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Written by Jennifer Alderman
Competitions bring some of the best IMAC pilots to Tennessee
Abridged event coverage
Photos by Jennifer Alderman
Read the full event coverage in the February 2017 issue of
Model Aviation.

Bonus photos

Clover Creek IMAC Challenge and Freestyle Invitational

Abridged event coverage

Not many flying fields contain a lush sod field from which to fly, an air-conditioned hangar to charge batteries, a party barn for relaxing between rounds, and a swimming pool to gather around after hours. But Clover Creek Aerodrome is not just any flying field, and the Clover Creek International Miniature Aerobatic Club (IMAC) Challenge and Freestyle Invitational is not just any competition.

Every other Labor Day weekend, John and Tina Schroder open their home in Toone, Tennessee, to Freestyle pilots from around the world. John, who is passionate about both IMAC-style flying and the youth who might become tomorrow’s champion pilots, wanted to hold an event that was comparable to the Tournament of Champions, which was held in Las Vegas for many years and cofounded by Bill Bennett and John’s father, Walt.

Pilots and spectators watch the first round of Freestyle competition on Friday morning.

The IMAC Challenge was also added into the mix, drawing 61 total pilots. Twenty-one Freestyle pilots began three days of flying rounds on Friday, September 2, and 40 pilots competed in the IMAC contest, which was held on Saturday and Sunday, September 3 and 4.

Judging criteria for the Freestyle followed the 2015-2016 AMA Scale Aerobatics Rules, paragraphs 6, 7, 8.2, 10.3, and 17, with a four-minute Freestyle program. Routines were judged on the flight envelope, execution, wide variety, flow, presentation, positioning, and originality, and pilots were held to strict safety guidelines, including where the deadline was (where the airplane could cross in front of the pilot), no touching the ground, and no high-speed or high-G passes in the direction of judges, spectators, or other pilots.

Andrew Jaworski hovers in front of the judges as part of his routine during the Freestyle competition on Friday. In the foreground, Chris Gini’s airplane is prepared for the next flight. Timeliness was everything during this event!

The IMAC Challenge’s Sportsman through Unlimited competitors flew four Known sequences on Saturday, and an Unknown and two Known sequences on Sunday. Freestyle was flown between the IMAC rounds. Some of the Freestyle competitors even did double duty, competing in the IMAC competition as well.

Both contests ran well under the tutelage of Gil Major, the contest director (CD). Gil had plenty of help from Skip Kixmiller, the flightline and safety coordinator. Skip made sure that engines were running, pilots were ready to take their places in front of the judges, and the preceding pilots cleared the runway in a certain amount of time. You were left behind if you weren’t where you were supposed to be! As the 2016 Clover Creek information sheet stated, “Being where you are supposed to be, when you are supposed to, is the key in everyone having the opportunity to compete!”

The IMAC contest also had some strong, fast-paced flying throughout Saturday and Sunday. Luke Young and Garrett Rathbun kept first and second place in Sportsman throughout the first three rounds, but Sam Pankratz came from behind, scoring 1,000 in rounds three and six and with his Unknown sequence.

Terry Pellerin led in the Intermediate class during the first two rounds, but David Herron swapped places with him after scoring 1,000 in the second, third, and fifth rounds, as well as in the Unknown flight.

In the Advanced class, Evan Turner and Anthony Gorgone battled for first and second places, but it was Ben Jenkins, in third place throughout the contest, who came from behind after his first and second rounds were thrown out and won the Unknown sequence. Earle Andrews also came from behind to secure third place.

Kurt Koelling stayed on top in Unlimited with 1,000 points in his first three rounds and the Unknown round, but Jason Shulman topped him in rounds three through six. Will Berninger kept it steady, never wavering from third place.

After the final seven Freestyle pilots were announced on Sunday, Gil conducted a short pilots’ meeting with the finalists.

The top seven pilots in the Freestyle Invitational jump for joy! (L-R) Jase Dussia, first place; Gabriel Altuz, second place; Aaron Garle, third place; Kal Reifsnyder, fourth place; Sacha Cecconi, fifth place; Tyler McCormack, sixth place; and Matt Stringer, seventh place. Kal also won the Clover Creek Grand Champion award.

The top seven flew as if there was no tomorrow. They did not disappoint any of the spectators who gathered to watch. In the end, Jase Dussia came out on top, with Gabriel Altuz a mere five points behind him. Aaron Garle rounded out the top three.

The awards did not stop with Freestyle and IMAC. There was one more special award provided by host John Schroder—the Grand Champion. The Clover Creek Grand Champion award was not only based on flying Freestyle, but also flying Scale Aerobatics. To qualify, the competitor needed to have competed in both contests, and was determined by totaling all of the raw scores flown in both contests.

The winner was young Kal Reifsnyder, who was completely surprised by the announcement. But you could see the pride and gratitude in his face after he overcame his shock!

John and Tina Schroder are the ultimate hosts; it’s no wonder people scramble to be able to participate in events at Clover Creek Aerodrome. They take you in and make you feel as though you are a part of their family. Their love and dedication to our hobby is evident in every event they host.

Clover Creek Aerodrome owners and Clover Creek Invitational hosts, John and Tina Schroder, enjoy the show on Sunday. John and Tina graciously open their home to pilots and spend their time promoting and supporting the model aircraft hobby many times throughout the year for various events.

Whether the competitors placed high or low, all had a great time and promised that this was not their last time visiting Clover Creek to participate in the IMAC Challenge and Freestyle Invitational.


Clover Creek Aerodrome


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