Flying Aces Nationals

14th - 16th July 2016, Geneseo, NY

Part 2


The first day of official competition turned out to be quite windy, but flyable, with a maximum of around 15 mph and the odd thermal blowing through. Everybody I spoke to was leaving the flights of their judged models until the Saturday, which had by far the best weather forecast. The organisers also took the decision to make the flights best of three, rather than average of three for these classes, on the basis that Saturday was likely to be a very busy day.

Mass launches scheduled for Thursday were WW1 peanut, low wing military trainer and peanut Goodyear racers.

Other classes included simplified scale and old time rubber fuselage, both total of three flight events that Clive had models for, so I timed for him during the day.

The Comet designed Vega Unitwin is a perfect simplified scale entry - it's very light, as are the rest of the old Comet 25" wingspan models, and the shortage of scale documentation is no problem in this class. Things were looking good after a 115 second first flight, but then the model nosed in after 31 seconds on the second flight smashing the nose and most of the first fuselage bay. Clive managed to rebuild it well enough to attempt a third flight and was rewarded with a 120 second max. When the results were added up, that proved good enough for second place, behind Matt King's Piper Clipper.

In old time cabin, Clive entered the Hydravion floatplane, and on the third flight it caught a real boomer and disappeared skywards in the direction of the university. I lost sight of it after it had passed the two minute mark. Clive had a reasonable line on it, so he and Tom Hallman jumped in a car and headed off to try and find it.

It took some searching, but eventually they found it sitting on the other side of the main road on a small patch of clear ground near the university dumpsters. Quite a stroke of luck for it to land on one of the only open spaces in the vicinity. Third place in class was Clive's reward.

Thursday evening was the occasion of this year's on-field barbeque, which saved a trip into town. Afterwards there was an informal gathering by the tents passing old Flying Aces and other assorted model magazines around, which passed the time nicely until the wind dropped dramatically at about 7.45 pm, so a perfect time to do some more trimming. I gave the Seamew a go only to discover it had somehow lost its right turn, and I was lucky not to lose it in a tree as it headed over the tents. Only a lazy last minute turn brought it back towards the field. More rudder resulted in a right hand spiral, which I tried to correct with another Gurney strip under the right wing. This helped, but it went dark before I could fully sort it out.

This seems to be a good spot to include a few of Clive's marvelous evening in-flight photos.

This great picture is of Doug beardsworth's Spitfire Mk.1, based on Doug McHard's 1/24 scale plan featured in the "Flying Scale Models of WW2" book. The accurate colours and subtle weathering really makes this shot I think - I especially like the staining behind the gun ports.

This is another of Doug's models - a Lockeed Altair converted from the Easybuilt Models Lockheed Orion kit.

Paul Morris had several of his electric ducted fan jets with him including this F-100 Super Sabre based on the Diels Engineering plan. Hats off to Paul because it's a great flyer - my attempts to get the Skyleada F-100 flying with Rapier power were a disaster.

I love this shot of Paul launching his Hawker Hunter, built from the Aerographics kit, for a memorable long flight which used most of the field.

Doug Beardsworth's 54" span Comet Aeronca was a delight to see in the air - a very slow and majestic flyer. The cabin doors even opened as detailed on the plan.

Here is Tom Hallman launching his peanut scale Martinsyde S.1, which won the WW1 peanut event with a 78 second flight.

One of the encouraging things about this years event was the number of enthusiastic youngsters who had entered. Oliver Sand deserves a special mention for his self designed and constructed Mig DIS (his first rubber twin) which placed an amazing 4th in FAC Scale. Sorry it's not the brightest of photos but it was nearly dark when it was taken.

Back at the dorms, it was time to gather in the common room and talk models over a few beers until fatigue took over around midnight.


We managed to oversleep somehow but weren't too worried as the weather forecast had been pretty depressing with strong winds predicted all day. When we got down to the field things were much better than expected, and it was actually quite flyable. I continued to try and sort out the Seamew by adding yet another Gurney strip below the right wing which definitely improved things.

While walking out with my King Air for a trimming flight, I watched Vance Gilbert give his Giant scale Vikers Nene Viking a test flight which defied the prevailing wind direction and headed into the corn field on the other side of the access road. Now I know the corn was about 6 feet tall, but the Viking is an enormous model, surely a retrieve would be easy? Especially as a couple of people had a reasonable line on it. In fact it took over an hour of searching and walking the rows in threes before it was eventually found. It was worth the effort though, as the model went on to finish 2nd in class with a best time of 99 seconds.

I thought I might as well try and get an official flight in with the Seamew so put on 1500 turns and launched poorly, resulting in an inelegant flop to the ground. I hand wound about 100 turns on and tried again. This time the model climbed out strongly to the right and hit some good air. It was a real treat to see it circling high in the sky drifting along the flightline. Eventually it dropped out of the lift and came down for a time of 121 seconds - my first ever Geneseo max.

Soon afterwards the wind blew up and so this was the last flight I made until evening. The day's designated events had to go on, however, wind or no wind. These included Dime Scale, No Cal and Embryo.

The popular WW1 combat event was held over three rounds while the weather was still reasonable, and plenty of models got away to make good flights. Don DeLoach won with a Bristol Scout.

The Greve race held at 1pm was another matter though. The wind was now blowing strongly towards the university and a minute flight took you well into the bean field. However, 23 brave souls decided to give it a go, including the 2014 winner Doug Beardsworth with his beautifully finished Dave Rees designed Mr Smoothie. I'd been Doug's mechanic in 2014, so I was quick to volunteer again. Things didn't go so well this year though - as soon as we'd heard "3, 2, 1, launch" there was carnage, with models, including Dougs, piling in everywhere. In fact 9 models were down within 20 seconds, and remember the timers start their watches before the fliers launch. Doug's Mr Smoothie suffered a badly smashed wing, but should fly again. Several models which put up long times could not be retrieved before the second round, so missed out. In fact so few models were available for the next round that the event was cut down to just two rounds. Winner was Richard Zapf with a Goon.

Modern Military was scheduled for later that afternoon, but in light of the ever-increasing wind speed, it was postponed to Saturday morning.

An indication of how windy it got during the afternoon was a canopy spotted tumbling across the field, which I thought was most amusing until Clive's canopy then promptly collapsed, together with several others along the flightline. The only way to save further damage was to remove the cover and just leave the frame, which didn't allow much in the way of sun protection, as demonstrated below.

The Blur race was held in the evening, by which time the wind had begun to calm down a bit. As the event is flown downwind, a breeze is no bad thing, and just adds to the excitement. A series of rounds are flown along a measured course with three models in each round. The first plane across the line gets 2 points, second and third get 1 point, but you have to cross the line (in the air!) to score. Highest total score wins. To win this event you need a heavy model with a forward centre of gravity, a motor peg up near the wing and a short, powerful motor to give the required power burst (any flight once you have crossed the line is superfluous). It's certainly a fun event to watch. Tom Hallman won the event with a new purpose-built Mr. Smoothie.

Remarkably the wind dropped completely about 30 minutes before it went dark giving a last chance to do some pre-Saturday trimming.

With an prompt start looming the following day an early night would have been the sensible option, but of course that didn't happen, and it was another late one in the common room at the university. Freshly stocked coolers just kept arriving.....


This was a great day for the spectator as there were models in the air all day. The weather was as good as predicted, starting at about 2mph wind, going up to a maximum of 7 mph by the afternoon. We got down to the field by 7.30 am to be in good time for the official start of 8.00 am.

Oh dear, that bald patch is getting bigger.... I found I had to add yet another gurney strip under the right wing of the King Air to stop it losing height in the turn, then decided to get a flight in the bag, even though there wasn't yet any lift about. I should say thank you again to Paul Morris at this point for helping me with my twin winding - I've not got room for a stooge in my box, so I do rely on the help of my friends.

I was pleased to record a 58 second flight - the best the model had done. I then had two flights to try and beat it.

Modern military was scheduled for 9.00 am after its postponement from Friday, so With the Seamew entered I was ready for my first experience of a mass launch. Sad to say I messed up the launch in the first round, failing to angle the right wing downwards, and the model stalled helplessly to earth after just a few seconds. This was especially annoying as a time of just 36 seconds would have got me into round 2! The second round was the final one and it turned into a desperately close run thing with Don deLoach's Bearcat edging out Tom Hallman's Pulqui by just one second.

After this disappointment I decided to get an official flight with the Cessna 310. I managed to launch into some reasonable air for a 55 second flight, so not a bad one to get on the board.

WW2 Combat was next, which is by far the most popular mass launch event - 41 entrants took part this time, naturally requiring 41 mechanics. The winding area was a busy place! Only three rounds were held, which meant nearly 30 people went out in round one. The sight of 40 WW2 models taking to the sky simultaneously was very impressive. You needed close to a minute to progress to round 2, and 80 seconds to get through to the last eight. Wally Farrell won with a fantastic 146 second flight with his Heinkel He 100D.

I had a bit of a torrid time with the King Air during the day, as I broke a motor, then replaced it with one I thought was the same length, based on the broken bits retrieved from the model. Turns out there must have been a considerable section missing as it broke well short of the winds I had put on the previous one. Memo to self - make a note of the length of motor you are using in case this happens again. Anyway, at the third attempt I got two motors of the same length installed. My final flight was 57 seconds, with the model annoyingly flying into two different thermals but out the other side of them.

Tom Hallman put in a notable flight with his Jumbo scale Mig DIS which got picked up by such a strong thermal that it caused the model to loop. Clive took this remarkable shot of the model coming over the top of the loop. Afterwards the model recovered its poise, went on to do a max and win the class.

A great shot of Mark Fineman's giant scale Fournier RF-4 - I love the way the structure is revealed through the tissue (all flying shots courtesy of Clive Gamble).

Here is Vance Gilbert launching his Fokker Universal floatplane.

This is Dave Mitchell's beautiful rubber scale Aero A.10. Great detailing evident - those cowl louvres are especially nice.

The Fiction Flyer event is also a judged class, but had to be flown on Saturday. Here you can see Tom Hallman's X-13 Racer with the pilot, Smilin' Jack peering back at the camera. Looks like Tom thought he needed a touch more fin area! Jack Moses won the class with a Booth Ranger.

I ended the session with a couple of flights with the Cessna 310 trying to beat 55 seconds. Flight two was a disappointing 47 seconds, but after winding on as much as I dared for the last flight (1500 turns) I managed to launch into reasonable air for a flight of 64 seconds. To do any more I think I'll need longer motors. Considering I hadn't even test glided it before sticking it in the model box, I was very pleased with that.

Final event of the contest was the Stout 2-AT mass launch, held over three rounds. It's a fine flying model, and it was a splendid sight in round one as a group of them circled ever higher. Six of the models did over 2 minutes. Dave Mitchell won the event with times of 227, 135 and 127 seconds over the three rounds.

Flying finished at 4pm, rather than 5pm on the other two days, to give Dave Mitchell and his hard-working team time to collect and process all the scores before the prizegiving. So - back to the university for a shower and a change into the only smartish shirt and pair of trousers I'd brought with me.

The banquet this year was held in the university ballroom rather than the usual hotel, which is a decent sized hall, and I know I was not the only one pondering the possibility of some unofficial indoor flying in the future! The catering was first class, and the atmosphere excellent.

In previous years, wooden plaques were given out for the first five places in each event, and they make nice souvenirs to take home. In 2014 I missed out and went home empty handed, so I was pleased to see that this year every entrant got a commemorative plaque in with their welcome pack. The first five places in each event now got self-adhesive engraved labels to stick to their plaque. I think this is an excellent idea, as successful entrants now no longer have to take home a pile of plaques, only a few of which are likely to be displayed.

I hadn't been keeping track of scores, so was surprised and very pleased to find out I'd got fifth place in Jumbo scale with the King Air.

Last year Tom Hallman ended the evening with a huge stack of plaques on the table. This year he had a huge pile of stickers instead, but the result was the same and he was crowned grand champion again. It takes considerable stamina and a lot of organisation and planning to enter as many classes as Tom does, so I take my hat off to him.

On Sunday morning a group of us gathered for the now traditional huge breakfast at the Omega Grille before going our separate ways, but not before heading back down to the field to make a few final flights. The weather was still good, so it seemed a shame not to make the most of the opportunity.

As usual there were plenty to things to ponder in the afterglow of the event on the drive back to Boston. I was pleased with how all my three models had flown - the Seamew finished 7th out of the 27 models that had recorded flights in FAC scale, which is great for a 5 bonus point design. The Cessna finished close behind, and in fact would have finished 7th if I hadn't entered the Seamew. Still, three models isn't really enough for a three day contest. I think the answer would be to throw in a couple of models that come completely to pieces - maybe an Embryo and half Wakefield, that would take up no room in the box. Plus a peanut or two (my Waco C.7 didn't quite get finished in time).

So another hugely enjoyable trip came to an end. Thanks to everyone for making me so welcome again, especially my chauffeur for the week, Clive. The weather could have been better, but Saturday made up for it, as did the wonderful calm evenings. Overall it was a great week spent with like-minded friends and a chance to avoid the depressing TV headlines and forget about the daily routine.

One last comment - I was looking forwards to getting a bit of relief from the hot weather when I got back to the UK, only to find we were having a heat wave and that Tuesday when I landed was set to be the hottest day of the year!

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