RCU Review: IRCHA Jamboree 2009

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    Contributed by: RCU Staff | Published: December 2009 | Views: 28941 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    IRCHA Jamboree 2009 Onsite Coverage

    On-Site Coverage by Andrew Griffith and Ken Isaac
    In early May the Joe Nall Fly-In set the record for the largest event ever held at 840 pilots, surpassing the IRCHA Jamboree 2008 edition record of 780 registered pilots.  Before the print magazines that covered the event were even in the hands of readers, IRCHA 2009 shattered the record.  The IRCHA Jamboree again stands atop the lit as the llargest R/C event ever held.  (Nall set the record again this year, ironically, by including helicopter pilots)

    IRCHA, an acronym for the International Radio Controlled Helicopter Association, is the SIG (Special Interest Group) that represents the interests of radio controlled helicopter pilots within the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics).

    IRCHA Jamboree 2009 Photo Gallery on Smug Mug.

    The IRCHA Jamboree is an annual migration of helicopter pilots and enthusiasts that descend upon Muncie, Indiana each August. For a week straight, this hoard takes over most of the National Flying Site at the sprawling AMA headquarters.  Helicopter pilots are some of the most die hard in the hobby and four dollar per gallon gas prices didn't deter a record crowd of 780 last year.  With gas prices out of the stratosphere this summer, IRCHA officials thought the Jamboree had a shot at 1000 pilots in 2009.

    This years total (insert drum roll here) was a whopping 954 registered pilots.  Not only were there more pilots this year but they seemed to stay longer as well.  By the time I arrived on site early Thursday the 2008 record was in jeopardy and before the sun was low on Friday, IRCHA Jamboree 2009 was in the record books. 

    I arrived home late Sunday night, and by Monday I was wondering about the dates for 2010.

    This year was special.  It was the 18th Jamboree but also the 20th anniversary of IRCHA, which was formed by helicopter great Don Chapman back in 1989.  The first IRCHA Jamboree took place in Dayton, Ohio back in 1992.  The Jamboree made a stop in Pittsburgh, PA, spent from 1994 to 2000 in Hebron, Ohio, and at the request of Ron Kummer, finally found a home at the National Flying Site in Muncie, Indiana in 2001.  IRCHA followed the helicopter world championships this year so if one wanted to immerse themselves in the hobby, two weeks at AMA headquarters in August would give most of us a helicopter fix for a lifetime.

    AMA headquarters is a sprawling complex located in the middle of a corn field about an hour outside of Indianapolis.  When you first get off the interstate and turn into the property, a visitor is greeted by the impressive looking administration building on the left, and the AMA Museum on the right.  Situated at the rear of the LARGE property is a half mile long grass flight line.  When you clear the rise and finally see site 4 it can be quite startling to see vehicles and tents from one end of the flight line to the other.

    There are eighteen flight stations that measure 200x200 feet each along the length of the large grass runway.  The action starts at the center flight station where manufacturer demos take place all day long.  This is also where the very popular noon demonstration flights take place.  Immediately to the right of show center is the flight station set aside for scale and vintage helicopters.  This is the second year that the growing contingent of scale pilots have been allocated their own space.  The remaining flight stations are for open flying.  The only exception is that the stations on either side of show center are closed during the noon demonstration flying.


    Speaking of noon demos, all of the flying this year was simply awesome!  Since you can't have down low smack down without a bit of carnage, check the videos, we caught plenty. 

    Special events were taking place up and down the flight line for the entire time we were there. 

    People love scale helicopters and the area set aside for scale flying was busy all weekend.  Peter Wales and Darrell Sprayberry organized the scale competition.  It's a good thing they organized it; competing against either one of them would be an exercise in futility.  Many notable names were in attendance including Emile (CoptorDoctor) Sherriff, Dr. Tim Dawson (Starwood Models), Adam Tashjian (1st place last year), Kerry Muncy (Indy Helis), Stan Kopreski, Sandy Jaffie, and many others.  If you ever had a question about scale helicopter building, flying, setup, finish, or anything else you could think of, this was the place to get it answered in person.


    If you ever want to get attention at a helicopter event, fire up a scale machine and watch the reactions.  People stop what they are doing to watch, cameras start clicking, and video starts rolling.  Even among the scale crowd there are those that stand out.  Kerry Muncy, from Indy R/C Helis was on hand with his large, electric powered AH-64 Apache attack helicopter.  He flew his along with another Apache flown by Dave Townsend (Wingtip), and Emile Sheriff's Kiowa scout.  All three were in the air at the same time.  The three military helicopters put on a great show and gathered a large crowd. 

    Darrell Sprayberry had an electric 1/4 scale Jet Ranger from the GA State Patrol.  The detail that Darrell puts into his helicopters is amazing and it flew very well with a CSM Cylock and flybarless head.  Any mention of scale helicopters wouldn't be complete without Peter Wales.  Peter always brings a big collection and his 3 bladed, turbine powered Llama commands attention as soon as he starts it.  Peters sunny personality and British humor always make a stop at the scale tent worthwhile.

    When the scale competition wrapped up and the awards were handed out, the following individuals stood at the top of the (figurative) podium.  Emile Sheriff finished in third place with his OH-58D Kiowa scout helicopter.  The Kiowa was equipped with a 4 bladed head complete with a mast mounted target designator that moved back and forth; a fine example of Emile's building and engineering skills.  Kerry Muncy took a well deserved second with his Indy Helis AH-64 Apache.  The electric powered Apache with a 4 blade head and tail rotor is hard to tell from the full scale in several of our photographs.  Adam Tashijan again proved that you don't need flat paint and armament to win a scale contest.  Adam's extremely detailed EC-135, looked great and flew even better.  Adam hails from Boylston, MA and it's the second year in a row for taking home first place honors.


    IRCHA Jamboree 2009 Photo Gallery on Smug Mug.

    Down one tent down the flight line from the scale crowd are the antiques.  This was the second year that vintage helicopters had a designated place to gather and they shared a dedicated flight line with the scale helicopters.  JC Zankl, a local from Anderson, Indiana, organized the vintage effort again and did a great job of pulling things together.  There were several tables full of models that you usually don't see outside the AMA museum.  There were Kavan Jet Rangers (my personal favorite) along with Crickets, Morleys, Dubro Whirlybirds, and more.  Some were updated with modern radio equipment or converted to electric power but many were flown with period engines and older radios.  When you look over these helicopters it gives you a sense of how far we have come in the hobby in terms of equipment and engineering.  It also gives you an appreciation for what the pioneers in our hobby had to overcome to be successful.


    Speaking of Crickets, our hobby lost one of the aforementioned pioneers this past year.  On Thanksgiving Day in 2008, John Gorham, founder of GMP (Gorham Model Products) passed away.  JC organized a mass GMP Cricket hover and there were several in attendance.  In addition to the Crickets, Johns son, Robert was on hand for the flight and we got to spend a few minutes chatting with him as he enjoyed the surroundings.

    Empire Hobbies sponsors the IAN or IRCHA Amateur Nationals competition.  IAN gives a chance for non-sponsored pilots to strut their stuff for a panel of judges and compete for sponsorship and a chance to fly in the 2010 Futaba XFC (X-treme Flight Championships).  A young man from Canada, Brandon Fiorante was voted the winner (amid a little bit of controversy) and with the exception of touching the tail and having to abort the last few moments of his flight during the finals, flew extremely well.  Since "extremely well" is only average at the XFC, Brandon will have to get plenty of practice in between now and June.

    Aside from IAN, Empire Hobbies also sponsored the night flying competition.  While I need to work on my night photography still, the flying was absolutely amazing and Jack and the gang at Empire deserve a big pat on the back for pulling off a spectacular night fly.

    Way down at the end of the flight line on Saturday my friend Ray Stacy was organizing the auto-rotation contest.  In years past this has been a spot landing for points and the boys from Ron's Heliproz South (Ron Lund and Nathan Spencer) always seemed to be dead center in the circle.  This year things were a little bit different; both the format and the winner.  While a reasonably close landing was required the majority of a contestants score was based on hang time. 

    Pilots were given a 15 second climb out and then had to cut the motor (electric) or throttle hold to a verified idle (nitro).  The clock started when throttle hold was activated and the longest hang time was the winner with extra points for a spot landing.  This wasn't a little gift card up for grabs either, the prize was a Furion helicopter provided by Great Planes and a very nice plaque.

    One might think that the larger machines would have an edge but there was a little bit of everything flown and I think it came down to pilot skill more than anything.  Some helicopters would climb so high that by the time the 15 seconds were up it was hard to see what it was doing.  The best times were turned in by the pilots that had a good climb but also got the auto under control quickly without loosing much of that altitude.  JC Zankl was talked into flying his buddies Trex 700 nitro helicopter.  I've seen gliders come off of a winch launch and not stay up as long as JC hung the Trex in the air.  The powerful climb, large blades, and JC's smooth flying made for an easy win.    Nathan Spencer turned in a respectable second place finish and even several of the guys flying 50 size helicopters finished with excellent times.

    For many the IRCHA Jamboree is an annual event, marked on their calendars as soon as the dates are posted.  A time to catch up with friends that are scattered across the country and in many cases across the world.  For some pilots it's a once in a life time experience.  It's a once a year opportunity to walk up and down the flight line and talk to some of the best helicopter pilots in the world.  Faceless forum user names become handshakes and friends.  One of the best things is getting a chance to thank the people that have helped over the years and being thanked by those you've given help and support to on the online forums.


    THAT is what a trip to the IRCHA Jamboree is all about.  Getting to see the new toys coming on the market and the hottest flying on the planet?  Yea, that's not too bad either!

    When we got done compiling the pictures I had made a mental estimate that we would have more scale pictures than anything.  Scale helicopters are just so photogenic us reporters can't help ourselves (it doesn't hurt that one of the reporters flies scale helicopters either!).  Interestingly enough however, it turned out that the most pictures were the people pictures.  In retrospect I suppose that I shouldn't have been surprised.

    If you're on the fence about a trip to IRCHA, or if you can only budget one event a year, a trip to the Jamboree should be something you seriously consider.


    IRCHA Jamboree 2009 Photo Gallery on Smug Mug.

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