MALVERN – A small yellow model airplane glided peacefully through the air, about 50 feet above a wide, open field. Soon, a smaller model plane with red wings flew up behind it, bumping it from beneath. The yellow plane was sent spiraling, crashing nose-first into the field.
And with the plane’s destruction, onlookers cheered.
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“Oh, you got him!” a man shouted into a microphone while dozens of model planes circled above. “Whoever got that one, come see me. We’ve got a prize for you.”
The spectacle, aptly named “Combat,” is part of Flite Fest 2022, the largest electric flying event in the world. For four days in the summer every year, model plane enthusiasts come from all over the country and the world to buy, build, display and fly model airplanes.
But flying model planes isn’t the niche, expensive pastime that some might assume. In fact, one of the event’s organizers said, it’s the exact opposite.
“It’s not just a hobby,” said Josh Bixler, president of Flite Test, the model plane company that runs the event. “It’s a lifestyle, and it’s something that can give you a career path and something that can be beneficial in schools.”
Bringing families together
Bixler, 43, explained that he and his wife created the family-operated Flite Test after they observed a trend of disconnect within families. They wanted to give parents and children a way to express their common interests through an activity that was fun, challenging and rewarding.
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The idea for a model plane company came from Bixler’s own experiences with his father. When he was 7 years old, he said, he and his dad spent months building a model airplane. When it was finished,