2012-03-08 / Outdoors

High flying in the great outdoors

The plane flipped upside down and sideways, then plummeted toward the earth, pulling up at the last second. The pilot was smiling broadly as the engine went to full power to climb toward the clouds. Turning so abruptly, I could only imagine the G Force on the small pilot, now doing snap rolls as the plane’s path was horizontal over the flight line. The maneuvers consisted of names like the Cuban Eight, Hammerhead, Immelman, Knife Edge, Split S and loops — all of which were performed seemingly flawlessly by the pilot.

Flying large aircraft this way takes a lot of practice. It also sometimes ends in disastrous destruction as an engine fails or part of the airframe is overstressed and breaks apart. The pilots always walk away unscathed, though they’re invariably shook up.

These pilots are competing in the International Miniature Aerobatic Club Event.

Many of the aircraft in this event have wingspans in the 6- to 10-foot range. They cost several thousand dollars and take hundreds of hours to build, and many more hours to learn to fly efficiently. The objective of IMAC is to duplicate full-scale sport aerobatics with miniature radio- controlled aircraft in a realistic manner that is challenging for the contestants as well as interesting for the spectators. These model R/C airplanes must be built to exact scale of the full-size aircraft, so the handling and flight characteristics are the same as full scale. The price tags on these models can be upwards of $10,000.

There are several levels of achievement for entries in this type of contest. There are basic, sportsman, advanced and unlimited flight maneuvers. There is prestige attached to each level of achievement and the competition is very aggressive. Having the approval of fellow pilots and a trophy to show for it is a dream come true for pilots who gather from all over the world.

These miniature air shows are packed with nonstop action, are open to the public, and are a thrill to watch for people of all ages.

I am proud of being part of the Southwest Florida Aerobatic Challenge, hosted by the Charlotte Sport Modelers Society. Pilots of all skill levels, ages 8 to 80, will be flying.

The Aerobatic Challenge takes place starting at 9 a.m. March 10-11. This is a great family activity and parking is free. Just to be able to see the workmanship of these models is inspiring, but to witness the extraordinary flying skills will impress people of all ages.

The location of the airfield is just outside of Port Charlotte off Kings Highway. There will be roadside signs as you travel east on Kings Highway and you will pass the Nav-A-Gator billboard on your right. Travel 2.5 more miles, and on the left is the entrance to the RV Griffin Reserve. This is also the entrance to the R/C field. Follow the signs.

Food and beverage will be available, as well as some really great raffle prizes.

If you like air shows, thrills (and crashes), this event is for you. Come out and enjoy the great outdoors.

Fair winds and calm seas. ¦

— Capt. Dennis Kirk has been traveling the Peace River since 1979 and is part owner of the Nav- A- Gator, a riverfront restaurant and marina in Lake Suzy, just off Kings Highway. For more information, call 627- 3474.

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