(L-R) The author, Dillon Graves, and Jody Miller study the progress of Dillon’s Xplorer
during the final day of competition at the 2014 F3J World Championship in Martin,
Dillon Graves shows off his Freestyler 3
during the Gator F3B World Cup contest
in Cocoa FL, in March 2014.
A star is born
by Gordon Buckland
When something amazing happens, it’s often difficult to put a finger on exactly what the catalyst is.
Sometimes, it’s simply fate that plays a
part in shaping the future and not one
specific thing. If you can identify exactly
what it is, then you can recreate those same
circumstances and cause more amazing
events to occur.
There is a new star in US and world RC
Soaring. He has steadily improved his skills
to be as good as anyone in the country and
he is only 16 years old. He has been a Junior
US representative in F3J in two World
Championship cycles, and this year he is
representing his country in the F3B and F3K
World Championships. His name is Dillon
I believe the circumstances that produced
Dillon’s fantastic skills can be repeated. We
need more young pilots like him if our hobby
is to stay alive. Older Soaring pilots also
possess amazing skills that can be passed on
to young pilots. I hope I can motivate some
of you to do that by sharing Dillon’s story.
When I returned to Soaring in late 2009
after a 23-year absence, most of the active
pilots at my local club were the same group
who were flying sailplanes when I started
in the 1970s. At 50 years old, I was one of
the youngest pilots at the Orlando Buzzards
field. This alarming fact was on my mind
when I met Jody Miller at a local Thermal
Jody was 20 years younger than I and
attending most local Soaring contests, so we
teamed up to help each other improve our
skills. As a team, we did well at contests, topped the Florida
Soaring Society (FSS) standings, and pursued the League of
Silent Flight (LSF) task program every moment we had.
We worked diligently to help at our local club events and
also served as officers for the Orlando Buzzards and the FSS.
We often talked about how we could encourage others to
join Soaring. The problem was there were no new pilots ...
just an ever-changing parade of older men coming and going
as they got the bug to fly or lost interest when they didn’t
It was clear that we needed to recruit younger pilots
and pass on the enthusiasm we had for the magic of those
invisible thermals and for keeping our heavier-than-air
models aloft with no motors.
In March 2011, Mike Verzuh, of the Rocky Mountain
Soaring Association, contacted me about coming to fly
with my club in Florida in an FSS event. Mike attended our
Soaring contest at the Indian River Kontrol Society club in
Cocoa, Florida, and told us about a 12-year-old 3-D pilot
who might be interested in learning to fly sailplanes.
Mike introduced Dillon and his father, John Graves, and
offered Jody and me a challenge. Mike said that if we were
prepared to train Dillon, he was young enough to be able to
try out for the US Soaring Team as a Junior competitor for
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