many people.

Changes, Highlights, and Thanks

Not only were there new events and a new layout at this year’s IRCHA Jamboree, there was also a new board of officers for this AMA Special Interest Group. Charles Anderson took over the reins as IRCHA president, with Dan Lucente as vice president of operations, and Tim DiPeri as vice president of development. Craig Bradley remains on the board as the AMA liaison.

“We had a very successful event this year, even while implementing a few changes in the layout,” Charles said. “We began discussing the field layout changes about two months before the Jamboree. We kept tossing around the idea of how we could create a food court, along with creating more room for the registration area. To say it was a plan in motion was an understatement, [but] a big piece of the puzzle was AMA staff helping us to create power sharing [electricity] with the food vendors.”

The organization was happy with the changes and having a centralized area where pilots could congregate. “By moving [the registration trailer] back, we completely opened up the center stage area for spectators, vendors, and staff. It created a better flow for everyone,” said Charles.

The night-fly competition is a favorite for pilots and spectators alike, whether the LED-lit helicopters are flying high or low and inverted, such as this one. The competition and the spectacular fireworks show, both of which took place Saturday night, were a great way to end to the event.

Nets were added to the center stage area to provide a safety line to help attendees and pilots stay mindful of their positions on the flightline. Tower lights for night flying were a popular addition and were in use each night of the event. Located on the east and west sides of the center stage, the towers were originally procured through a GoFundMe fundraiser.

After seeing how popular the towers were with the pilots, a company sponsored them by stepping forward and contributing to the remaining costs. The lights have already been secured and reserved for the 2018 Jamboree.

For a twist to the RC Helicopter Nats, which took place at Site 5 in the days leading up to the IRCHA Jamboree, the F3N Freestyle Known maneuvers final round was moved to the main event flightline and center stage at Site 4.

“We felt it was important to expose new generations of pilots to the FAI style of 3-D competition,” Charles said. “This is the only true internationally regulated 3-D competition, and it offers consistency in rules and judging for pilots.” Next year’s Jamboree will also showcase the F3N finals, but will highlight the final flight set to music instead of the Known maneuvers, to appeal to a wider spectator audience.

The annual (and infamous) Dwight Shilling Food Challenge was also held at the main flightline this year. Dwight is known to eat nearly anything—especially out-of-the-ordinary foods. The challenge is to find something he will not eat or that is the most disgusting to him. This year, large water bugs were deemed too unsavory to handle and beat out the fermented duck eggs that Andy Panoncillo brought to the table.

Tom Mast’s V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) heli in Canadian colors takes off in the Scale area, which was situated across the road at the west end of the Site 4 main flightline. Tom owns Rotormast, LLC and BAT-SAFE, a LiPo battery charging box manufacturer.

The Auto Limbo was a play on the Auto Rotation contest that had been held in the past. The Auto Limbo had two rounds. The first was performing standard autorotations to a landing area, with points awarded for closeness to the center. The finalists from the first round then had one round with a limbo bar and were required to autorotate “limbo style,” with bonus points awarded if the limbo was flown inverted.

“We were happy with the pilot and crowd participation,” Charles said. Dwight organized the contest, with volunteer Wes Minear helping by creating a great lineup of participants. Charles noted that Dwight created rules that were fair and challenged the pilots and their abilities. Mitch Marozos won the contest with an incredible pirouetted inverted slide under the limbo bar tape.

A new competition for amateur pilots was unveiled on Thursday night called IRCHA’s Got Talent. Specifically for fun, but also to showcase new talent, tryouts for the contest were held on IRCHA’s Facebook page through submitted videos that highlighted the pilots’ skills. The first 20 pilots were accepted online to go through live tryouts at the Jamboree, where judges determined the top six.

The top six were given the opportunity to fly and show off their skills before the Battle of the Brands contest on Saturday evening, in front of the many spectators who had gathered at center stage. These pilots could not be sponsored by any radio or helicopter manufacturers or distributors, and props or theatrics were not allowed—it was based solely on skill in a 4-minute prepared and choreographed routine.

The event was so successful that it will return as part of the 2018 IRCHA Jamboree. On a side note, according to Charles, some of the pilots who participated in this year’s IRCHA’s Got Talent have since received sponsorship positions.

Hugo Markes, from Switzerland, carries his SAB miniComet to the flightline for the SAB Heli Division Power Hour. The 280-size miniComet made its debut at the event, while other newer SAB helicopters, such as the Fireball, were also demonstrated.

Horizon Hobby presented the Blade Micro Mayhem Friday night at the event. Fifteen pilots were chosen, based on videos submitted to Horizon’s Facebook page.

The goal was to fly a new Blade mCPS helicopter to music and be judged. The winners were given the helicopter with which they performed, as well as a Blade 360 CFX Trio. Blade and Horizon Hobby also provided pizza and refreshments for the spectators and pilots and gave everyone the chance to fly the mCPS after the contest. Jordan Horwitz was the overall winner.

The last night of the Jamboree, Saturday evening, was packed with activities such as the pilots’ dinner (presented by Texas Roadhouse), the raffle drawings, the finalist flights from IRCHA’s Got Talent, the second annual Battle of the Brands, the night-fly competition, and the spectacular fireworks show sponsored by SAB USA and Switch Blades.

Charles and the rest of the IRCHA board want to thank everyone involved. “The IRCHA Jamboree is a very large event with full schedules and a lot of activities. We have a large group of volunteers and, although it would be impossible to thank everyone, we would like to mention a few people who deserve some special thanks.

“Each year we have some volunteers who go above and beyond our call for help. Some of the people this year exceeded the expectations of any volunteer.” Charles’ list includes:

• Setup Crew “COGs” (Cool Old Guys): Jim, Larry, Don, Scott, and Charlie
• The Whirlybirds: Troy, Matt, and Jeff
• Site 3 Host: Adam and family
• Auto Limbo: Dwight and Wes
• Scale: Darrell
• Speed: Santiago and Ben
• Volunteer Coordinator: Dan
• The “Everywhere” Team: Jonathan, Mike, Jenie
• Josh and the AMA crew
• Registration Team: Sue, Kandy, Nikki.

“As one of the event organizers, I would personally like to thank everyone who helped during the event,” Charles stated. “You each help to make [it] memorable and fun for all of us.”

See you at the IRCHA Jamboree in 2018!


Enterprise Hobby
Empire Hobby
Horizon Hobby
KST Servo
Mikado Model Helicopters
SAB Heli Division
Scorpion Power System

BK Designs
Castle Creations
Compass Models
Miniature Aircraft USA
Oxy Heli
Peak Aircraft
RC Power Cases
Rotorcraft RC
Synergy R/C Helicopters
XPert Servos

AMain Hobbies
Innov8tive Designs
MKS Servos
RC Booya

—Jennifer Alderman



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