2014 NATS: A Family Reunion with National Titles

2014 Nats

2014 NATS: A Family Reunion with National Titles

As seen in the November 2014 issue of Model Aviation.

Nats2014

The National Aeromodeling Championships is much like a big family reunion. There is food, fun, storytelling, a chance to see people you have missed, and friendly competition. But unlike a family reunion, there are also awards and the thrill of being named a national champion.

For many modelers, the Nats is a vacation at their home away from home. They build, design, practice, and study all year for the opportunity to show off their detailed models or teach a friend a new maneuver. When an aircraft breaks or crashes, there is never a shortage of people willing to help with the repairs or share their models. It may be a competition, but the Nats is about camaraderie and working together to keep the hobby alive.

Nats competitors come from all walks of life. Some are young, some are older, some are novices, some are veterans, some are couples, and some are families with three generations of modelers. It doesn’t matter who you are—when you arrive at the Nats, you are family.

“You meet people from all over the country who are competing. They’re your sisters and brothers. It’s like a big social party once a year,” said Wayne Yeager, who has been on the Nats management team for 30 years.

FF manager Phil Sullivan feels that those relationships have been the best aspect of the Nats. He retired this year after more than 10 years of holding that position. His fellow FF modelers gave him a parting gift of a rocking chair that each of them signed.

“What I remember is the people that you meet and you reacquaint with,” he said. “You call them good friends, but you see them once a year. I think that is the greatest thing that you will remember over the years.”

“Competitors come to compete against each other once a year on the big stage,” commented Chris Montagino, a longtime CL Speed flier. “We share modeling techniques, agony, and defeat while building everlasting relationships with each other.” Chris has attended the Nats for 28 years and has been a modeler for 50.

Like Wayne and Chris, the Nats has been a part of many partcipants’ lives for as long as they can remember. Carl Dodge, who is the 2014 FAI Control Line Speed World Champion, competed in CL Speed at the Nats. Carl attended his first Nats in 1956, and he isn’t the only pilot who keeps coming back for more.

“I attended my first Nationals in 1973, and I haven’t missed too many since then,” Dick Perry, a CL Navy Carrier competitor and NatsNews reporter, said. “What brings me back each year is the camaraderie.”

Tim Warren competed in Standard Catapult Glider at the 2014 Indoor FF Nats.Tim Warren competed in Standard Catapult Glider at the 2014 Indoor FF Nats.

Melvin Schuette, who competes in and serves as CD for CL Racing, needed a little prodding before coming to his first Nats. “A friend of mine talked me into attending my first Nats in 1985, and I have only missed one since then.”

Also competing in this year’s event was Chris Rud. The CL Aerobatics flier represented the US as the Junior member of the 2006 FAI F2B Team, but then disappeared from the radar. He returned this summer after graduating from college, getting married, and starting a family, to dominate the Expert class.

Before the Nats moved to the International Aeromodeling Center (IAC), in Muncie, Indiana, in 1996, it was held at various venues across the country. This year, the Indoor Nats was held June 26-30 at the University of Idaho’s Kibbie Dome in Moscow, Idaho. The Outdoor Nats was held from July 7 through August 7, in Muncie.

Participation in some events was up, but down in others. There were more competitors in Outdoor FF this year than last, but roughly half as many participants in Indoor FF. Phil thought the decrease in participation in Indoor FF could be attributed to the move from Champaign, Illinois, to Moscow, which is a somewhat remote location.

Outdoor FF typically has the largest number of participants. This year, 199 people competed in Outdoor FF. Second-largest was CL with 168 registered to participate in events that included Speed, Scale, Navy Carrier, Aerobatics, Racing, and Combat.

James VanSant, a CL Speed flier who has attended the Nats since 2000, said he noticed this year that the atmosphere at the annual event has shifted. He feels it is becoming more relaxed. The Nats has always been about competing, but James felt that it’s more friendly than competitive. “People have been helping each other [more],” he stated. James witnessed this first-hand when those with whom he was competing volunteered to help start his aircraft while his father launched them.

Soaring participant Skye Malcolm, who served as the CD of the F3H Cross-Country Soaring event, also noticed how much competitors worked together this year. Event participants had to contend with cloudy and windy conditions that resulted in brief flight times. “There was a nice feeling of community—everybody conspiring together against the weather.”

CL Racing Rat Race winner David Betz poses with his grandson, Christphor DeGraff, and pilot, Charlie Johnson.CL Racing Rat Race winner David Betz poses with his grandson, Christphor DeGraff, and pilot, Charlie Johnson.

CL Speed competitor Carl Dodge (R) pats Chris Montagino on the back during an awards ceremony at the 2014 Nats. Many Nats competitors treat each other like family. CL Speed competitor Carl Dodge (R) pats Chris Montagino on the back during an awards ceremony at the 2014 Nats. Many Nats competitors treat each other like family.

Altitude Limited Electric Soaring is an electric-launched, Thermal Duration Soaring event with a consistent launch altitude for all competitors. Altitude Limited Electric Soaring is an electric-launched, Thermal Duration Soaring event with a consistent launch altitude for all competitors.

The weather was a factor for many of the Outdoor Nats events. Those accustomed to Muncie’s typical hot and humid summer weather were surprised by this year’s cooler temperatures and scrambled to local clothing stores to purchase jackets and warm pants. Some days, the wind speeds were perfect for flying, and on others, they were strong enough to carry aircraft away.

“It was the coolest Nats we’ve had in recent memory,” David Mills, a Southerner who competes in FF and reports for NatsNews, commented. In past years, the temperatures have soared above 90° during FF week. “Camping out on the field was the most pleasant it’s ever been because of the nice weather,” he noted.

Haley Mattson, the Junior Mulvihill winner, launches her rubber-powered model while Bill Reuter times her flight.Haley Mattson, the Junior Mulvihill winner, launches her rubber-powered model while Bill Reuter times her flight.

It was another great year of cutting streamers at the RC Combat Nats. This year, members of the Indiana Civil Air Patrol helped judge the event. It was another great year of cutting streamers at the RC Combat Nats. This year, members of the Indiana Civil Air Patrol helped judge the event.

Mike and Jean Greear are only the second married couple to compete at the Nats, making the trip many times from their home in California. Flying in RC Aerobatics, Mike performed well in Advanced, and Jean triumphed in Intermediate. Mike and Jean Greear are only the second married couple to compete at the Nats, making the trip many times from their home in California. Flying in RC Aerobatics, Mike performed well in Advanced, and Jean triumphed in Intermediate.

“It’s something you can’t control but something you have to deal with,” Phil said about the weather. “Only once since I’ve been here, I think, we’ve had one [day’s events] completely rained out.”

The weather wasn’t a factor for those competing inside the Kibbie Dome, but drafts were. “There was only one door used to enter so there wouldn’t be any cross drafts,” commented AMA District XI Vice President Chuck Bower. This was the first time that Chuck had attended the Indoor Nats.

“It was a nice place and very clean,” Phil added. “Everyone was very cooperative and there were some good times by the stopwatch.”

Some of those who competed in the Outdoor Nats were also complimentary of the IAC and the AMA Headquarters staff. “Every AMA member at some point needs to see the facility. It’s just so impressive,” said Jim Quinn who reported on the RC Aerobatics Nats for NatsNews.

In 2011, Jim also reported on the FAI F3A World Championships held at the IAC. During that event he said, “I just can’t tell you how many comments I got from pilots from around the world about how great the site is. It’s pretty conveniently located. You owe it to yourself as an AMA member to visit the facility.”

RC Pylon racer Tom Scott agreed. “The AMA flying site is second to none, with the fact that there are other events to view and the museum right around the corner.

“The staff at the AMA is just the best,” Tom added. “We have a lot of members in the AMA and the staff really cares that we have the best experience possible.”

Wayne said that those who don’t attend the Nats don’t know what they’re missing. “The thing that people who don’t come to our Nats don’t realize is how huge it is and how much goes on. Even people who come from other countries are amazed at our site. There’s an awful lot of modelers around the country who haven’t seen our site and I think they would be amazed.”

The facilities are great and the weather is typically decent, but what makes the Nats worth attending? Many who participated this year said the answer is the people.

Evan Gaston pilots his Aichi Val in Fun Scale with the assistance of his father, Dan.Evan Gaston pilots his Aichi Val in Fun Scale with the assistance of his father, Dan.

“The guys who participate in the Nats are the best of people from all around. All year long, I couldn’t wait to spend the week around the guys that inspire me to be a better RC pilot,” commented helicopter pilot Brian Shaw who has flown in the Nats for two years.

“The Pylon contestants and general Pylon community are some of the best people and friends around,” Tom responded.

“It’s always been a lot of fun because even though you’re competing, it’s a vacation because you get to see friends from around the world,” James added.

RC Combat competitor and NatsNews reporter Don Grissom said, “Getting to be with many people who love RC Combat makes you love just being at the Nats.”

John Schroder, who competed this year in RC Fun Scale and RC Scale Aerobatics, plans his vacation around the Nats each year “not only to compete, but to renew old acquaintances and make new friends.”

Competing is fun and the plaques are nice, but many we talked with who attended the Nats this year said the friendships and how those friendships are formed, are the best part of the competition.

“Because of modeling and the Nats, my wife and I have made a number of friends from around the US and the world,” Melvin said. “You can say that the Nationals are a reunion of our modeling family.”

“My favorite part is always being with fellow modelers, sharing stories, good times, and exchanging ideas,” Carl stated.

Tim DiPeri, a helicopter pilot, has made friendships through the Nats that have lasted more than 20 years. “I’ve had dinner with them, and shared joys and not-so-joys with many of them,” he stated.

Brian Shaw’s 1/12-scale AH-1 Cobra uses Align Trex 500 mechanics. Brian placed second in Sport Scale.Brian Shaw’s 1/12-scale AH-1 Cobra uses Align Trex 500 mechanics. Brian placed second in Sport Scale.

Several of those who attended the Clover Creek summer camp before this year’s RC Scale Aerobatics contest took home plenty of hardware.Several of those who attended the Clover Creek summer camp before this year’s RC Scale Aerobatics contest took home plenty of hardware.

One of the not-so-joyful aspects of the Nats is the fact that each year, some groups must pause to remember members they’ve lost. One such person recognized this year was Allen Brickhaus. The longtime CL Aerobatics flier, designer,

NatsNews reporter, Beginner CL Aerobatics event director, and AMA Model Aviation Hall of Fame member passed away in late 2013.

To honor him, CL Aerobatics competitors who brought versions of Allen Brickhaus-designed models flew them together, and many of Allen’s friends joined the fliers to celebrate his life and share their favorite Allen stories.

An Electric Formula 1 model rounds the pylon. The event had 45 participants this year.An Electric Formula 1 model rounds the pylon. The event had 45 participants this year.

“Everybody there is just like you and me—someone who likes to fly,” John said about the Nats. “You may not win the contest, but you will make lifelong friends.”

Many modelers said they made friends at the Nats by watching others compete, talking with them about techniques, and asking for help.

Mark Rudner summed up his feelings on the Nats. “If you want to see CL Combat at a high level and compete with the very best in the country, go to the Nats. If you want to support the community and the future of CL Combat, go to the Nats. If you’re not a competitor, yet want to meet some like-minded aeromodeling enthusiasts who can teach you about Combat and help get you started, go to the Nats.”

A number of Allen Brickhaus-designed models were brought to the grass circles and flown to celebrate Allen’s life at this year’s Nats. The longtime competitor and NatsNews reporter passed away in late 2013.A number of Allen Brickhaus-designed models were brought to the grass circles and flown to celebrate Allen’s life at this year’s Nats. The longtime competitor and NatsNews reporter passed away in late 2013.

Longtime CL Scale icon Charlie Bauer competed one final time this year, then bid adieu after competing in nearly every Nats since 1938. His wife, Judy, has been by his side for many competitions.Longtime CL Scale icon Charlie Bauer competed one final time this year, then bid adieu after competing in nearly every Nats since 1938. His wife, Judy, has been by his side for many competitions.

Samantha Hines won the Junior division in CL Aerobatics, flying this Bob Hunt-designed Long Shot. Bob expects she will be a force to be reckoned with in years to come. Samantha Hines won the Junior division in CL Aerobatics, flying this Bob Hunt-designed Long Shot. Bob expects she will be a force to be reckoned with in years to come.

“The Nationals is an opportunity for modelers of all skill levels to get together to share their experiences and answer their questions,” Dick added.

Some of those skills are developed at an early age. Don DeLoach, a FF competitor and NatsNews reporter, said one of the highlights of the 2014 Nats was seeing 10-year-old Hayden Ashworth compete. “The polite, engaging young man, with the aid of his grandpa, has quickly become a top competitor in Outdoor FF,” he noted.

David said many of the Junior FF participants “flew like adults. It was great watching those kids beat their fathers and grandfathers in the same event,” he laughed.

It was a good Nats for young fliers in other events, such as Samantha Hines. She walked away with the Junior crown in CL Aerobatics and stole the thunder from the top five adult fliers during the finals. NatsNews reporter Bob Hunt wrote, “Give her a more capable airplane and the big boys will have to start looking over their shoulders in a few years!”

Mark Rudner (L) feels it is a privilege to compete in the CL Combat Nats each year.Mark Rudner (L) feels it is a privilege to compete in the CL Combat Nats each year.

Participating in the Nats can be a good learning tool for modelers of all ages.

“I always urge anyone interested in flying Speed to attend the Nats, as well as any competition within traveling distance, because it’s the best way for him [or her] to learn about the equipment and how it’s properly used,” Carl stated. “There, he [or she] can become acquainted with experienced modelers to whom he [or she] can turn for help.”

“The Scale Nationals is a great contest to not only compete [in], but to meet and learn from fellow Scale modelers of all skill levels,” commented competitor Mark Lanterman.

Steve Baker, an RC Pylon Racing pilot, echoed his sentiments. “For someone looking for a reason to attend the Nats next year, I’d recommend it because it will make you a stronger competitor, and along the way, it makes you a part of long and rich modeling tradition.”

Wayne also reflected on his years as the Nats RC director. “The best in the country, for the most part, are there flying. You just go and compete. If you’re not the best, who cares? Flying in the Nats is the best thing in the world. It’s better than any local contest.”

Tom has similar feelings about the Nats. “I have so many great memories of days gone by and remember many of the RC icons from the past. Some would say, those were the good old days, but I really believe these and the days ahead of us are the really good old days because of the ones who keep coming back for more.”

To see scores, learn the results of each competition, read the highlights, and check out more photos of the 2014 Nats, go to the NatsNews link.

—MA staff

 

Facebook Twitter Share

Add new comment