Clarissa Poston Interviews Skilly DeLoach

SkillyDeLoach Interview

Skilly DeLoach, an accomplished Junior FF pilot, discusses her experience as a woman in the hobby of model aviation.


To read “Model Aviation: A Hobby For All,” in which Skilly is featured, visit the July 2024 issue of Model Aviation magazine.


Clarissa Poston: Tell me a bit about your model aviation background!

Skilly DeLoach: My model aviation background started when I was about three years old. My dad has been taking me to contests since I was a baby, but I first started flying when I was three years old. The Magnificent Mountain Men FF (Free Flight) club is the club I called home then, and still, 12 years later, now. I have been flying for as long as I can remember, and as I got older, I became more serious about the hobby. I first went to the Nats in 2019, and that was when I discovered my goal for the next four years: the National Free Flight Society (NFFS) National Cup.


CP: What inspired you to pursue the hobby of model aviation?

SD: I have been inspired to pursue this hobby because of the community and the joy of flight.


CP: What are some of your biggest accomplishments within the hobby?

SD: My biggest accomplishments in the hobby have been winning the NFFS National Cup four times and setting four records in P30, Mulvihill Rubber, F1 Power, and E-36.

SkillyDeLoach Interview

1. Skilly (L) was part of the 2022 Catapult championship team. She is pictured with Daniel Guo and Tim Batiuk (R).

CP: How has model aviation positively impacted your life?

SD: Model aviation has had a positive impact on my life [because] it has connected me with my dad and allowed me to meet so many interesting people from all over the world!


CP: As a younger hobbyist, how do you think that younger fliers could be better supported within the hobby?

SD: Younger fliers often only compete as well as their parents or assistants can give, so if there was more open assistance for younger fliers, I think Junior competition would be improved.


CP: Tell me a bit about your experience as a woman in the male-dominated hobby of model aviation!

SD: As a woman in model aviation, the support from the community has been enormous. There are fewer women in model aviation, but that simply makes the female model aviation community very tight-knit and supportive.


CP: What are some of the ways that you feel women impact the hobby of model aviation in a positive manner?

SD: Women being included in the model aviation community makes it more of an inclusive and appealing hobby for everyone!


CP: What advice would you give to young women trying to become involved in the hobby of model aviation?

SD: If I had to give advice to any young woman joining model aviation, [it] would be just to jump right in! There is enormous support and a community that is so accepting and helpful for anyone in need!


CP: What resources, if any, do you recommend for beginners looking to become a part of the hobby?

SD: Reading the NFFS Free Flight Digest or the AMA magazine is a great way to start being educated about model aviation and joining the community.

SkillyDeLoach Interview

2. Skilly (L) was the 2022 Junior NFFS National Cup winner. She is pictured with Bob Hanford and her father, Don (R).


CP: As a female model aviator, have you faced any challenges or stereotypes within the hobby? If so, what were they and how did you overcome them?

SD: As a female model aviator, I have not faced very many challenges or stereotypes within the hobby, except for the history of it being male dominated. But everyone is accepting and extremely kind.


CP: Are there any specific benefits that you’ve experienced being a woman in a male-dominated hobby?

SD: As a woman in a male-dominated hobby, the small female community in [it] is one of the greatest parts.


CP: What specific aspects of model aviation do you find the most exciting or rewarding?

SD: The most rewarding aspect of model aviation is the thrill of winning and the chase for a max. When the competition becomes close, and it’s based on a flyoff, that's when the hobby becomes immensely rewarding and intense.


CP: Are there any particular models or types of aircraft that you’re passionate about? When did you initially get involved with that specific type of model/aircraft?

SD: I am most passionate about FF and the Outdoor Rubber and Glider events. I have been flying gliders my whole life, as that’s the event that most kids start with! My passion for gliders keeps growing. The first “serious” Outdoor model that I flew was a P-30, and as my abilities grew, I began to chase (and break) the P-30 record.


CP: Are there any female role models or mentors in the model aviation community who have inspired or influenced you?

SD: There are numerous model aviators that have influenced me, many of them including my dad’s friends, both male and female. Everyone in the community has been supportive and helpful during my time as a flier.


CP: How do you think that the model aviation community can become more inclusive and welcoming to women?

SD: The model aviation community is inclusive and eager to teach and include anyone who is willing to participate in this unique hobby.


CP: Have you had the opportunity to share your love of model aviation with others? How so?

SD: Yes. I was a student mentor for several years in my afterschool enrichment build/fly classes.


CP: Are there any interesting/fun stories from your model aviation carer that you’d like to share?

SD: Yes, the story of my Junior P-30 win at the 2023 Nats. It was the final day of competition, and it came down to the event that I was most passionate about ... P-30. I started the day off with a low-70s flight. Luckily, my second flight was a max. So, it all came to the third and final flight. My closest rival also dropped his first max with a 90-something. His second flight was a max (120s), and his third flight was a sub max. I did the math and found out that I would need 118 seconds to win. The pressure was on, and as I was winding the motor, I was starting to get nervous. During the 2022 Nats, I had dropped a key max and finished second in this, my best event.

As I walked out onto the field, I focused on myself, the wind, and the airplane. The wait felt like an eternity. As the model left my hand, so did my trepidation, for I knew the thermal was there. I looked away for a second, and the model had almost disappeared. This is the moment when the thrill of FF kicks in: I no longer had control and I could only hope that I had chosen the winning thermal.

I chased for what felt like an hour; the model was only in the air for about 3 minutes. I realized it was finally a Nats win, my first in P-30 since I set the Junior AMA record at the Nats in 2019. But the story doesn't end here ... the winning flight had landed on the top of a 50-foot tree! My dad and I zipped back to the flightline to borrow a pole, went back to the tree, and successfully retrieved the model with only minor damage. What a memory!

SkillyDeLoach Interview

3. Skilly DeLoach is pictured with her dad, Don, after retrieving her Nats-winning P-30 flight. Her airplane had landed on the top of a 50-foot tree! Skilly and Don were able to retrieve the aircraft with only minor damage.

CP: Is there anything else that you’d like to discuss regarding being a young woman in the male-dominated hobby of model aviation?

SD: As a young woman in model aviation, the FF community's support is beyond a doubt, and it would be for any aspiring young FFer.[dingbat]

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