For approximately nine months a group of six helicopter pilots have been working
on bringing World Champion pilot Curtis Youngblood to New Zealand.
It was decided to hold the event in the tourist town of Rotorua in the central North Island of New Zealand. Rotorua is known for it's thermal activity and tourist attractions. The local club agreed to host the event and preparations were begun.
The organizing committee split up and assigned tasks and even though ours was going to be a fairly small funfly by international standards (40 or so pilots) there was still a lot of work to be done, catering, transport, accommodation, etc.
One of the earliest hurdles to overcome was that of nightflying. Here in New Zealand, night flying is not endorsed by the national modeling body on account of regulations enforced by the Civil Aviation Authority. As such, the liability insurance would not cover night flying activity at the Rotorua field. Another location had to be found.
As time wore on the pieces started to fall together and before we knew it Curtis and his wife Carla, arrived at Auckland International Airport on November 20th and had a day of rest to catch up on the jet lag and recover from the trip.
On Thursday the organising committee members met at the field to finalise preparations. The weather was awesome, clear skies, and very hot which was encouraging due to the changeable weather that New Zealand had been experiencing over the past couple of months. The local club had prepared the field very well with taped off areas and very nicely mowed grounds.
Friday morning dawned to overcast skies but thankfully, no rain. The cloud
dissipated during the day.
Curtis setup himself up amongst the rest of us and as can be expected, a small crowd gathered when Curtis and Carla arrived so his machines could be 'inspected' and the first of what would be many questions were rattled off. As the helicopter he was flying was pretty highly modified, there were many questions.
One of which was to do with the gyro, which no one could recognise. When asked
about it Curtis replied that it was a home made gyro built by his father using
what he thought was the same silicon material that Futaba uses in their gyros.
We all looked at each other a bit perplexed. People make their own mountings
and linkages and things, but their own gyros???
Another modification was the shorter head center. This had been machined up
by a friend of Curtis' and meant that the extended ball links could be replaced
with the shortened ones which apparently hold up better in crashes.
Soon enough Curtis was ready for the first flight of the event and everyone positioned themselves to watch. I was looking through the lens of my camera aiming to get some pictures. Curtis hovered his machine for about five seconds or so before landing. All of a sudden I saw the machine explode off the ground pirouetting violently and I quickly looked up to see what I swore was going to be flying parts, only to see the Vigor screaming down the field backwards inverted. Needless to say I missed the picture and didn't bother trying anymore as I stood there with my jaw dropped looking like a fool.
On his next flight I stood beside him prompting him with tricks to try. Nothing
really prepares you for being right next to the helicopter when it launches,
the ferocity and intensity of the helicopter matched with the grace and accuracy
of Curtis' flying is something you don't forget. One of his more popular tricks
was to come in on the knife edge and as the heli began to slow and fall he morphed
the knife edge into a very low level funnel right there in front of me. I must
admit to taking a step back as the CS slowly rolled around on it's tail, never
once stepping out of line, about a foot off the ground, five meters in front
I wanted to see a low rolling circle and as soon as I said it, the Vigor was
rolling round in a circle, as calm as a cucumber Curtis says "I can actually
do these better backwards
" so the heli shot off down the field for
a backwards run, but before he could get started, someone yelled from the crowd
"CHAOS!". Instantly, the heli exploded into a perfectly controlled
slow travelling chaos down the field and as soon as it reached the end went
back into full speed backwards flight and did the reverse rolling circle.
It's difficult to describe in words a Curtis demo. It's like gravity doesn't
exist where the helicopter is as it never really loses height unless it's told
to. It's also like the helicopter just gets more and more angry throughout the
flight like a caged lion, yet becomes a placid kitten on command.
Shortly after I asked him for help in sorting out my Webra 52 powered Voyager
50. I had originally thought this to be underpowered and not too exciting. When
I started it up that morning it was very doggy and rough running. 25 minutes
later after Curtis' attention, it was piro flipping across the sky and steaming
round faster than ever as well as running much smoother! He taught us how to
correctly set needles and throttle curves and how to identify the different
noises an engine makes and what it's trying to tell you.
Saturday was open to the public and the weather was great, beautiful clear
skies with little or no wind as the flying began. One thing that was noted by
many early on in the event was how the level of everyone's flying had increased
Entry to the event for the public was a $5 donation per car and the public
started rolling in, wandering up and down the flight line looking at the variety
of models on display as well as looking at the vendor stands setup by RC Helicopters
NZ and Galtech Models.