It was a not so uncommon sight at an AMA flying field – a father and son standing a bit of the side near the flight line, looking on with interest. But to Mike Mueller, longtime pattern flyer from the Chicago area, these two, Steve and son Brandon Sobolewski, were becoming increasingly a familiar sight at the Tri-Village field.
“I got to know Brandon through his father,” says Mike, “and he seemed really young, just about the same age I learned to fly with my father. He was 10 when we met in 2009 at his first pattern contest with him flying an old Sig Astro Hog but we didn’t really get to know each other until the winter of 2010/2011. Before that I didn’t really know him or his father very well. They would usually only fly at one or two contests locally a year. He wanted to learn and it became apparent to me that I wanted to help him. It just came naturally. We hit it off from the very first.”
According to Mike, Chicago is a “hot bed” for pattern flying with lots of local talent. For Brandon, it was his lucky day when his father agreed to let Mike become his RC mentor in that spring when the two went to their first contest together. “He had an old junker,” recalls Mike, “but he learned as we went along. No expectations – just fly. We had a blast.”
Brandon’s family is not only supportive but now into aeromodeling as well. Steve and Brandon’s uncle, Dave Gobulski, are now in the pattern “sportsmen” class.
Fast forward to this July at the AMA’s National Aeromodeling Championships and Brandon entered the intermediate precision aerobatics competition. And he takes first place! Not bad for an eighth-grader. “To many of us, “he looks and sounds just like Andrew Jesky when he was that age,” says Mike, referring to the national champion, international competitor and son of AMA’s District VII Vice President Tim Jesky. “In fact, we kiddingly call him “Soboljesky,”
Getting even more serious this summer, Mike and Brandon flew in his first Advanced competition and experienced what Mike called his first major mishap. “A spectacular mid-air collision just totally destroyed the plane he flew in the Nats,” says Mike. “Oh well. Planes come and go.”
For now, Brandon is flying one of Mike’s backup planes and their partnership continues apace -he’s 13 and just entering the 8th grade. Brandon won his first time in Advanced last weekend in Peoria flying Mike’s Prolog which is about to become his.
“I have two daughters, but not a son,” says Mike. “He’s a pleasure. I feel invigorated. Just like an old dog with a puppy around.”