These days we are spoiled with choices when it comes to selecting an RC helicopter. Although we throw companies’ names around in general conversation, it is easy to forget that they aren’t giant, faceless corporations. Okay, maybe some of them are, but not all of them.
Did you ever wonder who the people behind your favorite helicopter are? I had the chance to find out with Synergy R/C Helicopters. Synergy has an almost cult following with its heli fans, and I asked the man and woman behind Synergy, Matt and Amy Botos, some questions.
CM: The name Matt Botos is well known throughout the RC helicopter industry. How did you get started with RC helis?
MB: I have a long history with pretty much everything RC related. I raced RC cars competitively in the mid-’80s and then got into airplanes shortly afterward. I gave up RC for many years due to an interest in track and field as a pole-vaulter.
After my collegiate athletic career as a pole-vaulter was over and I had a job earning a decent income, I went straight back into RC airplanes. It wasn’t until June of 2000 when I ventured into the world of RC helicopters. After my first few flights with an RC helicopter, I never looked back!
CM: How did you become involved with Synergy helicopters, and what did you do before Synergy?
MB: After college (I graduated in 1996), I took interest in a growing computer industry and began working for EarthLink in 1998. I held many positions throughout my 10 years with EarthLink, mostly related to the development of custom internal IT systems.
In April of 2006, I was approached by Todd Bennett about becoming a factory pilot for Synergy. In June of 2006, after a fourth-place finish at the XFC [Extreme Flight Championships], I gladly accepted the offer.
Shortly after I started with Synergy, Jason Krause departed for a design position at Align, which left Synergy without a designer. Knowing my computer background, Todd Bennett asked me if I could learn CAD and take over the design position at Synergy. I gladly took on the challenge and started fixing a few pressing issues with the newly released Synergy N9. This path continued until January 30, 2010, when Stephen Fan died in a tragic racing accident.
Synergy was in turmoil for quite some time without an investor, which was when I decided to cash in my 401(k) and invest everything I had into rebuilding Synergy. Botos Design & Distribution has owned Synergy R/C Helicopters ever since then.
CM: How has building the Synergy brand helped (or hindered) your enjoyment of the hobby?
MB: Building/rebuilding the Synergy brand has definitely helped my personal enjoyment of the hobby. Being the owner, designer, and everything else in between, it has been rewarding to watch fellow hobbyists enjoy one of my creations.
Nothing can describe the feeling of seeing someone fly a model that you created. Bringing joy and entertainment to someone’s life is about as satisfying as it gets.
CM: Say you’ve just had that spark of an idea for a new heli. Can you share a general overview of your process for getting an idea out of your head and onto the flying field?
MB: When I have an idea for a model it always starts in CAD. Sometimes the idea may never leave the computer because of issues I come across while in the design process. If I find acceptable solutions to these hurdles then I will proceed to finish the model in CAD. I will also show a few of my friends initial drawings to get their opinion on the direction of the design.
After I’ve looked over the drawings, many times I send them to my CNC shop for prototyping. When the CNC shop has the drawings, it’s only a few weeks before I have a flying prototype. There are generally few changes with my prototype models. I attribute this to a lengthy design process and excellent design tools. I will typically fly the prototype models for 500-1,000 flights without crashing before I am happy with the model’s performance.
After I am happy with the performance of the model, I will write the assembly manual and start the preproduction testing. In preproduction testing, I generally have 10-20 Team Synergy pilots assembling and flying the models. In this stage, Team Synergy pilots will give feedback on the assembly manual, parts’ quality, and any other issues that may arise.
After my preproduction team is happy, I proceed to the final production run of parts. During the production run, my wife, Amy, creates the box artwork and any banners related to the promotion of the model. I have at least three models in CAD right now, which I may never even prototype, but I find designing models just for the fun of it helps keep ideas flowing through the brain.
CM: You and Amy are a strong team at the many events you attend throughout the year. With all of that traveling, how do you keep from getting burned out?
MB: Traveling can be stressful, but we try to focus on having fun with the people at events just like everyone else. Most people attend events to have fun and share information—we are out there trying to provide helpful information and have fun while doing it. Last year we decided to attend most of the events in an RV, which can be extremely helpful in decompressing if you are having a rough day.
CM: In addition to owning/running Synergy and being a Futaba-sponsored pilot, you also teach 3-D flying classes. How did you get started with teaching?
MB: I started teaching with Todd Bennett in 2006 at the Snohomish fun-fly in Washington. I had no idea how much work was involved in teaching students how to fly helicopters, but if you could imagine flying about 80 flights over the course of two days, then you can start to understand the task at hand.
Todd owns Freestyle 3D, and is likely one of the best instructors in the world. My hat’s off to anyone involved in teaching how to fly RC helicopters—it is not an easy job!
CM: Last year we saw the new N7 announced, and we’ve seen teasers of a Synergy speed heli. Can you drop any hints as to what we might see from Synergy in the future?
MB: Right now I am in a research phase where I am watching the market and trying to determine the next model to be released. I have a few wild ideas in CAD, but I would like to solidify them with some concrete numbers from the industry.
Sorry, but no hints. The market is very competitive and confidentiality is a huge advantage.
CM: Now to put you on the spot. Who is your favorite helicopter pilot and why?
MB: My favorite heli pilot right now is my lovely wife, Amy. I can’t tell you how cool it has been to relive the early stages of flying an RC helicopter. The rewards are often, and the smile on her face when she breaks through a learning barrier is priceless.
My all-time favorite pilot is Curtis Youngblood. I used to watch his videos over and over in awe of his precision capabilities. We should never forget the pioneers of 3-D flight such as Curtis Youngblood and Todd Bennett. They are essentially the modelers who created the platform which all great pilots stand on today.