The Academy of Model Aeronautics was the site of an international model aircraft competition this past weekend.

MUNCIE — In the fields of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, a miniature airplane zips by and then suddenly begins to spiral downward, smoke streaming from the tail end.

At the sight, average passersby would begin to brace themselves as if they were about to witness an inevitable crash — but suddenly the plane aligns with the horizon and climbs back into the sunny blue sky. A man stands below with a remote control, music booming from speakers nearby, and continues his routine.

Will he be the next Extreme Flight champion?

The same question was undoubtedly looming in the minds of all 10 finalists in the XFC-International Extreme Flight Championships on Sunday, some of whom had traveled overseas for a chance to win the title and the $5,000 first prize.

They were the best of the best of more than 20 competitors who had traveled from across the country and internationally from Israel, Germany, Mexico, Canada, Ireland and Korea.

By midday, Dominik Haegele from Stuttgart, Germany, was the man to beat in the helicopter class. The 18-year-old model pilot, who won the 2007 3D Masters competition in England, is sponsored by seven model companies, including Hirobo out of Japan.

In the airplane competition, Andrew Jesky from Monroe, Mich., was in the lead. Sponsored by Futaba, Jesky used a model kit to build his plane.

Spectators watched as competitors such as Haegele and Jesky showcased their routines and mesmerized the crowd with their maneuvers.

The downward spiral is called a “blender,” explained Carl Bonta, as he watched with his 14-year-old son, Tyler, who was the youngest competitor when he competed in 2006 at just 12 years old.

The father and son pair from the Chicago suburbs came this year to watch. They were rooting for Jesky and, sitting in the hot sun, they talked of how model airplanes have become a shared activity.

“It’s a very family oriented hobby,” Bonta said.

Many of the competitors has followed in the footsteps of their fathers, said Frank Noll, one of the three volunteer organizers of the competition.

Noll has been flying model planes for more than 40 years himself, he said. To Noll, the competitions are always changing.

“It’s a great family event,” he said. “It’s technology that’s always evolving.”

[courtesy of The Star Press]

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