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Written by Andrew Griffith
Heli event gives back to the community
Event coverage
As seen in the June 2012 issue of
Model Aviation.

Bonus Photos

You might think that the biggest attraction in Florida in December would involve a roller coaster or a beach. Although these are certainly worthwhile activities, if you’re into RC helicopters, the place to be is the Orlando Helicopter Blowout!

If your spouse or kids aren’t into helicopters, no problem! Roller coasters and beaches are only a short drive away, while you get to enjoy the warm Florida weather surrounded by world-class pilots and some of the best people the hobby has to offer.

The 2011 Orlando Helicopter Blowout took place December 9-11 in Winter Garden, Florida. If you read my coverage of the 2010 Orlando Helicopter Blowout in Mark Fadely’s April 2011 “RC Helicopters” column, you already know that the Orlando gathering is becoming one of the helicopter events to attend. This is not only the premier event in the Southeast, but one of the best in the entire country— and I’ve attended many events.

Pilots, photographers, and spectators were treated to a fantastic demonstration during the noon performance.

Now in its fifth year, the previous events were hosted and run by two of the local clubs: The Orlando Radio Control Helicopter Society (TORCHS) and the Remote Control Association of Central Florida (RCACF). RCACF had been hosting the event, which was growing yearly, at its flying field in Apopka, Florida, near Orlando.

Despite the best efforts of the host clubs, with the large number of pilots and campers and the amazing spectator turnout, the RCACF field felt cramped. In 2011, the organizers moved the Orlando Helicopter Blowout to a new venue: the TORCHS’ home field, which is in nearby Winter Garden, Florida.

Spectators love Scale helicopters. Team Heli Wholesaler’s Jeff Green flew a demo with this 500-size electric AH-1 TOW Cobra.

To the best of my knowledge, the Orlando Helicopter Blowout is the second largest, dedicated helicopter fly-in in the country, second only to the International Radio Controlled Helicopter Association (IRCHA) Jamboree that hosted more than 900 pilots last year. The 2011 Orlando event attracted an astonishing 281 registered pilots, including some of the biggest names in the hobby.

An event the size of the Orlando Helicopter Blowout is no small undertaking and requires a serious commitment from the host club. Volunteers are needed to run the registration booth, manage parking, make sure vendor areas are ready, and most importantly, maintain a safe flightline.

TORCHS appeared to have an “all hands on deck” effort from its members, because everything ran smoothly the entire time I was there. TORCHS members, including Dave Jeffery, David Blain, Jeff Jolley, and Mark Watkins, deserve credit for spending most of their weekend ensuring that everything ran smoothly.

Andy Panoncillo (L) accepts the Best Crash award from host Bert Kammerer.

A team is only as good as its leadership, and the Orlando Helicopter Blowout is run by three great people. TORCHS club treasurer, Carey Shurley, is the CD and does more work before, during, and after the event than he will ever be given credit for. Club president, James Cistola, seemed to be everywhere I looked all weekend. Probably because he was always on his Segway, whenever I walked somewhere, James was already there!

Bert Kammerer, the pilot coordinator for the event, is a world-class pilot and an all-around good guy. With 281 pilots and a long list of sponsors and vendors, Bert had his hands full and still managed to put on several stunning demos with the new SAB Heli Division Goblin 700. As a fellow CD, I took notes. The Orlando Helicopter Blowout is a case study on how to successfully run a large fly-in.

Team Gaui had a great showing at the Orlando Helicopter Blowout. From the left: Allan Austria, Nick Marozas, J.C. Zankl, Andy Panoncillo, Mitch Marozas, and Matt Nasca.

The noon demos usually steal the show at a large event, and there certainly was an impressive list of demo pilots in Orlando. Aside from Bert, and in no particular order, Bobby Watts, Nick Maxwell, Kyle Dahl, Mitch Marozas, Kyle Stacy, Colin Bell, Allan Austria, Jeff Green, Tim Jones, Curtis Youngblood (the original 3-D pilot), and more were on-site.

The Saturday afternoon demos attracted a large, enthusiastic crowd. No official spectator count was taken, but CD Carey Shurley estimated that at the height of the event, more than 1,000 people were present.

This hungry-looking Raptor 50 was flown by 16-year-old Michael Clark from Jacksonville, FL.

With Darrell “Big D” Bell doing the commentary, the demo pilots got fast, low, and dirty. In a few cases, a couple of helicopters got really dirty. Many of the crashes were of the frame-crushing, main-shaft-bent-in-an-L-shape variety. Andy Panoncillo took home a plaque during the drawing and award presentation for the most spectacular crash of the weekend.

Hugo Markes, the Swiss distributer for Outrage RC, was a good sport after crashing his helicopter during the noon demo.

One quality that separates a good pilot from a great pilot is when things go bad in flight. You get the feeling when watching these guys that they are never out of control of their machines. This is especially true during event demo flights. Demo pilots generally push the boundaries and if something goes wrong they will intentionally dump their machines in the dirt rather than try to save them and risk hurting someone.

Great door prizes are another staple of the Orlando Helicopter Blowout, and 2011 was no exception. The value of the prize pool nearly totaled a whopping $15,000. The grand prize, from Synergy and Experience RC, was a Synergy E6 and a Futaba 8FG radio system, bundled with a Castle Creations Ice ESC, Rail Blades, and Thunder Power 65C batteries. The model was already built, set up, and ready to fly. It was so ready to fly that, after Raja Bortcosh won it, Matt Botos gave it a shakedown flight in front of Raja and the crowd.

Professional aeromodeling pilot, Nick Maxwell, returns to the pits with his T-Rex 600N after a noontime demo.

Another major prize was the AvantGarde E6 kit, which came complete with a Castle Creations ESC, Nexus servos, a HeliCommand HC3-SX, Radix Blades, and a Scorpion motor.

Several people took home helicopter kits, and many came away with blades, shirts, and other neat swag.

Other prizes and winners included:

• Outrage RC Velocity N2 helicopter: Robert Tate

• Century Helicopters Radikal G20 gas-powered helicopter: Angel Rojas

• Hobbico Thunder Tiger Titan X50 helicopter: Hugo and David Blanco

• Helibug T-Rex gas conversion kit: Hugo and David Blanco

• Align RC USA T-Rex 600e helicopter (donated by Assurance RC): Manny Rodriguez

• Miniature Aircraft USA Whiplash helicopter (donated by Heli Wholesaler): Michael Chancey

• Gift certificate for SAB Heli Division’s soon-to-be-released Goblin 700 helicopter: Evangelos Simoglou

A full-scale Bell 407 was brought in by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for static display. The kids—even the big kids—loved it!

The fun wasn’t over when the sun went down! If you have watched any of the videos of the night fl ying at IRCHA, but haven’t experienced it, the videos don’t do it justice. After the noon demos, I didn’t think I would see anything else that really “wowed” me, but as darkness fell, the atmosphere became electric.

Demos started with small, 3-D routines with programmable blades that scrolled messages to the crowd. Curtis Youngblood took center stage and flew his night helicopter farther and faster than I have ever seen. He was doing laps around the light poles at the far end of the field!

When I thought I had seen the best of it, Bert Kammerer and Bobby Watts turned up the heat several notches, and I mean that literally. Their routine included high-energy music, Digital Aerial Light Controlling Onboard Nodule (DALCON) system-equipped helicopters, and two propane-powered flame throwers belching columns of fire 20 feet high into the night. Bert told me they had pyrotechnics as well, but couldn’t get a permit from the fire marshal because of the dry conditions.

The Chimp Systems DALCON synchronized the lighting system on both helicopters to the soundtrack. Bobby and Bert synchronized the flying, and someone else synchronized the flame throwers. The spectacle was worthy of a headline act in Las Vegas.

Bert Kammerer and Bobby Watts put on a fantastic night-flying show that was synchronized to music.

Great weather (Ray and Kyle Stacy left snow behind), great flying, and great people—what more could you ask for?

Giving Back

The TORCHS club used parking donations to contribute to a number of local charities in an effort to give back to the community. The club donated more than $2,000 to the Orlando-area Ronald McDonald House. Kenny’s Chuck Wagon, the on-site food vendor during the Orlando Helicopter Blowout, added $300 from his profits at the event to the club donation.

In addition to the cash, there were more than 100 new toys collected and donated to the U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots charity. One of the Marine Corps representatives noted that the downturn in the economy has impacted donations, so events such as this are a saving grace for many children who might otherwise go without a gift during the holidays.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department Explorers Unit received a $250 cash donation for assisting the club members in organizing parking during the event.

—Andrew Griffith



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