We were back at Walsall again this year, in the Wolverhampton University Sports Hall, which met with the approval of everybody I spoke to.
A record number of entries in kit scale (37 were expected) meant that fitting all the flights into one day was going to be a challenge – in fact even with an
8.00am start on the Sunday, it was decided to drop kit scale round 4 to ensure we could run to time. At the pilots briefing it was stressed that
flyers had to be ready to make their flights when it was their turn, and helped by a spreadsheet projected onto the wall of the hall, it was easy
to see when it was time to prepare and fly. Everybody seemed to be paying attention, and things ran really smoothly. So much so that we were able
to have a few unscheduled trimming sessions between rounds, which was really valuable.
It made a change to be properly prepared for the Indoor Nats this year, as I had the Fox Moth unchanged from last year, and both my new models,
the Shark and Ripon, had flown successfully two weeks before at the Peterborough pre-Nats trimming session. Regulars to the site will know that
the Shark has been a long term project, meant for outdoor flying, but as the Fox Moth had gone so well last year, I wondered if the Shark could be
made to fly indoors. Thus I entered it in the kit scale class – a first time for me.
As usual, I'm not going to summarise any class rules as they can all be found painstakingly detailed in the latest BMFA
rule book here. You'll need to scroll down to page 83 to reach indoor scale.
Entries were slightly down this year in the open rubber class - just 11 entries were put in for static judging, compared to 14 last year. This is rather disappointing,
and seems to indicate that kit scale is not really acting as a feeder class for open rubber. I still maintain that many of the kit scale entries would place quite highly
in the open class,
as they fly so well. The hurdle would seem to be just getting sufficient documentation together to meet the more stringent judging requirements of the open classes.
I think all you need really is a change of approach - just plan ahead before you start cutting balsa and make sure you choose a subject and colour scheme where photos
exist to prove
to the judges that all the markings on the model are where they are on the real aircraft. The downside, of course, is that such documentation for more obscure subjects simply
doesn't exist, so many often interesting and attractive aircraft can never be entered in an open class without taking a big points hit on the static judging.
Anyway - returning to this year's entries - Of the 11, only two models failed to make a qualifying flight, so the same as last year.
Below you can see the fourth and best flight of the Fox Moth this year. The three previous flights had been marred by turbulence just prior to landing which caused a
less than smooth approach to the floor. I saw this happen with other models too, and I'm not sure if it was just the model passing through its own wake, or some other cause.
Odd that it only ever seemed to happen once during the flight. For the final flight I put more winds on (950) so the wobble happened higher up,
giving the model time to recover before landing. The flight score was not quite as good as last year, but still good enough to win the class again. To be honest,
I was surprised more people hadn't tried to go the "larger but light" route since last year - I'm sure there will be more competition with lightly loaded models next time!
Huge thanks to Monique Lyons for all the videos featured here.
Chris Strachan had a new open rubber model this year - a very neatly finished D.H.80 Puss Moth. Flew nicely too as you can see below.
What about this for an ambitious colour scheme? Monique Lyons's Pitts Special was really spectacular - I can't imagine how much masking tape was used on this one
(the underside also features a red and white chequered pattern!) The model was based on the Herr Engineering kit. I'd seen this flying at the Peterborough trimming
session, and it was flying safe left hand circuits. However, this weekend it kept wanting to go right, and suffered some serious damage hitting the walls.
Monique manged to get it patched up though, and was rewarded with an excellent third flight, enough to get fourth place in the class.
Richard Moore brought along this great looking Fokker DR.1 which I gather was a race to finish in time for the event.
Sadly he didn't manage to get a qualifying flight in, but hopefully we'll see it again next year.
Above you can see Richard Crossley's highest scoring flight with the Lockheed Vega, which finished third in class.
Here you can see Peter Smart's fifth place RE8 in action.
I have to say peanut scale Laceys don't do a lot for me, but enlarged to this size I can appreciate its bulky charm -
it's basically a big box of air with wings. Andy Sephton was the builder and you can see how slowly it flies below.
Pete Fardell is never one to shy away from a challenging subject, and they don't come more challenging for free flight than this Caudron type F.
With not a trace of dihedral and a very short fuselage to pack the rubber in, getting the required 15 seconds was always going to be difficult. Pete
got very close on Saturday evening (maybe 14.5 seconds?) but on Sunday, sadly, the model was just not cooperating.
Laurie Kirby brought this beautifully finished Ryan STA along to enter in the open rubber class, but ran out of trimming time so sadly never got any competition flights in.
There were only 7 entries in the Electric/CO2 class this year, two less than 2016, which is slightly worrying, though at least one regular
competitor had a good excuse as he'd only just come out of hospital and was confined to barracks!
Last year Peter Smart's Lancaster suffered from a lack of power and failed to get off the ground properly to register a qualifying flight. So, for
this year he had installed two new more powerful motors to just the inner nacelles. This really did the trick, and the model did four excellent flights
well over the required 15 seconds. Flight 1 is shown below. Peter finished in second place behind Richard Crossley.
Kevin Wallace brought along a new model, this well-detailed Bowers Fly Baby for electric power (all hardware available from SAMS Models of course).
After three failures (one of which was only inches from success - the wall arrived just a little too soon), Kevin pulled it out of the
bag with the third flight, which was a real beauty, and good enough for third in class.
It is worth mentioning that the results in this class for the placings behind the winner were incredibly close - there were just 6 points between second and fourth place.
Richard Crossley's Piper Tri-Pacer, normally such a reliable performer, refused to take off in rounds 1 and 2,
but was back to normal after a battery change before rounds 3 and 4. Flight 3 is shown above - shame the wall arrived just a little too quickly to prevent a landing.
Flight 4 landed safely though, and combined with an excellent static score, was good enough to win the class.
Graham Banham's Cessna C-37 continues to be a very smooth and reliable flyer as you can see above - Graham missed out on third place by just 1.5 points!
The Kit Scale class continies to increase in popularity - last year we had 30 entries, this time no less than 37, of which 32 were put
in for static judging, and 30 made qualifying flights. As a first time entrant, the difference I noticed compared to Open Rubber was that there is rather more pressure to get
consistent flights in Kit Scale. Due to there only being three rounds this year, you had to get two good flights out of three to get a decent score. In open Rubber, you only need
one good flight out of Four. So, a consistent flying model is a definite advantage.
Monique Lyon's class-winning Fokker D.VII from the Herr Engineering kit is certainly that - all three flights were very similar, using most of the hall
and exhibiting a very realistic flight pattern.
This is the second, and best, flight of the Shark - shame about the slight power stall after take-off (easily cured with a bit of downthrust) and also the wobble
to the left shortly before landing. I would love to know what was causing this - is it really just wake turbulence? Anyhow, I was very pleased to come second in class,
especially with a model I'd originally planned to fly outdoors.
Mike Langford took third place with this very neat D.H.Leopard Moth from an Easy Built Models kit. A very smooth flyer as you can see below.
Ralph Sparrow finished fourth with his fine flying Keil Kraft Auster Arrow
Andy Blackburn placed fifth with his well-finished Andreasson BA-4B from the Peck Polymers kit - proof that you can be competitive in this class with a Peanut
scale model (plus you can also enter your model in the peanut class)
Chris Strachan put in some very nice flights with his CO2 powered Piper J3 Cub from the old Hacker kit (see above) finishing 6th in class.
If you are a junior, then building an all-sheet printed kit is not a bad idea, as these models are relatively simple to build and can fly unexpectedly well. This Cessna 182 was
constructed from the Veron kit by James Darby, who according to dad Andrew, really enjoyed his first trip to the Nationals. See flight video below.
Great to see not one, but two new juniors competing this year - Richard Crossley's son James was also at the Nats for the first time. He built this Piper Vagabond from the
Thomas Designs plan and entered both kit scale and peanut. Sorry for slightly fuzzy photo. James's second flight in kit scale is shown below.
I've thought for a while that the Comet 25" Coast Guard Waco would make a good Kit Scale subject, so was pleased to see Chris Blanch had built one for this year's contest.
The kit plan calls out light blue for the colour, which Comet seemed to do whenever they kitted a silver aircraft (my Shark plan said the same). Chris didn't have any
light blue tissue so was forced to airbrush the colour, no doubt taking a hit on the static points. It flew really well, getting the third best flight score.
As well as the Veron Cessna shown above, a second printed all-sheet model was flown in the class - this one an Auster Autocar from the Hales Frogflite range
built by Tony Rushby. I'm
pretty sure this was one of the Yeoman Quickbuild range before it became a Frogflite kit.
Dan Mellor brought along this new CO2 powered Andreasson BA-4B from the Robbe kit (a kit I confess didn't know existed until I saw Dan's)
Alasdair Deas also had a new model this year - a Roscoe Turner Meteor racer from the Easy Built kit
Simon Rogers really pushed the large and light model concept to the limit with this 48" span Comet Curtiss Robin. Maximum permitted all-up weight is 200 grams
and Simon's model came in at 180. the model only just missed out on a qualifying flight - I'm 100% confident it can be made to circle in this size of
sports hall as it flies so slowly. The model was brand new and unflown before the event and Simon simply ran out of trimming time. I really hope we get to see it next year.
You can find a review of the Easy Built Models Waco Model N kit elsewhere on the site, so I was delighted to see that John Holman had built one for Kit Scale this year.
It took off nicely from its tricycle undercarriage and flew well.
I enjoyed this flight by Dave Crompton's Piper Family Cruiser which overflew the pits area before landing safely in the hall.
Peanut scale was strongly supported again this year, with 19 entries recording flights - the same as last year.
I was very pleased with how my new Blackburn Ripon flew first time out - my best flight was 36 seconds from a take-off, giving 46 seconds with the ROG bonus.
I also got a 33 second flight, and combined with coming third in static, this was good enough for 2nd in class - my highest ever placing in peanut.
Still a long way off Mike Hadland's score though - his Jungmann finished 1st in static and 2nd in flying - a remarkable achievement. The rest of us seem to be
either stronger in static or flying, whereas Mike is always very strong in both. Below is one of my Ripon flights - the power runs out while the model is very high up, so
I may try going down a bit in rubber cross section (currently one loop of 0.100")
John Bowerman took third place with this well detailed Druine Turbulent. I especially liked the exposed engine and crisp markings.
I always look forwards to seeing what new model John Valiant has built for the event - this year it was a Focke-Wulf 190D finished in an amazingly complex
camouflage scheme - all done freehand with a brush. Model is constructed from foam.
Peter Smart's new peanut model this year was a Staaken Z-21 Flitzer homebuilt. Love the spoked wheels.
Chris Strachan's Beardmore Wee Bee 1 got easily the best flight times of any peanut with a two flight total of 179 seconds. Behind you
can see the Nesmith Cougar of Nick Peppiatt which finished fourth in class.
Chris Blanch brought along this colourful pair of Bowers Flybabys - one pistachio, one peanut scale. Perhaps unexpectedly, the pistachio one proved to be the better flier!
The smaller model got the longer flight duration and finished 3rd in class.
Pistachio entries continue to increase, with 10 people making scoring flights this year - two more than 2016.
Three entries are shown above - at the front is Tim Horne's new Waco SRE, behind which is Bryan Stichbury's Andreasson BA-4B
and at the back Nick Peppiatt's BAT Baboon.
Chris Chapman made this Messerschmitt Bf 109E which could pass for a well-finished plastic model if it wasn't for the non-scale prop.
A really impressive paint job and the model was rewarded with the best scale score in the class.
Probably the largest scale pistachio it's possible to build, and one that brought a smile to my face, was this Stits Baby Bird by John Holman.
The full size plane had a span of just 6ft 3 in, making a pistachio model 1:9.4 scale! The model did fly, just not for very long
and John told me he is planning to build another one but lighter.
Above is a video showing 10 minutes of action from one of the peanut and pistachio sessions (thanks again to Monique Lyons!) To help you navigate through it, here are some of the models featured
(peanut scale unless noted):
0:0 Bristol Scout (Ralph Sparrow)
0:23 Pistachio Bowers Fly Baby (Chris Blanch)
1:03 Nesmith Cougar (Vibes Masters)
1:47 Blackburn Ripon (Mike Stuart)
2:33 Fike Model E (John Holman)
3:39 FW 190D (John Valiant)
3:52 Bucker Jungman (Mike Hadland)
4:48 Druine Turbulent (John Bowerman)
5:38 Waco SRE (Peter Boys)
5:48 Westland Wyvern (Gary Flack)
6:52 Pistachio BAT Baboon (Nick Peppiatt)
8:05 Waterman Gosling (Alasdair Deas)
8:54 Pistachio Bede BD-4 (David Prior)
9:27 Pistachio Lacey M.10 (Andy Sephton)
We were down to just six entrants for scale glider this year - again no static judging was involved.
Peter Smart has cracked the winning formula by
building an extremely lightweight model (only 6 grams), covering only the upper sides of the flying surfaces and not doping the tissue. The resulting light wing loading
means the model tows up very slowly using a winch (and is easy to control), and then flies a slow and graceful circuit of the hall (provided you release the model from the line
at the correct point). The model was the same one that won last year, a Slingsby T.1 Falcon, so please excuse the recycled photo.
Bryan Lever came second with an all-foam Kirby Prefect - again light weight being the key to getting the best flight duration and Peter
Fardell came third with his Lilienthal glider, seen in action below.
For those who haven't witnessed the mayhem of the air race before, the video below should give a taste. The winning team is the one who flies the most laps
of the balloons in 10 minutes. This year everybody was flying in the same direction - this is not compulsary and sadly reduces the risk of a head-on mid-air
collision! Still, there was plenty of entertainmemt with a balloon burst, prop/string tangling and the odd model retiring hurt.
Finally, special thanks to the organisers Graham Banham and John Minchell for another well run event - I know they were worried by the sheer amount of
models that had been entered, but as it turned out everything ran very smoothly, and we never got behind schedule. The large kit scale entry has provoked
some discussion in the forums about what its purpose really is. A beginners feeder class for open rubber, or something in its own right? I personally think we should
celebrate the success of the class in a hobby where it is often hard to persuade people to enter competitions. The limited documentation you need means there
is very little obstacle to entry, so people are happy to turn up and give it a go. From what I hear, most people who enter are happy to compete against the open class regulars
in a class where the rules work in favour of those who build exactly to plan with a coloured tissue finish. Possibly the only restriction I'd
suggest is that the winning model one year cannot be entered the next (maybe even the top three?) Most people can build a new kit model in 12 months.