I know that many Tested readers are also fans of Flite Test. This company has set the RC hobby on its ear with highly-polished YouTube videos, online forums, and a catalog of easily-built airplane designs. It is difficult to overstate the renewed excitement that Flite Test has brought to the previously-dwindling beginner and DIY segments of RC. Many Flite Test disciples come from far and wide to attend Flite Fest, the group's biannual get-together. Flite Fest has grown very quickly to become one of the largest RC gatherings in the world. I recently attended my first Flite Fest in Malvern, Ohio (July 12-15) to see why it's such a big deal.
Flite Fest Overview
I've been to tons of RC flying events all over the US. Such gatherings tend to vary in size and theme, but they usually follow a standard format. As I drove onto the grounds at Flite Fest, it was immediately apparent that these folks have their own playbook. One major element is size. A lost traveler arriving at Flite Fest could easily think they had stumbled onto a county fair. Tents of all sizes shared a large field with food vendors, souvenir hawkers, and mobs of people. Perhaps the only thing missing was a petting zoo.
Despite the large crowd of fellow attendees, an army of volunteers quickly got me parked and registered as a participant. In fact, I never waited for anything. Food, porta-potties, flight stations, shade…all was plentiful and well-managed.
RC flying has historically been a male-dominated hobby. Yet, Flite Test vigorously promotes aeromodeling as a family activity. Those efforts were reflected in the demographic at Flite Fest. There were more kids and women than at any other RC event I've been to, by far. They weren't just present. They were participating. Many families set up camp at the field and made a weekend vacation of it.
A huge flightline was located along the edge of a soybean field. It was a nice, unobstructed flying site. A runway made of petromat cloth helped to accommodate models with wheels that were too small for the neighboring grass. There was also a strip of hard, plastic runway that resembled a temporary dance floor. Flyers who utilized this runway had to thread the needle between a covered stage and a wall of banners, but I didn't hear any complaints.