Blue Max Scale Challenge And Fly-In 2022

Early aviation and WW I Fly-In
the author captured this sunrise photo
01. The author captured this sunrise photo of Allen Hinton’s 1/3-scale Balsa USA D-VII. It is powered by a ZDZ 97RV engine. The underside of the wing is handpainted lozenge using a Greg Hahn stencil. Graphics are by Callie Graphics.

The 13th annual Blue Max Scale Challenge and Fly-In event was held January 21-22, 2022, at the Sanford Aero Modelers RC Club in Sanford, Florida. This is one of the events that I look forward to every year because of the laid-back atmosphere and great camaraderie. Like so many other events, last year’s Blue Max was canceled because of COVID-19, so it was great to see the event back this year with the people and airplanes that come with it.

event contest director scott lee
02. Event Contest Director Scott Lee (L), and Trey Patterson, static judge, dressed the part for the pilots’ meeting.
a fokker dr.i
03. A Fokker Dr.I (front) and a Fokker D.VI bask in the sun on the flightline.
balsa usa nieuport
04. This 1/3-scale Balsa USA Nieuport 17 was flown at the event by Warren Farmer. This airplane is owned by his "Pops," Geoffrey Farmer.
chad cotsamire
05. Chad Cotsamire gets ready to take his Fokker D.VI up for a flight. Nice helmet, Chad!
a busy friday
06. A busy Friday morning on the flightline.

The Blue Max is an event for anyone who is interested in early aviation and World War I airplanes that existed from 1903 through 1919. It’s a celebration of pioneer aircraft and the pilots who flew them. It is a way for RC pilots and enthusiasts to get together and recreate a moment in time.

History is preserved through events such as the Blue Max. There are not a lot of museums or airfields remaining where you can go to see a WW I airplane fly. In the not-too-distant future, WW I RC events, such as the Blue Max, might be our only link to the past and early aviation.

The event was founded by Mike Celesky, John Olson, and Ron Prestin. Without their expert knowledge, the event and celebration would not exist. The three of them agreed that it was difficult for WW I aircraft to compete against the more familiar, heavy-metal warbirds of World War II and modern-age fighters.

The documentation is also not readily available for WW I as it is for WW II and later model aircraft. They wanted to create an event where the efforts of WW I modelers were recognized among builders and fliers of the same interest. The first two events, in 2010 and 2011, were held at Kermit Weeks’ Fantasy of Flight Museum in Polk City, Florida. In the fall of 2011, a change of location was needed to handle a large-scale WW I RC models. Pilots wanted a dedicated flying site designed for RC airplanes with assembly tables, power outlets for charging, etc.

Scott Lee, vice president of the Sanford Aero Modelers, welcomed the opportunity to hold the annual gathering at their club. The event was moved to the Sanford Aero Modelers field in January 2012. This is now the permanent home for the Blue Max.

There were 30 registered pilots at this year’s event. Attendance was down a little because of COVID-19 concerns and the weather forecast. Most of the pilots brought more than one model with them. Some arrived Thursday morning to get their RVs set up and claim their space along the flightline. On Friday, we had beautiful weather, with temperatures in the 70s. There was intermittent rain on Saturday, with temperatures in the low 50s.

The Static judging took place all day on Friday, with the judged flying portion done on Friday as well because of Saturday’s weather forecast. Two flights were required by each pilot, making them eligible for an Outstanding Flight award. There was complete, open, unlimited flying both days. Throughout the event, announcer Jay Fiero shared his aircraft knowledge and kept the spectators entertained.

static judges trey
07. Static judges Trey (L) and David Kreitz did a great job as they meticulously inspected Kenny Hurtado’s’s 1/3-scale Balsa USA Sopwith Pup.
a detailed shot of kenny
08. A detailed shot of Kenny’s Sopwith Pup. This particular Sopwith Pup, the A6249, served the Australian Flying Corps with No. 5 and No. 6 Squadrons as a training aircraft during WW I. Kenny’s wife painted the dragon on the side of the fuselage.
one of the authors favorites
09. One of the author’s favorites at the event was this 1/3-scale S.E.5a flown by David Laver.

The 2023 dates have already been set for January 27-28. Scott is planning to add some memorable additions to next year’s event, including a best-dressed WW I pilot award and an overall craftsmanship award for the builder who builds an airplane and provides documentation from the box to the flightline.

Static and flight judging will continue and will reward those who go the extra step in building and flying their beautiful Scale models. Balsa USA continues to be a supportive and recognized sponsor of the four static awards.

The Blue Max Team, along with Steve and Julie Thomas of Bob’s Hobby Center, will also continue to recognize four pilots who demonstrate scalelike and realistic flying. Any pilot who flies on Saturday will be observed by the qualified and knowledgeable team of flight observers. This is done in a relaxed, non-scoring format, but emphasis is put on scalelike, realistic performance.

The Blue Max continues to grow and is becoming a must-attend event for RC Scale builders and pilots of pioneer and aviation fighters of WW I. It was great to see some new pilots attend this year, all of whom have already said they will back next year.

We did something a little different this year on Friday night. Curtis Switzer brought out a big screen and projector for movie night at the field. The Great Waldo Pepper played, while everyone enjoyed pizza, popcorn, and a firepit. Thanks, Curtis!

The Saturday night Blue Max awards banquet and celebration was held at the field. Trey Patterson cooked up some of his awesome pork, and the Patio Grill supplied the sides that were served by Scott and his wife, Carla.

Not only were the pilots recognized for outstanding flights and craftsmanship, but the hard-working judges were also recognized for their expertise. Judges included Outstanding Craftmanship and Static judges, David Kreitz and Trey, and Outstanding Scale Flight judges, Billy Freeland and JD Hannah. Without these talented and knowledgeable people, the Blue Max would not be possible.

For more outstanding photos and event information regarding past and future Blue Max events, visit the Blue Max website, listed in "Sources."

warren makes a nice photo
10. Warren makes a nice photo pass with his 1/3-scale Sopwith Pup.
curtis switzer
11. Curtis Switzer (R) took home an Outstanding Flight award for his flight performance with his 1/2-scale Sopwith Pup.
one of the most detailed models
12. One of the most detailed models at the event was Marvin Alvarez’s (L) scratchbuilt Sopwith Camel, for which he was presented a static award.
tom colyard
13. Tom Colyard (R) took home a Static award for his Fokker D.VII.
chad r was awarded
14. Chad (R) was awarded an Outstanding Flight award for his flight performance of his Fokker D.VI.


Various types of aircraft attended the Blue Max, including ARFs, scratch-built models, various kits, and, of course, Balsa USA kits. Any of these types of aircraft were eligible for Static and Outstanding Flight awards. The following expert builders and pilots were recognized at the 2022 Blue Max.

The Static Award is for Outstanding Craftsmanship and Building with attention to detail. These awards were sponsored by Balsa USA. The winners included:

  • Marvin Alvarez: scratch-built Sopwith Camel
  • Kenny Hurtado: 1/3-scale Balsa USA Sopwith Pup
  • Tom Colyard: Fokker D.VII ARF
  • Stephen Thomas: 1/3-scale Balsa USA Sopwith Pup

The Blue Max Outstanding Flight awards were given to the pilots who demonstrated scalelike, realistic flight. These awards were sponsored by Steve and Julie Thomas of Bob’s Hobby Center. Flight observation was overseen by Ron Parchment and Dave Krauser.

  • Chad Cotsamire: Fokker D.VI
  • Curtis Switzer: 1/2-scale Sopwith Pup
  • Warren Farmer: Fokker D.VII
  • Stephen Thomas: Sopwith Pup

The Best Central Powers Aircraft was voted on by the registered pilots. It was sponsored by the Sanford Aero Modelers.

  • Chad Cotsamire: Fokker D.VI

The Best Allied Forces Aircraft award was voted on by the registered pilots. It was also sponsored by the Sanford Aero Modelers.

  • Kenny Hurtado: Balsa USA Sopwith Pup

The Gale Throne/Spirit of the Blue Max was given to Marvin Alverez for demonstrating and representing the spirit of the event. It was sponsored by the Sanford Aero Modelers.


The Blue Max Scale Challenge and Fly-In

Sanford Aero Modelers RC Club

Callie Graphics

as you can see
15. As you can see, there were many German aircraft in attendance.
scott l presents chad
16. Scott (L) presents Chad with a Spirit of the Blue Max award, which is a painting that was done by Scott’s sister, DeAnn Meely, of DeAnn’s Art and Gallery.
as a sign of appreciation
17. As a sign of appreciation, the judges were given this nice light-up Blue Max sign made by Jim McGrath. (L-R): Static judges Trey and Scott.
warren r
18. Warren (R) took home an Outstanding Flight award for his flight performance with his Fokker D.VII.
kenny r
19. Kenny (R) took home a static award for his Sopwith Pup.
balsa usa
20. Every year, Balsa USA gives away a kit at the event. This year, Bill Toppa won the 1/4-scale Sopwith Pup. (L-R): Scott, Stephen Thomas, and Bill.
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