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