By Matt Neumann
Sunday was a very pleasant day weather wise. I arrived at the field from my home in Vincennes, Indiana, around 11:30 and found several of the guys practicing. A few even had jackets. I could tell they were from the south because they were used to extreme heat. I, being a Midwesterner on the other hand, thought this was a nice, cool Midwest morning.
This morning, the beginner and intermediate events were flown. These are unofficial events. There were four in the beginner event and nine in the intermediate event. Justin Anger won the intermediate event, with Steve Smith coming in second. The conditions were very pleasant to fly in. There was a little bit of wind, but nothing excessive; it was easily handled by the contestants. Overall, it was a good experience for everyone.
In the afternoon, we had the appearance point judging and processing. The airplanes are weighed and then given to the appearance point judges. The judges will assign a value of 0 to 20, with 20 being a perfect score. These points will be added to the overall flying score later on.
An airplane is judged as to how well it is finished. Typically, the airplanes with little or no orange peel will score better. Also taken into account is how well the paint scheme is done. That is, are the lines that are supposed to be crisp, crisp? No bleeding under the tape? No wood grain showing? Free of dents and dings? If there is orange peel, dents, or signs of paint bleeding under the tape, then there are deductions given.
The reason for the weighing of the airplanes is that, later on during the competition, the airplanes are put through what is called a pull test. This is when the lines are hooked up to the airplane and then the handle is put in a machine. The pilot then pulls his airplane along with the lines to ten times the weight of the airplane. This is a safety check. If the airplane can withstand that amount of force, then it is safe to fly in the air. We don't want airplanes getting loose from the lines, flying away, and hitting something or worse, someone. This morning during the intermediate event, one of the airplanes failed. The internal structure of the wing started to break inside. Now, while this pilot will need to repair their airplane, it could have been much worse had this happened in the air.
As points are given, the airplanes are put into rows. The rows are labeled 0 to 20. As the airplane is given a score, it is placed into its respective row. If an airplane is given 18 points, then it is placed in row 18. 17 points puts the airplane in row 17, and so on. The judges had 66 airplanes to judge—44 in the open event and 22 in the Advanced event—and they did it quite quickly. The only problem was that the judging was held in a small room off the side of the National Model Aviation Museum. It barely fit all 66 of the airplanes.
Normally, after the judging, the contestants get to walk around the airplanes and then vote for the Pilot’s Choice Award, more commonly called the Concours d’Elegance. This is a highly prized trophy. Since we could not walk around the airplanes, it was suggested that we go in single file and pick up our airplanes and then take them to the grassy area behind the parking lot. This way we could spread them out and be able to walk around them and take pictures. We could then vote a little easier as to our choice of best-looking airplane. I will make a note here: The best-looking airplane does not necessarily mean it was one of the highest scoring airplanes in appearance. This is an aesthetic choice, not a technical one. This is only an airplane that strikes the fancy of many pilots due to its paint scheme.
The ballots were then taken up and are to be counted shortly. The airplane is to make at least one official flight before it can be deemed the winner. So, we will not know who actually won until later on this week.
One of the side benefits of this day is that everyone has to now gather in one spot. This is the first time this week that everyone will be in one place, and it is a great opportunity to meet new people and renew old acquaintances. This is a special time for me since I only get to see many of these people once a year—and that time is here at the Nats.
After the ballots were gathered, everyone dispersed and headed for the cool hotel rooms and a shower. The welcoming banquet was held at 6 p.m. in the evening. At this banquet, the new Hall of Fame members were inducted in the Precision Aerobatics Model Pilots Association (PAMPA) Hall of Fame, and an overview of what was going on inside of the PAMPA organization was given. Mark Weiss was the emcee for the evening and did a nice job of keeping things lively.
Tomorrow, the unofficial events of Old Time Stunt, Classic, and Nostalgia 30 take place, along with practice for those not entering those events.
The weather looks again to be promising for a fun-filled day of competition. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.