Neal Huffman (Pilot)
Neal Huffman has always thrived on competition and is honored to represent the United States at the World Championships this year. From competitive bike racing sponsored by the likes of Trek, Gary Fisher and VW to r/c soaring, his hallmark has been practice, preparation and persistence. All along the way, Neal has been fascinated by soaring. His first model glider came from plans in RC magazine launched with a high start made with rubber bands from his paper route. Then it was on to an Aquila with Skip Miller’s image on the box and finally soloing in a full-scale Schweizer 2-36 followed by high performance time in ASW and ASK sailplanes.
After a string of injuries sidelined his professional riding career, Neal filled that competitive void with r/c soaring. He showed up at an Eastern Soaring League (ESL) competition with an Olympic II and never looked back: 1st Place ESL Expert, Two-Time US F3J National Champion, US Open Champion and 3 top-3 finishes in the US F3J Tour Championship. All of these steps culminated in a first place finish at the 2017 US F3J Team Selection Competition.
Neal has enjoyed the incredible support of his wife of 15 years, Dawn, and their 6 year old son, Nicholas. It is also safe to say that 5- time world r/c soaring champion, Daryl Perkins, has helped Neal reach this level since they are good friends and flying companions; a potent formula for success.
Neal will be flying Xplorers outfitted with Spektrum and MKS gear at the World Championships in Romania this year and is looking forward to competing at the highest level of F3J.
Bob McGowan (Pilot)
Bob grew up and went to college in Napa California. After obtaining associate degrees in Electronics and Telecommunications, he moved via Silicon Valley to settle in Newark California. He currently works at Sony Electronics in the Professional Solutions group. He started as a technician doing repairs on the broadcast television equipment and eventually moved into management. He has since completed his Bachelors in Business Management at night school.
Married for 33 years, Bob and Diana have three adult children, Robin, Allen, and Trisha. The entire family has tried RC sailplane flying, but Robin and Allen (AJ) are the ones that stuck with it and continue to fly today. Robin has won RES in some major 2-day events and AJ’s biggest moment was probably representing the USA as a Junior in Turkey in 2008 where the boys took the silver. The aero-modeling bug has been passed down from Bob’s Grandfather, Grandmother, Father, and Uncles who were all flying control line and free flight prior to World War II.
Bob’s Dad Ray got him started in models at an early age with free flight gliders and control line. At the age of 12 Bob started to fly his first radio control model, an Astro Flight ASW-17. Not exactly a trainer, but he learned and went on to become a very competitive pilot. In his 40 years of contest flying he has won most of the west coast’s 2-day events multiple times. This includes being three-time winner of the Visalia Fall Festival, consistently the largest RC soaring contest in the country. He has a few National Champion titles to his name from various organizations such as NSS, LSF, and AMA. Bob also has won the prestigious Soaring Masters competition three times (twice while it was in California and once in Muncie). Bob loved flying with his father Ray until his eyesight deteriorated and is always proud to mention how they are still the only father and Son combo to both be LSF level 5s.
Bob and his family enjoy camping and fishing. Diana’s favorite type of vacation is cruising so Bob must do that once or twice a year. They received the blessing their first grandchild last March. Bob is a home mechanic and also enjoys doing major DIY renovation projects on their home. Flying had become less frequent in recent years with all of these distractions, but now with a World Championship to practice for, that must change Bob says.
This is the second time Bob has made the team. He last represented the USA at the South Africa 2012 World Championships where the team took the Gold and Bob finished 4th individually. This time Bob expects to be flying new 4 meter Xporer 3s when he attends the World Champs in Romania. His current planes are outfitted with a mix of MKS servos and Airtronics radio gear.
Jody Miller (Pilot)
Jodys modeling career started at his local Orlando Buzzards flying field tossing Guillows gliders and shagging chutes while his father Blayne flew RC sailplanes during the late 80’s. He dabbled in indoor and outdoor free flightmodels, some R/C gliders and had fun aerotowing gliders with his brother Nathan. As a teenager F1A (Tow line glider) became his main focus and his thermal reading skills were developed sufficiently to make the USA junior team in 1992 in Lucenec where he almost made the podium with a 4th place finish. In 1994 he once again represented USA as an F1A junior and attended the Worlds in Kiev. He took a break from the hobby for a few years before being reintroduced to R/C gliders by his brother Nathan in 2007 and he was hooked again.
Initially he dusted off an old Sailaire he had built and began practicing for competition. Flying the Sailaire in Unlimited duration contests, he soon found “the bus” more than a handful to land so he graduated to an Xplorer 3.5 and won his first unlimited sailplane event at the Florida Soaring Society #5 in 2010. This was to be the first of many wins as he was first place sportsman at the Gator F3B in 2011, Mid South Grand Champion in 2011 and 2013, FSS Champion 2011 and 2012 and is currently working on his Level V LSF tasks. Over the years He has worked hard with local pilots and gained knowledge from pilots across the country landing him a spot on the US team.
Jody currently works as a production manager at a helicopter repair facility in Sanford Florida. Other interest include Bass guitar, photography, and traveling with his wife Courtney.
Hard work on the practice field is common place for this pilot and he looks forward to representing the US next summer in Slovakia. He has practiced landings for three years to the point where he is one of the most accurate in the country rarely scoring less than 99.
Jody is interested in LSF, Cross country, F3B, F3K and encouraging other R/C pilots to become soaring pilots. After representing his country as a junior in the early 90’s he set a goal to make the senior team one day and has now accomplished that goal. Representing Soaring USA – Jody flies X2 Xplorers and fits them out with MKS Servos.
Gordon Buckland (Team Manager)
Gordon has loved all aspects of flying since building rubber powered stick models and paper planes in Grade 1 at his Primary school. Growing up in rural Australia, he began building and flying free flight and control-line models and graduated to RC at 15 YO with a Cox .049 powered Honker. Having also flown full size gliders and developing a love of soaring, Gordon built an 80″ AeroFlyte Trident and a 60″ Silent Squire sailplane from RCM plans and a life long love of thermals ensued. A Dodgson Maestro Mk III soon followed and at 22 YO Gordon entered in his first thermal duration contest – the Central Queensland Championships and placed 3rd. This instant success saw him join the Brisbane Model Soaring Club and enjoying the thrill of competition, Gordon was active in RC F3B sailplane competition from 1982 through 1987, winning a Qld F3B Championship along the way. As his 2 sons were born and parental responsibilities grew, model aircraft took a back seat for 23 years though Gordon pursued his love of aviation in Australia, obtaining his Private Pilots License in 1999 before immigrating to USA.
After 9 years in USA his long forgotten passion for RC soaring was re-ignited when he came across the flying field of the Orlando Buzzards. Since Feb 2009 Gordon has returned to TD soaring with a purpose. Continuing with the LSF program he began in 1982, Gordon completed his LSF V in May of 2010 with a final Level V win at the Midsouth MoM event in Tullahoma TN. He has since completed the LSF program again and is currently working on the Level V tasks for the 3rd time around. Since his return to soaring Gordon has been a very active contributor to the RC Soaring community with a passion for writing including the Nats News in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013. Gordon is the Model Aviation Soaring Columnist and also maintains many soaring websites e.g. Orlando Buzzards, the Gator F3B contest site, the USA F3B Team website and this USA F3J Team Website.
Gordon attended the F3B Worlds in China 2011 as a helper, TM at the F3B worlds in Germany 2013 and assistant TM for the F3B worlds in the Czech Rep in 2017. Gordon also was Junior Team manager for Team USA F3J in 2012, 2014 and 2016. Gordon has been very active in TD soaring in Florida, encouraging juniors and others to fly in events and LSF participation. He has won Grand Champion awards at the Tangerine in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Gordon flies Xplorers in F3j and also a Super Ava in RES and “Lawicki” Ducks in 2M.
Gordon’s wife Sheralyn supports him in his soaring endeavors attending many contests and they have a daughter Tanya and 3 grandchildren in Australia and two sons in Florida – Nathan and Jamie with two Grandchildren Lorelei and Kiegan.
Stoil Avramov (Junior Pilot)
Stoil is 14 years old and is a high school student, living in Maryland. He began flying free flight gliders and R/C models at age of 8. He remembers his first hand launch flights with an Omega 1.5 R/C model. That was the time when he got basic lessons from his father Dimitre Avramov on how to control a plane in the air.
His earliest active competitions started in 2010 with model rockets. In 2011 at the US Space-modeling team selections, he competed in class S8D (R/C rocket glider) and was eligible to join the USA junior team. Since then, he attended many domestic, national and international competitions.
Stoil was introduced to F3J flying when he received his first Xplorer 1 (3.5 m) from NAN models at the fall of 2013. He became very interested in flying larger models and in spring of 2014 he entered his first ESL (Eastern Soaring League) contest.
His achievements are an FAI Silver medal (13sec behind the Gold) at WCSM-2014, and set a US National Record in class “A” rocket glider in June of 2014. Stoil took 4th place in Sportsman, Unlimited TD at ESL-2014 (overall). In 2015 he attended the USA team selection event and was very happy to be selected and proud to represent the US juniors at FAI World Championships 2016 in F3J.
Stoil is grateful for his parents and the soaring community’s support, the chance to meet, fly, and learn from some of the best pilots in the country. I is also thankful to his team and friends in Texas where without all of their phenomenal effort he could not have reached this success. Stoil says this means a lot to him as it helps him to grow and become a better pilot.
Stoils skills have continued to improve as he now contests many of the US F3J Tour events coming first in the prelims and eventually placing 3rd overall at the most recent event in VA. Stoil will be a strong Junior contender in Romania.
Charelston Thomas (Junior Pilot)
Charleston is 12 years old and has been flying sailplanes for 2 years. His Dad Charles has taken him to the LSF Nats in Muncie IN twice where he has competed successfully in F3K and TD winning the National Championship for Junior F3K twice. Charleston was introduced to F3J soaring only in the last few weeks before the Worlds in Romania as a replacement to Noah Myers who was unable to attend. With two trips to Florida for a total of 5 days training with Gordon and Jody and some afternoons with Jim McCarthy in Knoxville TN Charleston has had to learn a lot of new skills in a very short space of time. He is an excellent pilot and will score well for USA in Romania. Charleston is flying a 4M Xplorer that used to belong to Jody Miller and a 3.8M Xplorer that was once Daryl Perkins along with a 3.5m V Tail Xplorer. We are very proud to have Charleston representing USA at this Worlds. He has a great future in soaring.
Luke Glaab (Junior Pilot)
I began flying R/C aircraft 8 years ago at the age of 9 in 2009. My dad got me several micro park flyers to get started with, such as the T-28 Trojan and P-51 Mustang. The P-51 was modified with lights and I recall that was cool. The first sailplane I flew was an old Gentle Lady, then progressed to a V-tail Sovereign. The Sovereign flew great and I enjoyed flying with my brother Josh, since we both had Sovereigns at that time. After the Sovereign I graduated to a WACO Merlin 3.0m for a couple of seasons, then on to a pair of Supras. The first Supra was nicknamed the “Scratch and Dent” Supra as it was an aircraft that was rebuilt from a crash. It flew great and provided me with a lot of experience in molded aircraft. After that Supra I started flying Supra #124 which is in great shape and a lot of fun to fly. Along the way I got an original Bird of Time that I enjoy flying in Nostalgia at the NATS. To add a little speed, I also enjoy flying EDF Jets and a F4U Corsair. I have been flying in the Eastern Soaring League since 2010 and am currently the Senior Unlimited National Champion. I am really enjoying R/C soaring and am looking forward to representing the U.S. in Romania.
Josh Glaab (Junior Team Manager)
R/C soaring for me has been quite an adventure and a part of my life for a very long and wonderful time. It all started in 1970 when I was 7 and lost a balsa glider in a thermal. I started flying R/C in 1973 and in ’75 Dad came home with a beautiful Graupner Cirrus and I thought what the heck is this? Where is the engine, bomb rack and smoke?
I worked a paper route for a year to earn enough money to buy a Dodgson Maestro Mk-III and joined the Eastern Soaring League in ’78 when it was first created. It is incredible to compare the Maestro to the Explorers that I fly today. Advances in structures, aerodynamics, and radio control systems have been amazing. In 1979 I won the ESL Jr class and then won Sportsflyer in 1980 and was promoted to Expert class. In ’81 I was 2nd in the ESL (Dwight Holley was 1st in his F3B World Champ year). I was able to win the ESL Expert class 13 times in ’85, ’88, ’89, ’91, ’92, ’93, ’94, ’96, ’03, ’13, ’14, ’15, ’16 and consider the ESL to be family.
There is a lot of NATS “wood” on the wall from ’84 to 2017. I was able to win overall combined 2M/Unlimited championship this year (2011) and in 1993 and the high-score award in 2010 (2M). I was F3J national champion in ’97 and 2012, 2M champion in 2010 and ’93. There have also been many top-3 placings in Unlimited/2M/NOS/RES along the way.
I have flown in all but one of the US F3J Team Selection events and have come very close to making the US team several times. I currently hold the record for the most number of “alternates” at 4 (in ’97, ’03, ’09, and ’11).
My two sons, Josh Jr (18) and Luke (17) also fly R/C and enjoy soaring along with “other” aircraft as needed (EDF Jets, Multi-Rotors, FPV racers, etc). Both Josh Jr and Luke have progressed over the years and are now flying at the Expert level and I am very proud of both of their accomplishments.
I started working at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA, in 1986 and have been there ever since. My current job involves Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and I am the Assistant Branch Head for the Aeronautics Systems Engineering Branch. Designing, assembling and flying NASA research vehicles is part of my job.
I am also a full-scale sailplane flight instructor and provide flight training at the Tidewater Soaring Society club, earned the Silver badge from the Soaring Society of America (5 hour thermal flight, 50 km cross-country, 3000 ft altitude gain), and also have an Instrument Rating.
I am excited about supporting the US team in 2018 as a team manager.
Kelly Johnson (Tower Captain)
Kelly is an extremely talented F3J pilot and a world class tower having been a Tower for International Teams like New Zealand many times.
Kel has been playing this F3J game since 1994, where he competed with a small group at a small event known as the World Soaring Jamboree! Being new to the sport and finding out how unprepared the team was, Kel helped pull this small group together like never before, as pulleys failed, lines snapped, and the twisty dog stakes broke off in the ground an hour before the start of round one. From then on, Kel chose to never be unprepared for flying or helping in an F3J event. Since his little bit of tragic fun in ‘94, Kel has teamed up with the Canadian F3J Team at the World Championship’s in Greece as tow man and in Finland as field Capitan and tow man. A few years later, Kel joined the USA F3J team as junior team tow man at the World’s in Turkey. At the same time he and tow man counterpart Dave Kalamen joined the New Zealand team to pull a great finish for both the USA juniors and Team New Zealand. After Turkey, Kel continued on with Team New Zealand at the South Africa and Slovakia World Championships as a full time Kiwi. He joined the USA Team in Slovenia in 2016 as the Tow Captain.
When not flying and supporting F3J events, Kel trains and competes in IRONMAN events including finishing IRONMAN Texas in 2015. Cycling, Karate, and F3J flying are just a few of Kel’s passions. Combining all of this with a busy Engineering career makes for an interesting life.
Kel is looking forward to being a member of Team USA, to see what this amazing group can do in Romania in 2018!
Dave Kalamen (Tower)
Dave Kalamen is a very experienced Tower who has represented USA on multiple occasions at the World Championships and has served those teams well. We are grateful he is once again volunteering to launch our models in 2018.
Dave Bradley (Tower)
Dave Bradley has toured with the F3J team as a Junior to Sth Africa and is an accomplished full size Soaring Pilot also. He is young, strong and is a great new addition to the USA F3J Team.
Dave is 23 and has been flying full scale sailplanes and remote-control sailplanes since he was 14. Currently, Dave holds a private pilot sailplane license with over 150 hours logged. On the Radio control side, he earned the National Senior Champion title in 2011 for both Unlimited & F3J classes. As a Junior team F3J alternate in 2012, he traveled with the team to South Africa. Locally, Dave travels and flys in the Eastern Soaring League. A competitive league, the ESL group has an extensive list of top competitors. Dave’s continuous top ten ranking the past couple of years is a notable accomplishment. Last year, the summer of 2017, Dave assisted the F3B team as a helper in the Czech Republic and worked tirelessly returning the chute for all the USA pilots. Dave has a degree in Applied Sciences with a focus on Mechanical Engineering Technology.