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Ground control, they're ready to fly

Published April 19, 2007


LAND O'LAKES - When Monty Huff was a boy, his father taught him to fly radio-controlled planes.

That boyhood hobby has become a lifetime passion.

Huff is the event coordinator for the largest precision aerobatics competition for remote- control aircraft in the southeastern United States: the 11th annual International Miniature Aerobatics Club Spring Classic, which is coming to Land O'Lakes this weekend.

Some 60 R/C pilots will converge on the Bay City Flyers' Area 52 field Saturday and Sunday to demonstrate their model aviation skills and compete for trophies and points.

Those who earn the most points are then eligible for regional and national events. Several of this year's competing pilots are past national champions.

After a practice session Friday, the weekend contest will have the pilots flying their planes through intricate sequences prescribed by IMAC, the sport's governing body.

While their planes loop, stall, plunge and roll, the pilots will remain on the ground, guiding their giant scale aircraft through involved, sometimes spectacular, maneuvers.

Sunday afternoon, the pilots will showcase their own routines - the wilder, the better - and choreograph them to music, which will boom across the field through concert-quality speakers.

"The freestyle event is the big crowd pleaser," Huff said. "The pilots do whatever they can to put their planes at the most risk to entertain the crowd."

Spectators will have a voice in the freestyle judging - the louder the cheers, the more points the pilots will receive.

The competition aircraft are giant scale with wingspans ranging from 6 1/2 to more than 11 feet and can cost $10,000 or more. Made of balsa wood or fiberglass, the models are powered by two-cycle miniature airplane piston motors that deliver 15 to 20 horsepower.

While the planes can reach speeds of more than 100 mph, Huff emphasizes that this weekend's competition is about precision flying, not speed.

Bay City Flyers, with more than 200 members, is one of the largest model aviation clubs in the country, said Huff, who has been competing in precision events for only two years. The camaraderie between the pilots is 90 percent of the fun, he said.

If you go

Flying competition begins at 8:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The freestyle event is at 1 p.m. Sunday. Parking costs $3 per car. Admission is free. Food, cold drinks and seating will be available. Spectators will be eligible for prize drawings. The Area 52 field is at 22500 State Road 52, on the south side of the road, between Ehren Road cutoff and U.S. 41.

[Last modified April 18, 2007, 23:03:56]

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