On one summer day at Flite Fest 2019...
This is a story on how one serendipitous moment in time changed Nighthawk Gliders forever!
Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links to PowerUp Toys. If you choose to click them and purchase any of their products, you help Nighthawk Gliders receive a share of the sales! Thanks!
Since 2017, Bruce and I have been attending Flite Fest (flitefest.com). It's an amazing multi-day festival hosted by Flite Test (a channel on YouTube) and is where you can camp, spend time with family, friends, and fellow hobbyists-- building, flying, and crashing RC aircraft. It is so much fun! Flite Test is a great YouTube channel and they started a business around foam board airplanes-- and then expanded it into a spectacular website and store at flitetest.com that covers a plethora of flying RC aircraft, kits, and accessories. (Not a sponsor! lol!) But, nonetheless, they are inspirational and I can look up to them as a fine model of and encouragement of success.
It was around 2018 where I was considering the possibility of starting up Nighthawk Gliders LLC as a company and website to sell CLG kits. I brought a few prototype kits at Flite Fest and decided to gift a number of them to the Flite Test crew. Heck, they were the first laser-cut editions and they didn't even include instructions on how to build them! I just wanted to thank the Flite Test family for hosting such wonderful events and I thought their families would enjoy flying them. I gave them one or two Sandpiper 18 CLGs and, to my surprise, Alex Zvada decided to feature us in one of their videos on their Flite Test YouTube channel.
I have always wanted to add some sort of power to my balsa wood airplanes (just for some fun) and I knew of the POWERUP product that uses a capacitor to power a prop that can be mounted on paper airplanes. It's a pretty cool concept, really. You get to design your own paper airplanes, clip on the POWERUP module, charge it up with a battery pack, and launch it into the air to see it fly. I published a couple of tutorial videos on YouTube to show you how to make a couple of paper airplanes I made back in my youthful days. I'm not certain if the idea of an attachable capacitor-powered prop for paper airplanes ever crossed anyone's mind back then.
Anyway, moving on to Flite Fest 2019. Bruce and I have a tent and we are camping to maximize our four-day festival-fun potential. Really, the weather was beautiful and it could not have been better. My routine would be to wake up in the morning , get a little coffee in me, and then spend some time flying my CLGs in the nice calm air. Later that evening, I would do the same just as the sun was setting. It was very common place that a few folks would take notice of my gliders and they were not shy to approach me.
Shai has been looking for a balsa wood model that would work with his new POWERUP 4.0 and he thought our gliders could easily be "Powered Up" and that maybe "we could do business in the future."
I thought that was cool-- that a company like PowerUp Toys could be interested in the gliders that I was flying and that there was potential for a business venture. That couldn't possibly be true, though, could it? After feeling a sense of "unworthiness," I took it more as a compliment and quickly dismissed it as something that could possibly happen. Nonetheless, I was very pleased to have met Shai-- for the odds of us meeting, let alone attending the same event and camping right next to each other, was more than complete and utter happenstance! Small world, right?
On the next day, I was strolling around the vendors area and realized that Shai had a booth setup for PowerUp Toys. On his table, he had a number of his products on display. There was, however, one curious item also on his table. It was a paper airplane. Now, that's not unusual since the POWERUP line of products is all about powering up paper airplanes. However, what was unusual was that I immediately recognized who designed that airplane.
I mentioned to Shai that I wanted to collaborate with Kyle someday-- but, at that time, we failed to get together even though Kyle lives only 20 minutes from me. Shai said that Kyle made that paper airplane that was on the table and that Kyle was just there to meet Shai as they were collaborating to make new paper airplanes for POWERUP 4.0 and also to publish a book.
Given the new POWERUP 4.0 and the fact that it now has twice the power of the POWERUP 3.0, it seemed fitting to have Kyle invent a new generation of paper airplanes! But, Shai wanted the POWERUP 4.0 to fly more than just paper-- he thought, why not foam board? In fact, Shai had some foam board experts in mind and was the reason for him to attend Flite Fest 2019.
Shai's dream to fly almost anything with POWERUP 4.0 was coming true-- and balsa wood was no exception. He had previously experimented with some Guillow's kits and got them to fly with ease. But, now, he's seen our Nighthawk Gliders and he loved them. Before we all left Flite Fest, we exchanged gifts... Shai gave me a POWERUP 3.0 and I gave Shai some of our catapult gliders and then we went on our merry way.
It was later that fall when Shai contacted me and said he was, indeed, interested in wanting Nighthawk Gliders to design a balsa wood airplane for POWERUP 4.0 and supply them with kits for his Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns. And so, of course, we totally agreed! Bruce and I brainstormed and we decided that our Tornado 12 CLG will be the basis for our new model. It just looks slick, fast, and cool-- a perfect candidate for POWERUP 4.0!
Since then, we've been pretty busy kitting a few thousand Tornado Updrafts and had little time to curate our YouTube channel-- but it's been fun and exciting to bring a new product into the world and it gave us something to do during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bruce even moved in with my family for a couple of months!
It really is incredible, when I look back on this one serendipitous moment-- how we just happen to be at the right place at the right time to catch the eye of one innovator who has so graciously invested in us to become a part of this wonderful journey so that we could bring new products to flight-lovers all around the world.
We know a lot of people will enjoy POWERUP 4.0 for it is an amazing product. Also, we hope the Tornado Updraft 12 will bring happiness and joy to them as well!
I'd like to give a special thanks to the Flite Test crew-- for they are knocking it out of the park and they are a great inspiration to many. If it weren't for Flite Fest, we would probably not be here today! Too bad about Flite Fest 2020 (which was cancelled due to the virus) but we are looking forward to Flite Fest 2021!
I'd like to give thanks to Shai Goitein-- for without his dreams of flying, without his spirit for innovation, and without his keen business acumen, we would all be in a different place today! I tip my hat to you, sir!
And of course... we give a most warm and heart-felt thanks to our supporting customers-- for they are the most important people in the world! Thank you all!
This, my friends, is why we enjoy flight and enjoy life (and we hope you do too!)
Please fly safely and take care!
Nighthawk Gliders LLC
Brad Williamson, co-creator of Nighthawk Gliders, enjoys learning about the many aspects of flight and aeromodelling-- especially when it involves free-flight gliders made from balsa wood. From 2012-2016 he helped coach Science Olympiad teams for a local middle school. In the state of Indiana, his students placed 1st in rotor egg drop, 3rd in Balsa Gliders, and 3rd in Helicopters. Since then, Brad was hooked on building and flying things made from balsa. His contributions here stem from his love around the hobby of flight and his desire to be creative and share information. Along with his brother, Bruce, their goal is to inspire a new audience (be them young or old) to simply "enjoy flight and enjoy life!"