By Matt Neumann
Monday of Nats week, for me, is always a special day because of appearance point judging. This is when everyone gets to get out their new planes and show them off. Or in my case, my plane from last year newly shined and spiffed up. We also get to finally gather around in one big group and bolster old friendships and make new ones since this is one of the few times that we actually get to gather and not have to worry about having to scurry around worrying about our next flight or helping someone else with theirs. It is actually nice to relax and enjoy each other’s friendships.
In previous years, we stood in line and weighed our planes, brought them to the judges for their critique, and then they were set in rows according to their score. A score of 0 to 20 points is being assigned to each of the planes. Zero is only assigned to those that are not built by the pilot, while 20 is only assigned to those that have been built by the pilot and deemed to have no flaws in the finish. Rarely has anyone gotten a 20, but there have been a few. This year there were no perfect scores.
However, this year was a little different. We were outside at the pavilion again this year for safety’s sake due to COVID-19. However, unlike last year, this year we had LOTS of wind. One person got a 22 mph gust down on the parking lot. It would be higher at the pavilion level. This is way too dangerous to have planes sitting around in an open field. They would be tossed around like rag dolls and damaged. So, pilots got to hang onto their planes in the wind while standing in line for them to be judged. In some cases, for over an hour.
It got tiring for those who had to hang onto the planes in the wind for that long. I should know. I was one of them. They were then put back into the safety of the car immediately after judging.
The planes have to be weighed as well to determine how much of a pull test they will get later on. The more they weigh, the more pull you have to give them during the safety check before an official flight. This was done in a trailer that is used for the tabulators later on because it was shielding the planes from the wind. Without this it would have been impossible to accurately weigh the planes.
During the actual appearance point judging, the pilots held onto their planes while the judges looked them over. You never let your guard down during this type of wind.
In the past, the planes would be set out and once everyone was done with getting judged, they would then be set in rows depending upon what score they got—20 points in the front row, 19 behind that row, 18 behind that one, and so on. The pilots would then come out and vote on which planes looked the best in their eyes. It did not have to be one of the front row planes, it could be farther back but had such a good-looking scheme that it got the Concourse award. However, we were not able to do that this year because of the wind. It was then decided that we will have the Concourse voting after the OTS, Classic, and Nostalgia 30 flight Tuesday. It is supposed to be much better weather wise that we should be able to have it then. So more on that Wednesday.
Once the judging was done, we had the pilots’ meeting. Allen Goff started things off with a short Bible verse and a prayer. Dave Trible is again the Event Director with Michelle Lee as the Assistant Director. Mark Overmeir is again the head judge. These contests cannot be conducted without the hard work of these and many other volunteers. Many thanks to these folks who step up so the rest of us can play.
A “funny” thing happened during the meeting. We are all familiar with the little blue rooms (porta potties) that are out at the field. Well, during the meeting, it came time to clean them out. The truck pulled up and started to clean them out. Well, we all happened to be downwind from them. Shortly after starting the cleaning process, we were no longer downwind. We quickly moved to “safer ground” until the coast was clear. Never a dull moment!
A contestant gets scrutinized by the judges.Allan Goff is delivering his message before the prayer.Another angle of the troops. Around 70 contestants are entered.Being more soft spoken, Dave Trible is using a blow horn to conduct the meeting.Inside the pavilion waiting to get judged for your aircraft's appearance.Inside the trailer where the planes got weighed out of the harmful wind,Michelle Lee is getting ready to give her part of the meeting.Our head guys (and gal), Michelle Lee (Assistant ED), Dave Trible (ED) and Mark Overmeir (head judge).The blurr from the flapping of the tent gives an idea just how windy it was. What flags were around were also standing straight out.The troops gather for the meeting.We need volunteers to run this event and we also need sponsors. Without either this would not happen for the rest of us. Thanks to all!