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Article and video by Chad Budreau. Photos by Jay Smith
Air Supremacy Over Elkhart (Indiana)
Also featured in the January 2015 digital edition of
Model Aviation.





Two hours east of Chicago, Illinois, and two hours west of Toledo, Ohio, sits the town of Elkhart, Indiana. This community of 50,000 residents boasts a rich art community, numerous museums, festivals, and an upcoming minor league baseball team. Now Elkhart is on the cusp of adding another popular feature to its community—Air Supremacy Over Elkhart, a model aviation warbird show.

For many years, Elkhart hosted a popular full-scale warbird event, but because of lack of funding, the event was permanently canceled in 2007. A couple years ago, the Elkhart Municipal Airport manager asked RJ Monroe a simple question, “Do you think there is enough interest in hosting an aeromodeling version of the once-popular warbird event at the airport?”

RJ immediately began work partnering with community leaders, area businesses, hobby sponsors, the media, other pilots, and contest directors to create a successful model warbird event. Countless hours of planning, collaboration, and hard work paid off. Elkhart hosted its first aeromodeling warbird event in September 2013.

The Elkhart community embraced the event’s concept so much that it shut down part of the full-scale airport and rolled out the red carpet, offering pilots goodies and discounted hotel accommodations. RJ commented, “From the top down, the city has been absolutely wonderful. They see this as a genuine opportunity as a recreational event for the community.”

The success of the 2013 event caught our attention, so Model Aviation Editor-in-Chief Jay Smith and I decided to check out the 2014 gathering.

More than 150 Scale military aircraft participated in the three-day affair starting on Thursday, September 18. When we arrived at the airport early on Friday morning, I was immediately impressed by the event’s organization and feel.

I have a marketing and media background, and the signage and consistent branding definitely caught my attention. Beyond just pretty graphics, the event was truly a well-oiled machine. Air Supremacy Over Elkhart was well staffed with knowledgeable volunteers, offered a great site layout, and had plenty of pilot amenities, including access to a full-scale aircraft hangar for overnight model storage. Because many of the airplanes had 80-plus-inch wingspans, the hangar was a valuable asset.

Following the morning pilots’ meeting, I spoke with Kirk Wheeler who drove nearly five hours to attend the event. This was Kirk’s first time attending the event and, like me, was impressed with the community collaboration that helped make Air Supremacy Over Elkhart successful.

“It’s absolutely amazing how a city will come together for an event like this. To me, this is an example for so many cities around the US to support a great hobby and a great event … They are just bending over backward.”

Throughout the entire day, there was never a lull in the number of aircraft circling the flight path. Pilots had the luxury of using the hard-surface 800-foot full-scale runway or the parallel grass runway.

To provide pilots with a best vantage point of the two runways and fly zone, they flew from an elevated flight box. This custom-built flight box was approximately four feet off the ground and could accommodate at least six pilots with their spotters. Although fliers had a designated flight path, it was not uncommon to see them enjoy performing loops, rolls, bomb drops, and other aerobatic maneuvers.

The skies were picture perfect while I was there, but the wind was at times unforgiving, often gusting more than 20 mph, causing some of the pilots to struggle with takeoffs and landings.

A hard landing on the grass runway caused damage to this P-51’s landing gear.



Pilots often performed loops and rolls, and bombers executed occasional bomb drops.



This U.S. Coast Guard, four-engine, Lockheed C-130 Hercules was a favorite with the spectators.



A warbird event would not be complete with creating a few smoke trails.



The flight box could comfortably accommodate six pilots and their spotters. The airspace was well controlled and pilots communicated well with one another.



All eyes were on Carl Bachhuber’s 1/12 scale 230-inch wingspan B-36B Convair Peacemaker as it gracefully took to the skies.



This fast F9F-8 (F-9J) Grumman Cougar was also a crowd favorite.




Spectators were invited to engage with the participants to learn more about the hobby and its history. The emcee of the event shared historical facts with the crowd as he described the aircraft in flight. On the schedule during the weekend was formation flying, allowing spectators to witness the historical evolution of military aircraft. Other perks included raffles and full-scale helicopter rides.

As we pulled out of the parking lot, we were impressed by the event, and awestruck by the collaboration behind the event. Let’s hope others take note of the positive attributes of our great hobby and embrace a joint collaboration as did the community of Elkhart, Indiana.

—Chad Budreau
chadb@modelaircraft.org

Sources:
elkhartindiana.org
flyelkhart.com
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elkhart,_Indiana
wunderground.com



5 comments

Great story!

Very Good article, just to add a comment. For those who have gone to full sized Airshows, can never see some aircraft that are replicated at radio controlled model shows. I am a regular at full sized airshows and have never seen a B-36, a Grumman Cougar, an FW-190 (yet) fly. Of course the engine sounds can not be replicated (yet) but the sight of one of these flying is just plain awesome. This year was the first time I got to see an R/C Jet fly and was highly impressed with that as well as all the rest of this show. I predict that this event is only going to get bigger and better. With the support of the city and the airport, it is a sure bet that the best is yet to come.

Model Aviation Magazine has benefited us all on several levels. We certainly appreciate the favorable comments about Air Supremacy. However, the article goes way beyond this. It recognizes the community of Elkhart, Indiana for it's extraordinary support. And, it demonstrates the real cooperation that can be established between General Aviation and RC Aircraft. Thanks to Model Aviation Magazine for recognizing the fundamental achievement that we all have accomplished.

I attended the Year One Event in 2013 and had a great experience and made a lot of new friends. There was no doubt that I was going to return in 2014, which turned out to be even better, with all the improvements to the flight line and even more fantastic aircraft and people. Great Job! See you in 2015

Great work guys. I wish I was closer to attend. You guys are fortunate to have a great community like Elkhart! I hope others take notice. Our hobby is full of great and safe guys - and when we attend these events we stay at local hotels, eat at local restaurants, and patron businesses. The video and story was great! Need more like this.

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