Words Chris Reibert, photos Jenni Orebaugh
RC HELI PILOT: How many years have you been in the hobby?
ANDREW MERLINO: I have been active in the hobby for the past 10 years. At age of 12 I got my solo certificate with the airplane side of the hobby. I got my first helicopter at age 14.
RCHP: How did you get involved in the hobby?
AM: I got involved in this hobby through my dad, who has been flying radio control airplanes since the 80s. My dad has been a great mentor ever since I can remember. He used to take me to the field when I was little. When I started showing an interest, he showed me how to build and eventually how to fl y on the buddy box. At one point my dad decided we would build a trainer together so I would have my own plane to learn and practice on. Ever since that project, I was hooked. Heli flying came later. When I was 13, one day I watched Dino Spadaccini’s 3D team perform at our 495th RC Squadron club. I had never seen 3D flying and I was amazed. I told my dad I wanted to learn to fl y like that. My dad laughed and said “yeah…sure son”. He thought I was joking. I proved him wrong on that one.
RCHP: Do you have any other family members in the hobby?
AM: The only person in my family in the hobby is my Dad.
RCHP: Who did you look up to when you were first starting out?
AM: I looked up a great deal to Bobby Watt s, Nick Maxwell and Bert Kammerer.
RCHP: How do you fit practice into your daily routine?
AM: I spend time on the sim aft er work, or before heading to bed. I try to get out to fl y at the field at least two days a week, if I’m just trying to keep my flying sharp. A lot more practice was needed weekly when I trained for competition.
RCHP: Are you working on any new maneuvers?
AM: Currently I am working on a reversing chaos. (Pirouetting, while flipping but then changing the axis of the flip and then reversing everything)
RCHP: What has been your most diffi cult maneuver(s) to master?
AM: The most difficult maneuver to master has been the reversing Chaos, changing the axis of flip while reversing the pirouette directions to me has been a really fun challenge to get it down right!
RCHP: Do you have any sentimental helis you will never get rid of?
AM: I have a Hirobo Scedue Evolution 2, this is what I learned on and is my first helicopter. Also one of my most fl own helis. This was my Christmas gift in 2007 and in February of 2008 I did my first solo flight with it! Unfortunately, it suff ered a severe crash at an event and we need to rebuild it but nevertheless I won’t part with it.
RCHP: What do you enjoy most about our hobby?
AM: Hmm what do I enjoy most about this hobby? Well, for me two things come to mind. First of all the people we meet at the events, both as pilots and as spectators. I don’t know of any other
discipline where the people are always as genuine, kind and generally fun-loving as we find at heli events. Interacting with the people at events has always been very rewarding for me, whether someone came by to tell me they enjoyed my flying or whether I helped someone with their setup. Second, there is no limit to what you can create in this heli hobby, new maneuvers, new machines, there is no end. There is always a challenge to conquer. RCHP: Where do you think you will be in the hobby in five years?
AM: I hope to be competing again, but I also hope to be helping development of new machines for new limits!
RCHP: What do you recommend to someone who is looking to learn 3D type flying?
AM: There are three main things I would recommend. First would be to get a good simulator. I am currently using Real Flight from Great planes. The simulator is an indispensable tool that will allow you to practice whenever you have time. It will save you thousands of dollars in crashes out at the field. The second thing I recommend is going back and making sure that the foundations of
flying (hovering at all orientations, forward and backward flight) are set. A strong foundation is what will allow you to really build your library
of maneuvers. The third thing I would recommend is altitude! Altitude is your best friend when learning new 3D maneuvers at the field. Even though it may not look as cool when you’re trying out your new found 3D skills at 100 feet, when you make a mistake you’ll have time to regain your composure. As you get comfortable with your maneuver, then gradually work your way down.
RCHP: Do you fly other types of aircraft ?
AM: I fl y planes as well. Planes are where I started and I still have a lot of fun flying them! My dad has a small fleet of planes so we like to take them out on Saturday and spend quality time flying
together. I can show dad a thing or two at the fi eld, but don’t tell
RCHP: What keeps your interest in the hobby?
AM: The ability to always push my skills and the machine to the limits (and sometimes beyond). The hobby is always evolving and pushing itself. That to me is very cool and very addictive. I love to tinker and try new things. This sure helps that addiction.
RCHP: Who are your current sponsors?
AM: My current sponsors are Amain.com, Castle Creations, and Scorpion Power Systems.
RCHP: How did you become a Team Pilot?
AM: Well, it all started when my dad sent a video of my 3D flyingwith my trusty Hirobo Evo 50 (my first heli) to MRC/Hirobo. The guy said that “if I could do that” with the Evo 50, then “I must have some skill…” And so I was fortunate enough that MRC/Hirobo took a chance with me and offered me my first sponsorship. Thanks to them, this gave me the opportunity to attend and perform at my first IRCHA as well as at other events throughout the country. I gained more exposure aft er several XFC competitions. Competing makes you a good pilot, since it forces you to practice extensively, in a disciplined way. Aft er that I was asked by AMain to join their flying team. Thanks to them, it has been a lot of fun traveling and representing AMain to lots of events.
RCHP: What is your favorite size model to fl y and why?
AM: My favorite size model to fl y is the 700-size helicopter. By far, I think this size is the sweet spot for hard 3D flying. The combination of presence, strength, power and agility makes this size heli unbeatable. Having something that powerful in my control is always a head rush for me. The ability to power through maneuvers and to hear and feel the helicopter rip through the air is why the 700 is my favorite!
RCHP: Do you have a favorite pastime besides RC?
AM: I was in a junior shooting league, shooting .22 long rifles. This was a ton of fun, like learning 3D there was always room for improvement. I also did
many years of BMX bike riding until I hurt my knee in an accident.
RCHP: How do you feel the hobby has evolved over the past 10 years?
AM: Over the past 10 years? Where do you even begin? When I started flying helis in 2008, all we had were flybar, nitro and 72MHz. Electric power, FBL technology and SS radio have totally revolutionized heli flying. When I look at videos of my “hard 3D flying” from back then, it looks like the heli was moving in slow motion, as compared to the speed and performance of today’s machines. So many companies, producing well engineered, low-parts-count, affordable, machines has brought the hobby to a new level.
RCHP: What are your goals for 2015?
AM: I hope to have another good year att ending as many helicopter events as my schedule will allow. To keep improving my flying is always a goal.
“Got to keep pushing”
– Andrew Merlino
I would like to personally thank Andrew for taking the time out of his school and work schedule to sit down with me for an interview. Andrew and his father Robert always make it a point to attend our annual Northeast Model Helicopter Jamboree and are always a pleasure to talk to and watch fly. Best of luck in your 2015 flying season Andrew.