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Written by Peter Vogel
Contributed column
As seen in the May 2016 issue of
Model Aviation.


In my last column, I shared an interview with Andrew Jesky. In a continuing effort to help bring you the stories and the passion of RC Aerobatics or “Pattern” pilots, this time I bring you Brett Wickizer, a four-time member of the World Champion F3A Team USA since 2009. Brett has three gold trophies and one silver F3A Team trophy attributing to his outstanding performances!

If you’re not into Pattern (yet), you might have heard of Brett from his time in International Miniature Aerobatic Club (IMAC) competition and 3-D flying, or from CK Aeropedia, the RC company he helps run with his longtime mentor and caller, Bryan Hebert. He’s also written several excellent articles about aircraft design, Pattern flying, and more, which you can find on CK Aeropedia.

I asked Brett how he got started, what he did before he got into flying RC Aerobatics, and how he fell into it. He answered most of my prepared questions with a great story that I think reflects what I’ve heard from many young Pattern pilots!



Flying started for me when I was young enough to have it as one of my first memories. This was not the way it started for virtually everyone I compete against—Andrew Jesky, Jason Shulman, Chip Hyde, and AC Glenn. They all had it in their families.

My first memories of flying are small, die-cast toys that were powered by imagination and flown by hand. That is all I remember until I was approximately 9 years old, when my dad decided it would be a fun father-son activity to build a trainer and learn how to fly as a family.

After a three-year break and a few months on the simulator, I was tearing up the skies. Flying was all I wanted to do and I had an insatiable desire to get better at it. That desire manifested itself in several ways when I was younger. I can look back at it now and appreciate it in a way that I couldn’t while it was happening.

After a little bit of sport flying, I was hungry to push the envelope, and 3-D was the most exciting challenge I could imagine. I remember what hooked me on 3-D. I can pinpoint the exact moment.

My dad and I were driving back from the field and right as we were pulling into our neighborhood, he told me about videos he had seen of people hovering their airplanes, and then they would bring the airplane down, touch the tail on the ground, and pull back up! “What?” I thought. “No way! That’s crazy.”

These days, a perfectly executed rolling circle is more thrilling—and indeed more challenging—but I don’t know if any future experience will match the unadulterated excitement I experienced then at the thought of executing a torque roll down low. I was in love.

The love, like in most young relationships, burned hot and burned fast. I couldn’t get enough! That is, until I got enough, and I realized my desire to get better wasn’t satisfied. I could do rolling Harriers 3 feet from the ground, touch the tail, torque roll to my heart’s desire, and cut the grass with my high-alpha knife-edge attitude down the length of the runway. So what? Other people could do that too. My drive for self-improvement was yearning for an outlet.

I knew that all of the best pilots were [RC Aerobatics] competitors, so that had to be my next step. Pattern was actually my second choice because of the Freestyle competition at IMAC events, but Pattern was more popular in my area, so I pursued it.

My first contest was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in May 2005. The contest director was none other than my future cohort and teammate, Bryan Hebert. By the end of that season, I was the Pattern Intermediate national champion.




Brett Wickizer (L) and his mentor, caller, and business partner at CKAero.net, Bryan Hebert.





Several competitors, including (back L-R in orange Futaba shirts) Chip Hyde, Brett Wickizer, Chad Northeast, Bryan Hebert, and (bottom L in the blue jacket) F3A legend Wolfgang Matt, during the 2010 F3A Pan American Championships in Medellin, Colombia.


The next year, I was Advanced national champion, and the year after that, I jumped straight into F3A. I am proud of a sixth-place finish in the finals. In 2008, I finished third at the Nats and qualified for a spot on the 2009 USA F3A World Championship Team.

Man, what a rush! Writing about it now brings back memories. That contest was difficult. I was in sixth place going into the finals and I had to jump none other than Sean McMurtry and Chip Hyde to earn a spot on the team. That year it was me, Andrew Jesky, Jason Shulman, Quique Somenzini, Chip Hyde, Sean McMurtry, Don Szczur, and Dave Lockhart in the finals. Wow!

Let’s put this into perspective. I was a woefully inexperienced teenager up against absolute giants in the hobby. All seven people on that list are F3A national champions! Two are F3A world champions, six (including me now) have been USA team members, and four are top-three finishers at the legendary Tournament of Champions.

No need to look any further for proof that the best-of-the-best compete in Pattern. You won’t find a list of names like that at other events.

My world has opened up in so many ways since I started competing. I have traveled to five continents, met friends from dozens of countries around the world, connected with people who have helped me in the real world and in my professional career as a full-scale pilot, and I’ve experienced things that have changed my perspective on life in profound ways. Competing in F3A is more than just a hobby for me. It’s a lifelong passion.



I asked Brett what advice he has for RC pilots today, particularly those who love flying, but don’t know if they want to get into competition or are more interested in disciplines other than RC Aerobatics. He responded with:



It’s my hope that some who read this will give a second thought to competing. Not everyone will have the same opportunities that I have had. It’s only a lucky few who get to travel the world to compete, but traveling is not what makes it so special.

Competition itself strips everything unnecessary out of your life. If you remain open to the lessons that the trials and tribulations of competition can teach you, there is no better teacher. There is no better way to get to know yourself, no better way to test yourself, and no better way to push yourself.

On top of that, every facet of competition in RC aviation has an incredible community behind it that is engaging, friendly, and helpful in so many ways. You owe it to yourself to give it a shot.


Additional photos

Model Aviation Magazine - Interview with Brett Wickizer


Sources

National Society of Radio Controlled
Aerobatics (NSRCA)
www.nsrca.us

CK Aeropedia
(225) 369-3542
www.ckaero.net




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