VSC 2019
September 14, 2019

By Dave Trible

2019 U.S. Aerobatics Team Trial Report

Tulsa, Oklahoma was chosen as the site for this running of the contest that selects the United States team that will travel to Poland next year to represent our country at the 2020 World Championships.  Tulsa had not hosted this event before, but the Gluedobbers showed they have the ‘stuff’ to do the job and a great flying site with Reeves field.  The three grass circles were groomed well and provided no problems for the competitors.  Actually, the grass is cooler for the flyers and the judges to work from.  Hospitality is always in plenty at any event with the Gluedobbers and this was no different.  In the clubhouse the contestants found coffee and cold drinks, cases of fruit, and sweets to snack on from Wednesday on through the contest.

Gluedobbers did a great job preparing the field!
Just the right height!

I arrived about noon on Wednesday and found Orestes Hernandez and Jose Modesto already on the field.  Jose was having some battery issues so Russell Honea (the event director) took Jose back to his house for soldering equipment to fix the issues. Orestes and myself put in a grueling six hours of back to back practice flights in the rather hot and nearly still air.  We were both pretty tired when we rolled up the lines as the sun started over the horizon.  I ran through nearly a gallon of fuel and Orestes kept the battery charger busy all day.

Jose and his e-powered Shark

Thursday morning found more of the crowd coming in.  I got a couple flights up early, but the wind on this day was starting to get challenging-flyable, but didn’t inspire a great desire to deal with it and I couldn’t see much value in practice.  Most others had about the same feel of it.  We all put up a flight here and there, but had a lot of ‘visit’ time.  Orestes put up quite a few and Joe Daly also challenged the wind aggressively throughout the day.  I took a break for lunch and a short junket to the Hard Rock Casino to wrestle a one armed bandit for a time, but got back out to the field to get three quick flights in just before dark.

Orestes warming up for the contest.

Friday morning gave us rain.  It was thought that the skies would start clearing around noon and the pilots meeting would be at 3:00. So, this morning would serve as a needed extra down time.  Around noon, though, the clouds lifted and some got a bit of flying in ahead of the meeting which was over in the church; a stone’s throw from the field.  The meeting was quick and without a hitch so the pilots filed back out to the field in short order.  I think only a couple of us actually processed an extra airplane which is allowed in FAI competition.  I almost left my backup home, but as it turned out it was needed for me to finish.

Through the week, Joe Gilbert had been busy helping others and doing some of the mowing and other jobs to get the show rolling.  When I talked to him on Thursday he seemed to be waffling about whether to enter for this run at the roses.  By Friday he had decided to go for it and started to put up some practice.

Joe Gilbert returning as a USA Team member

Day one began with a threat of some rain but it didn’t materialize.  The air was actually pretty good so the game was on.  It got very hot and sticky when the sun came out and the pilots were working very hard to keep up the pace.  Unlike AMA or PAMPA stunt,  FAI is flown with two circles, with the flyers moving back and forth from one to the other until they have flown two flights on each circle for a total of four flights; twice that of a day qualifying at the Nats with very little down time between rounds.  The best score from each circle is added together to produce a final score for the day.  It happened to turn out that an equal number of electric and IC airplanes were flown.  In the central US electric stunt is very rare-to non-existent.  I get to Tulsa for their fall contest each year and don’t recall ever seeing an electric fly at Reeves field before.  I’m thinking Bob will want to start charging an electricity surcharge next time for charging all these batteries once he gets his next electric bill. Just sayin’.  When it was done this day we had ‘THE TEN”.  Flight orders were done via the ping pong ball dance and we started to fold for the day.  As I was loading up, a vehicle pulled up alongside full of airplanes and a couple eager young faces peering out the window.  The Alimov family had arrived.  I hadn’t met Mike or the boys before and it was a delight to do so.  As we all left I suggested they get their stuff out and take advantage of a very seldom vacant field.  I was a little concerned they had arrived too late to enter since the pilots meeting had already happened etc., but the management got them worked in.  WOW!  FOUR KIDS entered!  We haven’t had that many entered at the Nats since…….  This was going to be a gun fight in Junior.

Day two dawns.  As the first flight was up I was on the practice circle putting up one morning ‘warm up’ flight with Richard Oliver sharing the circle.  As Richard launched my new ship (same as the Nats) I felt something strange like a click and a vibration in the handle.  I dismissed it as maybe the line connectors getting caught.    As I turned up for the reverse wing over right in front of Richard there was a loud POP.  I went over and on the second pass came an even louder one.  Once I leveled out I could see the outer wing panel riding high with maybe 5 degrees of dihedral.  I knew it was through.  As I burned out the tank I was trying to decide whether to use the back up which I hadn’t flown in close to two years or simply retire.  There were only three more flights before it was my turn for an official.  Well, I chose to throw the old Desperado into the fray and the rest is history.  I think hindsight tells me I should have prepared with it and flown it instead.  I haven’t done an autopsy on the first airplane yet, but I suspect the problem will prove to be failed glue joints.  I used Titebond glue dots for the first time on these, but never felt like the glue soaked in to bond with the balsa like cement or Cya does.  I broke a few of these joints by accident quite easily while building.  Since this airplane has a molded balsa fuselage built as a unit together with the wing this crack also split the fuse in two places.  Sadly, this will also doom the other new one since it was done the same way.  Back to the building board……

All the flyers ran their marathon of flights this time on one circle with all the judges before them.  There was a lot of very good flying and having to parse the wiggle here or missed spot there must have been excruciating on the judges.  This event turned out very much different than the last time when the contest was flown in extreme winds that might have stopped a regular contest.  This time the air could seem near-dead.  On one flight I watched Joe Daly who worked very hard and showed a very good week here.  He was suddenly doing maneuvers with the wind in his face and was back pedaling to keep his ship out on the lines.  Quite a number of times the wind would shift 90 degrees in the middle of the flight, but it was so light it didn’t matter too much.  

Once the Seniors finished the lads flew their last round with everybody deeply concentrating on each flight.  As the boys landed they all got a round of applause from the enthralled crowd.  When the smoke cleared Steven Daly will carry the nation’s flag in the Junior category in Poland.  I expect we will see another big Junior and Senior shootout at the Nats next year!  We have more kids flying than in the past few years.

As for the Senior group,  this will be the team:

Orestes Hernandez

Joe Gilbert

Howard Rush

These guys have all been there before and will proudly represent our country and our sport at the 2020 Controline F2B World Championships.

Our sincere congratulations to these fellows who worked very hard and deserve this honor.  Let us support and promote our team.  Thank You and thanks to the Tulsa Gluedobbers for a very well run and enjoyable Team Trials.

Most of the photos in this article are the work of Elwyn Aud from the Tulsa area.  He has become the premier aerobatics photographer in our sport and his work shows why.  

Dave Trible