It doesn’t seem like that long ago when I was watching a video of Curtis Youngblood flying some crazy 3D maneuvers and thinking how amazing it was. He was the “Godfather” of the 3D flying arena. Moving ahead 10-plus years and it seems that everyone is flying 3D; in fact, I have seen numerous kids under the age of ten that fly routines that mimic the jaw-dropping maneuvers that Curtis made famous. But then there are those pilots who come to flight line with the whole package; talent, precision, personality and attitude. Kyle Stacy is that pilot! I have been following his flying career for many years now and I finally had the privilege of seeing him fly live at the IRCHA Jamboree this past summer. It was entertaining, jaw-dropping and inspiring to say the least.
Starting at the age of six years old, Kyle began flying model helicopters under the guidance of his father, Ray. He quickly became the “kid to watch” as many manufacturers quickly followed his videos online and were present on the flight line as he attended events around the country. A prodigy child? Perhaps. No matter how you look at it, Kyle was a rising star who became a force to be reckoned with on the competitive freestyle heli scene around the world as the years progressed.
“I practice every day on RealFlight 6 and fly mostly on the weekends and sometimes during the week after school. I recently got my driver’s license so now I may get out to fly more often.”
Today, Kyle mixes a busy schedule of high school and competitive flying. He is sponsored by many of the industry’s top companies including SAB Heli Division and Futaba. You might have seen videos and photos on the internet of Kyle’s famous “Angry Birds” Goblin 700 which he flew in many competitions, including the ONE Competition at IRCHA. Kyle has an innate talent to mix popular music with a heart-pumping, choreographed 3D flying routine that engages the audience and always ends with a huge roar from the crowd.
Kyle and Ray were nice enough to take time out of their busy schedule to do this interview with me, giving us an inside look into the world of this RC heli superstar.
RC HELI PILOT: Why did you start flying model helicopters?
KYLE STACY: My Dad had taught me to fly at a young age and I really enjoy the challenge of flying and learning new maneuvers.
RCHP: How old were you?
KS: I just turned 6 years old.
RCHP: Who influenced you to get started flying radio control helicopters?
KS: My Dad had been flying helicopters for years. It was just natural for me to follow suit.
RCHP: How was your father instrumental in your RC helicopter career?
KS: I have been going to the flying field with my dad since I was two years old. My Dad spent hours teaching me how to fly. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.
RCHP: What was your first heli?
KS: A Lite Machine electric Corona 120. My dad told me that if I could learn to fly the Corona, he would get me a bigger helicopter.
RCHP: Who do you enjoy watching fly the most?
KS: I really enjoy watching Bobby Watts and Bert Kammerer fly; Bobby’s presentation and creativity is always exciting and Bert’s smack is the best.
RCHP: How often do you practice?
KS: I practice every day on RealFlight 6 and fly mostly on the weekends and sometimes during the week after school. I recently got my driver’s license so now I may get out to fly more often.
RCHP: What maneuver do you find the most challenging?
KS: Pirouetting funnels have always been a struggle for me, especially reversing the pirouette direction.
RCHP: What was the best event that you have attended to date?
KS: The Northeast Model Heli Jamboree. It is always a laid back and very enjoyable event and a lot of my friends come to hang out.
RCHP: What companies are you sponsored by?
KS: I am presently sponsored by SAB Heli Division, Futaba, Pulse Batteries, Scorpion, Castle Creations, Byron Fuels and O.S. Engines.
RCHP: Are you in school still? What grade? Plans for college? If so, where and to study what?
KS: I am in my senior year of high school. I may stay in the Rochester area for college and get my degree in Computer Engineering.
RCHP: Do you have any career goals in mind yet? If so, what would you like to do?
KS: I would like to become a Computer Engineer and do some programming.
RCHP: What is your favorite color and why?
KS: I like orange the most; it is very bright and easy to see.
RCHP: Do you have a favorite band or type of music?
KS: I like a lot of different bands but I would say that I prefer rockstyle music the most.
RCHP: Do you have any other hobbies?
KS: I am very interested in computers and enjoy coding. I am taking programming classes this year.
RCHP: What do your friends in high school have as hobby? Are there many other teenagers in your school also like RC flying?
KS: Most of the kids in my school are very interested in sports; no one else in my school is interested in RC flying.
RCHP: Have you ever flown a full-scale plane or heli?
KS: I have flown a “float plane” Cessna once, but never a full scale helicopter.
RCHP: 3D maneuvers have gone through a progression of styles (hard, smooth, smack, etc.); what do you think will be the next style of maneuvers?
KS: I think smack will fade a bit and people will start doing more complex, technical-style maneuvers.
RCHP: Nick Maxwell recently won a spot on the US F3C team; have you ever considered participating in the FAI F3C or F3N disciplines?
KS: I have thought about it, but it takes a lot of dedication. Right now I am just focusing on 3D.
RCHP: What do you think of the newer electronic control systems (FBL) that include “recovery” or “minimum altitude” features? Do you think they are useful for somebody who is trying to progress their flying skills or just another gadget that provides a false sense of security?
KS: I think that it could be a useful tool for a beginner or possibly help someone who already knows how to fly. It might help if they are practicing a new maneuver. It could save them if something goes wrong. I have never actually used these tools so I don’t really know how well they work.
RCHP: Do you have a preference for power systems (glow, electric, gasoline) and if so why?
KS: I like both electric and nitro. Both have their pros and cons but right now I am primarily flying electric; especially for contest flying.
RCHP: Have you flown many gas-powered helicopters and, if so, what is your opinion of their position in the hobby?
KS: I have only flown one 3D gas-powered helicopter and to me, it felt slow and sluggish for 3D as compared to my helicopters. One big advantage is the long flight times.
RCHP: What is the process that you use to prepare a freestyle routine (music selection, choreography, etc)?
KS: I usually get on the simulator and play around with different variations of maneuvers and maybe throw in an extra pirouette or a roll to make it look different. I might do something on an angle to give it a cool twist. When it comes to a music routine I listen to the radio a lot to find flying music. When I come up with a new maneuver I know what kind of “beat” it has in my head and try to find music to fit it. I always try to make my routines flow as smoothly as possible.
RCHP: What special “tricks” or tips do you have when setting up a competitive 3D heli?
KS: I set-up all my helicopters the same. It is actually a very basic setup in the sense that I don’t have crazy mixes or anything special in them. I make sure that my mechanical set-up is correct. I don’t necessarily measure cyclic/collective pitch numbers; I adjust it until it feels comfortable to me. I also tend to use very little expo. I like a machine with a quick, crisp response. That’s why the Goblin works so well for me. You can make it crisp and fast or docile, it’s your choice. I am picky about my blades. If they are too soft, they will tuck in fast/tight maneuvers. If they are too light, they won’t track properly or auto correctly.
RCHP: Now that you’ve been flying helis for a while, if you could design the “ultimate RC heli” what would it look like? (not cosmetically, but what type of components and systems would it have)
KS: It would be light, simple and strong. The simpler the helicopter, the better it is. I would also like to see servos with linear output.
RCHP: The industry has been moving pretty quickly lately; what do you think is the next technology that will be adapted for model helicopters?
KS: I think that batteries will continue to get better, supplying more capacity and power in a smaller size. I also think the GPS modules will become more advanced for aerial photography.
RCHP: Do you think beginners should learn on flybarred or flybarless helicopters?
KS: I would say flybarless because today’s systems can be setup to be stable and docile. The helicopters have less head parts which can make repairs easier. People who have only flown flybarred helis may have a hard time adapting to flybarless. Most of my friends that converted took over 20 flights to get used to it.
RCHP: What message would you like to give to younger heli pilots?
KS: Don’t give up and don’t get discouraged. Keep trying because anything is possible.
Words: Erick Royer