2021 FAC Outdoor Champs – Minus the Ted Dock

Another LONG missive…

For a couple weeks, I’ve had this feeling for foreboding – or at least a feeling of ill-preparedness.  In fact, this entire year I have been behind the curve (I feel like I am repeating myself).  Maybe this is how everyone is after a year or more of missing the regular schedule.  A very many people were commenting how they a) missed flying and b) were having to re-learn flying.  Maybe that is what was going on with me, too.  Big field flying is certainly different than small (local) flying and there are things you just can’t practice or prepare for on the local field.

In addition, as a vendor, I ran out of 1/8″ rubber.  High demand and FAI going on vacation (we all deserve a vacation) meant that I could not fill orders to be delivered to Muncie and I could not sell 1/8″ rubber on the field.  I was completely out!  In order to make up JetCat catapults, P-30 parts packs, and make my own motors for the contest, I had to strip a partial box of 1/4″ As I stripped the box, I had to cut the strip as I found two irregular sections in the rubber that made the strip into three short pieces instead of one long piece.  This would come into play later on.

More issues?  So I always plan to get down to Muncie the day before the contest starts.  This allows for relaxing arrival and possibly testing and trimming the day before.  And, of course, you are there for the early morning start of the contest.  I only live three hours from Muncie, so it’s an easy trip and if I go early, I can get most of the day to socialize and test fly.

Well, my Mrs. (Patricia) is from Costa Rica and spent three weeks in that beautiful country and returned home about three days before and she was surprised I would be leaving her “alone and with the dogs” so soon after her return home (of course, she knew, but it had slipped her mind).  I impose a small amount of guilt on myself every time I leave her home since she isn’t really a fan of taking the dogs out – she likes them around, but that all is “my job”.

On Tuesday, I was prepping and packing for my trip.  Since I take my “store” with me, I have to manage packing orders and packing the trailer.  I try to wait to pack the trailer until the last minute so I can fulfill as many orders as I can before I leave.  So I waited until the afternoon on Tuesday to pack in order to leave on Wednesday morning.  Since the Summer of 2021 has become storm-central in Michigan (I am calling the summer “the rainy season”), we had a big one roll through Wednesday evening – and it knocked out power.  They projected noon on Wednesday for restoration.  I couldn’t pack the trailer and car in the rain, nor in the dark.  So that was delayed.

Wednesday morning came about but the power was still not there.  The rain had stopped.  Pat has been working from home since March 2020 and had to go into the boys’ coffee shop to get internet connection so she could work.  The projected restoration shifted from noon until midnight.  She told me in no uncertain terms that she would NOT be staying alone in the dark.  I said I would not leave until power was restored.  That meant that I might not be leaving until very late Wednesday or very, very early on Thursday.  I took my time in the morning and packed my planes and sales goods and then sat and waited – without my morning coffee.  Around noon, I got hungry and went into the shop to get a sandwich and a double-shot latte (solving a couple problems).  Woohoo!  The power came back on while I finished my sandwich.  I went home, hooked up the trailer and took off for Muncie.

finally on the road to Muncie

I arrived about 4pm and had a great evening, chit-chatting with friends and preparing for the upcoming contests.  The Cloudbusters run the Outdoor Champs and basically that means Winn Moore and me with our third musketeer, Pat Murray helping out.  Pat runs the following Ted Dock, with Winn and I helping out.  It’s a great four-day weekend of flying; the last of the year, and we get contestants from all over the east and sometimes the west, too.

This year was also the second time that we shared the field with the SAM Champs.  And the second time the FAC participated in their Concourse display and we shared three overlapping mass launches:  SAM Small Stick/FAC OT Stick, SAM Small Fuselage, FAC OT Fuselage, and Jimmie Allen.  These mass launches were held after official flying on Thursday evening.

Flying Highlights and Lowlights

The weather outlook for the four days looked like Thursday would be “ok” with a light wind and Friday would be near perfect, with clear skies and 2-3 mph breezes.  Saturday and Sunday (the Ted Dock contest) looked like it would be a blow-out with gusts up to 40mph.

my messy set-up on Thursday

One of my early errors came in OT Fuselage.  This is one of my favorite events, and I feel I have worked hard to become competitive at this event.  If you recall, I won OT Fuse at the AMA Nats with a huge fly-off flight.  It is my custom to fly OT Fuse and OT Stick in the mornings.  I have reliable models and while thermals are probably not very strong early, the models can fly for 2 minutes without thermalling.  So what do I do?  I set aside my HepCat in favor of P-30.  This is not even an FAC event and really “means nothing” in our books.  I put up my flights in the morning and came away with an eventual win in P-30 (only four people flew P-30).  Then I focused on some other events and flew OT Fuselage in the later afternoon – after the good air had gone and the wind had picked up.  I got two maxes, but dropped my third flight and had to settle for second when I should have been able to easily force a fly-off.

I did bring my One-Design Klingon Embryo.  I figured there would be very few flying since it is such an unconventional model.  Mine had been crashed and crunched, so I sheeted over the sides of the nose, added 1/16″ square bass to the upper longerons, and a little bit of extra area to the canard.  I was surprised to see several other Klingons there – and they were flying well!  I put in a loop of 3/16″ rubber and wound mine up and was pleased to see great flights over a minute and a high time of over 80 seconds!  My three-flight total wasn’t enough to place, but it was fun flying the goofy model.  I doubt I will fly it again.

Of course, that took some time, probably an hour or more.  I used to be able to fly so many events.  These days, it seems like I actually get flights in less than half of my planned events.  I brought my Fike E “Dream, a plane I don’t like (and that didn’t want to fly indoors) to fly in High Wing Peanut.  My goal was for it to fly or crash out trying.  The Indoor 3/32″ loop was just too weak for outdoor, so I loaded it with a loop of that stripped 1/8” rubber, wound it up and the thing took off skyward!  I got a 96 second flight and put it away, good enough for third place in HWP (I should have tried for more to come closer to Wally Farrel’s max).

I had no luck in the Goodyear Mass Launch, crashed out in the Greve race,and didn’t even try for Embryo.  Again, the “feeling” just wasn’t there.

The three SAM/FAC Mass Launches were coming up at 5pm Thursday and I had two planes that I thought could be competitive:  My HepCat and my Holy Ike OT Stick (I lost my great flying Jimmie Allen Sky Raider in July).  OT Stick was the first event.  There were some SAM “big guns” there, like Mark Vancil and the legendary Bud Romak.  Both had a “New” Gollywock (the second version Gollywock with h-stab tip plates) and I have seen Bud fly his – it goes like a rocket.  Of course, the FAC’s Tom Hallman and Wally Farrell were also there, so it was going to be a challenge.

We all went up on “launch” and they were away.  Wally went down immediately as he said his pusher wing had hit his hat on launch, spoiling its flight.  Mark and Tom and Bud were all up high and my big stick was steadily climbing up there, too.  Because of their superior altitude, I imagined that Bud and Mark were going to have great flights.  I saw that mine came down way down field, after Tom’s Gollywock hit the ground.  I picked it up and saw the other two Gollywocks on the ground already.  It turns out that my big Holy Ike took the win (I won the same event last time, too)!

SAM/FAC Stick Mass Launch – Eric Specht photo.

I was pumped and immediately got my HepCat OT Fuselage ready.  I set the DT for 3.5 minutes and wound it up tight.  The HepCat just climbs and climbs.  I chased it way down wind, and as it was finally coming down, it DT’d 30 feet or so above the soybean field behind the cemetery.  I stopped the watch and it was 4 minutes and something (there was a 20-second delay between “start your watches” and “launch”) and I could just see the tail sticking up out of the beans.  I retrieved it and felt pretty good; there was a great chance I just won the second mass launch!  I got back, recorded my score, and Winn told me that Mark Rzadka had beaten me by six seconds!  Oh well, it was a worthy flight!

the SAM/FAC OT Fuse Mass Launch – Eric Specht photo


Day Two promised to be a good day; the weather forecast looked great and we could fly from the southern field, our favorite site.  Indeed the weather held and we had very light breezes all day with mild thermals creating lots of max flights with the models landing on the field.  I wasn’t going to make my OT Fuse mistake with my OT Stick, so I loaded it up and started flying right away. I wound up for a test flight and popped a loop in the motor.  No big deal, I can fly a test flight on a less-than-perfect motor, so I would up and launched.  The climb was very slow and not normal.  Other than that, and the lack of altitude, it all looked good – until the glide – when it went nose down and hit hard.  I picked it up and scratched my head, wondering what had happened.  I did notice that I broke one rib (and the tissue) and later I noticed that I broke part of the trailing edge off one prop blade.  I realized that I forgot the shim under the leading edge of the wing.

I had to make a new motor.  This is seven loops of 1/8″.  I calculated how much rubber I needed and found that my stripped and cut rubber was not long enough.  I’d have to knot together two strands to make one strand long enough to make seven loops at 36″.  I had a great struggle getting seven loops made up on the field.  And, thinking about it now, I think this will lead to the problems I had in my next flight, an official.  What I did was I took the motor and made a six-loop motor from it and added on a separate 7th loop.  I wound it up and flew it – with the shim in under the wing.  For the most part it went up “ok” but when the power came off, the glide was not right and then the rubber coughed out the nose block and this ruined the glide, again coming in nose down.  The resulting flight was 82 seconds, dropping the very first flight.  I was back on the down side of flying.  I think that when I readjusted the motor loops, I inadvertently made it longer and this may have disrupted the weight/balance and I probably did not braid it correctly and that is what threw off the flight.

I took a mental break and decided to test my new Folkerts SK-2 NoCal (designed for Outdoor.  I intended to fly it at the Ted Dock (no NoCal at the Outdoor Champs).  After a couple trimming flights I got a very nice flight.  It had a poor glide, but I didn’t want to push my luck and have it fly away, so I put it back in the box.

my new Outdoor Folkerts SK-2 NoCal at altitude

Then I got out my Jumbo Aircraft Designs Stallion.  It had been out of sorts at the AMA Nats, but I hoped it could still be coaxed to fly.  I gave a small thrust adjustment and a short test flight and then wound it up.  I saw one broken strand and then a second while winding.  I really was in no mood to make another motor, so I just let it go, being careful no to wind to full torque.  I launched and had a spectacular flight that ended at 4:04 (I locked down the DT).  What a pleasant flight; here is a video of the last part of the flight.  Oh, a max in Jumbo was good for FOURTH place as the three ahead of me (Wally, Tom, and Pat) all were flying twins.  Pat’s flight was only 56 seconds and it still beat me.  That’s what 35 bonus points to for you!

I decided to participate in the WWII Mass Launch.  I only have my little Peanut Yak-3 and Peanuts rarely fly as well as the big planes on a big field.  There were 13 flyers signed up and Winn was eliminating four flyers, then five flyers, leaving four for the final round.  I made it through the first round with a couple slots to spare.  Then I made it through the second round and was in the final four!  I had a chance to make the podium for WWII with my little Yak!  I was worried about the motor (a single loop of 3/32″) as it was not a fresh motor, having been used in at least one previous contest.  I did wind it up as tight as I dared, wishing I could put a few more hundred in.  I was flying against Wally Farrell, Pat Murray, and Charlie Sauter in the final round.  I had a respectable flight, but was down first and I came in 4th.

First round of WWII. My Yak is the camo-colored model right above the blue and yellow tent. Eric Specht phot


Winn and I went out to fly JetCat and while we had two decent flyers each, neither of us could hook any real thermals and we did not place at all.  I also thought I might try to fly 1/2 Wake as no one had any real strong scores posted and the contest was nearly over.  I wound up and either the o-ring or the rubber broke and the fully-wound motor took out nearly all of the verticals and tissue in the fuselage all the way back to the motor peg.

Like I said, ups and downs.  I did receive a couple of acknowledgements that made me feel good.  Wally gave me a “tip-of-the-hat” at the beginning of the WWII final round for valiantly (audaciously?) flying WWII with a tiny little Peanut and making it to the final round.  Secondly, at the end of the SAM/FAC OT Stick Mass Launch, Bud Romak gave me a thumbs up.  Bud is a competitor, world champion, a great builder and flyer, and a Free Flight legend – and he gave me a thumbs up.

my coaster trophies from the 2021 FAC outdoor Champs

So why am I writing this on Saturday from home, rather than flying in the wind at Muncie in the Ted Dock?  I haven’t missed a Ted Dock since 2011 and have sat there in the rain waiting in vain for the sky to clear.  A little wind shouldn’t and wouldn’t chase me off.  Well, Friday morning, Pat (the wife, not the flying buddy) called me from home.  She was agitated and sounded like she was in pain.  She had been wrangling the dogs while taking them out and one of them pulled her over, tripping her on a slope.  She fell and hit her arm and it was in a lot of pain.  I told her to call one of her sons instead of me since I was three hours away.  Tristan left the coffee shop and took her to the hospital.  It turned out she has multiple fractures (comminuted) of the outer process of her left humerus (and she’s left-handed).  That is the pointy end of your shoulder.  While she protested that I should stay and fly, I knew that I shouldn’t, so after the contest was over I drove right home.  She will be ok and there will be other opportunities to fly with all my buddies.

Twilight at the end of Day One




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One Response to 2021 FAC Outdoor Champs – Minus the Ted Dock

  1. Steve Neill says:

    That was great George. What a great story. Yep I’m still out there hoping that I get to go flying again soon. All the best,

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