For over seventy years, free flight airplane championships have seen people come together to experience model flying. Today, it's just as exciting as it ever was.
Free flight is perhaps one of the earliest forms of model flying. The Concept is simple: chuck the airplane into the air and watch it fly! There's no control, aside from fine tweaking on the ground, meaning that the planes have pretty much a mind of their own. The technology is, quite literally, a century apart from the GPS-enabled waypoint-flying RC airplanes available today.
Although the concept of letting a model fly by itself is somewhat old-fashioned, it remains great fun. Many people still exclusively build free flight airplanes.
The planes themselves are typically constructed from balsa wood, the staple ingredient of most traditional model aircraft, and often rely on high wings and dyhedral for stability.
Some of the designs date right back to the early 20th century; these are the same models that people were building in the 1920s and 30s.
Many are powered by tiny gas engines. Here's an article where I visited a gas engine factory in the United Kingdom. Many of the motors that this small workshop produces still power free flight models.
It's sometimes a bit hit and miss as to whether the engine will cut out in mid-air, but that's all part of the fun! Here's a recent Flite Test video we did on running in engines.
As you'll see from the video, there's a fair few near misses and close calls with models flying about right over people's heads. It seems a little dangerous, but that's all part of it!
Here's the video!
Credit goes to the YouTuber tbobborap1. You should definitely check his other model aviation content.
Let us know in the comments if Flite Test should do some more Free Flight challenges!
Article by James Whomsley
Editor of FliteTest.com