Dawn Patrol Rendezvous

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Written by Dennis Norman and Lee McDuffee Event Commemorates the 100th anniversary of World War I Event Coverage As seen in the April 2019 issue of Model Aviation.

dawn patrol rendezvous
01. Art Shelton’s 1/2-scale Nieuport XI on a low pass. Photo by John Philbrick.

Bonus Video

Last year, 2018, marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. The Dawn Patrol Rendezvous, held on the grounds of the National Museum of the United States Air Force (NMUSAF) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, was open to the public with free admission and parking from September 22 through September 23.

NMUSAF Special Events Coordinator Denise Bollinger presided over many months of meetings, telephone calls, preparations, registration, and planning for the brilliantly orchestrated event.

mass arrival of replica aircraft on thursday
02. Mass arrival of replica aircraft on Thursday. Philbrick photo.
greg hahns best of show caproni
03. Greg Hahn’s Best of Show Caproni Ca 3 during a bomb drop. Philbrick photo.

For years, I have attended both as a commercial vendor and as a representative of Model Aviation magazine to write a feature article on the event. As a native Ohioan, I have been a regular visitor at the museum since shortly after it opened. At that time, in the early 1950s, the aircraft were displayed outdoors on a large field. With the passage of time, the museum’s collection has been moved to its present location, and nearly all of the aircraft are in four large hangars.

On Friday, September 21, the NMUSAF held a private reception for participants and the media. It was held in the center of the museum’s WW I collection. Guests were treated to delicious hors d’oeuvres and tasty beverages.

Dawn Patrol Rendezvous programs were presented from 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Action events included flying full-scale aircraft replicas throughout the day, together with reenactments and dramatizations. This was followed by an hour of flying RC models of WW I aircraft. Those gathered were also treated to antique auto parades, where participants were attired in era-appropriate uniforms and dress.

On Sunday evening, a banquet was held for preregistered participants in the museum’s Korea and Southeast Asia Galleries. The cost was $27 per person and the program included welcoming remarks from the museum staff, slide shows, and a performance by a five-piece Air Force brass band.

RC Flying

The event drew 64 RC modelers from 14 states and Canada to join full-scale WW I replica builders and pilots, reenactors, antique automobile owners and many others. The Rendezvous, the 11th since the inaugural event in 1996, was one of many centennial events commemorating the First World War.

Contest Director Doug Cox handled registration, with each RC participant receiving an event name badge, packet, and a custom event polo shirt by RC Planewear. Doug’s work allowed me to run the RC flightline and coordinate with air show boss David Edgar. Doug was assisted during the event by Mike and Donna Smith and Helen McDuffee. Donna contacted numerous vendors, and door prizes were available for all.

one of two working replicas of rotary engines
04. One of two working replicas of rotary engines re-create the sounds and smells of WW I aircraft. Rotaries were replaced by more reliable engines by the war’s end. Photo by Charlie Sauter.
antique vehicles also made an appearance
05. Antique vehicles also made an appearance. This one visited the RC flying area. Photo by Larry Masters.
baron manfred von richthofen shows his famous
06. Baron Manfred von Richthofen shows his famous Fokker Triplane to two future pilots. Photo by Mike Pennell.

Joe Vermillion led the team from the primary RC sponsor, Balsa USA. As always, the company’s event support was exceptional. Balsa USA supplied gift certificates for door prizes and for the Best of Show winners. A Fokker triplane kit was an additional prize.

the gotha and caproni ww i bombers prepare
07. The Gotha and Caproni WW I bombers prepare to put on a show. Philbrick photo.
fred murrins replica fokker triplane
08. Fred Murrin’s replica Fokker triplane was one of several fullscale aircraft in attendance. Masters photo.
jim ellis revs up a 1/2-scale sopwith camel
09. Jim Ellis revs up a 1/2-scale Sopwith Camel. When it is in the air, it looks like its full-scale counterpart. Philbrick photo.
a nieuport 17 in the markings of italian ace
10. A Nieuport 17 in the markings of Italian Ace Francesco Baracca, whose personal insignia was appropriately named Cavil Selvaggio (wild horse). The handsome replica showed no signs of wildness. Photo by Howard Koverman.

AMA staff members Julia Bladen and Steve Woody brought the AMA Mobile RC Flight Experience trailer from Muncie, Indiana, and both were kept busy with eager visitors flying model airplanes via the four simulator stations. This was a great way to introduce RC flying to the general public, and a welcome addition to the air show. There were approximately 15,000 spectators at the Dawn Patrol Rendezvous on Saturday alone, similar to 2014’s attendance!

As in previous Dawn Patrol Rendezvous events, RC alternated with full-scale flying throughout the fourday extravaganza. Weather conditions affected the event’s early schedule. A strong crosswind on Thursday and Friday limited full-scale participation to the mass arrival of the flying aircraft Thursday afternoon and the Friday afternoon B-1B Lancer flyover during the dedication ceremonies for the new World War I Airmen Monument in the museum’s Memorial Park.

Despite a continuing strong crosswind on Saturday and Sunday, both full-scale and RC models kept up with the show schedule. Airplanes were in the air from dawn until 5 p.m. A few RC highlights for me included seeing Canadian Brian Perkins’ three scratch-built models (particularly his B.E.2c) that won recognition at the Toledo Show: R/C Model Expo, and Jim Suchy’s Gotha G.IV and Greg Hahn’s Caproni Ca 3 formation bombing missions. On several occasions, more than a dozen models were in the air at the same time. That was busy!

A special treat was the flight of three 1/2-scale models: Art Shelton’s Nieuport XI, Bill Holland’s all-red Fokker Dr.I triplane, and Jim Ellis’ Sopwith Camel, purchased in 2017 from previous builder and owner, Billy Thompson.

Three airplanes were honored with "Best Of" awards, based on pilots’ votes. The best Central Powers award went to Bill’s triplane; best Entente went to Jim’s Camel; and the Best of Show award went to Greg’s Caproni.

My thanks to all participants and organizers for a memorable event. There will be another opportunity in the fall of 2020 to join other enthusiasts at the NMUSAF.

Special Events Coordinator Denise Bollinger has confirmed plans are already underway for Dawn Patrol Rendezvous 2020. We hope to see you there!


National Museum of the US Air Force

(937) 255-3286


Dawn Patrol Rendezvous


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