By Suzanne Schmidt
The Bay City Fliers, a club in Land O’ Lakes for people who like to fly model airplanes, meets at the Conner Preserve, 22500 SR 52 in Land O’ Lakes. Members of the club meet and practice their aerobatic maneuvers every day of the week and weekend.
On April 17 and 18, the club will host a tournament with people coming from all over the southeast. The tournament will start at about 8 a.m. and will continue until sunset each day. On Friday, many of the fliers will be practicing at the field.
“For each division, there is a set of 10 maneuvers we get to practice ahead of time,” Hall said. “At the competition, we also have an unknown round where we get the maneuvers and we don’t get to practice them. Then at the end we get to do a free-style round.”
The competitions have five divisions including basic, sportsman, intermediate, advanced and unlimited. For each division, the maneuvers become more complicated.
“We all start out with 10 points when we do our maneuvers and then they take points away when we make a mistake,” Hall said. “You rarely see anyone with 10 points, even the best fliers get 8 or 9 points.”
Each flier gets three rounds to fly the maneuvers and the score is only kept from the best round. The points are tallied from every competition in the southeast, then the top 10 in each division fly in the regional competition in November. More than 40 people from Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, and Virginia will be competing in the event.
Butch Hall of Odessa will be competing in the tournament in the intermediate division. Hall’s plane is 42 percent of the size of a full-scale aerobatic plane and it has a 20-horse-power engine. Hall used to be a charter pilot and an aerobatic instructor.
“I have been flying radio control airplanes since 1959,” Hall said. “They used to be much smaller than this and they weren’t that reliable. They would fly away and crash a lot.”
Dade City resident Charlie Poulton, president of the club, said the competitions are all about the bragging rights.
“Everybody thinks they are better than everybody else,” Poulton said. “These competitions are great because they bring the best out to compete against each other. At the end of the day, we will know who is the best.”
Poulton was a national champion in 1993 and 1994 and that is why he doesn’t compete anymore.
“It was exciting, but I don’t have anything to prove anymore,” Poulton said.
One of the first things a flier learns is how to fly in a straight line. According to Rich Ernst of Brooksville it is much harder than it looks.
“The idea is that first you learn to do something simple and then you build on that,” Ernst said. “It is harder then you think because the wind changes. It is an integral part of every maneuver.”
Ernst said he likes to fly model planes because it reminds him of his old job when he used to build rocket engines for Pratt & Whitney.
Jerry Jakubowski of Dade City flies a 25 percent scale model.
“I love the freedom and the control,” Jakubowski said. “It is great when you can’t fly yourself. It is a lot cheaper than taking flying lessons and the planes are a lot cheaper to repair.”
The club is a part of the International Miniature Aerobatic Club and it is patterned after the International Aerobatic Club, which is made up of pilots of the full-scale planes.
For more information visit, www.mini-iac.com.