Back in 1998, I was the “internet editor” of the Alamo Escadrille’s “Windy Sock” newsletter. The late Joe Joseph was the real editor; I just posted his newsletter online. Joe asked me to do a short article on what I did to earn “so many” Kanones in the FAC. At that time, I had been flying FAC for about 11 years and had garnered about 50-60 wins – and it took me about 3 years to win my first Kanone.
What follows is that article. I have not edited it; the words are those that I wrote in ’98. I have changed some things, but the basics remain true. These are good rules of thumb for others entering our hobby to follow.
Tips and Tricks for Kanones by George Bredehoft
During our regular internet correspondence, Joe asked me to write a small article detailing how I was so successful at winning Flying Aces events. I am sure that, to him, it seems that every email he receives from me has a note stating that I gained another Kanone, but this is not quite the truth. Let me assure everyone that I am not an “expert” in this area, I lose many, many more events than I win and certainly do not have all of the answers when it comes to taking home the trophies.
I will start out by admitting that I do have, by my count, 55 Kanones (placing me in the top rank in the FAC.) This is probably about 3 or 4 higher than the official FAC tally; most likely due to a few lost contest sheets. But, realize this has taken me about 11 years (averaging 5 per year) to get to this level. Even if you start counting with the year of my first win (1990), the average doesn’t change that much.
But how is it that I can average 5 wins a year and others can’t buy a single Kanone for years running, even though they are accomplished FAC modelers? Well, I feel that, just as in life, every outcome is the result of the combination of the controlled and the uncontrollable. More clearly, your chances of winning depend on two things: your skill and your luck. And by increasing your skill, you can reduce the amount of bad luck against you (but you can never eliminate this completely.) Here are a few tips.
1: Practice, Practice, Practice. Build lots of planes, make many flights, enter lots of contests, make mistakes and learn from them, observe others and ask them questions and so on and so on. By building and flying many models, you will sharpen your building and flying skills. Don’t forget to take time to trim the model.
2: Keep a Log. As you practice and your plane starts to show promise, start to keep a log of the model’s performance. Start out with the model, size, weight, and prop used. As you try different rubber sizes, log the sizes and how many turns and environmental conditions. Soon you will start to see patterns emerge and you will be able to predict what kind of prop to use and what size of rubber might work in each model. I have (lazily) gotten away from keeping a log, but some of the best fliers not only keep a log, but reference it before each flight.
3: Don’t Build Your Models to Crash. Airplanes are meant to fly. If you build them protecting certain areas in case of bad landings, you will overbuild and they will be heavy. Even 1/16th square is too large for all but the largest Peanuts. For “normal” Peanuts (not the oversized racers, etc.) shoot for about 10 grams weight with prop but without rubber. Once you start building this lightly, you are on the right track (7 or 8 grams for a simple Peanut is great and some modelers build even lighter.) Biplanes will be slightly heavier.
4: Trust the Wood & Tissue. What appears to be a very weak structure will actually be very strong when covered properly. Again, don’t overbuild. If you are building a scale ship in the 16″ to 18″ range and it has a box fuselage with formers, you can probably use 1/16th square on the box and all stringers and have a very strong structure. Even completely square fuselages will be very strong when covered with tissue.
5: Don’t Overpower. This has taken me virtually my entire modeling career to realize. Built light, a plane doesn’t need the power of a heavier plane. Build light and strong and power with long loops of “thinner-than-you-think” rubber. I used to fly normal Peanuts with 1/8″ wide loops, then 3/32″ loops. Finally, I am getting some Peanuts to fly on about .070″ loops about 3 times the peg length and motor runs right at 2 minutes. This is extreme, but it can be done.
6: Enter Every Contest and EVERY Event. This may require a little traveling. My closest contests are 1 ½ hours away. I also travel up to 3 ½ hours (one way) on a regular basis. Bring every flyable plane that you have and try to enter all events (or at least the ones you enjoy.) Also, you are permitted to enter two non-identical planes in every event (excepting mass launches) and enter a single plane in one judged event and one mass launch event. The more events you enter, the greater your chances of winning. Of course, if your “local” contest directors only offer 3 or 4 events per contest, you won’t get the exposure you need. Many FAC CDs will offer to fly any event if there are three contestants. Others will publicize 15 to 20 events per contest. This is why it pays to have many models and bring them all to every contest.
7: Select Subjects That Will Fly. If you built that Travelair Mystery to win the Thompson Race, don’t hold your breath: the struts, wires and landing gear all create too much drag and weight to compete with the winners. Save those hard-to-fly models for later in your career when you have more experience.
8: Take Advantage of the Bonus Points. When you gain the experience necessary, you will be able to get that tri-motor biplane to fly and 30-45 second flights on high-bonus planes are almost guaranteed winners. Personally, I don’t do this very often, but have been the victim of such planes.
In summary, I would say that my personal success has been due to basically three things: lots of experience, lots of contests and lots of events. As I said, I have been flying for about 11 years. For the first 6 or 7 years, this meant about 5 contests a year with a club that posts about 15 events per contest (I would fly in about 1/3 to 1/2 of these.) Since then, I have increased to almost double that number per year. This is a LOT of flying and my summers are busy. The reason I don’t feel REALLY successful is that I fly in some pretty stiff competition. Take a look at the top two levels on the Kanone list. I fly monthly against about half of them and twice a month against about a quarter! These guys are the experts! When you have to fly against Gordon Roberts (awarded a plaque at the Nats for over 400 Kanones!) and Stu Weckerly and Dave Livesay, you either learn to fly or don’t win! Certainly, they are also a major reason that I have developed; without their inspiration and guidance, I am sure that my total would be much lower.
Build – Fly – Win!!! Efff – Ayyy – Ceee!!!