Representing the United States of America, Clinton-Massie High School senior Kyle Gerspacher earned a silver cup at the 2018 Junior Free Flight World Championships in Bulgaria.
During their flights, these model airplanes are free of control from the ground. They follow the wind and soar in rising currents of warm air, according to the National Free Flight Society website.
The class in which Gerspacher placed second had 29 youth from a dozen countries taking part. A free-flighter from Estonia finished first, while a young person from Israel came in third.
Gerspacher’s contest involved seven rounds of flights, and because he possessed a top score after the seven rounds, he participated in two fly-off rounds, too.
He thinks being consistent and having a strict attention to detail are keys to doing free flight well.
A competition can last from 8 in the morning to sometimes 7 in the evening and most of the rankings in the standings are within a few seconds of each other, according to his father David.
At the world championships in Bulgaria, the head judge from Sweden came over to David after the contest and told him how impressed he was at Kyle’s focus and drive during the day of competition.
Kyle’s primary airplane broke, and he had to go to his backup ship to finish the contest.
The head judge remarked that even most adults would have been rattled, and would not have continued on as well, related David.
Kyle said he is very proud to have represented the United States, adding it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to do so.
“As his father I can say that Kyle took the responsibility very seriously, and gave up a lot of other things this summer to be prepared to do his best overseas,” David said.
Free-flighters sometimes build their own planes.
Kyle has been building planes since he was 5. He and his father started out building simple little balsa gliders and it grew from there.
“When we started attending contests the competitors who flew the more serious competition planes saw Kyle had the skill to do well. The top competitors took Kyle under their wing and started grooming him into the flyer he is today,” said David.
Kyle still builds some of his planes, but the ones he flew in Bulgaria were built in Russia. While they may look simple, they are very high-tech and built out of carbon fiber and Kevlar.
“I would like to add that Kyle building things with his hands when he was young has really paid off. He is very adept at using tools for his age and has an ‘engineering mind’. When he moved up to the more high-tech planes, he had to use math and other technological skills which I think will benefit him greatly as an adult,” said David.
Kyle’s grandfather, George Gerspacher, was an avid modeler but he passed away before Kyle started flying seriously for the U.S. Junior Team. David also had the same interest in free flight, so the family now can point to three generations of free-flighters.
Kyle said he would like to keep flying for fun and competition. And he would like one day to represent the United States on the adult team.
An online report from the world championship event states the day Gerspacher’s class competed, the air seemed to attract storks.
“One was flying with the models — just circling with them. Unusual but lovely. If storks think, I wonder what their thoughts were to be flying with such unusual looking birds,” wrote Bob Stalick.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.