Space modelling teaches skills for life: Michal Zitnan shares his story
Slovakian aeromodeller Michal Zitnan is the happy winner of the 2020 ‘Spirit of Flight’ FAI Aeromodelling Commission (CIAM) Scholarship. As a three times European and World Championship winner he was the top choice from the judging panel, but for Michal this string of awards is not yet complete; his passion for aeromodelling is fuelling his ambition to gain one very special title to complete his collection, as long as he can manage to juggle training with his studies in mechatronics.
Michal’s award of this prestigious scholarship is down to his impressive success in the Rocket class. He holds three European Championship titles (two junior and one senior) as well as three junior World Championship titles.
The award of €2000 is given to pilots aged between 16 and 21 each year to go towards funding their education. Michal is studying mechatronics at the University of Brno in the Czech Republic and is navigating the challenges of remote study with aeromodelling training so that he can be ready to focus on competition once COVID restrictions are lifted.
Firstly, congratulations on your Aeromodelling Scholarship win! What does the scholarship mean for you?
Thank you, it's a great thing especially at this time when we are studying remotely. The scholarship gave me the opportunity to invest in a new computer, printer and other equipment that helps me in my studio.
How did you get into aeromodelling?
I would say that aeromodelling is a tradition in our family, as my grandfather was a Greek aeromodeller and he introduced my father to the sport, who in turn passed the interest on to me. I have been attending competitions since I was 3 months old so I was naturally drawn to technical things even at a very young age. I joined in with my father, watched, asked questions... I was fascinated with the firing of the engines and I spent a lot of time in my father's work room where he taught me to make simple and then more complicated models. I owe my achievements to my father, without him I would never have got into space modelling.
We also live not far from the oldest aeromodelling club in Slovakia - RMK Dubnica - of which we are members and this opportunity also had a significant impact on my involvement in this sport.
How did last season go, and how did COVID affect your training and competitions?
Last season was significantly affected by Covid, as the World Cup events were cancelled. I only attended two domestic competitions where I managed to win the title of champion of the Slovak Republic in the category S4A.
Luckily we can train individually for this sport and walking in nature was allowed in Slovakia, so COVID did not prevent me from training.
Is it hard to fit in training with study? And does your practical aeromodelling experience help your studies?
Yes, I have much less time now compared to when I went to high school! Last season combining the two things didn't have that much effect because of the limited number of events, but I realise that in the future I will have to limit the number of disciplines I want to focus on. As aeromodelling is highly technical, my studies have definitely helped me with developing my technical thinking, patience and precision. These qualities help me in study and in real life.
What are your long-term ambitions in aeromodelling, and what does aeromodelling mean to you?
In aeromodelling, I want to win the senior world title. It's the only thing missing from my collection of achievements. And if I could choose (he says, laughing) then it would be in the S4A category – because it is a traveling cup which also has my Father’s name. I don’t think anyone else has achieved this success!
It is really difficult to describe how happy and proud I felt standing on the podium listening to my country's national anthem. Space modelling represents for me a lot of friendships and exchanging information with other modellers from around the world, as well as helping me improve my English and Russian language skills.
- S5B (Junior model) - World Championship, Wloclawek, Poland 2018
- S5B (scale model - Junior height) - WC, Lviv, Ukraine 2016
- S1A (racket - Junior height) - World Championships, Lviv, Ukraine 2016
- The best junior at the 2016 and 2018 World Championships
- S9A (Rocket - Vortex) - EC, Buzau, Romania 2019
- S5B (model - Junior height) - EC, Wloclawek, Poland 2017
- S3A (rocket - parachute Junior) - EC, Lviv, Ukraine 2015
- The best junior at the 2015 European Championships
Overall winner of the World Cup 2016 in cat. S6A (Rocket - Streamer)
Winner of SMIR (Space Model International Ranking)
- 3 times overall winner: 2016, 2017, 2018
The FAI wishes Michal the best of luck in his studies and his career in aeromodelling.