Flying Aces Nationals

14th - 17th July 2010, Geneseo, NY

Part 2

Thursday really was rather special – one of those perfect flying days that you always hope for, but rarely get. Winds were 5 mph straight down the length of the field, with lulls and plenty of lift around if you could pick it. It was the first day of three that the major scale classes could be flown (e.g. FAC scale, Jumbo scale, Giant scale and Power scale) and everybody knew that the weather forecast for the next two days was not very good with the winds picking up and changing direction. The upshot of this was that after a misty start, as soon as the grass had started to dry off, there was constant activity on the field and always models flying overhead. I split my time between flying and grabbing the video camera to rush out onto the field to film something – it all got rather hectic.

In contrast to last year when it was brand new, all I had to do was wind the Argosy up and launch it, so I made two flights during the morning. The first one was a very pleasing 51 seconds, its best yet. While winding for the second flight I got a bit ambitious while winding the first of the outer engines, and broke the motor. No damage thankfully, but I had to braid, lubricate and install a new motor (I took a chance and only did one, leaving the opposite motor unchanged). Time to wind again, and this time I chickened out at 1300 turns on the outer engines, but increased to 1870 turns on the inner motors. As I was walking out into the field I heard Tom Hallman make some comment about good air, so I lost no time in launching. After a steady initial climb, it got into some lift and got far higher than it ever had before – seeing that portly shape cruising around way up there was a sight I won’t forget in a hurry. It headed out over the cars and into the bean field, but I was able to run along the road and line myself up with the row where it landed, so recovery was easy. The flight was timed at 76 seconds – way above my expectations for this model when I was building it. The rules this year were “best flight of three” rather than “average of three” as used two years ago, so with that flight in the bag, I didn’t make a third attempt.

As mentioned above, I took quite a lot of video on Thursday, so here are a few flights for you to enjoy. Apologies for the heavy breathing occasionally apparent – usually this was a result of running across the field so as not to miss the launch of something I wanted to video!

I'm trying something different with the videos this time - as you will see I have embedded Youtube videos in the page instead of providing links to download them. The advantage for me is that I can upload the videos to Youtube using broadband instead of via dial-up to the server used by the hosting company - this is much faster and cheaper for me, so consequently I can include more videos than usual.

Here is Chris Starleaf winding his 50 inch span D.H.C. Dash 8 for the excellent flight you can see below.

Tom Nallen II was flying his Wight Quadraplane which made a splendid sight in the air

Tom Hallman was not too happy with the trim of his Giant scale Junkers J.1 when he launched for this flight (the turn is rather tight) but you can't argue with a 2 minute max.

Here is Vance Gilbert's splendid Avro 547 Triplane.

This is Greg West flying his Comet designed Blackburn Shark - the same model I have started. Flights like this should really be all the inspiration I need to get on and finish it!

If you were wondering how Wally Farrell's yellow Miles Falcon photographed on the previous page flew, here you go.....

Rich Weber was flying his new self designed Yak BB-22 twin - a very attractive free flight subject that to my knowledge has never been modelled before. After a great 86 second flight, the model was originally classified 2nd in FAC scale, but after the contest a mistake was discovered in the bonus score, which moved the Yak up to first place, just ahead of Tom Hallman's Dornier Do X.

How about this for a labour intensive camouflage scheme? Dave Mitchell was trimming this beautifully finished Aviatik D.1 intending to try and qualify it for the WW1 mass launch. With a best flight of 37 seconds he didn't quite make it. I would certainly have had reservations about entering such an immaculate model in a mass launch event, so maybe it was for the best!

As the afternoon wore on, the heat (high 80’s) and humidity began to take effect, and more and more people were content to sit under the canopies and watch the action. I had a frustrating time trying to trim my new Spartan Biplane Dimer, which really didn’t want to play, and my Peanut Gannet picked up its bad habits and also stopped behaving. Oh well, such are the joys and frustrations of free flight….

It was an early evening meal at the university – usually we get one posh meal when the prospective students and their parents are visting, and tonight was the night. The contrast between the bright young things at one end of the restaurant and the tired looking gentlemen in Flying Aces T-shirts at the other was most amusing.

Back on the field, after the official flying had ended, a long evening of perfect trimming weather beckoned for those that had any energy left. The “SLOW” race for pioneer models could not have wished for better conditions – the aim being to “cross the English Channel” as slowly as possible without landing in the drink, or veering off course. As you can imagine, it is quite a challenge to get a slow flying model to fly dead straight. The winner was John Houck with an Eastbourne Monoplane. Dave Mitchell employed a cunning strategy of ditching in the Channel every flight to finish second.

As we gathered round the fire again and darkness fell, it became something of an evening for sacrificial offerings, started off by Chris Starleaf giving a Viking funeral to his electric Fokker 100, which after a long and successful career had suffered a crunched fuselage earlier in the day. Others seemed to be inspired by this, and three more models went the same way during the evening. You remember that misbehaving AT-6 of Clive’s I mentioned earlier? Enough said (I did make him save the canopy). We didn’t drag ourselves back to the dorms until 11.00 pm.

The weather forecast for Friday was for early rain, and this duly arrived. We headed down to the field at 8 am anyway, and sheltered under the canopies waiting for it to stop. The rain didn’t drag on too long though, and once the sun came out the ground didn’t take long to dry. Winds were around 10 mph, unfortunately heading towards the bean fields. Amongst the events that had to be flown were the WW1 and WW2 qualifying rounds, the Greve and Thomson Trophy mass launches and peanut scale. I have to confess I didn’t fly a thing all day, but timed and stooged for people, and acted as Clive’s mechanic in the Greve mass launch. Clive had been retrimming his self-designed Keith Ryder Bumblebee the day before and had got it going pretty well – below you can see one of the trim flights.

The model continued to fly well through the first two rounds, and we found ourselves in the final. There are usually 6 models in the final round, which adds a nice bit of tension, as there are plaques given out only for the top five finishers. So as long as you are not the first model down, you get to take one home. I’m pleased to say we did better than that and by the time the Bumblebee landed there were only 2 other racers still in the air and Clive took third place behind John Kramer's Chester Goon and Chris Starleaf's Firecracker.

After the evening meal, back at the field, the wind had dropped, as it always seems to do at Geneseo, and Vance was persuaded to bring out his Skroback Roadable for a test flight or two. I’m using the term flight fairly loosely here, as most of us were sceptical that this ridiculous looking beast (being introduced to a stunned audience by Vance above) would even achieve a powered glide. This really is a scale model by the way, and not the product of a collision between a dirigible and six Lacey M.10s. Anyway, for whatever reason Vance got smitten and spent the six weeks running up to the Nats building frantically to get it ready in time.

You can view one of the test hops here – see what you think. General consensus was that the beast might actually fly after all with a bigger prop and an even bigger fatter motor, and I for one hope Vance doesn’t give up on the Skroback just yet.

Some more conventional aircraft were making the most of the fine conditions - here is Greg West's 30 inch span Brewster Buffalo.

Here Vance's venerable Mosquito sets off on an evening sortie - watch out for it passing the moon.

The final day of the competition on Saturday was hot and sunny from the off, and the wind was forecast to increase during the day. It must have been about 10 mph early morning, blowing straight towards the bean field. The jet flyers, amongst others, were keen to get some qualifiers in as soon as official flying started at 8.30 am. I made 6 or 7 flights with the Fiat G.91 using the motors that Chris Starleaf had kindly given me, but failed to get the required 20 second qualifying standard. After waiting for the power to build up before launching, a burn time of only 18 seconds doesn’t give a model that climbs to only 10 feet much of a chance. I registered a string of 18 and 19 second flights which was very frustrating.

Marty Richey proved to be my saviour, as he had a few old 130 and 140Mn rated L2 motors he generously gave me. The 130 motors were just the job – that extra 10 mN made all the difference, and the model climbed out much more impressively. Best flight was 31 seconds which proved good enough for 4th place in class. I had less success with the new F-84F, which was woefully underpowered with the 120 mN motors. At the time I was trimming it I didn’t know about Marty’s slightly higher rated motors, and after fitting a crude downthrust tab in the trough, I risked an L2 HP motor. Bad move! It got away alright, but as the power built up, the turn tightened and tightened before the inevitable crash and separation of the wing. It came away cleanly, but unfortunately I got a tissue tear right across the painstakingly applied Getti Tonanti nose lettering. I decided to let repairs wait till I got home.

Around lunchtime we had the traditional “silent flight” in memory of those modellers no longer with us. A model was tied to a group of helium balloons and allowed to drift off towards the university. A new idea this year was to attach a letter to the model, explaining the ceremony, and inviting whoever finds the model to contact FAC to tell them how far the plane had travelled on its final flight - a nice touch I think.

After lunch I put up some official flights with the He 46, which was coping with the wind surprisingly well. No way were the times competitive (best was only 42 seconds) but at least I got into the results table.

Clive had qualified for both the WW1 and WW2 mass launches and I enjoyed acting as mechanic for both. His Sopwith Camel went out in the first round of WW1, but we had much better luck with his Hellcat in WW2. This was held in the afternoon, and the wind was becoming increasingly gusty. The attrition rate was high – Chris Starleaf had his tailplane broken by the wind and some perfectly trimmed models were being blown into the ground straight after launch. The result was that we ended up only having three rounds instead of four to leave us with six fliers for the final round. As Clive was winding, a strand of his four strand motor broke, and the loose end started unravelling. I was ordered to hold the middle of the motor to stop it unwinding completely, and as he kept winding I tried to feed some of the winds into the back half of the motor. The rules do not allow broken motors to be retied, so this was our only option. The motor in the model next to us went with a bang, which left just five on the flightline. As Clive prepared to launch, you could hear the motor frantically unravelling inside the model, but when released it got away surprisingly well, and in fact was not first one down, but the second, after a very reasonable (if bumpy) flight. So a 4th place finish, helped by a bit of luck and a four strand motor - if Clive had had a single loop in there, we would have been out.

A postscript to the WW2 mass launch was the long, hot search for Wally Farrell’s winning Kharkov model, which had flown a long way into the dreaded Soy beans. Because the event was being flown to the 15% motor weight rule, Wally would only get the Kanone for winning the event if the model could be retrieved and the motor taken to the official tent to be checked and weighed. A laborious search was undertaken which ended with Wally, Clive and myself tracking up and down each row of the field within the estimated flight path (continually checking a line back to the launch position) with one person in each row. The foliage was so dense that you could have walked past the model in the neighbouring row and not seen it. Wally had said that he didn’t mind if we trod on the model and squashed it, we just had to get the motor! After an hour and a half in the baking sun, with scratched knees and very dusty feet, Clive calmly looked down and said in a very understated fashion “oh, here it is”, then picked up the model. Wally’s huge grin and ecstatic reaction, jumping up and down, whooping and hollering, made it all worthwhile!

We were not the only ones out in the beans that day – many stories of vanished models and unexpected retrievals and would be told that evening at the banquet.

After a hot and tiring day, there was time for a shower back at the dorms, and then into ones smartest clothes ready for the banquet and prize giving back at the hotel. The food and company were excellent, just as last time, and Vance entertained us with a song. For those who might want to find out about what Mr Gilbert does for a day job, I recommend paying a visit to his web site and listening to a few tracks.

As usual, and not surprisingly given the number of plaques that were given out (200 or so, plus various special awards) , it was another late night. I was thrilled to find that after all the scores had been added up I had won the Jumbo scale class with the Argosy - my first ever FAC Kanone. By the end of the long evening I was rather torn between a desire for sleep, and a wish to savour every last moment of the event, knowing it was just about over for this year.

Breakfast the next morning provided a final chance to swap stories and reflect on the past four days, before we reluctantly went our separate ways. As on previous years, I came away with renewed enthusiasm and inspired with plenty of ideas for new projects, and the trip back to Boston gave Clive and myself plenty of time to chat about what we fancied building next.

I seem to enjoy these trips more every time - winning a class was great of course, but what really makes the event special are the people, the camaradarie and a chance to fly with some of the best stick and tissue scale modellers in the world. For four whole days you can have the unique experience of talking about model aeroplanes to other human beings without their eyes glazing over. I can thoroughly recommend it!

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