Indoor flying is alive and well in the Lone Star State! National Free Flight Society (NFFS) president David Lindley filed this report from a recent event in Texas.
From NFFS President David Lindley:
It has been a few years since the Indoor Free Flight community has had a large contest in the fall.
For the past five years, our last big Indoor contest of the year has typically been the Nats in June or July and then our next big contest is in the March timeframe at West Baden, Indiana. That leaves seven months with no sizeable contests that are going to draw competitors from different geographic locations!
We have been looking for an opportunity for a fall contest, but since a lot of our premier sites are also university fieldhouses, they aren’t generally available to us during the school year. That, coupled with the unavailability of the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey for the past few years, has made it challenging to find a suitable site.
Thanks to the need of one of our Juniors fliers (Guha Ekamabaram) for a site to practice for the world champs, we were able to get a couple of folks into the Bell County Expo Center in Belton, Texas, last spring for a small, “see if its viable” testing session. That session went well enough that we decided, somewhat late in the game, to try to have a contest this fall—the inaugural Texas Indoor Roundup October 7-8, 2023!
Photos by Julie May-Parker
It was still a test to see if the site and timeframe was viable to justify the cost of renting this 90-foot geodesic dome structure, so I wasn’t sure if there would even be a second event, but we needed to give it the old college try!
As it turns out, with just nine weeks’ notice, we were able to draw 20 competitors from eight different states. Jake Palmer, from Portland, Oregon, probably traveled the farthest, but we had a good contingent from Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Southern California, and Georgia as well! All three members of our Junior F1D team were in attendance to practice as well as two from the adult team.
For those who made the journey, the reaction was positive! The air quality was very good. We had two new National Records set over the weekend: Nick Ray set a new Category III F1R (35cm) single-flight record at 30:42 and Brett Sanborn set a new F1D single-flight record at 27:54.
Because we didn’t know what to expect, most people brought a little bit of everything to fly. As a result, we had several events flown with only one competitor, but we had eight in F1D, six in P-18, six in LPP, five in F1M, and several events that had three competitors.
As for the site, I think we proved it is viable. With a little more lead time for people to plan, we can get them to come out for a big fall contest. The floor area is the size of a rodeo arena, so a little smaller than a football field, well lit, and only one major obstruction—a speaker cluster in the very center of the drop ceiling.
We were told that the speaker cluster is about to be removed entirely, which will significantly enhance the flying quality. There is also a catwalk around the perimeter that several airplanes got hung up on while trying to avoid the center speaker cluster, but the Bell County Expo staff was nice about going up and retrieving the models each time.
Overall, I think we have found ourselves a new, high-quality Category III Indoor site, and I can say with some level of confidence that there will be a second Texas Indoor Roundup!