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Article by Chris Mulcahy.
Bonus photos by Jennifer Orebaugh.
Helicopters pilots unite for the largest-ever IRCHA Jamboree.
Full event coverage featured in the December 2014 issue.

Each year, helicopter pilots from all over the world convene together at the International Aeromodeling Center (IAC) in Muncie, Indiana, to attend one of the largest Radio Control helicopter gatherings to date: the International Radio Controlled Helicopter Association (IRCHA) Jamboree. IRCHA is the helicopter Special Interest Group of the AMA, and they have a little experience putting this event together. This year represented the 25th anniversary of the Jamboree.

You’ll find a little bit of everything at IRCHA, and people from all walks of life. There is everything from 3-D to speed, scale, and vintage machines. Manufacturers often use IRCHA as the place to announce and/or unveil their latest products, while team pilots demonstrate their abilities. Whatever you’re into in the helicopter sport, IRCHA will have it.

I spoke to Dave Millner, president of IRCHA, about what it meant to be celebrating 25 years. He told me that it was a testament to helicopter pilots’ ability to adapt and embrace new and changing technology and ideas. He recalled the inception of IRCHA, when Don Chapman and a handful of other pilots decided to form the SIG, and help promote the emerging helicopter side of the hobby.

That first Jamboree, held in Dayton, Ohio, had a total of 60 registered pilots; here we are 25 years later with the Jamboree pulling in 1,074 registered pilots (plus a few more that chose not to register, but that is another story). Something to realize is that 25 years ago there was no Internet or forums, so the only way to learn from each other about the hobby was to get together and talk about it or read the early newsletters. This was the essence of IRCHA; it was all about fellowship and learning.

Aside from hosting the Jamboree each year, IRCHA has also been committed to representing the heli side of things behind the scenes. While there is a lot they can’t openly talk about, they have always got our back. I asked Dave what it was like for him to see an event like IRCHA come together, and he said that when he gets to flying site it is just a big empty field. Then he, along with around 100 volunteers, start to mark out the field for flightlines and vendors and he gets to watch it grow into the mega event we all know. By the time he leaves, he says that the event dwindles back down to that empty field again.

Before I got off the phone with Dave, he gave me a sneak peek of what to expect next year. Much like the speed and scale flightlines, multirotors will now have their own separate flightline. They are still welcome to fly at the main flightline, but they will have a place where multirotor pilots can gather together and set up, share ideas, and show off their machines.

It kind of reminds me of what Dave was saying about the early days of IRCHA. This could very well be the early days of multirotors; who knows what we will see from them in 25 years’ time!

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