Some people say Free Flight is dying. Some people say kids don’t fly Free Flight. Sometimes there is a bright spot on the horizon.
In 2012, I came back to Free Flight Modeling and I purchased a vendor business. I specialize in Flying Aces Club Free Flight (even today), but I felt that I needed to promote my business to a community and audience that I would not normally see. I went to the AMA Outdoor Free Flight Nationals in Muncie, Indiana. And I became aware that Free Flight is, while still small, bigger than I thought. There were a couple hundred, maybe more, people flying all types of models – rubber, gas, electric, glider.
I also was exposed to two things: 1) the Builder of the Model (BOM) rule was eliminated for AMA Outdoor Free Flight and 2) this actually helps kids participate and compete in Free Flight. And the National Free Flight Society (NFFS) truly encourages kids to participate, holding many events (and trophies!) for Junior and Senior classes. I am a fan of BOM, but it truly has a place for juniors – they can learn to fly before they learn to build – and that is critical because it instills the spirit of flying into the kids.
Two of the kids that I have been watching at the AMA Nats every year since then are Hayden Ashworth and Kyle Gerspacher. Hayden was a tiny little kid learning to fly his grandfather’s gas models. And Kyle, just as tiny, was out on the field flying P-30 and other sport rubber models with his dad. Our paths don’t cross much except for the AMA Nats, but we know who each other are and I was able to tell each of them “good luck” when I saw them this year in July.
Why good luck? Well both of them were headed to the FAI Junior World Championships in Bulgaria – happening right now. Hayden, focusing on F1P (a gas-powered event) talked with some modesty about how he was on the team and might not be the best (as the only Junior F1P representative for the USA). This week has been a fantastic one for both boys.
Kyle flew in F1B – the most demanding and high-tech “unlimited” rubber. He maxed in every round and made the final fly-off where he placed Second in the World. Hayden flew his power ship in much the same way – maxing every round and flying to Second in the fly-off. Such an accomplishment for both of them. To paraphrase what Rudy Kluiber said today: I am happy to say “I knew them when…” and I hope to be watching them for years to come.
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