Southern Scale Helicopter Challenge

Southern Scale Helicopter Challenge

Southern Scale Helicopter Challenge

Popular event finds a new venue

By Andrew Griffith barracudahockey@aol.com | Photos by the author

This 1/5-scale Vario Bell 429, owned by Vario team pilot Sandy Jaffe, is powered by a Jakadofsky Pro Edition 5000 turbine and flown with a JETI radio system. It looks and sounds realistic in the air! This 1/5-scale Vario Bell 429, owned by Vario team pilot Sandy Jaffe, is powered by a Jakadofsky Pro Edition 5000 turbine and flown with a JETI radio system. It looks and sounds realistic in the air!

Sandy, from Tallahassee FL, flew this beautiful Vario AH-64 Apache. The Apache uses a 12S power system, JETI radio system, and bavarianDEMON Axon flybarless system. Sandy, from Tallahassee FL, flew this beautiful Vario AH-64 Apache. The Apache uses a 12S power system, JETI radio system, and bavarianDEMON Axon flybarless system.

One of the best parts of the Southern Scale Challenge is helping others. Here, CD Darrell Sprayberry (L) gets tips for fine-tuning his bavarianDEMON Axon via the interface available on his JETI radio system. Sandy (R) has also been a judge at the Scale He One of the best parts of the Southern Scale Challenge is helping others. Here, CD Darrell Sprayberry (L) gets tips for fine-tuning his bavarianDEMON Axon via the interface available on his JETI radio system. Sandy (R) has also been a judge at the Scale Helicopter Nats and is a wonderful resource for learning to fly in front of judges in a scale-like manner.

The Southern Scale Helicopter Challenge celebrated its 23rd consecutive year in September 2022. Known among Scale helicopter enthusiasts as "Dalton," the event previously took place in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains in the sleepy town of Dalton, Georgia. Dalton sits a few miles south of the Tennessee border on I-75.

This year, however, with the growth of the event and the even larger Scale helicopters that show up each year, the small, although comfortable, facility of the Dalton RC Flyers was becoming slightly overwhelmed. Between large RVs and 1/4-scale helicopters, Contest Director (CD) Darrell Sprayberry set out to find a venue that could handle both the increased traffic and large motor homes and campers.

Several options were discussed. After consulting with Dr. Dan Green and Sean Heath, the owners of the Heath-Green Sky Ranch in Hinesville, Georgia, it was decided to give the wonderful facility a try this year. The Sky Ranch is located approximately 30 minutes from coastal Savannah, Georgia, so it’s easy to get to from I-95, as well as I-10. The 2,500-foot grass runway is several hundred feet wide, so there is a lot of room for flying even the largest electric or turbine helicopters without feeling encroached by the trees or road that were present at the Dalton site. There are also dedicated RV power hookups, a large, air-conditioned clubhouse with cooking facilities, and real bathrooms.

Sandy displays his Vario Boeing-Vertol CH-47 Chinook. This electric-powered model is an excellentflying Chinook and it has a unique control system. Sandy displays his Vario Boeing-Vertol CH-47 Chinook. This electric-powered model is an excellent flying Chinook and it has a unique control system.

Jon Ellis made the trip from Dandridge TN, and flew this nicely detailed Vario Bell 47G. Jon is a retired full-scale helicopter pilot and this was his first trip to the Southern Scale Challenge. Jon Ellis made the trip from Dandridge TN, and flew this nicely detailed Vario Bell 47G. Jon is a retired full-scale helicopter pilot and this was his first trip to the Southern Scale Challenge.

The town of Hinesville and the Fort Stewart Hunter Army Airfield are just minutes away from the field. This means that a variety of hotels, as well as options for shopping and restaurants, are just down the road. One of the unspoken tenets at Dalton was that group trips to meals always supported local establishments. We maintained that tradition this year while seeking out new digs for evening dinners.

Despite the word "challenge" in the event title, there is no longer any competition. That is a throwback from the first years of the event. This is strictly a low-key, hang-out-and-fly-Scale-helicopters-for-aweek event. The Challenge is chock-full of brilliant pilots, including participants in the AMA Scale Helicopter Nats, judges and CDs, factory team pilots, and manufacturers’ representatives.

All of these people checked their egos at the gate and did whatever it took to help someone get a problem solved, perfect their flying, or assist with advanced radio programming. You name it and there was someone—or more likely several people—who could, and were, more than willing to help out. It’s not unusual at all for people to put their own helis aside for hours to help others.

I’ve attended the Southern Scale Helicopter Challenge since its 10th anniversary and every year since. I once read a sign in a Bob Evans restaurant that read, "Where we greet strangers like friends and friends like family." That really is the vibe of this event and has been for years.

Once, when my home was threatened by a hurricane on the same weekend, the RC helicopters came out of the truck and my girlfriend, dog, and cat went in. The entire crew was welcomed at Darrell’s house for the duration of the event and until the storm passed.

The official dates for the gathering were September 7-10, but people started arriving as early as Saturday, September 3, setting up campers and tents and charging batteries. Flying commenced immediately and was going strong when I arrived on Thursday. Unfortunately, poor weather moved in later that day. Between the on-and-off rain and the grass field accumulating water, the remainder of the time was hit-and-miss, but if the sun poked out for even a minute, there seemed to be someone firing up a helicopter.

Of the 23 registered pilots who made it this year, there were attendees from as far away as Boston and Dallas among pilots from Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. A group from Mexico even flew up to attend the event, hang out, and learn.

The gathering takes place each year the week and weekend following Labor Day. If you have any interest at all in Scale helicopters, or any questions or technical issues you can’t solve, this is the place to find the help you need. Put it on your planner for next year and come on down for a serving of Southern hospitality!

Full-Scale Integration

Because of a lack of participation by the club that used to occupy the Sky Ranch, the owners recently decided to lease a section of the property to a Life Star medical evacuation helicopter. There was some trepidation on the part of both the helicopter’s operators and the property owners, so this was a test to see if we could safely integrate full-scale and model operations so that sanctioned events could continue at the Sky Ranch.

Medevac flight operations, by their very nature, are non-disruptive for events. After introducing ourselves and explaining our operations to the helicopter crew, we were provided a VHF radio. When the helicopter received a mission, we could easily see their launch preparations, at which point we would cease model operations.

Rodney Skinner made the trip from Dayton OH. Rodney had this cool 1/4-scale Vario Bell 47 in a M∗A∗S∗H motif that included a patient with a bleeding head wound. There were little details on this helicopter that added up to an amazinglooking aircraft.

Rodney Skinner made the trip from Dayton OH. Rodney had this cool 1/4-scale Vario Bell 47 in a M∗A∗S∗H motif that included a patient with a bleeding head wound. There were little details on this helicopter that added up to an amazing looking aircraft.

 Don’t stand in fire ant mounds while taking pictures!)

Mike Roznick always has something unique and cool. Here, he recreated a U.S. Marines UH-34 Chocktaw retrieving John Glenn’s Freedom-7 Mercury capsule at the Sky Ranch pond. (Photographer’s tip: Don’t stand in fire ant mounds while taking pictures!)

Darrell always has a large collection of helicopters at events. Although many of them are impressive, the Indy Helis AH-64 Apache is one of the top dogs. This 12S aircraft is more than 7 feet long and has extremely realistic weapons and cockpit.

Darrell always has a large collection of helicopters at events. Although many of them are impressive, the Indy Helis AH-64 Apache is one of the top dogs. This 12S aircraft is more than 7 feet long and has extremely realistic weapons and cockpit.

Darrell now owns and flies this Bell 47 that was originally built by Peter Wales. It was sold to Stan Kopreski, who stripped and repainted it, detailed it to match a full-scale aircraft that was in use in a flight school, and won the Nats with it. Darrell Darrell now owns and flies this Bell 47 that was originally built by Peter Wales. It was sold to Stan Kopreski, who stripped and repainted it, detailed it to match a full-scale aircraft that was in use in a flight school, and won the Nats with it. Darrell kept Stan’s scheme. It’s a great-flying model with excellent presence in the air.

Mike, from Dallas, loves unique helicopters and often fabricates and 3D prints everything up to small fuselages. From the left are his 500-size Bell-47, Apache, and Sikorsky H-5. Mike, from Dallas, loves unique helicopters and often fabricates and 3D prints everything up to small fuselages. From the left are his 500-size Bell-47, Apache, and Sikorsky H-5.

This was the best-looking scale helicopter there! Just joking! This is the full-scale Bell 407 that is operated by Life Star. Attendees got a great lesson in integrating model and full-scale operations, with the key being communication between the parties This was the best-looking scale helicopter there! Just joking! This is the full-scale Bell 407 that is operated by Life Star. Attendees got a great lesson in integrating model and full-scale operations, with the key being communication between the parties. They were invited for steaks at the pilots’ dinner that was sponsored by Heli-Workshop and Mark Smith. There were no hitches throughout the entire week.

After the helicopter started up and departed, which took roughly 3 to 5 minutes, we could resume flying models. When the helicopter was inbound, they would notify us on the radio that they were 10 minutes out and we would again land and acknowledge that the airspace was clear.

After the helicopter was on the ground and shut down, we could resume flying. With an average of one or two missions per day, and an average mission of 90 minutes, this equated to being grounded a total of less than 15 minutes every several hours. In other words, it was a nonissue. We were lauded by the helicopter crew for our cooperation. They spent a lot of time hanging out with us and checking out the models, and we spent time with them checking out their specially equipped Bell 407.

The key to integrating model and full-scale flight operations is communication between the parties, understanding the safety considerations of the other party, and acting accordingly.

SOURCES:

Southern Scale Helicopter Challenge

www.facebook.com/groups/1599798053693006/

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