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Written by Jay Smith
Also featured on page 19 of the February issue and in the tablet app.

Ray Labonte approached me in late 2011 and shared his vision to have an event that would showcase RC aircraft, CL flying, helicopters, and RC cars. The event would be held in Maine at the Sanford Regional Airport and the community would be invited to attend.

The gathering would be as much for the spectators as it would be for the pilots. Ray understood that spectators are a key component in the future of our hobby. Although not all of the audience will become involved, having the community understand and appreciate what we do can go a long way toward ensuring that flying sites will continue to remain ours to enjoy.

There was much work to be done and the event was still in the planning stages, but I committed to attend.

The Sanford Regional Airport had already supported a jet rally and was onboard with a bigger, bolder event in 2012. Knowing he needed the assistance of a major player in the industry, Ray approached Horizon Hobby with his idea of an all-encompassing event, while still keeping a jet focus. Horizon Hobby saw this as an opportunity to bring its successful Air Meet concept from Europe to the US. Ray’s bold vision now had a name: the Horizon Air Meet 2012.

The event

I arrived at the venue on Thursday, September 6. Although I’m an airplane person, I was immediately drawn to the unbelievably awesome off-road car track! Having raced RC cars for several years, this was the biggest and best track I had ever seen!

My attention was diverted by the sound of a glow engine, not far from the car track. I saw a profile Control Line model in the air. No sooner had the flight finished when I was offered the opportunity to pilot the profile P-51. I gladly accepted.

The off-road car track drew some of the top names is the racing circuit and was used for actual races on Saturday and Sunday. The raised driver’s stand ensured that the vehicles could be seen anywhere on the track.

With the support of Brodak Manufacturing, Sandy Schmidt (R) and Ara Dedekian (launching the airplane) provided the opportunity for attendees to fly Control Line.

Two CARF Models Corsairs were flown at the event by the Malchione family. They garnered a lot of attention thanks to their beautiful finish, folding wings, and the purr of the radial engines.

Following that, my focus was skyward, thanks to the unmistakable sound of jet engines that were powering an intimidating-looking A-10 Thunderbolt II. As I made my way to the flightline, I had no idea who was flying the model, but it was clearly a high-caliber RC jet jockey. Ali Machinchy turned out to be the pilot in command, and he made several excellent flights throughout the weekend.

At the flightline, I ran into my friend, Peter Goldsmith, who works for Horizon Hobby and was one of the key players in the Horizon Air Meet. Whenever I see Peter, he always has a nice aircraft with him. Today would be no different as I looked at his T-33, which has competed at Top Gun.

David Skillings spent a year building this detailed A-10 Thunderbolt that represents one flown by the Connecticut Air National Guard.

Peter Goldsmith’s Skymaster T-33, powered by a JetCat P-120, has competed in Top Gun and made several flights throughout the event.

Matt Chapman and his Eagle 580 put on a good show. Being an RC pilot as well, Matt enjoys flying at RC events.

Thursday was only a partial day and it provided a good opportunity to talk with some of the pilots and get the lay of the land, which also included a helicopter flightline.

On Friday, the event hosted 500 school kids who were being brought in by bus to see a special performance by Matt Chapman in his full-scale Eagle 580. Matt always puts on a great show and it was nice to see the enthusiasm by everyone in the audience. Matt also took time to sign autographs and take pictures with the kids.

The youngsters then spent some time watching the other modeling disciplines represented. Each received his or her own model airplane glider at the AMA booth before being loaded up and returning to school.

While the car track mentioned earlier was being used by some of the top drivers in the sport and the runway was being used to launch and retrieve all types of jet aircraft, the spectators who wanted to participate were not left out. A small car track, complete with jumps, was available for anyone to try and a separate flightline was set up to allow for the opportunity to fly the HobbyZone Stratos.

Between flights, aircraft were parked so that spectators could get a good look at the different models present.

Ray and Robin’s Hobby Center was set up onsite to ensure that attendees didn’t go home empty handed. The tent was regularly filled with shoppers.

Realizing that once you have your first flight or get to drive an RC car for the first time that you might want one of your own, Ray and Robins Hobby Center had a tent filled with all of the Horizon Hobby products any beginner or intermediate hobbyist could want. If that wasn’t enough to entice the crowd, they were even offering discounts on anything sold!

As is common at RC events, the Horizon Air Meet held a noontime show where the top pilots in attendance laid down some impressive flights on jets, warbirds, aerobatic aircraft, and even a turbine sailplane. Emcee John Redman kept everyone informed about the details of the aircraft they were watching perform. Matt Chapman and Rob Holland also participated with their full-scale aerial ballet.

CD Ray Labonte (L) and Peter Goldsmith of Horizon Hobby discuss the noontime airshow.

Quique Somenzini and Seth Arnold fly in unison during the noontime airshow. Seth has flown his way to first place with the Extra 300 at the last two Extreme Flight Championships.

Saturday again drew a large number of pilots and spectators. Although the wind was challenging, the flying and demonstrations went on as planned except for the Saturday night fireworks. The off-road car track hosted actual races and several different classes were run.

On Saturday night was a banquet for the pilots and sponsors. It was held in the airport hangar, which was home to Air Force One on several occasions when George Bush was president and visited his home in Kennebunkport, Maine.

The Horizon Air Meet was a huge success and provided an immersive experience for the whole family. It drew the most spectators I have ever seen at an RC event—an estimated 15,000—during the three days! The visitors had the opportunity to try driving or flying models and were able to purchase a model to take home with them.

The pilots and drivers with whom I spoke also enjoyed the amenities that the facility offered, such as flying from an actual runway and driving on a large track, as well as sharing their passion with a large contingent of the community.

I haven’t heard if there are plans for a 2013 event, but with the success this one garnered in Maine, I certainly hope it becomes an annual tradition!

—Jay Smith


Horizon Air Meet

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Watch a video, see photos, and read an except from the article.


I liked that they also had an RC track. I'm a pilot, but I also like boating and RC cars. Diversity is a good thing. Looks like lots of fun!!

I think it's great that someone takes pictures of the events I know it takes a lot to do this kudos to them keep up the good work

I agree with len. thanks for covering these events, great photos and videos.

How cold was it up there? Might be a good excuse to see the northeast :)

Thanks for your comments on the article. It actually wasn't all that cold during the day.

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