Making you way in the world today takes everything you got. Taking a brake from all your worries sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows you name. And they’re always glad you came. You want to be where you can see the troubles are all the same. You want to be where everybody knows your name. You want to go where people know the people are all the same. You want to go where everybody knows your name.
Some of you may recognize this first paragraph as the lyrics of the theme song for the popular TV show Cheers. I think this is appropriate way to start out this report because this is the way I feel about going to the NATS and gathering with everyone. We may come from all walks of life with other interests but we all have at least one common thread. That is CL Aerobatics. It does not matter if we are rich or poor the thing that will bind us together for this week is our love for model planes.
My 2017 NATS started out like most NATS. I left home Friday night after work to go to my parents house in Indianapolis which is half way between where I live and Muncie. I spend the weekend doing the last minute things that need to be done and to try and rest a bit. The NATS after all is a contest that makes you need a vacation after your vacation. So rest before hand is a blessing.
With the weekend finished, Dad and I head on up to Muncie on Monday morning to get there just after lunch. We check into the motel and then head on over to the 180 building for appearance point judging and the weigh in. This is always one of my favorite times during the NATS. It is a time where everyone can get together for the first time in a year and try and catch up on things since the last NATS. Many of us consider our stunt family as an extended family so in a way it can be even considered a family reunion
Once everyone has gotten their planes weighed and brought into the gymnasium the pilots are herded into the conference room where Dennis Adimisin did the mandatory pilots meeting. As per last year he did a good job by keeping the meeting moving right along. He again used the program written by Howard Rush to not only seed the flyers but to also choose flight order. Everything here went very smoothly and the pilots meeting got done before the judges were finished.
Once the judges were finished the doors were opened and the grand reveal took place. Pilots were now able to go into the gymnasium and see where they placed. This year we had a rarity with a perfect score of 20 points awarded to Kaz Minato from Japan with his exquisite F6F Hellcat. There were six 19 point planes in what would normally be considered the front row. Pilots then had approximately 30 minutes to then vote on the Concours winner. Dennis did something a little bit different this year. Instead of announcing the winner later on during the week the winner was announced shortly after the time for voting. This is the first time I have heard that there was an actual tie between two planes for Concours. It was between Paul Walker’s P-47N and Derek Barry’s Cutlass XL. Dennis then went to the judges for a tie breaker which was given to Derek’s plane. Congratulations to Derek on a very good looking plane and well deserved Concours award.
Then the first minor little hiccup occurred. After the award was given out people started to leave. It was discovered that after all of this, someone forgot to record who got what for appearance points. So Dennis and a few others got to play a giant memory game and try and remember who was where. Fortunately there was not that many that escaped so it was straightened out fairly quickly.
Tuesday we awoke to light winds, heat and humidity. And of coarse OTS and Classic/Nostalgia 30. I won’t go into great detail here because Doug Patterson is writing an in depth article on OTS and Classic/Nostalgia 30 which probably will appear somewhere in these pages.
Wednesday started out hot and humid and got hotter and more humid as the day went on. Light winds in the morning changed to thermals in the afternoon (more on this later). I really felt for the judges having to stand out in the heat all day. I took pictures of all the judges in the morning for my reporting in NATS News. To one group I jokingly mentioned that I wanted to take a pictures of the “esteemed” judges. To which one replied that they were more like “steamed” judges. And this was early in the morning. If you had a pop up canopy for shade you were very popular. Water and sports drinks were certainly the beverage of the day. I think I personally drank a gallon and a half of Gatorade from morning until after my second flight around 2 in the afternoon. It was miserable.
Morning flying on Wednesday saw almost perfect weather (except for the heat). Winds were just a few miles per hour and in one direction. Then came the real heat of the day in the afternoon along with the thermals. A couple of flights before my second flight I and a few others watched I think Lanny Shorts fly a bit. We watched a stray piece of paper just go around in circles between him and the judges for quite some time. A dust devil had decided to just park there for at least a minute. Maybe two. You could tell when his plane went through that because it hopped every time in level flight. Even one of the tents that were set up near the pavilion started to lift off the ground from another thermal. Interesting things these thermals. I should know, my second flight was quite an adventure.
I watched the person before me to try and gauge where the wind was coming from so I could place the judges. Towards the end of his flight it started to shift around a bit. By the time I got out to the circle the wind had shifted almost 180 degrees. I was a little leery of moving the judges but is was more than just 1mph. It was more like 3 or 4 so I moved them about 180 degrees hoping it would stay. It did not. It moved and moved and moved and moved. I don’t think I did one maneuver in the same place throughout the entire flight. Pick a direction on the compass, I probably did something in that direction. I really felt sorry for the judges. They really tried to keep up but just could not. I was really getting a bit worried for Joan Cox. I could tell the heat was getting to here towards the end and here I am asking her to move. A lot. The other judge fared a bit better and could move a bit more so I wound up having the two judges about 90 degrees apart at some point. I know some may say why not just do the maneuvers in the wind. That works when things are less than 1mph. Not 3 to 4.
When I got down some of the guys were ribbing me about enjoying the show. Boy if I could have sold tickets I could have made a fortune! 20-20 hind site. Oh, and how did I do compared to my first flight? Only a half a point less! Not bad under the circumstances.
Thursday we all awoke to cloud cover. This was a welcome relief at first. It kept the temperatures at least tolerable. Humidity was still high but overall it was quite tolerable. The only problem was we had a threat of rain coming in. So we scrambled best we could to get things done as quickly as we could. For those who had smart phones they kept an eye out on the radar. It looked like things could get interesting around noon. This at least left us with time to at least get one round in. Thursday does have an advantage of people passing on their second flight if they were securely in or there is no way that they were going to make it. As the weather front came up more and more people passed. Unfortunately we did not quite make it. The rains hit and we had about a 3 1/2 hour delay. We got lightning in the area around 11:30 and Dennis wisely shut things down and told us to head for the hills. We were more than willing to oblige. No Ben Franklin experiments for us!
Once 3:00 rolled around the storms had passed and the sun came out. Up went the temperatures. Winds were not too bad. So for the most part nobody can say they had bad winds and somebody else did not. We finished up the second round after that. In one circle only one other flyer went up while another had 3. I am not sure about the other circle. But oh so close and yet so far. We almost finished everything before the rains hit. Almost.
Once things were actually finished the rains held off for the rest of the day. And shortly after we were done Dennis let the computer decide what the flight order would be for the next day. The field was now paired down to the top 20 in open and the top 12 in the Advanced class. for their finals..
Top 20 and Advanced finals day is always one of the most nerve racking days because there is no throw away flights. No goof ups. If you do that you are done for the contest. It certainly is one of the biggest pressure cooker days of the contest. Even more than top 5 day. At least on top 5 day you can have an off flight. So to just add a little bit more flavor for the day we woke up to what else? Rain! Lots of rain and very strong winds. If you had a shade tent up with the cover on there was a good chance it had come off by the time you got to the field. I heard a really big one came off near the RC section. I would hate to have been one of the people who like to literally rough it in a pup tent overnight at the field. That really would have been bad. It was one of those rains that you say there is no sense rushing through breakfast because this is going to take awhile. And it did. Things were delayed for 3 hours until 11 in the morning. It actually broke a little while before that so there was a small window of opportunity for a warm up flight if you were lucky and spent the morning taking a nap in your car at the field. Otherwise for most people your first official flight of the day was your warm up. No pressure. None at all.
The rest of the day went well with sunny skies and light winds. It did start to get quite warm at the end but this is at least a short day. So the judges did not have to stand out in the extreme heat for terribly long.
At the end of the day we found out who the top 5 would be for Saturday as well as the 2017 Advanced champion.
Advanced third place was James Mills, second place was Mike Schmitt and the 2017 Advanced Champion is Richard Huff! Congratulations to all. The top five flyers are Paul Walker, Derek Barry, Orestes Hernandez, David Fitzgerald and the rookie to the top 5 Chris Rud. Rookie of the year went to Matt Colan who came in 9th overall. With the top 5 pilots chosen to move on most people figured it would be a knock down, drag out, bare knuckled in the mud street brawl the next day. They would not be disappointed. And best of all the tickets for this event are free! I like free! Free is good!
For all except the top five the competition is now over. The weather was such that later on that night some people flew other peoples planes to get a feel for what other people are flying. Except for the rainy start, the day ended pretty good. However, the forecast for the next day did not look so good.
The next morning around 4 am we were awakened to some thunder and lighting. Lots of thunder and lightning. First thoughts were are we going to have a repeat of yesterday with a rain delay? The weather guessers were predicting an all day rain. That would make things interesting for sure. I am glad to report however that he guessers goofed again because it slacked off towards day break. We arrived at the field with cloudy skies and light winds. Dennis made the decision to get started early because of the forecast was for more rain and high winds. He wanted to get things going fast to try and beat the bad weather. So we started at 7:30 in the morning. Circle 3 was chosen by the to 5 pilots as the “arena” for their competition to be held while Junior and Senior flew on circle 4. Winds were toward the corner away from the pavilion which made watching the top 5 very easy. You did not have to go out into the bean or corn field if you wanted to get a downwind angle. And with the cloud cover the temps were quite bearable. The competition flights went smoothly with only very short breaks in between rounds to again speed things up. Basically just enough time for the judges to reload their liquids and answer mother nature. This was to just keep things moving along. In the end Steven Daley beat out his brother Joseph for the Junior win while Samantha Hines beat out Ben Mills for the Senior crown. While Chris Rudd came in fifth, Paul Walker 4th, Orestes Hernandez 3rd, Derek Barry 2nd and successfully defending his crown from last year, David Fitzgerald became the 2017 National Champion. This was all done with only around 15 points separating the top from the bottom. So it was a close one until the end.
As it turned out the call to start early was a very good one. Toward the end when trophies were being handed out the winds were starting to pick up. On our way to Mickey D’s for a quick lunch I noticed the flags were starting to stick our a fair amount. When we got to Indianapolis and I filled up the car with gas it was gusting pretty good. In fact, I had to hand on to the steering wheel with both hands at times because of the winds. So we got lucky and got everything in before the real nasty stuff hit.
I will now throw in my observations about top five day. Now remember this is only me sitting back from the comfort of my arm chair as a casual observer. I was not in any way shape or form part of the decision as to who got in what place. But here was my thoughts on the top 5 fliers in no particular order.
Orestes Hernandez probably had the hardest corners of the bunch. However, it also came at a bit of a cost. He had noticeably misses angles and bobbled the corners. Fairly consistently. This I think is what hurt him the most. His rounds from what I could remember were fairly round. He flew the smallest of the bunch. Probably the closest to 45 than anyone. But because of the bouncing it cost him a couple of positions.
Derek Barry did not have the sharpest and hardest of corners but were still fairly sharp. He was smoother than Orestes but still missed some intersections especially in the overhead 8. He had a noticeable X in the center of the overhead eight and did not come around as much as he should hence forming the aforementioned X. Overall fairly smooth except for the missed intersections.
Paul Walker had very good hard corners with few bounced or missed angles but his rounds suffered. About every one were egg shaped, had flat spots or both. Although he did not bounce his corners as bad as Orestes his egg shaped rounds is probably what kept him behind Orestes instead of in front of him.
Chris Rud was I am sure quite nervous. Although he did not let it show during his flights. For him things just seemed slightly off. Still good but not great corners and decent rounds. He missed some of his intersections a bit along with some angles. He probably had the softest corners of the bunch. And that is probably why he wound up 5th. Size was ok to slightly large.
David Fitzgerald to no surprise had the best package overall. His corners were hard but not as hard as Paul’s and Orestes. However he did not have the bouncing and missed angles that Paul and Orestes had. In fact his was the cleanest flights of the top 5. Hardly any blown angles or hops to be found. His rounds actually looked round. So while his corners were probably in the middle when it comes to turn rate, his smoothness made up for that with ease. Hence he became the winner.
Now let me close out with a couple of stores of kindness and one of the reasons I like this event. On Monday night Chris Rud had a lot of problems with his plane. It would not turn inside well at all. He had a tremendous amount of offset on his handle and that is putting it mildly. Paul Walker David Fitzgerald and Bob McDonald Monday night took a close look at his plane. From my understanding it took quite a lot of time to figure out what was wrong. They finally figured it out with a misaligned stabilizer. It had its leading edge angled way too much up. Fortunately he has a take apart plane so it was easy enough to correct. Once that was done it was a matter of setting the handle to a normal setting and then getting used to the new setting. All within a few days. My hats off to Chris for his effort. And my hats off to those who helped him They knew full well that if they fixed his plane he could and did make a run for them. Almost beating everyone who helped him that night.
Another story is abut Ben Mills. A Senior. He flew Intermediate on Sunday and unfortunately lost his SV-11 plane. Later on in the week Someone gave him a complete plane ready to fly. Just out of the blue. No questions asked. Only condition was that Ben had to fly it. He truly wanted Ben to succeed. But the story does not really end there.
During the Senior fly off on Saturday, Ben and his dad took out his profile plane. Unfortunately the handle was not set correctly and Ben skidded it across the tarmac inverted. It knocked the prop loose but the motor kept running (an electric). This caused a lot of drag on the motor which in turn caused a lot of current draw through the ESC. When his dad got to the plane there was smoke coming from the ESC. His dad disconnected the ESC and threw it in the very wet grass (the rain did come in handy for one thing). After replacing the ESC he still had some problems. Paul Walker then noticed this and while waiting for a top five flight came over to offer assistance. This while he was obviously flying in the top five.
Sometimes there is just no end to the generosity of this group. We should be quite proud of ourselves.
Now as of this writing we do not have anyone to run next years show. We NEED someone soon. Very soon. As in NOW! What will happen if we don’t? I have no idea. Next year Dennis Adimisin can’t do it. It is not a matter of trying to get him to do it by default again. It is a matter of he can’t. So we need someone to step up now. The pieces are in place and according to him it basically runs itself. You just need someone to actually run it. Could that person be you?