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Written by Jennifer Alderman
It's more than just flying
Event coverage
Photos by the author
As seen in the December 2016 issue of
Model Aviation.


Highlight video




Bonus photos

Model Aviation magazine: IRCHA Jamboree 2016



Family:
A group of people who are generally not blood relations, but share common attitudes, interests, or goals.



Friend:
A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts, who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group.



Community:
A social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists. A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals: "the sense of community …"



Fellowship:
The companionship of individuals in a congenial atmosphere and on equal terms. Friendship, comradeship. A close association of friends or equals sharing similar interests.

IRCHA Sponsors and Vendors


Platinum Sponsors
Scorpion
SAB Heli Division
Empire Hobby
Gaui
HeliDirect
Align
Mikado
Horizon Hobby



Gold Sponsors
Peak Aircraft
BK Designs
Graupner
minicopter
Spartan
BK Servo
Castle Creations
Evolution Helicopters
Synergy R/C Helicopters
Oxy Heli
Miniature Aircraft USA
MSH USA
KDS USA
HobbyWing



Silver Vendors
A Main Hobbies
Cyclone Hobbies
BavarianDemon
RC Power Cases
DemonAero

Family. Friends. Community. Fellowship. What do you think of when you hear these four words? They have many definitions. For me, these words bring to mind one of my second families. It's a family of friends and fellowship--the community of RC helicopter enthusiasts we call the International Radio Controlled Helicopter Association (IRCHA).

This community comes together each summer at the IRCHA Jamboree, which takes place at the International Aeromodeling Center (IAC) in Muncie, Indiana. It's the largest RC helicopter event in the world, having had more than 1,100 registered pilots participate in the past.

The 2016 Jamboree took place on August 3-7 and boasted approximately 727 registered pilots. Some parts of the annual event stayed the same, while others were replaced with newer and better contests, such as the Battle of the Brands instead of The One competition. But the camaraderie was evident throughout.

The Jamboree holds special meaning for me, and I'm sure it does for many others as well. It is where I met my now-husband six years ago. For others, it's the only time of the year to get together with friends from around the world. For some, it's the nonstop flying day and night, the after-hours dinners and celebrations, or riding on golf carts from site to site to fly and visit. Whatever the reason, the IRCHA Jamboree is about community and friends who have become family for so many people in this hobby.

If I had a fitness tracker to keep track of how many steps I took while walking the main flightline from Wednesday afternoon to late Saturday night, I imagine it would have been well into the tens of thousands! But I also made my way by vehicle to other areas of the event. Site 3 held the Speed competition, sponsored by the newly formed Model Helicopter Speed Flying Association (MHSFA).

The IRCHA FPV SmackFest racing event, hosted by Smack FPV, took place at the bend in the road north of the IAC's Site 4 and to the east of Site 8. The IRCHA Scale Nats competition and the Scale helicopter tent were at the west corner across the road from the main flightline.




The view behind the lens was what kept pilots at the IRCHA FPV SmackFest racing line. Large monitors were in place in the AMA Education trailer for spectators to see what the pilots were viewing in their goggles.


It's amazing to see the amount of activity that takes place during the Jamboree and how many people pull together to make it happen. The IRCHA board members begin planning for the next year almost as soon as the current year's event is over, gathering vendor information and rental contracts, rounding up volunteers, and setting dates.

It's almost magical to watch it all come together from the beginning of the week leading up to the event to the last day, and how the IAC goes from quiet, with a few early birds, to several hundred dedicated hobby enthusiasts absorbing all of the sights and sounds that IRCHA produces. Then it's over and quiet once again. A few stragglers stick around, but by Sunday evening, the IRCHA Jamboree is a memory.

After the event, I gave some attendees an opportunity to digest their visit to Muncie and think back to what their favorite part of the 2016 IRCHA Jamboree--or the event throughout the years--was and what it meant to them. The recurring theme that everyone commented on was not so much the flying, but the friends they meet and the fellowship they feel.

"It brings our RC family together for a few days to enjoy what we all have in common, no matter what your title or place is in this crazy world," said Joe Reyes. "Religious beliefs, race, creed, color, and political views are all put aside for those brief few days to share in the passion that we all have in this amazing hobby. We all get to create new friendships that last a lifetime then look forward to the next Jamboree to create even newer friendships."

Michael Robinson noted that the IRCHA Jamboree was more than just seeing the latest and greatest products and the best pilots in the world. "It's always been more about meeting new friends and getting a chance to enjoy some time with old friends. I love this hobby for the people as much as the flying. The absolute sense of brotherhood and sisterhood is what the Jamboree is all about.

"It's also a great time to pay it forward and give back some of the help that has been given to me over the years," Michael continued. "My highlight of the 2016 Jamboree [was] seeing the Gaui team pull together and help a young kid who crashed during our team fun-fly. It's just a great example of what this hobby brings out in people."




Chad South, aka the Foamie Ninja, brought his own-design bicopter hybrid multirotors to IRCHA. The two smaller aircraft--the HCT-250 and HCT-450--are built from 1/8-inch plywood. The larger HCT-1800 is made from 3/16-inch plywood and measures 6 feet from motor to motor with an all-up weight of 50 pounds.




Sandy Jaffe's Vario NASA/Army B-model C-47 Chinook uses special rotor heads, blades, and driveshaft to keep timing between the intermeshing rotor heads. It weighs approximately 28 pounds and flies for 8 minutes.


That young kid was 7-year-old Shayan Sakkaria. Shayan was diagnosed with cancer when he was 41/2 years old, spending a lot of time in the hospital while receiving his treatments. To stay motivated, he learned how to fly small quadcopters and helicopters, even getting a couple of doctors interested in the hobby!

When Shayan completed his treatments, he received a bigger heli and learned new skills by watching videos and using the simulator. Kader, Shayan's father, also posted a thread on the HeliFreak helicopter forum in search of help to teach Shayan how to fly 3-D maneuvers. A young man named Brian Durocher answered the request.

This year's IRCHA was Shayan's second visit to Muncie. Last year was still too tiring for him, but this year Shayan had the strength and excitement to visit many of the vendors, including Gaui and OXY Helicopter. He had never flown either brand of helicopter, but was interested in both.

Shayan approached Jack Burnside with Empire Hobby/Gaui, telling Jack that he wanted to fly for Gaui. Although Jack had never had a team member younger than 9 years of age, Shayan was invited to try out for the team during the team-only evening flying session.

On Friday afternoon, the Gaui team gathered at the pilots' station next to where Shayan was getting ready to fly a used Gaui X5 that his father had just purchased. Unfortunately, two minutes into his flight, the helicopter crashed. Shayan was in tears that he could not show his skills to Jack and the Gaui team.

"What happened next was epic," Kader said. "The entire Gaui team came running to him. JC (Zankl) and others picked him up and carried him back to the pilot station. I have never seen such a smile from Shayan until that moment.

"The Gaui team worked hard to fix his X5 and also upgraded some of his components, got the flybarless [unit] tuned to his style, and gave him extra parts for future use." Shayan was not only invited to sit with the Gaui team during their demonstration, he was also given the chance to fly, putting up a very smooth 5-minute flight. "The crowd cheered him so much, it was so memorable," Kader said. "The Gaui team picked Shayan and Zaid [Still] up for a picture. We all will remember the picture forever."




"I'm left in awe at the caliber of people that we have and have encountered," said Empire Hobby's Jack Burnside. "This heli community contributes to the passion of youth regardless of age." (L-R) JC Zankl, Michael Robinson, and Brandon Still lift (L-R) Shayan Sakkaria and Zaid Still up in the air after Shayan flew his first-ever flight at the IRCHA Jamboree's Show Center. See the text for the story.


Shayan also received a field representative position from OXY Heli, and was invited to watch the company's demonstrations as well.

Kader praised both helicopter teams and the event. "IRCHA 2016 gave Shayan such an experience and showed him how to be helpful and humble. It gave him a larger family that he can count on for anything. [It] helps us get through tough times and [teaches] us [that] nothing is permanent in this life."

IRCHA is not only about "second" families, but also real families and bringing them together. Many pilots attend IRCHA as a way of bonding with their families. Steve O'Connor, and his wife, Sharon, decided to make a last-minute flight from San Francisco, California, to visit and surprise friends they've made throughout the helicopter community. Steve didn't bring anything to fly--he and Sharon just wanted to be there among friends.

This was Emily Stark's third IRCHA Jamboree that she has attended with her husband, Jim. "It's my heli family, my friends, a gathering of minds alike," she said. "I come every year for the fun, the fellowship, and the general insanity. [It] means vacation--an escape from the everyday."




Nik Johnson (L) came from Birmingham, United Kingdom, to once again serve as the commentator throughout the event.




Each morning before the pilots' meeting, JC Zankl presented the flag during the national anthem by flying it from a Gorham Model Products Competitor. JC's helper, Roger Seward, made sure the flag never touched the ground. Flying the flag from a helicopter was a tradition in the early days of the Jamboree starting with
Mike Swift and Ralph Dalusio. JC brought it back last year.


Bob Heister has attended IRCHA every year since 2012 and sees it as a chance to hang out with friends and make new ones. But it's also a great bonding experience and "good, quality time with family since I get to do it every year with my two sons."

IRCHA can also mean wedding time! Rebecca and Nathan Essex renewed their wedding vows Saturday evening on the flightline. No dressing up in white and black for this couple; they wore their red Gaui shirts in support of their favorite brand and sponsored team and sported Gaui Velcro straps as rings.

Many IRCHA participants appreciated the lower attendance this year and felt that the event was more laid back and relaxed. Steve O'Connor thought it was the perfect size, citing there was a great combination of demonstrations and time to fly with friends. Other pilots thought the lower attendance and fewer vendors produced a different vibe, but Joe Reyes believes that, "like all things, there is an ebb and flow; we just happen to be in the ebb at the moment. Everything goes in cycles, and as long as we stay passionate and innovative, we'll weather the storm."




Rebecca and Nathan Essex, of Bowling Green OH, renewed their wedding vows IRCHA-style. Rebecca promised to learn to love all of Nathan's helicopters and not criticize his flying or crashing; Nathan promised to keep his helis and tools in their right place, not brag that his flights were epic, and always keep his thoughts about Rebecca, even at the flying field. Andy Panoncillo officiated, while the Gaui flight team served as best men and women.


Andy Panoncillo overheard some pilots say that they would rather go back to a traditional fun-fly atmosphere. "I thought about that as well," he said, "but then again, IRCHA became famous and known for its ability to adapt and evolve into a more fun environment for everybody to enjoy. There's plenty of time and space for everybody to just go to a flight station and fly, or to show center and enjoy the company demos and giveaways … I think the true answer would be [that] it's not what I want to change, but rather what I would possibly expect, which is more fun as it continues to evolve in the future."

Nonstop entertainment at all levels was considered a plus. Some enjoy the noontime demos, while others like the Power Hour segments supporting their favorite brands. On top of the list of IRCHA favorites, however, was the night-fly competition and fireworks. Switch Blades sponsored the fireworks and did not disappoint, utilizing several pilots to fly to music, between the streaks of fire that lit the sky. But, as Bob Heister pointed out, "That [the fireworks] also signifies the end of the event, making my favorite part bittersweet."




The night-fly competition and fireworks are a highlight of the event, and signify the end to an awesome and exciting time full of friends and flying.


Seeing many friends from around the world leave Muncie at the end of one of the best RC helicopter events there is, and knowing that I will not see many of those friends until the following summer, does pull out a twinge of sentimental feelings. For many of us, including me, the RC helicopter community is a second family, and attending the IRCHA Jamboree is like a family reunion.

RC helicopter pilots who attend the IRCHA Jamboree are there as a community, purchasing from the vendors and retailers, helping pick up the pieces after a crash, encouraging others who try to master maneuvers, buddy boxing young pilots who are just starting out in the hobby, and rooting for their favorite professional pilots during competitions. They are also there on a personal level, sharing family news--good or bad, lending helping hands, or just having good laughs and hanging out with each other.




Matt Botos (R), owner of Synergy R/C Helicopters, congratulates the IRCHA grand prize raffle winner. The prize included a Synergy 766 helicopter, Futaba radio and servos, Castle Creations ESC, Scorpion motor, and Rail Blade rotor blades.


"This is a mixture of a family reunion, fun-fly, trade show, air show, and multidiscipline competition, all combined with a state fair atmosphere just for RC helicopters," said Chip Pairett. "I am personally willing to drive 800 miles and camp in a field for a week for one 3-minute Speed flight in competition with my friends from all over the world.




IRCHA Speed Cup competitors (L-R): Hugo Markes, Dimitri Sidorov (behind), and Heiko Fischer goof around for the camera while waiting their turns to compete. The IRCHA Jamboree and RC helicopters transcend any language barriers that might be encountered--Hugo is from Switzerland, Dimitri is from Russia, and Heiko is from Germany.


"The AMA flying sites that host the Jamboree are truly awesome, as is all of the staff from IRCHA who keep us in line and keep things moving along during this wonderful event. [I] hope this event can continue for many years to come."

Alex Mitchell may have said it best. "IRCHA transcends helicopters. It is about community from around the globe, gathering for a common interest. From there, it's all about seeing old friends and meeting new friends, fellowship, and sharing in a great time."

Jennifer Alderman
jennifer@modelaircraft.org


Competitions

IRCHA Scale Contest
The IRCHA Scale Contest had eight pilots vying for a Huey stick trophy made by Darrell Sprayberry. Vario Helicopters also provided prizes for the top three winners. The IRCHA Scale contest follows “relaxed” AMA 518 Scale Helicopter Nats.

1. Emile Sheriff: Bell 407
2. Michael Zaborowski: EC 145
3. Dennis Engel: Vario AH-64
4. Chris Zolen: Huey B Model



IRCHA Battle of the Brands
Platinum and Gold sponsors submit a pilot to fly for the brand. Each pilot flies a single, 3-D flight to music, limited to 5 minutes with one helicopter, without required maneuvers, props, or theatrics. Voting is by audience, using a smartphone app text-to-vote system. The pilot’s sponsor receives either a free Gold sponsorship for the 2017 IRCHA Jamboree, or a 50% discount on a 2017 Platinum sponsorship.

BK Servos: Kyle Stacy (winner per audience vote)
Castle Creations: Nick Maxwell
Mikado: Kyle Dahl
Align: Jamie Robertson
Scorpion: Mirko Cesena
Minicopter: Miles Dunkel
KDS: Jacob Grimm Hansen
OptiPower: Wil Ramirez
Miniature Aircraft: Raja Bortcosh
MSH USA: Brian Langston
Graupner USA: Dunkan Bossian
Empire Hobby/Gaui: Mitch Marozas
SAB: Tal Roglit
Synergy Helicopters: Rob Cherry
Futaba: Matt Botos
Oxy Helicopters: Rasmus Jakobsen
HeliDirect/Pulse Battery: Kevin St-Cyr
Evolution Helicopters: Jeremy Strickland



IRCHA FPV SmackFest
Racing included events such as Speed, Freestyle set to music, Endurance racing, and traditional FPV racing, but the goal was for pilots to experience FPV and have a good time with a laid-back atmosphere. Ground stations were provided, as well as large monitors within the AMA Education trailer for spectators.



Intermediate Class
1. Ronald Johnson
2. Dustin Buescher
3. Wes Johnson



Advanced Class
1. Dunkan Bossian
2. Miguel Alvarez
3. Mason Lively



IRCHA Speed Cup
The IRCHA Speed Cup consisted of 17 competitors, including pilots from Germany, China, Russia, and Switzerland. This was the first major event under the MHSFA’s new rules system. Classes were differentiated by body type and blade size. Pilots chose the skill level (Master or Novice) in which to compete.

(Note: all mph speeds are averages)
F4 Master Class (Formula, Full Fuselage, 631-720mm)
1. Miles Dunkel, 161.7 mph
2. Richard Zappe, 151.2 mph
3. Santiago Panzardi, 139.2 mph
4. Hugo Markes, 69.0 mph

F3 Master Class (Formula, Full Fuselage, 531-630mm)
1. Georges Van Gansen, 130.9

S5 Novice Class (Sport, Pod and Boom, 721-780mm)
1. Hugo Markes, 135.2 mph
2. Heiko Fischer, 113.5 mph
3. Darrell Collins, 46.5 mph

S4 Master Class (Sport, Pod and Boom, 631-720mm)
1. Georges Van Gansen, 151.9 mph
2. Justin Pucci, 127.9 mph
3. Charles Pairett, 125.9 mph

S4 Novice Class (Sport, Pod and Boom, 631-720mm)
1. Dimitri Sidorov, 147.5 mph
2. Brian English, 140.1 mph
3. Keith Smith, 117.5 mph
4. Ryan Sams, 116.1 mph
5. Blanton Rivera, 105.4 mph
6. Ben Chance, 102.6 mph

S2 Novice Class (Sport, Pod and Boom, 401-530mm)
1. Justin Pucci, 120.2 mph
2. Charles Booker, 90.8 mph

S1 Novice Class (Sport, Pod and Boom, 200-400mm)
1. Hunter McWilliams, 87.7 mph



IRCHA Night-Fly Competition
The winner is determined by the audience using a text-to-vote system.
Winner: Mitch Marozas


Sources

IRCHA
www.ircha.org

MHSFA
www.mhsfa.org

Smack FPV
www.smackfpv.com




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