It's taken seven years for us to attend the Friday night glider build and free-flight soaring competition at the Mojave Experimental Fly-In, but this was finally our year, and it was good, low key fun. We didn't build anything last Friday night, but enjoyed catching up with friends, ate a little pizza and watched the youngsters--and some old guys--have some fun playing with balsa wood.
It wasn't like it cost anything; walking in the door the all-you-can-eat pizza was $5 and entering the Build & Fly contest was $20 ($15 pre-registered), which included a model kit. Super easy and inexpensive.
All told the evening is somewhere between a fun time with the kids--and the young engineers at the cutting edge aviation companies habiting the Mojave airport all seem to have plenty of young 'uns for occasions such as this--and a chance for the local model building club to strut their stuff. The general idea is competitors choose one of three simple balsa kits to build, then fly against the clock for maximum duration.
The free-flight event is held in a large auditorium at the Mojave Air & Space Port, so the air is calm--a definite rarity in Mojave unless you are indoors--and the technical challenges are bracketed by winding the rubber band hard enough for maximum duration, but not so much the plane over-exerts itself right into the ceiling.
Naturally the little tykes were pleased to be able to throw something, anything, while the oldsters were able to summon impressive displays of skill. Somehow capturing just the right amount of power and the coveted stable, spiraling flight netted Bill Watson an amazing 42 second flight and all the marbles in the top Masters class. Heck, our Starduster doesn't go much farther on 44 gallons of low-lead.
If you're flying in from out of town for the main Mojave Experimental Fly-In the following day the Build & Fly is an excellent way to miss the Saturday morning rush and meet all sorts of cutting-edge aerospace engineers the night before. That, and you might as well build an airplane while you're there.