Toledo Trip 2012 Wrap Up

Every year, Roger and I take a busload of our customers down to Toledo, Ohio, for the annual Weak Signals Toledo Show. It is a show dedicated to radio control aircraft and accessories, populated by some of the biggest manufacturers in the industry. In recent years, I’ve been a critic of the show, lamenting the arrival of numerous Asian vendors selling their cheap wares. This year, however, the show floor was dominated by legitimate hobby vendors selling mostly decent products. Better yet, from my perspective, was that Horizon Hobby kept back almost all of their recently announced products, and showed them off at the Toledo Show before they arrive on store shelves. It’s these products I’m going to talk about in this year’s Toledo Trip Wrap Up.

Probably one of the biggest surprises going in to the Toledo Show was the announcement in February that Spektrum is coming out with an eighteen channel radio system. The DX18 features Spektrum’s AirWare interface, including the popular SD card option. It will be compatible with all of the telemetry Spektrum currently has on the market. And the best part of all is its price tag: only $799.99. The Spektrum guy I talked with said that most people he talked to about the DX18 with actually thought he was joking and some walked away when he assured them he was not. It’s a price tag that can hardly be believed, but it’s real. And while I doubt these are going to sell as well as the DX8 or DX7S, I believe this radio could revolutionize the price points of high end radios from here on out. Competition is good for consumers, and I think the high-end radio market is going to start heating up.

Another radio-related surprise awaited us at the JR Radios section of Horizon’s booth. JR is bringing a new radio system to the US market. Their DMSS system is very similar to the Spektrum DSMX that JR has been licensing from Horizon, but different enough that it will not work with Spektrum’s technology. Subsequently, the new JR radios will not be Bind-N-Fly compatible. I’m not sure this is a good move for JR, but time will tell. I can say that we have no desire to move away from Spektrum’s offerings or the Bind-N-Fly sales model. These JR radios will be special ordered only - you won’t see these radios on the shelf.

The Habu was a decent selling Electric Ducted Fan (EDF) airplane - but it was when it became discontinued that many people expressed a desire to have it back. When Horizon announced the Habu 2, they got their wish and then some. The new version of the Habu features a retract-ready and flap-ready design, and a sharp, new, Thunderbirds-inspired paint scheme. It looks just as good in person as it does on the photographs, and I’m excited for this one to come out. We already have a couple of customers that have pre-ordered this airplane, which tells me that this will be a popular aircraft.

But the item I was most excited about as we departed the Toledo Show this year was the new Blade 130X collective-pitch helicopter. This appears to be everything that I wish the mCPX was - a shaft-driven tail with a variable-pitch tail rotor, a brushless main motor, and a slightly bigger footprint. It features Horizon’s AS3X flybarless stabilization system, which has been proven in many airplanes and helicopters, most noticeably in the mQX quadcopter. Because the 130X is bigger, it should be more stable, which means it will probably be a better collective-pitch primer than the mCPX is. I’m excited to finally get my hands on one when they come out in June, and you can bet we’ll have some first impressions when we get one.

The bus trip itself went well, though we were down on attendees this year, topping out at just 36 passengers. I suspect this is due to two things: first, some people were a bit Toledo-weary this year. I noticed this on many of our long time attendees - they needed to take a year off from the Toledo Show. The other issue was a lack of advertising on my part for the trip this year. With the store’s move in mid-November, I am still in the process of getting caught up on things, and the Toledo Trip suffered a bit this year because of that. Hopefully we can get back on the horse next year, and sell out the bus.

A hearty and sincere “thank you” to everyone that attended the Toledo Show with us this year, and we’re really looking forward to the trip next year!