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Old Jul 23, 2012, 12:27 PM
Balsa Flies Better!
Stamford, CT
Joined Oct 2000
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Some comments about the FAC Nationals....

I returned yesterday from the FAC Nationals held in Geneseo with some very mixed emotions. For folks that are contemplating attending in the future, I hope these thoughts prove useful.

The pluses: The state of the art in FF airplanes continues to improve. The model mags will eventually have shots of these airplanes. I left my camera in the box because I was too busy trying to fly stuff, but in some cases, photos won't do them justice anyway...Vance Gilbert's Twin Jenny comes to mind- and he flew it! Times were not spectacular- and the last flight I saw terminated as I'd expect- in a spiral. (Long skinny wings- luckily only light damage)- but it was a beautiful airplane.

Chris Starleaf's airplanes flew great- never mind that they were twins, most of my airplanes that are singles don't fly as well. I remember seeing the 310 and what I think was a Dehavilland airliner (high wing- tee-tail.) I might have to build that 310...

Pat Murray flying a P-61 developed from the Sterling kit outlines. This is not a little airplane- and he got a great flight out of it (most of which I missed sadly.)

But I didn't miss seeing Mike Stuart's Argosy up in the air. I think this is a butt ugly airplane (sorry Mike) but it did have 4 props turning.

Dunno who the guys were flying the EDFs- there was only one Rapier/Jetex flight I saw, but the EDF guys were having fun. One of the airplanes was a Diels Hun- which I have enough trouble getting to fly RC. As a FF, it doesn't fly much slower! The Bv 212 platform also flies well- but again, I think it's an ugly airplane. I have a Rapier kit of one anyhow.

In electric power- I saw a beautiful flight on a Tiggie- not light, but it flew well. Electrics have no trouble making maxes.

Tom Nallen's Quadraplane was a PITA to wind, but he got in a flight of 2:44!- and didn't have any trouble getting the airplane back either.

Mass Launch events- the most heavily contested was WWII- with 45 entrants! The Battle of Midway event had 25 entrants. That was the only event I made the first round cut in (total of 3 cuts- final flyoff of half a dozen airplanes), flying my Zero- which put in a 26 second flight- shorter than in WWII where I didn't make the cut with a 36 second flight.

WWI wasn't far behind- think there were some 35 contestants or so.

The Russian Fly was the hammiest event- but it certainly wouldn't have been worth building an airplane for! The first elimination was to get the airplane to land between some lines in the field....I left after that...

I missed the Slow and the Blur event- I was busy trying to trim...

I also got to meet Don Srull, who's one of the guys who's magazine tips did a lot for my airplanes. Surprisingly, he's not 10 feet tall, probably just about 5'5". I enjoyed chatting with him a lot. I haven't seen Vance Gilbert in years, so I hung out with him and Mark Fineman.

So from a spectator standpoint- and getting to meet some wonderful people- the Nats were worth attending...

The Minuses

From a competitor's standpoint...well, this event needs some help. Please note, I have never run a model airplane contest. I've been in a few though. But I have a lot of experience both attending and running sailing events and there's a lot that's directly transferable.

Problems- I suspect that the fundamental issue is that people don't read and take to heart the mission statement of the FAC. Paraphrasing- the organization is dedicated to the lighthearted model competition of the golden age of model aviation through the 30s and 40s. Unfortunately, as the organization has aged, the bar has been raised on the level of craftsmanship and detail in the airplanes that people are building and flying. Nor is there any real analysis on where people who join the FAC come from, or how they came to free flight in the first place- critical to understanding how to attract new blood.

These developments have lead to arbitrary rules, along with arbitrary enforcement. In WWI- after the first round was flown, there was a compliance check. Half a dozen airplanes were tossed. One was a previous event winner, another was Tom Nallen's lovely Durand which had a gun which according to the judges, wasn't 3D enough.
In Goodyear-John Kramer's plane was tossed for not having exhaust stacks. It's not exactly a prominent feature- and these are peanuts for crissake! I think some folks in the Thompson go tossed as well, but in WWII, everybody stayed, including airplanes minus spinners.

My take is that these rules are unenforceable as written- and that tossing people who are not clearly cheating is a very, very bad idea. We don't have enough people in FF as it is- the last thing we should be doing is chasing people away. And DSQing people is something that should not be done casually- it's sets a very chilling tone for the rest of us.

What would cheating be at a contest? Clearly cheating would be extensive use of carbon fiber- radical blow ups of tail surfaces, single surface covering, non-tissue covering etc. When there is such focus on things like exhaust stacks, rigging, and armament,- all the stuff that can be easily knocked off, it's very discouraging for new folks to enter. The FAC has gotten nit picky- and events where people get nit picky tend to die out- witness AMA precision scale. (used to be held in rubber power as well.)

While I wasn't tossed out of anything- it's not because I'm a good builder, and not because my airplanes had more detail. I only had to go through one compliance check (my Zero at Midway)- I'll lay long odds my Thompson plane, a Meteor, from the Easy Built kit wouldn't pass muster- no exhaust stacks, and my Nieuport in WWI probably wouldn't make it either- not fully rigged, although rigged according to plan.

Other issues- the cost of success....Don DeLoach won 5 of the 6 mass launch events that he entered. It's quite clear that the guys out west have raised the bar for flying rubber scale. Their airplanes were quite consistently able to climb higher than most of us. The top handful of planes in the mass launch events were able to speck out consistently. I looked at Don's Corsair and his Wildcat. I couldn't see anything radically different from other peoples airplanes- they looked well built and attractive, but they weren't hyperlight- I can build lighter. But I think these guys know how to get a lot more out of the rubber they stuff in- and they use very long motors or stretch them out a lot longer than I'm used to.

The downside to increased performance...Even if I could get an airplane to fly like Dons- I've got nowhere to fly it. My close field is 20 minutes away- and I put my Bellanca and Bonanza into trees at part wind flights that never got over 50 feet or so- Don looks like he's getting 500 feet or more. Even larger field within an hour aren't big enough- I've got no place to practice- and I suspect that most people unless they live in regions with very large fields- i.e. Denver, don't either. Plus, the western guys looked like they had a professional retrieval team with golf carts and dedicated chasers- that picked up their airplanes, but not other peoples. I think this is a worrisome development- if you need chase gear for airplanes, it greatly increases the cost of going to a meet.

I have no plans on attending future Nats. I'm glad I went if only to hang with friends and see some great airplanes- but as a contest? Not much fun to be the amateur amongst professionals.

Sam
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Old Jul 23, 2012, 01:08 PM
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Rio Rancho NM
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Sam,
I suspect part of this was due to a few things. First when the new rules book came out there was an emphisis on strict adherance. Another is that pilot's checklist. Also there wa a new group running the show this year.

It's funny to hear you talk about the west coast guys dominating. Over the last few years there has been a lot of talk about east coast bias. DeLoach got a plane tossed last year for not having fillets in WWII mass launch. A couple of years back a Texas guy built a Corsair that was really nice but didn't place.

I think probably the place for pluggers like you and I is kit scale and old time kit scale. Or the endurance events like embryo, JA and two bit. Actually my place is is just flying for fun.

It will be interesting to see if there's any feedback in FAC news.

scrubs
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Old Jul 23, 2012, 01:19 PM
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Sad indeed...

My father was an active free flight modeler and thats how I got started. Flew R/C for too many years and rediscovered free flight at a local park 3 or 4 years ago. My wife supported my R/C flying but never really got into it. A few trips to the park changed all that. Shes building simple models now and loves to compete in the FAC contests sponsered by the Scale Staffel here in California. Without a doubt the people we meet and fly with are the kindest most helpful people on the face of the earth! All the FAC contests we have gone to were well run. I have only seen one instance where the CD questioned a flyer about his knowledge of the event he was flying and rightly so.

Perhaps like golf, the FAC should consider a pro/am contest structure. Those with the talent to make a complex scale model perform could fly with others who have the same skill set. Hackers like my wife and I could compete with those who like us fly our "contest models" on Sunday mornings just for the pure joy of seeing the sun shine throught the tissue! Free flight forever!
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Old Jul 23, 2012, 02:08 PM
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As an observer ... not a contestant ...

Why did FAC establish a permanent line about 50 - 70 yards from potato and cornfields, towards which the wind was blowing at times?

Why, bearing in mind the need for AMA insurance cover, does not the FAC establish and enforce the required minimum distance between parking area and flight line?

Why were golf carts seen on the always-active runway in contravention of the 1941 HAG rules, which could lose the use of the field altogether? Did FAC notify all entrants of this need? If so, it certainly was not enforced.

Why is the archaic ROG rule enforced, even from a table. Saw several models dorked, not least an OT cabin which required extensive repairs before finally being flown in the rain to complete scores?

Regardless, many outstanding airplanes to be seen and in the air - not least the Argosy cruising so impressively in smooth dead air .... and a lot of very good people to meet and chat with.
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Old Jul 23, 2012, 02:13 PM
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Sam

Thanks for the review of the FAC Nats. Glad to hear there were plenty of Entrants in the mass launches and your planes were flyable.

As someone who's got a long way to go in the hobby before even that stage, I just need to find a way to have fun regardless. I fly at local meets in WI and back in Ohio. My best flyer so far was a MicroX Taylorcraft, not a paragon of scale accuracy. When I went to the AMA free flight Nats as a spectator a couple years back, I was sorry I didn't bring my P-30. Even competing against Andy Barron's kids would probably have given me good experience. I did take lots of pictures and made some friends. I also did some crew work for Bong Eagle competitors.

I'd find the worst thing to be DQ'd for a minor point, as you said. Maybe a consolation pool contest would help take the sting out of it. Rate the DQ's by flagrancy and give penalty seconds accordingly.

Hope you reconsider going to the FAC Nats. I'm sure they could use all the competitors willing to give an honest try they can get. Next year's Non-Nats at Geneseo might be a better fit.

Keep 'em Flying

Joe
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Old Jul 23, 2012, 08:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Applehoney View Post
As an observer ... not a contestant ...

Why did FAC establish a permanent line about 50 - 70 yards from potato and cornfields, towards which the wind was blowing at times?

Why, bearing in mind the need for AMA insurance cover, does not the FAC establish and enforce the required minimum distance between parking area and flight line?

Why were golf carts seen on the always-active runway in contravention of the 1941 HAG rules, which could lose the use of the field altogether? Did FAC notify all entrants of this need? If so, it certainly was not enforced.

Why is the archaic ROG rule enforced, even from a table. Saw several models dorked, not least an OT cabin which required extensive repairs before finally being flown in the rain to complete scores?

Regardless, many outstanding airplanes to be seen and in the air - not least the Argosy cruising so impressively in smooth dead air .... and a lot of very good people to meet and chat with.
Sounds exactly like Australia.

Last meet of this type I went to, and many previous, set up as near to trees as possible with the models blowing into them.

Cars do park near, except me.....I park well away.

Golf carts......nah, terrain is far too rough for that.

ROG. What an absolute joke. I wasted my time for years telling people ROG was stupid and down right dangerous.

Geneseo does sound like a wonderful place to visit though during ones lifetime.
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Old Jul 23, 2012, 09:25 PM
Balsa Flies Better!
Stamford, CT
Joined Oct 2000
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Jim

Drat- if I'd known you'd been there, I'd have loved to say hi in person...

Scrubs- I got into flying indoor FF competitively through mass launches. Its been decades since I first went to Glastonbury, and I can't remember why I returned during grad school (I'd gone as a kid too) but I got hooked by watching the mass launch events. It looked like a blast, and the guys there didn't care if my airplane wasn't armed or had markings (well, not for a while anyway)- so I tossed it in the air with the rest of them. A couple of the first time guys at the FAC Nats had the same goal- toss the airplane into the air with a bunch of other guys- makes you feel welcome and who knows- maybe you'll get your own private thermal for three rounds....

I've been flying with the Stealth Squadron guys in Winthrop, MA for a while too. I've managed to get a couple of kids who live in NH hooked (ages 8 and 11 now I think)- they like building, and they've flown in the mass launch events. In some cases they have their own airplanes- in other cases they fly mine. I've gotten other kids to do a little building and flying when I'm around- but one of these kids will rip open a kit the next morning before I'm up and commence building on his own- pretty good for an 8 year old! I'm firmly convinced that the kids participation in mass launches has been critical to getting them hooked.

This is one of the reasons why I think the guys running the contest made a fumble (and FAC GHQ)- the mass launch events are the best way to hook people. Hence, the rules for these events have to be set up for newbie flyers to compete too. Compliance checks for doo-dads when most people are struggling to get their airplane to fly more than 10 seconds without destroying itself are a terrible disincentive to enter.

Sam
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Old Jul 24, 2012, 08:28 AM
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Sam,
I see your point, differnt from what I first thought. Perhaps I should have said for a plugger like myself since you're oviously not that.

I'm far removed from the NATs living in the southwest now. It was a lot easier when I lived in Wisconsin and could drive there.

Hope you do decide to go back with your Steath group. Maybe if enough people want to dial these events down you'll be listened to. Maybe start with contacting Dave Mitchell or one of the council members?
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Old Jul 24, 2012, 09:25 AM
Balsa Flies Better!
Stamford, CT
Joined Oct 2000
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Hi Scrubs


Well, I have to admit- I don't know what a "plugger" is, so I'm unsure if I qualify. I still build FF stuff just for the heck of it too.

My problem with making most of the outdoor meets in my locale is that I'm also a sailboat racer- and that's been taking priority. Indoor meets fit my schedule much better. But with that being said, I might try making the outdoor meet at Rocky Hill in a couple of weeks...

I'd be happy to discuss these thoughts with someone at the FAC, but if they're going to be dismissed as sour grapes- I'd just as soon not waste my time.

Sam
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Old Jul 24, 2012, 08:13 PM
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Sam

Thanks for your report on the FAC NATS--I went to several of them over the years--including the first one at Johnsville Naval Air Station in PA in 1978. Even ventured up your way to Glastonbury in 1977 for an FAC event at old Pinkham field.

I remember the FAC sort of started as a rebellion to the overly bureaucratic AMA scale rules where everyone argued about everything! FAC was a lot of fun in those days, but I fear they have become so bureaucratic now that their rules go on for 50 pages. They have become what they rebelled against! Arbitrary rules are made without input from average fliers, and now with the FAC council and such, it just ain't what it used to be.

Don Srull, my flying buddy, tried to talk me into going this year but I opted to spend the time celebrating my wife's birthday with her. Even though I am retired now, I can't really force myself to go to a 4 or 5 day event plus travel time. So now I fly electric rc and some ff just for fun and I really enjoy that!

Pat Daily
Midlothian, VA
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Old Jul 24, 2012, 08:26 PM
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I attended the FAC Nats last week too. When it comes to rubber power I just got started in it three winters ago. I have been an indoor rubber flyer exclusively but have achieved some contest wins. I was trying to get a plane together to fly at Geneseo but I have to admit that I let sailing, RC electric and DLG interests get in the way. Once I arrived on the scene I really wished that I had finished a plane or two to fly. I have been to many model flying events over the years but never came away with impressions as good as I got from Geneseo. I really liked the commaraderie and spirit of the event. Was it perfect? Probably not. But having been on the committee of 6 or 8 events run by my RC club I know that these things are a great deal more work than most people would ever imagine and perfection is an elusive goal. I give the people who made the FAC Nats happen high marks! I know they gave so much of themselves to the event. Anyone who has an interest owes it to themselves to go there at least once. My wife and I had a great time assisting as "mechanics", spending the day with friends and going to group dinners at local restaurants in the evenings (mass dinner event?). Saw a play (Annie) at the college one night and attended a free blues concert in the city park the next night. Fun and good times were there for anyone who came there looking for it.
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Old Jul 27, 2012, 09:40 AM
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Guys, as an FAC veteran of the younger generation, several thoughts from one who has already been around that block a few times.

1. Don't whine. It just makes a bad situation worse, especially in the FAC where the long-term leadership are better at it than you are.

2. There is new leadership moving in. Dave Mitchell will listen to you readily if you'll just be nice to him. He made some major changes to a couple of the non-scale events at my request.

3. The idea of simplifying the mass launch events is something in progress. Trust me when I tell you that it has been worse in the past. The fact is that this is the nationals, and people are flying for blood because it's prestige for them. It doesn't matter if there's no money, it's the satisfaction of winning. Some folks take the wrong approach to it. Dave and others are working on it, I promise.

4. Local events are lower key and there's less prestige up for grabs. If you want a truly serious FAC contest that is almost all mass launches with waaaaay less fuss than the Nats, make the treck to the Kudzu contest in Raeford, NC. They fly mass launches like crazy, on a better field, IMO, than Geneseo, with easier thermals, and it's just as much fun, albeit with less impressive models in the judged events.

5. If you think Geneseo's organization is poor, you should have seen what happened to those of us who hoped to have a legit FAC WWII mass launch at the indoor nationals...

6. Flying 10 seconds in the mass launches at Geneseo is probably for the best. I went there in 2010 with a very carefully trimmed, tweaked, adjusted, etc super light Chambermaid armed to the hilt for the Greve race and punched it into the soybeans in the second round (as usual, I was the only person to catch a thermal in the second round, as is my infamous reputation). Had I showed up with an average entry, I might have at least gotten a plaque or something.
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Old Jul 27, 2012, 09:52 AM
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great idea and reasoning

Quote:
Originally Posted by RandyW View Post
...Perhaps like golf, the FAC should consider a pro/am contest structure. Those with the talent to make a complex scale model perform could fly with others who have the same skill set. Hackers like my wife and I could compete with those who like us fly our "contest models" on Sunday mornings just for the pure joy of seeing the sun shine throught the tissue! Free flight forever!
Excellent idea.
It could be as simple as checking a Pro or Am box on the registration/scoring forma at entry time.When it came to judging the criteria could be again - 'pro' class criteria or 'am' criteria.

Flying and the spirit of participation would be the same for all.


js
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Old Jul 27, 2012, 10:06 AM
Balsa Flies Better!
Stamford, CT
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Some interesting ideas here- thanks.

OK- I'll continue working on a note to Dave Mitchell. I'll do my best to phrase things as constructive comments rather than grousing and I'll send him a link to this thread.

jwfinn- sorry, but NC is a bit of a haul from CT. I'll stick with my own local events.

Pat- well, we're still flying in Glastonbury, and it's a lot more low key! Anybody is welcome to join us....Winthrop, MA isn't such a nice site as Glastonbury, but it's even more low key and lots of fun.

Sam
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Old Jul 27, 2012, 12:47 PM
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For what it's worth (and that ain't much, considering the source)

I quit flying competitive FreeFlight many years ago, when it became quite clear that unless you were a "professional", or you could afford to buy a professionally built airplane (I flew f1B for a while) you really had no chance to win or even do well in a contest.

I started doing Triathlons. I got into great shape, and interestingly enough, it was cheaper than flying F1B.

So, now, I have started to build/fly again, but I have no interest in competing. I don't want to join AMA, or FAC or any club. I used to go to contests, pay the entry fee, enter a few events, and never fly an official fliught

I have converted many of my old rubber Freeflights to Electric R/C (Yes, I know: GASP!!!) and fly them out of our local softball field on warm weekend mornings. (Amazing how well the Korda Wakefield winner flys with electric.

I got very soured on competition when it seemed like every time someone would come up with a "beginner" event, the "pros" would take over and ruin it. (i.e. P-30, EZB, etc.)

I cannot believe that introducing a "pro/am" category will help. All it will do is enable even more "Sandbagging". Unless, of course, FAC had some way of actually tracking and enforcing a flyer's status.

As I said, I will not be at any FAC or AMA event, so you can ignore all of my comments.
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