Be an ambassador: Invigorate the hobby

Written by Jim T. Graham Born to Fly Column As seen in the September 2018 issue of Model Aviation.

Although I have not been involved in the RC hobby as long as some, I have spent the last 15 years completely immersed in it. I have seen trends come and go. I remember when 3D was considered evil, and many predicted it would ruin the hobby for us. I was lucky enough to have a front row seat when brushless motors and LiPo batteries changed everything for electric flight. I saw that lead to a dramatic increase in the hobby. Recent years have been tough on aeromodeling. From the dramatic drone surge to government requirements, much has happened. I frequently ask myself what we as hobbyists can do to not only support our great RC hobby, but to become active players in propelling our hobby into the future. What can you and I do to not only promote RC but to grow it? Here are my thoughts about that topic.

Be Inclusive

RC is like any other hobby. We find a segment we enjoy, and we dig in. You have heli pilots, sailplane pilots, 3D pilots, FPV pilots, and many more. We have all seen pilots who defend their segment of the hobby and sometimes even attack other segments. When I see this, I try to remind them that we all share this thing we call RC. We are stronger as a united front and should be supportive of our RC brothers and sisters who happen to operate different kinds of aircraft. Support all aspects of our hobby. We are greater as a whole!
Here is some of the crew at the author’s home field, the Edwin Warner Model Aviators Club in Nashville TN. They are always ready to help and welcome all. They also host public days for local spectators to come see the airplanes in the sky and to promote the hobby.

Be Welcoming at Your RC Field

I know that not everyone has a club or RC field that they frequent, but many of us do. I consider myself to be lucky. When I wandered up to my RC field as a long-haired hippie, I was greeted with smiles and handshakes. The president of the club, Richard Rust, could not have been any nicer. One of the older pilots, Bob, was an ex-Navy pilot. I would bring my balsa airplane that I was building, and he would tell me what to do next or what to fix. Bryce Custer took my calls and met me at the field to teach me how to fly. I didn’t know any of these people before walking up to the runway. Bryce and I became good friends and host the NashBro event each year.
Jase Dussia travels the world, wowing the crowds with his flying skills. Here he is at the Horizon RC Fest at Eli Field in Monticello IL. His ability to stay humble and friendly to those who stop to talk with him after watching him tear up the sky is as important as his piloting prowess!

Whenever I see Bob, Richard, or any of the other club members, I get a firm handshake and am asked, “What’s going on?” Their kindness kept me coming back to the field and their help got me into the RC hobby that later became my full-time job. The point is to treat every onlooker and newcomer as a potential RC pilot. Make sure each person feels welcomed and answer any questions that he or she might have. You could be meeting the future president of the AMA!

Outdoor Events

I think about this topic often as I mow my yard (that is also when I had the idea to write for Model Aviation). My thoughts usually lead back to how important flying events are. It is the best way to get our hobby in front of the public—and not just the public, but also in front of youth.
More than 13,000 people show up each year at Joe Nall Week at the Triple Tree Aerodrome in Woodruff SC. It really embodies what an event can be. Lives and careers have been changed by attending the gathering! Nearly everyone who attends Joe Nall is an RC ambassador during the event and after they leave.

When I came into the hobby, we weren’t competing with video games the way we do now. I think if a kid sees a realistic warbird perform a flyby, a jet scream though the sky, or a talented 3D pilot tearing it up, he or she might just get hooked. When I first saw Quique Somenzini fly, I thought to myself, “I want to learn how to do that!” Outdoor events are a must to bring in new blood and get people excited about the hobby.

Indoor Events

We currently conduct a number of outdoor events, but each year we seem to lose one of our big indoor events. This is another way to reinvigorate the hobby. Indoor flight is a totally different animal. It’s more attainable because everything is smaller and less expensive. Crashing isn’t as big of a stressor when your airplane is only slightly bigger than your hand! Indoor events also tend to be a lot of fun. Seeing airplanes fly around inside is cool; throw in some events, and it’s a fun Saturday afternoon.
An indoor event is just cool! E-Fest, which was held in Champaign IL, no longer exists, but events such as it are a great way to keep the RC excitement going during the winter.

Sharing Your Experience

Before there was social media, I was on the original RC social media site, I did airplane reviews, build threads, flight videos, provided trim scheme how-tos, and covered events. All of that led to me working in the industry and ultimately running the site on which I started posting! Sharing event photos can almost be as exciting for some people as being there. Sharing your how-to tips on sites such as RCGroups can help thousands of people out there in the hobby. I can’t tell you how many times pilots have said to me, “I saw your review (or video) and went out and bought the plane.” That gives pilots the chance to see things that are available, and it helps the RC companies make sales. All of that is good for the hobby. Share your experience and knowledge online and you will be making a huge difference in the hobby.

Be an Ambassador

In the end, it comes down to you. I’m sure some people think that an RC ambassador is someone like Jase “The Ace” Dussia. He is an amazing pilot who attends shows all around the world and is sponsored by some of the best companies out there. Jase is a great ambassador in that respect, but you are equally important. From shaking the hand of someone new at your field, to sharing your experiences, to posting information online that others in the hobby might learn from, to helping put together an event in your town, or just by being accepting of all aspects of the hobby, you can be an ambassador to this great hobby every day! -Jim T. Graham [email protected]


Triple Tree Aerodrome Edwin Warner Model Aviators Club Jase Dussia RCGroups

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I like this article, except there is no mention of control-line planes, which probably introduced the hobby to many old-timers, and which is [once again] my primary interest today. RC is cool, but U-control offers the excitement and thrill of flying I enjoy most. The aroma of glo-fuel, the feel of the plane pulling, the fast action, the sound of that screaming engine, oh! I cannot think of a better way to inspire someone than with the hands-on performance of control-line flying.

Enjoyed Mr. Grahams article. Well done! I believe, however, that the growth of our hobby, and possibly it's survival, lies in our ability to appeal to youngsters (say 7 years old and up) and encourage their participation in a gradually expanding program so as their ability grows, they can see that the next step will be even more exciting. Help them start with something affordable and simple like hand launch gliders. With proper guidance, they can learn much about how to make and airplane fly, how to make repairs when needed and enjoy flying their glider with other kids. Progress through rubber power, gas and electric free flight and U-control will enhance their flying knowledge, skills and enjoyment. I believe that many of us that have been in the hobby for several decades and are now active RCers, came up through the hobby in this way. I believe that is why many of us have such a deep understanding of the hobby and have such a passion for it. Unfortunately, I often encounter someone new to RC and later learn that they were never involved in any other facet of this wonderful hobby. They never tried to trim a hand launch glider. never tried to get max time on a free flight, never tried U-control combat. And now they are jumping into RC. No matter how much help they get, the odds of success are against them. I believe that if we take the time, and exercise the patience, necessary to work with the youngsters, our hobby will eventually grow.

Well said Jim. I'm not in to quads/drones but as long the pilot operates it safely, I have no problem. I flew at a field in Amarillo that had an abandoned mobile home park across from it. Some of the members would fly through the abandoned homes and I always thought that was pretty cool.

This addresses many of the current issues surrounding our great hobby. Jim then offers his personal insight on how to make our hobby as it should be. Be open and welcoming to any and all visitors, young or old, and be ready to answer or offer help to their questions. A smile and handshake go a long way. Be an Ambassadore.

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