Flying Aces Nationals

14th - 17th July 2010, Geneseo, NY

Part 1

Amazing how quickly two years can pass – it hardly seemed any time at all since my last trip to the USA, but suddenly Virgin Atlantic were sending me emails counting down to the flight. With these also came the usual minor panics involving the finishing touches to new models, last minute repairs and preparation of documentation. This would be my third trip to Geneseo, and I am grateful to my long suffering, and very understanding wife Ros for allowing me to spend so much money travelling across the Atlantic to stand in a field for four days throwing model planes around!

This time I managed to fit 7 models in the box. The Argosy made the trip again, so I was able to leave the expanded polystyrene supports for that in place, but cut the others out and spent an afternoon trying to fit as many other models as I could around it. New planes this time were the Heinkel He 46, peanut scale Gloucestershire Gannet, a Dime Scale Spartan Biplane and the Rapier-powered F-84F you may have seen elsewhere on the site (yes, unbelievably, I finally got it finished!) You will see this year I put two models in the lid. The nests are glued to the plywood box with “No More Nails” adhesive, and the mating halves held in place with cocktail sticks and sections cut from bamboo kebab skewers. For the Gannet supports I found a swipe of glue stick worked wonders in preventing the two halves coming loose during the journey.

I flew into Boston on Monday, and as on the last two trips Clive Gamble was again kind enough to pick me up and take me back to his home. A quick check in the model box revealed that all the models had survived the trip undamaged. I'd like to say a big thank you again to Clive and Sue for their hospitality during my stay, and of course to Clive for all the driving, ferrying me around everywhere.

Tuesday morning came all too soon, with a 7.00 am start to our 400 mile trip east. It sounds a long way, but the roads were clear and there was plenty of modelling conversation to pass the time. The weather was sunny all the way to the field, though we had spotted some threatening clouds lurking around once we got close. Driving down the hill to the now familiar field, it was impossible not to feel a small frisson of excitement and anticipation for the days that lay ahead.

A good crowd was already at the field, some having camped out there the night before, and it was great to meet and greet so many friends again. It may seem strange to call people friends when you have only met most of them twice before, but these relationships forged via countless emails, with just the occasional meeting, are just as important to me as those with friends at home or at work. Maybe what makes it special is that when you do meet modelling friends, you are generally away from the daily grind, and doing something you really, really enjoy!

First job was to get the canopy erected, by which time the skies were beginning to darken and ominous rumblings were heard. The longer the rain came down and the stronger the wind blew, the less sensible our plan of waiting it out under canvas seemed to be. Huge puddles were collecting, the rain was blowing horizontally through the tents and lightning was striking the field not very far away. Eventually the only option seemed to be a sprint to the nearest car (thank you Mike Isermann for the offer of shelter!) The car was only 15 seconds away, but by the time we got there, we might have well have jumped in a swimming pool. I don’t think I can ever remember being out in such a torrential downpour. Thankfully the rain eased eventually, and we emerged to investigate the damage.

As you can see, several of the canopies looked rather the worse for wear, including the FAC control tents, which were wrecked. Not a good omen for the coming week, but as it turned out, the rain did not play a huge part on subsequent days, and things would get better from now on.

We eventually dragged our dripping forms up to the university to check into the accommodation. A change in format this year meant that Wednesday was an official contest day, instead of just being used for trimming as at previous events, so we had an extra night in the dorms, rather than having to splash out on a room at the local motel. OK, so this meant missing out on air conditioning for a night, but on the other hand, you saved some money to spend later with the vendors.

In case you wondered what the university accommodation at Geneseo is like, here is the room I shared with Clive. I think “functional” is the word, but as just a place to sleep, it is more than adequate.

After a quick bite to eat on campus, we headed back to the very soggy field to see if anybody was flying anything. I got out the Fiat G.91 for a few test flights using the 120 mN rated Rapier L2 motors that Clive has been looking after for me. Unfortunately, as these are now 4 years old, they seem to have lost power since my last visit, and couldn’t get the model above head height. Chris Starleaf very kindly gave me some of his similarly rated L2’s, and these worked rather better, though I knew it would be very marginal when it came to posting a 20 second official flight later in the week. The evening finished with a group of us sitting round a wood fire chatting and downing the odd beer as the sun went down.

We had a damp start to Wednesday, with wet grass and 10 mph wind heading towards the soy bean field (a field that will feature more than once in the coming narrative). The revised program of events allowed a range of classes to be flown on either Wednesday or Thursday, including Dime scale, Embryo, No-Cal, and Old Time kit/plan. The sun eventually came out, the field began to dry, and models were soon seen in the air. One scheduled event was the AT-6 mass launch, and I acted as mechanic for Clive, with his rather battered and I have to say recalcitrant Fleet Air Arm example. Sorry to say we didn’t make it past the first round, which rather sealed the fate of the model (but more of that later).

One Wednesday retrieval story is worthy of note. Greg West flew his splendid 30 inch span Brewster Buffalo into the bean field behind the flight line, and as it flew overhead, several of us ran out to the perimeter track and ran in opposite directions so we all got a different line to where we saw it hit the beans and disappear beneath the heavy foliage. Wally Farrell then went out to help find it, and was talked towards the model via mobile phone. After some wandering around (left a bit, back a bit, right a bit etc.) three people at different locations confirmed that Wally was on the correct line. Clive told him it should be somewhere close by – Wally bent down and picked up the model which was right at his feet. How very satisfying!

Judging took place at the Quality Inn, beginning at 3.30 pm and running late into the evening due to the large number of entries in the judged classes. As usual, there was a marvellous selection of models to admire and a very wide range of subjects. As well as looking at the models, there are plenty of traders willing to help you part with your cash, so I of course had to pay Dave Diels a visit and be persuaded to purchase yet another of his kits. I didn’t want to, honest, but it was such a good deal………

Below are a selection of photos of some of the models that caught my eye with some notes on how they faired later during the competition.

Peanuts galore, in all shapes and sizes. You might recognise the blue one on the right. The Jodel D.9 in the centre was built by Tom Nallen II and put in a best flight of 118 seconds to finish second in class.

Tom Hallmans latest peanut was this stunning Mitsubishi 1MF1 which not only won the FAC Peanut class, but also the Walt Mooney award for best peanut at the event. The louvre and shutter detail around the nose was outstanding - worthy of a much larger model.

Chris Starleaf brought along a peanut verson of a more modern Mitsubishi - an MU-2 executive twin. Beautifully finished, the model flew well in calm conditions, but struggled in the windy weather on the day designated for the peanut scale event.

Mike Isermann had built a peanut scale version of his larger FAC scale Boeing 306B. It was apparently much more fiddly to trim than its larger brother but still managed a 54 second flight to finish 5th in class.

Very nice peanut scale Focke-Wulf Ta 154 by by Paul Boyanowski.

Moving to larger models, here is Tom Nallen II's Wight Quadraplane which put in a best flight of 58 seconds - look out for a video later.

Wally Farrell built this fine Miles Falcon from a Dave Rees plan - an excellent flier with a best time of 118 secs (just 2 seconds short of a max).

Dave Niedzielski of Easy Built Models entered this Lockheed Orion, built from his own kit. The red markings are laser cut tissue. You can't argue with its flying ability - best flight was an impressive 102 seconds.

Attractively painted Stinson Reliant, which I think was built by Ara Dedekian.

Vance Gilbert's wonderful Avro 547 Triplane - beautifully detailed and finished, and it flew for over a minute.

This neat Nieuport 11 Bebe was built by Peter Kaiteris - you really need to see the red and green panels under the wings to appreciate how colourful the scheme really is!

I really liked this very cleanly finished Messerschmitt Bf-108 by Paul Boyanowski. It managed a best flight of 57 seconds.

Probably the most ambitious model on show was Tom Arnold's splendid Convair Tradewind flying boat, powered by four rubber powered contra prop units. The model was very new, and unfortunately teething problems prevented a qualifying flight being registered. I hope he gets it sorted, because I would love to see this impressive model flying.

Winner of the Earl Stahl award for most outstanding scale model was this fine Jumbo scale Vickers Wellesley by Tom Nallen II. Best flight was a very impressive 119 seconds and the model finished 3rd in class.

Joshua Finn won the Giant scale class with this remarkable Hughes H4 "Hercules" powered by eight individually wound motors. I have trouble coping with four, so all credit to Josh for winding eight before every flight! Best time was 44 seconds.

Vance Gilbert's new Giant scale entry was this Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" painted in the markings of the aircraft used to transport the Japanese delegation sent to negotiate Japan's surrender at the end of WW2. The nacelles are not particularly long for a rubber twin, but the model has been built very lightly, and a best flight of 51 seconds was achieved.

Chris Starleaf's rebuilt Boeing B-47 dominating the jet scale table. It was a real shame that this gorgeous model didn't get a flight in due to the difficulty of getting all four motors to light, even using electric igniters. At the front you see proof that my Thunderstreak really did get finished at last.

Dan Kane built this beautiful electric powered ducted fan Mig 17 for power scale. Designed by Steve Bage, a kit is planned by Shorty's Basement

Tom Hallman won the Pioneer scale class with this delightful Bleriot 25 - best flight was an impressive 83 seconds.

After an evening meal at the university we returned to the hotel to pick up the models after judging, then drove down to field where a calm and sunny evening awaited us – perfect trimming conditions and another late night round the fire. Before darkness fell, I did a short test flight with the Argosy, which I hadn’t flown for a year. It set off fine, but developed a tightening right turn at the end of the flight. Examination of the right hand outer motor revealed a bunch round the prop hook which looked like it had stopped the prop prematurely. This seemed to explain the turn, so I decided not to fiddle with the trim and put the model back in the box.

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