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Written by Jennifer Alderman
Exciting first-time event raises money for AMA
Event coverage
As seen in the February 2018 issue of Model Aviation.

Bonus photos

AMA Foundation for the Future Jet Rally

An RC turbine jet rally and a full-scale air show? Yes, please! I love all things aviation, so there was no way I was going to turn down the opportunity to spend a weekend at an airport that had full-scale warbirds on display and air show aircraft performing aerobatics in the sky. To be a witness to amazing RC turbine jets flying in that same airspace—and contributing to the AMA Foundation at the same time—was even better!

The first AMA Foundation for the Future Jet Rally was held August 24-27, 2017, in Ottumwa, Iowa, in conjunction with the 25th annual Fly Iowa event that was hosted by the city. Both events took place at the Ottumwa Regional Airport, which was known as Naval Air Station Ottumwa during World War II. The U.S. Navy acquired 1,440 acres of land from the city for $1 and trained approximately 5,000 pilots by the end of the war. This rich history can still be seen in the brick buildings that stand around the perimeter of the airport.

The pilot pits were a sea of colors and types of jets throughout the weekend. Overcast skies for part of the weekend definitely didn’t deter the flying, fun, or the pilots’ camaraderie!

The AMA Foundation has been in operation for four years and continues to expand its programs and outreach through the model aviation community. The Foundation for the Future Jet Rally is its first major fundraising event. Proceeds went to the foundation, whose goal is to raise funds to support AMA’s charitable and educational programs and services, including scholarships, grants, national flying site development, and more.

Mandee Mikulski, the foundation’s director of development, attended the 2016 Ottumwa RC Flyers’ National Model Aviation Day event and became friends with Joel Wilson, Fly Iowa’s event coordinator, who is an AMA member and an RC jet pilot.

Joel Wilson, the Fly Iowa event coordinator, is an AMA member and RC pilot. He greets the jet rally participants during the pilots’ meeting on Friday morning. Joel was instrumental in bringing the RC jet fun-fly to Ottumwa IA.

The Ottumwa club is one of the foundation’s top fundraising clubs and puts on a large annual event. Mandee noticed how many turbine jets were flown, which set the ball—or airplane—in motion. Planning began in earnest in early 2017, with many phone calls and emails between Mandee, Joel, and Dan Bott, the AMA Foundation’s board chairman.

Their planning and promoting paid off. More than 40 pilots, their crews, and family members came from across the country to the AMA Jet Rally. Some well-known names in attendance included Lance Campbell, Lewis Patton, Pablo Fernandez, and Greg Arnette. More than 50 pit passes were sold to spectators, allowing them to get up close to the pilots and their jets.

Sam Wright, who announces for large events such as Top Gun and Warbirds Over the Rockies, emceed the event. Marvin Alvarez showed why he’s one of the best air/flightline bosses at jet events by keeping the flightline running smoothly and the pilots and their aircraft safe.

The flightline was constantly busy. Flightline air boss Marvin Alvarez (in white, with microphone) made sure the runway was clear for taking off and landing.

Sam Wright came from California to emcee the jet rally. He explained to spectators what was happening on the flightline, who was flying, and the type of airplane that was in the air.

The flying was almost nonstop from Thursday when pilots began to arrive, through Sunday morning—with good exceptions! Friday night at dusk, pilots and spectators were treated to several flybys as full-scale aerobatic pilots practiced their routines. Most likely the best—and loudest—flyby, however, was by Larry Lumpkin in a P-51 Mustang Gunfighter, leaving spectators in awe!

After the jets were put away in a secure hangar for the evening, there was a barbecue and live music by several bands, including Hypersona, the headline band that traveled from Florida for the event. The Fly Iowa night air show featured Kyle Franklin with his 515 hp one-of-a-kind Dracula biplane, Matt Younkin in the Twin Beech 18 Elephant Waltz, Skip Stewart flying his custom biplane, and Neal Darnell driving a Flash Fire jet truck. If you’ve never seen Matt’s night routine in the lumbering Beech with night lights and smoke, it’s amazing.

AMA pilots and spectators were treated to some outstanding full-scale aerobatic air shows.

Matt Younkin flew his Twin Beech 18 Elephant Waltz in both the day and night shows, as did Kyle Franklin in Dracula, a tapered-fuselage Demon-1 biplane that he conceived with his late father, Jimmy.

On Saturday at 1 p.m., the Fly Iowa Air Show took place and showcased many well-known acts, including those previously mentioned, as well as Brian Correll and Erik Edgren. You might recognize Erik’s Taylorcraft T-Clips. Sig Manufacturing designed its T-Clips 70 ARF after Erik’s full-scale clipped-wing aerobatic aircraft.

Warbirds flew after the air show acts, including a P-51 Mustang and a T-6 dressed up as a Mitsubishi Zero that battled in an aerial dogfight.

AMA pilots Pablo Fernandez and Joe Tamez flew their big Havoc sport jets in the air show, and Lance Campbell demonstrated his scratch-built SR-71 Blackbird, complete with a drag parachute. The Blackbird took him 12 years to build.

Lance Campbell’s SR-71 Blackbird prepares for landing on Thursday. The scratch-built Blackbird is 13 feet long and powered by two JetCat 140-RXi turbines. This beautiful aircraft is not a hangar queen! Lance was frequently at the flightline putting it into the air.

A Grumman F9F Cougar flies low and slow with smoke on over the runway. Many of the turbine-powered aircraft that flew during the jet rally were replicas of military aircraft, but there was also a number of sport jets.

I even had a role in the air show with Erik and the T-Clips! His alter-ego, Hobie Washburn, was looking for Jimmy Buffett and needed a “pilot” to fly the airplane to Margaritaville. I “volunteered” to do so—only to have him fly away with it as I was checking the elevator! It really was a treat to be involved!

The fun didn’t stop after the air show was over. Many spectators made their way to the model aircraft runway, and the flying continued until sunset. One interesting note was the “speed trap” radar that was set up to the inside of the runway and sponsored by The Bott Group. A special waiver, allowing speeds of more than 200 mph, was established for this event only, with safety guidelines in place that were announced during the pilots’ meetings.

The pilots’ meetings on Friday and Saturday mornings included safety briefs and a rundown of the day’s schedule. AMA President Rich Hanson (middle, with microphone) attended the jet rally and spoke to the pilots. On Rich’s left is AMA Foundation Chairman Dan Bott. AMA District VI and VII vice presidents, Randy Cameron and Tim Jesky, as well as Gary Himes, District VI associate vice president, also attended.

Scott Harris had a ball flying both fast and slow. His turbine-powered Pawnee had some of the slowest times caught on radar, but if he wanted more power, he switched to his Yak-130. Scott won the Slowest Jet award, while his wife, Betsy, won the Best Crew award.

Some pilots had fun trying for fast speeds (the fastest was nearly 236 mph). Others tried to see how slowly they could fly. Scott Harris used his turbine-powered Pawnee to achieve some of the slowest speeds at approximately 12 to 14 mph.

Following the Jet Rally, Dan Bott provided a post-action report about the use of the speed trap. According to AMA President Rich Hanson, the AMA Safety Committee is currently evaluating the results to determine how and/or if this feature will be available for future jet events.

Saturday night culminated for pilots, their families, and crew members with a great steak dinner that was held in a hangar decorated with centerpieces of flowers, toy airplanes, and helicopters, and hundreds of paper airplanes strung from the ceiling. Live entertainment greeted attendees, and the full-scale air show announcer, Danny Chisholm, introduced the air show performers, who each gave short speeches thanking the model pilots for attending.

Several RC pilots bid on great auction items, while others took home awesome raffle prizes such as Gear Jacks from Random Heli, Jersey Modelers fuel tanks, and even a ride in the Missouri Wing of the Commemorative Air Force’s B-25 Show Me. Proceeds from both the auction and raffle benefitted the AMA Foundation.

To end the night of great fun and many laughs, awards were given out. The award for Best Crew was won by Betsy Harris, Scott Harris’ wife. She is a deserving pilot’s wife who enjoys traveling to events with her husband.

Mandee Mikulski presents Pablo Fernandez with the Best Sport Jet award during the dinner and awards banquet on Saturday night. Pablo, representing Elite Aerosports, came from Florida and flew a variety of aircraft during the weekend, including Carl Spurlock’s Havoc (inset).

The inaugural AMA Foundation for the Future Jet Rally raised an incredible total of $2,500! Everyone had a fun, relaxing time, and Mandee and her team were pleased with the results.

“Every year I attend a lot of events, but I have to say [that] this was one of my favorites,” she stated in an AMA Foundation blog post. “We had such a great time with the pilots and those who attended. And the flying was awesome! It was so great to see everyone enjoying flying, and then taking a break to see the full-scale show. Wow—that was incredible! Thank you to each of the pilots who attended the Jet Rally [and] also flew in the full-scale air show—what an experience!”

Just because it’s broken doesn’t mean you can’t fly it! Greg Alderman (front, in green shirt) and Kevin Cordell were most likely making jet noises as they carried Greg’s Zeal Jets Viper back to their tent. A hard landing required some repairs, but in no time it was back in flying shape.

I’m looking forward to next year’s Jet Rally, and the AMA Foundation is excited for it as well. Plans are already being made for it to be even bigger and better! Watch the AMA Foundation website for more details!

—Jennifer Alderman

Author’s note: Shortly before this article was published, we learned that one of the pilots who attended the AMA Jet Rally, Randy Clark, passed away. Randy was a BVM Jets pilot and won the Best Twin award. He was not only a great flier and supporter of the hobby, but also a wonderful person whom everyone held in high regard. We at AMA send our condolences and thoughts to Randy’s family, friends, and fellow pilots.


AMA Foundation

AMA Foundation for the Future Jet Rally

Fly Ottumwa
Iowa Aviation Promotion Group

AMA Foundation for the Future Jet Rally Flickr photo album

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