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Written by Noel Hunt.
Photos by Noel Hunt and Palmer Johnson.
Giant Scale warbirds and pre-1960, classic full-scale aircraft in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
Featured in the March 2015 issue of Model Aviation Digital.




Competition in model aviation started nearly as soon as could successfully fly. That desire to compete is alive today as evidenced by Top Gun, the AMA Nats, and other competitions. However, many AMA members prefer to fly their creations in an easygoing atmosphere in which there is no competition. This accounts for the popularity of the Giant Scale Warbird and Classic Alliance fly-ins.

The Alliance is a series of fly-ins, held across the Midwest, with the common goal of supporting the hobby industry and promoting warbird and classic events, providing opportunities for AMA members to showcase their aircraft.

Giant Scale warbirds and pre-1960, classic full-scale aircraft are welcome at Alliance fly-ins. Although the events take place in Michigan, Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois, the biggest and best-attended one is the Warbirds and Classics over the Midwest in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. The Fond du Lac Aeromodelers host the fly-in at the club’s Wellnitz Field.

The Fond du Lac event is in its seventh year and has seen annual growth. At this year’s event, there were 153 pilots and more than 300 model aircraft. Many are scratch-built masterpieces, but kits and ARFs were also represented.

The 2014 fly-in ran from Thursday through Saturday, August 14-16, but participants began arriving on Monday and enjoyed open flying. I attended for the first time this year, making the seven-hour drive on Wednesday morning. When I arrived, pop-up shelters already lined much of the flightline of the 1400 x 300-foot field. And what a field! It is as good as any top-class golf club’s fairway.



The flightline at Wellnitz Field has plenty of space for the many Giant Scale aircraft.





Kris Johnson concentrates on his Balsa USA Sopwith Pup.





Carl Bachhuber (R) relaxes with (L-R) Cliff Russell, Palmer Johnson, and Dave White in the “Canadian Embassy.”





Wolfie Donalies’ and Jeff Quesenberry’s unusual Polikarvov I-16s.





Gus Dabringhaus (L) spots for Chris Tucker as Chris’ Zero dogfights with Leo Spychalla’s Spifire.





This beautifully detailed B-24, flown by Steve Forrest from Missouri, sets up for a landing.


Many well-known modelers were there, but everyone received the same welcome and equal air time. I made a new friend, Kris Johnson, who came with his 1/4-scale Balsa USA Sopwith Pup. Our pop-up shelters were close and we spotted for each other.

I bumped into friends from other Alliance fly-ins. Cliff Russell, Palmer Johnson, and Dave White came from Canada. Leo Spychalla flew his Mk XIV Spitfire and Bob Larson flew a Gee Bee. Jeff Quesenberry and Wolfie Donalies presented their seldom-seen Polikarpov I-16 fighters.

A contingent of modelers, headed by Howard Davidson, made the trek from Oklahoma for the first time, bringing a number of beautiful aircraft including a huge, electric-powered, four-engine Lancaster. And it was good to see Carl Bachhuber again, this time at his home field.

According to event Contest Director (CD) Paul Hohensee, “We understand the success of the event depends on the spectators, but our approach is to make sure the pilots have fun. When they do, other pilots will hear about us and will come the following year. And more pilots and planes translate into more excitement for the spectators.”

A pilots’ briefing at 9 a.m. set the tone for pilots to enjoy themselves and got the event going for the day. Although the flying officially ended at 4 p.m. each day, pilots were welcome to continue flying until dusk, and many did.

One evening, we were enjoying a cold drink in the “Canadian Embassy” canopy when we noticed a dogfight developing in the air. Michigander Chris Tucker, with his battle-scarred Zero, decided to jump Leo Spychalla’s hot Spitfire Mk XIV. Like the “real thing,” the Zero’s maneuverability and its pilot’s skill kept it solidly in the Spit’s mirror—that is until Leo pulled into a vertical climb, still with the Zero trailing.

The highly tuned and modified engine in the Spit soon had Chris going “oh-oh!” as his Zero flopped over into a dive while the Spit kept gaining altitude. Then it too nosed over and latched onto the Zero’s tail. By this time, many who were relaxing at day’s end had noticed the battle and there was plenty of encouragement. When the combatants eventually landed they received enthusiastic applause. Good stuff!

The Friday and Saturday midday shows were short and active. They included full-scale fly-bys, Paul LeTourneau flying his spectacular A-10 Warthog model with twin turbines, a swarming World War I gaggle, a melee of snarling World War II aircraft, and Carl Bachhuber, Jeff Quesenberry, and Shawn Logue flying the missing man formation. This was of particular significance because Bob Wellnitz, after whom the field is named, had passed away earlier in the year.

Midday shows were kept short to leave more open flying time for pilots to have fun. Pilots having fun translated into excitement for spectators, and the formula worked. The official spectator count at this year’s event was 2,740.

With so many pilots and airplanes, keeping the six flight stations filled was easy. Getting the models safely up and down was at times challenging. The club members/line bosses kept firm but pleasant control of things.

A turbine jet flying laps and inhaling fuel at an alarming rate can’t orbit too long, while a heavy WW II model sits ready to taxi out and a WW I bipe putters in for a landing. Pilots and line bosses cooperated well and I am unaware of any issues. The six starting boxes were never more than three deep, but when you had to wait, you had an opportunity to chat with someone about your respective models.

The Fond du Lac Aeromodelers lucked out with the weather. There was no rain, winds were generally below 10 mph, and temperatures were mild.



Paul LeTourneau puts his A-10 Warthog through an extremely convincing air show routine.





An emotional missing man formation in honor of Bob Wellnitz was flown by the big WW II aircraft.





A Fokker Dr.1 dives on a Sopwith Pup. Both models are from Balsa USA kits.





Canadian Dave White’s Corsair makes a photo pass.





“Wild Bill” Malloy and Chad Asmus from Balsa USA fire up a Nieuport 17.





This Nieuport 28C with smoke on is another of the Balsa USA fleet.





Peter Goldsmith of Horizon Hobby banks his Spitfire to attack the Horizon Gap.





Carl Bachhuber flies a low pass with his twin DA100-powered Sikorski S-43.


Warbirds and Classics over the Midwest enjoyed strong vendor support. Balsa USA brought its trailer filled with kits for sale and advice for free. The company’s representatives also flew many of its fleet. A Balsa USA “kit of your choice” was the most-sought-after prize. Horizon Hobby and ElectroDynamics donated to the prize table and pilots representing both companies were present.

Robart Manufacturing, Tru-Turn, Aeroworks, Fromeco, Chief Aircraft, Inc., Vintage R/C Plans, and RTL Fasteners also provided support. In keeping with the theme of pilots having fun, vendors didn’t get specific times to demonstrate their products. Instead, they mixed it up with the rest of us—and wow did they mix it up!

The uneven treeline on the far side of the field has a small, but prominent, gap. I don’t know who the first Horizon Hobby pilot was to turn out of the pattern and fly through the gap, but soon the space was attacked by Spitfires and Corsairs. And, of course, other pilots rose to the challenge. The Horizon Gap, as it became known, was constantly attacked throughout the weekend, entertaining spectators and pilots alike.

For a nominal price, a pizza dinner was available on Thursday evening, initiating and strengthening friendships. To wrap up the event, all registered pilots were invited to a catered pulled-pork dinner on Saturday evening after the prize drawings. Neighbors of Wellnitz Field were also invited to the dinner.

Paul Hohensee orchestrated a fantastic fly-in, but I am sure he’d be the first to credit the club members’ hard work. An event this big and this good happens through teamwork.

Reflecting on the event during my drive back to Michigan, I realized just how many top-class models and expert pilots were concentrated at this single event. It was great to see how they welcomed and supported anyone who sought help or advice.

All of the Giant Scale Warbird and Classic Alliance events are worth attending, but if you can only make one, Warbirds and Classics over the Midwest in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, is the one to attend. There is no competition, just darn good model aircraft flown by darn good people—and yeah, a little well-deserved showing off of some amazing model aircraft, too!

Treat yourself to a fun event and show off your models at the next Warbirds and Classics over the Midwest, scheduled for August 13-15, 2015.

—Noel Hunt
hunt4it@comcast.net

Sources

Warbirds and Classics over the Midwest
www.midwestwarbirds.com


3 comments

I wish there would've been a video on the page, although I know I can find some if I want.

Thank Noel for the article! Yes, video would be great, but I"m glad you shared the story anyway.

I attended again this year (2015). Another great friendly show. Here's video from this year's event. https://youtu.be/K9ObwjKyhkY

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