James Friesz (JayJay) a huge Torgoen fan who approached us a few months ago seeking an Aviation driven brand for collaboration with his unique work and hobby. In addition to being a glider pilot, JayJay also builds and flies amazing scale planes. Of course, we were totally on board and thrilled at the opportunity to be involved in James' amazing work!
How did you get into aviation?
Aviation is in my blood. I was brought up by my German grandparents and my grandfather Fritz was an accomplished glider pilot. He was the winner of the Australian Gliding Championships, taking out the state title on a number of occasions. Like clockwork, each summer we would pack our bags, hook up the glider trailer and head off to remote areas of Australia so my grandfather could compete. If it wasn’t a championship, we’d travel to find the right conditions to break world records.
At the early age of two, I would spend my weekends as a passenger in a Piper Pawnee as it towed up gliders, one by one. By the age of 17, I was determined to know everything there was to know about aviation and I took a scholarship with Qantas Airways, where I studied to be an Aeronautical Engineer.
Tell us about your most memorable adventure/flight
Being a glider pilot, the most memorable flights tend to be the longest or the highest. It’s an endurance sport, underpinned by the drive to better yourself each and every time. Saying that, the flight that comes to mind actually wasn’t the longest or highest flight.
It was a hot summer day in a remote Australian town called Forbes and I was flying with my grandfather in an old ASK13. We had come up on a thermal that was occupied by a dozen Wedge Tailed Eagles. With their 2-3 meter wingspan these are truly majestic creatures. For a good 15 minutes, one of the eagles positioned itself no more than 50 cm from the glider canopy, while several others stayed close to our wings. It was an amazing sight to so many of these beautiful birds joining us for this truly memorable flight.
How did your interest in Scale Planes start?
When I was 12 or 13, I had a friend whose father was into radio controlled planes. I can clearly remember his 1/5 scale P-51 Mustang and his F-16 scale turbine. I was fascinated by the accuracy and the detail. In my 20’s I got side-tracked from aviation for a career in dance music. I eventually got engaged and my fiancee was pressuring me to settle down and stop touring. To take my mind off music festivals I took up flying radio controlled planes.
Of course, I didn’t start with a trainer, I went straight to learning to flying with an aerobatic plane. Before I knew it, I was flying in both scale and aerobatic competitions. These days, I fly nothing under a 1/3 scale; the bigger the better.
How do you incorporate both passions? Do they influence each other?
It’s not uncommon to fly both full-size and scale aeroplanes. In fact, a few times a year I fly at a field owned by the Australian Airforce, which has many RAAF pilots as members. To me, the two sports fit hand in hand. The beauty about flying scale is that if the real plane is too expensive to purchase, you can always build a scale version. Also, when it comes to aerobatics, I can push my 1/3 scale Edge 540 much harder than a real Edge.
Any exciting projects coming up you'd like to tell us about?
I have a love for vintage gliders where I find beauty in the craftsmanship. There’s something humbling about simple wood and fabric holding you up in the air without an engine. My dream is to build a wooden glider from scratch and then fly it around Australia.
I now have the support from The Gliding Federation Of Australia, allowing me to build a vintage sailplane from scratch and register it as “Experimental.” I have recently purchased an original set of Schleicher Ka6-E (1965) plans direct from the Alexander Schleicher factory. For the next 12-18 months I will be in the shed building my dream.