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Jul 29, 2018, 10:17 PM
"I will return" Federico
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Why I Fly IMAC


I started this blog with a full-scale aviation story about my first solo cross-country flight and why I fly model planes. The piece is titled, “Why I Fly RC.” Now that I’ve been flying scale aerobatics in competition for nearly two years, I thought it might be time for a follow up article on why I fly IMAC.

As a Navy Flight Officer in training in the 1980s, I sat in the back seat of an A-4 while the pilot flew through combat maneuvers (before long range air-to-air weapons systems made close range dogfights obsolete). Experiencing the g-forces that occur when pulling out of a dive or turning rapidly at high speed made me appreciate what aerobatic pilots experience when they compete in the International Aerobatic Club (IAC). Flying with precision through these difficult maneuvers while experiencing high g-forces takes tremendous skill and physical strength. Watch the 2010 Unlimited World Champion Renaud Ecalle fly his Free Program, with a 9 g push from inverted at the beginning of the sequence, and you can begin to appreciate the art of scale aerobatics.

IMAC, the International Miniature Aerobatic Club, is inspired by and modeled after the full-scale IAC. The word “miniature” is a bit of a misnomer. Indoor micro scale RC planes are closer to what I think of when I see that word. The typical IMAC plane is a giant scale model of the full-scale planes flown in the IAC, and they are often 35-42% in size. My Extreme Flight Extra 330SC is small at 30% scale, but it’s precise enough to be competitive, even on a windy day.

I was drawn into the world of scale aerobatics when a fellow AMA club member invited me to fly at an IMAC contest in 2016. I had recently built a 55” Great Planes electric Extra 300SP. I was flying it as a typical sport pilot, doing a loop here and a roll there. My flights were unplanned and spontaneous. That was fun, but I wasn’t learning new skills, or improving on the ones I had. I had no goal for my flights and lacked the confidence to push beyond my comfort zone. That changed dramatically with only one week to prepare for my first RC contest.

I flew more in that week than I did in a typical year. Even though I already knew basic maneuvers, such as a loop, roll, hammerhead or spin, I had to learn how to fly them in one continuous sequence. There were a couple new figures to learn as well, such as the Teardrop and Humpty Bump. In Basic, the entry level class in IMAC, the figures and roll elements are not difficult by themselves. The challenge is to fly them with precision, and to connect them smoothly into a sequence that remains parallel to the runway, regardless of the wind.

So, enough about what IMAC is and how I got into it. The topic here is why? Why fly IMAC?

The attraction - for me an obsession - is the pursuit of excellence and the payback in new skills and confidence. We all know that anything worthwhile takes effort. It is relatively easy to be a “jack of all trades” by applying a little effort. Without much effort though, we remain “master of none.” To really master something takes a commitment. It takes great effort. In the case of scale aerobatics it takes practice and attention to detail. The contests that IMAC organizes provide the incentive to make that effort, to push a little harder than I would on my own.

Whether the wind is dead calm or blowing twenty miles per hour, or the temperature is in the 40s or up in the 90s, I head to the field to fly. The more exposure to various weather conditions, the better prepared I will be at a contest, when the weather will, inevitably, be less than ideal. I practice my sequence hundreds of times until my fingers know the maneuvers almost on their own. Then I tackle new sequences I have never flown before. These are called Unknowns. They are introduced in the Sportsman class and are different at every contest. Handed out the night before they are flown, the Unknown sequence presents a unique challenge. There is no opportunity, nor are you allowed, to practice the Unknown ahead of time. There may be figures in the Unknown that I have never flown before, or a new sequence of figures, or figures with a new combination of roll or snap elements. This is the challenge that pushes me as an IMAC pilot to go beyond my routine, to go outside of my comfort zone, and build new skills. It is a bit frightening that first time, but it is a great incentive to advance upward. It's what keeps scale aerobatics new and interesting.

The confidence that comes with learning a new skill is invaluable. Before I got into competition, when I flew only occassionaly, I would feel a sense of foreboding, or fear, every time I headed to the field. I couldn't shake the fear that I might lose my plane that day. My thumbs would shake when I flew, especially if I had to fly with guys watching behind me, waiting to see if I would slip up and put my plane in the ground. As much as I loved to fly it always bothered me that I could not get over that fear. The idea of getting into competition seemed unthinkable.

Flash forward to my most recent practice session that took place just yesterday. It was a beautiful day at the field, a Saturday. For some reason I was once again the only one there (even though we have 81 dues paying members). I grabbed an old Unknown from my IMAC binder, studied it for a bit, then went out and flew it. After a couple flights a visitor drove in and introduced himself. He was interested in getting into the hobby. I showed him my plane, the electric-only 95” Extreme Flight Extra 330SC, which he really liked. (We talked about what an appropriate trainer plane would be and where he could purchase one.) Then I invited him to join me at the flightline for my next flight. I took off, flew the Unknown, then my Known sequence, calling out each maneuver as I performed them. No shaking thumbs, no fear of crashing. Just the confidence that comes from practice and refined skills. After nearly eleven minutes (on battery power!) performing twenty aerobatic figures with slow rolls, point rolls, snaps, inverted flight, inside and outside loops and climbs to 900 feet AGL, I performed my customary slow victory roll, then entered the landing pattern and greased the plane back on the runway for one of my best landings, taxied back to the pits, and shut her down.

The visitor, a retired gentleman, was impressed. He said I flew “like a pro” and was thrilled he had an opportunity to witness a private airshow after arriving at what looked like an empty airfield. It was a thrill for me to be able to demonstrate just how amazing this hobby can be, how advanced the technology has come, and how much fun it can be to soar through the sky with grace and precision. It was the highlight of my day and exemplified so well why I fly IMAC
Last edited by rclad; Sep 06, 2018 at 08:26 AM.
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Aug 20, 2018, 02:23 PM
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Jason Cole's Avatar
Love it! Thanks for sharing and glad you finally decided to compete!


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