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Written by Chris Mulcahy
RC Helicopters
Column
As seen in the August 2018 issue of
Model Aviation.


The RC helicopter world is a small community, so it’s always exciting when some of us embark on a hobby-related business venture. Two of my friends, Manny Rodriguez and Danny Melnik, began such an adventure when they created AeroPanda. The company carries many helicopter-related brands on its website, including Soxos helicopters. I chatted with Manny about how they got started.

Chris Mulcahy: For those who don’t know, can you tell us a little about your RC background?

Manny Rodriguez: Since I was a kid, remote control toys and models have fascinated me. I remember one of my uncles had a Tamiya buggy with an old, square, bronze metal box control.

Years later, my dad gave me a helicopter with a Cox .49 glow engine for Christmas. My dad and his friends tried flying the heli. After many attempts, they finally got it. It flew like a dream! Then the dream flew away … right in front of me, all the way to the top of a pine tree. I was never able to get it back.

Approximately 14 years ago, I was at a mall and bought a small coaxial helicopter. That was it—I was hooked! Since then I have been flying helicopters and fixed-wing airplanes as a hobby.




Manny Rodriguez, cofounder and CEO of AeroPanda.


Helicopters are what I like to fly the most. I actively participate in speed racing helis, and I have had the honor to participate in team/brand events for MKS Servos, Jeti Model, bavarianDEMON, Zeal Blades, CanoMod, Xnova Motors, and others. These opportunities have given me great experiences, especially with Xnova Motors and Jeti Model, for which I was the team manager.

After I closed my catering business in 2013, I started to work for Esprit Model/Jeti USA. I am responsible for technical support, managing the building department, sales, inventory, and checking outgoing orders and purchasing. I am the representative who attends most of the fun-flys, contests, and events.

It is a delightful experience. I have made many friends. It has also given me the opportunity to grow my knowledge and to work in an industry that was once just a hobby.

The passion for flying model helicopters is what drove me into this, but the most beautiful part is getting to share this hobby with lots of people who share similar interests. I am blessed to be able to travel and to meet so many of you.

CM: How did you start AeroPanda?

MR: My best friend, Danny Melnik, and I started AeroPanda in 2016. We share the same passion for this hobby, and [he has been in the hobby] a bit longer than I, with more than 35 years in the industry.

Danny and Laura (Danny’s wife) are the owners of DemonAero, which imports some of the brands that AeroPanda retails. In today’s market in the [hobby] industry, it was a requirement for him to have a retail point to show the brands that he was importing and distributing (wholesale).

For me, it was a challenge to do something new and interesting. I studied design and developing for websites and created the website from scratch. The result was AeroPanda. The name was Danny’s idea. One day he called me “Panda” and it stuck. That became the name for the website.




AeroPanda imports the Soxos DB7 to the US.


AeroPanda has a lot to do with the way that I live. It’s simple: When you do good in life, good stuff comes back to you! That is my philosophy. All of these years in the RC community are paying off.

AeroPanda started at the bottom. I am not exaggerating when I say [it came] from nothing, and two years later, thanks to the support of many friends and hobby mates, we keep growing and expect good things from this project.

CM: One of the brands you carry is Soxos. Can you tell us about it?

MR: Yes, we are very excited about this. Soxos is the latest line of RC helicopters from Heli-Professional in Switzerland. These people have “different” approaches to some of the usual design problems in RC helicopters. We exchanged conversations with them approximately four years ago, when Danny went to the Heli Masters in Germany.

We brought back a Soxos 800 machine. We built it, flew it, and brought [it] to the International Radio Controlled Helicopter Association (IRCHA) Jamboree that year. We worked on some improvements that, in our opinion, were required. After that project cooled down, we focused on other projects.

In 2017 at the Orlando Helicopter Blowout, Alex Küng from Heli-Professional was there and we reestablished conversations with him. [The company] made a substantial improvement to the machines, with the collaboration of some top-of-the-line pilots such as Dunkan Bossion, from whom came the name DB7 for the 700-size Soxos heli.

After months of conversations and many commitments, AeroPanda is the official importer for Soxos in North America. We just received our first order, so the spare parts are in our warehouse in Florida.

It is an honor for us to represent the Soxos brand in North America and bring a helicopter brand with a different design approach to the US market.

CM: What do you think separates Soxos from other helicopter brands?

MR: When you talk about helis, it is hard to tell a difference because they have the same mechanical function/design. Since the creation of the flybarless system, which started a design revolution, we do not see many variants.

The Soxos is not a conventional heli. Starting from the chassis, its one-piece CNC frame translates into a lightweight machine. It uses a torque-tube tail control system to drive the tail and provides an extra strong and precise tail drive mechanism. It utilizes and isolates the tail box that efficiently absorbs vibration. The Soxos DB7 redefines what a unique design it is.

Heli-Professional in Switzerland is proud to incorporate the Soxos with all of the European technology.




A familiar sight at many flying events (L-R): Manny Rodriguez, Danny Melnik, Joachim Eulefeld (owner of bavarianDEMON), Danny’s wife, Laura, and Manny’s wife, Diana.


CM: Who is your favorite helicopter pilot?

MR: That is a tough question! There are so many good pilots out there that picking one is a challenge. I love to see the stuff that pilots such as Kyle Dahl, Kyle Stacy, Tareq Alsaadi, and Dunkan are doing with their machines.

I do think there are some who deserve a special mention because they are an inspiration to those in this hobby and [for] their contribution to the RC community. Among those people are Bert Kammerer, Gary Wright, Bobby Watts, Matt Botos, Alan Szabo Jr., and many more.

If I picked one pilot, it would have to be Nick Maxwell. I think he is an overall gifted person. I enjoy [seeing] his flying skills and practices. Not only when smacking a helicopter or making a wonderful sport 3D or precision F3C routine, but every single flight he makes has a great combination of styles like no other pilot.

CM: Any final words you’d like to share?

MR: First, thank you for the support. Our emphasis is to contribute to our hobby and do what we believe in.

AeroPanda is about taking care of our friends. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for technical support or help with your model. We are here to help you; helping you brings us happiness. Please feel free to reach out to us. We love to chat with you.

Please remember to support your local field and the AMA. They have great programs to encourage new members in our community.

We are active on social media and in the RC community forums. Please stop by our booth at any major fun-fly. Come check out Soxos, bavarianDEMON, Jeti Model, and the rest of our products. We will let you try them out.

More great surprises are coming from AeroPanda in the future. Stay tuned!

-Chris Mulcahy
cspaced@gmail.com


Sources:

IRCHA
www.ircha.org

AeroPanda
(321) 312-0723
www.aeropanda.com

Heli-Professional
www.heli-professional.com






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