So, the first day of competition dawned hot with a light breeze running along the length of the field, away from the corn and towards the
beans at the far end. With windier weather forecast for the next two days, everybody was trying to get their flights in for the
statically judged classes where you are allowed to make your flights on any of the three days. With so many models in the air
I'm sure I missed many fine flights, and I hardly got any videos, but the ones I did manage are linked below.
We were using the average of three flights this year
rather than best of three, so definitely not a good idea to lose your model on the first flight.
Three different Peanut scale classes were run this time, with a different one flying each day. Today's was high wing peanut, with FAC Peanut
set for Friday, so my two
models stayed in the box until the next day.
Mass launches scheduled for Thursday were WW1 peanut, low wing military trainer and Thompson Trophy (radial engined golden age racers) - all flown in close to perfect conditions.
It's interesting occasionally to look at what model subjects are successful in these mass launch events - in WW1 for example, the Fokker D.VII is a favourite choice,
but this time Tom Nallen II won with his Dorand AR.1, an obscure subject but with great proportions for free flight. Wally FarrelL was second with a Bristol Scout and third
Matt King with an SE5.
In Thompson, Cessna racers dominated, Wally Farrell winning with a CR2 and CR3's placing second and fourth, with a Mr Mulligan in third. Above you can see Wally launching his CR2.
Modern Military was flown as a total of three flights event this year, so my main mission for the day was to put in six flights with the Seamew -
three for FAC scale and three for Mod Mil. I did the FAC scale flights first, and completely failed to find any lift, getting three flights around the 50 second mark.
Then the model completely lost its trim with a very steep right turn developing, despite nothing on the model being changed,
resulting in one of those dreaded 21 second official flights (below 20 is an attempt and you can have it again). It's a fun contrast to BMFA scale events judged by flight realism
when you are delighted to get 21 seconds, beause that registers as an official flight.
To get my nice gentle turn back I had to add even more gurney strips under the right wing and a tip weight on the left wing.
The next official flight was 66 seconds, followed by a 107 second flight,
but of course the three flight total had already been ruined by the first one.
Here is a video of Doug Beardsworth launching his Giant Scale Mitsubishi KI-46 Dinah for a beautiful 90 second flight.
Doug finished 2nd in class behind Vance Gilbert's equally impressive Nene Viking, which you can see in action below (sorry I lost the model
temporarily when it inconsiderably flew across the sun).
Above is Tom Nallen's rubber powered Beardmore WB 26. The original aircraft was a one-off prototype constructed
in 1925, designed by WS Shackleton and built for Latvian military trials.
Following this excellent flight the model flew away OOS - a bittersweet moment for Tom as he has been flying this model for 20 years.
Young Oliver Sand finished second in FAC scale with this Mig DIS- best flight was 112 seconds.
Tom Hallman finished third behind Oliver with his Hodek HK-101. Model has great proportions for a rubber twin.
Great flying shot of Doug Beardsworth's Grumman Widgeon which finished sixth in FAC Scale -
from this view the motor sticks are completely invisible and without them the duration would have
been nothing like the 51 seconds actually achieved.
the Jimmie Allen class was also being flown today and Clive had brought along his Monsoon Clipper twin - probably
the most obscure Jimmie Allen model, and certainly the least modelled -
I've never seen one built before. As you can see it's a most interesting scale-ish twin engined flying boat. It was never going to be
competitive with the Skokies and Blue Flash racers, but finished a creditable eighth in class with a best flight of 80 seconds.
After the on-field barbeque in the evening most people stayed on the field to take advantage of the perfect calm conditions. I gave the Cheyenne another go
with a 1/16" kicker strip added to each motor to give it bit more grunt. Climb out now looked more positive but I cracked a couple of wing spars after
a heavy landing following a tightly banked left turn. After adjusting the rudder trim tab I then got a straight flight
ending unsurprisingly in a mushy stall. All in all, it was not looking too hopeful!
To end a less than perfect session I managed to fly my Achilles into the corn when a breeze unexpectedly blew up after a period of flat calm. I was not the only victim
of this drift - John Ernst did exactly the same with his Greg Thomas Vagabond. Neither of us managed to retrieve our models despite several trips into the closely packed
crop. It was very claustrophobic in there, and I came out covered in yellow pollen every time. In the end I gave up. I would have been quite happy to lose
the model on an official flight, but to lose it on a trim flight was really annoying!
To everybody's delight, Vance Gilbert made a flight with his new Martin MB.1 Mailplane, which looked fantastic cruising around in the evening light.
Hard to pick a favourite from all the wonderful models at the event, but if I had to choose one it would be Dave Mitchell's Armstrong Whitworh Argosy airliner.
the detailing and finish was was fantastic and the model was well deserving of the coveted Earl Stahl Award. Below is an evening trim flight - sorry I missed the landing
but my camera decided to go out of focus.
We got down to the field early as once the wind got up it was forecast 10 - 15 mph. The mission today was to get three flights
in with each of my peanut models. First two flights with the Waco were 49 and 42 seconds. I then upped the motor from a loop of 110 thou rubber to a loop of 1/8",
an incresase of 10 thou, to help get the model up and away quicker. After a test flight of 46 seconds, I went for my final official flight
and got another of those dreaded 21 second flights after the rubber bound up on the hook. This obviously wrecked my three flight average.
The Northrup Special handled the wind well, (somewhat to my surprise) and flew consistently, though I failed (again) to find any lift and posted
times of 40, 51 and 49 seconds. Hey - I'm just happy it flies - it's the first time I've designed one of these Goodyear racers.
The WW2 mass launch was held in the morning when wind speed was managable, and there were a bumper 33 entries.
Only three rounds were flown, so 12 contestants were dropped after the first round, and 13 after the second. Looking at the results,
you would have had to do a 45 second flight to get into round 2, and a 73 second flight would have been good enough to qualify for the final.
Oliver Sand won with a Hellcat, Paul Boyanowski came second with a Wildcat and Tom Hallman third with a Caudron C.714. Both first and second
place models flew over two minutes.
By the time the Greve race (for golden age racers with in-line engines) was held at 1pm, the wind had really got up, and there was plenty of lift around, so even with an ideal wind direction along
the field, several models were lost either in the beans, or even over the trees behind them. I acted as Doug Beardsworth's mechanic as I have done at the last two Nats -
he had repaired his Mr Smoothie after the damage of 2016. Sadly his motor broke while winding for flight one at only 50% winds - he suspects a dodgy batch of rubber
as it had happened before earlier in the contest.
Richard Zapf won again with his Chester Goon, Tom Hallman came second with a Haines Racer and Dave Mitchell took third with a Howard Pete (very creditable as this plane has a fixed landing gear).
The top three all broke two minutes and had long retrieves.
The final mass launch of the day was the peanut Goodyear Racer event at 4pm, which I was quite excited about because I had my Northrup Special
to enter. Due to the wind speed increasing even more, it was decided to just hold one round - last one down to win. Sadly, I never got to launch my model as I broke the motor
about 200 winds below what I had used earlier in the day. Lesson learned- ALWAYS put in a new motor before a mass launch event!
Winner was Paul Boyanowski flying a Wilson Baby Cyclone with
a very creditable time of 74 seconds. Here is Paul (complete with trademark cigar) launching the model for a test flight.
After popping into town for an excellent Mexican meal with some of the Candian gang, Clive and I drove back to the field in case the wind dropped, but unusually it didn't so we were
forced to sit around and chat until it went dark.
The forecast for Saturday was 15 to 20 mph winds gusting to 30 mph, though there was a flyable slot between 8.00 and 8.30 am before the wind picked up. After that it was only for the brave,
although in the last hour before the competition closed conditions improved slightly. The WW1 Peanut mass launch was held at 9.00. Predictably it was carnage with tiny aircraft models
and parts thereof being tumbled down the field like leaf litter. The winner was Mark Houck with a Fokker D.VIII -
his winning final round time was 18 seconds and remember the timers start their stopwatches several seconds before the models are launched.
The other mass launch unfortunate enough to be scheduled for Saturday was for aircraft used by the U.S.Air Mail service. This was a special event to commemorate the 100th anniversary
of the Air Mail Service in the USA.
Enrique Maltz had made the long trip from Israel again and happily all his models arrived with him safely this time. Here he is launching his U.S.Air Mail D.H.4 on a test flight (though
not on Saturday).
Here is Peter Kaiteris's Ryan M-1 in action on the Saturday on its way to 3rd place in the mass launch.
the new Hi-Start scale glider class was run as a total of three flights event and the models generally coped well with the wind.
Dave Niedzielski won with a Slingsby Prefect (now kitted by Easy Built Models), his three best flights all over a minute.
Probably my favourite glider was this Russian flying tank (the A40 Kryla Tanka) by Rick Pendzick - what a mad concept!
Here is Doug Beardsworth's Baby Albatross gliding free of the towline.
Finally here is Dave Mitchell's Abbott-Baynes SCUD going up on the bungee. I love the way the profile pilot is looking down at the photographer.
After the official end of competition at 4pm it was time to pack up and try to fit everything back in the car before heading back to the university
for a shower before the closing banquet and prizegiving, held again on the University campus.
It was an excellent evening with good food and company. As in 2016, all entrants had received a commemorative plaque with their welcome pack
on Wednesday, so it was just the engraved labels for places one to five that were handed out at
the prizegiving. I have no idea how scale grand champ Tom Hallman will fit all his onto one plaque! To make things even slicker than last time, all the
labels were pre-sorted into plastic bags before the presentations, so the top five placed flyers in each class just stood as their names were called,
rather than walking out to the front. At the end of the evening, you just went to collect your bag containing your labels.
I felt rather sorry for my sad little empty bag - let's hope I can do a bit better in 2020.
The flying might have been over, but it was good to spend a bit more time with some of the gang the following morning at the usual grille in town for a hearty breakfast before saying our goodbyes
and setting off back to Boston.
As usual, plenty to ponder on the trip back - it would definitely help to compete with ready trimmed models rather than bringing a
brand new one out - common sense really, but I keep doing it. Also, a couple more non-scale models would give me more classes to enter, and they break
down to pack well in the model box. So - I'll be building a new Achilles, a half size Wakefield and probably an Embryo Endurance model as well.
At least both my peanut models flew OK, as did the Seamew. I'd actually already started a new fighter for the WW2 mass launch, but didn't get it finished, so
hopefully that will be a proven flyer in two years time and will make the trip. I'm undecided if I want to try to build another new twin for next
time as the Cheyenne was such a disappointment - it's rather put me off. I won't give up on it quite yet though, but will have another go at sorting the trim.
As always it was great to spend nearly a week with some of the finest and friendliest free flight scale modellers out there - I am always made to feel
very welcome and this year was no exception. The weather wasn't perfect, but we had a great Thursday, and several calm evenings.
Thanks as usual to Clive for chauffeuring duties and generally looking after me. I certainly hope I can make it again in 2020.
My flight home on Monday evening didn't quite go as planned as my plane had engine problems. It was due to depart at 10.00 pm, but
they tried to repair it until about 5 am, when they finally cancelled the flight. So, it was a case of collecting the case and model box and then being shipped out to a hotel about 45 minutes drive from the city. Nearly 24 hours later we tried again, and this time got home safely.
On the plus side, the compensation paid by Virgin virtually covered the cost of the flight, so at least that was something.
One final postscript - when I opened my model box at home, it was obvious that somebody had opened it and had a rummage round, before replacing things roughly in place.
Both wings had been broken off the
Nothrup Special, a fuselage I'd build at Clive's on Monday had suffered crush injuries, the Seamew had some wing damage and the fin of the Cheyenne had been cracked
as the fuselage had been replaced at an incorrect angle. I'd have been more annoyed if the damage had been done on the flight out, but it was still very disappointing.
Still, it's the first time this has happened on my US trips, so I guess I've been lucky so far. I heard afterwards that Enrique Maltz had also had his models damaged
in transit back to Israel, so sadly this does not seem to be an isolated incident.