Increasing participation in FAI

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    Dean McGinnes

    Two changes would overnight increase interest and participation in all outdoor FAI classes.

    1. Locked down models. Only DT in F1B & F1C. Autorudder and DT in F1A.

    2. Get rid of rounds in all but FAI-only meets.

    Unfortunately, it would put the “factories” out of work.

    A lesser change would be to call them real names: Wakefield, Nordic Glider, Power, Coupe d’Hiver, etc.

    Peter Brocks


    Participation in FAI events is NOT less than in AMA Open events. At the 2009 NATS Mulvihill did not have more participants than F1B/Wakefield. P-30 was less popular than F1G/Coupe. No other Open event had more participants putting up flights than F1G.

    AMA Gas allows all the functions that you do not like. Why then won’t you allow them in F1C? You can fly locked-down planes in all FAI events.

    Putting up 3 flights in AMA when conditions or thermal activity are right is easier then putting up 7 flights at different times of the day. Flying in rounds against your competitors is definitely fairer.



    FAI has always been a technology class. All (OK, many) of the major advancments have taken place from these competitors. It does take a different kind of flier to want to fly these events. It does turn into a full time occupation, not only flying but do the pre flight rituals. Plus, to be the best, it does take top notch equipment. And that will cost you!

    As much as many would like to change it so more would fly, I am of the opinion that making major changes as listed would do more to kill the class. Yes, I fully agree that F1C has somewhat gotten out of hand. There has been much talk about how to limit the performance and each has its problems (obsoleting present, expensive models).

    But I know that the way to limit these things would be to do just two things- limit the span and get rid of gears. The span limitation would mean that the need for all carbon structures would be removed and non geared engines would get rid of the expense. Plus, now that the Hummer is no longer available, it would open up other engine combinations to be competitive. Auto surfaces really are no big deal, once you understand them. I get lost when I fly a locked down model!

    I look at the guys flying truly competitive AMA models and some of those aren’t as simple as they used to be. No matter what the rules are, those that want to be the best will do whatever it takes.

    Will be interesting in hearing from the F1A and F1B fliers on this subject. Heck, in F1A, limit it to one servo (never thought I would put those two together) and in F1B, get rid of Variable pitch…Both would take alot of expense out of the model.

    However, I like the classes how they are. I always say that flying FAI is like running a Top Fuel car. Not everyone does it, but it sure is fun!


    Hello John Lorbiecki

    You can come up to our Minneapolis Model Aero Club events and fly your FAI models in our power events. It is different though in that you only get 3 flights, and there are no rounds. We just call it the GAS event and we have just two classes at most of our contests, under .062 cubic inches, and over 062. So you could fly both your F1J models and F1C models and give us a thrill. But you only get your 5 second engine run. The AMA events get the normal 7, and the Nostalgia gets 9.

    Usually, we fly 2 minute maxes, but when windy it is dropped to 90 seconds.

    We fly for fun and trivial prizes. So we can make up our own rules!

    But there is no cheating by motoflapping or jacket wavers allowed!

    Dean McGinnes

    Sounds like my kinda group Dave. 🙂 🙂


    I love flying in rounds, that is FAI Free Flight to me, i also love technology models but i also love older types of FAI model.

    I fly current FAI, (Modern F1A) and F1A UK, (older F1A straight tow designs, just auto rudder and from a 60m tow line/ experimental this year). Both a great to fly but if i were in a position to make FAI rule changes with the aim of increasing participation/ interest in FAI events, i would look to keeping existing – current FAI technology models, but have another level of FAI model come in, my idea of changes would be something like;

    1 No min’ weight for an F1A, B & C, (but existing tow line length, rubber weight and motor run/ fuel mix).

    2 Less rounds per contest, min’ of 3, and a max’ of 5 rounds per day with variable max, a min’ max’ of 2min’s & a maximun max’ of 5min’s.

    3 Flyoff to be 1 unlimited flight.

    This will allow for our current FAI technologies, and also new stream of super light weight models, open/AMA type model designs and flyers to compete more on a level!

    Respect to all.


    In England we have classes for low tech,and the vintage models are also low tech.F1A,B,C,G and P30 are also very popular.No need to change the rules.In rubber I find the low tech approach very difficult.Its much easier with w.w.,a.r.,v.i.t.,all of which are cheap and readily available if you build your own models.
    Changing rules should be kept to the minimum.

    Dean McGinnes


    “In rubber I find the low tech approach very difficult.Its much easier with w.w.,a.r.,v.i.t.,”

    The above goes right to my point. Flying at the World Champ level is supposed to be challenging. Right now, with the majority of the “sportsmen” using factory built models, it becomes a matter of air picking and retrieval. With locked down models, the latter still applies along with the challenge of handling the vagaries of true “Free Flight”.

    Also as to rounds, in all-FAI meets that is fine. They should be dispensed with otherwise.

    Roger Morrell

    I read with interest this thread and have some observations …

    Firstly it looks just like a thread a few months back where a FAI flyer [Aram] was suggesting some changes to the AMA classes and some of the same people who told him to get lost are now doing the same to the FAI classes.

    More importantly however its not do do with increasing participation in the FAI classes, it should be about increasing participation in any class. It seems to me that participation in all forms of model flying is falling off. I fly at the Perris free flight site and notice on the adjacent r/c strip that there are never any beginners there either.

    There appears to me that there are people who believe there is some form of secret Cabal by the East Europeans who make some FF parts and models to control the rules and keep things the way they are. As one of the other contributors to this string pointed out each country has only one vote in the CIAM and those people have no more influence than we do in the USA. What we need to understand is FF, FAI or not is kept going by a number of small business in many countries who supply us with very specialized needs at reasonable prices. For a number of years we have benefitted from the availability of very skilled low cost labor from Eastern Europe as the economies in those countries are changing and as the dreaded RTF FF factories have to source some parts from other places the cost of those models and parts will go up and people won’t buy them any more. We are starting to see this already and some of the top US FAI flyers are looking at other ways of building their latest airplanes.



    I suppose we are mostly balsa bashers from youth at heart.I fly Bukin F1Gs mostly,but there is no way I could afford an eastern European F1B,let alone,tell the wife.So I fly vintage and open rubber.It’s not too difficult to add vit and auto-rudder to a balsa model.It only requires a few new skills to make the fus out of a carbon tube and boom.
    The top F1G flyers here either make thier own models from high tech materials and/or buy the high tech bits.
    Regarding lack of beginners.How is a youngster these days going to compete with us oldies who have been balsa bashing since the age of 7 years.The only way I could catch up was with my ready made high tech models.The beauty of them is you can enjoy just trimming and competing.They have also taught me a lot about design and construction.I can’t see any 7 year olds now being interested in the learning curve that we put up with.In England children are not much educated to make things.They seem to be taught to refer to experts.The idea of making planes and learning from mistakes is now alien.Of course that is a loss,and leads to a lack of respect of manufactured goods.If you don’t repair it and just throw it away when used,you don’t respect it.
    I did woodwork at school and made furniture.My children did “resistant materials”.They now buy from IKEA.It’s perfectly made and lasts a short time till its binned.I still have a model box I made 50 years ago.It has multiple dovetails at each corner.The first corner is rubbish,the second is better and the 4th is OK.I could buy a lot better ready made.I still love doing dovetail joints.
    So education is worse now,and recruitment to model flying is virtually nil,because it is too difficult.Those of us who are still flying are the ones who didn’t give up.

    Roger Morrell

    I think the lack of manual skills or the ability to build things oneself is not confined to the UK, it’s true in most of the western world. The current economic situation it’s made people look again at jobs that can’t be outsourced and some of those fall into the manual skills category so there is maybe a rekindling of learning some of those skills again.

    It has always suprised me that the UK, a country with a rich aeromodelling heritage and close to continental Europe has had very poor participation in the Junior World Champs, while the USA, which is far away has made an effort to get people to take part with some degree of success. Junior participation is always partly parental support and partly an effort buy others to support the junior program. Acitivites like the Orville and Wilbur Society are only possible if people like Art Ellis put in a huge personal effort. These activities start juniors off with something very much simpler than an FAI airplane and they fly all kinds of free flight before figuring if they can make the time and finanical commitment to take part in the Junor team selection process. We have too many adults interested in helping the junior program and benefit of this is that those who can’t contribute hands on often make offers of indirect financial help to people who have indicated the willingness to make a serious commitment.

    I’m not sure what kind of cosmic accident got the “rubber band airplane event” event included in the USA national high school Science Olympics competition [it is only one event out of about 40 in many categories] but this has been reponsible for exposing large number of young people to indoor free flight and bring some up to international level in F1D.

    So it’d not all doom and gloom, we to figure how to make our efforts count most.



    Most of the 50+ years old fliers were born into the tail end of the golden age of aero modelling. In the 40s and 50s, free flight model airplanes were the cutting edge hobby, with numerous clubs and hobby stores. These FAI fliers are still the core of free flight fliers today, with minor additions: younger generations of family fliers, imports (like me), the unusual Connecticut club with a real youth program (whose secret is involving the parents) and a few converts from radio control (like the late Ed Keck) or rockets (like Bob Biedron). Fliers tend to stay in the same discipline (AMA, FAI) throughout their life, with few exceptions flying both disciplines. The FAI ranks would have definitely been much slimmer without the east European model factories, and even this source is being priced out with their increasing standard of living and the Dollar’s decline.

    Free flight is, by definition, an obscure sport – due to the field size requirements. As a youngster I was able to ride my bicycle to a good training flied, before it was developed. (It now takes a two hour drive and I consider myself very foutunate.) It is difficult to bring an uninitiated person to a flying site. And,as my wife says – nothing can be more boring than watching a bunch of people chasing kids’ toys the sun.

    So making things easier will obsolete a lot of FAI models whose owners are not secretly craving to fly simpler models or fly in a free form without concurrent (real) flyoffs; not to speak about most European free flight fliers who have never had the alternative of AMA events to begin with. Instead, we are stuck with the mundane task of mentoring one new comer at a time.


    I fly a locked down Burdov coupe, and I may or may not ever have a $1000 airplane. It also isn’t going to ruin my fun to fly against same. My feeling is that although its not really for me, technical complexity adds challenge /interest and generally shouldn’t be suppressed. In short, additional classes or categories is ok, but avoid leveling and homogenization.

    As beginner, I don’t feel qualified to get too deep into the minutia of rule changes, but as member of the middle generation,(70’s) I would like to comment on the one overarching concern I’m hearing, which is maintaining/increasing participation, whether FAI or otherwise. Recurring propositions seem to center around leveling the playing (flying) field via rule changes concerning complexity and cost, and indirectly building vs buying. It seems to me that these come from those already ensconced in the hobby and who would like to be more competitive or perhaps like a simpler kind of flying pleasure. However, I don’t think these are the concerns of the new recruits.

    The issue is, of course, attention span. Unlike the 50’s, today we have to deal not only with TV, but the internet, computer / console game and when they’re a bit older, the dreaded cell phone/pda. What we need to teach youth is not how to immediately be balsa masters, but how to socialize outwardly and at a slower pace; but not by being Luddites. Tech is hip; we shouldn’t fight it but figure out how to co-opt it. Today’s culture is created online. Perhaps every club should have a videographer and we should flood you-tube with even more free-flight content. It makes it more real than simply being driven out into the middle of a pasture without preamble. A good video can inspire. (that and a night camping at Lost Hills 🙂



    I started flying FAI events in 1958. Built Nordic A-2 models and FAI power models.

    My first A-2 was a Jasco Nordic. The second kit that I purchased was from England, a Contest Kits “Inch Worm”. I sent over to England my paper route money and waited for months for the kit to arrive. Flew the first one at the 1958 NATS in Chicago, and was still flying it in 1959 before the Nationals. It landed on a road a month before the 59 NATS, and a bus ran over it. It was kind of straddled, and only broke the center section of the wing. Put on some reinforcement patches, and took it to the 1959 NATS at Los Alamitos, CA and place third with it. Built another one the following Spring, and placed first with it at the 1960 NATS in Dallas. It flew successully for a few years before it busted at a windy FAI semi-finals meet in 1964.

    So I am replacing all of the old models that were lost or broken, and attached are my pictures of my 2010 Inch Worm made from the same plans. I can fly it competitively in Classic Towline, or have fun flying it in the F1A events. It is as good as any of the F1As. Just put it in a thermal, and you get a max!

    I flew a 1970 Osprey model at my first Maxmen contest in 2004 and made 12 of 14 maxes, and beat 1/2 of the entries with my straight tow model. It was a blast.

    So flying models that you like and have fun with can still be done in most events, especially F1A. F1C is a little harder, but maybe they should combine F1C with Vintage FAI power so that some of us can have fun with our old models. Old flyers with their favorite “Old models” is a winning combination whether you WIN or not.


    Great looking model Dave – I want one!

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