The 31st Annual Vintage Stunt Championships
Authors: Al Hieger, Jim Hoffman, Steve Holt
The Vintage Stunt Championships (VSC) is the largest of all-stunt CL contests in the Southwest, and the only one to focus on the stunt designs of yesteryear; the 31st annual event took place March 19-23, 2019. The weather, with a single four-hour interval excepted, was near-ideal for the task at hand, and some of the best pilots in the country turned out for some top-notch competition. The event could never happen without the efforts of a lot of people. The staff list ought to be included in the article.
The first two days of the contest were dedicated to the Old Time Stunt event. The attrition in the number of entries, which is pretty universal nowadays, is a bit poignant, as it serves as a reminder of how many friends from years past are no longer with us. About two dozen competitors entered, and of these, nineteen ultimately put up scoring flights. This stands in sharp contrast with the nearly 80 entries in OTS when VSC was at its peak.
The first day started with the temperature in the mid-fifties. Unfortunately, at the designated start time for the first round, the wind was blowing in the mid-teens. With a forecast of calmer air in the afternoon, the contestants voted by overwhelming majority to hold off official flying until Noon. When mid-day rolled around, the temperature had risen into the low 80s, and the breeze, although still significant, became flyable.
Second day conditions provided a contrast. The temperature began a bit higher than on Tuesday, but didn’t rise quite as high. Flying began at 8 a.m. under breezy conditions. Official flying was over by about 11:00, and it was then that the wind rose to objectionable levels.
Two rounds were flown each day, with each pilot getting a flight on each circle. At the end of four rounds, placement was determined by a pilot’s best flight on each circle, not the best flight each day. The results are listed below. Scores which contributed to final placement are shown in boldface type.
Also conducted on Wednesday was the Exhibition Event. This is an opportunity for anybody to display or fly a model from yesteryear. No rules; just a venue to show us something cool. The static display portion was a modest-sized affair, particularly as compared to the more extensive array of ships laid out during the exhibitions of the previous two years. In addition, several of the models on exhibit were repeaters from previous years. There were only two models flown in the active part of the event. Interestingly, both were semi-scale ships and came from opposite ends of the sophistication spectrum.
Jim Lee has, in the past, challenged himself repeatedly in the Old Time Stunt event with models which are difficult to fly. A couple of years ago, Jim showed up with a small F4F Wildcat which had to be flown through really big loops. Another time, both Jim and Keith Trostle brought smallish models of the Spirit of St. Louis of identical design, and then spent part of the week looking at each other like two debutantes that had worn the same dress to the ball.
Back in 1996, the way Jim chose to make life difficult for himself was by bringing out a model of the Aeronca C-3 “Bathtub.” This was a high-wing model with a draggy array of flying wires. Jim forged ahead, nonetheless, believing (as he does to this day) that given the ship’s symmetrical airfoil it was fully stunt capable. From outside the circle, this proposition seemed less certain and it often appeared that the ship really didn’t want to make outside turns. This characteristic eventually caught up with Jim and the Aeronca plowed into the ground inverted, suffering significant wing damage in the process. Undaunted, Jim patched the wing back up with some kind of packing tape and flew out the event with the Fox .35-powered bird.
That same “Airknocker” made a return appearance all these years later for the exhibition event, tape still in place on the wing, and Jim lost no time in putting it through its paces. For a while, it looked as if he was going to attempt the full OTS pattern under windy conditions, but after the Lazy Eights sanity reasserted itself and Jim eschewed the vertical and overhead portions of the pattern, flying out the tank with maneuvers held under 45 degrees. Jim received the Spirit of VSC Award for “coolest” exhibit at the contest.
Another ship flown during the exhibition was a gorgeous Kawasaki Ki-100 “Tony” fighter. This model, designed far too recently to be considered as a model from yesteryear, was a large, sophisticated ship–elaborate in construction, exquisitely detailed, and with a finish which gleamed in the sunlight like running water. Gordan Delany was the model’s designer, and the one brought to VSC by Roger Kramar was built in parallel with Gordan’s model. The only visible difference between the two ships was the use of a blue rudder by Roger in place of the all-red fin on Gordan’s. Roger chose to power his beast with a Saito .72 4-stroke, and the sound of the monster motor chugging its way through the pattern was unique on the field during VSC week.
In addition to the two exhibition flights described, John Wright also put up one using an Ambroid Whipsaw. His ship was powered by a Fox 15X with a left-hand crank turning an 8-4 pusher prop.
Classic Stunt was contested on Thursday and Friday after appearance judging Wednesday evening. The format was the same as for OTS, with two rounds per day on alternating circles, with the best score on each circle counting toward placement. Over forty contestants were formally entered, with thirty actually posting scores. Thursday’s weather continued trends from earlier in the week. The early morning continued to warm, starting out this time already above 60°F. At the same time, the day’s high temperature continued to drop, peaking at 68°F. The first round began under nearly ideal conditions, but the breeze swelled steadily as the day progressed and the back half of the second round was flown under extremely challenging conditions. The trend toward narrowing temperature spreads was reversed on Friday, which dawned the coldest day yet in the 40’s, but which concluded under nearly cloudless skies in the 70’s. The wind, which started out calm to dead, increased again as the day wore on, making for a difficult fourth round.
The battle between Masaru Hiki and Joe Gilbert, both previous VSC Classic event winners, was epic! Hiki, flying a Bob Lampione United, was turning 4.5 second laps and flying blindingly quick corners and maneuver bottoms right at (and occasionally below) the 4 foot limit. Gilbert, who is well known for frequently flying his Ringmaster at something approaching light speed, was turning comparatively “slow” laps in the 5 second range with his John Simpson Cavalier. They, along with SoCal’s own Steve Harris, flying his PA 65 Bob Whitely Hawker Hunter, set a standard which could not be equaled by the other entrants.
There were some moments of heartbreak as well, chief among them was the loss of Mark Gerber’s Veco Hurricane. Mark built his version of the Bob Palmer design Hurricane to be an exact replica of Palmer’s prototype, right down to the shape of the camouflage patterns in the finish and the authentic period decals. During the third round, as Mark was flying the first leg of the reverse wingover, a large dark grey wading bird, alternatively described as a Great Blue Heron or a Crane flew through the circle. Although it missed a direct collision with Mark’s model, it made a hard contact with the lines resulting in loss of control. The Hurricane dove in vertically, effectively reducing the ship to kindling. The bird, after an initial altitude loss of perhaps ten feet, began flapping its wings and departed to the North without apparent appreciable wounds. About the only consolation in this episode, if one is inclined to search for it, is that the original Palmer creation on which Mark based his model was donated to John Brodak for inclusion in his control line museum, and it is either now or in the future will be on exhibit for public viewing.
Steven MacBride of Las Vegas, Nevada, earned himself kudos for fortitude and persistence after his Jerry Phelps Patriot had a hard inverted pancake into the tarmac during his first round flight. The ship’s canopy was totally shattered, stab collapsed, and the fuselage broke in two just behind the flap hinge line. Steven used his venerable Blue Angel as backup for the second round, then spent Thursday evening putting the Patriot back together. He was able to bring it back out and fly it in the third and fourth rounds, albeit in “convertible” configuration.
There were other nice airplanes which met unfortunate ends over the course of the week, though not necessarily during official flights. Included were Wes Dick’s Werwage Vulcan and Bob Brookins’ Vum 18; as well as Bob Harness’s new Radial Rocket, which wasn’t around long enough to receive an appropriate photo treatment. There were others as well, but these were the ones we were able to document.
The Ringmaster event was spread out between Friday and Saturday. Unlike the previously covered events, this one featured a single round on each day, with the higher scoring of the two flights counting toward event placement. Of the eighteen nominal entrants, twelve posted official scores. The first round, flown on Friday, was essentially completed before the winds which bedeviled the final round of Classic came up. Saturday’s weather was much like Friday’s, starting out cold, but then rapidly warming into the high-70s. It was a bit breezy at the start of official flying, but the wind died down in less than an hour, so most of the second Ringmaster round was flown under ideal conditions, as were the Super 70s and Ignition events, which were also flown on Saturday. As with Ringmaster, these events were flown in two rounds, with the single highest scoring flight being the one which counted. The trophies for the Ringmaster event were provided by Dee Rice and Lewis Sullivan. Two new perpetual trophies were added for the Ringmaster event for Pilot’s Choice appearance and Master of the Ring for the highest overall placing Ringmaster at VSC. Each trophy contains a full Sterling Ringmaster S-1 kit under a plexiglass cover. These trophies were also provided by Dee Rice.
Many people travel great distances to attend VSC. This year we noted that Masaru Hiki made an overseas journey from Japan to attend. Also, first time VSC attendees John and Maggie Blanchard traveled from Brusly, Louisiana to participate.
VSC would not be complete without a few social events. On Wednesday afternoon we gathered at the courtyard of the nearby Hotel Tucson and did appearance judging for the Classic and Super 70’s models. The pilots took the opportunity to cast ballots for the Pilots’ Choice Concourse award. Following the appearance judging, a raffle was held. A variety of fine CL related merchandise had been donated by a variety of suppliers and individuals. Proceeds from the raffle help to keep VSC afloat. A list of donors should appear with this article.
On Thursday evening, an open house was hosted by long time stunt supporter Rickii Pyatt and Mack Davis. It was a fun time and a chance to visit and eat in a pleasant and relaxed environment. Thank you so much to Mack and Rickii. Also a big thanks to Barbara Trostle and Diane Peterson who spent most of the evening helping out to make the party a success.
An awards banquet was held on Saturday night where the various flying and perpetual awards were handed out. The tentative dates for VSC XXXII were announced as March 10-14, 2020 leaving plenty of time to ready next year’s world-beater ship.