Wait, what just happened?!
The road getting to the 2016 US Scale Masters Championships was not an easy one for me this year, that’s for sure. Ever since crashing my Jet Hangar Mirage IIIRS last year, I had been plagued with mishaps and bugs throughout the year and truth be told, it got pretty discouraging…to the point that I contemplated not going multiple times. But, the championships were at the Woodland-Davis Aeromodelers field which is where they were in 2013 and it was such a great event, I knew I had to get there in 2016. With everything leading up to the event (I even had a mishap requiring repairs two weeks before I was due to leave!), I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be reporting that I came out of the event as the “Grand National Champion” finishing 1st place in Expert! And to have my dad there calling for me while competing with an airframe that stemmed from the very first RC jet design he kitted back in the late ’70s was just such an honor for me.
Organized by the US Scale Masters Association, the US Scale Masters Championships have been ongoing since 1980. From the beginning, this national championship has hosted some of the best scale builders and pilots in the world and have continued to do so for more than two decades. In order to attend the national championship, a competitor must qualify at a regional qualifier event (I covered the Gilman Springs Qualifier a few months ago). The truth is, I remember attending numerous qualifiers and championships out at Mile Square Park (that flying site is sorely missed!) in Southern California as a kid with my dad and I have always remembered the caliber of the airplanes being just incredible (I tried my first qualifier at 18 with a Royal Zero kit I built). 2016 was no exception as the airplanes in attendance were beautifully crafted and masterfully flown!
Taking place at the Woodland-Davis Aeromodelers field from September 29 through October 2 there were a total of 47 entrants in attendance. The first day (Thursday) was all static judging and open flying for practice with the following 3 days the flight rounds (5 flight rounds total). For the Expert, Advanced, and Team classes, there’s a maximum possible score of 200, 100 for static and 100 for flight. For the Pro-am classes, it’s a maximum possible score of 105, 5 for static, 100 for flight. The total score is determined by taking the average of the top 3 of the 5 flight scores and adding that average to the static score.
The greatest thing about this competition is not the placement, or the end score, but the comradery and atmosphere of the weekend. It’s a competition yes, but feels so much too like a bunch of friends enjoying an awesome weekend of flying. Also, if issues arise or what have you, any number of the contestants are happy to help in any way they can just to keep you in the air and going. This is always what brings me back to these events. Also, competition scale flying is such a great challenge as it’s all about placement and precision of the maneuvers while making the airplane appear as real as possible. There’s so much skill and talent in one place, it’s hard not to geek out on the numerous gorgeous airplanes, and there were plenty!
In terms of the standings from the weekend, here’s the full round up of the scores (credit: US Scale Masters Association website). Note that if you’re confused a little bit about the scores, I described a bit the different categories and what they mean in my Gilman Springs Qualifier coverage. There are different levels for different interests. Expert is where the builder and pilot are the same person, team is one builder and one pilot, and the remaining categories are for scale ARFs and/or other pre-built aircraft where the pilot need not have built the airplane.
So, here are a few pictures and videos (vids are below the pics) from the event. I still can’t believe the end result. The coolest part was having my whole family there with me including my folks and my sister and her family. My dad was my caller on the flight line and he was about as excited as I was! The Mirage was his first ducted fan kit back in 1978 and I was excited to be able to represent him and his accomplishments with the Mirage.
1st Place Expert – Chris Wolfe, Mirage IIIRS (This vid was taken at my home field. Built from a Jet Hangar Hobbies semi-kit)
2nd Place Expert – Jeff Lovitt, T-33 Shooting Star (Jet Model Products Kit)
3rd Place Expert – Shailesh Patel, BAE Hawk (Skygate Kit)
Daryl Rolla, Hawker Sea Fury – Scratch-built from Bates plans, this airplane was GORGEOUS!
Lance Nordby, F-20 Tigershark (70mm EDF) – Completely designed and scratch-built by the pilot.
Ben Andrus, Grumman G-164A Ag-Cat – This model scored a perfect 100 in static judging! It’s not surprise as the airplane was beautifully built and finished.