On Sunday, 24 June, 2018, Dave Lees, vice president of the Ravenna Thunderbirds, attempted and succeeded in flying 250 different remote-controlled aircraft on the same day using one transmitter. The transmitter was a four-year-old, well-used Spektrum DX9. The number of planes as the goal, was based on the number of planes that could be programmed in the DX9 radio.
Dave has been flying radio-controlled aircraft for more than 20 years. He has been building and collecting foam-built aircraft for several years and as of the date of this event, more than 90 of the aircraft flown belonged to Dave’s collection. His original intent was to break a Guinness world record but was turned down by the organization due to a lack of understanding on their part as to what exactly Dave was doing. But Dave decided to make the attempt regardless.
The event was sponsored by The Ravenna Thuderbirds RC club, as well as Dan and Angie Greathouse of EZ Build RC and was held at Jetway Airport on Peck Road in Ravenna. Dave had been planning this event for about four years. It was a logistic challenge to pull off and would not have been possible without the many volunteers from the Ravenna Thunderbird RC Club and Dan and Angie Greathouse.
A 20-by-30-foot tent with three rows of tables was used to store the aircraft and a 15-by-25-foot tent was used for the staging area and charging station.
Between six and 12 volunteers were helping in shifts during the entire event. It required a minimum of five to six volunteers working at the same time to prepare the planes for flight. A spreadsheet was used to keep track of what battery and connectors were required for each plane. All of the aircraft were marked with a number that was the assigned number in the radio and the size battery. The spreadsheet that was used included the aircraft number, name of the aircraft, battery (size, number of cells and connector type), a checkbox and witness initial when flown for 30 seconds and a notes column.
Duties included finding and getting the next plane in numerical order and lining them up on a table, transporting each plane to the staging area, installing the battery, handing the plane to Dave or launching it for him and retrieving planes to remove the battery for re-use as well as charging batteries. Some of the retrievers walked a few miles during the event due to the gusty winds! Other volunteers also helped transport the planes and set up the tents, tables and charging station.
The wind did not cooperate and blew from the west on the north-south runway at 12 to 15 mph all day long and was gusting most of the day. This made flying the light foam airplanes very difficult. It took about eight hours to complete, not including lunch and breaks. Each aircraft was flown for 30 seconds and witnessed by a "scorekeeper." It started about 9 a.m. and finished about 7 p.m.
The 250 aircraft ranged from Tiny Whoops quadcopters, to 40-inch warbirds with retracts. All were electric and included six quadcopters, a 5.5-foot long Superman twin, a witch, a few sharks, a 36-inch wingspan stingray, an Angry Bird, five twin motor planes, eight built-up balsa planes, float planes, night flyer planes with LED lights and many Minions and Snoopys on surfboards.
Many of the planes were scratch built by Dave, but many were also from various manufacturers of small foam-built aircraft that were built by Dave and also used. A few of the planes were borrowed from club members in order to hit the 250 aircraft goal. The batteries required ranged from 30 mAh 1 cell to 4500 mAh 4 cell of the Lithium Polymer type.
Only one 4000 mAh 2 cell radio transmitter battery was used to power the Spektrum DX9 transmitter. It started out at 8.2 volts and ended with 7.6 volts. It was charged about a half hour during the lunch break.
The event didn’t start off too well due to the wind. Dave had planned to fly all of the micro planes early when it was calm. With the wind blowing 12+ mph early in the morning, most of the micros couldn’t be flown for 30 seconds, even in the tent. After the first 40 attempts, only 19 were successful and 21 were failures. All of the failures had to be re-flown, or repaired and re-flown, or replaced with another plane, programmed and re-flown. This led to some real scrambling at the end to hit the goal of 250 planes.
Once again, this would not have been possible without teamwork and club members volunteering their time and equipment!
Sangston Family Tent Rental supplied the tent to store the planes. Photos are courtesy of John Ashley and Lisa Zoldak, who volunteered their time and professional equipment.
The Ravenna Thunderbirds RC Club has been in existence since 1980. It welcomes pilots of all types of aircraft from tiny electrics to large gas powered, to quadcopters and FPV flying. It has a training program for new pilots as well. The club has two fields at which to fly and holds club events each summer. The club is looking for additional younger members and offers a safe place to fly that new drone as well as education and FAA requirements for doing so legally. For more information, visit the website at ravennathunderbirds.com.
Note to editor: The following text should go under the group photos with the banner and poster. Would like these two photos to be placed side by side.