Beverly teen Mitch Marozas flies to new heights
BY STEVE METSCH email@example.com December 2, 2012 4:18PM
Updated: January 4, 2013 6:03AM
The helicopter soared a couple hundred feet above Ridge Park in Chicago’s Beverly community until it was a speck in the sky.
Then it plummeted, making dizzy spins and turns all the way until it seemed ready to bury its rotors in the dirt infield of a baseball diamond.
At the last instant, the helicopter rose from its dive, made a 90-degree turn and then was flying sideways, up and down, the length of the park, about six feet off the ground and seemingly oblivious to the laws of gravity.
All the while, a cool and confident Mitch Marozas, 15, of Beverly, manipulated the joysticks on a radio controller.
Flick one to the left, and the copter veered to the right. Push one up, the copter headed down. Flip the copter upside down? Work all the controls in the opposite fashion.
In the hands of a novice, the $1,800 copter likely would be reduced to garbage in short order. But Mitch is far from novice status — he’s been flying model helicopters since he was 5.
Ten years later, he’s a pro — literally — and is paid by two companies to test their products and compete at contests nationwide.
Parents Kelly and Mike Marozas are proud of their eldest son.
“We never, in our wildest dreams, thought he’d be a pro pilot at 15. He’s not nervous during competitions, while sometimes I can’t even watch,” Kelly said.
Kelly will be watching in January when Mitch appears on “Figure It Out,” a game show on Nickelodeon. Contestants try to figure out what the guests’ skills are. Mitch, of course, will be flying a helicopter, which he did outside the show’s TV studio in Southern California. The show’s producers had contacted him and asked him to appear on the show, he said.
He brought one of his 30 helicopters — “the sponsors help a lot with that” — to the TV show.
The new addition, checking in at just under 4 feet in length, “is a small one,” he said.
“The bigger ones aren’t necessarily easier (to operate), but they are less sensitive,” Mitch said.
Mitch is sponsored by Futaba, which makes model helicopters, and Gaui, which makes radio control units. He competes in and performs demonstrations at contests around the nation. This year, he and his father got to go to Taiwan so Mitch and other sponsored pilots could give Futaba their opinions of a prototype that eventually became the copter he flew over Ridge Park.
If a copter crashes, he has the parts and know-how to rebuild it.
“I still crash them,” he said with a smile.
Model helicopters use racing car fuel that costs $30 a gallon, and most get “about 15 flights to the gallon,” Mitch said.
A freshman at Brother Rice High School, Mitch played for the football team this season. Kelly said that cut into his flying time. But now that football is over, he flies as often as possible.
“Flying is fun,” he said.
Every room in their house, Kelly said, has something related to helicopters. But she and her husband don’t waver in their support.
“It helps now that (sponsors) pay for the travel and hotels,” Kelly said.
Closer to home, he usually flies at forest preserves on Cicero Avenue near Vollmer Road, and another at 107th Street and LaGrange Road.
Mitch, Kelly said, “has always had good hand-eye coordination.”
“He’s liked helicopters since he was 2. When he was little, he’d throw everything in the air. If it didn’t fall to the ground right away, he’d jump for joy. (Seeing) anything that flew, he was in his glory,” she said.
Her other son, 12-year-old Nick, also enjoys flying copters, she said.
The whole family enjoys the International Radio Controlled Helicopter Association Jamboree at the Academy of Model Aeronautics held each August in Muncie, Ind.
“There’s easily 3,000 people there, contestants, spectators and vendors,” said Kelly, who enjoys the freestyle round when “you show what you can do.”
Mitch isn’t allowed to say how he fared on “Figure It Out.” Followers won’t find out until Nickelodeon broadcasts the episode. But he can say what his future may involve.
“Being a pilot is an option,” he said, “or maybe an engineer designing model helicopters.”