Pilot Profile - Len Sabato
Len Sabato with his Vigor
CS and custom canopy. Note the retractable landing gear!
1. Tell us about yourself, where you live, occupation,
Well Si, My name is Len Sabato. I am 38 years old, and I live in a small town
(600 people) called Pesotum, in the state of Illinois, USA. I have been married
to my wonderful and understanding wife Sandy for going on 8 years.
I have been employed by Horizon Hobby for the past 10 years, and I am the Product
Manager for JR Radios and Helicopters.
I live in the middle of farm country, and our home is surrounded with hundreds
of acres of farm fields. This allows me to be able to fly at my home, which
has been a huge boost towards improving my flying.
2. How did you get started in RC Helis? When did you
start? What equipment got you started?
Well, I have been fortunate enough to be around RC Helis practically since their
inception. My father, Len Sr., was one of the early pioneers of RC Helicopters
in the US in the early 1970's. My father designed what is likely the first RC
model of a Jet Ranger, and it was manufactured for a short time under the name
"RC Helicopters, Inc.". I can remember the first forward flights he
made with the model, complete with spring loaded tricycle training gear and
all! The original model is now on display at the AMA museum in Muncie.
As for myself, I actually did not get started flying Helis until around 1982.
At the time, our family had a hobby store called Lenco Hobbies, and our specialty
was of course RC heli's. I decided that to help our customers and promote sales,
I needed to at least learn to hover so that I could test fly models for the
My first model was a Schluter Miniboy, with standard 4 channel radio, and then
"state of the art" Kraft (KO) Gyro. My father helped me get the model
setup, and I was ready to go.
My first 2 times out were less than successful, as I managed to boom strike
the model both times out! After I learned to stop hovering when the wind picked
up, I was off and running!
I was hooked! I had been flying airplanes before this. I then sold all of my
airplanes in the shop, and started flying Helis exclusively, and I have ever
3. What do you think have been some of the greatest advances
in RC Helis?
The Greatest advances in my opinion are in this order:
Heading Lock Gyros
I would also say that the continued evolution in model design, performance
and reliability has opened the door for many more modelers to enjoy the hobby.
From the old skool, the JetRanger
Len Snr produced and marketed.
4. How many gallons would you burn in a year?
Since I returned to Contest flying back in 1998, I have consistently burned
50-60 gallons of fuel each year in our rather short 6-7 month flying season.
That's almost 300 gallons of fuel, and nearly 2000 flights from 1998 until I
finally earned a position on the US team this year!
5. What do you enjoy most about the hobby?
I enjoy it all! I enjoy the history, the people I have meet, the flying and
designing of the models, and my career in the RC field as well!
Since I have been around RC since I was 5, I just can't imagine what my life
would be like without RC! I have both enjoyed, and dedicated my life to the
hobby that has given me such enjoyment.
6. What advice do you give to someone just starting out
with RC Helis?
I would say that the best advice starting out would be to get help from with
experience. I would also recommend buying from a shop that can offer you support.
As for the type of model that you purchase, I would find out what the local
shop or training person is flying, and go with that brand. Start with a 30-size
model with a good gyro, and buy more radio than you think you will need, because
you will really end up needing it in the long run!
I would also recommend that you purchase a simulator, and learn to hover before
taking your model out for the first flights. The price you spend on a simulator
will be easily recovered with the money you will save on replacement parts,
and the frustrations that you will avoid.
7. Tell us about the setup of your primary machine and
reasoning for it.
Although my primary discipline is F3C/Contest flying, I set up all my models
with a full 3D setup (0 pitch at center stick) since I also 3D fly at fun fly
events, and when I need a break from contest practice. I even hover at ¾
stick with my F3C model!
This is not typical, as most contest pilots do not fly much 3D, and they prefer
to set their models up with 5 degrees pitch at ½ stick.
I also prefer to run fully symmetrical blades on all of my models. I just have
never been able to get used to the feel of semi-symmetrical, they just are not
a good fit for my flying style.
The nice thing about this setup method is that I can actually take my contest
model out and do some mild 3D, and vise versa.
The main differences between my contest and 3D models is that the contest models
are equipped with my own design Eclipse body, and retractable landing skids.
Another quirk that I have is that I am actually a "Tail" flyer, rather
than the "Nose" like most people. This is how my father flew, and
well, since he set up my first model, this is how I got started.
8. You're the Radio and Helicopter Product Manager for
Horizon Hobby, the JR Distributor for North America. Tell us about some of the
challenges of marketing this brand in what is already quite a crowded market.
Well, as with most industries, there is some serious competition from both the
Radio and Heli sides. JR has always had the advantage of quality, reliability,
and innovation. Although JR products are generally priced slightly higher than
some of our competitors products, I feel that they are actually a better value,
as value is a combination of materials, features, and price.
Horizon backing the JR line is also a big boost for these products as Horizon
has always been dedicated to provide unmatched customer service and support
of their products. This commitment sparked unprecedented offers like our JR
3 year warranty, a level of support unmatched in other countries.
Early magazine ad marketing
the Sabato Jet Ranger
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