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Feb 22, 2018, 12:14 PM
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Mooney78865's Avatar
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Competing in Pattern

I have cruzed this thread for a discussion on actually competing and really didn't find anything specific. I thought it may be a good idea to start one here since this thread is dedicated to F3A pattern, the aircraft, building, and trimming set up.
As a "former, former" AMA pattern flier returning after a 25+ year hiatus of no RC flying I have found the changes quite profound in pattern. For the most part, gone are the nitro and alcohol engines I flew with, and instead electric is predominantly the form of propulsion. The aircraft are larger, (2 meter) fly at a much more consistent speed uphill, downhill and everywhere else. Radios are WAY more complex than they were in the late 80's early 90's and are at a much more affordable price point. Back when I competed, you built your plane. There were very, very few ARFs available, and virtually never seen at a local meet. (read EXPENSIVE). The maneuvers, while different are still designed to increase your skill level as you progress through the classes, and until you reach the sharp end of the completion spectrum can be performed by the average flyer with obtainable equipment that won't break their bank trying to keep up with the "flavor of the month" and remain competitive. While researching this thread when I began the process of re entering Pattern flying, I found the vast majority of the build threads were started 2,3 even 5 years ago and the plane is still available. I find that reassuring. I am flying a Sebart Mythos 125e with an 8s setup. It is by FAR the best flying pattern plane I have owned. Granted, I am not flying in Masters or F3A with it, and have not flown anything else except the Mythos 50e in the last 27 years, (which I thought at the time was the best pattern plane I had ever flown) but still, the quality of ARFs have eliminated the "builder" aspect and seems, to me, have put the emphasis on the skill of the pilot over the skill of the builder/pilot. I do not think this is a bad thing. Having the ability to compete with equal equipment at an affordable price point makes the sport that much more attainable.
Enough with the preamble!
I flew my first contest in 27 years, two weekends ago, unfortunately, with my Mythos 50e after I managed to trash both wing halves on my 125 the last day I could practice before the contest. Having said that, here are my observations of the contest....
EVERYONE was extremely helpful
EVERYONE was thrilled to see a "new" face flying pattern
I still get nervous when I have to stand in front of the judges
8 of the 10 voices in my head say I'm flying like crap when I do my sequence
My wife is still the best caller I have had
And I like staying at the field in a motorhome better than going to a motel each night.
So yeah, it's the same...but different!
Post up, lets give folks a place to share their thoughts, or a place to gather information on just competing...
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Feb 22, 2018, 03:56 PM
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Welcome back! Even though I don’t know your name, without reservation I’m glad you’re flying pattern again. I’ve been at it only about 5 years now so remember very well some of your observations- like the nerves in front of judges. Took me 1-2 years to get over that, more contest experience was the solution, after which nervousness gave way to determination and by default, concentration. Still an intense rush!

Regarding “…emphasis on skill of the pilot over the skill of the builder/pilot,” I would submit adding a couple things to the “skill of the pilot” needed now: equipment setup and trimming skills- both airframe trimming and radio program trimming. Remembering that a change in either will result in some kind of compromise or affect somewhere else in the flight envelope. I have found that each time I moved up a class, my plane and radio setup (which worked great in previous class) required significant changes ie: more throw in various conditions, maybe different rate setup on a given surface to accommodate specific maneuver, or maybe adding or deleting a certain condition (condition is Futaba speak, others may call it “flight mode”). With so many capable airframes, the difference in results boils down to setup and practice. And once you get it right, I find flying my pattern feels more like dancing with my wife.

“8 of 10 voices…” – you obviously have a critical eye for your flying and that is so key to improving. Congratulations on flying your first contest in 27 years and recognizing all of this in one weekend! Very cool- I hope to meet you at a contest somewhere along the way.
Feb 22, 2018, 04:32 PM
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Mooney78865's Avatar
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I agree completely with what you a point. Back in the day, airframe setup was just as critical as it is now. However, we had to do it pretty much mechanically. Towards the end of my flying I bought a 10 channel Futaba PCM 1024 "programmable" radio. That was a revelation! You could actually program the radio for throws...and expo. Prior to that pretty much it was just dual rates.
I'm truly enjoying the "learning curve" You have to remember, the last time I flew pattern Al Gore hadn't invented the Internet.
The wife and I were actually thinking of doing the upcoming contest in Mesa AZ, but work has reared it's ugly head...
I do remember the camaraderie you get competing against generally the same folks in the district contest to contest. And it still seems to be a family activity. My wife and I felt right at home with the other couples who attended the event.
I joined the local club a couple months back and generally speaking have been well received. Once they figured out I didn't have 3 eyes, and didn't speak in some strange technical language only I understood, I've had no problem finding someone to call for me when the wife isn't there. They actually will "give" me the complete field when I go up.
Now I just need to turn a couple of them to the "ways of the force"!
It's good to be back...
Feb 22, 2018, 08:34 PM
Bo Edstrom, Sweden
Welcome back to F3A flying (and competition).

The manouvres in FAI F3A class is rather difficult these days, the Preliminary and of course the Final Schedules get harder for each time they are changed. To be a top flyer in any country today, hard practice with a good plane is needed - as yesterday, but the manouvers gets harder and harder. The 2 x 2 M planes must be able to fly better and better. As one gets older it is harder to fly the Schedules good, in my experince - Younger talanted pilots learn quicker and often fly very good. But young F3A pilots are scarse these days.
It is fun to compete today, as for example in the 1970th (like I did back then and still compete today). But it is not so much people competing today in F3A as back in the heydays, and in a few years it might be majority of retired people that compete in F3A since there is somewhat weak supply of new Young people (many seems to prefer drone racing these days).

For me F3A flying is the mother of all RC aerobatics and the graceful manouvers is and has always been to me the attraction.
What makes F3A flying so fun for me is that it is almost impossible to fly near perfect and one feel it is always someting that can be improved. And to see a really good F3A flyer fly live is very entertaining in my opinion, especially as one know how hard it can be for most people to reach a high level of flying skills.
And to meet all great people at competitions is very valuable and inspiring.

A good pilot will come a long way with a reasonably good and well trimmed plane today.
You do not need a top plane to place very high in most cases, unless You want to place very high in international competitions, I would say. You do not need a Contra, You do not need the latest top designs, You do not need the most expensive and most feature rich radios etc. Some want it, but it is not needed for most of us to fly F3A really good.
For me I flew Sebart planes before in competitions, today another brand but I still consider Sebart F3A planes very good and has reasonable price level. I still use my 11 years old Futaba 14MZ (might need a new radio soon just because the electronics ages and get less reliable as years goes). It will be my 3rd season now with same F3A plane for competition (I have my old Sebart MythoS Pro that I assembeled spring 2014 as back up model).

We had a F3A+F3P weekend some weeks ago in my country and one guy spoked about maybe in future it could be scooring systems that require no human judges.
The technology is probably here if one want to try it.
Pros and cons with that, but personally I think I prefer human judges with all human shortcomings. It has after all worked rather good with human judges since 1960 when first WC F3A (RC-1) was held.

Feb 22, 2018, 08:36 PM
Play that funky music right
kenh3497's Avatar
WAY back when, I built a Phoenix 4 with retracts, K&B 6.5 front intake rear exhaust with tuned pipe. I only got about 10 flights out of it as I was flying two planes off my Ace Silver Seven. Forgot to reverse the elevator..... So my pattern dreams went out the window without ever flying in a contest. Shortly after I discovered 1/4 midget pylon and then helicopters. Then life got in the way for a time and now I've been back in the hobby for seven or eight years.

I competed in my first ever pattern contest this past summer. I flew my trusty Pulse XT40 with a YS63 on the nose. That is a totally reliable setup so was comfortable with it. Like Dan nerves were doing their best to take me down but I did well in the contest. I was only able to compete one day so never relay looked at the score board as to my standings knowing I would be dead last at the completion of the contest. Somebody told me I was in the lead after the third round. I really have no idea where I stood. I wound up third at the end!!! Boy was I surprised!

This year I plan on flying two contests. Both contests are over 2 1/2 hours away so both will be overnighters. So far I'm the only pattern pilot in the club but hope that changes as our club is going to host a pattern primer. I have high hopes.

Feb 22, 2018, 09:58 PM
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Oddly enough Bo, reading your threads on the Mythos 125 and Pro are what pushed me to the Sebart airframe! I have enjoyed your insight on trimming, as well as observations of the plane as time and flights grew.
I too agree that a well trimmed plane with a capable pilot will do well, especially at the District level.
I flew the Sportsman class at the US Nationals in 90 or 91 figuring I would be cut by the third round. I had been flying RC less than 2 years at that point and had won some District events before going. I sold the trip (halfway across the US) as a vacation to my wife, and our at the time, 3 year old daughter. We went in a borrowed RV, leaving Friday after work, drove day and night to get there figuring by Wednesday we would start the real vacation. As luck would have it, I didn't get cut Wednesday, or Thursday, or Friday and ended up finishing 5th in the class and going to the awards ceremony. Totally surprised! Back then you flew 1 round a day and could not practice on site.
We still had a week of vacation and on the way home stopped at the home field of the gentleman who designed the plane I flew , a"Fresh Air" running a YS 1.20 four stroke. He must of liked me because he sent me the first "Fresh Air II" off the mold. Which I flew the next year at the Pan American Championships. Didn't do so well that year, finishing 10th or so in Advanced. Shortly after that, the plane was destroyed in a frequency mishap. Remember when it was 72 Mz and channels? I dropped out after that, focusing on family, career and what not.
Unfortunately, I think you may be right about the competitors now. There were very few people at the contest younger than 40. At the field I fly at I have not met ANYONE younger than 40. Half the time there is nobody at the field on Saturday when I arrive.
Ken, I feel you! Hopefully the word will get out, there is a Pattern flier at the field again, and I will see a surge of interest.
To the folks out there who read these posts, look around the next time you are at your local field. There is probably someone who would like to get into F3A, or IMAC but is thinking it's to expensive, to hard, or just doesn't know where to start. Take the time to show them around your plane. Offer them your help with the "club sequence", show them you don't need much more than a flyable plane and the patience to practice. Who knows? you may be competing against them in a few years...
Feb 23, 2018, 08:28 AM
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I agree that expense can be a deterrent to compete. There is a way around that though. I just attended an RC auction in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. I purchased a Midwest CAP 232 airframe (72" wing span) in reasonable condition loaded with servos and a new cowl to cut to fit your engine. $70! I also bought a World Models 30 size pattern plane airframe only for $30. It is a little rough but totally flyable.

With the above said, the equipment can be the least expensive part of the experience. There needs to be, IMO, more single day contests. At least for some of the lower classes. Travel and overnight stays can be as much as a deterrent as the cost of equipment.

I guess in the end, it takes a commitment and a passion to compete. In today's environment with instant gratification running rampart that passion is not very common.

Feb 23, 2018, 10:23 AM
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exf3bguy's Avatar
Cost can be a factor when just getting started. What I did was to keep my eye open to pick up an older airplane that would work well in the lower classes. I first found a Symphony that was glow powered and converted it to electric. I flew that for a season in intermediate and did fairly well. I paid 225.00 for the airplane and invested another 400.00 for the motor, speed control and batteries. Not long after that I found a Hydeaway and picked it up for 60.00. This one required a bit more work to get flying but it is the airplane I am currently flying. When finished, I had less then 500.00 invested in the Hydeaway and flew it in advanced and again did reasonably well. The Symphony was sold to a local guy who should be joining us next season. The Hydeaway should see the same fate once I find someone who is interested in joining the group. After last season I did feel the need for a better airplane. My personal choice was to design and build one rather then just buy an ARF. That is when the Divergent idea came to life. The Divergent is almost ready for paint and at this point I have just shy of $1,000 invested into the production of the first airframe but that includes all the molds and tooling to build more.

Dan, I am sure we will meet face to face when the season starts up if not sooner. The D7 guys are a great group and from what I see, you will fit right in.

Feb 23, 2018, 10:49 AM
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Thanks Shawn! I'm sure we'll meet sooner than later.
Ken, I believe you may have touched on a cord with the single day events. From what I gathered at the contest I flew, the days of 30-40 contestants, have been replaced with more like 15-20 and could be supported by a single day event. I did not think about the expense of a multiday event with travel and lodging. You make a very good point. Everything ebb and flows I guess. I would have thought with the advent of technology, accessibility to good equipment at lower costs, there would be people standing in line, to stand in line so to speak. Maybe it's just easier to sit on the couch with a pair of VR goggles and fly "perfect" equipment in "perfect" environments. No interaction involved...
Feb 23, 2018, 01:00 PM
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Originally Posted by kenh3497

I guess in the end, it takes a commitment and a passion to compete. In today's environment with instant gratification running rampant that passion is not very common.

Very true. And others have said that drive comes from within our DNA.
Feb 23, 2018, 04:42 PM
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Mooney78865's Avatar
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Originally Posted by Jeff Worsham
Very true. And others have said that drive comes from within our DNA.
Feb 24, 2018, 10:42 AM
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Helpful Resource Links

NSRCA here. Free website registration gets you access to sequence schedules with maneuver descriptions and downgrades, judging guide and judging qualification tests, and more discussion lists. Historical archive containing 42 years of the "K Factor" magazine (back to 1976 and available for download in pdf format) is available to NSRCA members.

Don Ramsey's Pattern webpage here contains all kinds of helpful information ranging from building pattern planes to flying them, even topics like eye glasses. Some of this info was compiled from discussions on the NSRCA discussion lists. Don also maintains a results archive for the World Championships, US Nationals, and NSRCA District 6 contests.

CKAeropedia "Success at the Field" here has a ton of information on setup, trimming, even mental preparation- all geared for improving results. One of my favorites is Earl Haury's article "Anatomy of a Snap Roll." Every time I read that, I learn something missed before.

I've probably missed some good resources, but these are a start. Oh- and one of the most important- find a good coach! Even if it's inconvenient for you, there is no replacing what a good coach can provide to improve your flying. (That's a whole other topic in itself)

Different approaches help increase success and enjoyment for different guys. The basis for all that is fly, fly, fly. Concentrate on fundamentals (centering rolls on lines, maintaining base height, Z-distance, verticals are vertical, 45's are 45deg, etc) and build skill set from there. Become comfortable flying your pattern from either direction. Not being able to do that is like going to a foot race with one leg. I've seen guys move up a class before being able to fly both directions, their issues just became magnified, and they got discouraged. It's important to be comfortable with the skills required for the class you are in before moving up. If not, issues and skill deficiencies become magnified. Pennies for thought. Find what works for you, and most importantly, have fun!
Feb 24, 2018, 10:54 AM
Registered User
For some, competing in pattern is like preparation for a test and then flying to the best of one's ability. I find a lot of satisfaction in that, and in seeing improvement over time.
Feb 24, 2018, 05:58 PM
Bo Edstrom, Sweden
To fly. fly, fly is all good but I once saw a video on Youtube where Hanno Prettner told how he trained and prepared for major competitions. First he flew no more then 4-5 flights when he was out practicing since he thought concentratuon could not be good enough for more flights to improve in flying. Second, before every major competitions like WC he flew every day one month before the competition. He also flies mode 1 that he said can give sime advatages.
See 4:20 min into the video:

Hanno Flying (7 min 13 sec)

Feb 24, 2018, 06:58 PM
Registered User
Bo- the practice rate you described for Hanno is fairly close (plus or minus) for many serious pattern flyers, and yes- then up to 6-7 days per week leading up to major events like the worlds or US Nationals. I'm sorry if I gave the impression that more than that was required. I was mainly trying to say that going to the field once every week or two just isn't enough to expect big gains in skill improvement. In the end, it depends on the person, what they need and how much they can tolerate without burnout. It varies by individual. Some want (or can tolerate) 4-6 flights per outing, both morning and evening prior to a big event, and others don't want or need to do that. We all have our limits (age being one of many factors) so find whatever works best individually.

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