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Heavy Lift Challenge


The AMA is pleased to announce the return of our latest authorized STE(A)M program for the spring of 2024, the Heavy-Lift Challenge! This mission-oriented challenge developed by Jim Tiller is designed to push your piloting skill, engineering acumen, and critical thinking to the next level. No travel or contact with other teams is required; your team will compete by submitting video and text entries for the judges to review.

The competition costs $199.99 per team, which includes entry and access to the AMA’s virtual ground school training module. (Price reduced by a generous contribution by the AMA Foundation!)

As always, the AMA Education team is happy to answer your questions at [email protected]


  • What exactly IS the challenge?
    • Working as a team of 2-4, your challenge is to engineer a payload carrying/delivery mechanism capable of carrying the greatest volume of water possible aboard a Horizon Hobby AeroScout 1.1M model aircraft.
    • The aircraft electronics and power system must remain in stock configuration, but certain modifications will be permitted, provided safety regulations are met.
    • As part of a simulated firefighting mission, the aircraft must be piloted through unassisted takeoff, crosswind and downwind flying, approach, and landing.
    • Submissions will be scored based on adherence to safety as well as the weight of the aircraft and payload.
  • When is the competition held?
    • Registration for the challenge is open through April 1, 2024, and teams are encouraged to begin meeting as early as possible on a schedule based around their convenience over the course of the Spring 2024 academic semester.
    • Submissions will be due on May 31, 2024, and evaluated by AMA officials over the course of the early summer weeks.
  • What can we expect to learn from this challenge?
    • This challenge will teach students the fundamentals of flight, aviation safety, and meteorology.
    • Students will learn and apply knowledge of aerodynamic principles, weight and balance, atmospherics, wind, humidity, the importance of safety inspections and the safe handling of hazardous materials, among other essential course work included as part of the mandatory AMA Ground School’s training module.
  • What is the cost to participate?
    • Registration will cost $199.99 per team.
    • Registration costs include access to AMA Ground School curriculum. The purchase of the required AeroScout model is not included.
  • Where are the competitions held?
    • Wherever the team would like to hold them! The submissions are based around both video and text clearly demonstrating that the specifics of the challenge have been met.
    • The opportunity to score additional points through including bonus information in the submissions will also be available.
  • What age range can participate?
    • Teams will consist of 2 to 4 members in grades 6 through 12. All members must have an active AMA membership in order to register for the challenge.
    • Each team is also required to have an adult mentor (who will not count towards the team’s membership number) and are strongly encouraged to partner with an experienced AMA club or member in their area.
    • If an adult mentor is sponsoring multiple teams of competitors, each team registered after the first will receive a 50% discount off the second registration fee.
AFS Age Group