Image credit; Wayne Griffith. Wayne Griffith photography.
This was the 3rd annual FliteFest and it was my first chance to attend. Rolling in the first day I was hit by how absolutely massive it really is. The flight line was at least 1km long, there were hundreds of RV’s and tents, and there were a ton of vendor tents. One thing that is very different from any other RC event I’ve been to is the 3 huge build tents. When I say huge I mean huuuuuuge. There were so many tables for people to set up on and build, repair and hangout you wouldn’t believe. This was by far the best thing I’ve seen at an event. It enabled people to help each other out and connect and make new friends. Foam was free so you could build as much as you wanted. 2 guys in the corner had 2 CNC’s set up that were running constantly spitting out free kits for people, and they did this for free! Amazing to say the least. The tents also let people get out of the sun (or rain).
There were also a tent dedicated to classes (that you had to preregister to) there were a ton of really cool classes such as foam cutting, balsa building and such and one not so well prepared one on RC electronics (which I held). There was a great turnout and luckily they had many good questions to keep the class going. After the class ended I was walking back to the RotorRiot tent to sit down and cool down a bit (it was really hot and humid the whole event) when out of nowhere Alex grabbed me and more or less forced me to do the combat commentary. Everyday there were at least 1 to 3 full contact combats in which I participated, but more on that later. I didn’t think commenting would be so much fun! Mainly because you had all the power. You could just shout; GET THE HUGE WING! And everyone would try to hit it out of the air. Great fun.
Tim the truck driver came up the same day handing me a brand new F4U Corsair from Eflite. Not even the control linkages were put on yet. The only condition he had was that I had to fly it in the combat. After arguing back and forth for a while he convinced me to do it. I had a hard time to get it ready as there were so many people that wanted to talk so 30 minutes before the next combat I ran over to the closest build tent and shouted; Anyone want to get this ready for the combat!? 2 seconds later 4 people grabbed it and got it going within 10 minutes. Amazing to say the least. While they we’re working on it I went back to the RotorRiot tent and stared antagonising Chad Nowak. I challenged him to a slap bet that he wouldn’t be able to take me out with his quad in the combat. He accepted and I ran back over to the guys that were working on the Corsair. We test flew it and even had time to put some stickers on it before the combat. I kid you not, 100 planes took off in that combat (actually in almost every combat). Man it’s crazy cool flying around trying to hit other people. Chad took off quickly and came at me like a missile. Man that little thing is hard to avoid having the ability to change direction in a millisecond, and he was flying FPV (naturally), but I managed to avoid him for a good 2-3 minutes before this happened:
Image credit; Wayne Griffith. Wayne Griffith photography.
He chopped the left elevator off leaving me with no authority. I managed with incredible
skill (luck) to get it down unscathed by hitting one of the wacky inflatable waving arms flailing tube men. Well, a dignified slap later and some crying on the inside we retired back to the tent. Someone grabbed the Corsair and repaired it while I wasn’t looking (thinking it was Tim) and I flew the thing in the combat the next day. Unfortunately I had a spectrum lockout and smashed the thing into the ground. André was very happy about this though as he got to take it home and repair it.
Probably the most fun I had during the whole event was the sailplane meet up. We announced it on PA system and at lest 30 radians and 20 other sailplanes went up in the air. There wasn’t that much lift unfortunately and you really had to work it hard to gain anything, but it was awesome as it looked like a flock of birds and everyone was helping each other out trying to find the thermal pockets. A storm started rolling in and crazy sink ensued. We landed as the thunder rumbled and changed batteries. Since I knew I wasn’t going to be flying much more during the event I asked for another battery from Chris (who’s radian I was flying. Thanks for that buddy) and threw it back into the air. Some other brave people threw theirs up in the air as well and we hunted around finding a little bit here and there but a lot of crazy sink holes mostly. Then someone shouted out something like; WHOOuueue that is some crazy wind! And we we’re like; What is he talking about? Then BOOM out of nowhere crazy winds grabbed out planes and threw them around like rag dolls. Mine went inverted (which is not too great on a elevator rudder plane) and everyone was suddenly fighting for the survival of their planes. Man it was a hard fight to get the plane on the ground. The winds just constantly wanted to throw the plane around and up. Most people managed to land with the plane mostly intact and walking over they wiped sweat from their foreheads. Fantastic experience!
Mike managed to loose track of his airplane during in the haggle of radians for a good 30 seconds, (which to anyone that flies is an eternity). He was about to turn off his radio when a friend pointed to a radian that was really low and waggling all over (Mike was going back and forth on the sticks) Another 2 seconds and it would have hit the ground hard. He managed to land it and did not fly anymore that day. Poor guy was so white in the face.
More talk about this in the FT After hours podcast episode 118.
I did hang out a ton with the After hours crew and I did get to meet André for the first time as well. I also spent a lot of my time in the RotorRiot tent talking with many, many great people and I got some great feedback on the BabyTricopter. It’s really strange when people ask for your autograph, considering I just made some youtube videos of me having fun. Feels bizarre. But hey that means that I get to meet a ton of great people, such as SwissFreek and RotorBlade from the forums.
There was always stuff going on and not a dull moment the whole event. One of my favourite things was to walk through one of the “back” roads where you passed the RV’s and tents in the evening when people we’re starting to settle down for some food and to calm down a bit. That was when you got to hear the really cool stories and really connect with people.
Thank you very much to everyone that volunteered and made this event happen. I definitely will come back. If you plan on going, bring a lot of sunscreen so that you don’t have to wear a t-shirt over your head like me in the top picture.