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Written by Jennifer Alderman
Hoosier hospitality reigns alongside the best-of-the-best Scale pilots
Event coverage
As seen in the February 2018 issue of
Model Aviation.

Bonus photos

U.S. Scale Masters Championships

2017 US Scale Masters results and awards

Click here to view results and rewards (PDF)

Freeman Municipal Airport, formerly the Freeman Army Airfield, in Seymour, Indiana, is rich with history. Named after Captain Richard S. Freeman, an Indiana native who was killed in a B-17 crash during World War II, the airfield was put into use in 1942 as a pilot training command center, utilizing Beechcraft AT-10 Wichitas. It was later used as a helicopter training facility for Sikorsky R-4A helicopters, and then as an evaluation and testing facility for captured German, Italian, and Japanese aircraft.

The field is likely best known for the Freeman Field Mutiny, which took place in 1945 when members of the 477th Bombardment Group, the first all-black bomber group during WW II, attempted to enter an all-white officer’s club. More than 100 officers were arrested.

Today, only a few of the original buildings still stand (although many historical artifacts, photos, and mementos are housed in the Freeman Army Airfield Museum). The airfield property is used as an industrial park and cropland is rented to local farmers.

Freeman is also home to the Southern Indiana Flying Eagles model airplane club. In existence for more than 30 years, but only at the airport site for five years, the Southern Indiana Flying Eagles club welcomes all types of modeling disciplines to a northern corner of the airport that features not only an immaculate grass runway, but also a newly paved one, unrestricted airspace, and generous overruns without obstacles at either end. The club’s goal was to make this field a premier flying site to host a variety of top-level events.

Brian Taylor flew his Sig Manufacturing 1/3-scale Spacewalker to a second-place finish in ProAm/Sportsman. It uses all Futaba radio and electronic gear, a Zenoah G62 engine, and a 24 x 8 propeller.

This is where the U.S. Scale Masters entered into the club’s—and the airport’s—history. The 38th anniversary of the U.S. Scale Masters Championships took place at the Southern Indiana Flying Eagles field on September 14-17, 2017.

In 1976, Harris Lee and Bert Baker had an idea to create an event strictly for RC Scale, and the U.S. Scale Masters Association (USSMA) was born. Soon that core group grew and 22 regional qualifier contests began taking place throughout the US.

The USSMA formulated its own competition guidelines, mandatory maneuvers, and certifications, and became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Harris kept going with his Scale Masters dreams until he passed away in 1998.

Today, the USSMA is strong under the direction of its national chairman, Curtis Kitteringham. Curtis has upheld Harris’ goals and dreams of promoting the hobby, RC Scale aircraft, and competitions to the best of his ability, making the events exciting, but relaxing and friendly. This year’s contest was no exception.

Twenty pilots, from five different qualifier contests, as well as the previous year’s championships, entered the competition. Some, such as Steve Eagle and Jeffrey Pike, competed in two or three classes. Jeffrey competed in Advanced, ProAm/Pro, and Team Scale, while Steve served as Jeffrey’s pilot in Team Scale and flew in the Expert and ProAm/Pro classes.

A foggy morning didn’t deter Will Berninger from running up his T-34C in preparation for his flight. His wife, Marian, served as his pit crew and caller/spotter for the competition. Will won the ProAm/Pro class.

Organizers had hoped for greater attendance, but several factors prevented some pilots from attending. “[I was] a little disappointed in the numbers,” Curtis said, “But, you know, that’s the way it is when you go to someplace new. We [were] competing against a number of things this weekend.”

Not only were several other large flying events happening this same weekend, but weather—especially the hurricanes that made landfall in Florida and Texas—played a major role in attendance. A contingent from Florida had planned to come, but had to cancel.

The weather in Seymour was also questionable. The flying portion of the contest would not begin until Friday, but static judging took place on Thursday as pilots arrived.

The morning began on a misty, drizzly, and overcast note—not at all conducive to flying—but as the day went on and more pilots arrived, the drizzle and low ceiling began to lift and practice flights went up. The laid-back atmosphere included a lot of laughter and catching up among friends. Some watched as their fellow competitors flew, while others held aircraft on their noses or by the wings for static judging.

One of the contestants even treated attendees to a full-scale flyby on Thursday! It was Bob Sneberger, who lives in the Seymour area and competed in the ProAm/Sportsman class with his Spacewalker. He is also the owner of Aerial Farmer LLC, a crop-spraying and dry-application company that uses an Air Tractor 301. Bob made some flybys over the model field on his way to and from a work engagement. The sound of the radial engine quickly passing by was enough to make people cheer and reach for their cameras and smartphones!

The low ceiling on both Friday and Saturday slightly delayed the competition, but Curtis used this time to conduct the pilots’ meeting and speak with his judges. The contest went off without a hitch, except for a couple of mishaps that eliminated some aircraft from the contest. Even the judges were relaxed, and with fewer pilots, they were able to take time after judging and scoring to talk with the competitors and explain what could make the next flight better.

Paul Cain, a certified Scale Masters flight and static judge, concentrates on judging the craftmanship of Darrell Abby’s P-47. Aircraft in the Expert, Advanced, and Team Scale classes were judged Thursday and Friday morning on the accuracy of outline, finish, color, markings, and craftmanship. The Pro/Am Pro and Pro/Am Sportsman-class aircraft were awarded five static points if artwork of the full-scale aircraft was provided, although it wasn’t required.

Meet Brady Ornat

Brady Ornat (center) received the U.S. Scale Masters Young Eagle Award, sponsored by the One Eighth Air Force. On the left in the picture are his parents, Kim and Glenn. To the right is Mitch Baker, the USSMA administrative director and webmaster, who presented the plaque.

If you follow RC Scale, you have most likely read about or heard of Brady Ornat, a 12-year-old who came onto the scene out of nowhere. Brady won the ProAm/Sportsman class at the Hoosier Scale Classic, as well as the Fun Scale/Novice class at the 2017 Nats with his Top Flite Spitfire Mk IX to qualify for the ProAm/Sportsman class at Scale Masters. He was excited to be there, and was confident about his performance.

All of the airplanes, whether scratch-built or from kits, were immaculate and very much represented the respective full-scale airplanes that they were modeled after. One that stood out was Darrell Abby’s Top Flite P-47. The Almost-Ready-to-Cover (ARC) 89-inch wingspan aircraft was modeled after the full-scale warbird flown by Lt. Oscar F. Perdomo on August 13, 1945, when he shot down five Japanese airplanes in one day, earning him the title as the last “Ace in a Day” during World War II. Darrell made many modifications on the P-47 model, including the weathering, panel lines, rivets, and access panels.

Darrell Abby’s P-47 Lil Meaties Meat Chopper started life as a Top Flite ARC and was modified to replicate the P-47N. After adding 6 inches to the wing’s center section, clipping the wingtips, and adding a large dorsal fin and enlarging the flaps, Darrell fiberglassed then painted it with Klass Kote. It is powered with a DLE 61cc engine and uses Hitec servos.

WW II warbirds were not the only aircraft to fly in the competition. There were several trainers, World War I aircraft, and civilian airplanes ranging from the 1930s to the present.

Tim Lovett came with other “Texas Boys”—Darrell Abby, Johnny Hunt, and Lawrence Harville—from the Fort Worth area to fly his 1930 Fleet Model 2 biplane in the Advanced Class. Ted Roman flew two Cubs—a J-3 and a Super Cub—in Advanced and ProAm/Pro, but a broken strut took the J-3 out of competition.

The scheme on Tim Lovett’s 10-year-old 1930 Fleet Model 2 was found on three-view documentation out of a 1930s aircraft registry. The four-channel Fleet runs on a DLE-35RA engine and Xoar propeller, using a Futaba 10C radio for control. A month earlier, the aircraft had a twin-cylinder engine, no cowl, no cylinders, and was only used for fun flying.

There was even an Extra 300, courtesy of ProAm/Pro competitor Jerry Nugent, which performed some of the aerobatic maneuvers that a full-scale aircraft would do at an air show, and Will Berninger’s Beechcraft T-34C glided down the paved runway smoothly every time it landed.

Ted Roman and his wife, Kristen, stop for a smile before Ted flies his Sig Manufacturing Piper J-3 Cub. Ted chose the Navy scheme of the Airship Squadron 32 simply because it was different. It’s powered by a Gemini 160 twin engine with Futaba servos and a Master Airscrew 18 x 8 propeller. Ted controls it with a Futaba radio. Unfortunately, a broken wing strut took the J-3 out of the contest.

Friday evening, after flying was finished for the day, pilots, judges, staff, and their families stuck around for a pizza party that included a salad bar and wonderful homemade desserts by Shannon Ort. It was a great chance for people to converse and wind down after a hot day of nonstop flying.

Saturday’s schedule mirrored Friday’s. Between rounds, competitors were asked to bring their aircraft back to the runway so that spectators could get up close to view the airplanes and ask questions of the pilots. Everyone, especially the kids in attendance, enjoyed being able to look into the cockpits and see the handiwork.

Pilots brought their aircraft onto the runway during a break in the flying on Saturday. Spectators were encouraged to take close-up looks at the aircraft and ask the pilots questions.

The banquet was held that evening at the Pines Evergreen Room, approximately 15 minutes from the field. Those who attended were treated to a great buffet-style meal that consisted of several meats, vegetables, salads, and desserts.

Afterward, Dale Arvin handed out fun “Special” awards, such as a coloring book to Curtis Kitteringham for his long ride home to California, and play money to Brady Ornat’s dad, Glenn, because he will need more to fund Brady’s road to model flying success!

The Harris Lee Award for outstanding dedication of service to the advancement of model aviation was also awarded during the banquet. According to the USSMA website, the award was established by Earl Aune in 1998 to recognize a member’s support of the U.S. Scale Masters program. To a standing ovation and much applause, Jeffrey Pike was announced as the 2017 recipient.

Jeffrey Pike competed with three aircraft (front to back): a Stinson SR-10 (Team Scale), Cessna 310 (ProAm/Pro), and Savage Cruiser (Advanced). Jeffrey and his Team Scale pilot, Steve Eagle, had a routine skit mapped out for the Stinson because it was schemed as a replica of Jimmy Doolittle’s aircraft that Jimmy flew when he was the vice president of Shell Oil Company before WW II. Jeffrey portrayed Jimmy, while Steve was his pilot.

Brady was surprised with the Scale Masters One Eighth Air Force Young Eagle award, recognizing a competitor for his or her interest in RC Scale and competition. The young man’s smile lit up the room when he accepted the plaque.

The crowd was also treated to a speech about the history of Freeman Army Airfield by the curator of the Freeman Army Airfield Museum, Larry Bothe. Larry had a wealth of historical information about the site and entertained everyone with his speech.

These WW II Japanese radial engine cylinders from Mitsubishi Zero fighter airplanes are two of many artifacts housed in the Freeman Army Airfield Museum.

After a fun night, Sunday was back to seriousness with the final round of flights. Who would be crowned the 2017 U.S. Scale Masters champion? Anticipation built as the raffle prizes were drawn and the many “Best of” awards were given out. But in the end, Jack Buckley, with his beautiful 1/3-scale de Havilland D.H.82A Tiger Moth, came out on top. Jack won the Expert class, from which the Grand Champion is determined, with a total score of 196.333.

The U.S. Scale Masters Championships class winners (L-R) Jeremy Arvin and Earl Dever Jr., Team Scale; Will Berninger with his wife, Marian, ProAm/Pro; Jeffrey Pike, Advanced; and Jack Buckley with his wife, Cheryl, Expert. Jack was the overall championship winner, and won several “Best of” awards. Not pictured is Brady Ornat, who won the ProAm/Sportsman class.

Although attendance was less than expected, the USSMA and the Southern Indiana Flying Eagles club were happy with the event, and expect it to return to Seymour in 2020. “The Scale Masters guys did a great job,” Steve Ort, the event’s contest director, stated. “Our [Southern Indiana Flying Eagles] team did a great job, and we had wonderful support from the airport and the city.”

CD Steve Ort (L), and USSMA national chairman Curtis Kitteringham, stand by the flightline while discussing the competition. Both were pleased with how the Scale Masters went in Seymour.

Curtis summed up the event by looking forward to rebuilding the contest on the East Coast and to the 2018 U.S. Scale Masters, which will take place in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “We’re trying to show that we play nice and want to be nice—look at what we have to offer!” he said. “This is what they call the ‘team thing’ of rebuild time, so I’m thinking when we go down to Louisiana, [attendence] should be that much more. Baby steps, so to speak!”

—Jennifer Alderman



USSMA Facebook page

Freeman Army Airfield Museum

Southern Indiana Flying Eagles

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