2019 IRCHA Jamboree

Written by Jennifer Alderman Thirty years’ worth of fun Feature As seen in the December 2019 issue of Model Aviation.

When the long line of big-top tents is erected and vendors fill them with wares, campers arrive and shade canopies pop up, the AMA "Whale" registration trailer appears, the safety netting is put in place, golf carts arrive by the truckload, the sweet smell of nitro fuel wafts in the still air, and the buzz of rotor blades wakes you up at 6 a.m. and continues until the wee hours of every morning … you know that the IRCHA Jamboree has begun!

the largest rc helicopter event
01. The largest RC helicopter event in the world is for girls too! Several female pilots in attendance included Brittany Ringer (pictured), who is sponsored by SAB USA and Mikado VControl. Brittany and her sisters, Amanda Ringer and Dana Halas, performed a demo flight on Saturday for SAB USA with their Goblin helicopters.
kyle dahl kan poonnoi and kyle stacy
02. (L-R): Kyle Dahl, Kan Poonnoi, and Kyle Stacy hold fingers up to show their placings during the Battle of the Brands competition on Saturday. All three are sponsored pilots for the Mikado VControl radio system.

The 30th annual International Radio Controlled Helicopter Association (IRCHA) Jamboree took place once again at the International Aeromodeling Center (IAC) in Muncie, Indiana. It was held on July 24-28, 2019, so that the National Association of Rocketry could hold its Rocketry Festival the following week. But earlier dates did not stop pilots from attending and having fun—it might have even gained new followers because the rocketry participants visited Site 4 where the main helicopter line was established.

The IRCHA board members made sure everything ran smoothly, recruiting volunteers who patrolled the flightline for safety, driving shuttle buses, staffing the registration booth, and making sure everyone had a great time. Although the gathering had approximately 520 pilots, it still had the atmosphere of a smaller fun-fly. It was laid back and relaxed, which was noted by many pilots and spectators throughout the five-day event.

There was plenty of space to fly without long lines and easy access in and out of tents to visit vendors and purchase products. Walking from one end of the flightline to the other did not involve bumping elbows (or helicopters for that matter).

The Jamboree began on Wednesday as pilots trickled in, but most vendors used this day to set up their booths and retail space. Activities did not begin in earnest until Thursday when the schedule featured something new called the 2019 IRCHA Jamboree Test Drive Day. OXY Heli, Miniature Aircraft USA, Mikado, and XL Power all took advantage of two-hour windows to set up buddy boxes and let interested pilots fly or try out their products before making purchasing decisions. The companies all had their top pilots at their respective test drives to answer questions and help with the buddy-box flying. It proved to be a popular addition to the event.

align team pilot rhys wyatt
03. Align team pilot Rhys Wyatt, age 10, traveled from Australia to experience his second IRCHA Jamboree. He competed in and won the IRCHA Limbo Contest by flying under the limbo streamer inverted and landing upright on a marked spot in the grass.
speed helicopters
04. Speed helicopters are lined up in flight order for the MHSFA Speed Cup finals. Helicopters included Miniature Whiplashes, a Goblin Fireball and Comet, a Gaui X5 and R5s, Henseliet TDR IIs, a minicopter Diabolo, and a Synergy 766 with speeds averaging up to 151 mph.

The morning pilots’ meetings on Friday and Saturday took place after the American flag was flown from a vintage helicopter by JC Zankl, while the national anthem played in the background. This patriotic tribute always sends shivers down the spine. JC and his spotter, Roger Seward, take pride in this traditional start to the weekend as they wear red, white, and blue shirts and make sure that the flag does not touch the ground.

The IRCHA Auto Limbo Contest took place late Friday afternoon and was as popular for attendees to watch as it was in 2018. Two PVC pipes were strung with a streamer as the limbo bar. The pilots’ objective was to fly a helicopter high into an autorotation, fly down and under the streamer without touching it, and land upright in a circle in the grass.

Kyle Dahl, Mitch Marozas, and young Rhys Wyatt battled it out at the end before Rhys was the lone standing pilot, beating out Kyle by autoing in under the limbo streamer and reversing to upright on the spot. The crowd erupted with cheers!

This was the second time that Rhys had made the long journey from Australia to the IRCHA Jamboree. He had so much fun at the 2017 event that he and his family came back! Not only did Rhys, who is an Enterprise Hobby/Align team pilot, fly in the Auto Limbo contest, he also flew in the Align demonstrations and well into the night under the tower lights.

Other fun contests took place on Friday, including the Horizon Hobby-sponsored IRCHA Cornhole game, where pilots attempted to fly a micro Blade 70 S RTF heli into the game board’s hole. In the IRCHA Iron Man, as explained on IRCHA’s Facebook page, "you have to achieve several stages starting with the Atlas Run by running with your helicopter held high by your head, followed by the Rotor Discus, which is throwing an old heli like an Olympic hammer throw as far as you can, and then the last one is called the Tail Slide Ride, where you ride a little girl’s bicycle backward by pushing yourself back with your feet through a slalom course."

The weather was perfect for companies to display their products during the Friday and Saturday Power Hours. Each had a 1-hour window for their top pilots to fly demonstrations at Center Stage. Some, such as Scorpion and Mikado, gave away electronics and power accessories, drawing in spectators who hoped to become winners.

The Kyle Dahl 50/50 Challenge took place after the Scorpion Power Hour on Saturday. Six pilots—Kyle, Lucas Hatz, Rasmus Jakobsen, Lukas Biblich, Ben Storick, and Aaron Cole—were judged in what Kyle called a "man-on-man com-petition format." There were three 45-second rounds of flying. The first was a freestyle flight, but the pilots could not fly the heli inverted. Those who completed the task went on to the second round where they could only fly inverted. With two pilots remaining, the third round was a no-restrictions freestyle flight. Spectators judged the flights, screaming, clapping, and yelling to determine Lucas Hatz the winner.

ircha night flying championship
05. The IRCHA Night-Flying Championship took place at dark on Saturday night. Ben Storick won this year, with a heli that sparkled using LED lights that were controlled via computer programming.
lukas biblich
06. Lukas Biblich, a pilot for Miniature Aircraft, flies under the tower lights during the King of the Midnight Sun contest on Saturday night. The tower lights proved to be popular after the sun went down, with crowds watching until the wee hours of the morning.
ircha board members
07. IRCHA board members Dan Lucente (L) and Wes Minear led the pilots’ meetings each morning after the national anthem, discussing safety, the schedules, and handing out free items from sponsors.
oxy heli founder
08. OXY Heli founder and owner Luca Invernizzi spots for OXY pilot Lucas Dinger as he flies during the Battle of the Brands on Saturday.

Although most of the action was at the main helicopter line at Site 4, some events took place on other IAC sites. The Model Helicopter Speed Flying Association (MHSFA) Speed Cup was held at Site 3 on Thursday and Friday. Although there were not as many participants this year, those who did enter made the most of their runs.

Blanton Rivera’s average speed of 173 mph with an SAB Goblin Comet topped the Formula 4 class; JC Zankl won the Formula 3 class at 134.3 mph flying a Gaui R5 V2; Jeff Biter took the Sport 4 class at 167.2 mph with a Henseleit TDR II; Raja Bortcosh flew a Miniature Aircraft Whiplash at an average of 93 mph for the Sport 4 Gas class; and Michael Parker won the Sport 1 class with an SAB Goblin Fireball and average speed of 92 mph. MHSFA also held the IRCHA Drag Races at the west end of the main flightline on Saturday.

The Scale helicopter tent was positioned on a hill west of the main flightline. This group of dedicated builders and pilots welcomes spectators and jumps at the chance to answer questions about their detailed renditions of full-scale aircraft. The IRCHA Scale Championship contest normally takes place on both Friday and Saturday, but it was condensed to only Saturday this year. Michael Zaborowski took first place with his RC Aerodyne ED145. Emile Sheriff placed second with his Marvelcraft Bell 407, and Evan Sayers was third with his Len Mount Comanche.

The culmination of the IRCHA Jamboree started on Saturday evening with raffle prizes revealed and a dinner from Texas Roadhouse served. This year, there were two grand prizes—one for IRCHA members only and one for all pilots. The first grand prize was a package deal provided by BK Hobbies and SAB USA of a SAB Goblin Kraken helicopter, an XNova motor, HobbyWing ESC, and BK servos. The other consisted of a first-production minicopter Diabolo Nitro heli from Peak Aircraft, a Futaba 12K transmitter with servos and a gyro, a Horizon Hobby O.S. engine, and a Protune exhaust pipe.

sab usa team
09. SAB USA team pilot Justin Cook was one of many pilots who flew an SAB Goblin Kraken, which made its IRCHA debut. The 700-size heli features a patentpending, durable powertrain that is enclosed in a modular aluminum case. Its new body and boom design are the first design changes since the Goblin was introduced in 2012.
don irvines minicopter
10. Don Irvine’s minicopter Heli-Baby NT on floats flies through maneuvers at the IRCHA Scale area. The Scale helis featured during the weekend ranged from giant fuselages of full-scale aircraft to smaller, more agile pod-and-tailboom renditions such as this one. The Heli-Baby was originally designed and produced by Dieter Schluter from 1975 to 1981.
ircha jamboree volunteers
11. IRCHA Jamboree volunteers are important to the success of the event! Here, Nikki Lucente (L) and Katie Jost help pilots register at the registration trailer.

Before the raffle winners’ numbers were called, the Battle of the Brands was held. This contest took the place of The One contest from a few years ago and pits top pilots from Platinum and Gold sponsors against one another with one freestyle flight each for a chance to win a 2020 sponsorship for their respective companies. No theatrics are needed—only the pilot, his or her choice of music, and his or her flying style. The audience voted for its favorite flight and pilot via the new IRCHA RC Heli Toolbox app.

From old-school, down-on-the-deck flying to high-in-the-sky autorotations, the pilots all impressed and showed off why they are sponsored by their respective brands and companies. Kan Poonnoi, from Thailand who flies for XL Power, won the crowd over with a blazing, outstanding flight. Two Kyles—Stacy and Dahl—placed second and third.

While the raffle drawings took place, many pilots prepared their night helis for the IRCHA Night Flying Championship and King of the Midnight Sun competition. The Night Flying Championship requires LED-lit main and tail blades, an LED or lighting system on the helicopter, and supplied music, while the King of the Midnight Sun’s all-out, smackdown flights were flown under the brightness of the tower lights.

All of the night flights were incredible. Some had lights synced to music with controllers and others flew through fireworks. Ben Storick’s choreographed flight took the win for the Night Flying Championship. He noted on his Facebook page that he and his dad created a night-flying helicopter in 2009 that had more than 100 multicolored LEDs that were controlled by a separate transmitter using relays and speed controllers. He decided to bring it back this year with all-new technology and programming by his dad, using LEDs that were individually controlled by a computer. The flight was amazing, with sparkling and twinkling lights that dazzled with each beat of the music.

Kan Poonnoi once again showed his skills and proved how agile and fast he could fly, even at night and into the wee hours of the morning, to become the King of the Midnight Sun! Spectators had a hard time keeping up with his helicopter as he zipped up, down, and across the flightline. He was crowned the winner!

And just like that, the 2019 IRCHA Jamboree was over. The vendors packed their wares, campers filed out of the IAC, canopies came down, the registration trailer was closed, the safety netting was rolled up, the golf carts were loaded, and the air was still and quiet. The 2019 event became just a memory, with ideas already being discussed to make 2020 even better.

Be sure to attend the 31st gathering of the largest RC helicopter event in the world!

a crowd gathers behind the safety
A crowd gathers behind the safety netting for the start of the Battle of the Brands. Each pilot’s name and the company he or she represented was spray painted in circles in the grass. It also signified the order in which the pilots flew
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Nice article. The government is trying to reign on every little aspect of a perfectly good hobby. Support non-government flying!

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