Born to Fly - March 2016

Written by Jim T. Graham Monthly column with bonus content Read this column and more in the March 2016 issue of Model Aviation.

2016 RC events

It’s that time of year—time to shake off the cold and plan to head out on the road in search of great RC events. Although I never look forward to losing the warm weather and flying days, the winter does bring time for me to straighten up my shop and repair airplanes and equipment that I neglected during summer flying days. I also try to find something I have wanted to put together as a project during the winter. That all leads us to spring! As many of you know, my full-time job is running That means that the whole RCGroups crew attends shows across the country during the flying months. This is a great way to see new models that are out, and more importantly, see all of our RC friends! I have to admit that by the time the Southeast Electric Flight Festival (SEFF) in Georgia rolls around, I’m ready to load up the big black truck and spend some time in the sun while driving around in a golf cart. Good times! Jason Cole also works full time for RCGroups. He usually travels with me, and sometimes attends events by himself. He is into Discus-Launch Gliders (DLG) right now and competes in nearby contests. Matt Gunn attends events in the Ohio area. To top it all off, we have Ashley Meier. She also travels and mainly covers Giant Scale events for RCGroups. There are many great RC events across the country! I’m willing to bet there is something near you. I have been to large events, such as Joe Nall Week, and smaller local events. The size doesn’t matter—it’s about sharing your love for the hobby with like-minded people. I thought I would go over some of the gatherings we cover each year, so more pilots can be aware of what’s out there. Here we go!


The Southeast Electric Flight Festival (SEFF) will take place April 11-16 this year in Americus, Georgia. This is usually where I get my first taste of summer. If you are into electric-powered flight, this is the place for you! The flightline covers everything from sport flying, to helicopters, to 3-D, FPV, sailplanes, and more! Mac Hodges shares his RC nirvana, while the Fayette Flyers of Georgia make an event that is difficult to host look easy! I think I have been to SEFF every year since it started. I always look forward to it.
If you’re into electric flight and fun, you should go to SEFF.

Joe Nall Week

Stop. Read. Comprehend. Go to this event! I talk with RC pilots every day and when I meet someone who hasn’t gone to Joe Nall Week at the Triple Tree Aerodrome in Woodruff, South Carolina, I try to make that person understand that he or she must go to this event. I think if you fly RC for more than two years, it should be mandatory that you attend Joe Nall. This year’s gathering will be held May 7-14. I describe it as the Disneyland of RC. I can post hundreds of photos documenting the event (which I do) and we can shoot countless videos of all the flightlines (which we do), but even after looking at all of that, I still don’t think you will be prepared for what you will experience. The main flightline is covered with Giant Scale aircraft. The lake is an endless parade of giant water aircraft tracing lines on its glasslike surface. The electric flightline has grown each year, and I predict that it will soon be the biggest area at the Joe Nall venue. The 3-D flightline is a nonstop, action-packed, smoke-filled bastion of amazing flying. Bring a chair, plenty of water, sunscreen, and something that can transport you around the hundreds of acres of pure RC fun. Did I mention that you have to attend this event?
Joe Nall Week is an event that every RC pilot should attend.

The Horizon Hobby AeroTow

This event keeps getting bigger every year. You get to meet ambassadors of the hobby, such as Peter Goldsmith and David Payne. The real thrill is seeing the big towplanes dragging up even cooler sailplanes. This year’s event will be held June 16-19 in Monticello, Illinois. There really isn’t anything else like it in the country. If you are into sailplanes, it is a must-see!

The Heli Extravaganza

If you are into helicopters, head to the Triple Tree Aerodrome, in Woodruff, South Carolina, for this all-heli event. The staff is welcoming and works hard to make this fly-in better each year. Steve Rogers is at the heart of the show and makes sure everything goes off without a hitch. I want to point out that Tim King Jr. is in charge of the FPV quadcopter flightline. It’s not just helicopters anymore! If you are into FPV, you can race, compete, and meet some of the biggest names in FPV there. This year’s event will be held September 22-25.

The NEAT Fair

The Northeast Electric Aircraft Technology (NEAT) Fair is a great one in the lower New York state area. It’s all about electric flight, and creativity seems to reign. You will see different types of airplanes, but the same kind of people: RC fanatics! This event takes place in the beautiful Catskill Mountains. The dates are September 15-18. Tell Tom Hunt that Jim T. sent you!

WATTS over Owatonna

I have been typing the name of this show for years and I still don’t say it right! This July 21-23 event is located in Owatonna, Minnesota, at the Southern Minnesota Model Aircraft Club field. Approximately 200 pilots attend, so this is a big one! Many big-name vendors will be there, and the flying never stops!

Ready Made RC FPV Fest

FPV is alive and kicking! Ready Made RC hosts an FPV-only event in Willard, Ohio. Slots are limited, but here is the best part: If you’re not flying, you can still slip on goggles and take a ride in any of the FPV aircraft in the air. Events such as this allow you to virtually ride along with other pilots. It’s like NASCAR for the RC crowd! The dates this year are September 8-11.
Get your FPV on!

Other Great RC Events (Bonus content)

These are just a handful of the outdoor events that occur across the US. There are many more out there. I bet there is one not too far from you, so hit the Web and search for the type of event you would enjoy. It could be a fun-fly, such as the gathering that I hold in Nashville each year, an International Miniature Aerobatic Club competition, or a simple swap meet. I feel that I need to also mention some of the indoor activities held annually.

The Toledo Show: R/C Model Expo

This is usually my first show of the season. This year it is scheduled for April 1-3. The sun is still not blazing at this point, but heading to Toledo, Ohio, will give you a good idea of what’s about to be released by our favorite RC manufacturers. Be sure to bring some cash because there are things you will want to buy. My tip is to purchase what you want when you see it. Some vendors sell out of everything on the first day!

AMA Expo

Here is an event for those on the West Coast. AMA holds an annual convention in January each year in Ontario, California. Check out new and cool products at the booths. There are guest speakers, exhibitors, an AMA membership meeting, a swap shop, a static competition, and more!
On the West Coast, check out AMA Expo in Ontario CA. Photo by AMA staff.


E-Fest is hosted by Hobbico in lovely Champaign, Illinois, at the University of Illinois Armory. This event is held in February each year and offers great indoor flying.
Hobbico’s E-Fest offers great indoor flying. Photo by AMA staff.

Horizon Indoor Electric Festival

Terry Nitsch is the commander and chief of this event, held in the “foamie dome” (Four Seasons Golf Dome), in Columbus, Ohio, in November. Check out the new products from Horizon Hobby and see some innovative models flying around. The Combat event is also an awesome spectacle. This year’s Horizon Indoor Electric Festival is November 4-6. People who are just as passionate as you are about the hobby are out there putting these things together so folks can enjoy them and spread the word about RC. Seek one out and maybe I’ll see you there!


SEFF Joe Nall Week Heli Extravaganza NEAT Fair WATTS over Owatonna Ready Made RC The Toledo Show: R/C Model Expo E-Fest Horizon Indoor Electric Festival AMA Expo

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