Flying Aces Nationals

16th - 19th July 2014, Geneseo, NY

Part 1

Due to the Aerocar inconsiderately flying away the previous summer, I really had my work cut out this time getting a new FAC scale model finished in addition to the King Air for jumbo scale. There was also my new Blackburn Ripon pseudo-Dimer to get finished as well. As expected, it went down to the wire, with last details being added the day before the flight. Needless to say all three models made the trip completely untested - not even a test glide between them.

With two large twins in the box, there wasn't much room for anything else. The Dimer fitted under the King Air rear fuselage, and I simply wrapped the peanut Turbulent loosely in bubblewrap and dropped it in the top of the box.

The flight over went very smoothly, but unfortunately I had to queue for over an hour at immigration this time, following which I was asked to put my model box through the X-ray machine - the first time I've had to do this. I'd loved to have seen the picture - the only piece of wire in the box was the undercarriage on the Ripon, so I think the rest of the box would have shown up as just empty space. Anyway, eventually I made it through to where Clive was patiently waiting in the arrivals hall.

After stopping for a bite to eat and a beer (at about 4am UK time!) it was time to open the model box back at Clive's house and inspect the contents for damage. Happily, everything looked fine.

Tuesday morning dawned fine and sunny, and after a leisurely breakfast we set off at 10am for the 400 mile drive west with a very packed car.

We ran into a few showers on the way, but the weather was fine, if a little breezy, as the "field of dreams" came into view. This is always an exciting moment for me, anticipating the four days of model flying to come. Driving down the track to the field, seeing which crops have been planted round the field is always interesting - it's usually easy to see which direction you don't want your model to fly in. This time there were cereal crops ready for harvesting, some low potato plants, and more worryingly, dense areas of sweetcorn. The corn was so closely planted that it looked impossible to squeeze between the stems, so that was certainly the crop to avoid this year. Plenty of people had already arrived by the time we got there at 4.30 pm, and it was good to catch up with old friends again, and admire their new models. Wind direction looked like it would be fairly constant this year, roughly parallel to the runway, so canopies were erected at the corner of the field nearest the hanger. Although the weather was flyable, it was a bit breezy for trimming, so my models stayed in the box. The honour of first model lost in the corn unfortunately went to Paul Morris, whose Ducted fan conversion of the Dumas Mig 17 put in a superb flight, defying the wind direction and ending up in the middle of the inpenetrable corn.

Eventually we retired to the Village Inn in town for a bite to eat and a few beers, sitting outside as the sun went down. Back at the university dorms, it was time to get the books and magazines out and consume a few more beers amongst the model talk. It was the coolest I can remember in the rooms this year even on the second floor, and we didn't bother unloading the fan, which has been our lifesaver on previous trips.


After a good night's sleep, it was up early for a 7am breakfast, and down to the field, where we were greeted by unexpectedly light winds until about 11 am. I decided to leave trimming of the King Air and Beriev until after the static judging, so as not to damage them, and concentrated on the Blackburn Ripon.

Originally I used a loop of 3/16" rubber, and got it flying after adding some noseweight, but the rubber tended to bunch at the rear peg, and caused stalling on the glide. So, I swapped for a braided double loop of 3/32". This cured the stalling, but I felt the model was a bit overpowered, so changed to a loop of 3/32 and a loop of 1/16", also braided, and this seemed better. The final touches were a touch of right thrust, and a gurney tab under the left wing trailing edge. So, a good start - one down, two to go.

Static judging at the Quality Inn started at around 12 noon - so a bit earlier than usual. The judges have a mammoth job working their way through the large collection of models to be entered in the judged FAC classes - these comprise peanut scale, FAC scale, jumbo scale, giant scale and pioneer scale.

One change this year was to allow models for many other classes to be "compliance checked" in the back room ahead of their events, to avoid people getting disqualified on the field in the mass launch events for falling foul of the rules. Two years ago, several WW1 ships were disqualified for things like lack of tail rigging, lack of tail struts and only having 2D armament. This time, builders would have the chance to put things right beforehand and allow the events to be run more smoothly. The dime scale class is another example where the model has to be checked against the kit plan - I came a cropper in 2012 for the lack of tail rigging on my Stearman 76.

I know I probably say this every year, but the the standard of models seems to get better every Nats - the masterpieces on display would have graced any scale model event anywhere in the world. Here are some of my favourites from this year's new models:

This 27" span Supermarine Seafire was Tom Hallmans's new FAC scale entry, which he also flew in the D-Day commemerative mass launch. Tom's method of finishing is to paint his tissue and add all the panel line before applying to the model, all done with remarkable neatness. This model won the Earl van Gorder award for the best WW2 model, as well as the D-Day event and finished 4th in FAC scale - impressive for a 10 bonus point model.

Beautiful Lockheed Constellation by Pres Bruning - for those brave enough to do a low wing type with four motors, 45 bonus points are on offer! I see Pres used four props all going the same way round, like I did on my Argosy, and judging by the flight I saw, this didn't give any problems at all.

George Bredehoft brought along this unusual Waco MGC-8 - the version powered by the in-line Menasco engine. It may not be as aesthetically pleasing as the more usual radial engined version, but you can certainly get a longer rubber motor in there.

Bernard Dion does love doing off-beat subjects - how about this Grumman Tracker? He could have done the Tracer without the radome, but that would have far too boring! As far as bonus points go, this one counts as a biplane twin. Well, the radome must contribute some lift, mustn't it?

Fine Breda 88 by Wally Farrell, built from Chris Starleaf's plan. Model came second in FAC scale

Nice choice of subject by Tom Arnold - the Fairey Firefy T.2 trainer. I presume those large flaps act as useful trimming aids (as long as they don't move after every landing!)

I really liked this P-47 by Andrew Ricci - those hand-painted checkerboard markings were a real labour of love. The model is built from the Diels 1/24 scale kit.

One of the most detailed models on display was Mike Isermann's stunning P-51 Mustang, based on the Golden Age Reproductions kit. The photo doesn't do the model justice I'm afraid.

As well as his Seafire, Tom Hallman had another new and beautifully finished FAC scale model with him - this Fairchild PT-26. I loved the Norwegian Air Force colour scheme. It's perhaps worth mentioning here that you are allowed to enter two models in a class, but only the highest place one is counted in the results. This model won the low wing military trainer event after posting 3 two minute maxes!

I've always had a soft spot for the Caudron Simoun, so really liked this well finished example by Luc Martin.

Very attractive Sopwith Dove by F.S.Gilbert.

Peter Kaiteris designed and built this Focke-Wulf 190 for the D-day commememorative mass launch as well as FAC scale - I think he was the only German in the mass launch. The entire finish is done with ink jet printed tissue.

Here are the FAC scale judges hard at work - Rich Weber, Andrew Ricci and Doug Beardsworth (nearest the camera) give George Bredehoft's Caudron C.460 the once-over.

A new pioneer scale model from Tom Hallman was this Bleriot 26, a design which never got built in full size form. Tom's miniature version was a fine flyer, finishing second in class.

Neat peanut scale Pellet Goodyear racer by Paul Boyanowski

This very challenging model subject is the proposed Boeing 391 Flying Flapjack and was built by Mike isermann as a peanut scale entry this year. He got a 15 second flight out of it before damaging the nose, and decided to do leave further flights until he could find some nice long grass.

Spare a thought for Enrique Maltz, who made an epic trip over from Israel and his suitcase and one box of models went missing somewhere between Switzerland and the USA. This left Enrique without clothes, and more importantly, missing a complete peanut model, components for several other aircraft and no prop assemblies for any of them.

This is his stunning peanut scale Farman Carte Postale, minus prop of course, at the Wednesday afternoon judging.

Happily, after many, many phone calls the missing case and box arrived, shipped to Geneseo from the airport, and the lost components could be reunited with their aircraft in time for Enrique to get some official flights in. I'm very pleased to say that he won the coveted Walt Mooney award for best peanut scale model with the Farman.

This was all of Enrique's Comet Stinson SR-7 that we got to see on Wednesday - the workmanship was amazing.

Vance Gilbert had a brand new and rather wonderful Giant scale model this year in the form of a Nene Viking. The very fat fuselage lead to Vance describing flying it as like "launching a duffle bag". There is a video later showing how well this monster flew - best flight was 83 seconds, and it won the class.

Another tubby new model from Vance was this rather charmming jumbo scale Dietrich Gobiet. It even maxed out on one flight.

Dwarfing even the Viking, at least in terms of wingspan, was Bernard Dion's fantastic Rutan Voyager. The wings curved upwards in flight just like the real one.

As well as my FAC scale example, there was another Beriev BE-12 on the judging tables - this one a jumbo scale entry by Pat Murray. It turned out to be a much better flyer than mine, coming fifth in class and putting in a best time of 68 seconds.

Enormous giant scale Martyn Westwind homebuilt by Tom Nallen 2, with all the primitive charm of the original meticulously reproduced. Apparently the undercarriage on the full size aircraft was simply mounted on a couple of two by fours! The model flew extremely slowly and realistically.

This jumbo scale Bestetti Nardi BN.1 was by Wally Farrell, built from Mark Fineman's plan, and won the prestigious Earl Stahl award this year.

Ted Allebone entered this superbly finished Rumpler C.IV in the power scale class.

Another nice power scale entry was this electric ducted fan North American F-86 Sabre Dog by Tom Arnold.

Marty Ritchey brought along two models to enter in power scale - this is his very nicely finished Douglas XB-42 Mixmaster...

and this is his Republic F-84F Thunderstreak, which is an EDF conversion of my Rapier powered design, the plan of which can be found elsewhere on this site. I was thrilled that it flew so well - with the timer set to 2 minutes, the model became a distant speck circling overhead.

I don't think I've photographed any jet catapult models on my previous visits, so here is a table full of them. You get a lot of fun for the relatively few hours it takes to build one of these and they can fly really well once you have the knack, though it's a lot harder than it looks getting the launch to glide transition perfect. Rich Weber won the class with his orange Bell Aircomet with a series of flights around 30 seconds.

As the judging drew to a close, we grabbed a bite to eat and then headed back to the field. It was still pretty breezy, but this didn't stop a crew launching a hot air balloon from the field.

The wind persisted until about an hour before the sun went down, when it suddenly stopped - almost as if somebody had flicked a switch. Needless to say this was the signal for a flurry of activity with many models taking to the air.

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