Last weekend I had the blessing to attend the 2019 TORCHS Spring Bash. It was a blessing because, in attendance, were two of the best pilots in the hobby and many up and coming pilots who are making names for themselves. Not only that, but I was able to get together with great friends whom I mostly chat with online because of how far we all live from each other. I camped out with my buddy, Jared, and his three kids. We had a great time, got a lot of flying in, didn’t crash, and got to represent my sponsors, HeliDirect and KBDD, very well.
Hanging With The Best
At first, when I was hanging around some of the best pilots in the hobby, I didn’t want to fly. It took me close to five years to get over that. I’ve had the opportunity to fly with Bert Kammerer and Kyle Stacy at a few small settings and it takes all that mystique out of it. They’re just a regular guys who just happen to fly better than I do because they’ve put in tons of hard work and turned it into a career. Impressive!
It’s easy to see why this would be intimidating, but when I come off the line and they say, “Nice flight”, that’s encouraging and takes any of the edge and anxiety off. The first time I flew in front of them, I flew my helicopter into one of their brand new BK Hobbies flags. I was so embarrassed but they were so gracious!
The second time I had a chance to fly with Kyle, it was at a small gathering of friends, I wrecked my Align 600n after the engine flamed out. He joked about some of his crashes and told me to get back in the air quickly and shake it off. You would think I would have avoided flying in front of them again but no, I got right back out there this weekend and did it again – this time, no crashes!
It doesn’t matter what skill level you’re at, get out there and fly. You will not be judged but in the rare occasion that you are, don’t worry about it. You’re more likely to get encouragement and tips than a negative experience. If anything, you’ll also be encouraged to push your limits.
Trying New Maneuvers
Last year, at the same funfly, Jared somehow thought it was a great idea to put his new VTX blades on my Align 550E (Rest in Pieces) and then egg me on to try auto-rotations (I would later find out that Jared is a particular sucker for heli-carnage – perhaps I’ll write about that another time). I tried some of my first auto-rotations above 10ft that day and I went home feeling VERY proud. I also did not destroy Jared’s blades or my heli (the 550E did die a horrible death at my first F3C Competition in October of ’18 – another thing I’ll write about later).
Fast-forward back to the present and this past weekend I was doing fast stall turns and cutting the throttle to a beautiful auto-rotation across the field. Because I’m still learning this maneuver, I didn’t complete a lot of them but I did get the helicopter to about 10 feet off the ground before flipping the throttle back on and going for another pass. The key here is that I practiced in front of others and had a great time doing it!
Fun-flies are a great time to allow peer pressure to push your limits a little farther. Don’t be afraid of it, embrace it!
Being a business-owner/sales person/and all-around helpful guy, I can’t seem to turn that off even while participating in my hobby. There were several people who were newer to the hobby or needed help with setups and I was quick to encourage or help them out. Even a few seasoned pilots who were pushing their limits got some encouragement. In turn, I also received help and encouragement! It was a great time and it was an awesome display of community.
One of the most significant displays of help and encouragement was to my buddy’s 8-year old daughter, Sadie. She was picking up helicopters for the first time that weekend and by the end of it she was taking off and landing on her own! The CD, Michael “Gator” Gaeta would encourage her on the PA system so she could hear it and everyone would clap for her. She was so thrilled to fly and ended up flying more than most of us did that weekend!
One of my most favorite things to do during the fun fly was to represent my sponsors by spotting people, helping, encouraging, wearing the brand colors, and giving away stuff to make someone’s day memorable! I’m blessed to have two great sponsors and it was great to give back to the hobby by being there for them. In addition to representing my sponsors, I had the blessing to visit with my team manager for HeliDirect, Cade Ciripompa. He is an amazing pilot, a wealth of knowledge, and an all-around good guy!
Though we did not get any photos together, my KBDD teammate, Geena Tucker, was also present at the event. She had her camera out and took some stunning photos of my Goblin Drake with the KBDD extremes. The orange on the bottom is simply awesome. Thanks for the photos, Geena!
Why Do Fun-flies Matter?
In the end, fun-flies matter because they bring us together to enjoy a great hobby and build each other up. The big events with all the big names can be busy and sometimes just don’t have the feel of a small, local fun-fly. Having the professionals there was awesome because they were free to spend time with us and pass on wisdom, encouragement, tips, or banter. Yes, bantering is a huge part of the hobby. It’s the way we show affection and respect for each other. For example, Jared and I fly for competing sponsors but we harass each other about the others’ gear and it’s funny and entertaining. At the end of the day, we respect each other deeply and there are no hard feelings. It was fun to stick my Align 700E in front of Ron Corris, the SAB team manager, and tell him to show some respect. He knew I was joking around and we had a great time going back and forth about it.
Some people take this hobby way too seriously, especially online. That is fake – in reality, when we get together, the radio doesn’t matter, the helicopter doesn’t matter, the blades don’t matter… we just fly. And we love it!