The National Free Flight Society 1965-2000, 2001 – 2014 follows
In late 2000, president Bob Stalick approached me about updating the history of the National Free Flight Society. Carl Fries, one of the “founding fathers” of NFFS, had written a brief summary of the organization’s startup, but it had not been revised in many years, and much of NFFS’ growth and development had never been chronicled.
With the expansion of the AMA museum in Muncie IN, and an expressed interest from curator Michael Smith to “tell the story” of AMA Special Interest Groups such as NFFS, there was a need to document the organization’s first 35 years, and to have that history preserved for Museum researchers.
But how to record that history? What approach should it take? There was no “road map” other than perhaps the works of Dave Thornburg (Do You Speak Model Airplane? and others), who blended fact with personal observation.
After several fits and starts, I finally settled on a “Thornburg lite” approach; limited personal comment, with much of the material consisting of quotes from the persons involved. Free Flight, the official NFFS publication, was the primary source for this material, along with Fries’ original history. Interviews with key NFFS personnel provided vital insight; their recollections are sprinkled throughout the text.
A word of caution: This is the recorded history of the National Free Flight Society from 1965-2000 — not the history of Free Flight modeling during that period. References to certain events/models/modelers give a “long view” perspective of the times. Those who may feel slighted that at the exclusion of their win in A Gas at the 19xx Nationals must realize that the prime focus is on organization history, not the history of the activity.
It has been said that more often than not, a person or group’s place in history seems to be determined by whomever has the best press agent. Debates have raged for years about who made the first heavier-than-air flight, and the book History by Contract certainly casts doubt on the Wright Brothers’ 1903 flight. Whenever one person records or interprets another’s work, the possibility for bias exists.
It is my hope that readers will find minimal bias here. It was fascinating to take this 35- year journey, and I hope you find it useful.
Thanks to Bob Stalick for his belief in my ability to complete this project, and for his guidance; to the many who gave so freely of themselves to create NFFS and keep it going; to my family, for putting up with the time spent on it; and to my father and brother, who got me started in Free Flight and will be with me always.
Jim Haught Anderson IN March 2001
The National Free Flight Society
1964-66: Getting Started
During the fall of 1964, Model Airplane News columnist Dick Black and Kirkwood (MO) Thermaleers president Carl Fries began to exchange correspondence concerning “the downward plight of Free Flight” and the need for Free Flight modelers to organize themselves to stop the trend.
In “The National Free Flight Society Story,” Fries asserted that “I suppose the gradual loss of flying space brought this about, since every article, more or less, seemed to use this excuse.”
Buoyed by their letter exchange, Fries and Black had motivation—but they needed others’ help (“Who will do the legwork?”). It was a daunting task.
“We both knew that time was of the essence if Free Flighters were ever going to get together once and for all,” wrote Fries. “No one had ever tried to start a national organization for pure Free Flight.”
In late summer 1965, the initial “feelers” were published in Black’s “VTO” column: “Just a couple of paragraphs to begin with,” said Fries. Response was encouraging, but “there were no volunteers—just well-wishers—but this was at least something.”
Fries and Black then went to work contacting “qualified personnel … to help in the launching (birth) of the new Free Flight organization to be known as The National Free Flight Society” with its goal “to perpetuate Free Flight.”
Among those recruited—sort of the Founding Fathers of NFFS—were
- Bob Stalick, Oregon
- Hardy Brodersen, Michigan
- Ken Johnson, Pennsylvania. Artist who designed the NFFS
- Don Farnsworth, Original NFFS draftsman.
- Dave Linstrum, Kansas. Columnist, author, and
- George and Dot Murphy, Massachusetts. Original editors of Free Flight, The National Free Flight Society Digest.
- John Worth, AMA Executive Director. “A number-one booster for NFFS, from the beginning,” wrote
- Howard Johnson, AMA president during formation of NFFS. Assisted with early publicity and actively participated in first national NFFS meeting (1966).
- Parnell Schoenky, Thermaleers member with Fries, who was “an idea man in all methods of organization, with fresh concepts.”
- Frank Ehling, AMA Technical Urged “the realization of NFFS, within the AMA structure.” One of the first to suggest creation of the yearly Symposium.
- Pete Sotich, Illinois. Former AMA president, Contest Director without peer, and “a general ‘know how to’ personal relations ”
- Annie Gieskieng, Colorado. Did a bit of everything for NFFS from its earliest days: supplies, layout, photos, reporting,
An organizational meeting was held in January 1966 in Chicago, during the Hobby Industry Association of America trade show. Response was quite positive, although Fries notes that “sadly enough, none of these distinguished hobby industry people offered ‘the green lettuce’ that we had hoped for” in terms of paid advertising.
It was decided to launch the NFFS publication independently, and pattern it after Bud Tenny’s highly successful Indoor News and Views. Despite problems obtaining quality printing at reasonable cost—a problem that plagued NFFS throughout its early years–the Murphys began work on what would become Free Flight, the NFFS newsletter. (Its subtitle, “The National Free Flight Society Digest,” was slanged into “The Digest,” and became the common name for the publication through the years, although Free Flight is its actual title.)
A temporary Board of Directors was established, and planning began for the first Board meeting, to be held at the 1966 Nationals. Newsletters were prepared for distribution, and a booth was set up to answer questions about the new Society.
The Board meeting was held, but “through a misunderstanding,” a number of non-Board members attended. A “permanent Board of Directors” consisting of Dick Black, Pete Sotich, George Murphy, and Carl Fries, was established, although Fries also asserted that this Board would serve “for an interim period.” The Board’s first directives were to establish an NFFS constitution and establish articles of incorporation.
Dues were established as $3.50 per year for AMA members ($4.50 for those who did not belong to AMA), and by late 1966 NFFS had 350 members.
It was the intent of Fries and Black to “stay with the NFFS in initial organization, and then, when the right people had taken over … bow out.” Although their involvement continued past the formative stage of NFFS, during 1967 that scenario changed forever.
The January 1967 issue of Free Flight noted the first changes in NFFS when Dave Linstrum replaced the Murphys as editor.
On February 11, Dick Black died. A memorial trophy for the high time in Coupe d’Hiver at the AMA Nationals bears his name.
In the May issue, Executive Secretary Mike des Jardins listed his “ideas of the most important immediate goals of NFFS”:
- Promotion of Free Flight as an internationally accepted competitive sport
- Free Flight is essentially an adult activity … worthy of serious and mature effortExisting Junior programs should be continued, and even expanded; but the young adult, who is the core of the sport, should be encouraged above all
- Research and development of theory and practice is essential to full development of the sport
- A constant flow of ideas is necessary to keep the sport from stagnating. This is the ultimate function of
The June issue contained a landmark article (actually the first of two parts) by Jim Robinson concerning Radio Assist Free Flight (RAFF): “A method of preserving the essentials of Free Flight as it is presently practiced.” Use of rudder control would be initiated when the model would be in danger of overflying the site boundaries.
By the latter half of 1967, NFFS membership was approaching the 500 mark, a New Member Drive was beginning, and the second Annual Meeting was held during the Los Alamitos Nats. Highlights:
- Balance: $306.37.
- Bob Stalick was appointed to the Board of Directors, along with Pete Sotich, Carl Fries, and Howard Johnson
- The Consitution and By-Laws were reviewed, modified, and
- Planning began for the 1968 Symposium, a forum for technical papers
- Carl Fries named to receive the first Dick Black Memorial Service Award, given to “the person who has done the most to promote the NFFS during the past ”
“Most of the correspondence during this time period was conducted via letter,” recalls Stalick. Many of the letters were done in a true carbon-copy fashion, using a typewriter
… Copy machines were generally not available, [so] I used a ditto machine” and a mimeograph for large runs.
Electronic communication was only a dream then: “The real slowness of the process was the mail system,” said Stalick. “It took about five days to get a letter to a person, and another five days to get a response. So nothing took place quickly.”
In the October issue, the Board of Directors announced appointment of Walt Rozelle as Digest editor as of the March 1968 issue, and the Gieskiengs (Bill and Annie) would take over the Treasurer position.
A year of change and turmoil in the United States was reflected to some degree by changes in NFFS:
- After 14 issues as editor of Free Flight, Dave Linstrum was replaced by Walt Rozelle (planned move)
- The 1968 Olathe, Kansas AMA Nationals featured a condensed schedule for Free
Flight (only four days for Outdoor events, albeit with extended hours) and air shows prior to the beginning of Outdoor flying, rather than at the end of the flying week. Meals were available on-site at NAS Olathe: Breakfast, 27 cents; Lunch, 60 cents; Supper, 45 cents.
- The first NFFS Symposium was held at the 1968 Nationals. Price for a seat at the Symposium, and a copy of the report was $3.50 for AMA and NFFS
- A new Board of Directors was chosen by NFFS members. Herb Franck represented the Eastern District; Pete Sotich (Chairman), Central; Chuck Broadhurst, the West; Bob Stalick and Bill Gieskieng were At-Large
- Bill Gieskieng replaced Walt Rozelle as Digest editor with the September 1968 In the same issue, Mike DesJardins announced his resignation as Executive Director; Chuck Broadhurst replaced him.
There were several harbingers of Free Flight’s future:
- The February issue of Free Flight contained an announcement for the West Coast Free Flight Championships, to be held March 9-10 in Kerman, California. This event would eventually “morph” into the US Free Flight Championships in the 1970s, and become the world’s largest Free Flight
- The same issue contained an article by Herb Franck that extolled the virtues of the Silva compass for use in retrieving models. “Until the ultimate model-locator is found … [it is] the next-best thing … ” Tracking-type radios would eventually become that “ultimate model locator” used by most fliers, though a good compass is still a useful
- A new class of Scale model was introduced for model with 10-13-inch wingspans: Peanut With the help of companies such as Peck-Polymers, this class would become one of the most popular Free Flight events, flown indoors and out.
- Vic Cunnyngham’s Geodetic Galaxie kit—Nationals winner in 1/2A Gas in 1967 and 1968–was among the items offered by Hobby Specialties of Charter Oak, California. Cost: $4.95.
- Dave Lambert of the San Diego Orbiteers proposed a reduction in the maximum flight time for Hand-Launched Gliders from four minutes to two (eventually adopted) and by counting five of six flights as “official” or by allowing “attempts” of less than ten seconds (these were not adopted).
About the Symposium: For many years, the Frank Zaic series of Year Books and related publications were the source of much technical information about aeromodeling. However, it was evident that the 1964-65 Year Book would be the last of its kind—a decrease in customer base and increase in publication costs doomed the 30+ year series.
AMA Technical Director Frank Ehling and Bob Stalick discussed a yearbook-type publication at the above-mentioned 1967 meeting.
“Frank [Ehling] was sure that Frank Zaic was through publishing the Year Books, but he felt that we still needed some yearbook kind of publication to keep Free Flight going,” he wrote. “The Symposium idea was born there.”
The original intent of the Symposium was a forum for technical papers, presented at the AMA Nationals, with a companion publication of those papers. The mixed initial reaction to the meetings, and limited sales of the first volumes, resulted in a more generalist approach in future years.
Nontechical papers were intermingled with technical works, and the Symposium report (which came to be known as the Sympo) took off with the 1970s addition, sparked by Hardy Brodersen, of the Ten Models of the Year and the yearly NFFS Hall of Fame inductees.
The Symposium meeting became less of a technical presentation and more of a recognition ceremony, with each year’s honorees receiving recognition and a chance to speak at an NFFS banquet held at the Nationals.
NFFS membership reached the 700 mark.
Jim Perdue and Lee Polanksy were appointed by the Board of Directors to fill unexpired Director positions left vacant when Bill Gieskieng became Free Flight editor and Chuck Broadhurst became Executive Director.
After years of problems trying to fly five-minute-maximum flights on Navy bases, with many off-field flights and associated problems, three-minute “maxes” were announced for the 1969 Nationals at Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.
The 1969 Nationals was held July 14-20, with Indoor flying at Lakehurst, New Jersey. Five days were allotted for Outdoor flying.
I Guess So: Interesting note from Carl Goldberg in the February/March Digest cncerning the evolution of his G610b airfoil: “The original Diamond Zipper had about 384 square inches [wing area] with a .57 engine. Naturally, it moved.”
Sign of the Times: In the May issue of the Digest, Herb Franck reviewed the Reid Simpson-designed Talon, a Nordic (now F1A) glider kitted by Jetco and known for being overweight as built from kit materials:
“Jetco would probably say that they cannot produce a better kit with better wood without raising the price [$9.95] … Perhaps we should not expect manufacturers to put out kits at prices that prevailed 10 years ago … [Free Flighters] get cheap kits or none at all, whereas RC kits can run as high as $30-40.”
The June-July Digest announced the death of former NFFS Executive Director Mike DesJardins in an accident at Continental Divide Raceways, Castle Rock CO.
NFFS roared into the 1970s with Bill Gieskieng continuing his work as Digest editor (with considerable assistance from wife Annie). “A big year is on tap for NFFS,” wrote Executive Director Chuck Broadhurst, who published a comprehensive “laundry list” of positions that needed to be filled, ranging from Symposium Manager to Publicity Chairman to Unofficial Nats Event Directors.
In the March issue of the Digest, there was announcement of a “big, big, big change in the Nationals” with the abandonment of the rotating-site system (a four-year cycle of Nats sites throughout the US) in favor of a fixed site of NAS Glenview, Illinois.
As things would turn out, the last three Nationals with Navy involvement/sponsorship were held at Glenview from 1970-72. Escalating costs and the US involvement in the Vietnam War are factors most often cited for the gradual decline of the Navy’s involvement.
Landmark: The Tech Talk section of the March Digest featured a torque-operated Variable Incidence Stabilizer by George Xenakis, Technical Editor. This system was developed when the author’s study of the optimum stabilizer angular variation for each portion of a Wakefield’s [now F1B] motor run “was almost a straight line when plotted against the torque output of the rubber motor.”
Landmark II: The Detroit Balsa Bugs announced the first Gathering of Eagles, “a pre- Nats contest for Wakefield, Nordic, and Power.” Entry fee was $25 per event—a significant sum in those days—and the monies collected were used to pay contest officials and the first three placings in each event.
Turnout was “somewhat disappointing”—only three entries in Wakefield, 11 in Nordic, and 14 in Power—but a number of spinoff contests were inspired, including Denver’s Passel of Pigeons and Taft’s Gathering of Sparrows.
Controversy: “Face it! Free Flight is fading fast,” said David W. Jones in the April Digest. “If Free Flight models were radio controlled, would they still be Free Flight models?” Jones proposed use of a Free Flight Guidance Module to “keep the model from drifting too far downwind and to return it to the field for a landing.”
Jones’ idea was to “revitalize the hobby” and “stir a revolution that will fill the sky with joy and model airplanes.”
Elections: John Allen (At-Large), Herb Franck (East), and Lee Polansky (West) were elected to Director positions; Pete Sotich and Bob Stalick were the other Board members.
Postal Contests: These were a staple of the early NFFS years, often flown in the smaller model classes such as HLG and Coupe d’Hiver. A “window” of flying dates was established, as were the scoring rules to be used, and results were mailed to a central club for tabulation.
The Spring 1970 Hand Launched Glider Postal had 79 entries from five countries, and fliers used German rules (ten attempts to make six 60-second flights) in some locales , and AMA rules (six attempts for three 120-second flights) in others. Tom Hutchinson of Pasadena CA won the German event; Bill Dunwoody of Northport NY won the AMA section.
Familiar Name: Jim Richmond of the Chicago Aeronuts dominated the Indoor Nationals, winning the Indoor Championship by winning Stick, Cabin, and Paper Stick. Richmond would go on to many more Nats wins and multiple World Championships victories.
Prophetic Words: The December Digest closed the year with a number of letters concerning David Jones’ Free Flight Guidance Model (April issue). A letter from Dick Lyons is remarkably on-the-money when read 30 years later:
“Let us have ‘DT on command’ and ‘tracking’ equipment to help us recover our models… I think ‘DT on command’ would be an acceptable idea to Free Flighters.”
As this is written (early 2001), most Free Flight models now have some sort of tracking radio, and the Radio Control DT issue is a hot topic—one that is being tested in several locations.
The year began on a sad note for NFFS with the passing of Executive Director Chuck Broadhurst February 28. Chuck had recently been elected AMA Vice President for District X and was a tireless worker, organizer, and promoter of Free Flight. The Sweepstakes trophy for the United States Free Flight Championships is named in his honor.
“We have finally got it all together,” wrote Hardy Brodersen in the June-July . Hardy outlined a number of changes to the NFFS structure, including his own temporary stewardship of the Executive Director post. George Xenakis was to take over as Digest editor, following an interim editorship by Bob Meuser. The Printer, Doug Galbreath’s company, was to take over printing and mailing. frequency was to be six issues per year, with as many as three “special issues” for events such as Nationals and World Championships.
Bill Bogart was named editor of the fifth NFFS Symposium report.
Bob Meuser began his interim editorship of the Digest with a combined 24-page October- December issue that featured the US Nationals. Executive Director Hardy Brodersen presented a Report to the Membership that featured an NFFS organizational chart, outlining the duties of each “team” member.
A new format for the Digest began with a “division of labor” involving Contributing Editors for “the four ways in which to get a Free Flight model airborne: the engine, rubber power, the towline, and the arm.” Additional Contributing Editors were sought for Plans and Three-Views, Scale, Indoor, Gadgets & Gimmicks, and Tech Notes.
History: The March Digest’s “This & That/Here & There” section featured a letter from Frank Parmenter, who “discovered” the now-common method of tilting a model’s stabilizer to establish a circling glide.
In 1940 Frank was hastily completing a Comet Sailplane the night before a contest, and inadvertently misaligned the stab so that one side was higher than the other. The model trimmed out quickly under power, “and had a nice, tight, thermal-catching glide.”
Problems with a retracting gear led Frank to rebuild the fuselage and correct that “misaligned” stab (“how could I have built that thing so cockeyed?”). But when the model was flown after repairs, the circling glide was gone and the model stalled.
“It just didn’t seem possible that this could cause such a change,” wrote Frank, but he returned the stab to its original position, and the circling glide was back. “Boy! Was this a discovery!” he wrote. “Like lots of others, it was an accident, but who cared?”
Bob Stalick (At-Large) and Pete Sotich (Midwest) were reelected to their Director positions.
Digest editor George Xenakis accepted a transfer to the NASA Ames facility in California, so the “Sometimes and Occasional Editor,” Bob Meuser, filled in for the May- June issue.
The Big One: Jim Scarborough reported in the June-July Digest that the second US Free Flight Championships, held at Taft, California, was “bigger and better” than the inaugural event, with 634 event entries. Temperatures were at or above 100 degrees in the afternoons, and competition was just as hot; several national records were set, and Jim won the Grand Champion award for the second time.
George Xenakis bowed out as editor of the Digest with the November-December issue, turning the editorial reins over to Bob Meuser.
Sympo ’72 featured some unusual presentations: Jack McGillivray of Canada showed his
folding-wing Class A power model (tip panels folded under a flat center section) and Dick Mathis displayed and talked about his Fortune Hunter “R/C Free Flight” model. The idea of Radio Control “invading” Free Flight led to “a heated discussion” and there has been speculation that the intensity of reaction to the Fortune Hunter may have precipitated Mathis’ departure from the modeling scene shortly thereafter.
The year began with changes to the Digest editorial team: Bob Meuser in for George Xenakis as editor, with George returning to his slot as technical editor; Erv Rodemsky (originator of the popular Pennyplane Indoor event) replaced Bud Tenny as Indoor columnist.
The January issue contained an announcement of the passing of Ocie Randall, founder and longtime member of the Fresno Gas Model Club. The High Time trophy at the US Free Flight Championships bears his name.
The March issue carried a “flash notice” that the AMA Nationals had been relocated to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The June issue followed with a diagram of Wittman Field, and a discussion about the site by Executive Director Hardy Brodersen:
“I do not discount the hardships,” he wrote. Potential problems included a long, narrow field, with crops aplenty, woods, and other obstacles. He opined that this was “a chance to get behind the new Nats momentum … Does this sound like I’m selling? Well, I think that there is something worth selling.”
“So come to the Nats, and think 5 mph winds.”
Supersweep 22, a record-setting Indoor Hand-Launched Glider by Ron Wittman, was featured in the April Digest. This model was the first to record a 1:30 flight, backed with a 1:28.7 for the record, set February 18, 1973.
Extensive photo coverage of the 1973 US Free Flight Championships was featured on the July and August Digest covers. Of particular note was a photo of Sweepstakes winner Randy Bunch, a Senior. Already making a name for himself in AMA Power, he eventually became the dominant F1C (FAI Power) flier in the world. (Doesn’t sound familiar? In later years he changed his last name, following his parents’ divorce, to Archer.)
The September-October Digest lead with “Free Flight at the 1973 Nats—A Tale of Horror.” Wind blew across the narrow direction of the field for most of the contest, making model retrieval a nightmare. With no Navy assistance whatsoever (a first for the Nats, after many years), a time-one-fly-one system was put into effect with good results.
Bucky Servaites was Grand National Champion for the fourth time, along with Indoor Champion and was second in the Free Flight Category Championship and second in the
Scale Category Championship.
A new perpetual trophy for high time in F1C at the Nationals was donated by AMA Vice President Jim McNeill (The McNeill Cup) and was awarded to Dave Rounsaville. In addition to the trophy, the winner receives an engine of the type currently used in the event.
The latest in a serve-and-volley series of letters between Bob Meuser and AMA Executive Director John Worth was printed in the January Digest, “On Missing the Point.” In this installment Worth took Free Flighters to task about “complaining without offering solutions” for the problems with the 1973 Nationals site and other issues.
“After all the fuss about Oshkosh, I thought we might get a more unified effort from Free Flight leaders,” he wrote. And concerning the rather testy relationship between AMA and Free Flight modelers, “My aim is to unify rather than divide, even if the unity is born of anger. Better that than apathy.”
Chennault Field at Lake Charles, Louisiana was announced as the site for the 1974 Nationals, with an unusual arrangement of high-ceiling Indoor flying at Spring, Texas, and low-ceiling Indoor at a Lake Charles site.
Another back-and-forth issue concerned FAI’s passage of an increase in the minimum weight for Coupe d’Hiver rubber models from 80 to 100 grams. Bob Meuser even went so far as to propose an “American Cup” event, identical to Coupe except that it retained the previous 80-gram minimum.
Versatility: Model of the Year Awards were announced in the June-July Digest; interesting that Paul Crowley won two awards, one for his Happy Hooker Nordic and one for CS-1, a collaborative Indoor Rubber effort with Ed Stoll.
Then and Now: That same Digest contained “FAI Affairs” by Bob Meuser, mentioning Russian proposals to reduce model performance: F1A (Nordic) towlines reduced from 50 meters to 30; F1B (Wakefield) motors from 40 grams to 25; and F1C (Power) engine run from seven to five seconds.
“It is not a question of whether such performance-reducing rules changes will be made,” Meuser wrote. “It is rather a question of what changes will be made, and when.”
By 2001, F1A towline length was unchanged, but F1B motor weight was down to 35 grams, and the F1C engine run was indeed five seconds.
Allow for Inflation: Meuser also commented on a proposal for a minimum prop diameter for F1Cs: “That would lead to stiletto-thin boron-fiber props at about $20 a
throw, or $100 gear-reduction units, and we’d soon be right back, but with thinner wallets.” By 2001, composite F1C props were the norm, and geared models were used by World Champions Randy Archer and Evgeny Verbitsky, among others—but the props cost considerably more than $20 apiece, and the geared engine setups were far beyond $100 in cost.
The 1974 US Free Flight Championships had 338 (!) contestants, who flew 784 man- events. Senior Randy Secor won Sweepstakes, nudging out Jim Scarborough, who doubled as Contest Manager.
1974 Nats: Jim Scarborough reported in the October-November Digest that “the weather didn’t cooperate” but “AMA put on a great Nats.” Roughly 1,300 contestants and officials were on hand. Wind, rain, and woods/swamp downwind made retrieval difficult (“water moccasins were a reality”) and eliminated the possibility of a Category I (five- minute maxes) event. John Thornhill was Contest Director for a variety of unofficial events sponsored by NFFS.
Free Flight icon Sal Taibi was inducted into the Model Aviation Hall of Fame at Lake Charles.
Disturbing news in the February Digest: Pete Sotich, the Contest Director to end all Contest Directors, sent a letter stating that he had “severed all relationships pertaining to model aeronautics.” This came as a shock to many, and has never been fully explained.
Pete was a former president of AMA, Chair of the FF Team Selection Committee, held a variety of important Nats managerial functions, and was without peer as a contest administrator.
John Worth’s “Perspective on the Status Quo” in the same issue stated that “it’s mostly Free Flighters who don’t try to help their own cause.” There followed a list of Worth’s “worries” and the question, “Why must a Free Flight model not use any form of radio control?”
NFFS Executive Director Hardy Brodersen responded with a “Dear John” letter in the May :
“On the question of putting a radio into a Free Flight model … Free Flighters balk at such contamination of an otherwise pure sport.”
Landmark: The Toledo Weak Signals offered NFFS free booth space at the large annual R/C Expo trade show. Vice President Paul Bradley, Paul Crowley, and others manned the booth, which featured Indoor and Outdoor models on display.
The 1975 Nationals returned to the previous year’s site of Lake Charles, Louisiana. NFFS sponsored more than a dozen unofficial events, ranging from ROW (Rise Off Water) to Rubber Speed to Electric.
This was also the year AMA launched its own version of Model Aviation as a stand-alone publication following the bankruptcy of its previous publisher. This raised no small amount of turbulence in the model publications industry, as noted by Hardy Brodersen:
“The cry raised by the modeling press that AMA’s move to enter the commercial field seems to have some weight … AMA is really also in business, except the profit motive is given a different perspective … The product of the AMA is the control and management of modeling activity, nationally … I respect [the decision to launch MA] and support it, and at the same time deplore the divisive effect it has had in our community.”
Western Director Ed Bellinger resigned his position in July, to “investigate the movement afoot to organize an alternate modeling body, and to offer my wholehearted support if warranted.”
(A movement called the US Aeromodelers began as an alternative to AMA, born as a reaction to the Model Aviation launch; but it never gained momentum.)
The United States’ Bicentennial and NFFS’ Deci-Centennial year began with a discussion about a proposed Category III (two-minute max flight times). Bob Meuser and other kicked around the pros and cons (“two-minute maxes for Unlimited Rubber seems a bit ridiculous”) but eventually Category III came to pass, and became perhaps the most widely flown of the three categories, with Category I (five-minute maxes) being flown only at one or two sites in California, and Category II (three-minute maxes) unable to be flown at most Eastern sites because of space restrictions.
The CIAM (International Committee for Aeromodeling) recommended that the traditional two-year cycle for World Championships be switched to three years, based on some countries’ inability to field teams for the increasing number of events for which World Championships were held. Bob Meuser, George Xenakis, and others published strong objections to the proposed change in various issues of the , in anticipation of the December 1976 CIAM meeting.
(The December Digest carried “Flash News” that the two-year cycle was retained.)
Time Has Come Today: “I just noticed that my one-year contract expired more than 2- 1/2 years ago,” wrote Digest editor Bob Meuser in the June-July issue. “The NFFS is supposed to be a grass-roots, outfit, but somebody has to water the lawn!”
The 50th AMA Nationals took place in Dayton and Springfield, Ohio. The tenth annual
Society of Antique Modelers (SAM) Champs was also held in Dayton during that time period.
Guests: “AMA and NFFS cooperated in getting the FAI world champions to come to the Nats,” recalls Bob Stalick, who also attended as part of his duties as columnist for Model Builder. He was also a driver for Lars Olofsson, reigning F1C champion, “who ended up winning A Gas.”
The Team Selection Finals in Minnesota was cancelled before F1A was flown, following the crash of a light plane on a model search. The pilot and his model-flying passenger were killed, and the F1A team was selected later by holding regional Finals at three sites (one team member selected from each).
The US won the team and individual (Bud Romak) awards at the Indoor World Championships in Cardington, England.
The December Digest also passed on the news of the passing of Paul Gilliam, best known for his Civy Boy design of the 1950s, and for his models’ finely crafted color schemes.
The First Bob Meuser Era ended with the publication of the February-March Digest; Keith Varnau of Castro Valley CA took over as editor.
The 1977 AMA Nationals was held August 6-14 at Riverside CA—“The first Nats I’ve been to that wasn’t flown in the friendly confines of an airport!” reported Tom Hutchinson. “Maybe next year, the Nats will be back.”
By the September 1977 issue Keith Varnau had stepped aside as editor, and Bob Stalick took over for that issue, which featured the Riverside Nats. John Oldenkamp of San Diego then took over as editor: “We need new stuff ASAP. I’ll move my tail if you’ll move yours,” said John.
End of an Era: The December Digest contained an ad from The Boeing Management Association for its Ninth Annual Model Aeronautics Scholarship Contest, held at the Boeing Space Center in Kent WA. Open to contestants 18 years of age and under, first prize was a $1,500 college scholarship.
California’s Marty Thompson paid for a good chunk of his college education courtesy this event, winning it three times!
In a guest editorial in the January Digest, Bob White, leading flier of all types of Rubber models, announced his support for the somewhat-controversial proposal to increase the minimum weight for Coupe d’Hiver models to 100 grams.
“We should support it to encourage a high standard of performance,” he wrote. “I realize that this is a reversal of my earlier position on the subject,” but experience gained from flying in Europe made him realize that “we must remember that we are formulating rules for flying in international competition.”
Hardy Brodersen’s guest editorial in the February issue pointed up the development of NFFS:
“The advent of the Special Interest Group, for which the NFFS is the pioneer and model and to which the AMA turns for response, input, and guidance in the conduct of business for Free Flight, is now the main administrative and political feature of NFFS’ reason for being in business. …
“If we are good, we can keep our prerogatives in motion. If we fade, Free Flight has no spokesman of authority with our National Aero Club.
“NFFS has much more dimension than the political/administrative … but it is very important to appreciate this component of the work to be done. The visible end result is the quality of the Nationals, the control and management of the FAI Team Selection Program, the makeup of the Contest Board, and the continuing identification of Free Flight as a separate discipline in American modeling.”
Brainstorming between Brodersen and Tony Italiano during this time period resulted in the creation of the US Indoor and Outdoor Championships.
“The basic philosophy,” wrote Italiano, “was that if the AMA Nationals site was inadequate for either Indoor or Outdoor Free Flight competition, then the NFFS would hold the competition at a suitable site.”
The debate about 80- or 100-gram Coupe models continued with George Xenakis’ editorial in the March issue, stating that although he “liked and admired” Bob White, “his position is a minority one in the USA.” George had received numerous letters in favor of the 80-gram rule, so he recommended to AMA president Johnny Clemens (voting member for the US at the CIAM meeting) that the US vote against the proposed weight increase.
Central to the debate was whether or not Coupe was/is a “beginner’s” event, along with its sister, A/1 Towline (now F1H). Xenakis felt that these were intended to be beginner’s events (“stepping stones to the World Championship classes”) and that CIAM’s involvement was to “standardize specifications so that young people’s international contests can be held.”
Harry Steinmetz of the San Diego Orbiteers published an “Advertisement” in the June-
July Digest promoting rules for a new Rubber event, named P-30, that he developed with John Oldenkamp. The simple rules, sent to AMA for evaluation, called for overall model dimensions not to exceed 30 inches; minimum weight of 40 grams; 10 grams maximum rubber weight; and a “commercially available plastic freewheeler” prop.
Following some “tweaks” to the rules from lessons learned in competition, P-30 became an official AMA event and was still very popular more than 20 years later.
Jim Richmond won the F1D Indoor World Championships with his Cat Walker, a 1978 NFFS Model of the Year design. Jim edged the previous world champion, Bud Romak, by slightly more than three minutes. The US team finished second to the British.
A new set of Directors for NFFS was announced in the October : East, Carroll Allen; Central Dick Lyons; West, Doug Galbreath; At-Large, Homer Smith and Hardy Brodersen.
Executive Director Brodersen took this action “as an expedient in lieu of the nominating and election procedure … after three or four years of pleading for volunteers to step forward, I consider the action acceptable. If anyone has an objection, let me hear from you. I’ll give you a job.”
NFFS was asked by AMA to present an offer to host the 1979 Outdoor World Championships because of problems with Yugoslavia’s bid (“complications related to the South African question”). Eventually the Champs was awarded to the US and was held at Taft, California.
“An incredibly vintage year,” wrote John Oldenkamp in an editorial in the January Digest titled “Champagne and Vinegar.” The upcoming World Championships in the US, the Nats in Lincoln NE, a new president for AMA, and other items were “champagne.”
On the “vinegar” side was the admonition that “NFFS is suffering at the box office.”
Membership Director Bill Booth Jr. was particularly vexed that
“A ridiculous amount of big names, very active FFers, do not belong to NFFS, and never have … nearly every modeler I talk to has his own version of how FF is being screwed by AMA, yet almost none are aware that NFFS is the spokesperson for Free Flight.
“I am just amazed that a great deal of the top-notch Free Flighters around think that NFFS is a club from Northern California, or the outlaw organization founded as an alternative to AMA.”
“Happiness is Free Flight,” wrote Ralph Prey in the February Digest. He went on to describe the genesis of the Nostalgia events, for FF designs of the 1950s. The San Valeers
club worked out a simple set of rules (much more so than the many-page document the rules became a few years later). The idea caught fire immediately, and with assistance from Harry Murphy of the Central Indiana Aeromodellers, flight categories were developed to suit sites across the country. Nostalgia events quickly became a staple of many contests—particularly in the Midwest, where Nostalgia entries often topped those in the AMA Gas classes.
Thomas Koster of Denmark became the first (and as of 2001, the only) person to win all three of the FAI events competed for in FF World Championships (F1A, F1B, and F1C) when he proxy-flew Per Grunnet’s model to first place in F1A. America’s Lee Hines placed third, and the US team placed first—first time for that accomplishment.
A massive Plans Book was published by NFFS, including drawings of many of the models flown at the World Championships. A similar landmark book, World Free Flight Review by Bill Hartill, is a must-read.
The 1980 Nats schedule was announced in the January-February Digest, with Indoor events at West Baden IN, and the Outdoor events at Springfield OH. Also on tap were the Indoor World Championships at West Baden (just before the Nats) and a possible Flying Aces meet during the same time period.
Thirteen unofficial events were planned for the Nats, sponsored by NFFS and overseen by Terry Rimert.
The same issue also reported that NFFS memberships would pass 1,000 for the first time, according to outgoing Membership Chairman Bill Booth Jr. (replaced by Kit Sonensen).
Executive Director Hardy Brodersen announced that formation of a Select Committee to give “specific recommendations on Nats philosophy, format, site requirements, site rotation, schedule, and the most basic question: Must the FF Nats be combined with other categories?”
Growing dissatisfaction among competitors lead to this action, and “now is the time to take charge and determine the future of our Free Flight Nationals,” Brodersen wrote.
First meeting of the Select Committee was held at the 1980 Nats. Big question, raised by chairman Brodersen, concerned “the character of the Nats”: Do we want a competition- type Nats, or a family-fun-type Nats?
Other issues to be reviewed by the committee (and reported on three months after the initial meeting) included how to acquire sites; possible site rotation; should Indoor and Outdoor FF be held at the same location; should the FF Nats be coupled with other disciplines.
Erv Rodemsky of the US won the Indoor World Championship on his last flight, edging 1978 champion Jim Richmond and leading the US team to victory at West Baden.
NFFS Election Results: Hardy Brodersen and Homer Smith won At-Large Director positions; Tom McLaughlan, East; Tony Italiano, Central; and Doug Galbreath, West.
The 1981 Nats sites were announced (July-August Digest) as West Baden for Indoor and Seguin TX for Outdoor.
Redacteur en Chef: That’s what Bob Meuser announced as his new title when he again took over editorship of the Digest with the September-December issue.
Frank Gue began contributing to the Digest as host of “Beginner’s Corner” as 1981 got underway. “If Free Flight survives,” opined Bob Meuser, “It will be because one or two guys—like Frank—made it happen.”
NFFS president Tony Italiano announced in the July-August Digest that dues would increase to $15/yr for members age 19 and up. Declining membership numbers, cost to produce the Symposium reports and the Digest were given as prime reasons for the increase.
Jim O’Reilly of Kansas was announced as At-Large Contributing Editor for the Digest as of the September-October issue, “to recognize his consistent and consistently fine contributions.”
Harbinger: With its location and date separate from the rest of the Nats, the June 1981 West Baden Indoor Nats was “not only … a grand experiment, it may well become the forerunner of future Nats activity.” Within a few years the US Indoor Championships would take wing in Johnson City TN, and would eventually be combined with the AMA Indoor Nats.
A Board of Directors Meeting was held August 4-5 and covered many topics, including
- Membership was 900
- The Nats Committee reported that consensus of its survey was that the Nats should be “strongly competition-oriented”; a separated Nats should only be held when flying site demands make it necessary; a separate Indoor Nats at West Baden was preferable to a unified FF Nats at a lesser
- Projected income vs expenses would result in a surplus of $500
Master Strokes? An NFFS Master Activity Plan was drawn up at the August Board Meeting, and was quite ambitious. Among the goals for 1982-83 were a membership drive
(goal: 1,500 members); establishment of a Public Relations Department; assignment of an Education Director; begin fund-raising activities; tax-free status for NFFS by December 1982.
A Five-Year Plan was also proposed, and included such items as progressive increases in membership from 2,500 in December 1984 to 4,000 by December 1986; increase fund- raising goals in all sectors; and “establish paid permanent administrator and office by 12/85.”
Jack Woodard was retained to be “the National Free Flight Society’s new (and apparently first) public relations manager” as announced in the March Digest. His charge was to “promote the fine art of Free Flight Model Aviation to the public at large and specifically to interested potential modelers” despite the fact that his budget was “essentially equal to zero.”
“Clearly, I’m going to need all the help I can get,” he wrote. He later explained (June-July Digest) that the sole objective of public relations was “to get the maximum amount of free and favorable publicity.” Further, “It’s up to us to educate media people about FF well enough so we can communicate effectively.”
Prophetic: Doug Galbreath reviewed the Nelson .15 engine in the May Digest: “Performance is good. It does not have the same sound as a Rossi, but it turns rpm within the top 10% of the engines I have.” Before too much time passed, the Nelson would be the engine to use in F1C (FAI Power).
Tom Hutchinson, designer of the Maverick 1/2A and Dragmaster Nordic, among others, died of cancer at age 42. Bob Meuser penned an obituary for “The Round Man” in the September-October Digest.
The United States Indoor Championships became a reality June 14-16 at West Baden IN, sponsored by NFFS, the Chicago Aeronuts, the National Indoor Model Airplane Society, and the Illinois Model Airplane Club. Many of the biggest names in Indoor flying were present, and this event laid the groundwork for the success of future USICs.
“The economics of our times dictate that we should be more frugal,” wrote NFFS president Tony Italiano in the March Digest. “Some of our members have taken that pretty seriously and have let their NFFS membership renewal lapse … we must have a larger base to share the load.”
But it wasn’t just about the money. Tony also wrote that “more brains in the organization could sprout new and better ideas in this most enjoyable hobby of ours.”
The NFFS Board of Directors made a “momentous decision,” announced in the August- September Digest, that the Nostalgia movement would become “an integral part of NFFS activities.” Ralph Prey of California and Harry Murphy of Indiana agreed to co-chair the Nostalgia effort, and were tasked with creating a unified set of rules by February 29, 1984.
Matt Gewain of the US defeated Paul Lagan of New Zealand in the F1A flyoff at the World Championships in Australia—first time in 24 years that an American won the top individual prize (since Jerry Ritz, 1959). Cool, windy, rainy weather hampered the contest and US efforts, though the F1C team finished second to Italy.
The US Indoor Champs was again held at West Baden, and was “totally orchestrated by the National Free Flight Society.” Eighty-nine contestants participated, but as Tony Italiano noted in his report in the October-November Digest, “the goal of 100 contestants is required in order for [the USIC] to be a large financial success.”
Tony also issued a call for members to seek alternate sites for the 1984 USIC, “in case the West Baden atrium is not available.” (It wasn’t—see 1984 USIC.)
Digest production continued to lag behind goals, but “not as badly as it might have seemed,” wrote Bob Meuser. Seven issues, with 108 total pages, were produced; goals were 10 issues and 120 pages. “We gotta fix it in 1984.”
The first set of rules for NFFS Nostalgia events was published in the January Digest. It’s interesting to look at this one-page document (“we must begin somewhere”) and contrast it with later versions, which were several times the length of the original!
It’s also a bit ironic to read under “Purpose” that Nostalgia “is meant to be relaxed and enjoyable in accordance with those of the original era.” During its evolution Nostalgia became as hotly contested as the other Free Flight events, and it would be a stretch to call it “relaxed.” Particularly in the Midwest, Nostalgia became a staple of the contest scene, to the extent that entries in AMA Gas classes often paled by comparison.
Wishful Thinking? NFFS president Tony Italiano congratulated Messrs Prey and Murphy on the Nostalgia rules project, noting that “these rules appear to be livable and reasonable and for all practicality last for a year or two,” and “the overall intent is to have a nice “yesteryear” sport-flying type of competition and not a dog-eat-dog or ‘how to bend the rules’ concept.”
Competitors that most Free Flighters are, though, lead to Nostalgia taking on a somewhat-
different path than originally intended.
The third USIC was held at the Michigan State Fair Coliseum June 18-20, cosponsored by NFFS and the National Indoor Model Airplane Society. Two major problems were encountered: rent for the Coliseum was high ($500/day) and attendance was down (57 contestants).
“We have incurred a loss,” wrote Tony Italiano. “Holding a USIC in Detroit again would be detrimental to the health of NFFS.”
Jerry Ritz: A short item in the September Digest noted the passing of Jerry Ritz, 1959 Nordic (F1A) champion, following the crash of his original-design ultralight aircraft.
A listing of Nostalgia-eligible engines was published in the December Digest, indicating the further development of the class in a short time. After some testing, it was determined that the year 1963 marked a dramatic increase in engine power from previous years, thus taking engines beyond the available power during the original Nostalgia period (1943-56). The time extension for engines was given to offset a feared lack of available plain-bearing power plants from the design-eligible period.
A fly-in-the-ointment was the Cox Tee Dee series, which was introduced in 1961 and represented a significant power increase, particularly in the .020-.051 cubic inch displacement range. In the western US, models were scaled up to balance the equation somewhat (though one has to wonder who decided how much scaling-up was adequate), but eventually Cox front-rotary-valve engines were declared ineligible, except for the .010 and .020, to be used in 1/2A when desired (and later in the popular 1/4A class).
The rather vagabond nature of the USIC was evident if the notice of the 1985 event (January Digest): the Niagara Falls NY Convention Center was announced as the site for USIC IV, held June 18-20. Financial concerns were evident by the notice that “all entries must be in by April 24, 1985. If there are insufficient entries, the contest will be canceled!”
On the other hand, there was also the promise that one could “experience another honeymoon at Niagara Falls!” But the honeymoon was not enticement enough for a large turnout; only 74 contestants showed up, flying an average of 4.08 events each.
This caused Tony Italiano to ponder in print (May Digest) about “the goal of the USIC”:
“NFFS management has and will continue to pursue obtaining a site whose [sic] ceiling is in the 90- to 100-foot range. Holding the USIC on the West Coast does not appear to be feasible … if a suitable site at the right price cannot be located by the end of November, 1985, we will attempt to obtain the Niagara Falls site.”
For Fame and Glory Only: “NFFS Affairs” in the February Digest answered the question, “In the NFFS organization, who gets paid?” Turns out that only the Digest editor and the printer (or, in this case, The Printer, Doug Galbreath’s company) were compensated positions, and The Printer “ ‘eats’ some of the expenses and does not charge for a great deal of the time he spends.”
Zaic Redux: The material for the never-published 1968 Model Aeronautic Yearbook was donated to NFFS by Frank Zaic, and a portion of the book was published as an insert and cover-wrap to the October Digest.
Lack of funds kayoed the original project, and publication as a separate volume by NFFS was “not feasible financially,” to quote editor Bob Meuser. But “I figured it would be a dirty shame for [this] material to spend the rest of its life in a closet somewhere.”
“Progress is our biggest problem,” according to president Tony Italiano’s note in the October issue. It seems that the long-rumored renovation of the West Baden Indoor site (to a 400-room resort) was about to happen, and “Indoor model airplane flying is not at all included in the plans.”
(In fact, the story of the West Baden facility would go through many more chapters before a very expensive restoration/renovation took place in the late 1990s. As of early 2001, no model flying had taken place at the “new” facility.)
Digest production for 1985 was one of the best in recent years: goals of ten issues and 120 pages were met. Timeliness was still sometimes an issue, but “material has been a problem … those who have been bellyaching about not receiving their Digests might consider helping to solve the problem by contributing material,” wrote Bob Meuser.
Sign of the Times: The changing face of Free Flight was evidenced in “Binoculars for F/F,” an article by Hermann Andresen, in the January Digest. Binoculars had been approved by AMA for use in timing models to reduce out-of-sight flights, and this article dealt with proper selection and use of this piece of support equipment that would eventually be considered nearly essential—continuing an evolution from the early no- dethermalizer days, when timers were allowed to follow models in cars, along with the flier.
The growing popularity of Nostalgia models obviated publication of a revised set of rules (April Digest), along with an Appendix concerning design eligibility, and a listing of eligible engines and model designs. It took most of the April Digest to print all of this material, so it was dubbed a Special Issue for Nostalgia.
The 1986 Nationals returned to Lake Charles LA, with Indoor events at the Lake Charles
Civic Center. A total (all modeling disciplines) of only 701 contestants participated, making it “the worst-attended Nats in recent history,” according to Tony Italiano’s report in the December Digest.
Fateful Words: Italiano’s Nats report contained the thought that, “keeping the ‘big Nats’ concept alive belies recognition of the changing world and the aging of the membership. It is almost time to bite the bullet and make our quantum jump.”
(Eventually the USIC became a stand-alone event at Johnson City TN, and the Outdoor Nats continue to bounce around until the mid-1990s, when AMA’s National Flying Site was ready to host a combined Nats—albeit spread out over several weeks to afford the best conditions for the various disciplines.)
“I am a beginner at writing a beginner’s column,” wrote Ken Simpson in the May Digest, “and would like to hear from you. Ken replaced Jack Sarhage as “Beginner’s Corner” author and Contributing Editor.
More of a Good Thing: Following up on the popularity of the rubber-powered P-30 event, John Oldenkamp and the San Diego Orbiteers initiated an “.020 PeeWee 30 event,” later shortened to PeeWee 30.
A design contest was held among the Orbiteers, and “we are concentrating for this particular deal on simple all-sheet machinery, but are pushing forward in hopes this will be a true entry-level event for Gas people, similar in spirit to the P-30 Rubber thing,” wrote Oldenkamp in the August-September Digest.
As with P-30, PeeWee 30 survived its growing pains and some rules-tweaking to become a popular contest event, though perhaps not as much so with the “true beginners” as the originators may have wished.
“If it weren’t for the Canadians and the Ohioans, we would not have had a contest!” wrote Tony Italiano in his report on USIC ’86. A return to the Niagara Falls venue brought out only 64 contestants—and 10 were from from Canada and 11 from Ohio!
Competition was good, but “NFFS cannot stand very much of this [losing money]!” wrote Tony. He also noted that “looking back over the five years of USIC, one finds that participation appears to be leveling off … it is very difficult to perceive why more modelers do not participate.”
Further reflection by Italiano, looking back on those years:
“NFFS was in a deep financial hole by the end of the 1970s,” he wrote. “It took a lot of action to turn that around … it worked very well.”
On the international Indoor scene, Jim Richmond of the US repeated as F1D World
Champion, besting Cezar Banks (also US) by a bit more than six minutes.
Home at Last: The January Digest announced the move of USIC to what would become its “home” for many years: the Mini-Dome at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City. Ceiling height was listed as 122 feet; the arched-roof facility was built for indoor football!
But after the spotty attendance at recent USICs and the Nationals sites, Tony Italiano warned that “the 1987 USIC will be on a trial basis: if attendance is down, I firmly believe that NFFS will drop the event and begin to write off the Indoor activity as a dying art.”
But the Indoor fliers got the message: 98 contestants entered, with six no-shows. “An all- time high!” wrote Tony Italiano (June-July Digest). Still, “USIC is not financially self- sustaining,” although “Indoor flying is alive and well when a proper site is available and low-priced lodging is in close proximity.”
In announcing that the Mini-Dome had been tentatively reserved for 1998, Italiano noted that “we need at least 150 competitors” and “we need to look strongly at the prospect of combining USIC and the Indoor portion of the Nationals.” In later years this shotgun marriage would prove to be a benefit to all who attended.
Lincoln NE was announced as the Outdoor Nats site. “An interesting event,” reported Tony Italiano in the November Digest. “It ran hot and cold.”
Indoor was a success, with increased attendance compared to previous years, but the Outdoor site “was not as good as expected, and the strong winds in the latter part of the week made it even worse. I would rate the site at about a 3.5 on a 1 to 10 scale.”
Virginia Beach VA had already been picked as the 1988 Nats site, without much hope for “Nats caliber” Free Flight sites. Tony issued a call for suggestions for other Outdoor sites, and a proposal to combine the USIC with the Indoor Nats was put before the AMA Executive Council.
The NFFS-directed unofficial events did well by comparison, handled for many years under the stewardship of Terry Rimert.
A Proxy Postal contest for the new Pee Wee 30 event was announced by the San Diego Orbiteers as a trial for their “new, fun-type Free Flight event.” Power was limited to the Pee Wee .020 reed-valve engine; no dimension could exceed 30 inches; two wheels were required (one flight must have a Rise Off Ground takeoff); and it was found that a minimum weight of 100 grams was necessary. Engine timers were not allowed, and flight scoring was flight time divided by engine run, multiplied by 100.
Thirty aircraft were entered, with 27 making official flights. Four of the first five placings were models made entirely of sheet balsa. “Bottom line … fun,” reported John Oldenkamp.
Champion at Last: Bob White of the US capped years of effort and wins around the world by winning F1B at the World Championships in France. Sal Fruciano’s report in the November Digest opined that “Bob White beat the best, decisively.” The US team finished in fifth place overall.
Bob Meuser announced in the January Digest that AMA and NFFS would indeed cosponsor “the world’s largest Indoor model airplane competition” in May at the Mini- Dome in Johnson City TN, with the Indoor World Championships followed immediately by the USIC.
Free Flight … or Not? A number of publications printed correspondence concerning flying site problems, lack of sport Free Flight, and how these and similar issues were contributing to “the decline of Free Flight.” AMA Executive Director John Worth was a strong advocate of adding Radio Control to Free Flight models as an aid to retrieval (and thus, the flying-site problem).
There followed much discussion about what makes a model truly RC or FF, and what would happen if competitions were held with radio-assisted FF models. Kansas’ Jim O’Reilly published “An Open Letter to John Worth” in the January Digest that succinctly addressed these issues:
“John, your proposal [RC in FF models] would kill competition Free Flight as we know it! … The difference is called frequency! … I will oppose any move that forces me to stick a radio into my ship … It would seem that the “free” in Free Flight refers to more than the model. When we are ready to fly, we fly … Free Flight is [my game], but if I accept your solution my game will disappear.”
Jim followed the Open Letter with a February article, “A Separate Free Flight Nats: an idea whose time has come?” Jim outlined his unpleasant experience at the “woefully inadequate” 1987 Nats site at Lincoln, reviewed Nats sites of the previous 10 years, and offered that in 1988 there would be “an opportunity” because of the lack of a suitable Free Flight site at the Virginia Beach VA Nats:
“This would be a good year to get started on a separate Free Flight Nats.” He offered a number of sites across the US as possible venues, with the admonition to “write your [AMA District] VP. Let him know how you feel, and how strongly you feel about it.”
The first NFFS Nostalgia Championships was combined with the SAM Champs, held in July at the Mid-America Air Center, Lawrenceville IL. The announcement in the
February Digest stated that “the time is prime to capture the interest on one big event” and offering two days of Nostalgia flying (one day for glow-powered models and one for the Ignition classes).
NFFS Affairs: As reported in the April Digest, NFFS showed a loss of $433 for 1987, including a break-even deal to sell the NFFS Supplies inventory to Joe Wagner (who operated it under the name “The Hobby Shop” for a time).
“As time passed,” wrote Tony Italiano, “it was very apparent that the [supplies] operation was a sponge—sucking dollars out of a nonexistent treasury—so it was dropped.”
Richmond Does it Again: Jim Richmond cleaned up at the combined Indoor World Champs/USIC, winning F1D (again) individual at the WC, taking the Grand Championship at USIC, and winning Helicopter, ROG Stick and HL Stick. He followed his WC win with a victory at the Open International, a two-day contest immediately following the WC.
The success of the big Indoor extravaganza (135 entrants at USIC) led to a return booking for 1989.
Less successful was the Outdoor AMA Nationals, which was victim of a last-minute cancellation by AMA. An NFFS group led by Tony Italiano bailed out the situation by holding the “NFFS United States Outdoor Championships” at Lawrenceville IL in mid- October. Awards were those intended for the Virginia Beach Nats; 97 contestants flew in the three-day affair.
And with plans already afoot for the 1989 AMA Nats at Pasco WA, another USOC was planned for mid-June 1989 at Lawrenceville.
“The proposed [Nats] site is 14 miles north of Richland [WA],” wrote Bob Stalick in a letter to Bob Meuser (January Digest). “It is four by seven miles, with about 1.5 by three miles being flat … the use of chase motorcycles is not clear.”
Things were less bright-looking for Indoor: “The site proposed by AMA is the Pasco Ice Arena … ceiling girders come down to 42 feet … it seems a shame to hold a Nats at a site having such a low ceiling when one of the world’s best sites—the Kibbie Dome at Moscow, Idaho—is available … Will the 1989 Nats go down in history as one with a superb Indoor site, or will it be just another Nats with a mediocre one?”
Tony Italiano reported on the First NFFS Nostalgia Gas Champs: “Overall a great success [Moe and Betty Whittemore hand-made the awards, so NFFS realized a $435 profit].”
Fifty-four entrants flew 151 man-events during the two-day contest, which was successful enough that it was announced in the January Digest that the Nostalgia Championships would again “tag-team” with the SAM Champs in 1989, this time with Las Vegas NV as the venue in October.
The schedule for the 1989 USOC was published in the February Digest, and showed that the five-day meet would combine AMA events with SAM Old-Timer (FF and RC), as well as Nostalgia and Flying Aces Scale events.
Bob Sifleet, Chiarman of the Junior Free Flight team Selection Committee, reported on the first Junior World Championships, held in Poland in 1988, and advised that this new program would be carried forward to 1990 (Yugoslavia) and Spain (1992).
In the April Digest he advised that “NFFS can be a part of the selection and training process. NFFS should look for new Junior Free Flighters and encourage present ones.”
USIC 1989 exceeded expectations in that the goal of the four-day event was 100 entries, and 102 persons actually made it! Tony Italiano reported in the June-July Digest that “we may be near a peak” and that “economics and strain on the contest staff dictate that three days is the way to go to make more efficient use of the resources” and allow better scheduling.
The USOC was a similar success, with 212 contestants flying 1,080 man-events in 37 events. Perennial NFFS Unofficial events guru Terry Rimert reported that this was “the best ever” for that bunch.
Hey, I Can Do That! “Position Open” read one of the “Announcements” in the August- September issue. “Prestigious 100% Free Flight magazine … invites applications for the position of Editor … Fifth-grade education helpful, but not required.”
Sure enough, in the October Digest, Bob Meuser announced that he was stepping down as editor, effective following the December 1989 issue.
The same issue carried a “Hot Flash” that “a usually reliable source” indicated that AMA “will probably turn over the Indoor and Outdoor Nats to the NFFS.”
The “NFFS Financial Position” in the same issue noted that “it is of interest to note that the competitions sponsored by the NFFS have resulted in a positive net revenue condition.” (Translation: Let us do our own thing, and we’ll run a better contest and make money to boot.)
The often-contentious relationship between AMA officers and Free Flighters boiled over a bit in the November Digest with publication of a letter exchange between VP Jim Sears and NFFS president Tony Italiano (following a letter exchange by editor Bob Meuser and
AMA’s Vince Mankowski in a previous issue).
After Sears read the first exchange, he “wondered why the FF community remains in AMA … for me, it just isn’t worth the hassle of trying to please you [FF modelers] anymore … I have learned to dislike the attitude of the FF community … I don’t see how you could survive without us … give it a shot and see how long you would last … ”
To say the least, Tony Italiano was rather surprised at the tone of Sears’ remarks:
“It is very disturbing and disappointing that you have taken your venom out on the NFFS … your tirade was replete with many miss-truths [sic] … I suggest you resign your VP post … ”
Passing the Torch: In Bob Meuser’s December “Meusings,” Chris Weinreich of Olympia WA was announced as the new Digest editor. “Nothing is forever; it’s time to move on,” wrote Bob.
A note “To The Membership” by Tony Italiano in the December Digest explained crop- damage problems at the 1989 USOC (to the tune of $5,200) and although the damage claim was turned over to AMA’s insurance agent for payment, “USOC-90 will now be held in October to avoid crop damage and avert insecticide/herbicide damage to the retrieving modeler.”
To the Membership: “NFFS has reached more milestones,” wrote president Tony Italiano. Membership increased to 1,183, and responsibility for the Free Flight Nationals was the latest feather in the NFFS cap.
At the same time Chris Weinreich’s tenure began as Digest editor, Nat Comfort of Virginia replaced Sal Fruciano of Arizona as Membership Chairman.
Lost Hills: The State of California had announced plans to build a prison on the fabled Taft flying site (longtime home of the US Free Flight Champs and many other events), so Doug Galbreath and others began looking for another venue.
After considerable maneuvering, an area “level as a soda fountain counter” was leased near the town of Lost Hills, roughly 40 miles north of Taft. Negotiations began to buy all or part of the site from an oil company, and twelve events were scheduled to use Bissonnette-Mirage Field—including the USFFC.
A letter from Curt Stevens in the December Digest identified “John Crean, an old-time Free Flight flier” as the person who “put up all the money” for the Lost Hills site … eventually the title will be held in trust by a corporation established for that purpose.”
More than $60,000 had been raised to fund the site, but with Crean’s intervention, Stevens “returned all the checks that have been received to date.”
Carl Fries: One of the real Founding Fathers of NFFS died in early December 1989 at the age of 74; his passing was noted in the February Digest.
Ralph Prey, Contest Director for the Second NFFS Nostalgia Champs, reported that “the only things missing were stronger thermals and more fliers.”
The contest was held on a dry lake bed in Nevada—a huge site that offered virtually unrestricted chasing, but “it was like flying in the center of a doughnut” with “down air” all around that held scores down.
It’s So Huge: The Master Schedule for the USOC/FF Nats/NFFS Nostalgia Championships, scheduled for October 16-20 at Lawrenceville IL, was released in the February Digest. Three days of SAM FF and RC were merged with three days of Flying Aces Scale and five full days of Nostalgia and AMA event flying.
There were 241 contestants in the NFFS-sponsored events at USOC (up from 212 in 1989); 218 in SAM events (159 in 1989); and 36 in Scale (32 in 1989)
A short sidebar on the USOC (November Digest) noted that “AMA made a concerted effort to smooth relations with the Free Flight community. The AMA was a major factor in making the contest a success … Don Lowe, AMA president, was at the banquet and spoke of wanting to establish a good relationship between the Free Flight community and the AMA.”
Update: “NFFS and the AMA really do not have a good handle on Free Flight activity in the USA” according to a note from Tony Italiano in the February Digest. There followed a survey on Indoor and Outdoor activity.
Walt Mooney: Scale modeling legend Walt Mooney of San Diego CA died of a heart attack March 1. Publisher of many designs, including a raft of what would come to be known as Peanut Scale, “his kind are very special, touching a worldwide circle of friends in a very positive way,” wrote Bill Warner in the May Digest.
Comfort Zone: Chris Weinreich reported that thanks to Membership Chairman Nat Comfort’s efforts, more than 350 new NFFS members were signed up during 1990, bringing the total to 1,541.
President Tony Italiano echoed the sentiment that in many ways, “1990 was a great year for NFFS and Free Flight” (January Digest). The successful USFFC, USOC and USIC, Indoor World Champs, and others were cited as examples of growth in the competition area; plan sales increased, following Bob Klipp’s takeover of that service as a separate entity from supplies and other publications; “NFFS has been directly involved in the review of the layout of the future permanent AMA site at Muncie, Indiana”; and the financial health of NFFS continued to improve.
Call for Change: “Two important changes must occur in 1991,” Italiano noted in his “President’s Report” (February Digest).
First, “Free Flighters must become more active in the selection process of AMA District VPs and then mount a strong effort to get the right person in office.” A “right person” was described as “aggressive, young, thinking, experienced” to achieve “a proper balance and attitude in the Executive Council.”
Second, “the management of NFFS must also change.” The current NFFS management team “has worked together very effectively … [but] we need to retire from active administration. We are getting too old to carry an active ball.” Italiano called for “self- starting leaders with imagination, forcefulness, ‘can-do’ attitude, maturity, and a willingness to make tough decisions.”
Dates for the Outdoor Nationals, run by AMA with assistance from NFFS, SAM 57 and the Flying Aces, were announced (April ) as June 18-22 at Lawrenceville IL. THE USIC/Indoor Nats was scheduled for June 6-9 at Johnson City TN.
Whose Life? Tony Italiano noted in the April Digest that NFFS’ Board of Directors “has reassessed the Life Membership options” so that a one-time fee of $250 “will entitle a person to all of the privileges of NFFS membership at no additional cost for your lifetime or as long as NFFS exists.”
Survey Says: Jerry Murphy compiled results from 657 survey forms (1990 ) and found that the most–popular Outdoor Free Flight events were P-30 and 1/2A Gas; Peanut Scale and Bostonian were the most-popular Indoor events; the “over 50” age group had the most NFFS members; and roughly half of those surveyed flew Indoor and Outdoor models.
Murphy noted that “there were many negative feelings expressed about AMA,” but “there were many positive comments about NFFS [as] an effective voice in dealing with the AMA.”
“It is sad that each year the average age of NFFS members creeps up,” wrote Tony Italiano. He developed plans for a national program to combat this, but “it was a great dream, but full of unrealistic goals,” meaning that it would have required much more money and staffing than was forthcoming.
Randy Archer of the US won F1C at the World Championships in Yugoslavia, part of an overall sixth-place finish for the US team that also had third-place F1A winner Jim Parker.
Power Models: The January Digest had an announcement that articles and plans were being accepted for the 1992 NFFS Resource Book on Power Models, authored by Keith Hoover. This massive undertaking was for material that was original and of “practical value to Power fliers,” noting that “Sympos are the NFFS vehicles for theoretical treatises.”
President Tony Italiano’s year-end report (also January Digest) noted that “1991 was a great year for Free Flight” with the continued success of the USIC at Johnson City, a general increase in Rubber competition flying, a combined effort with AMA to field a team for the Junior World Championships, and a membership of 1,620 in December 1991.
Bob Beecroft of San Diego put out a call for information on all Free Flight clubs, “to have all Free Flight organizations networked—arranged as mailing labels so clubs can easily get the word out nationwide, directly and on very short notice.”
Sympo Continuity: “For years now, the NFFS has scrambled to find a Sympo editor each year so that the Sympo could be published before the Nats … to avoid this last- minute thrashing around, we are establishing a five-year Sympo editors list.” (March Digest.)
Ouch! The 1991 NFFS Financial Report, published in the April Digest, showed that NFFS’ equity was reduced by $7,229 from 1990. The loss was attributed to the late Sympo report slowing publication sales, and production of NFFS award medallions “which will be consumed in subsequent years.”
USFFC Change: After some spotty weather hampered the initial offerings at Lost Hills after the move from Taft, the USFFC was moved to Labor Day weekend for its 22nd offering, combined with the Third NFFS Nostalgia Nationals.
The Board of Directors rewrote the NFFS By-Laws “to reflect the changed nature of the organization” and establish Regional Vice Presidents (West, Central, Northeast, and Southeast). Ballots for VP election and By-Laws approval were published in the June- July .
USIC continued its growth and proved the viability of the East Tennessee State University site with more than 130 contestants for the 1992 gathering. Chuck Slusarczyk was Contest Director and Grand Champion!
In his “Musings Over Membership,” (August-September Digest), Tony Italiano discussed the new makeup of the NFFS regions, and set a goal of 1,992 members for the year—“to match the year … there’s strength in numbers.” A breakdown of membership numbers by state was also included; California topped the list with 325 members.
1992 Nats: Free Flight Contest Director Abram Van Dover reported (August-September Digest) that “attendance was way down … Westover AFB [Massachusetts] is small and it gets crowded in a hurry when you add a lot of modelers.” (This was another attempt at a “unified” Nationals, with all categories—including Indoor—flown at one site.)
USOC: The first major Free Flight event held at AMA’s new Muncie IN site was quite successful, and in Chris Weinreich’s words (November Digest), “the doubts that many expressed about the site were put to rest … when it is fully developed it will be one of the best Free Flight sites in the Midwest.”
NFFS Elections: The revamped organizational structure was put firmly in place with approval of revised By-Laws and the election of the four Regional Vice Presidents: Hector Diez, Western; Jim O’Reilly, Central; Jim Haught, Northeast; and Louis Joyner, Southeastern. Terms of office were to begin January 1, 1993, “and it is hope that the new president can take office at that time also,” wrote Tony Italiano (October Digest). Bob Waterman of Oregon ran unopposed.
AMA Elections: Chris Weinreich summed up the election for AMA president this way (October Digest): “In the November Model Aviation [AMA publication] were the statements from the two candidates, Don Lowe the incumbent and Dave Brown, the Executive Vice President. Brown seems almost apologetic for running, saying that he only wants to succeed Lowe when Lowe decides to step down.
“But yet his name appears on the ballot. Strange. Nevertheless, please vote.”
Fire! First word of the disastrous fire at the Sierra Cup in Sacramento CA was reported in the November Digest. Contest Organizer Don Hughes followed with a report in the December issue that “the fire started when an [aluminum-skinned] F1C model … DTd across a power line and fell into the dry grass … a major fire-fighting effort was required to bring it under control.”
The contest was suspended at that point, and several hundred acres were burned, resulting in one of the largest insurance claims in AMA history.
Flying Free: The Joy of Flying Free, a 45-minute video produced by NFFS and Bill Harding of Harding Productions, was announced in the January Digest. “If you want to show others the joy and magic of Free Flight,” stated the announcement, “then you must get this video!” Cost: $28.
“A truly professional videotape,” wrote Tony Italiano. “Bill Harding did a most magnificent job in taking our thoughts and creating a one-of-a-kind video.”
Really Big Show: Bob Waterman officially took over as NFFS president, and Ed Sullivan (not the columnist and TV host) replaced Nat Comfort as Membership Chairman.
Outgoing president Tony Italiano reflected on his 12 years (!) as NFFS president in “NFFS … Entering a New Era” (February Digest):
“Probably the greatest [accomplishment during this term] is the increased vitality of NFFS. The membership growth from 700 to more than 1,650 is one sign of this.”
Also cited were “improved communications with not only the NFFS membership, but the AMA, SAM, FAC, and other parties … pulling together for the common good of Free Flight.”
Establishment of the USIC and USOC as viable events, assistance with the Junior World Champs, Indoor and Outdoor World Champs, and creation of “emphasis and momentum for Free Flight activity” were among 32 items listed in Tony’s farewell address.
“The Free Flight community [is] truly a great bunch of guys and gals,” wrote Italiano. “Free exchange of ideas, help each other, creative, and all-around nice people. Their different expertise in life was an aid, not a hindrance.”
Incoming president Bob Waterman saluted the departing Executive Director (Brodersen) and president (Italiano) in the March Digest, noting that Tony “built the organization through various projects that were both substantive and financially beneficial” and Hardy “was visible as out distinguished ambassador, but really shined with his behind-the- scenes efforts.”
Waterman noted that “the biggest problem facing [NFFS] today and in the future is the advancing age of our membership and the lack of meaningful numbers of new Juniors … we have to get these people out flying. The time has come to stop trickle-down aeronautics. We need a level stream.”
Johnson City Redux: The intended site of Lubbock TX for the AMA Indoor Nationals did not pan out, so the Indoor Nats and USIC were again combined and were held at the Mini-Dome at East Tennessee State University.
About That Bird: Ken Johnson’s “Indoor” column in the August-September Digest explained the origin of the “birdie” NFFS logo:
“I got the idea while reading about a group of modeling enthusiasts who wanted to form a national society for Free Flight modelers … I was so enthused that I sat down at my drawing board and dreamed up the bird logo, the newsletter cover, and a letterhead design.
“I chose blue for the color [because] it was the color of the sky. The white clouds were added later … I found a photo of several sea gulls lifting off … for a second or two after they took off, the legs remained in the extended position. This moment was when ‘free flight’ first occurred.”
World Champs: The 1993 World Championships was held at Lost Hills CA, thanks in no small part to extraordinary effort put forth by Business Manager and NFFS president Bob Waterman and the Southern California Aero Team. The immensely successful event featured repeat wins in F1C by Randy Archer of the US and in F1B by Alex Andriukov of the Ukraine.
President Bob Waterman got right to it in the January Digest with his assessment of his first year in office (and the first for the new NFFS “management team”) as “a year of wonderful contests topped off by the largest Free Flight World Championships ever held.”
Waterman noted that with 250+ contestants, the USOC/Nats “was a plus for NFFS, enough so that we contributed $500 to the AMA for Muncie site improvement.”
NFFS’ involvement in the World Champs involved “all of the business details” and being “heavily involved in the organizational end” of a “coordinated effort of the MA, the NFFS, and the SCAT club, with CD Bill Hartill tirelessly directing activities.”
Tom McLaughlan: George Jamieson reported (January Digest) the passing of Tom McLaughlan of Florida after a battle with cancer. A former US Team member noted for his “saber-tooth” Power models whose props pivoted forward on a hinged plate, McLaughlan had a model on display in the Smithsonian for many years.
McLaughlan bequeathed healthy sums of money to several modeling organizations, including AMA, for use in developing the Free Flight site at Muncie. A road at the site was named in his honor.
Waterman noted that USOC would be held in Muncie in 1994, with the Outdoor Nationals at Lubbock TX and the USIC at Johnson City.
Ralph Prey of the Nostalgia Committee announced rules changes for 1994 (February Digest), most significant of which was allowing the Cox .049 Medallion, a current production engine, to help make more engines available to 1/2A fliers (without resorting to $100+ Holland Hornets, the “engine of choice” at the time).
Foiled: Bob Waterman noted in the April Digest that the NFFS board voted $1,500 to an airfoil study conducted by Michael Selig at the University of Illinois and assisted by Gil Morris and Keith Hoover for NFFS. Interested parties were asked to submit airfoil sections to be tested, along with those of Power World Champions Evgeny Verbitsky and Randy Archer.
A new NFFS video, Techniques in Building and Flying Hand-Launched and Catapult Gliders, was announced in the April Digest. Bob Johannes of the Kirkwood (MO) Thermaleers produced and narrated; Charles Caton of NFFS edited and handled special effects. Price: $19.
Scaled Down: The USIC was cut back to three days from the previous four, at least in part because of the Indoor Nats being held separately. Still, 123 contestants made the trip to Tennessee.
Clean Sweep: The US Indoor team took the top three places at the World Championships in Romania. Steve Brown had a two-flight total of 87:32; Cezar Banks was second with 84:20; and Bob Randolph was third with 83:40. This was the second sweep for the US, the first coming in 1990 at Johnson City.
New President: Bob Waterman announced his resignation as NFFS president, effective 12/31/94. “My business has mushroomed,” he wrote in the December Digest, “and … I would be unable to maintain the hands-on attention that you deserve.”
Bob Beecroft was the lone candidate for the opening, and thus was slated to take office in 1995.
Minis are In: The popularity of the America’s Cup format for FAI events F1A-B-C led to inclusion of the so-called “mini” events (F1G-H-J) in 1995. “Inclusion in any given contest is optional at the discretion of the CD,” wrote Bruce Augustus in the February Digest.
The NFFS-sponsored USIC returned to a four-day format, again at Johnson City. The Indoor Nats moved to the Kibbie Dome in Moscow ID, partnered with the Kibbie Dome Annual and the First International EZB Contest.
The Outdoor Nationals was held in the Tri-Cities area of Washington state, but a suitable Free Flight site could not be located in the area, so the FF Nats was held at Muncie. “Nostalgia at the Nats,” sponsored by AMA, NFFS, and the Brainbusters FF Club, was run concurrent with the AMA events at Muncie.
Plans Book: Bob Beecroft announced (April ) that the long-delayed and eagerly awaited World Champs Plans Book, featuring models flown at the 1993 World Championships, was on track to be completed “before the next WC,” thanks to yeoman work by Eric Ryan, Doug Galbreath, Mike Achterberg, and others.
World Champion: Jerry Fitch of California won the individual championship in F1B at the World Championships in Hungary. Gil Morris of the US finished third in a very tight final flyoff in F1C—only three seconds behind the winner, Boutillier of Hungary.
Defending world champion Randy Archer was fourth, only 10 seconds behind Morris. The US F1C team won the gold medal.
Binoculars: Several flights at the World Championships, including Archer’s final flyoff flight, were subject to a problem that plagued flyoffs in all forms of Outdoor Free Flight: use of binoculars for timing long flights (coupled with model visibility in general). It was generally agreed that Archer’s model was in the air longer than the others in the flyoff, but none of the official timekeepers saw it that way; Archer’s time was averaged among the timekeepers, as was the case for several other fliers. This led to much discussion about supplying binoculars to timekeepers, minimum magnification necessary, etc.
Killer Bee: Bob Beecroft made arrangements with Cox for a one-time run of Nostalgia- legal .051 Medallion engines ($33 each, minimum order of 100 units). The Medallion in current production was approved for use by the Nostalgia Committee, albeit with a low- compression glow plug.
Bob and LaVera Isaacson: Three-time US F1A team member Bob Isaacson and his wife LaVera were killed near Bakersfield CA October 6 when their car was struck by a speeding drunk driver. The Isaacson Winter Classic contest was named in their honor.
PR, Please: The need for an NFFS Public Relations person had been debated off-and-on since the Society’s formation; the November Digest featured a classified ad for a Director of Public Relations and Advertising. President Bob Beecroft was seeking a “self-starter, motivated to promote Free Flight, [with] strong communications skills” and offered a “benefits package” of “throngs of admiring fans, fame and fortune, and [salary] negotiable for the ‘right’ person” (with the tongue-in-cheek admonishment that the pay package was “not to exceed that of NFFS president”—which was an unpaid position!).
The “Kibbie Dome Tripleheader 1996” is how the year’s big Indoor extravaganza was billed in the April Digest. The traditional Kibbie Dome Annual was scheduled for August 1-3, followed immediately by the Easy B International August 4, and the Indoor World Championships August 5-8.
Gluttons for Punishment? Andrew Tagliafico, the force behind the Tripleheader, announced that those who wished to stay a few extra days could travel 400 miles west and fly August 10-12 at the Tillamook (OR) blimp hangar.
“The purpose of this event is to acquaint overseas and out-of-state visitors with the potential for future events,” Tagliafico said.
Dues Increase: “Okay gang, it’s time to bite the bullet and raise the dues this year,” began Chris Weinreich’s editorial in the June-July Digest. He suggested an increase from
$15 to $20, citing increased paper costs, postage increases, and other factors, and raised the possibility of a decrease in Digest issues from 10 to six per year. “Send me your comments,” he requested.
The NFFS-sponsored USIC was again successfully held at Johnson City, with 100 contestants in 31 events. Limited Pennyplane was most popular, with 60 contestants.
Growth: A by-state breakdown of NFFS membership numbers was published in the Jun- July , and indicated that total membership passed 1,800. The Eastern Region had the largest number of members (599) although California had far-and-away the largest individual total (367).
Doing it up Brown: Steve Brown of the US successfully defended his world championship in F1D at the Kibbie Dome, edging Cezar Banks of the US by 1:10. Brown flew as Defending Champion, so his total did not count toward the US team score, but Gary Underwood (sixth place) and Richard Doig (fourteenth) combined with Banks to easily win the team championship.
Galeville: One of the best flying sites in the Northeast for many years, the Galeville (NY) site was closed to modelers in June, and a massive effort by NFFS members to regain access was to no avail, despite 25+ years of Free Flight flying at the site, and considerable expense to assist with field mowing and maintenance.
USOC/Nats: More than 200 contestants flew in the combined USOC/Outdoor Nats at Muncie. Highlight of the meet was Bob Johannes (St. Charles MO) making 37 maxes to set a B Gas record, topping the 33-max effort of Norm Poti (Dayton OH) set at the same meet a couple of years previous.
(In a strange twist of fate, Bob placed second in the event, because he had less total time accumulated that Charles Caton at the time official flying was over. But since both fliers had “clean” scores, AMA rules provide for record attempts until sundown, so after awards were presented, Caton and Johannes continued. A crash ended Caton’s effort, but Johannes continued through flight 37, when his model was damaged on landing.)
Coming and Going: The November Digest carried news of Bob Beecroft’s resignation from the office of NFFS president (“for a variety of reasons”) and the appointment of Bob Stalick as interim president.
Stalick’s first column noted some necessary changes:
- Dues increase, as proposed, to $20 effective January 1997
- Four fewer pages per Digest issue, and smaller type—cost savings of $400/issue
- A “Dunk the Deficit” campaign, chaired by Bob Waterman
- Hank Nystrom replaced Ed Sullivan, retiring Membership Chairman
Different, Yet the Same: “The issues facing the Society and Free Flight in general are different from and the same as what they were in 1965,” wrote Bob Stalick in the January Digest.
Among the “different” items were “many of those original NFFS leaders have since passed away and all of us have become older … we actually have more members in NFFS now than we did then … the number of flying fields has diminished, and the [number of ] events that we fly has increased dramatically.”
Similar items included “we still need a voice for the interests of Free Flight to be heard … we still serve as the competitive arm of the hobby … we need to recruit new members to our hobby and our organization.”
Stalick also noted that NFFS was “in a deficit situation” to the tune of $26,000. A loan against an inheritance paid off creditors, but repayment was a priority.
Formal announcement of the Dunk the Deficit campaign was made by Bob Waterman in the February Digest. Members were asked to contribute at least $15 apiece, which “amounts to $1 per year for the 15 years that we have not had a dues increase.” Waterman wrote. Lack of Planbook sales was also noted as a contributing factor.
Another fund-raiser, the President’s Publications Clearance Sale, was announced in the March Digest. Assorted Symposium reports from 1976-1994 were advertised at greatly reduced prices, and the Plansbook, originally listed at $35, was offered at $15.
Interim No More: In his April “President’s Column,” Bob Stalick advised that he had been elected to a full term of office. He also proposed staggering the election of VPs so that all would not come up for election at the same time; announced a project to create a publicity brochure; noted that NFFS needed tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) so that contributions could be tax-deductible; and “in an attempt to get ourselves noticed on the Information Superhighway,” the NFFS Web site was launched courtesy Roger Morrell.
Dunked: Two benefactors donated $5,000 each to the Dunk the Deficit campaign, reported by Bob Stalick in the June-July Digest, taking a big “bite” out of the $26,000 needed. “It appears that we will have the deficit dunked by the Fall,” he wrote. (A followup note in the November Digest indicated that the “dunking” was complete.)
Stalick also tasked Tony Italiano with producing a shortened (12-15-minute) version of
The Joy of Flying Free, suitable for use at Rotary and Kiwanis-type meetings.
Bob Klipp “retired” after 10 years of outstanding service as Plans provider for NFFS, and was replaced by Hank Sperzel of Nebraska.
Barrier Broken: Steve Brown of California broke the one-hour mark June 1 with an Indoor Stick model at the Santa Ana CA blimp hangar. Steve’s time of 60:01 was the first official flight to exceed one hour—a previous 63:54 flight could not be submitted as a record because of a paperwork snafu (no official sanction was in place at the time of the flight). Brown’s model was selected as an NFFS Model of the Year and was featured in the 1997 Symposium report.
Proposed changes to NFFS’ Articles of Incorporation were published in the November Digest. They dealt mainly with the 501(c)(3) issue, Digest frequency (10 times/year), and officers serving staggered four-year terms.
Bob Stalick introduced a series of “Next Steps” to be undertaken by NFFS following the completion of the Dunk the Deficit campaign. A number of ideas, then in proposal form, were “floated” to the membership in the December Digest, “Directed at our primary mission: to promote Free Flight,” Bob wrote.
Bailing Out: Stalick also announced that Japan had pulled out as host of the 1998 Indoor WC, and NFFS officials were working with AMA on a last-minute proposal to hold the Indoor WC at Johnson City, immediately following the USIC, scheduled for May 27-31.
A full slate of NFFS-sponsored events was put on the schedule for the 1998 USOC, held concurrently with the Free Flight Nats, at Muncie July 27-31. The One-Design competition, for the Geef 250, was added for 1998.
A joint AMA/NFFS project was also undertaken: designing and financing a “competition trailer to be used during the USOC as a command post.”
Dead in the Water: “As of today (11-20-97), the F1D WC are off,” wrote Bob Stalick in the January Digest. AMA’s Executive Council did not approve a US proposal to host the event at Johnson City, citing potential cost of $19,000. Behind-the-scenes efforts were underway to attempt to save the WC, “but as of this date, the WC is a dead issue.”
(The Romanians did present a bid at the CIAM meeting in December, and it was accepted. But the future of the Indoor WC seemed shaky at best.)
Concerns were raised about the Outdoor WC, slated to be held in Israel in 1999. The near- perennial unrest in the area raised questions about the safety of those attending. The issue was to be discussed at the CIAM meeting in December, with the US and Romania standing by for contingency plans.
Len Sherman was elected as Western Region VP of NFFS, and Hardy Brodersen was voted into the Eastern Region slot. Bylaws amendments were also passed .
Slow Open Power: With the continued falloff in participation in AMA Power events, and the restrictions of Nostalgia models, a movement began for a middle-ground event that would allow current models and designs, without high-tech complexities.
RCDT: Another topic of concern to NFFS members during this period was the development and use of Radio Controlled Dethermalizers to allow faster recovery of models, “saving” the models during initial testing, etc. Potential unscrupulous use of RCDT, and general availability of a lightweight mechanism, were potential stumbling blocks.
Bob Stalick saw the Digest as the vehicle to promote discussion among members (March issue):
“[SLOP] needs to be discussed in an intelligent forum, which is one purpose of the … the time has come to present the [RCDT] concept to the general public … maybe the time is at hand to test the waters.”
(Considerable Digest space was devoted to the issue during 1998, with a variety of “local rules” being presented, as well as the gamut of opinions on the concept’s viability or necessity. Perhaps Chris Weinreich said it best in the August-September Digest: “The event is still not developed enough to be a national event. It needs to be flown at the local level until [rules] issues are ironed out.”)
Doomed? Len Sherman discussed the “stagnant number of [NFFS] memberships” in the April Digest:
“We are growing much too slowly … kids nowadays, weened [sic] on electronic games, if at all interested in model aviation, are attracted to RC models. It would seem that we Free Flighters are doomed to extinction.”
In the Black: Bob Stalick reported in the April Digest that the rather bleak period of NFFS’ financial difficulties was over; a cash balance was reported for 1997, the deficit was “dunked,” and a loan repaid.
Personnel: Frank Zumer was named NFFS Treasurer, replacing Duane Renken, who served ten years in that office. Fred Terzian announced plans to leave the Publications Director position, after 20 years of service. Colorado’s Bob McLinden was named his successor.
Going Up: Membership Chairman Hank Nystrom reported via Bob Stalick’s column (June-July ) that NFFS membership exceeded 1,900 for the first time.
New Web Site: NFFS registered the freeflight.org address and began preparations to transfer the site.
USOC/Nats: More than 250 fliers participated in the combined event, held at Muncie July 27-31. Weather was good, the site was in good condition, and the NFFS/Texas Timers on-field burgers-and-chips meal added flavor.
Long Day: Two events at the 1998 Nats provided a window into the performance leap that occurred during these years with improved engines and construction materials, and perhaps sparked the discussion about Slow Open Power.
In A Gas, Bob Johannes, Gib Robbins, and Ronnie Thompson were involved in a marathon flyoff that ended with 28 maxes for Johannes, 41 for Robbins, and 43 for Thompson (and the National Record).
In C Gas, Ed Keck set a record in C Gas with 29 maxes, flying a model based on current F1C technology.
NFFS Champion awards for AMA Gas, Nostalgia, Rubber, and Glider were awarded for the first time at this contest, with fliers awarded points based on percentage of winning score in each event.
One More Time: Steve Brown of the US won his third Indoor World Championship, topping Andras Ree of Hungary by less than 30 seconds (two-flight total). Jim Richmond of the US, another multiple WC winner, placed third; Larry Colsick was seventh and Bob Randolph placed 13th for second-place team finish. The lone Junior flier from the US, Nick Leonard, finished fourth in his class.
“It’s time to find out who we are,” stated Bob Stalick in the January Digest. That issue contained the first membership survey done in a number of years.
Nostalgia: Committee Chairman Walt Rozelle announced five main issues that his group was considering: 1) Update the Nostalgia rulebook; 2) Streamline approval procedure for “new” designs; 3) Investigate alternate engines for use in Nostalgia; 4) Address the Builder of the Model rule for Nostalgia (no previous official statement on whether or not it would apply); and 5) Review/streamline rules-change procedures.
Bill Winter: Aeromodeling’s premier editor, Bill Winter, died December 11, 1998, and a notice of his passing was published in the February Digest. A designer and flier of all types of models, with plenty of Free Flight models to his credit, he “is now soaring with the angels,” wrote Tom Schmitt.
Big Stuff: Jim O’Reilly passed the word (April Digest) that the Super D event would be added to the event list at the 1999 USOC. A minimum engine displacement of .60 cubic inches and minimum wing area of 1,000 square inches was required.
Finally! After considerable foot-dragging by the Internal Revenue Service, NFFS was granted 501(c)(3) status March 19, 1999, thus making donations to NFFS tax-deductible. As part of this status being granted, NFFS was obligated “to be active in youth programs, including scholarships,” wrote Bob Stalick in the May Digest. “It is now time to renew that effort.”
Survey Says: Results of the Membership Survey were published in the June-July Digest. They indicated that most NFFS members were age 50 and older (only 16 of 263 respondents were age 49 or younger), with an accordingly high percentage of the members being retired.
“This should ring some alarm bells,” wrote Len Sherman. An aggressive program for bringing in new members is an absolute necessity. If this does not happen, there soon will not be any NFFS.”
Lack of flying sites was a prime concern of membership.
No such problem existed for the USIC, held again at Johnson City and attended by 104 fliers. Dave Linstrum’s report in the August-September Digest noted the “Canadian Invasion” and that one of the group, Mike Thomas, flew a staggering 21 events in the process of winning the overall championship.
The NFFS Scholarship Program was officially established at the Annual Meeting following the USOC/Nats. William Lutz was the first recipient ($1,500). It was also moved that NFFS would contribute $25,000 to “complete the Muncie flying site access roads under specified conditions,” according to Bob Stalick’s column in the October Digest, which also announced that Homer Smoth would replace Frank Zumer as Treasurer.
Israel After All: Despite protests by fliers during the months leading up to the World Champs, the events were held without incident at Be’er Sheba, Israel. Ed Keck won the silver medal in F1C, with teammate Faust Parker placing fifth. Top US team placing was third in F1B.
Later: The 1999 US Free Flight Championships was moved to Veterans’ Day weekend, “hoping for some milder weather than in some past years,” wrote Terry Thorkildsen in the January Digest. Attendance was down, however—1/2A Gas had the most comtestants, with only 14 entered.
National Cup: “NFFS is instituting a National Cup for Nostalgia and Outdoor AMA classes,” reported Chris Weinreich is the February Digest.
“This nationwide event intends to provide for competitive activities in Outdoor events not currently covered by the America’s Cup competition,” wrote Bob Stalick in the same issue.
All well and fine but one has to wonder, “why a National Cup for Nostalgia?” (The Nostalgia rules specifically state that Nostalgia is to be “relaxed and casual” and that no national records would be kept.
New VPs Elected: Rex Hinson replaced Louis Joyner as Southern Region VP, and Bob Hanford replaced Jim O’Reilly in the Central Region post.
US WC in 2001: CIAM voted in March to award the 2001 Outdoor World Championships to the US, following the pullout of the original host (Australia).
Not Galeville, But … An alternative to the unfortunate demise of the Galeville NY site was generated by Andrew Barron and family (The Flying Barrons) who purchased 278 acres of land at Wawayanda NY, part of a sod farm. Permission was granted for modelers to have access to adjoining fields as well, provided that chase vehicles (other than golf carts) remain on farm roads.
Successful Raffle: Hank Nystrom reported that the raffle held at his annual Nats Cookout raised more than $1,000 for the NFFS Scholarship Fund. A number of vendors and individuals (list in October Digest) contributed merchandise.
James Whitesides of Michigan was the NFFS Scholarship winner for 2000.
Opening: “I’ve resigned as Digest editor,” wrote Chris Weinreich in the November Digest. “I’ve been at this almost 11 years, and it’s time to move on.” The Publications Committee was tasked with recommending a replacement by then end of the year.
Education: An “NFFS Program to Promote Membership” was announced in the November Digest. It was explained as “an educational program for model aviation designed to ultimately bolster membership and generate new Free Flight competitors. A call for instructors was issued, with “initial phases of the program to being in early 2001 … NFFS proposes to interact with the AMA’s Education Program [for] a reasonably coordinated and progressive nationwide program.”
John Kagan of the US won the individual F1D World Championship, edging Jim Richmond by six seconds. Steve Brown of the US was fourth, for a commanding victory for the US team. Nick Leonard Jr. was the lone Junior entrant for the US; he placed sixth in his class.
Thus ends the history of the first 35 years of the NFFS.
As we look to the future, we will be involved in leading Science Olympiad projects and other activities to promote Free Flight wherever we can. Because our membership is aging and drawing few youngsters, we will increase our efforts in the electronic media so that we can be a presence to those who favor electronic over print media.
The NFFS Web site will change and improve during the next few years as we seek to entice newcomers, especially the young, into the fold.
We are looking not for thousands of new members, but hundreds of devoted enthusiasts who will see the benefit of Free Flight not just as a hobby or a sport, but as Frank Zaic put it, “ a lifelong companion.”
It is with a sense of real humility that I serve as the current president of the National Free Flight Society. I have the honor of being one of many who have stepped forward to help make Free Flight what it is today.
Thank you. Bob Stalick
President, NFFS April 4, 2001
THE NATIONAL FREE FLIGHT SOCIETY: 2001-2014
In the summer of 2013, Bob Stalick suggested to the NFFS Board of Directors that Jim Haught’s excellent NFFS history, entitled “The National Free Flight Society 1965-2000”, be updated. The proposal was soon approved and steps put in place to begin the work. This writer, David Mills, was selected to write the update, and the work started.
Several basic decisions were made by the author at the very beginning. First, a thorough review of Haught’s History found it to be an excellent piece of work and indicated that many of his precepts were sound and worth repeating. Specifically, this History would be one of the NFFS organization and its activities and not of Free Flight, per se. Stories of individual fliers and models can be written by others. Also, Haught made many editorial decisions on content for reasons of brevity and focus, as is the wont of any writer with editorial duties. So, readers will find much similarity with this second history’s year-by-year treatment of our Society’s activities. Namely, much of the same content is covered in much the same way.
However, changes were made, and important differences are evident. For one, each year in this History is given lengthier treatment here than the earlier one because, frankly, there’re fewer of them to cover and therefore more room to ruminate. Also, this writer chose to give more coverage to major contests such as the indoor and outdoor Nats (USIC and USOC) and FAI Free Flight World Championships because the space is available. Readers will, also, find much more coverage of the political and historical factors behind Society’s overall history and details like rules changes. Some attention is also given to the constant flux in the Society’s relations with the AMA. Eagle-eyed readers will find less use of quotations by luminaries than in the earlier history based, quite honestly, on the author’s personal preference and in no way a reflection of the previous work.
Another important decision regarding the updated History in hand was made. It was decided to update the Society’s history on an annual basis. We even gave it a big name: the NFFS History Project. The decision was also made to publish these updates in digital form annually in the digest and then to post them on the website. No sufficient reason was found to publish it in pulp. Also, please note that the Project will be a living history because, in addition to the annual update, small changes could be rendered in previous years’ content when called for because of recognized errors of fact or imprudent omissions in content. These changes could then be introduced into the body of the History when the next year’s update is installed and without much fanfare. And, it should be added without much expense because electrons are cheap!
This writer has volunteered to update the History until otherwise fired, feed up or finally gets dirt thrown on him. In the meantime, as a stated editorial policy, this writer will be available in the future at any reasonable time for any reasonable discussion on the overall History or any specific item of content.
Please bear this in mind: One, there’ll be errors and omissions in what you’re about to read. Over 20,000 words are involved, so naturally some of them will be wrong. Fret not, they can be easily fixed and in time for the next year’s addition. Two, we’ve made a specific commitment to list departed Free Flight modelers at the end of each year’s presentation. However, the only sources for those listed in honored remembrance are those of the writer’s personal acquaintance and those mentioned in the NFFS digest or various club newsletters. We’re happy to patch in additional names, but some meaningful relationship to Free Flight is required, but we’ll leave that up to you.
(Please note that the History in hand is presently being updated for 2015. Any suggestions for clarification in or additions to this content can be included in this next update, expected by late summer. Digital communication is much preferred, so message the author at email@example.com . All forwarded content and subsequent changes will remain subject to editorial control, but the author promises to be reasonable about it. Many thanks in advance.)
David Mills, Atlanta, GA, April 18, 2016
The year 2001 was a stellar one for NFFS, one of challenge, innovation, progress and persistence. We continue to reap its benefits. Our hobby and sport of Free Flight should all have years this good. Such was the case with the hosting of the FAI Free Flight World Championships by NFFS and AMA at Lost Hills, CA in October, 2001. It might not have happened, had not American True Grit and International Determination been this nation’s and the world’s response to the dastardly terrorist attacks of 9/11. After briefly mulling over the possibility of not having the World Championships only four weeks after the attacks, the decision was soon made to conduct the contest as planned. Frankly, the idea of canceling never held much sway.
The World Championship was a memorable one, thanks to George Batiuk, Jr. and an army of volunteers. It was, all agreed, a magnificent piece of work. “You have set a new standard”, was the testimony of Pierre Chaussebourg, FAI representative.
The USA’s team did well. Blake Jensen earned individual silver in F1B, and the F1C team earned a team silver with strong results from Ed Keck (fifth) and Randy Archer (sixth). Among an avalanche of the usual technological innovations that made an appearance, two stood out. One was the folding-winged F1C by Leonid Fuzeyev, and the other was the geared G-K Hummer F1C engine by Ed Keck and Doug Galbreath. Both were stunning executions of engineering excellence, and their descendents are in use today.
The 2001 USIC was again held in the comfortable confines of the Mini-Dome at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN. Dave Thomson served as Event Director and ran a great contest, offering good attendance and little controversy. Individual health concerns kept several top fliers away, but the scores indicate there was still plenty of competition to be had. Many fields were huge. Tom Sova bested a field of 18 to win F1D with a flight of almost one hour at 59:43. Tom also bested a whopping field of 43 to win Limited Pennyplane, Larry Cailliau a field of 27 in Easy B and Robert Romash a field of 28 in Ministick. The two Catapult Glider events were also hotly contested, with Ralph Schlarb out-flying 17 others in one and Kurt Klempetz, 16 in the other. No-Cal was the most contested scale event with Bob Warrman winning against 11 others. Tom Sanders was given the NFFS Distinguished Service Award for his major role in the national Science Olympiad program.
CD Randy Ryan and assistant CD Chuck Markos ran a great USOC in Muncie. Our Nats weather ran from pretty hot-and-muggy to are-you-kidding-me-hot-and-muggy. A small number of fliers had enough by mid-week and left. However, there was no rain of any consequence, and the wind velocity and direction never was a real issue. Happily, retrievals were a tad easier because this was the Year of Beans, just knee-high this time, and there was little corn to be seen. (We didn’t miss the corn.) Fliers enjoyed the debut of McLaughlan Rd., which wraps around the entire perimeter of the field’s south end, making navigation so much easier. Thanks go to the estate of Tom McLaughlan estate and NFFS for this great convenience.
However uncomfortable the weather was for the fliers, it suited the models just fine, and flight times for some victors were stratospheric: Ronnie Thompson (C Gas) with 1938 seconds and (A Gas) 1912 seconds, Bill Hale (PeeWee 30) with 2373, Vic Nippert (Cargo) with 1878, Lee Hines (F1A) with 2130, Bob Sifleet (F1B) with 2010, Bob Johannes (F1C) with 2580, Austin Gunter (F1J) with 2470, and Bill Shailor/Joe Williams (Mulvihill, tied) with 2340.
All the evening events were well-attended. However, unrest had been building for years about how the banquet was being conducted. Open grousing had become common, and it finally came to a head in 2001 with vocal complaints and the occasional, mid-speech desertion. The natives were restless. Louis Joyner and Rex Hinson volunteered as a committee of two to improve the banquet for 2002 and calm the troubled waters, generally. They were successful, and the banquet remains popular draw to this day with the few, reasonable changes made by Rex and Louis. The raffle and cookout was its usual hoot and brought in a lot of money for the scholarship fund. And we floated the keg.
Thanks to Randy and Chuck for running a tight ship and keeping the shenanigans to a minimum (except for one very entertaining evening escapade with fireworks this writer witnessed which needn’t be discussed further.) It’s a great story, by the way.
We’re a clever bunch, and our models continue to get better and better. One way it happens is through continual technological advance. Such has always been the case for AMA Gas Power. The performance of these models is simply unrecognizable from only a few decades past. Wonderful as that is, many expressed a concern that the March of Progress was leaving many modelers behind, hurting participation. This notion had become widespread and worrisome to many.
NFFS President Bob Stalick addressed the issue and with the help of many others, including Charles Caton, Marvin Mace and Tony Italiano, offered a proposal for a new Classic Gas category in 2000. After much due consideration by the AMA Contest Board, it was approved and made official in 2001. It was popular from its outset and remains so today. Basically, it allows the building and flying of a wide range of gas models with a limited amount of gadgetry and less expense. Of course, the on-going AMA Gas Power category continues to advance and amaze unabated.
The Nostalgia Gas category enjoyed success, too, from its beginnings some years back, and for many of the same reasons. These models offered a trip back in time to many modelers’ past, while still providing plenty of flight performance at reasonable costs and ease of construction.
Well, the rubber fliers wanted some of this excitement, too. Interest began to build around adding rubber events to the Nostalgia category. In 2001, a committee of Joe Williams, Ed Konefes, O. C. Stewart, Bud Romak and George Perryman developed a provisional set of rules after a thorough thrashing of the rules among interested parties. NFFS’s Nostalgia Committee reviewed and approved the rules without much ado, making them official and in effect for 2002. It created two events, Nostalgia Wakefield and Nostalgia Rubber, and they began to be flown enthusiastically. The Nostalgia Rubber remains popular today, although it would go through a major rules revision in 2012.
A bit of a Teapot Tempest developed over the introduction Gizmo Geezer’s new P-30 front ends. This well-engineered and commercially available range of products provided dandy, micro-adjustable prop shaft bearing, nicely fashioned motor hooks and re-worked Peck props from the Japanese manufacturer. One side quickly chastised the props as being not legal. The prop’s supporters countered the props were merely re-pitched to their original spec right after they came off the moulds in Japan. The controversy rumbled for several months until the props were eventually declared OK for use, and they remain in use today.
The NFFS Digest saw new editorship with Chris Weinreich stepping down after eleven, good years, and Walt Rozelle stepping in for his second turn in the barrel. Walt would ably serve as editor until his sudden and unexpected passing in 2007. .
Free Flight Quarterly, a new Free Flight magazine, made an appearance with its October, 2001 issue, and it became a welcome addition to the worldwide Free Flight media. It soon evolved into a substantial and informative magazine with an international scope. Editor-in-chief Sergio Montes started the magazine and remains at the helm today. Throughout its life, the magazine has enjoyed a diverse group of associate editors scattered around the globe. Originally headquartered in faraway Tasmania, Australia, it remains there today, testimony to its early and steadfast reliance on the latest in digital communication.
Several leadership positions were in flux. Ron Sharpton and Jerry Murphy were named to the AMA Contest Board, and AMA President Dave Brown appointed Jerry as Chairman. Keith Fulmer replaced Walt Rozelle as Nostalgia Committee Chairman, and Ron Sharpton took Walt’s seat after Walt became Digest editor. Carl Bakay became the new editor of Indoor New and Views.
Ross Jahnke served as NFFS Symposium editor and provided a good rendition of some 156 pages. He also updated and formatted the “look” of the Symposium for later issues, and we continue to enjoy its elegance today. It announced the induction of Andrew Barron, Charlie Sotich and Bill Warner into the NFFS Hall of Fame.
NFFS awarded college scholarships to Nick Leonard, Jr., David Ellis, Michelle Boyd and Christina Mekina.
We lost Frank Ehling, Dick Korda, John Pond, George Aldrich, Don Chancey and others.
The USIC Nats was held again in Johnson City and was another successful event. The observation that the geographic CG of the indoor community was very near the Johnson City area seems to have been borne out with 110 fliers taking part. Len Surtees of Australia easily won the “furthest traveled” award by dropping by the USIC on his way to the British Nationals! Abram Van Dover ably served again as Event Director. The large field of contestants flew a ton, and the level of competition was as high as we’ve come to expect. Strong participation in scale competition at the USIC continues to contrast with the dearth of the same at the USOC. The reason was simple enough; the USIC embraced the Flying Aces Club rules, while the USOC retains the AMA Free Flight scale rules. Perhaps the most intriguing competition was between Ray Harlan and Bob Wilder in the new Indoor Electric category; Harlan won with a new, category IV record of 30:30, setting a high standard for the future. Narrowly won victories were common. Many were only scant seconds ahead of their opponents, like Vladamir Linardic in Intermediate Stick, Jim Richmond in F1D, Emil Schutzel in Manhattan, John Diebolt in Helicopter, Rob Romash in Ministick, Ed Ripley in Ornithopter and Emil Schutzel in A-6.
The USA Indoor World Championship Team traveled to the Romanian salt mines and came back bountifully victorious. Jim Richmond won gold in F1D, defending world champion John Kagan bronze, with Larry Cailliau sixth and Steve Brown tenth. This dominating group walked away with the team gold, even without the help of John Kagan’s scores, which aren’t allowed by the FAI rules. (Go figure.)
The USA junior team did even better. Doug Shafer took the gold, Ben Saks silver, and Matt Chalker placed sixth. Another USA gold team trophy was won. This is probably the best showing of any USA indoor team to date, setting a high standard for the future.
The USOC Muncie Nats was a rousing success with over 250 contestants, a very strong turnout. We had a week of generally good weather and only one serious rainstorm. The one strong negative was the wind blowing down the short dimension of the field most of the week, and most of us got to know the charming, verdant countryside east of the field much better. CD Chuck Markos and assistant CD Bob Perkins kept a handle on things. One initiative by Chuck and Phil Sullivan make a huge difference; they introduced a digital scoring system which has been upgraded annually and remains in service today, greatly easing the administrative workload.
Overall, flight times and fly-offs didn’t approach last year’s marathons. However, several events went late into the day, including the victories of Jim O’Reilly’s 1926 seconds in P-30, Vic Nippert’s 2020 in Cargo, Bob Johannes’s 2550 in B Gas, Ed Keck’s 2250 in C Gas, and Ron Sharpton’s 2040 in C Nostalgia Gas.
The jury came in on the first year of the new Classic Gas category. Nationally, the numbers were less than AMA Gas, but still respectable for the first year. The Nats results were likewise. Classic Gas appeared here to stay, and participation remains strong to this day.
All the evening events were well-attended. The NFFS banquet was roundly praised by attendees this year. Many changes were made, all to good effect, thanks to Rex Hinson and Louis Joyner. Briefly put by Rex, “No speeches!” Enough said. And we were all proud to induct Abram Van Dover and Bob Stalick into the AMA Hall of Fame. The raffle and cookout was another resounding success with over $1600.00 collected. And we floated the keg.
Something of a stink bomb appeared on the horizon with the AMA’s announcement that content in Model Aviation would parallel membership interest, starting in 2003. AMA columnist Louis Joyner offered the observation this would probably mean less Free Flight coverage overall, meaning articles, plus columns with our content would be less frequent. (At the time and off the record, he added some of the push was probably from advertiser “input”.) We all awaited the next year’s publication with jaded anticipation.
Digest Editor Walt Rozelle announced a survey of the Top Ten Free Flight Modelers and Models in 2001 and asked members to nominate candidates. Everybody thought it was a good idea, but the nominations only trickled in. After much nagging by Walt throughout 2001, a good response was finally received. Early in 2002, a ballot was developed and published. Voted upon by the membership and then tabulated, the results were published late in the year. The list of the Top Ten presented few surprises, although there was quibbling around the edges. Without further ado, they were:
Top Ten Modelers
- Carl Goldberg
- Sal Taibi
- Frank Zaic
- Dick Korda
- Chet Lanzo
- Bob White
- Earl Stahl
- George Perryman
- Hank Struck
- Bud Romak
Top Ten Models
- Korda Wakefield
- Starduster series
- Playboy Sr.
- Brooklyn Dodger
We did quibble. (This writer thought the absence of Jim Richmond, eight-time World F1D Champion and probably the best indoor modeler that ever put a foot on dirt, was criminal. Also, where was Chet Lanzo’s Lanzo Stick, arguably the most successful outdoor, rubber-powered, Old Timer design of all time?) Yes, we did quibble.
Early in the year, AMA President Dave Brown floated a few ideas dealing with the possibility of having the AMA Nats at other locations around the country. Specifically regarding Free Flight, President Bob Stalick was asked about rotating our Nats to other sites every other year, away from Muncie. Bob Hanford and Bill Shailor were appointed to look into the matter. Input from the Free Flight community soon brought a nearly universal thumbs-down to the idea, and Muncie remains a very popular venue every year.
Keith Hoover announced plans to update NFFS’s book on power models and sought contributions. It was published in 2002, the ten-year anniversary of the original 1992 edition. It debuted to rave reviews and proved a great seller and eventually selling out.
There was a fungus among us. Concerns about Valley Fever outbreaks among Free Flight competitors frequenting Lost Hills grew with reports of infections among a few 2001 World Championship attendees. Several well-known West Coast fliers had bad run-ins with the fungus, one a near death experience. The CDC and local Kern County health officials got on the case and updated protocols and precaution warnings. Already existing vigilance was sharpened.
NFFS put a bright, new face in front of the world with a radically revamped website. The new website was largely the result of a large amount of volunteer labor by Alan Petersen, who was wisely hired on as our new webmaster. He still serves in that capacity today. The following years have seen much expansion of the website and incorporation of technical advances along the way, enhancing NFFS operations in a myriad of ways.
Commerce doesn’t always have to be serious. Al Brush of Flite Tech introduced a line of gumband lubricants going under the brand names of Snake Snot, Slug Slime, Monkey Mucus and Gorilla Grease. (No kidding.)
There were NFFS leadership changes. Art Ellis was voted in as VP for the East district, succeeding Hardy Brodersen, who didn’t run for re-election. Bill Vanderbeek, succeeding Len Sherman, was voted in as West VP in a three-way race against Bob Beecroft and Terry Kerger. Jim Zolbe took over as Publications Director from Bob McLinden. Dave Lacey was appointed to a vacant spot on the Planning Committee.
The 2002 NFFS Symposium was ably rendered by editor Bucky Servaites. The Symposium announced the induction of Tom McLaughlan and Andre Schandel into the NFFS Hall of Fame.
NFFS awarded college scholarships to John Barron, Keith Barnett and Lee Wang.
We lost Ed Lidgard, Doc Martin, Jack Bolton, Hank Struck, Jim Hayden and others.
The USIC Nats were held again in Johnson City and was, again, ably managed by Event Director Abram Van Dover, and assisted by Dave Thomson. Turnout was about on par with last year, and participation was high across many events. Easy B drew 22 fliers, Limited Pennyplane 32 and Ministick 22, for example. The level of competition was equally high. Very few seconds separated the winners from their podium partners in Manhattan, Pennyplane, Limited Pennyplane, Ministick, No-Cal Scale, F1L and 35 CM.
Reviews of the Johnson City USIC continue to be supportive of the venue, management team and the local community. However, late in the year, university officials announced plans to construct a new basketball scoreboard in 2004 to be hung directly above at center court. It served as ominous news, but later in the year, plans would be made to hopefully minimize its impact on indoor flying in 2004.
The USOC Muncie Nats was another success with great attendance, 261 registrants, up a tad from 2002. The week provided a varied palette of weather which offered challenges from time to time, but nothing that prevented much competitive flying. However, the winds blew hard and across the short side of the field all day on Sunday, making it a hard slog for the Juniors flying the FAI events, but we did get to witness the rousing results of quite a few mentoring programs bearing fruit under difficult circumstances.
With Monday’s official start, the weather offered a lot of variety the rest of the week but no real trouble. Monday saw some drizzle; Tuesday was OK; Wednesday and Thursday were just fine; and Friday threatened extreme weather but didn’t deliver on it until late afternoon. Classic Gas again proved its worth with numbers akin to AMA Gas, and Nostalgia Rubber, a little less so. Ronnie Thompson had a week for the ages; his performance in the Gas Power events was amazing. He flew in eight events, won six and scored second in one and third in the other.
It came as no surprise that Dr. Bob Perkins provided another gold standard for Nats management as CD. (When the good doctor is behind the table, you never doubt who’s in charge.) He was ably aided by John Lorbiecki, assistant CD.
The evening events were well-attended. Phil Sullivan organized a great banquet, where we gave Distinguished Service Awards to Hank Nystrom, Bob McLinden and Bucky Servaites. The raffle and cookout was a success. And we floated the keg.
Sadly, the 2003 World Free Flight Championships in Hungary wasn’t one for the record books for the USA. Unfortunately, bad weather and less-than-stellar FAI management prevented the excellence we’re used to seeing. The USA F1C team took the team gold with Ed Keck taking sixth and Randy Archer seventh. Steve Spence took sixth in F1A. The overall grousing served to sharpen future FAI efforts with better future results for everyone.
Bob Silfeet won the F1E World Championship in Napoca, Romania. It’s worth mentioning that this was Bob’s first trip to the F1E World Champs, and not long after he started flying F1E. Long popular in Europe, the event was rather new to the USA. However, we’ll note this was the first shot across the bow to the world F1E community that interest in the category was spooling up in USA. We made a lot more noise during the next decade.
The USA and the world’s FAI Free Flight community are always looking for ways to encourage more youth participation. Such was the case when the community looked back at the F1J category, which was originally installed many years ago to address the sharp downturn in youth involvement in F1C. Eventually, F1J was seen as a failure in this regard because, in the end, it merely resulted in a miniaturization in the F1C concept and retained all the complexity and most of the expense, and increased participation wasn’t the result.
A concerned quorum of F1C fliers began discussions on the solution, and after much deliberation, determined a new category was required, namely, a smaller, cheaper and simpler version of F1C specifically designed for youths. After a few years of design and prototype testing, the present F1P event was result. The F1P rules mandated a similarly sized model in wing area and discouraged the F1J’s exotic materials and much of the gadgetry. Hopes were high for it to increase youth participation. The rumor mill had it that several new designs were on the way. Time would tell.
President Bob Stalick announced a dues increase effective January 1, 2004. It was seven years since the last increase, and NFFS had greatly increased its activity level, including a new website, enhanced scholarship programs, a more substantial digest (with postage increases) and other qualitative additions to its mission. The piper had to be paid.
Ed Wiley was appointed Director of Education. A life-long Free Flight modeler and university professor, he brought much experience to the task. A major task would be to oversee the conduct of all of NFFS’s educational and mentoring programs.
The year saw the first full year’s operation of the National Model Education program (NMAP) under the leadership of Rocco Ferrario. A big part of NMAP is a new, national effort to both coordinate the mentoring of existing leaders of local youth programs like Rocco, Dave Ziegler, Art Ellis and others, as well as recruiting new, local leadership across the country. Incentive programs to encourage participation include helping with expenses and scholarship grants after high school graduation. All this is coordinated by Rocco with a variety of reporting requirements. NFFS set a goal to have ten, major NMAP programs up and running across the country by the first two years.
NMAP will also be responsible for the greater coordination of the far-flung activities of NFFS members and others in their coaching of Science Olympiad students, assisting Boy Scouts for the Aviation Merit Badges and providing coaching and material support for Junior USA Free Flight teams, both indoor and outdoor.
The passing of John Pond in 2001 brought concerns about the status of his vast model airplane plans collection. Late in 2002, the AMA announced the vast archive was in their hands and will become part of their existing, commercial plan operation. Also, the entirety of the collection will be safeguarded in the same fashion as the rest of the AMA’s existing archives for the generations a-coming. We all breathed a little easier.
By 2003 NFFS had operated with the same set of By-laws for thirty-five years. President Bob Stalick thought it was time to review the By-laws and have them updated to fit present circumstances. Bob appointed VP Rex Hinson to lead the effort, and with the assistance of Bob and Walt Rozelle, developed an array of suggested changes to the By-laws. These changes included modifying the succession to the Presidency, name changes of the districts, flexibility in the annual board meeting location, allowing proxy votes in Board of Directors meetings when necessary, allowing emailing for official business, changes to terms of the district Vice Presidents such that only one election is held a year, and other detail changes. The changes were approved by vote of the membership later in the year.
Many issues of the NFFS digest in 2003 carried a running commentary of Free Flight’s Builder of the Model rule (BOM). Reasonable opinions were parried back and forth, some running into entire pages. A few hysterics chimed in. Hardened points of view became a little harder, and probably not many minds were changed. This debate would rattle on to one decibel level or another for the next decade.
In order to bolster the glider participation in the National Cup, NFFS announced to two, new events: A-1 and A-2 Classic Glider, scheduled to take effect provisionally in 2004. The announcement brought a little grousing from some quarters, but the initiative went forward nonetheless. Time and the 2004 flying season would tell.
Basically, the rules allow A-1 and A-2 size gliders with minimum weights of 144 and 410 grams, respectively, to be towed up via straight tow only with the standard 50 meter towline with only two rudder settings allowed (tow and glide).
Tony Italiano, past NFFS President and life-long Free Flight modeler, was elected into the AMA Hall of Fame. The FAI awarded the Aeromodeling Gold Medal to Free Flight icon Frank Zaic (age 91 years old at the time!).
There were several changes in NFFS leadership. President Bob Stalick chose not to run again after two terms, and Rex Hinson chose to run for the Presidency, effective 2004. Ron Sharpton would fill Rex’s vacated slot as South district VP. Bob Hanford was elected to a second term as Central VP. Mike Fedor was appointed to fill Russ Snyder’s vacate post on the AMA Contest Board. J. P. Kish replaced the long-serving Hank Nystrom as membership chairman.
Louis Joyner served as the 2003 NFFS Symposium editor and produced a fine volume of some 190 pages. The Symposium announced the induction of Abram Van Dover into the NFFS Hall of Fame.
NFFS awarded college scholarships to Geoffrey Bower and Brian Johnson
We lost the legendary George Perryman, Keith Hoover, Bucket Johnson, Bill Etherington, Jack Moreland, Walter Erbach, John Gard, Bob Champine, Tom Vallee and others.
Abram Van Dover, veteran USIC Nats Event Director, addressed the membership regarding concerns about the financial health of the annual indoor Nats. He reported that expenses such as rent, trophies, helium and more weren’t being matched by revenues. Eventually, after much due consideration, the USIC Nats program was changed to increase entry fees, scale back on some events and combine some junior, senior and open events. President Rex Hinson went to great lengths to explain the shortfall and provide useful perspective on the issue. He wisely offered the only real and permanent solution: greater participation by the indoor Free Flight community.
Abram oversaw a great USIC in Johnson City. The level of competition was high across all categories. About fifteen seconds covered the top three finishers in F1L, Pennyplane, Ministick and 35 CM. The escalation in F1D flight times continue to climb after the last FAI rules change. Larry Cailliau topped his two-flight total from last year by almost eight minutes! Trailing him, both Jim Richmond and Doug Schaefer beat those past times, too. Larry also set a new site record in Easy B of 30:22. The tale of the tape in terms of scale: one AMA scale event was flown, compared to eleven Flying Aces events. Jack McGillivray won four of them.
Many were worried about the RC guys sharing the same room with indoor Free Flight models during the week, but the flying went off without any real issues. Well, at least no fist fights ensured. Maybe a few Free Flighters and those from the Dark Side became friends. We certainly hope so. Regardless, efforts were soon in the works to avert future forced marriages of the same.
The 2004 Muncie USOC Nats went down without a hitch and with good participation, offering a handful more fliers than last year, drawing 266 registrants from 33 states. Thanks to CD Phil Sullivan, little drama ensued. The weatherman was compliant with winds too brisk and in the wrong direction only one day. Temperatures remained reasonable all week, and no war stories worth the telling were born, save one. Dick Hall made a trip to the emergency room but was back in action in a few hours. The large overall turnout brought large fields of fliers: over twenty in each of A Gas, A-B Classic Gas, Moffett, .020 Replica, OT Catapult Glider, B Nostalgia, Catapult Glider, F1B, A Nostalgia, HLG, F1G, 1/2A Nostalgia, P-30 and Mulvihill. Six fliers, total, flew in the three AMA Scale events.
All the evening activities were well-attended, including the inaugural Mother of All Swap Meets, which drew a good crowd and made a little money for the scholarship fund. At the banquet we gave Distinguished Service Awards to Bill Jackson, Louis Joyner, Ed Lamb, Bob Mattes, Bob Perkins, Charlie Sotich, and Mary and Bob Schuettler. We had another good turnout for the raffle and cookout and made a few bucks. And we floated the keg.
The Junior World Free Flight Championships were held in Moncontour, France, and Old Glory was well-represented again by our young people. The best results, by far, came from the F1J/P team that won team gold with young John Lorbiecki taking the individual top spot. The previous world champion, our own Austin Gunder, won the silver, and trailing not far behind was John Schlep with the bronze. Amanda Barr, in her first world contest, scored in the middle of the pack but high enough to help secure team gold. (You see, Austin’s scores didn’t count for the USA. Go figure. Bit let’s not cast aspersions too ill upon the FAI. They had the good sense to award Frank Zaic their Aeromodeling Gold medal that year.)
Late in the year changes were announced for the Classic Towline events for 2005. Bowing to widespread criticisms from the membership, two important changes were made. Mainly, the two size categories were dropped and replaced with one carrying a maximum allowed combined surface area (wing and stab) of 750 sq. in. with no wing-loading spec. The unpopular “15 second rule” was dropped. It remained to be seen what effect these changes would have on participation.
Rex Hinson earned his money with this one: a major upgrade in how NFFS sells and ships their plans to members and the general public. He and long-standing NFFS plans guy, Hank Sperzel, started the process of digitizing the entire plans collection, using the latest cool technology to aid printing and shipping. This move was necessary because of the increasing volume of sales. It took some time to digitize everything and iron-out the bugs in shipping, but in the end it was worth it. Ron Sharpton and J. P. Kish helped in many ways. (You never can have too many plans!)
The debate about the Builder of the Model rule raged on again over several issues of the NFFS Digest. Various points of view were parried back and forth. The intellectual steam expended was quite impressive, but nothing much was done about it. The BOM remained in place. The debate would rattle on for the next decade.
There were changes in NFFS leadership. Don DeLoach agreed to serve as NFFS’s Public Relations Director. Dick Covalt was appointed Safety Director. Later in the year Whit Russell replaced Hank Sperzel as Plans Coordinator. Jim Buxton agreed to serve as liaison between NFFS and the indoor community. The committee would grow to employ Gary Baughman, Larry Coslick, Tony Italiano, John Kagan, Jim Lewis and Don Slusarczyk.
The ownership of Star Link/Flite Tech changed hands. Founders Al and Tina Brush elected to enjoy a fuller retirement and sold the business to Larry Bagalini. Larry was a longtime West Coast Free Flight hand, and no worries ensued over the transition.
Walt Ghio served as 2004 NFFS Symposium editor and produced a very good one, a meaty affair of some 182 pages. NFFS inducted a bumper crop into the Hall of Fame: Bob Stalick, Jim Walston, Ed Keck, Hank Nystrom and Bob Randolph, not a weak link among them.
NFFS awarded college scholarships to Doug Schaefer and Michael Avallone.
We lost Joe Foster, Bill Gibbons, Gyorgy Benedek, Bob Meuser and others.
The Johnson City USIC saw a whopping forty percent uptick in attendance, salving some of the financial woes of the last few years. The promotional efforts of NFFS leadership and prominent members of the indoor community obviously bore the desired fruit. It’s always nice when a plan comes together. The evil specter of the new scoreboard ruining the flying didn’t materialize. Thanks to the efforts of contest management, NFFS and AMA, it proved to be only a sufferable inconvenience.
Several individual performances stood out. After several years of effort, Big Jim Lewis won IHLG with an impressive two-flight score of 145.8 seconds. Larry Loucka had a great week. He won Ministick with an impressive flight of over 13 minutes, Intermediate Stick with an equally impressive flight of 36:46, plus winning WW II Mass Launch, No-Cal Scale and A ROG. Tom Sova had a great week, too. He narrowly beat Don DeLoach in Limited Pennyplane and won 35 CM by a large margin of 43 seconds. Jack McGillivray had a great week flying FAC scale, winning High Wing Monoplane, WW I Mass Launch, FAC Scale and Modern Civil Production.
The Muncie USOC Muncie saw another major uptick in attendance with 286 registrants, up from 266 in 2004. The assembled multitude enjoyed an arduous week with serious heat and humidity, the tallest corn crop the heartland could produce and storms late in the week. CD John Lorbiecki and many volunteers had their hands full all week with numerous challenges, including a few youths that felt compelled to be “less than prudent” with chase bikes late into the evening. Harsh measures soon solved the problem, which was never to raise its ugly, juvenile head again.
Overall, flying conditions were difficult, and relatively few events went very long in the fly-offs. Only a select few crested the 2000-second mark: Moffett (2340), Mulvihill (2100) and F1A (2331). Opinions varied as to why. The hindsight consensus was the thermal picking was tricky because the thermal activity was off the typical daily Muncie pattern, plus the majestic corn claimed many models and/or delayed many fliers. Joe Clawson won the “most aggrieved” award after some yahoo ran over his Super D Centaur (1200 sq. in.) with his/her chase bike. With a little help from his friends, Lee Hines started the “Beat the Vartanian” event at the Nats after official flying ended one day. (They’re still doing it, and it remains a hoot.)
All the evening activities were well-attended. The Mother of All Swap Meets saw more vendors and browsers, and more money went to the Scholarship Fund. The banquet continued to have no speeches and a good time was had by all. The raffle and cookout was another hit, and we floated the keg. Many thanks go to Hank Nystrom of Texas Timers for his hosting of this event for many years; henceforth, he’ll goof-off like the rest of us.
Two old friends made a well-received appearance. One, after a hiatus of way too many years, Dick “Fast Richard” Mathis showed up. I don’t think he knew he was still famous! The other, ROW was back! Everybody thought it was a blast, and it became a fixture of Nats week. But, a few critics demanded a larger “pond” next year. And, so it was.
This year the AMA did something a little different with USOC Nats coverage. They instituted the NatNews program, whereby daily reports with photos are posted on the AMA website, along with a newspaper being published and distributed daily to the fliers on the field. It was an immediate success with the fliers and the national Free Flight community stuck at home. The program remains in effect today. The first year wasn’t without a glitch or two. For one thing, reportage of NFFS events lagged far behind, but this and other minor issues were remedied by the next year.
They’ll be talking about the 2005 FAI World Championships for a long time. The USA team did Old Glory proud in Argentina. It was perhaps the best international performance by USA fliers outdoors in history. The simple facts say it all: Mike McKeever won the gold in F1A; our F1B team won gold with Alex Andriukov (third), Tom Tychek (sixth) and Roger Morrell (seventh); and the F1C team also won gold with Randy Archer (second), Kenny Happerset (sixth) and John Warren (tenth). The contest saw very variable weather conditions, multiple flight line changes and widespread illness, all on an unfamiliar field, but the USA team wasn’t to be denied.
In a deserved bit of wisdom and justice, the FAI awarded Bob White the Alphonse Penaud Aeromodeling Diploma. Rightly so, he has set the standard for sportsmanship and commitment to international competition. His long history in representing the USA in Wakefield competition is beyond comparison. He stands alone.
The F1E World Championship was contested in Slovakia, and the USA fielded its first full team: Bob Sifleet, Vince Crogham and Tom Ioerger. Despite relative inexperience, the team performed very well, scoring an individual third (Crogham) and a team silver. This podium finish by the team confirmed to all who doubted the USA’s commitment to F1E.
NFFS stood up, looked down the road and saw the future. NFFS announced the new, provisional E-36 event for the 2006 flying season. Leading a growing tide of interest in electric power, Rex Hinson and Vic Nippert developed the rules to be flown provisionally in 2006. It was hoped that a rules set would serve as a basis for an official AMA rulebook category for 2007. Initial interest was keen, and the building and flying began.
After much careful deliberation, NFFS established the NFFS Foundation to provide operating funds for the pursuit of the goals and operational needs of NFFS now and in the future. The Foundation is a fully registered 501-c3 charitable foundation, tax exempt, and donations were to qualify as charitable for tax purposes. These donations would come from direct contributions, wills, bequests, IRA distributions, trusts, NFFS membership programs, or other foundations. Bob Stalick began service as Foundation Chairman. Other trustees included Aimee Schroedter, Jack Shafer and Dohrman Crawford.
From its onset the Foundation’s goals were both ambitious and far-ranging, envisioning both short and long term goals. The former included, but weren’t limited, strengthening existing model building and other mentoring programs, assisting in the variety of web-based marketing efforts and assisting local groups in flying site acquisition. The latter included, but weren’t limited to, bolstering leadership in the Board of Directors and other positions within NFFS and the AMA, as well as increasing the financial resources of NFFS such that a salaried Executive Director could be established. Their good work continues to this day, although shifts in direction were to be made in response to circumstances and needs.
Looking to boost membership, NFFS promoted a very successful membership drive. New memberships and lapsed renewals were rewarded ten dollars worth of NFFS plans for one year sign-ups and twenty dollars worth for two years. By the end of the year, 170 new members had signed up, and more were expected.
The website saw a major enhancement with the installation of the On-Line Forum. It was an instant hit and remains active today. A decade later, participation eventually would grow to 731 registered members, resulting in a total of 13,500 posts, about 4.3 posts per day. Webmaster Alan Petersen and a host of moderators made it all happen.
Carl Bakay volunteered to serve as editor of an updated edition of Winning Indoor Designs, which was originally published in 1987. He expanded the scope of the second edition to include outstanding designs additional to USIC winners. It proved to be popular and enjoyed great sales.
NFFS leadership changes included the election of Dave Lacey as South District VP, replacing Ron Sharpton who chose not to run for re-election. The Competition Committee expanded with the capable addition of Thurman Bowls, Lee Hines and Greg Simon, joining Bob Mattes (chairman), Charles Caton, Bob Beecroft and Bob Sifleet. Hank Nystrom stepped down as membership chairman after many years and was replaced by J. P. Kish. Mike Fedor replaced Russell Snyder on the AMA Free Flight Contest Board.
Mike Woodhouse set a new standard in his editorship of the 2005 NFFS Symposium. It came in at a stout 200 pages with strong papers throughout. The level of international contributions was without precedent, too. NFFS announced the induction of Larry Kruse, John Lenderman and Richard Mathis into the NFFS Hall of Fame.
NFFS awarded college scholarships to John Lorbiecki, Dallas Parker and Sarah Radzuinas
We lost Bob Meuser, Frank Zaic, Don Hockaday, Al Brush, Bob White and others.
The indoor luminaries convened once again in Johnson City for the USIC, drawing 96 registrants and approaching year’s turnout and good financial results. After many years of steady leadership, Abram Van Dover stepped down as Event Director, and Bob Romash donned the yoke. He was assisted by John Kagan, Tony Pavel and many other volunteers. Seldom was heard a discouraging word, and thankfully, further accommodation was made with the new scoreboard.
The 2006 rendition featured numerous, superb individual performances. Kurt Krempetz won both Catapult Glider events, and the Unlimited version by a very wide margin. Tom Sova trounced the field in 35 CM, winning by over five minutes, and narrowly won A-6 against a large group of veteran fliers. Big Jim Lewis reprised his victory last year and turned IHGL into a laugher by winning with a two-flight, margin-of-victory of over forty seconds, which is an eternity in that category! The battle in F1D was a two-day affair, and it wasn’t over until late on the second day. Steve Brown bested a very competitive and busy field with a two-flight score of 1:08.56. Indoor maestro Jim Richmond set the pace early in Easy B with his 0.31 gram model, posting a single flight of over thirty minutes for an “easy” victory; he also dominated the two Pennyplane events and Helicopter, winning all by good margins. Likewise, Larry Loucka bested the very experienced field in Ministick for the second year in a row.
Copying their NatsNews program with the USOC Muncie Nats, the AMA had John Kagan posting daily reports on the AMA website with expert commentary, flight times and great photos. NatsNews proved to be about the best thing the AMA has done in decades for Nats reporting. It works particularly well for Free Flight, which tends to suffer in their magazine coverage, unfortunately. Both NatsNews programs continue into the present day.)
The USOC Muncie USOC drew 225 registrants, a solid turnout. This was down from last year’s 286, and most blamed a big spike in gas prices as the culprit. The weather brought very hot and humid conditions, and the heat indexes crested the 100 degree mark most days. Thermals were abundant and monstrous, but the winds were light and in the right direction for the most part. However, Wednesday was an ordeal. We flew a ton that week. Free Flight modelers are tough!
If for nothing else, the 2006 Muncie Nats will be known as the year of discus-launched HLG. The performance of Bruce Kimball had jaws dropping and heads a-scratching. His dominance of the event was total and without mercy. This butt-whipping produced a sea-change in the event, and traditional javelin-style launching virtually disappeared, never to be a factor outdoors again. It was not without some inopportune gnashing of teeth, however, by several of the HLG glitterati. Saner heads prevailed and every single one of them went home and built new models. Thankfully, progress won out, and the event enjoyed a rebirth with increases in participation and enthusiasm. (BTW, “discus-launch” became “tip-launch” with the enfolding of time.)
Several individual performances were worth mentioning. Brad Bane won AB and CD Classic Gas; Ronny Thompson, B, C, D Gas and Super D; Chuck Groth, A and B Electric; Eddie Vanlandingham, Mulvihill and F1B; Graham Selick, F1K and CO2 Unlimited; Vic Nippert, Cargo and E-36; Bill Vanderbeek, ABC Pylon and ROW Gas; Rudy Kluiber, Pee Wee 30 and .020 Replica.
The evening events were well attended. The banquet saw good turnout, and we were all treated to AMA’s John Worth awarding the inaugural Frank and John Zaic Memorial Award to NFFS. The raffle and cookout was its usual hoot. And we floated the keg. Participation in the Mother of All Swap Meets suffered a modest drop off in attendance. Muncie Model and Hobby assumed its sponsorship of the cookout, relieving many years of contributions by Texas Timers and Hank Nystrom. (Thanks, Hank!)
The 2006 World Junior Free Flight Championship in Germany will be one for the history books. Never has any USA team dominated like this one. Simply put, the USA won team gold in all three events (F1A, F1B and F1P), plus a bevy of lofty, individual finishes. Our F1A results: Tyler Secor (fourth), Kyle Jones (ninth) and Brian Bauer (twelve); in F1B, Taylor Gunder (fifth), Evan Simon (sixth) and Paul Shailor (ninth); in F1P, Cody Secor (first), Anthony Ferrario (second) and Brian Pacelli (eighth). Next time you see the Junior Team manger, George Batiuk, Sr., shake his hand. Nobody does it better.
More booty remained to be kicked in the international arena. Our adults and juniors met at the Romanian salt mine to contest the 2006 Indoor FAI World Championships. The adults did just fine, winning team silver with Larry Cailliau taking first, Brett Sanborn, seventh and John Kagan, tenth. Reigning junior F1D champion, Doug Schaefer flew to fourth place as an adult, but his score wasn’t applicable to the USA’s team totals. (Again, go figure.) The juniors did the grownups one notch better with their taking team gold with Justin Young placing first, Ethan Allan, second and Nick Ray, fifth. The actual flying went very smoothly compared with snafus galore with travel arrangements, injuries and missing luggage, models and equipment. Above ground was a raging nightmare, below smooth as silk.
There was a steady furor over proposed rules changes. Some were changed, and some remained in effect. Debate over the Builder of the Model rule raged on. One big change in the BOM came when NFFS allowed the models of deceased members to be flown by the living in these events. This move followed a similar one made by the Society of Antique Modelers (SAM) previously. Many have felt for a long time that the great fleets of flying iron left by our deceased friends lying neglected and unused was a crying shame.
More rules came under scrutiny. The participation in AMA Free Flight Scale had been trailing off for decades. This stark decline was accompanied by the increasing popularity of the Flying Aces Club and their philosophy. The contrast was obvious in view of the steady growth in Flying Aces Club activity at the local club level and the USIC. The natives were restless, and numerous proposals were put forth over the years to the AMA Free Flight Contest Board. Unfortunately, the Board didn’t seize the Ring of Destiny, despite the minority’s strong efforts. However, inexorable change was coming.
On a more positive note, with a minimum of fanfare and a great deal of logic, radio-activated DT (RDT) was wisely approved by the Board. This reasonable allowance served us greatly in the oncoming future.
The NFFS By-laws were tweaked with a few minor changes. Things change and so must our ways of doing business. Several modifications were made in officer recall procedures, asset distribution in case of NFFS’s demise, NFFS mailing address, establishing foundations by NFFS, and diverse procedural filigree.
After a decade of steadfast service as NFFS’s secretary and treasurer, Homer Smith stepped down to enjoy some more model building and flying. Ted Hidinger was appointed to replace him, bringing a long career of accounting and financial management to bear. Bill Vanderbeek chose not to run for re-election as West district VP in 2006, and Walt Ghio was elected to succeed him, effective 2007. .
Harry Grogan served as 2006 NFFS Symposium editor, and it included many accolades to the late and much revered rubber-power maestro Bob White. NFFS announced the induction of Walt Ghio and Lee Hines into the NFFS Hall of Fame.
NFFS awarded college scholarships to Sean Andrews, Jacob Engelskirger, Kevin Foster and Cass Pangell.
We lost Bob Randolph, William McCombs, Connie Perry, Russell Snyder, Ralph Schlarb and others.
The USIC returned to Johnson City. The site conditions were the same as last year, with no new worries. Perhaps the most drastic change in the models this year was the near universal experimentation with tip-launch models in IHLG. Shocking news travels fast, both indoors as well as outdoors, it seems. However, after a few hours of widespread trial flights of less than elfin grace, all but one flier reverted back to their javelin-launch models. Still, the old models resulted in a great shootout among the usual suspects, with Jim Buxton winning. With the world indoor USA F1D team selection trials in the immediate offing the next month, the F1D contingent was out in force with their latest models. The level of competition couldn’t have been higher. NatsNews reporter John Kagan won and all of nine seconds covered the next two places! Larry Loucka eked out a narrow win against sixteen fliers in Ministick, besting Rob Romash by only six seconds. A-6 was another close affair with Bill Gowen winning with only two seconds to spare. Some victories weren’t so close. Ray Harlan won 35 CM by over five minutes. Bill Gowen set a new site records in both F1L and F1M, and both scores proved untouchable. Max Zaluska won Easy B by well over three minutes.
A tradition was started at the USIC in 2007 with the NFFS raffle, made possible by the contribution of A2Z Corp., Ray Harlan and other donors. The raffle remains a fixture today, and thousands of dollars have been raised.
The 2007 USOC Muncie Nats was a big success as a result of good weather and management. CD Jerry Murphy and assistants Phil Sullivan, Charlie Sotich, Mary Schuettler and Bill “Action” Jackson proved a good team. Also, attendance was way up from the previous year with 263 registrants, a great turnout. Jerry made a bold move and staged two scale events under Flying Aces Club rules. As a result, we saw good participation in FAC Peanut Scale and FAC Rubber Scale, far surpassing recent USOC experience. In this way a mild but persistent rebellion began against the AMA scale rules via actual participation. In its first full year of existence, the new E-36 event drew 10 fliers and many interested spectators, and in short order, a few kits began to enter the marketplace.
All the evening events were well-attended. The continuing “no speeches” program for the banquet resulted in happy attendees with good food and all the official activities being done with dispatch. The raffle and cookout was another success with a solid contribution towards NFFS scholarship funds. And we floated the keg. The Mother of All Swap Meets was more sparsely attended than last year.
The 2007 FAI Outdoor World Championships was a living testament to the adage that what goes around, comes around. Many things went wrong in the Ukraine to test all the competitors. Potentially, the flying site was huge, but some yahoo drove a car through a farmer’s field the first day, and much of the immense expanse was lost for the rest of the contest. The weather was calamitous at times and raised havoc with fliers, models and contest management throughout the week. The performance of quite a few of the designated timers wasn’t very good and just plain disastrous at times.
Looking back, it looked as though all the good fortune enjoyed by the USA teams over the past decade rolled up the odds in the opposite direction. Timers misbehaved; tested engines gurgled; towlines got clipped; and models suffered serious DT damage almost every day. You name it; it happened. No individual USA fliers or teams had podium finishes. Hopes sprung eternal for next time.
NFFS had leadership changes with Phil Sullivan being voted in as President, effective 2008. Bob Hanford was voted to another term as Central VP, starting in 2008.
NFFS was shook to its foundations with news of the sudden passing of Walt Rozelle, longtime digest editor, literary and publishing guru and go-to-guy for many matters of importance. It took us a long time to get over his unexpected demise. His would be big shoes to fill. Tiffany O’Dell became digest editor and began that huge task.
The NFFS Board of Directors established a Memorial Award in honor of Connie Perry. The award will be given at the annual Nats banquet to the person most representing the unselfish modeling spirit of Connie.
Longtime supplier of Free Flight kits and supplies, Peck Polymers, was bought by Tim Goldstein. The 35-year-old product line will join Tim’s other ventures, including Tru-Weight Balsa. (It turned out that the ownership of the hallowed product line would change again, but remains on shelves today.)
David Mills served as NFFS Symposium editor and produced a trim but solid 160 page effort. NFFS enjoyed its ruby anniversary with its bright red, fortieth rendition. NFFS inducted a bumper crop into the Hall of Fame, all deserving: George Batiuk, Jr., Gil Morris, William Nakashima, Jim O’Reilly, Lin Reichel and Eugene Verbitsky.
NFFS awarded a college scholarship to Tyler Secor.
We lost John Crean, Walt Rozelle and others.
The 2008 USIC in Johnson City got off to an awkward start when it was realized that attendance would be down a lot from 2007, about 35 percent in the final reckoning. Reasons as to why weren’t hard to fathom, and the pattern was to repeat itself at the USOC later in the year at Muncie. This was the first Nats under the full vengeance of the Great Recession. Many blamed the sticker shock from gas prices freshly north of $4.00/gal. Much of it was probably the malaise over an uncertain future. People were holding onto their money. Given all this, the drop in attendance was understandable, but we looked forward to these reasonable explanations being correct and not an indication of a permanent trend.
Plenty of action still remained under the Mini Dome’s ceiling, however. The fury of activity in indoor HLG proved what a difference a year makes. Stan Buddenbolm labored hard and scored the first USIC win ever win with a tip-launch glider and by a hearty thirty-plus seconds. He came within a few scant seconds of breaking Ron Wittman’s 30-year-old record, the Holy Grail of indoor glider fliers. He and his peers rang the death knell on the now obsolete technique of javelin-launch. (The next year saw a flurry of building and flying by the indoor HLG glitterati, and the quest for the record was soon on. It would eventually fall in dramatic fashion.)
Other action ensued. Kurt Klempetz won both the catapult glider events, again, repeating his previous feat. Brett Sanborn came out on top on the two-day slog that is F1D, beating the small but expert group of five competitors. The oddball, tandem winged Mauboussin of Ray Harlan won Dime Scale thanks to its justly earned bonus points. Jim Richmond won Easy B and F1L. Limited Pennyplane was the most contested category of the USIC, and Larry Cailliau came away the victor.
Given the economic conditions, the fliers who came were glad they did. Hope sprang eternal for 2009 and more of their indoor flying buddies being able to come out and play next year.
The 2008 Muncie USOC Muncie Nats saw a drop in attendance from 263 registrants last year to 230 this year. This ten-odd percent drop in attendance paralleled that of the USIC earlier in the year. It wasn’t just the Free Flighters, though, because the AMA reported an equivalent drop off across all special interest groups. The effects of the Great Recession were being felt across the country, and many just chose to stay home. .
That’s not to say, the 2008 USOC didn’t offer its fair share of excitement. Over two-hundred fliers still attended and flew. Mother Nature showed everybody who was boss early and often. The weather was OK on Monday, but an epic (nay, biblical) storm that blew through very early Tuesday morning, and put down several inches of rain. The campers experienced most of the furor, and dozens of tents were flooded or flattened. By dawn the field was impassable in many spots and a safety hazard for retrieval. The AMA opted on the side of safety and cancelled the day’s flying. Not to worry, we caught up with the events later in the week, and everybody had a few stories to tell. The rain abated the rest of the week, but the wind got up into the low teens, causing retrieval issues at times. We still flew a ton. Through it all, CD Chuck Markos and crew did an outstanding job, addressing all the funky business Mother Nature threw at us.
It was a year of very strong individual performances. Jim Jennings, Jr. put on quite a show in Electric B, setting a new national record of over 48 minutes. It should be noted that Jim had to stop flying around 3:00 pm because he had to be at work in Nashville the next morning. Who knows how many more maxes he could’ve added to his total of 24 by sundown? (It’s a performance like this that make for reasonable rules changes during the next rules cycle, or so says Jim! And, it was so.)
Several more individual performances deserve special mention: Dave Rousaville’s margin-of-victory in F1P was over two minutes, Big Jim Lewis’s in OT CLG of almost one, Bob Mattes’s in C NosGas of over five, Bill Schlarb’s in .020 Replica of over two, Dan Berry’s in AB Classic of over four, Bud Romak’s in ABC Cabin of well over four, Joe Williams’s in Nostalgia Rubber of almost eight and in Nostalgia Wakefield of almost four, David Sechrist’s in P-30 of almost three, Tim Batiuk’s in Catapult Glider of well over three and Herb Kothe’s in OT Rubber Cabin of almost five. Cargo Ace Vic Nippert took the cake again by an embarrassing wide margin.
The gentle rebellion begun last year in the flying of Flying Aces Club scale events was expanded with the addition of Power Scale. The AMA Free Flight scale events were nowhere to be found, except in the rulebook, and the sun was setting on them.
All the evening events were well attended, save one. The banquet was another in a long line of successes with tasty food, good company and no speeches. The raffle and cookout was its usual hoot. And we floated the keg. Unfortunately, the Mother of All Swap Meet experienced another decrease in participation, a worrisome trend. The sponsors of the event felt new blood was needed. But, despite much effort, President Phil Sullivan had no luck in finding someone to take over the event in 2009, and 2008 was its last year.
The USA’s team did another fine job at the 2008 FAI Junior Free Flight Championships in the Ukraine. Well known icon, Victor Stamov, ran an excellent contest, and everything went smoothly and set a high standard. The weather cooperated and presented no challenges. The F1A team (Ryan Jones, Oliver Cai and Timothy Barron) won team silver. Timothy won the individual bronze. The F1B team (Evan Simon, Michelle Radzuinas and John Shailor) finished in fourth place and were dogged by illness and broken models. John missed maxing out all rounds by one second, good enough for individual silver. The F1P team (Anthony Ferrario, Brian Pacelli and Chinmay Jaju) won team bronze. Reigning F1P world championship Cody Secor wasn’t a part of the USA team results. (Again, go figure.) But, that didn’t stop him from putting on a clinic and winning individual gold. Thanks go to George Batiuk, Jr., and a host of volunteers for a job well done. Nobody does it better.
There were a few changes in NFFS leadership. David Mills was elected South District VP to replace the seat vacated by Dave Lacey, effective 2009. Don DeLoach was added to the digest staff as Advertising Sales Manager.
If you asked a random group of Free Flight modelers to name their favorite Free Flight books, Ron William’s Building and Flying Indoor Model Airplanes of 1981 would make everybody’s list. It’s about the best book on indoor Free Flight ever produced, and the artistic standard of the graphics is without peer. So gorgeous is the book’s presentation that we sometimes forget just how much great information is provided in the text. The first and second editions (1981 and 1984) quickly sold out and became collector items. Well, some genius suggested that a third edition was needed, and NFFS published it. It, too, sold out and became a collector’s item. You snoozed, you loosed.
Rick Pangell served as editor of the 2008 NFFS Symposium. He produced a lean but pithy one of some 162 pages. Rick is a retired aerospace engineer, and it showed. The Symposium announced the induction of the late Walt Rozelle, Rex Hinson, Herb Kothe, Alexander Andruikov and brothers Roger and Reid Simpson into the NFFS Hall of Fame, all considered a stellar group. We awarded Dave Linstrum the Lifetime Achievement Award.
NFFS awarded college scholarships to Cody Secor, Justin Young and Evan Simon.
We lost John Warren, John Lenderman, Lin Reichel, Ed Stoll, Nate Sturman, Dick Dunmire and others.
2009 The indoor community reconvened at Johnson City for the 2009 USIC, and fifty-seven contestants met for five days of serious competition. The dome didn’t provide any further obstructions than the last few years, despite early rumors to that effect. Veteran Event Director Abram van Dover and his management team of several volunteers oversaw it all, and little if any discouraging words were heard. The effects of the Great Recession were still being felt nationally, and unfortunately attendance was still sharply down, or so the hopeful theory went.
Aside from the usual ballyhoo before the USIC, all the usual chat/yack websites began promoting something called the “Battle of the Smokies” in anticipation of the upcoming indoor HLG event. This was the third year of the tip-launch revolution in indoor HLG, and all the category’s glitterati had fleets of trimmed, second generation gliders. No one went away disappointed. Jim Buxton beat Tim Batiuk by a fraction of a second, and less than four seconds covers the top four finishers, probably the greatest indoor glider battle in history. Much of the excitement from the Battle in the category spilled over to the Catapult Glider events. Somebody finally beat Kurt Klempetz: Ralph Ray in Standard (setting a new site record in the process) and Stan Buddenbohm in Unlimited. Most of the elite F1D fliers attended, looking for some much-needed practice for the Team Selection Finals about a month later at the Lakehurst blimp hangar. And no surprise, Jim Richmond won, and less than thirty seconds covered the next two finishers. Bill Gowen owns the site record for F1L and continued in the same form to win the event, and his world record-setting F1M took first place. Ray Harlan might have had his best USIC ever, winning in eight of the nine events he flew, including winning Easy B by over three minutes and sneaking past Jim Richmond to win Pennyplane by five seconds. The two largest fields of fliers were in Ministick and Limited Pennyplane. Emil Schutzel won the former and Larry Cailliau, the latter. The raffle raised over $1000, which helped defray expenses.
Like their indoor brothers, the outdoor fraternity gathered in Muncie for the USOC. Attendance was strong with 236, up about 10 percent from last year. Gas price gouging had abated a tad and prices were at the new normal. Some of the national malaise had eased, and fliers voted with the wallets. The weather was some of the best in memory, warm and never too hot with light breezes and only two, brief, rain showers. Lee Campbell stepped in as CD at the last moment, and with the help of many volunteers, did a fine job.
The action started early on Sunday with the Junior Team selection trials. It produced a solid team mixed with veterans and first-timers. (We, in turn, were well-represented at the 2010 Junior World Championships.)
Many events of Nats week, proper, saw close competition of the highest order. What a difference a year makes! The many walk-away wins of last year weren’t repeated in 2009, and there were much fewer multiple event winners. Greg Hinrichs, Jim Lewis, Bob Mattes and Vic Nippert were among the few taking home multiple first place awards. On the other hand, the laurels of victory were shared by a much more diverse group. HLG produced one of the best battles of the week, under challenging conditions, because the relatively calm conditions brought meager thermals and less assistance. Tim Batiuk came into the Nats with two-straight such victories, looking for the first ever three-peat, but Big Jim Lewis narrowly out-distanced him for the win. To the surprise of many, Grant Carson won Mulvihill flying a P-30 with a folding prop. The Southern California contingent dominated Catapult Glider with Stan Buddenbohm winning, followed by Ralph Ray and Dick Peterson. Once again, the Flying Aces Club events were flown to good participation, across the board. (Thankfully, the AMA Contest Board and the newly restless NFFS membership were beginning to notice.) The P-30 category provided the rare tie for first place with David Sechrist and Don DeLoach both scoring 689 seconds.
Free Flight Quarterly editor-in-chief Sergio Montes of Tasmania, Australia easily won the furthest distance traveled accolade for his first Nats. He was a busy man and flew in a number of events, plus he and Don DeLoach served as NatsNews reporters. Sergio and the Nats attendees enjoyed the opportunity to meet each other.
All the evening events were well-attended. The banquet gave its large crowd an entertaining evening with old friends and good food. The raffle and cookout was a hoot, and we made a good stack for the scholarship fund. And we floated the keg.
The USA’s team journeyed to Croatia for the 2009 World Outdoor Free Flight Championships. The summer competition was tough, heat being a factor all week for many fliers. The F1A fliers had good conditions most of the day, but the winds were too light in the morning for easy towing, a rare gripe in the real world. It was not to be the USA’s day, with no podium finishes, despite heroic flapping and other outré measures. F1B day was another hot one and began like the day before in dead calm. Winds weren’t a problem with only one round offering gusts of any sort. Charlie Jones was the only team member clean for the fly-offs and won a hard-fought third place. He was the USA team’s only podium finish. F1C day offered the only day-long challenges with weather conditions, being the hottest and windiest of the week and the only day when retrievals were an issue. The final, ten-minute flight went off the next morning. The 2009 World Championships will be a memory of hard, physical challenges but great team cohesion and cooperation. Lessons were learned for later trips to the world stage.
In the span of four weeks in the fall at the Tustin blimp hangar, Stan Buddenbohm and Ralph Ray produced the best run of national record-breaking in indoor glider history. Ron Wittman’s 2-flight, category IV indoor HLG record of 2:58.6 seconds had held sway since 1973. On October 29, Stan bested it by a bunch with a 2-flight score of 3:14.4. The next day Ralph beat Bob DeShield’s 12-year-old, 2-flight catapult glider record of 3:25.4 by a smidge with a final 2-flight total of 3:28.9.
Less than a full month later, a select group of expert fliers from across the country, including Stan and Ralph, went at it again. Soon distancing the qualified field, Stan and Ralph upped their records by a notch to 3:24.8 and 3:44.0 seconds, respectively. Lee Hines sagely termed it a “truly other world-class performance”.
Discussion rumbled across several issues of the NFFS digest about the NFFS dues structure, and how it relates to operating expenses. People were beginning to realize that membership dues are usually eaten up by the expenses of digest printing and mailing, and rightfully inferring that all other expenses must come from other sources. Adding a meaningful wrinkle to the debate, serious discussions began in the digest, club newsletters and internet forums about the possibility of offering a digital version of the digest to save money for those preferring this method of printing and distribution. Eventually, discussion would go on for a few years, and big changes were on the way concerning how the digest was published.
In the last issue of the digest, Paul Andrade proposed a new set of rules for flying the Mulvihill category on small, Category III fields, a widely held club asset these days. Termed “Small Mulvihill”, it amended the Mulvihill rules to cap wing area at 200 projected sq. in. and rubber motor weight at 20 gm. It was a good idea that soon found purchase with contest fliers, and it quickly soon found acceptance as an official NFFS event. But, Small Mulvihill hasn’t made it into the AMA panoply yet. (Not to worry, everybody’s having a good time with it anyway, and remains popular to the present day.)
There was a major change in NFFS leadership with the entry of Don DeLoach as the new editor of Free Flight, the NFFS Digest, beginning with the May issue. Perhaps only a few realized it at the time, but the editorship of Don DeLoach would have far-reaching consequences for the Society’s publication of the Digest. Major changes were in the immediate offing, and fortunately for us, Don was at the helm. He proved to be, delving into the colloquial, the Right Tool for the Right Job, and we remain very thankful he’s still at it.
There’s stepping up and making a difference, and then there’s really stepping up and making a big difference. Such was the case of the latter when Roy Hanson volunteered to match, dollar-for-dollar, any money contributed in the Keep the Dream Alive drive, up to $14,000. And in time he did just that.
John Lorbiecki served as 2009 NFFS Symposium editor, and he produced a good one, coming to 192 solid pages of technical excellence. The symposium announced the induction of Stan Buddenbohm, Lee Campbell, Art Ellis, Phil Klintworth, Paul MacCready and Fred Pearce into the NFFS Hall of Fame.
NFFS awarded college scholarships to Oliver Cai, Brian Bauer and Kyle Jones.
We lost Larry Conover, Hewitt Phillips, George Xenakis, Al Grell, Bob Combs and others.
The 2010 USIC in Johnson City enjoyed an increase to 70 fliers from last year’s 56 fliers, a solid increase but still short of the 100-to-110 average of a few years ago. The Great Recession was seen as loosening most of its grip on the indoor Free Flight community. Some credit can be given to the AMA’s new electronic reminder program, and it has been used ever since.
Carl Bakay served as Event Director and was helped by a small army of volunteers. This USIC was the first year of the Rodemsky Limited Pennyplane Pro/Am. Twelve “amateurs” were paired with as many experts, and the action began. Chris Stoddart was the inaugural winner. Everybody had a great time, and plans were made to do it again the next year. It has since become a USIC tradition.
(Archivists will note Kang Lee flew as an amateur and soon established a fine reputation for craftsmanship and competitive fervor across many events. Over the next few years, his accrual of skill and experience was really something to watch. Perhaps, no one has advanced so far, so fast. Proving the point, he was to be crowned F1D World Champion in 2014 and repeated the feat in 2016!)
True to its tradition, the level of flying at the Mini-Dome was exceptional. Stan Buddenbohm won IHLG, setting a site record in the process. Bill Gowen owns the world record in F1M and dominated the event to win. F1D proved to be its usual two-day, hard slog with Jim Richmond winning in a very closely-run thing against an expert field. Ray Harlan was at his best, winning Hand Launch Stick and Easy B. John Kagan won F1L against a field of seventeen. Tom Sova narrowly won A-6 with nine seconds covering the top three places. Over $1000 was raised at the raffle.
Charlie Jones isn’t only a world-class F1B flier; he’s also a pretty good Nats CD. Everything happened when it should have at the Muncie USOC, and the 218 fliers had little else to do except fly. The weather offered the occasional challenge, but nothing dire.
The exp ected demise of AMA Free Flight scale was celebrated with 12 Flying Aces Club scale and duration events, and they were dominated by small number of experten, each winning multiple events, including Don DeLoach, Vic Nippert, Pat Murray and Ted Allebone. Such wasn’t the case with the AMA and NFFS rubber-power events, where there was only one double winner: Joe Williams in Nostalgia Rubber and Wakefield, something he’s done before. The remaining glory was widely dispersed. The most dominant rubber event victory (by almost 900 seconds!) was in the hands of Ed Sneed in Moffett, who would go on to win the event a few more times. Jim Jennings, Jr. won both A and B Electric, again. Ronny Thompson simply dominated AMA Gas with wins in 1/2A, B, and D and seconds in A and C Gas. Last year’s extreme margins-of-victory in Cargo and Pee Wee 30 were reprised by Vic Nippert and Rudy Kluiber, respectively, as is their wont.
2010 was the first year for the “unofficial” Small Mulvihill event at the Nats. Over a dozen fliers participated in the event on Monday, as well as the earlier mass-launch, indicating the unofficial category serves an interest. This level of participation warranted a repeat for the next year’s Nats, and so it was.
All the evening events were well-attended. The banquet drew a big and happy crowd. The raffle and cookout made a lot of money, and we ate 400 hotdogs, according to Phil Sullivan. And we floated the keg.
The USA’s F1D team traveled again to Serbia to compete for global glory at the World Championships in a large, domed arena. This time the dome provided something seldom heard in indoor flying, namely complaints of extreme heat and thermal activity. Yes, it can get hot in Serbia in August, and a lot of windows can let in the light and heat. Still, the team persevered and brought back our fair share of the mahogany. The local area won kudos again for good, cheap food and welcome hospitality. And thankfully, the bottled water was cheap. John Kagan was the highest scoring USA flier, earning a second place. A fifth place by Brett Sanborn and a fourteenth by Steve Brown helped the USA win team gold. Parker Tyson was the highest scoring USA Junior with third, and Curtis Wernette, fourth. The Junior Team finished just off the podium in fourth place, close but no cigar.
The USA Junior World Championship team traveled to Romania and enjoyed more than our fair share of success. The USA team won overall team silver, narrowly missing gold. Miles Johnson won individual silver in F1A, while Oliver Cai placed eighteenth and Logan Tetrick placed nineteenth, good enough for team silver in the category. The success continued in F1P with the team earning bronze, helped by Taron Malkhasyan scoring second, Brian Pacelli, sixth and Chinmay Jaju, fourteenth. Brian Pacelli won silver in F1B and Brede Doerner placed seventh.
Phil Sullivan started his presidency with a concern over the society’s finances. Much focus was placed on the production of the NFFS Symposium and digest because they furnish the majority of NFFS expenses. Analysis by the Board of Directors indicated that moving to an every-other-month publication schedule, while keeping the total number of pages per year the same, would result in a great savings in postage. The NFFS By-laws require a vote by the membership, and they approved it by a wide margin.
Historical analysis of the Symposium’s financials indicated it wasn’t a money-maker, per se, but either earned a little money every year or lost a little, offering no adverse financial impact of the organization. As the overall trend was both neutral and persistent over many decades, the Board of Directors determined no action on the Symposium was necessary.
The new E-36 event wasn’t growing as much as was hoped when it was started a few years ago. In the Spring of 2010, President Phil Sullivan directed that a subcommittee be formed to look for solutions. He set the goal that a new set of rules be developed, to be given provisional status effective in 2011, making E-36 a better entry-level event that would also increase participation in electric power generally.
The appointed subcommittee, manned by Jim Jennings, Jr., Bernie Crowe, Mark Covington and Dick Ivers and chaired by David Mills, soon realized the current rules mandated what had become obsolete technology, and performance was below what the marketplace offered. After much deliberation with dozens of fliers and field-testing of prototypes, the committee proposed that most of the original rule set be kept, but should be changed, specifically, to allow the use of Lipo batteries (2-cell pack only) and outrunner motors. With these two major modifications and some other detail changes, the new rules were approved by NFFS leadership and were set to go into effect provisionally in 2012. Hopes were high.
The final bell was rung on the “Keep Our Dream Alive” campaign. A grand total of $31,884 was raised, thanks to 118 individuals, 6 clubs and the uncommon generosity of Roy Hanson. For those that track such things, the total exceeded the programs goals by 128 percent! The money was well-used in a variety of ways. Thanks can go to Roy Hanson and President Phil Sullivan for the big idea.
The drama of 2009 at the Tustin blimp hangar rolled over into 2010. In April, a large group of HLG and F1D fliers met at the blimp hangar to have a go at the national record book. It was a day-long affair with Jim Buxton and Stan Buddenbohm pushing their models and themselves to the limit. By late afternoon both fliers were deep into the effort and had little “arm” left in the tank. Indoor glider legend, Ron Wittman, was on-site and did some cheerleading. With one great flight time chalked up already, Jim needed one more flight to break Stan’s record. Stan noticed a bit of stall at transition and suggested a little nose-weight. With that, Jim went flat-out for one more launch. It was flawless and enough for a two-flight total that broke Stan’s record by a few seconds. (The record stands today, if memory serves.)
The Tustin blimp hangar’s potential as a home for record-breaking wasn’t fully tapped. Later in the year, Stan set a new world record of 1:45.3 in F1N, the FIA’s indoor HLG category. The magic at Tustin was to last until 2013, when the casual relationship with the city came under officious municipal review, and the plug was pulled. Many thanks go to Ralph Ray and his circle of friends for making it possible.
Finally, a major change was made in how the AMA flies Free Flight Scale. Effective January, 2011, the Contest Board voted to strike down all Free Flight scale categories, and they were no longer in the rule book. Henceforth, by default, the Flying Aces Club rules would be in effect. This is a major sea-change legislatively, but this change merely recognized drastic changes made by scale fliers many, many years ago. It was about time changes were made.
Webmaster Alan Petersen did a major overhaul of the website, and together with Carl Bakay and Frannie Masterman, also installed an e-commerce component to the website, such that credit and debit cards could be used to purchase merchandise and memberships or make financial contributions. To date, well over 2000 transactions have been made digitally.
The NFFS T-shirts had featured the same “Satellite” design for many years, but it was decided to update it. A contest was held to provide a new design, and Bruce Hannah won. The new design serves us well to the present day. A few quibbled, liking the old one better.
There were a few changes in NFFS leadership. President Phil Sullivan announced he wouldn’t be running for re-election. The people spoke, and Vic Nippert retained his VP position of the North district. Bob Hanford replaced Bob Mattes as chairman of the National Cup program. Frannie Masterman replaced Ted Hidinger as treasurer after his resignation so he could build and fly more model airplanes. Frannie brought a wealth of financial management expertise to the job and continues to serve us well. Someone is always minding the score.
Sergio Montes served as editor of the 2010 NFFS Symposium and treated those of us keeping an eye on sympo production to an entirely new sort of problem. None of us thought of telling him to stop. We were presented with almost 250 pages of tense, technical material, a horn of a very rare dilemma. We found other homes for a few and moved a few to next year’s Symposium, and eventually whittled it down to a stout, pithy 204 pages, well worth the extra expense. The Symposium announced the induction of Paul Crowley, Mike Fedor, Faust Parker and Jay Jackson into the NFFS Hall of Fame.
We lost Dr. Robert Perkins, Otto Curth, Don Simpkins, Anselmo Zeri, Jack McGillivray, Reid Simpson, Paul Thomas, Jim Cherry, Carl Perkins, Henry Spence, Dave Stott, Bill Hunter and others.
This was a year of making changes in how NFFS conducted its business. We found many ways to try to make NFFS better. First on the list was the 2-for-1 membership initiative sponsored by Roy Hanson, whereby he subsidized by one-half the cost of either new members joining NFFS or lapsed members renewing their membership for two years. The results were immediate, and after a few years over two-hundred new or lapsed members were in the ranks. In time, it was shown that 50 percent of those so subsidized renewed when their terms was up. Roy’s generosity was to continue for a few more years.
The USIC was held again in Johnson City, and Abram Van Dover again served as Event Director. The weather provided a good bit of excitement, something not expected from an indoor Nats. One day, tornado warnings forced an evacuation of the Mini-Dome for a few hours, and another day, thunderstorms brought lightning that cut the electricity in the neighborhood. Fortunately, the emergency lights and flashlights provided enough light to track the models. The legendary Ray Harlan had easily the most eye-catching model of the USIC, a Hand Launch Stick featuring double-decker wings and stabs. Several experts won multiple events: Ralph Ray, Tem Johnson, Walt Collins, Emil Schutzel, Tom Iacobellis, John Kagan, Ray Harlan, Dave Aronstein and John Diebolt (leading the way with five!). Larry Cailliau won F1D by a total of over four minutes! The Pro-AM event was repeated to another success. And again, the raffle raised a lot of money.
The 2011 USOC will be known for one thing: the heat. The blast furnace temperatures were legendary, and they remain so. It was the hottest week in Muncie history, and that’s going back-a-ways. But, despite the forecasted heat wave, which didn’t fail to live up to its advance billing, and the highest gas prices in several years, attendance was well up from 2010 with 264 registrants. Mercifully, winds were light most of the week, and retrievals not too arduous. Nats management, lead by CD Phil Sullivan, berated everyone non-stop to stay hydrated and look out for each other, and there was only one heat-related trip to the hospital. (And, that was from an elderly gentleman on chemo therapy. Who says Free Flighters ain’t tough.) The temperature definitely affected things, though. Quite a few left early in the week. By Friday, everybody was just whipped, and there wasn’t an awards ceremony to speak of. Old timers could only think of a few Nats that rivaled this one in swelter, namely, the two at Lake Charles and at the NAS Dallas way back in 1964. We were glad we came and flew, and very glad it was over. We had a good time, and all have a few stories to tell. .
All the above dire pronouncements being said, we still flew a ton. Free Flighters are, indeed, a hearty lot. Thankfully, Muncie had a late spring, and the corn and beans weren’t particularly tall. And mercifully, winds were light all week, and thermals weren’t abundant, either. As a result, retrievals weren’t too dire in execution. Theories varied as to the relative absence of thermals. Happily, scores were quite low overall, compared to recent years. Only one event, Mulvihill, produced astronomical scores, where John Shailor won with 2846 seconds. Next in line was George Batiuk’s winning score in F1B of 1697. The top three scores in F1C produced the highest in FAI power (Gil Morris-1501, Don Chesson-1500 and Bucky Servaites-1445). Otherwise, most winners struggled to crest the 1000-second mark. Cargo Ace Vic Nippert’s score of 2046 was epic under these conditions.
The new provisional rules in E-36 didn’t bring a great increase in participation in terms of the number of official flights at the Nats, but they did produce some great models with drastically improved performance. Many heads were turned at the Nats, particularly by Don DeLoach’s model, which won the event handily. There was quite a lot of chatter and technology sharing up and down the flight line between experts like Don, Jim Jennings, Jr. and other interested parties. For most of the year, the internet forums were very active in E-36 matters. Interest was particularly keen on the West Coast. (Since 2011, E-36 has enjoyed a radical surge in popularity and eventually became the fastest growing NFFS event. The national momentum was such that E-36 was shortly made an official AMA rulebook event.)
The demise of the AMA Free Flight scale rules and active encouragement of the Flying Aces Club devotees bore its intended fruit with an explosion of participation in the twelve Flying Aces Club scale and duration events flown. Quite a few proposed that the modest increase in 2011 Nats attendance, overall, was due to the enthusiastic scale contingent. (Perhaps they were right. Regardless, scale has become a much bigger part of the Nats since then.)
The evening events were well-attended, but there were changes. We relocated the banquet to the Delaware Country Club, and it received rave reviews and remains our venue today. (Thanks can go to Phil Sullivan for this.) We bestowed Special Achievement Awards to Bob Mattes, Charlie Jones, Sergio Montes, Ted Hidinger, Andrew Barron and Walt Ghio. Rocco Ferrario was awarded the Connie Perry Memorial Trophy. The NFFS raffle and cookout was it usual a hoot, and we brought in $1430 for the scholarship fund. And we floated the keg.
For many years, there was some serious interest in flying electric and gas power models together in club competitions. Toward that end, the CIA club in Indiana introduced such measures based on the pairing electric and gas models together based on breakdowns between numbers of Lipo cells against engine displacements. The CIA club gained a few years experience in the matter, and they had a lot of fun in the process. These developments and similar others elsewhere were watched closely.
The 2011 FAI World Championships were held down Argentina way, and the USA sent a highly qualified and cohesive team. The field was very large and the organization up to the task. The accommodations and other social aspects got rave reviews, and the Argentines proved to be great hosts. However, the weather presented big challenges to the F1A fliers early on, in the form of stiff breezes which mandated numerous line changes and retrieval challenges. The fruits of victory are always well-deserved, and this year it was particularly arduous in F1A. The top scorer for the USA was Brian Van Nest in twelfth. However, the weather for the F1B fliers was about perfect, providing reasonable breezes and abundant thermals. Alex Andruikov was the highest scorer for the USA at second. Had his model not hit a tree during its last glide turn, he would’ve won. His fellow F1B team members did well enough to help earn team bronze. F1C day witnessed another extreme spell of weather—much calm and little lift. The highest USA F1C flier was Faust Parker, who placed twelfth.
Financial decisions last year were put into effect. The Digest’s new bi-monthly publication schedule was soon underway, and a substantial savings in postage was gained. The move was well-received by the membership’s majority. A few mathematically challenged members quibbled, but were placated once the real numbers were crunched. The schedule remains in effect today.
The people spoke and John Lorbiecki was elected NFFS President, beginning service in 2012 and replacing Phil Sullivan who chose not to run again. Tim Batiuk was the new West district VP, succeeding Walt Ghio who didn’t run for re-election. Rocco Ferrario stepped up to fill Tim’s old shoes in the NFFS Scholarship duties.
Dave Lacey served as editor of the 2011 NFFS Symposium, and he went at it with a will. He started shortly after the Nats and didn’t stop until he had two dozen papers “in the can”, well ahead of schedule. Imagine our surprise when the Symposium was blocked out to majestic 225 pages, way over budget for the second year in a row! He liked all the papers and didn’t want to lose any. He suggested a novel solution: why didn’t he simply write a check for the overage. “OK, Dave!” seemed a reasonable response. The Symposium announced the induction of Bob and Bill Hunter, Larry Davidson, Dave Linstrum, Bill Vanderbeek and Larry Coslick into the NFFS Hall of Fame.
NFFS awarded college scholarships to Miles Johnson and Chinmay Jaju.
We lost John Worth, Tom Carman, Art Christensen, Robert Reder, Bob Wedell, Steve Kanyusik and others.
The new administration of President John Lorbiecki got off to a rolling start in 2012. Several changes were in the immediate offing, first and foremost was the way the NFFS digest is distributed. The moves behind these changes date back to 2011, but they reached fruition with the May-June, 2012 issue. With this issue, digital distribution was an option for members via the website. Webmaster Alan Petersen and Digest editor Don DeLoach was instrumental in making this happen.
The other blockbuster was the publication of a glossy, full color NFFS digest, beginning again with the May-June issue. The membership whole-heartedly accepted the changes. (There were a few complaints, however. One guy complained the colors were too bright and the glossy paper, too shiny! Go figure.) Digest editor Don DeLoach did most of the heavy lifting in making this initiative happen. The economics themselves were rather plain: the new, glossy, full color digest was costing NFFS about the same as the old black-and-white version, and digital delivery was at no real cost, pretty much. However, several months into new era of digital publication, not nearly as many members as expected were opting for the digital version. It turns out the new, glossy, full color version was too sexy! People just didn’t want to give it up. Early on, we decided not to offer a membership discount for digital delivery, and this was the result. Technically a problem, NFFS leadership elected not to view it as such.
It should be noted that the move to a full-color digest required the employment of another printing company. As such, the long and fruitful relationship NFFS has enjoyed with The Printer of Davis, CA had to come to an end. NFFS simply wouldn’t be where it is today without our long association with The Printer. Gratitude worth its measure cannot be expressed, and they still continue to produce our lovely Symposiums.
John started another initiative: the better integration of the indoor community into NFFS activities. He appointed noted indoor flier, multi-year USIC CD, past world champion and columnist John Kagan, to head an Indoor Committee for this purpose. Kang Lee, Bill Gowen and Jim Buxton were soon serving on the Committee. All of this soon proved to be a wise and timely move because it turned out the Committee had serious work to do for 2013. East Tennessee State University enjoyed a great NCAA basketball tournament and had some money to spend. They chose to invest in improved facilities at the Mini Dome. Unfortunately, these improvements would ruin the site for premier indoor flying after 2012.
The USIC Nats was held at Johnson City Mini Dome for the last time. The worrisome banners presenting a hazard were removed with the help of NFFS and AMA at no small cost. Attendance was on-par with the last few years. Event Director John Kagan did another yeoman’s job of running the show and being the NatsNews reporter. Indoor legend Larry Coslick attended after a hiatus of several years. He hadn’t lost his touch and had a few podium finishes to his credit. For the first time in USIC history, all three indoor glider events were won by one flier, Kurt Krempetz. Long shootouts with multiple lead changes were typical of many events, like F1D, F1L, Ministick and Limited Pennyplane. The F1D event was its usual hard, two-day slog. In the end, Brett Sanborn won, followed by John Kagan and Larry Cailliau. Ten fliers, much trimming and two days of official flights made it a serious contest. The same could be said for F1L. Eighteen fliers made it a party, and podium finishes were a hard pull. Again, Brett Sanborn led the way with first, followed by Bill Gowen and John Kagan.
We were greeted with great weather for the start of the 2012 USOC. Muncie’s crop report was also favorable. The Muncie area had a dry spring, and the beans and corn were shorter than usual, that is, only five foot high for the corn and thigh-high, the beans. Temperatures were mild all week, and the winds were light the first half, not stressing our mature physiques too much. But, starting Wednesday, the velocity picked up and made retrievals much more difficult. Also, fliers reported tricky conditions by mid-week, as the low scores would show. A good indicator was Wednesday’s score in catapult glider, where only two adults maxed out. A major storm blew through Wednesday night and rained until noon Thursday, soaking the field. Thursday’s multiple flight line changes made it an instant legend. Only HLG pen stayed put all day, but the fliers suffered from marginal conditions, too. A cagey and patient Stan Buddenbohm earned the victory in the final minutes. Friday was wet and didn’t clear until after lunch. It was very windy all day, blowing across the short side of the field, making retrievals a nightmare. Slogging through wet corn and beans is no fun, even if it’s only 70 degrees!
Several individual performances deserve mention. Larry Davidson pretty much owned Nostalgia Gas, winning the larger four of the six categories, all against close competition. The most lopsided victory was Ed Sneed’s in Moffett. His score of 2203 seconds was almost 800 seconds ahead of second place. Ronnie Thompson won a similar victory in A Gas when his time of 1350 seconds, almost 400 seconds ahead of second place. Dan Berry won E-36 against a tough field of 13 fliers, well up from last year and a sign the new rules were working. Several more E-36 fliers brought models that weren’t trimmed and flown officially. Gerald Brown was the iron man of the week, braving the early morning rain and chill to be the only flier in the postponed Dawn Unlimited event.
All the evening events were well attended. Our second trip to Delaware Country Club for the banquet was as good as last year’s. Everybody should thank Phil Sullivan, again, for this opportune move. The cookout and raffle was its usual hoot. And the AMA awarded young Brian Pacelli a big, fat scholarship check for $14,500. And we floated the keg.
The USA’s Junior Free Flight team gave us the performance in Slovenia we’re used to seeing. Things started off well and stayed that way. Travel to the flying site was uneventful, and the accommodations were at a popular resort, a welcomed change from the adventures of previous years. The field was smallish by past standards, however. F1A opened to calm, but by mid-day, the bad-air gremlins came out to play. Consistent flying brought our team silver. Conditions for F1B were calm but soon turned into a retrieval contest. Fortunately, the team was up to it. By the end of F1B day, the USA team won team silver, and Brian Pacelli won gold. F1P day saw another day of high standards in flying and team effort. Taron Malkhasyan won gold, and the team, bronze. The team photo after the contest showed a group of kids and their capable manager, George Batiuk, Sr., heavily laden with ribbons and trophies, exactly what we were looking for. It’s just wonderful when a plan comes together.
During 2012, a big change was instituted by votes of the AMA Contest Board. Several applications of the existing Builder of the Model rule (BOM) were considered. First, the flying of models built by the deceased and infirm was approved in official competition. The proposal that catapult glider be exempt from the BOM was approved, while the same proposal for P-30 was nixed. It’s worth noting the proposal for eliminating the BOM, outright, for all outdoor duration categories missed passing by only one vote. The AMA Contest Board didn’t approve the proposal to make Small Mulvihill an official AMA category. However, it eventually became an official NFFS category and enjoys strong support.
NFFS was busy elsewhere, making changes to take effect in 2013. Fliers have voiced concerns Nostalgia Rubber has stagnated in participation for the last few years. In 2012 Lee Campbell and others proposed a major overhaul in the rules, such that two new categories would be used, based on projected wing area only: a Small event for models with wings of projected area of 150 sq. in. or less and a Large event for those over. All Nostalgia Wakefields would fly in the Large event, and the existing Nostalgia Rubber models would break out by area. The proposed rules change passed with little fanfare and controversy, indicating its merit was obvious. Heavily in its favor was the vast number of applicable, excellent models in the smaller size waiting to be more easily built and flown. Time would tell whether this change encourages more participation.
The Vintage FAI rules received a few tweaks, based on the last three years experience. The event continues to have a small but dedicated following.
Whodathunkit? David Wineland, NFFS and longtime MMM club member, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, along with Serge Haroche of France! A flier of big, locked-down, Gas Power models by preference, he likes their simplicity. Such isn’t the case with his profession, where he was recognized for his ground-breaking work in the field of quantum computing. His research is expected to have vast, long-lasting effects on data processing speeds and storage capability. (If the machines reach the forecasted self-aware Singularity and then kill off the human race in a swift and cinematic fashion, you can blame him. (Just kidding!)
The website saw another important upgrade. As of August, the first digital copies of the digest were available via download. The digital versions became a better value than the pulp one because of more bonus content. Thankfully, electrons don’t weigh much. Still, the pulp version remained popular. Most members continue to prefer to have both.
In addition to a change in the Presidency, Brad Bane was appointed to fill Vic Nippert’s vacant East district VP slot through 2013. Vic resigned to devote more time to his family, building and flying model airplanes, and something called “retirement”.
Mike Pykelny purchased Star Link/Flite-Tech from Larry Bagalini effective January, 2012. He’s continuing the same product lines and good service of the Bagalini’s.
Derek McGurkin served as NFFS Symposium editor and provided a good volume of some 176 pages. The Symposium announced the induction of a bumper crop into the NFFS Hall of Fame, all deserved: Tim Batiuk, Bob Hanford, Louis Joyner, Jerry Murphy, Carl Redlin, Dave Rees, Phil Sullivan and Mark Troutman.
We lost Earl Stahl, Ken Oliver, Dave Rees, George Fuller, Jim Whelan, Sal Taibi, Fred Wunsche, Larry Clark, Jaures Garofali, Dan Sobala, Don Brown, Rocky Russo, Don Peacock, Bob Hatschek, Jack Clemens, Joe Joseph, Jim Whelan and others.
The new Indoor Committee, lead by John Kagan, earned their money in 2013. They faced a significant challenge, namely finding a new home for the USIC. Our decades-long run at the Johnson City Mini Dome ended with the installation of numerous, new obstructions, making the room untenable for indoor flying. A new venue was soon found at the University of Illinois Armory in Champaign. Indoor contests have been flown there before, and the venue proved to be entirely satisfactory to the contestants. Attendance was only about half of what would be expected in Johnson City, but the late acquisition of the site and event planning easily explained some of this. More than just the venue changed. John Kagan served as the new Event Director, while Jim Buxton served as the new NatsNews reporter. Organizational needs were tasked widely and to good result. President John Lorbiecki’s select few indoor initiatives bore their intended fruits, and as a result, NFFS’s indoor operations kicked up a notch, administratively. This would prove vital over the next few years, as the USIC was to face serious challenges.
Thankfully, given all the changes, the quality of the competition was high, featuring many fliers winning multiple events like Don Slusarczyk, Larry Coslick, Bill Gowen, Kurt Klempetz, John Kagan, Brett Sanborn and Walt Van Gorder. Coming back from a long hiatus last year, Larry Coslick led the way with several victories. Brett Sanborn won F1D by a two-flight margin of over four minutes. Tim Lavender brought his busload of enthusiastic kids all the way from Smyrna, TN, thanks to the generosity of Abram Van Dover and others. Special thanks need go to John Kagan, Phil Sullivan and the cast of dozens who made it all happen.
The Muncie 2013 USOC provided a very good week for those fliers that attended. Some of the drop in attendance from last year to 187 fliers can be partly explained by the new date conflicting with two, major regional contests. Our usual slot, starting late in July, was used by a RC World Championship of some sort, and Free Flight week was moved to earlier in the month. The temperatures were significantly lower and the crops shorter, but the winds stronger than what we’ve come to expect. It only stormed to any consequence once, and that was only for a few hours. Long story short, many fliers spent a lot of time in the corn and beans, but the lower temperatures and shorter crops made it much easier. There was no meaningful grousing about retrievals.
Joe Mekina served as CD, and oversaw how our seventy events were flown. Also, it was a family affair with his daughter Elizabeth serving as NatsNews reporter and photographer.
Looking back at the entire week, the scores were lower overall than in years’ past. The theory was tossed around that the lower temperatures weren’t generating the usual thermal activity. Fliers also commended all week about blustery winds and turbulence aloft. The rubber power scores were an indication. For example, the high time on Monday was Jim Ferwanda’s 1288 seconds in Moffett; Tuesday’s was John Shailor’s 1325 seconds in Mulvihill; and Friday’s was David Mills’s 900 seconds in P-30. All these events typically require much higher times to win.
The evening events were well-attended. The banquet was again held at the Delaware Country Club and to more good reviews. The cookout and raffle was its usual hoot. However, we didn’t float the keg, and a long winning streak ended, on a technicality. For you see, there was a technical problem with the tap, and before the experts on-site could seek remedies, the AMA maintenance crew took away said keg and tap. (This writer suspects the resourceful maintenance crew engineered a solution before the night was over.) However, the Free Flighters made due well enough with the canned variety. Presumably, an equivalent quantity of beer was consumed. We never did hear the final story on that tap . . . .
The 2013 World Free Flight Championship in Moncontour, France produced a huge turnout in contestants from 43 countries, which may’ve been a record. The USA sent a very capable team, all veterans of global competition. The results reflected our talents. F1A day began with near-perfect conditions, and the USA team was perfect up to the fly-offs, but so were 62 others! By evening the USA team finished fourth. On F1B day, the conditions were quite nice but made for tricky air-picking. Up to the fly-offs, the USA team had only dropped one flight and only by 4 seconds. The remaining two fliers advanced to the fly-offs and did well amid a field of very scattered results. Although the highest USA placer (Alex Andruikov) only reached eleventh, young Brian Pacelli, the previous Junior World Champion, flew as an adult and to third place overall. As a result, the USA won F1B team gold. F1C produced the best weather in recent memory; out of the 71 fliers, 49 made the fly-offs. The 9-minute round saw 26 fliers! The USA team won bronze, with Don Chesson placing team highest for ninth. The overall team trophy was won by the USA in the final tally, a first for the USA and a wonderful result. .
Early in 2013, the Free Flight forums began churning with the notion of flying Nostalgia era gas designs with electric power. This soon produced a proposal to the Nostalgia Power committee that was rejected for a variety of reasons, the main one being that there was no widespread interest in flying electric and gas power together in the same rule book event. President John Lorbiecki directed the Electric Subcommittee to look into the matter and develop a set of provisional Electric Nostalgia rules for 2014. After a few months deliberation, a set of provisional rules were approved for two events based on wing area along with other details, namely 1/2A E-Nos and ABC E-Nos. Local clubs were directed to fly the two events in 2014 to determine national interest and rules viability. Also, plans were made to fly the two events at the 2014 Nats for the same reasons. Events in 2014 will determine the legitimacy of the concept toward any potential official NFFS status.
The USA continued its strong presence in F1E at the World championships in Slovakia. The team won silver, with strong results from Robert Sifleet (second), Peter Brocks (sixth) and Tom Ioerger (eighth). Now a bit more seasoned to the task, the USA remains a strong presence on F1E.
In the 2013 Symposium, Bob Stalick, Chairman of the NFFS Foundation, provided an update of their activities. In addition to the Chairman, current trustees included Jack Shafer, Rex Hinson and Phil Sullivan. He gave a detailed financial history of the Foundation, including its travails during the Great Recession (shared by many in the membership). Like most of the nation’s citizens, we eventually made it though a bit worse for wear but intact and upright.
Changes were made since the Foundation’s creation in 2005. For better coordination of donations from the Free Flight community, arrangements were made for donations to be made directly to NFFS, and then dispersed according to contributor designation into a range of categories, including the Foundation. Additions to its mission included the Zaic Fellowship, which was started to enhance contributions by providing an avenue for individuals to contribute to the Foundation. The Video Fund was started to produce a variety of Free Flight products in video and DVD, and numerous products entered the marketplace. An Indoor Site Fund was recently created, and the Foundation began work to assist local groups and the Society in the membership’s indoor activities. Bob closed his discussion by outlining the various means of donating to the Foundation for members’ benefit.
Real world concerns began intruding into model aviation with increased scrutiny by the Federal government into how we fly our models in the USA. The root of the interest was in the possibility of model airplanes being used by terrorists. Most modelers found this a far-fetched concern, but government interest remained. To their credit, officials with the AMA began a liaison with the Federal government, principally the FAA, to both educate them and allay their fears (some would say paranoia). The AMA began an expensive program of lobbying and direct intervention with Congressional officials and the Federal bureaucracy. By year’s end, the full and eventual impact of this Federal scrutiny remained uncertain for model aviation, and remained a shadow over our hobby and sport.
The year saw another specter on the horizon in the rise of the purchase and use of multi-rotor helicopters, more familiarly known as “drones”. The commercial market simply exploded with these products. Unfortunately, most of these fliers demonstrated little of the commonly accepted notions of flight safety and other issues which are widely held by the model aviation community-at-large. Regrettably, widespread reports of airborne foolishness by the droners brought increased Federal scrutiny to model aviation. Visions of Federal overreach seemed to become a tangible reality. The Federal role in our hobby and sport had become a reasonable concern.
We had a few changes in leadership positions. Gene Ulm was elected to the East district VP slot, effective 2014. Marty Richardson volunteered to serve as NFFS membership chairman after Carl Bakay’s sudden demise. He was soon updating the membership roster and renewal procedures, in timely cooperation with Webmaster Alan Petersen’s many on-going measures to streamline NFFS’s digital operations. They became a good team.
NFFS enjoys the generosity of its members in terms of the volunteering of time and financial contributions. Honestly, we’re used to our members supporting the Society in a variety of ways. However, there are times when members do things that are exemplary and worth mentioning. Veteran northwestern Free Flight modeler Paul Ortman granted NFFS a behest of $50,000.00 in his will. Let’s all remember Paul for the uncommon and heartfelt gift.
Changes were made to NFFS’s education and mentoring programs. In 2012, the NMAP program came under review, as there was dissatisfaction with the results of the past few years. In 2013, program administrators, Tim Batiuk and Rocco Ferrario, recommended that it be terminated. Rather than provide assistance to individual youths under the NMAP program, it was decided the funds be used within a revamped Education Fund to more widely help individuals in NFFS doing youth programs, while still offering college scholarships to qualified youths.
Randy Reynolds served as 2013 NFFS Symposium editor and produced a stout volume of some 180 pages. The Symposium announced the induction of Bill Henn, Bob Gutai, Robert Johannes, Larry Cailliau, Tim Lavender, Stew Meyers and Hal Cover into the NFFS Hall of Fame.
We lost Tony Italiano, Sandy Downs, Frank Hodson, Warren Kurth, Stafford Screen, Martyn Cowley, Cezar Banks, Earl Thompson, Jerry Paisley, Al Lawton, Ken Oliver, Victor Stamov, Paul Grabski, Phil Cox, Bob Bender, Carl Bakay, Bob Nichols, Paul Ortman, Vern Neff, Jim Kaman, Robert Warren, Phil Cox, Don Campbell and others.
The F1D World Championships was held again at the Romanian salt mines, a well-known venue for the event. The results for the USA were outstanding, as benefiting our experienced and well-prepared team of adults and youths. And, it was no walk-away victory that year because it wasn’t achieved until the last round. Victories were earned. The salt mines impose harsh challenges to the novice, not to be encountered elsewhere in the world. Fortunately, we had veterans.
The results for Old Glory are quick to recount. Individually, it ran: Kang Lee-first, Brett Sanborn-second and John Kagan-sixth. The math was inescapable; it was team gold for the USA. Our youths did fine, too. Evan Guyett won a very tight battle for first and Royce Chung, fifth.
This year’s Muncie Nats provided as great a variety of flying conditions as most of us have experienced at our national flying site. Monday started and stayed with stiff breezes and many off-field excursions. The rubber and gas events produced some exhausted but deserving victors. Tuesday produced what many felt at the time was the best flying day in Muncie Nats history. Nature’s blessing is worth some elaboration for events later in the week. Temperatures never got past the mid-seventies and winds, only a few knots. Long max flights were landing on the field even though winds were out of the west. Three national records were set. Wednesday offered difficult flying conditions, even though temperatures and winds weren’t particularly difficult. Whatever the reasons, thermals were remarkably few and far between and maxes, rarer still. As a result, fliers were out-of-sorts all day. Thursday offered a bit of everything: fog in the morning, calm until midday, and fairly stiff breezes blowing out of the west later in the day. Accordingly, the field got small in the afternoon, and retrievals tested flier resilience. Simply put, Friday was one for the ages. Whatever people thought about Tuesday’s wonderful weather, Friday quickly put itself into first place as the best day of Muncie flying weather ever. A contrary argument may never be put forth. Temperatures stayed in the seventies, and thermals were ridiculously abundant and strong. Models were landing after five-minute flights with two-hundred yards of launch.
The week wasn’t without interdenominational squabbles. For whatever reason, early Friday morning some yahoo RC Sailplane event manager decided to usurp the southern portion of the field, depriving us of the best flightline of the day. A focused squad of our officialdom dive-bombed theirs, and then we got the AMA involved. Said yahoo will never run anything at the Nats again. It helps when your President stands five foot, seventeen inches tall and has the wingspan of a condor.
All the evening events were well-attended. The banquet was held at the Delaware Country Club again and to the expected rave reviews. The raffle and cookout brought a bumper crop of fliers, hard and bothered from the afternoon’s retrievals. The hot dogs, chips, watermelon, beer and wine were tasty, indeed. The ton of raffle tickets sold and the auction items brought in quite a bit for the scholarship fund.
The USIC traveled to the Kibbie Dome in Moscow, ID for the indoor Nats. An indoor football arena, the site has been used on many occasions for a variety of indoor contests, including F1D Team Finals. The site provided the excellent flying conditions furnished in previous years, but unfortunately the site proved a poor draw for competitors. Fewer than forty contestants participated, a historically low turnout for the USIC. Two reasons were put forth in explanation, one the relative geographic isolation of the locale, being too far from major airports and other population centers, and two, the late acquisition of the site, which hampered marketing of the event.
However, the level of competition was still high because many of the heavy hitters attended and contested at a very high level. Several events, such as F1D, Hand Launch Stick, Limited Pennyplane, Easy B, and F1L, were hardily thrashed about. After the USIC, the Indoor Committee’s focus was cast upon the need for a higher participation next year and a more accessible flying site.
Not all the global FIA competition was in the salt mines of Romania. Some of it was above ground in Romania. Yes, the USA’s Junior team gathered at Salonta and contested F1A, F1B and F1P. The field was adequately large, but the unexpected bison and a badly located creek provided some retrieval challenges. The accommodations were convenient to the field, but the air conditioning was Third World grade. There were some processing travails but nothing too bothersome. Alex Stalick was the team’s highest individual placing (fifth in F1B), and the F1B fliers, the highest team placing at fourth. This contest marked the last one for George Batiuk effort as Junior Team Manager. Nobody does it better, and his shoes will be hard to fill. Many thanks, George, for your many, many years of good service!
Fears of greater Federal involvement in the hobby and sport of model aviation were realized with much greater and worrisome scrutiny, much of it by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The AMA had begun a long interface with the FAA with a great manpower commitment and great expense in legal and lobbying activity. Scuttlebutt has it that the AMA found the whole experience frustrating on several fronts. One was the widely recognized overstating of the terrorists threat by the Federal government, and two, an ever-changing group of point-persons put forth by the FFA that the AMA was forced to interact with, and frankly, continually educate about the issues. It should be mentioned that several elected representatives assisted the AMA in efforts on our behalf. A few things were settled, but many of the major issues droned on into 2015. Model aviators, including those of the Free Flight persuasion, waited with jaded anticipation.
We had changes in leadership. Mike McKeever ran for West Vice President unopposed to occupy Tim Batiuk’s vacant seat, effective 2015. David Gerspacher took over the Plans Service, after Whit Russell retired to enjoy something called “retirement”. Many thanks go to Whit for his tireless efforts on our behalf, and the Society owes him a real debt of gratitude for his shepherding of the operation through its many recent changes. Well done, sir.
The year saw a big change in how our Free Flight models would be flown, namely the rescinding of the Builder of the Model Rule (BOM) by the AMA Outdoor Free Flight Contest Board. The swells of this sea change began emerging some time ago, and the waves finally crested. The BOM is no more for the outdoor duration events. The incremental chipping away of the long-standing rule began with the FAI’s dropping of the BOM decades ago. Subsequently, NFFS and SAM began allowing the flying of the deceased models by others a few years ago. More recently, the Contest Board rescinded the rule for a couple of Junior events. Some local clubs rescinded the rule, totally or in parts, beginning years ago.
This rules change ended, at least procedurally, a controversy that had raged to varying levels of decibel for decades. Extreme opinions have been vented for decades whenever the question had been raised. Portends of doom have only been rivaled by prophecies of naïve optimism. Thankfully, the facts and the flow of history will decide the issue, and we can move onto other things.
A new electric Free Flight event emerged out of the Pacific Northwest. Called E-20, it served the region well as an introduction to electric power, featuring a specific set of rules in the form of a small, 20-inch wingspan model. It would soon show a growing popularity. Designs soon began to be published, hardware entered the marketplace, and the blogs filled with its content. The event began to be flown at contests across the country. A fun fly-off was flown during the raffle and cookout Thursday evening. Scuttlebutt had it that E-20 would soon be proposed as a provisional NFFS category. Time would tell.
The year saw the full transfer of the Superior Props operation into the able hands of George Bredehoft’s Volare Products/Shorty’s Basement conglomerate. Prop-carving is probably the biggest bane to the average Free Flight rubber modeler, and this change-of-hands was considered a blessed event by many, including this writer. Thanks, George!
Ross Jahke produced a worthy NFFS Symposium of some 162 pages, his second turn at the editorship. The Symposium announced the bumper crop induction of Stan Chilton, Don DeLoach, Ray Harlan, Chuck Marcos, Ralph Ray, and Henry Spence into the NFFS Hall of Fame.
NFFS awarded a college scholarship to Daniel Vucovich.
We lost Jean Wantzenreither, Clarence Mather, Les Shaw, Larry Haralambou, Dick Adams, Dan Olah, Danny Kane, Carmen Boticello and Don Moreau.
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