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An Insider's View of the World Famous Joe Nall Giant Scale Fly-In 2004

WC Fischer, one of the many involved in making this amazing event happen, shares a great behind the scenes look at getting the World's largest Giant Scale Fly-In "off the ground".

Splash

First, let me state how privileged I feel, to be associated with such a fine group of people and an event that rocks the RC world, literally. This has to be the largest event of its kind held anywhere in the world, and if you can only make one event a year, this should be the one that you choose.

This event is put together, planned and orchestrated by a core group of about twenty individuals and a host of hard-working and dedicated volunteers. There is not a ton of pre-planning each year as the event just flows and allows enough flexibility to accommodate changes along the way. To understand this, you have to follow the event from beginning to end. For my small part in this, I will try to explain it from my point of view and will leave the names to the imagination...most of you likely already know the individuals involved.

My participation in the event started one month prior to the 2004 event. I was asked to help set up an FM transmitter so the announcer could be heard over car and portable radios. As I have many contacts in the production field, the equipment was procured and all that was left was installation and testing. I arrived on site Wednesday May 5th to set up my RV and unload equipment. (I had planned on coming back home on Thursday (I live 100 miles away) and returning on Sunday to help install the FM equipment, but as things “flow” with this event, that would not be the case.)

The Fireplace

I walked down to the Hangar to speak to the guys that work there full-time. If you wonder how the place always looks so pristine and everything works like it should, it is due to these guys' tireless dedication to the property and the hobby/sport, for all of us. As I approached, there was a frenzy going on around back, I saw tons of masonry block and a bunch of block layers building a huge fireplace. For those of you that came to the event and saw the patio, I can assure you that there were only two courses of block laid when I arrived on Wednesday. The fireplace was completed Sunday and Monday before the event. This is a true dedication to the men that built it in the heat of the day and the darkness of night. These guys put in 16-hour days to complete this project for the modelers and participants to enjoy. They deserve a true accolade for their efforts. As usual, I got involved and helped anywhere I could, helping making templates for the arches and helping put the electrical in for the lighting system. I could see at this point that I would not be returning home the next day.

A 40% Extra ARF....wait a minute...ELECTRIC????

Anyway, back to visiting my friends at the hangar (please bear with me, as I have a tendency to stray on tangents). Inside on the floor was a Composite ARF Extra 330 S 40% with a four motor electric contraption hanging on the front of it. As I questioned what was going on, I was told it was a prototype that had been built and they wanted to fly it by Friday. Well, being an Electrical/Mechanical Engineer and working with electrics for a number of years, I was hooked…! Come to find out, the Hartness engineers had been working with Hacker to get this four motor version ready for the Nall, to fly it before the masses. The motor mount (four Hacker C50 15XL+3.7:1 Acro’s) and belt drive, with Sprag clutches, had been engineered and CNC cut at the Hartness plant. This was truly a one of a kind prototype, and I was very privileged to be allowed to help out. This story could go on for pages but I want to keep it brief. The motor had to be moved back (major firewall modification) for CG and the batteries had to be relocated also (8-8000 Mah LiPo packs). In order to facilitate this, battery extensions had to be made, on Friday morning the 7th. There were not enough Deans connectors or 12 gauge noodle wire to finish the job. “AH”, I said, “I have plenty of that in my shop in Charlotte”, my break to get back home for a bit and get the rest of my luggage and supplies (remember, I had originally planned on spending the night and coming back Sunday). I left Triple Tree around 10 AM and returned at 4:30 PM prepared to spend the rest of the time on site.

After a frenzy of work, the plane was ready to fly around 7:30 PM so we took it out to the flight line. After preflight and run up, Pat taxied it out and did a take off roll straight out of a text book, and the first four engine electric 40% was in the air. It flew flawlessly for about three minutes, when smoke was seen coming from the engine area...we all thought a battery pack was getting ready to ignite. All throttle control was lost, one of the Sprag clutches locked up and the 36x15 2x4, er I mean prop, on the front became an airbrake. Pat did one of the finest emergency landings that I have ever seen and managed to get it down on the north end of the runway in the taller grass. It hit very hard and some major damage occurred. As we approached, the firewall was separated, the gear plate was completely broken and a bunch of other cracks and stress marks were found. It even bent the horizontal stab tube. The general consensus was that it could be repaired, so the games had officially begun. We all knew that there would be some “midnight oil” on this repair. The firewall had to be completely redone, the gear plate was redesigned for added strength, and a lot of carbon fiber and fiberglass was added. Through the tireless efforts of Eddie Clark and the guys from Hacker, the plane was flown again on Thursday and Friday of the event. Pat was determined to get the plane flying again, and he was at the controls of the second flight in front of about 4000 people. (There were just 50 around for the first flight.) I looked at him and said, “No pressure, Pat”. He smiled and said it is 4000 of my friends, and I will have my back to them anyway…I can not imagine what was going through his mind as he advanced the throttle, but, to get to the point, the flight went very well, and a small part of RC history was written.

For even more info on the 40% extra from Sean Plummer's point of view and an interesting discussion of this big bird, please see this great thread in the RCGroups.com discussion forums!

Roping...no, no, not cattle, crowds...and a thousand other volunteer tasks

Getting back to the logistics of the event, most of the work started over the weekend, one of the major things that is done is the roping. There are several miles of rope that is put out for this event, and it is no small task. There is one man that is responsible for this and with the help of volunteers, he manages to get it accomplished in the heat of the day. He and his volunteers handle this, along with men putting out the signs, receiving the rental golf carts, setting up tents, porta-johns, watering of the roads, setting up the concession area, the Vendors Row and did I mention the cooking for a thousand plus for two meals, the hot dogs on Wednesday night and the big feed on Friday night? Also, did I mention the gate that has to be manned in the hot sun and the parking for thousands? Someone has to be responsible for the parking of the RV’s, making sure that the trash is picked up, keeping the restrooms and showers clean, leaving the lights on in the hangar all night long, so modelers can work on and repair their aircraft, providing tools and whatever else is available to get someone back in the air. There are so many people that perform the thankless tasks that need to be done, and the many volunteers that make this event happen. I wish I could name each one individually, but you truly know who you are, and the smile this event puts on your face, is enough thanks. In my small part, if I can make someone happier when they leave than when they arrived, I have done all that I can, made a new friend and that is my thanks.

Flight Time...and More Volunteers

Now we can get to the flying part. Registration for pilots, announcing the event, frequency control and the flight line, with 500 pilots all wanting to get in as much time as they can. And then we get to the CD, he has the responsibility for the event, coordination of the flight line, to include full scale flying, demos and general RC flying for the pilots, and to generally handle anything that may come up. Mike Gregory truly does a fine job of CDing this event, and he deserves recognition also.

Between my duties helping with the electric and getting the FM system operating, I was asked to help with the frequency control for the flight line. Again, I was privileged to be a part of the event and help anyway I could. This year we tried a new frequency control system and it seemed to work just fine. We had the pin board set up on the flight line, a frequency scanner tied to a laptop that showed all of the frequencies in use. When we issued the pin, the computer was checked against the pin number to ensure that the frequency was not “Hot”. ("Hot" means that the frequency was in use but the pin was still on the board, unassigned.) This system truly saved several aircraft, as there were some “Hot” frequencies on Saturday morning. It will continue to be developed and will be even better for next year. One of the biggest problems was hogging the pin, so we are implementing plans to address this next year, through the software.

Clean Up

At the end of the event, all of this has to be reversed and everything taken down. Being onsite Monday truly showed me what respect all of the visitors have for the facility -- with the exception of some tall grass under where the trailers and RV’s were parked, there was NO trash to speak of.

Hopefully, some of the above will give a little insight into what it takes to put on an event of this magnitude. Where else in the world can you go and see thousands of “RPlanes”, have one of the finest flying facilities at your finger tips, be able to enjoy a 60 acre lake, camp and mingle with all of you flying friends and be made to feel at home? Pat Hartness and family do this for the love of the hobby/sport and the modelers that attend. I can truly say that I have never met anyone so dedicated to what he loves, and so willing to share it with thousands of his friends.

This is just one small view from a little corner of the inside of the workings of Triple Tree Aerodrome. After writing this and reflecting on the last 14 days, I have left myself speechless...!

See you at the Youth Masters, one of the other eight events that are hosted at Triple Tree. Please teach a kid to fly. (Bob, hope you don’t mind me using your phrase.) Please visit The Confederate Air Farce Events website for information on other events held at Triple Tree Aerodrome.

Editor's Note: Thanks to Ivan Kristenson and Carol McKinney for providing several of the photos used in this article. Our author was so busy working he didn't get to shoot many photos!

Discussion

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Old Jun 09, 2004, 03:02 PM
Registered User
GWRIGHT's Avatar
United States
Joined May 2000
5,138 Posts
joe nall article

hmmm,.. wonder if he could have added the fact that before equipment was "smoked",..it was a new setup, untested, with gearing and prop based on "best guess", and the max current was never tested,... sort of like it was "flown in the blind". Very good article, but it could be interpreted as initial failure of an electric system,..when that is not the "true" case,.. it was an untested system that was flown without ever checking the current (which appears was well over 100 amps, probably near 130~140). I can see it now,.. gas guys saying "that's the most expensive single-use smoke generator I've ever heard of",..when they'd have failures also if they put too big a prop on, ran no oil in the gas and leaned it 3 turns past peak
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Old Jun 29, 2004, 02:16 PM
Deal Honestly or Don't Deal
United States, SC, Taylors
Joined Jun 2004
612 Posts
Inside Joe Nall

I hope Mr. Fischer gets to read my reply.

I have been attending the Joe Nall Fly-In for the last 12 years and I have just finished reading this fine article. In all my years I have read many reports on the "Nall" but this has to be the best and most informative one I have read. Hope everyone enjoys attending this event just half as much as I do. See you there for the 2005 event, look for me just past the JR Tent on the lower side of the Gazebo.

sarg96
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Old Jul 07, 2004, 05:18 PM
Triple Tree Aerodrome
heli001's Avatar
Charlotte, NC
Joined Feb 2002
406 Posts
sarg96,

Thank you for your most gracious comments on the Joe Nall article. It is my intention to do articles for all the events held at Triple Tree as one for the Matt Chapman Youth Masters should be posted here soon. The next event is the Aerotow being held this weekend. As I now have internet connection in my RV, hopefully the article will make it to RCGroups a little sooner.

Thanks again and glad that you enjoyed it.

W. C.
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