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Can I Go to Fun Fly’s?
Sure you can, most of the time
Text & photos by Tom Hintz
Video by Clark Ponthier and Tom Hintz
Posted – 10--2017
As the popularity of FlyingRC.net grows so do the number and subjects of questions I receive. Most are tech-related about RC airplanes and associated products or procedures. However, I was recently surprised by a flurry of questions about attending Fun Fly’s. Specifically, if the person asking the question “qualifies” for attending or flying at such events. The most often stated concern was “looking like an idiot” as compared to the more skilled pilots. I was going to poo-poo the looking stupid thing but truth be told, I did just that early in my RC years when a little miss placed stick bravado ended with me planting a 40-size glow plane just about dead center in/on their runway. So, yes, it is possible to be under-qualified in specific cases but those are few and far between. Plus, the advertising for a fun fly specify any specific skills or types of planes to which it might be limited.
Things like pattern contests, RC pylon racing and float fly’s require some level of a specific set of skills. I’ve been hanging around RC flying for more than 30 years and participated in my first float fly earlier this year. And I crashed. In my case it was a receiver going dark that killed the (giant scale no less) plane but I still felt like a dope being the only one there with a plane down behind the tree line. The folks at the Smith Lake Flyers club that hosted the event were totally supportive and even helped me retrieve the plane in the back of one of their SUV’s. That experience could have been far more upsetting but the great members of the Smith Lake Flyers cushioned that emotional belly flop. I made it back to their second float fly, got in a few flights off water and aside from a rich engine, all went well. Sometimes you must get back on that horse, or in my case the floats under my Hangar 9 Valiant.
AMA and Insurance
There are requirements for most fun fly’s that keep us and the land owners of the property on which we fly covered by insurance. That comes through the AMA Academy of Model Aeronautics) membership and nearly all fun fly’s require you to be a current member. So do all of the chartered clubs so this is not a problem for anyone flying RC responsibly. Fun fly’s are sanctioned by the AMA so the appropriate insurance is in force for that event. This is a no-brainer of the first magnitude so if you are not a current AMA member, sign up or go wait in the bus!
There are some fun fly’s that require specific types of aircraft, such as warbird fun fly’s or float fly’s where you fly off water. There are helicopter and multi-rotor fun fly’s for those segments of the RC flying community. But, the majority of fun fly’s are a thinly veiled excuse to bring a large number of Flyers together to have a good time and to help the sponsoring club build their bank accounts to pay for/maintain/improve their flying facility. For these fun fly’s there are few restrictions on the planes allowed to fly.
Bringing Friends and Family
Fun fly’s are a family event as well as a mini air-show that lots of people enjoy watching. Clubs welcome thee spectators but to keep everyone safe (and the insurance in force) there will be areas that only registered pilots can go, like the pits, flight line and runway. Make sure that you know where these areas are and make sure any guests you bring understand them and the importance of adhering to those restrictions.
Most RC’rs enjoy showing off and talking about their planes and these events often allow close up viewing of at least some planes. Kids are especially intrigued by the planes but may not understand their fragility. If you bring children be sure to control them.
I understand the nerves that many fledgling RC pilots experience when considering attending RC Fun Fly’s and putting a plane in the air in front of so many other RC people. Around 40 years ago when I was a new RC pilot I went through the same thing. The good news is that once you fly at one of these events you realize how much fun it is to fly with and meet other RC ‘rs those butterflies go away. The most important thing to remember is to fly within your comfort zone and have fun. Nobody is expecting you to do the “noontime demo” like at the Joe Nall event.
New Field Etiquette
When going to a new flying field it is important to check out the surrounding area, especially “no fly zones” established by the hosting club, often to preserve good relations with neighbors. Nearby tree lines can impact how even light winds can affect your plane on take-off or landing. If areas of concern are not covered in the pilots meeting ask one of the hosting club members. These restrictions are usually minor in terms of how they impact flying, you just need to know about them to comply.
Having to fly at a new field is one reason I do so many touch and goes whenever I fly at my home field. Getting comfortable taking off and landing from both the left and right makes you more comfortable at a new field. It is also handy to learn to make different approaches to the runway for when you must come over some trees on final. Again, no fancy flying, just core skills that let you adapt to a new facility easier.
Fun fly or not, there are general procedures we need to follow. Many fun fly’s require you to have a spotter that can keep an eye on and you informed about other airplane traffic. We also need to let other pilots know when we are taking off or landing. Another important procedure is letting other pilots who have a plane in the air know when you go out onto the runway.
Sometimes you can use anyone for a spotter, other times members of the hosting club will be designated, something I like. Having a club member as a spotter gives you the advantage of their knowledge of the flying space and areas to stay away from. A club member is also more apt to know about better approaches in various wind conditions and obstacles that have been known to “snatch planes out of the sky”, often called trees, that are closer than they look. That kind of help can not only keep a plane out of a tree, it can save $100 or so that the bucket truck charges to retrieve it.
RC Fun Flies are a great place to meet new people, see new airplanes and new flying techniques. Best of all you get to talk to the people who own, have built and fly planes you might be interested in getting. Being able to talk directly to a current owner can arm you with valuable information regarding the build of that plane or how it flies and what to watch out for.
Finding RC Fun Fly’s
The AMA magazine, Model Aviation, has a section near the end where AMA sanctioned RC Fun Flies are listed. Just asking other members of your club will give you more info on nearby events and what to expect at that field. Look for clubs within driving distance and sign up for their email list if they offer one and bookmark their web site so you can check their upcoming events.
The AMA web site (see Resources below) has a special search engine you can use to find a more current list of RC Fun Fly’s (called contests on the site) in your or neighboring states. They also have a search able listing of clubs.
There are lots of good reasons to attend fun fly’s and no good reasons to shy away from them. Bring and fly a plane you are comfortable with and remember to stay within your comfort zone when flying at a new field. There will be plenty of time to learn new maneuvers at your own field. Do a little flying and meet some new RC Flyers and most importantly, have fun. You will find that most RC pilots are very friendly, helpful and glad to see you attend their events. That usually translates into many of them attending your clubs’ events and everyone benefits.
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