toy helicopter 248.88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The 2009 3D Masters Competition is considered the ultimate 3D international model helicopter competition of the year, and eight-year-old Alon Barak of Tel Aviv is anxious to take home the gold.
Pilots from 19 countries will come to Murcia, Spain on July 24-26 to fly their miniature helicopters and astound spectators.
According to Barak's father, Nadav, his son first took an interest in flying when he was two-and-a-half years old.
"It was a game for him" explained Nadav.
Nadav Barak, an experienced pilot himself, started to teach his son to fly helicopters when he was four. Alon started with a computer simulator, moved on to using model airplanes and finally learned to control helicopters by radio transmitter.
"We saw that he [had] talent," said his father. "He got better and better."
In 2007, Alon Barak was invited to perform a demo flight for the competition. Last year, he entered as a competitor and won second place.
Barak already has sponsors from around the world. Companies such as the English-based Quick UK Performance Parts and Germany's Schulze are relying on Barak to help sell their products. Winning the competition would make him even more attractive to sponsors, as whoever wins this competition becomes "very, very hot property" from a sponsorship point of view, according to event organizer Jeff Barringer.
The most surprising aspect of Barak's success is his age. Most competitors are in their early 20s, and some are in their 40s. Barak is the youngest 3D Masters entrant.
Barak will compete in the "Master's" category of the competition. This section is by invitation only - the organizers of the competition select only the best pilots. Barak "stands an extremely good chance of winning the master's class this year" says Barringer.
According to the 3D Masters Web site, Master's pilots are "known international pilots" who are "anxious to ensure that their product is adequately represented on the world scene." Pilots must enter the competition in the Expert Class and request to be considered in the Master's Class.
In the upcoming 3D Masters Competition, Barak will participate in three categories: set maneuvers, flight to music, and freestyle.
Set maneuvers involves performing moves chosen from a pre-released schedule, varying in difficulty. In the flight to music category, pilots will fly their helicopters to songs chosen beforehand, using various spins and tricks to match the motion of the plane to the music. Freestyle allows pilots to show off their talent by flying the helicopters however they wish in the given time limit.
Barak will be judged by six "internationally-recognized and capable 3D pilots." To impress these judges, the young competitor must use all of his skill.
"There is a particular hotbed of talent from Israel," remarked Barringer. Israeli entrants such as Chen Zarfati and Nir Meiri have placed in the past few years.
In a Channel 10 News interview, Barak explained that his dream was to win the competition.
"It takes time," he said. "But in the end, it can be done."
Barak practices flying "seven days a week" for "two or three hours each day," according to his father. He flies in reverse and upside down, does maneuvers in low altitudes and even has time to put signature twists on his moves once they're completed.
When he's not flying airplanes, Barak is an ordinary eight-year-old. His father describes his schedule as "like every other [kid's schedule]." He goes to school, does his homework and even has an English tutor. After all, when speaking to international sponsors, it helps to know more than one language.