The first day of competition flying began with damp conditions underfoot, but a light wind blowing along the field, towards the hangars and away
from any of the corn crops - good news, and the conditions stayed like this all day until we got rain at 5.00 pm.
The judged scale classes, such as FAC scale, jumbo scale and peanut scale could be flown on any of the three days, but other events are held on specific days.
Thursday's events included simplified scale (a new class this year), Aeronca Chief one design contest and mass launches for Thompson Trophy,
Low wing military trainer and WW1 combat.
First event of the day was WW1 combat, and it was nice to see this run in ideal conditions. The rules for the mass launches had been tightened up this year with
a pilot's check list being used to ensure the models fulfilled certain scale criteria. The check was done after the first round on the surviving models
(last 12 down I think) before they were allowed into the second round. Several models were eliminated at this stage due to issues such as lack of
rigging around the fin and tailplane, and sporting 2D instead of 3D armament. These models were replaced by those in 13th, 14th place etc. I acted as Clive's mechanic with his
newly patched up Sopwith Camel, and we were eliminated in the first round, then reinstated due to another model being eliminated, then
eliminated ourselves for a lack of tail rigging! As the new rules become better known, I'm sure more care will be taken by modellers to
ensure they have ticked all the correct boxes, and these eliminations will become a thing of the past.
Here is a photo of the second round launch, by which time Clive and I were merely interested spectators. Don DeLoach won the event with a very nice Bristol Scout.
With the weather forecast pretty good for all three days, I decided to hedge my bets and put in one official flight with my Argosy each day. Winding the thing can be
a bit of an undertaking, so I thought spreading the flights out would reduce the stress level considerably. This year we we using the average of three scores rather than best of three,
so I would have to do all three flights and hope for some consistency. I fitted four new motors before attempting a flight, and also broke some motors outside the model just to see what the limits were.
Quite high, as it turned out - 1500 winds for the outer motors and 2050 for the inners. Using 1350 and 1850 winds respectively, the first effort was a thermally assisted 75 seconds, which I was very happy with.
In the afternoon, it was fun helping Clive get his three flights in for the Old Time Stick event with his Manulkin twin pusher.
This is legal for the class because the traditional motor sticks are replaced with rolled balsa tubes and
carry the rubber inside them. The model flew three 2 minute maxes, each of which flew the length of the airfield and required a lengthy retrieve.
The time sheets were handed in just before the deadline, and then he had to wind it again for the flyoff. The last flight was a fine 2:40 and the class was won.
Rain started to fall at 5 pm, so rather than get wet at the field, we headed for a local restaurant for an evening meal.
It was a bit soggy for evening flying afterwards, so it was back to the dorms for a beer or two.
Friday was overcast and relatively calm all day, with no lift around, but it made a very good trimming day. We
had a bit of drizzle late morning, but it soon cleared.
The day's feature events included modern civil, profile jet catapult, fiction flyer and mass launches for the Greve Trophy racers,
modern military and WW2 combat.
I had fun trimming the litle Peck peanut Turbulent, using a longer motor and a bit of upthrust to get some decent looking flights - it's very stable, and after the Blackburn
disaster, it was just nice to have a peanut that wanted to fly. I put in a couple of official flights, just for fun, of 37 and 35 seconds.
I did some more work on the Aerocar, and Peter Kaiteris took this video of one of the test flights. As you can see, it
looks fine under power, but stalls in the glide.
Here is another video from Peter - Doug Beardsworth's gorgeous jumbo scale Messerschmitt M 29 putting in a flight of a minute.
Winding the Argosy for its second official flight went smoothly with no broken motors, despite sneaking in an extra 50 winds on the outers. The flight was 62 seconds,
which I think is probably the maximum dead air time I'll ever get with the model - not that I'm complaining!
The traditional "Final Flight" ceremony was held at lunchtime where we remembered members of the aeromodelling community who had passed on since the last Nats.
As we toasted their names and the balloons headed up towards the clouds carrying their balsa and tissue cargo, I found it, as always, a very poignant moment. This is not a hobby
that seems to interest young people, and every year we lose more of our frinds and fellow modellers. Unless we do all we can to recruit new enthuiasts, I do
worry where we will be in ten years.
Spirits were raised by the next event, which was a very silly Russian mass launch (silly in a good way) organised by the irrepressible Bernard Dion.
Non-Russian models could be entered once they had been drafted into
Russian service by the addition of a red star to their propeller. I wasn't 100% sure of the rules, but I think the model that landed closest to the Eifel tower won!
The rain finally arrived in earnest around 2.30 pm, and set in for a couple of hours, so we were forced to retreat to our tents. It had been planned to run
the BLUR and SLOW races that evening, and once the rain stopped, conditions were just about ideal. We stayed down at the field rather than go back to the dorms for a meal, and
takeaway pizzas were ordered and delivered down to the field instead. Both the BLUR and SLOW events are great fun - the former being a speed dash across a short course, held in heats.
To win you need a model which flies very fast and very straight, because if you go outside the side boundaries of the course you are disqualified. It's not easy. Winning models
tend to be robustly built, trimmed nose heavy to avoid zooming upwards and with a motor peg somewhere over the wing. Motors are very short and very powerful. The Winner, Luc Martin, had to replace his
prop after virtually every flight because it broke on landing.
The SLOW race is totally the opposite in charactor, and (sort of) replicates crossing the English Channel in a pioneer aeroplane. Again it is flown in heats, and you get points
for being the last across the finishing line and lowest across the finishing line. If you don't make the line, you have ditched
in the drink and are penalised. Again, it is critical to
fly in a straight line, something that is really tricky with lightweight slow flying models like these.
Anyway, much fun was had in both events by entrants and spectators.
Saturday's special events included Dime scale, golden age (combined civil and military) and mass launches for Goodyear racers
and for the first time a Midway commemorative event. It seemed to me that a lot of people had waited until the last day of competion to get their FAC Scale and Jumbo scale flights in, and this was borne out by the
activity on the field. Weather was sunny and hot, with plenty of thermal activity, and a change of wind direction - still along the airfield, but now away from the hangars
instead of towards them. The important point being it was not towards the corn! The wind got a bit heavier after noon - still flyable, but rather more turbulent.
I only managed to take video of five flights this year, all but one on this day. Part of the problem
was that we were located at the far end of the flightline (good for the wind direction on Friday) so a long way from the HQ tent and much of the action. It was thus
hard to spot when people were heading out for a flight in time to grab the camera and run over to capture the moment. So, apologies for that, but I hope you enjoy the ones I did get.
For starters, here is an amazing max. flight by Tom Hallman's jumbo scale twin rubber Mig DIS, made in the morning when the wind was relatively light. If you look carefully, you
can see the model kick up as the D/T
activates towards the end of the flight to bring the model down.
Next is Mark Fineman flying his beautiful Bestetti Nardi BN.1 rubber twin - a great free flight subject which flies extremely well.
You can tell I'm a fan of big rubber twins - here is another - Chris Starleaf's superb Jumbo scale Grumman G-159 Gulfstream
One more twin to finish - this is Octavian Aldea's Tupolev TU-2.
I made my final Argosy flight during the morning, and after two motor breaks at well below yesterday's winds, I was very relieved I
only had one more flight to do. When I eventually got all four motors wound, (thanks to Scot Dobberfuhl for his patience!) I wandered
out into the field not paying much attention to the conditions to hear a shout of "look at the streamer!" from Scot.
The mylar streamer was going straight up, which seemed a pretty clear sign to launch, even to me.
The resulting flight of 80 seconds was thankfully recorded by Tom Hallman, and you can see it below.
Later in the day I decided to put in three official flights with the Aerocar, after reducing the
rubber cross section slightly to give a longer powered phase. I swapped two loops of 1/8" rubber
in each nacelle for 1 loop of 1/8" and 1 loop of 3/32". It handled the rather bumpy conditions very well,
and without getting too ambitious with the turns I got flights of 39, 30 and 32 seconds.
I also put in the last official flight with the peanut Turbulent, which got bumped around
the sky in some buoyant air for an entertaining 53 second flight.
Flying finished at 4 pm, then it was back to the dorms for a shower, and a change into smart (or at least smarter) clothes for the
banquet and prizegiving.
The banquet and presentation evening was held as usual in the Quality Inn and as always, the food was excellent. The presentation
of the awards was very slick as usual, but this didn’t start until about 9.30 pm, and I wonder if the preceding speeches,
entertainment and rituals could perhaps have been curtailed a little? Maybe I’m just getting old, but after a tiring day at the field
it did make for a very long evening. If we finished a bit earlier, maybe people wouldn’t just rush away straight afterwards and
would spend a bit more time socializing.
With no Rapier scale class, the Argosy was my only realistic chance of bringing a top five plaque home this year, so I was
delighted to find I'd won the Jumbo scale class again, though it was very close - Chris Starleaf's Grumman Gulfstream was
only 2.5 points behind.
On Sunday morning, a group of us managed to prolong the Nats experience by having breakfast at a local diner, then drove down to the
field for a last look, and to see what the wind was doing. It was a bit breezy, so my models stayed carefully repacked in their box,
but a few flights were made by braver souls.
On the long drive back to Boston, just for a change I didn’t manage to find a new project in one of Clive’s books for the next Nats,
but there was plenty of discussion about future plans and planes. I always come back inspired to build something special for next time.
I have something in mind, but I’m not spilling the beans yet.
So, how good was it this year? Well, the weather was great, give or take the odd shower. All days were flyable, plenty of lift around
on Thursday and Saturday, and very few models were lost in the crops due to the favourable wind direction. There were loads of great new models
to admire – I lost count of the number of twins this year. Above all there are the people - what a welcoming bunch – you couldn’t wish
for a nicer group of people to spend a few days with. It’s very competitive of course, but everyone is always ready to lend a hand,
give advice or act as a stooge if required. There was quite a bit of talk at the banquet about the “FAC family”, and I think there’s
a lot of truth in that. It’s great to have a hobby that transcends national boundaries, politics and creed – meeting with
like-minded people at an event like this really does feel like coming home.