A LONG write-up about a small contest.
Saturday, I went to an FAC Contest. The McCook Field* Squadron, #5 in the FAC lore, is a low-key group of flyers that has been around since the beginning, thanks primarily to Frank Scott. He’s been running on-again-off-again contests in an on-again-off-again manner for probably 40 years or more. They announced they would be having a contest on October 3rd at the comically-named “Jackass Flats” location. (Jackass Flats turns out to be a local PeeWee football and soccer facility. It’s not a big field, but big enough for a small contest.)
* – the real McCook Field was the government’s first aeronautic research facility – and it was in Dayton, Ohio. Read about it HERE.
Something told me I needed to go. Google told me it was a 3.5 hour trip and since the contest was scheduled from noon-4pm and only had three FAC events, I felt I could manage this. I wouldn’t have to leave super early and I could get back before 8pm. In addition, I like the McCook group. We fly at their McCook Contest at Muncie every June and I used to go to their Dayton Sector Skirmishes back in the day when they were held ON Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in the shadow of the Air Force Museum. As an Ohio Boy, ex-Air Force employee, and an aviation fan, Dayton is special and holds much aviation history that I don’t need to go into here. But I wanted to go and go I did.
I got there about 1 hour early – before anyone else. I parked where I thought would be a good spot to be discovered by incoming contestants that would eventually decide from where we would fly. It turns out we just stayed right there. I got out some Jet Cats to test while I waited. I got a couple figured out and broke one on the hard driveway. When you’ve got more than one JetCat, you have to test them before a contest – each one flies differently and you need to re-discover the quirks of each one. I flew my F-4, F-86, and Star-Jet. I broke the Star-Jet – too bad, I wanted to show Frank, as he had built one, too. I decided to fly the F-86 and my Heinkel in the contest.
The turnout was surprising (to me). About 8 or so contestants showed up, and there were a higher-than-average number of family there, too. Per Frank’s contest announcement, most of us were wearing masks, especially when nearing each other. Actually, this was a four-state meet! While the host club is from Ohio, I traveled from Michigan and Archie Adamisin came up from Kentucky and Archie’s dad came down from the Detroit area, too. And Bill Garrison came from Indiana! In all, there were somewhere between 15 and 20 people at the field.
Before I got to my planes, I timed a flight for Archie. It proved to be cautionary. While the temperature was not really “warm” and the wind was nothing more than a breeze, the air was buoyant. Archie got out his own-design Scout Embryo that he flew last season indoor at Pontiac. He didn’t change anything, even the rubber, and after a short test flight, he called for a time. The little model ROG’s just fine and went up. On about the second circle, it hooked a light thermal and we then watched it go up, up, and away. At 7 minutes, I lost sight of it, still going up.
After that, I decided to get down to flying business. In addition to the JetCats mentioned above, I would enter my old Ta-Go and my new Bird Dog in Dime Scale. And finally, my DeHavilland Discard (a Frank Scott design) and maybe my new Durham Stretch Limo in Embryo. Given only 3 events and 4 hours, this was a good selection, maybe too many flights, since I did not bring my chase bike – meaning each flight would need to be retrieved Old School – on foot. Long flights mean long hikes.
I logged three flights on the Ta-Go (all in the 40 second range) and went on to my new Bird Dog. I didn’t change the short loop of 1/8″ rubber that I used as a test motor. And I didn’t trim out the nose-down glide. I didn’t want any super-long flights and I didn’t want the 11 gram plane to hook any thermals – it was too new to fly way. The first flight was almost a minute and the next two were less, around 40 seconds. All were long hikes. I finished out Dime and then went on to Embryo.
I saw lots of Embryos flying. Mike Smith was trimming his Discard, Bill Garrison had a Bad Axe and a Born Loser, Frank had some other self-design, Jim Bair had a cute one with oval flying surfaces and a round formered body (recently featured in the McCook newsletter), Arch Adamisin (Archie’s dad) had one, too. On one of my hikes for the Bird Dog, I brought back Jim’s model so I got a good look at it.
That may have been the last “good look” anyone got on that plane. His next flight also hooked a thermal and flew away. Here’s a picture of Jim and his wife watching the model for the last time (while the model is likely in the photo, no one knows where).
Wow, Embryos are flying away and I still have yet to fly. I don’t want to lose any models – but I want to give Frank a good show with my Discard. He pointed out that this contest likely has the highest concentration of Discards ever: including mine, his original and Mike’s new model. This contest would be a nominal challenge for my Discard – this would be it’s retract-gear ROG debut (it had been hand-launched at previous Cloudbuster contests). I was confident, since it goes near-vertical on a torqued-up hand launch. And so the next part was a learning process: hold the model on the table, hold the gear down, hold the prop, and release. The weight of the model will hold the gear open, so that wasn’t really a worry, but table launches can be tricky. The Discard performed flawlessly, jumping up and the gear making a characteristic “snap” as the plane zoomed up. I put in a string of 90+ second flights, managing to avoid thermals and staying on the field. I decided the field was too small to wring out my Stretch Limo.
The JetCats were last. Here come long hikes for sure. That’s just the nature of decently-flying Jet Cats. The F-86 has always delivered less than expected. It gave me probably some of it’s best flights in the overcast of the afternoon: 16, 15, and 16 seconds for the best three. The Heinkel performed as expected with a best three of 35, 32, and 27 seconds. I was done just after 3pm and had logged over 11,000 steps (according to my watch) in those 3 hours. I could relax, chat, time, take pictures, and gradually pack up before the end of the contest.
Archie flew his Cloud Tramp off and on throughout the day. This was his first outdoor contest. He had been flying with 3 loops of 3/32″ and it was zooming around. I told him that 2 loops would be fine. He did change the motor – and promptly put it in a thermal. That was plane #2 that he lost on the day.
As the contest wound down, Frank called for a Sky Bunny mass launch. I forgot and left mine at home. Well that let me take a picture and film the mass launch. They are here. Note that Archie’s Sky Bunny is the one I track in the video. That was #3 fly-away for Archie. He may not want to fly outdoors again!
NOTE: there is much more story following the video.
The Rest of the Story
So, I walked away with the win in all three events. Unfortunately, no one else logged a flight in Dime Scale (I logged six flights, with the Bird Dog topping the Ta-Go). Two flyers besides me logged single flights in Jet Cat – any of my single flights with the F-86 would have won.
I told Frank that I’ve always supported the Dayton crew – I was wearing my McCook t-shirt at the contest. I feel close to them as I won my first kanone at one of their contests. I thought about that on the drive home. That was a long time ago. When I got home, I dug around and found photos of that long-gone day. Maybe this is what pulled me to attend: My records tell me that day was on the same weekend – the first weekend in October, 1990 – exactly 30 years ago. Here are some photos of younger people:
As they say, time flies when you’re having fun. That 29-year-old had no trouble chasing after models (of course, they didn’t fly as well!) I sit here this morning with my coffee trying to twist-out all of the aches that those 11,000 steps put into me. I guess I’m no kid any more. But I still feel like a kid when I fly my planes. Every flight is exciting and holds a certain magic. Flying these models and getting together with these friends-of a-feather is why I do all of this. Thank you to all of these friends, near and far, that add to my life in this way.