About The Film

Imagine traveling halfway across the world, descending over 400 feet underground in a tiny elevator, and spending nearly a week in the vast, cathedral-like salt mines under Romania to compete in the most elite model airplane contest on the planet. Officially known as the “F1D World Championships”, pilots representing over 12 countries attempt to keep their plane flying as long as possible. After devoting years of time into construction and practice for no material reward, glory becomes their primary incentive. Like any competition, cheating and controversy are an integral part of the sport. Float follows the tumultuous journey of Brett Sanborn and Yuan Kang Lee, two American competitors as they prepare for and compete at the World Championships.  

float film poster

Brett Sanborn is the young gun; a 30 year old outlier where most competitors are well over 60. Nevertheless, he is primed to sweep the event and become World Champion. Brett is ambitious, good looking, and will do whatever it takes to win. He’s found an escape in the sport, channelling his former anger and short temper into positive energy and serves as the obvious frontrunner.

Yuan Kang Lee, who goes by Kang, is the newcomer to the team. What typically takes many decades to master, Kang has achieved in a year. His zen-like approach and previous experience as a competitive golfer makes him a worthy contender. His calm demeanor and philosophical approach to life, competition, and pushing the limits of what’s possible provide fascinating insight into the mind of a champion. In an unlikely turn of events and despite the immense doubt he faces from his own teammates, Kang becomes an unlikely hero, beating everyone and taking first in the competition.

Our entire modern aviation industry exists because of the model airplane; it was the impetus of manned flight. The practice of modeling began with Alphonse Penaud, an eccentric Frenchman who invented the rubber band powered airplane in 1871. Believing that his work was in vain, he ultimately committed suicide but his groundbreaking design became a guiding influence for the Wright brothers.

Over the next century, the model airplane continued to evolve alongside it’s full sized counterparts. Different classes of model aircraft emerged. Born in 1961, the F1D became the most elite class. It weighs as little as a dollar bill and flies unaided for over 40 minutes powered by a wound rubber band. From advanced construction methods, to high tech materials, each plane is a triumphant display of engineering.

Competitors spend countless hours anxiously hunched over workbenches, delicately assembling sophisticated components of the plane to achieve minimum weight. Float highlights the precise process of how these planes are built and the science that explains how they fly. It’s a game of microns and milligrams as they slice paper thin sheets of balsa wood and delicately glue the gossamer airplanes together. Devoted as the they are, the community is dying. As the number of participants drops, it becomes uncertain if this sport will endure in our increasingly digital world.