Flying Aces Nationals

17th - 19th July 2008, Geneseo, NY

Part 2

The contest proper got underway on Thursday. Over the next three days no less than 40 classes would be flown, comprising 12 mass launches, 21 scale events and 7 classes for vintage non-scale models.

With the weather looking good, it was down to breakfast at 7 o'clock, then straight down to the field pausing only to pick up plenty of bottled water and ice from the local service station. With the weather the way it was, they had run out of ice by Saturday!

Another storm blew through not long after we got to the field, but again we only experienced the fringes of it, and afterwards the wind dropped off to virtually nothing. First major event of the day flown in these perfect conditions, was WW1 combat, and I had volunteered for mechanic duties with Clive and his Camel. This mass launch event was held in four rounds, with the first groups of planes down in each round being eliminated. We got comfortably through the first two rounds, leaving us in the top ten. Then unfortunately, a rubber bunch on the prop hook meant the Camel did not climb out with its usual gusto in round three, and we were one of the first planes down. So, a bit unlucky, but that is the way it goes in these combat events. I think the Camel certainly had the potential to get into the top five.

Here we see Andrew Ricci launching his twin rubber Arado 440 (thanks to Peter Kaiteris for the photo). FAC scale flights could be made on any of the three days this time, with the average of three flights being taken as the flight score. This system rewards consistency, and helps to reduce the impact of one particularly long thermal assisted flight, so I think it is a good idea. It would be a bit gutting if your model flew away after just one flight though.

Vance Gilbert put up his twin rubber D.H.Flamingo for a nice wandering flight, which you can see here (file size 5.8 MB)

Vance had not entered his twin rubber D.H.Mosquito in the competition, but flew it several times during the week for fun. It is an excellent performer - thanks to Peter Kaiteris for the photo.

I gave the Argosy a few tentative test glides which looked pretty good, with just a small blob of noseweight needed up front. With a few winds it looked hopeful, and after a couple of 20 second flights, some more turns were added and a first official flight of 34 seconds was registered. Considering I had only finished it the day before I flew out, I was very happy with this.

Click here for a video of Tom Hallman's jumbo scale Henderson-Glenny Gadfly (above) in action.

Here is a great photo from Peter Kaiteris showing Tom launching his marvellous new Giant Scale Junkers J.1.

Tom Nallen put in this excellent flight with his Westland Perodactyl Mk.V (file size 4.8 MB).

The calm evening weather tempted Chris Starleaf to give his mult-Rapier powered Boeing B-47 a test flight. He loaded four L2 motors and with the help of his well drilled motor lighting team got all four running before launching for a spectacular flight. The model made a great sight as it flew overhead, as you can see here.

Unfortunately Chris was very unlucky with the nose-up attitude of the model when the motors cut, and it unfortunately stalled and performed a vertical dive into the ground, suffering serious damage.

Friday dawned disappointingly windy, 15 to 20 mph apparently, which was a shame as it was the scheduled day for the Rapier jet scale class, Dime scale and FAC peanut, all of which would have been rather easier had the wind speed been a bit lower. General concensus was that a flight over 70 seconds was likely to land you in the dreaded potato field. Thus not many FAC scale flights were made as most people waited for the expected better weather on Saturday.

There was plenty of Rapier smoke in the sky during the day, with many excellent times being recorded. The class was much better supported than two years ago, and many more models were putting in good flights. I wish I had been able to video Bernard Dion’s great winning flight with his Belphagor biplane crop duster, not just for the flight itself, during which the model got higher than it had ever got before, but for the reaction of Bernard running along underneath it waving his arms, and the whooping and cheering from the escadrille Harfang contingent. To say they are an enthusiastic bunch would be a major understatement!

I do have a video here though of an excellent flight by Steve Price with his Mig I-270 (file size 3.9 MB).

After 3 abortive flights with the XB-51, two spiralling in, and one where only one motor lit (I really hate that!) I straightened the glide enough to get two solid qualifying flights in, at 28 and 32 seconds. The Fiat G.91 managed just a modest 22 seconds, but at least got over the 20 second qualifying barrier.

Paul Morris had made the trip over from Canada to join in with the jet fun, and put in lots of entertaining flights. I particularly enjoyed his BAC Lightning and F117 – have a look at this flight of the Stealth fighter with a Rapier L3 on board (file size 2.9 MB).

Chris Starleaf had, against all the odds, rebuilt his B-47 to have an attempt at a qualifying flight. He decided to put 6 motors in it (death or glory!) and the result was a very spectacular high powered loop into the ground. The model looked to be a write-off, but Chris intends to rebuild it with a new wing, which is great news, as it has so much potential, and is a real show-stopper.

Of the two peanut models I brought over, only the Laird Speedwing Junior managed a qualifying flight (32 seconds) though it got rather bumped about by the wind. At least it survived unscathed.

Amongst the mass launches scheduled were WW2, with had the biggest entry of the meeting (50+), and was run this year with a new rule limiting motor weight to 15% of the weight of the model before the motor is installed. The idea is to limit performance to make the retrieves quicker and less exhausting, especially for the older competitors. We also had the French design event, run by the irrepressible Bernard Dion. This by all accounts was an absolute hoot, with entrants being encouraged to speak in outrageous French accents, and wear silly hats. I really must build a model to join in next time.

After an evening meal back at the campus, it was back to the field, where the wind had fallen right away, and we had a couple of hours fun flying in the calm conditions before darkness fell. I got the Focke Wulf dialled in nicely, circling left and climbing well.

Rich Weber continued to do trimming flights with the Gunbus, including the one here (file size 2.9 MB). As you can see, the model is a slow and realistic flyer, and is already showing a lot of potential. One problem Rich found was that with the propeller being right in the centre of the model, thrust adjustments seem to have very little influence. Concensus by the end of the meeting was than the fin was probably a little undersize, hence the model falling away to one side or the other towards the end of a flight.

I could not resist including a movie here (file size 2.9 MB) of Greg West’s Debruyere mark III, one of history's few biplane canard pusher aircraft. It is French (of course) and wonderfully eccentric. Amazingly it flies really well, not something the full size one ever did!

Not far from us, a group of flyers was noticed having far too hilarious a time than should be legally allowed. It transpires that this was a special re-running of the “Pinch Cup” event, only open to models that had been built 30 years ago or more, and they had to use the old black and brown rubber – no Tan allowed. I am a bit vague as to the exact rules (as were most of the flyers apparently) but the format was mass launch – first plane to win 5 rounds I think. There seemed to be plenty of collisions (some deliberate?) and more than the odd case of illegal repairing, but much fun was had by all.

There was no chance of an early night after darkness had forced us back to the dorms, as out came the beer again, and we took over another room chatting until gone 1 am.

Saturday dawned all too soon, and with it the realisation that this was the last chance to get those remaining flights in for Jumbo, Giant and FAC scale classes. The forecast had been for better weather on Saturday, and so it proved, with lovely calm conditions up till lunch, and even afterwards nowhere near as windy as the day before.

I put in three quick qualifying flights with the FW 190, just to get it in the magazine - the best time was 40 seconds. It gets nice and high, just doesn’t glide at all.

I suffered a few motor breaks with the Argosy, but managed a 40 second flight before lunch, which you can see here (file size 4.8 MB). The initial steep climb out and stall was rather worrying from where I was standing, but it recovered well and set off for a decent flight. I then struggled to get the third flight in due to several more broken motors, and by the time I finally managed a 29 second qualifying flight after lunch, I was very hot, slightly stressed and completely worn out. The fleeting thought passed through my mind that maybe, just maybe, it IS possible to have too much of a good thing!

At 1 pm there was the traditional “missing man” ceremony, to toast the passing of fellow modellers since the last Nats. This had an added poignancy this year due to the recent death of Lin Reichel, the long standing commander in chief of the Flying Aces Club.

The last event of the competition was the “Flying Horde” – so fly anything you like, last one down wins. Needless to say, the winner ended up in the potatoes.

Official flying finished at 4 pm, then it was time to pack up and head back to the dorms for a brief rest and a shower before the banquet and prizegiving at the Quality Inn.

The event for this the 30th anniversary event was memorable this year for several reasons. For a start all competitors were presented with a commemorative enamel pin, and as well as this an extra raffle was held based on contestant entry numbers. I would estimate not far off half the people ended up with a kit. At the end of the raffle it was announced that all the models given away had belonged to Lin Reichel’s collection, which was a wonderful gesture by the family.

After the meal (which was particularly good this year) the guest speaker for the evening was announced. This was the lone remaining black Polish airman from WW1, Rutherford Lincoln Washington 3rd.

To say he was a fascinating and amusing character would be an understatement, regaling us with outlandish stories of old aeroplanes and daring-do. I was just sorry Vance Gilbert missed out on hearing him, as he left the table a few minutes before Rutherford appeared, and did not come back until a few minutes afterwards.

Thinking about it, that was a bit of an odd coincidence......

Anyway, then it was on with the epic prizegiving. With 40 classes and plaques given down to 5th place, I will let you do the maths! Suffice to say despite the excellent organisation it was a rather late night. I was happy to come home with a 2nd place award for the XB-51 in the Rapier Scale class – a nice souvenir for the model room wall.

After a last night in the dorms, and a rather subdued breakfast, it was time to say goodbye to old and new friends and head back east to Boston. During the trip back there was plenty of time to reflect on the events of the previous week and talk about future projects and plans.

To finish with Some final thoughts on the meeting.

Compared to last time, I spent more time flying my models and less time watching the events and videoing the action. It would have been nice to get a few more of the outstanding models captured on tape, but it is impossible to do everything. You also have to pace yourself in that heat and humidity, or you would not survive the four days! There were some marvellous examples of the scale free-flighter’s art on display, and the generally fine weather this year meant that they could really show off their flying capabilities. Unlike 2006, there was no excuse for keeping any models in their boxes. I think the rule change to allow FAC scale flights to be made on any of the three days was a very good one.

On balance I think I enjoyed myself more than in 2006, probably due to the fact that I was saying hello to familiar faces this time rather than meeting people for the first time (though there was some of that as well of course). Rather like a free flight meeting in the UK, you just pick up where you left off last time, and are soon deep in conversation. I said it last time and I will say it again, you would be hard pushed to find a more friendly and welcoming bunch than those who pursue this splendid hobby of ours, and that is just as valid in the USA as it is here in the UK. I definitely hope to be back in 2010.

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