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Dec 28, 2018, 08:01 PM
"I will return" Federico
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A Look Back Before Moving On

The end of the year is always a good time to look back and reflect on where you've been and where you're headed. Hindsight also helps us see moments of crisis from a different perspective. I've had several of those RC moments in the past two years that could have discouraged me from further competition. I didn't give up, and I'm grateful for that. Competition is really good for revealing what you're capable of achieving, and what makes a person tick. Working through those setbacks in preparation for competition has improved my flying skills and confidence. To recap, here is where I've been and where I'm hoping to go in 2019:

The Apollo XI airfield, situated in the Sepulveda Basin in the San Fernando Valley, part of Los Angeles County, was a busy RC airfield to fly from on a Saturday in summer! It sits next to Van Nuys Airport, one of the busiest general aviation airports in the world. (I have flown out of both as pilot in command, and they are challenging! I highly recommend the documentary about the airport, called One Six Right.) Watching the pattern pilots practice and compete at that field in the 1980s inspired me to dream of competing someday myself.

I was just out of college and had no money back then, so that dream was put on hold for more than thirty years. After settling down and raising a family, I finally got back into the hobby in 2016. In a short time I was back to flying an aerobatic plane and eager to improve my skills. One day, after watching my flights, a fellow AMA club member invited me to compete at the next IMAC event. That was all the encouragement I needed to finally realize my dream. I went. I flew. And I wasn't conquered. I was sold!

I've been competing now in IMAC for two years, and I love the passion for flying well that competition draws out of me. I've learned that I am a very competitive person! I like to win! Winning, though, is never my goal. Flying well, improving skills, and meeting new people/making new friends is. That is what really drives me. That has kept competition fairly stress free and enjoyable. I hope to keep it that way. A win, as they say, is icing on the cake.

Flying RC airplanes, of course, is not a sport without risk. The danger from a spinning propeller blade is always present, and all it takes is a moment of inattention to have an accident. I've had my share of mistakes, mid-airs and mindless moments to say, "Enough!" and call it quits. Yet here I am, still flying, still enjoying the sport, and still engaging in the thrill of competition. We make mistakes, learn from them, and press on!

There are several incidents I would like like to highlight here, events that shook me deeply and almost made me quit. The first one was a spectacular mid-air at the very first IMAC competition I entered last year (2017). I just had put together my first giant scale plane, a 3DHS 87" Extra 300. I was even in the middle of a conversation about the potential for mid-airs when this mid-air occurred! Two 40% scale planes, beautiful precision aerobatic machines, were obliterated in a rare moment when their paths crossed. The odds were really small, yet it happened. I didn't want to risk losing my plane as well, so I seriously considered leaving competition at the end of that event. One of my worst fears about flying happened before my eyes. How do you get over that?

I did get over it, thanks to the encouragement, once again, from other pilots. It was also encouraging to see both of the pilots involved in that mid-air pick up the pieces, build new planes and continue flying and competing. That is resolve! That is the right stuff. Yeah, mid-airs happen, but it's rare. Remember that. Flying is a mental sport as well as a physical skill. If we let fear take over, we would go nowhere. We face it, acknowledge it, and move on!

The next big incident for me happened after a routine practice flight. I wrote up a detailed report here. In summary, I made a change to my radio that left my plane, with 6000 Watts of power behind a 24" propeller blade, without Fail Safe. One moment of inattention, one slight change to my normal routine, led me to turn off my radio before disarming my plane. Boom! The plane went to 50% power and tore into our safety fence. That mistake happened just two days before my next competition and cost almost $300 to repair. Again, I could have given up, but I pressed on. (And I ended up winning First Place at that event, and my first Regional Championship in Basic at the end of 2017.)

Finally, this year I put together a new giant scale plane that I hoped would last me a few years on the competition circuit. The Extreme Flight 95" Extra 330SC-E is an electric-only airframe. I made it as light as possible with just enough power and capacity to fly the aerobatic routines required in the Sportsman and Intermediate IMAC sequences. It's been a great plane to fly, but it almost came to an end after making barely fifty flights! That incident is detailed here. An early demise of that plane would have been hard to take. That near crash shook me deeply, but rather than give up, I jumped right back into the fray. I took off immediately after that flight and flew the same maneuver that caused me to nearly lose it. I pressed on! (And at the end of the season I ended up taking that plane to a First-Place win in Sportsman at the North Central Regional Championship.)

I could be very happy flying the 95" Extra next year in the Intermediate class. It's been a great plane to fly, holding its own against 40% scale giants. (You can hop on board one of my practice flights here.) But my old eyes are having to work harder now when my little plane reaches a thousand feet up in the sky at the top of some maneuvers. And on a windy day, when it gets bounced around a little bit more than its bigger relatives, that competitive side in me wants something more. So, against my better judgement (financial and otherwise), I just clicked the "Purchase" button on an EF 104" Extra 300 V2. It will be the largest electric plane that I have ever assembled, and with that will come all the fears of failure that emerge when trying something new. But I will press on.

I will press on with the help of fellow modelers like Aeroplayin, whose Gear Reduction Unit will power my new Extra into the future, and whose endless tables, graphs and formulas in the 3D Flying Power thread make the connection between theory and real world data. I will press on with the help of my mentor, Ray, an Unlimited class IMAC pilot whose insight, experience and dedication to perfection has helped me push beyond the boundaries of what I thought was possible. And I will press on with the help of this website, RC Groups, which has connected so many of us who share the same passion for RC modeling.

We don't fly RC airplanes because it's the "reasonable" thing to do. This hobby has some real risk and danger, and it can involve a significant investment in time and money. There may be setbacks, or roadblocks to success. But we fly anyway, because it's what we love to do. That, I hope, will be enough to carry me through another year. I hope the same for you.

Best wishes for 2019! Keep on keeping on!
Last edited by rclad; Dec 30, 2018 at 03:59 PM. Reason: Added additional links for clarity.
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Dec 29, 2018, 11:59 AM
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Beautiful testimony share, rclad and encouraging to me, ep. about '..confronting fears..'.

Heres to more safe flying & audacious goals in your 2019.
Dec 29, 2018, 01:44 PM
"I will return" Federico
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Thank you. And thanks for taking the time to read a post much longer than I originally intended!

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