Top Gun Invitational 2011

Written by Stan Alexander Find the entire feature on page 20 in the August 2011 issue. Read an abridged summary as well as enjoy videos and photos from the event.

“BIG,” “BIGGER,” and “huge” describe Top Gun—the models and the competition, as well as the good times people have, the vendor area, and the flying site.
The 23rd yearly invitational, which took place from April 27 to May 1, was held at a new site. It was still at the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in Lakeland, Florida, but it took place at the grass Paradise Field. Frank Tiano Enterprises (FTE) has put in a lot of work into the venue, and you can see the evidence in the turf, smoother surface, built-in irrigation system, and concrete staging areas for the five flight stations.
Top Gun is an international contest, with competitors traveling from as far as Germany, Italy, France, Brazil, New Zealand, and Australia. There are models of aircraft from all eras of aviation, including World War I, World War II, Golden Age, and the modern jet age.
This event is the best of Scale competition, featuring an air show, Top Gun Hussies, vendors, hobby supplies, a large Tent City in the pit area, the Red Bull Girls, motor homes by the score, and some outstanding models. Aircraft were flown, bought, sold, and simply shown off for spectators and prospective buyers. Top Gun wears many hats—successfully.
You won’t see 60-size models at this event. Remember “big,” “bigger,” “huge”!
The airplanes at this contest comprise carbon-fiber kits, fiberglass, and jets with huge wingspans. It seems that WW II models are now almost expected to be 1/4 scale, usually spanning more than 100 inches, and WW I models are typically 1/3 scale. The Moki 250cc radial seems to be the engine of choice for WW II entries—especially the big P-47s.
There are six competition classes at this invitational. I’ll go through them and give you a rundown of the contest, saving the new Mr. Top Gun for last.
Read more including awards and class results on page 20 in the August 2011 issue. Enjoy a video and slide show shot by Stan Alexander and edited by MA Staff.

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Nice video and photos. I have never been to Top Gun, but want to go...maybe next year. Looking forward to reading the article.

Great video. Good review in the magazine. Thanks Stan!

Is this the best that MA could do! The Mirage was not even in event, It was a demo. A little over 2 minutes of video for a 5 day event. Sad.

Wayne- Thank you for your feedback. This website serves a supplement to the print magazine. Dedicated inside August's Model Aviation is a nine page spread offering complete coverage of Top Gun. There you’ll find the in depth coverage you’ve grown to expect from Model Aviation. The online video was simply a teaser and by no means intended to serve as the feature report.

I think you guys at Model Aviation are doing a great job! Thanks for sending a reporter to cover the event and bring back great photos and video. I attended Top Gun (only for a day and a half) and really think the feature and web page did a great job covering the event.

I had wished for more video as well. I think other things come in play (event politics) when a AMA magazine gives too much attention to non AMA events. Some may start to complain? Otherwise why even state in the magazine that there is video, after reading through the entire 10 page coverage? I think that is what the previous cpoment was related too.

I appreciate the good video work, but why add the goofy heavy metal sound track? I want to hear the actual sound of the engines, not guitars and drums. Still, I appreciate your efforts ..

Point well received. We reedited the video allowing you to hear the true sounds from the event.

I was hoping to see some video shots of David Hayes Rockwell Thrush in action. The top Gun video was very cool but the Rockwell Thrush is an operational model. You'd think someone would have posted that plane in action. Russ

They did show some footage unfortunately it was when he tried to take off in the rough and suffered damage before he could lift off. And that was all the footage they got before the damage or im sure they would have shown it.

Has a date been set for the 2012 event yet. I want to put it on my calender early so I do not schedule anything else. Thanks

Hi J. Wayne- Yes! The Top Gun Invitational takes place May 2 - 6, 2012. Learn more at

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