Scale aerobatics is aerobatic operation of a radio controlled scale model of full-sized aerobatic competition plane. While other disciplines within the radio control community fly aerobatics, the requirement for scale aerobatic is that the model be replicas of types known to have competed in International Aerobatic Club (IAC) competition. A wide choice of competitive planes are available to today’s model in both kit and ready-to-fly versions. Some of the most popular competition planes such as the Extra 330 pictured here are available from numerous manufacturers.
IMAC – International Miniature Aerobatic Club
Originally started as a Special Interest Group under the US modeling organization, AMA, the International Miniature Aerobatic Club (IMAC) has grown to represent and organize scale aerobatic competition on a global level. IMAC is a non-profit organization focusing on pilot education and maintenance of rules and guidelines governing the sport. Pilots interested in scale aerobatic competition are encouraged to join and support the organization’s mission.
Groups of pilots come together to fly and compete in organized events operated under established rules. Pilots fly a “sequence” of pre-established maneuvers in front of judges. Starting with a perfect score of 10 for each maneuver, judges will deduct for deviations or errors. Sequences generally consist of 8 – 10 maneuvers.
As with full-scale competition, pilots are separated into classes with each class getting progressively more challenging. Each class has a “known” sequence published every year that is flown at every event held during that calendar year. In the higher classes, a sequence is presented to the pilot at the event that they have not seen before (called an “unknown”).
Scoring is based by “round” which consists of all pilots in a class flying their sequence in front of the same judges. The pilots are then ranked within that round. The judges are changed and the pilots fly their sequences again. By rule, the pilot’s lowest round(s) may be dropped. In the end, the pilot in a class with the highest score wins the event.
There are five main classes:
- Basic – Entry level class with basic aerobatic maneuvers. Pilots in this class may fly ANY plane of any size which does NOT have to be a scale model of a competition plane. This class flies only a KNOWN sequence.
- Sportsman – Maneuvers get just a little more challenging and pilots are now required to use scale model aircraft. In this class, unknowns are introduced.
- Intermediate – Maneuvers increase in difficulty as slightly more complex figures are introduced. Unknowns become more challenging.
- Advanced – In this class, the pilot should be able to fly most any figure presented. The difficulty here is that sequences get more challenging as more complex figures are added together.
- Unlimited – exactly what it sounds like….no limits! Pilots in this class are presented with the most challenging sequences and complex unknowns. A true test of pilot and machine that requires experience and skill developed over time.
In addition to the main competition classes, there are two other classes that may be offered at an event:
- Free Style – spectator sport extraordinaire! Aerobatic flying set to music! No predefined figures as anything goes in this class! Pilots are judged on originality, musicality, and general piloting skills. Free Style is not offered at all events but is the most popular part of an event for the non-flying crowd. Free Style competition is open to pilots of ANY class but the pilot must also compete in a main class.
- Seniors – Best pilot over 55 as judged across all classes (excluding Basic).
Most events are weekend affairs starting on Saturday morning and running until Sunday afternoon. There are many "special" events such as judging schools, introductory events (for Basic only!), as well as regional/national championships. Events are scheduled many months in advanced and upcoming events may be found on the event calendar in each IMAC region's main page.
In the US and Canada, there are 6 regions - Northeast, Southeast, North Central, South Central, Northwest, and Southwest Outside the US/Canada, each country maintains its own regional structure. You can find what region you live in by starting with the geographical area in which you live and looking under Regions on this website.
Getting started is pretty easy! If you are reading this, you are half way there already! We can assume that you are tired of flying in circles, practicing your landings, etc. and looking for a new R/C challenge…and you are in luck!
First, let’s start by clearing away a few “myths” about scale aerobatic competition.
I need a BIG plane!
FALSE ! You can get started with a simple trainer if that is what you have available! It is true that planes designed for aerobatic competition are easier to fly, but there are MANY designs out on the market that are inexpensive, small enough to get into your car, and are VERY competitive.
FALSE ! Like any hobby, you can put as much or as little as you want into it. Some pilots win consistently with low cost equipment while other pilots with the latest and greatest struggle. In golf there is a saying – “Money can’t buy a swing!”…and it is the same in scale aerobatics….it is more about the pilot’ and the time they put into practicing. True that as you skills increase
There is no age limit and you can get started with whatever plane you are flying right now. You don’t have to be some kind of super experienced R/C pilot but you do need to have the drive and desire to improve your flying skills. No other R/C activity will improve your flying skills as quickly as aerobatic competition.
Look in your area for IMAC activity
Check out your area flying clubs for IMAC activity. If you need help and live in the US or Canada, find out the IMAC region you live in by visiting the Regions part of this website. Once you know your region, click the Contact Your Regional Director button above the photos on the left and ask for details about activity in your area. Your regional director will be happy to point you in the right direction.
Ask for help!
While you can certainly learn on your own, it helps to have an experienced IMAC pilot to help guide you. A second set of eyes can help you get your loops rounder, your lines straighter, and your timing perfected. You can also contribute the same way to their practice by observing and offering feedback.
Attend an Intro to IMAC event or a Judging School
Intro to IMAC or sometimes called a Basic Primer is a great way to jump start your flying. You will learn how contests are run and what to expect when you attend your first event. At most of these, you will get a chance to actually fly the Basic sequence in front of judges and receive scores - just like a regular IMAC event.
Most regions will have at least one or two Judging Schools a year - usually near the very beginning of the flying season. Judging schools help you learn the rules and understand what judges should be looking for in your flying. Actually learning to judge is a completely different challenge. Many of the best judges are average competition pilots and conversely many of the best pilots are average judges.
So what are you waiting for?
Just head over to the Download section of this website and get you a copy of the Basic sequence. Yes...it looks like a lot of squiggly lines on a piece of paper...it is drawn in what is called an Aresti diagram. Aresti diagrams are a type of short hand for ALL aerobatic competition in the world - full scale or model. But...it's pretty easy to learn...Take a look at the video on Learning Aresti (which is also on the Download page) to help you get started.