Every two years the FAI holds the F3C World Championships, this time it was being held in Spain in the rural town of Zamora, hosted by the local organization Club Aeromodelismo.
I had been planning on going to the previous Worlds in 2003, held in Noto, Japan. However I didn’t end up getting my act together in time, so I decided to wait for the 2005 competition in Spain.
Given that I didn’t really want to be the only New Zealander there, I managed to convince another guy from New Zealand, John Knox, that he should come as well. The only problem was John is currently on work placement in Papua New Guinea and wouldn’t be able to prepare any machines, so I was going to have to do it for him. The plan being, I’d build and setup his new machines, he’d come over a few days before we were due to leave for Spain and have a few practice flights to try and get relatively familiar with his totally new setup, and then leave to compete in the Worlds! Pretty sound plan don’t you think????
Aaron Williams, who has competed in the two previous World Champs was also keen to come along, so for the first time in ages, New Zealand had a complete F3C Team.
DAY ONE – GETTING TO ZAMORA
I was stressing over my baggage weights. After looking up the Qantas website and realizing that each additional kilo over your allowance was going to be AU$40 (US$30). The standard allowance is 20kg but because I have a Qantas Club membership my allowance was 30kg. The unfortunate thing was, my loaded Curtis case was 29kg! Along with that I had to add my bag of clothes, camera bag and other assorted crap.
I had been planning on taking my non-helicopter stuff as carry on which was in a fairly grey area as far as carry on luggage allowances were concerned (in reality, if you were going by the exact letter of the rules, it was pretty clear I wasn’t going to be able to do that). However the plan was to be wandering around the terminal carrying the bags like they weighed nothing at all (in reality, they were pretty damn hefty). The ruse worked on the check-in girl and I was silently congratulating myself on my stunning mastermind plan, when I was stopped by a random security officer in immigration who was armed with a pair of scales! He proceeded to then weigh my bags and scalded me for having too much carry on. I played the naive tourist and he sent me back to the service desk to get one of my bags checked on. By now I was sure I was going to be shafted with the AU$40 per kilo charges, but the service desk guy happily checked my bag in and sent me on my way! Suckers! I had gotten away scott free. Off to the lounge to wait for my flight.
Soon enough Dave, the Australian team manager and Andrew, one of the Australian pilots turned up, they were on the flight leaving an hour after mine.
My flight went to Madrid via Singapore and Heathrow and was pretty uneventful, apart from watching some Qantas hostesses trying to convince a guy who had drunk a little too much that he was in no condition to fly. That was pretty funny. He swore black and blue that he was just fine, right up until he leaned against a cardboard cutout of a hostess which sent it, and him, tumbling past the metal detectors and resulting in him flapping around on the ground like a freshly caught salmon.
I met Aaron Williams, one of my teammates at Heathrow and boarded the flight for Madrid, hoping that the helicopters had successfully checked all the way through!
We landed in Madrid and got through immigration easily then set about trying to find where our checked luggage might appear. Given the high possibility that the helicopters might qualify as oversize luggage and come out in some other area. While Aaron kept an eye out on the conveyor belt I went looking to see if there were any oversize collection areas. There weren’t any I could immediately find, so I asked and eventually communicated what I was looking for to the airline person who said all items should come down the conveyor. Excellent.
Things weren’t looking good for Aaron and I when it seemed that just about everyone else had got their bags and our helicopter cases had not made an appearance. The stress was starting to build when I finally saw our cases come down the conveyor, mine upside down.
We had organized to meet John and his wife Shelley who were flying in from another route that had gone via Frankfurt, and also the Australian’s at Madrid where we would get our rental cars and all drive to Zamora together. We met the first group of Australians who included the remaining two pilots, Gary Watson and Mick Warren as well as George Atkinson, Rick Malaith and Glenn Asquith. John and Shelley from our team had also arrived about an hour prior. Andrew and Dave, the second group of Aussies, were due about an hour or so after us.
I arrived to find Mick and Gary drinking, which didn’t surprise me too much, they were creating ‘Enhanced Coke’ with product from a Coke machine they’d found, and plenty of the duty free products they’d purchased. I was only too happy to help them test Enhanced Coke. Numerous times.
While I was testing Enhanced Coke with Gary and Mick, John was trying to sort out our pre-booked rental cars and found that the agency had decided to give us two hatchbacks instead of the station wagons we had previously ordered and that the cars weren’t even at the airport. They were in downtown Madrid… To their credit they had the cars sent up to the airport for us, so we set about waiting to see what we had.
Meanwhile, Dave and Andrew had turned up and Dave set about organizing all the Australian cars.
John was getting restless so decided we should leave or Zamora ourselves and the Aussies could catch up later. I, knowing that finding our way out of Zamora probably wouldn’t be as easy as we thought, wasn’t too enthusiastic about the idea, but off we went anyway to find our cars. The cars we’d been allocated/cursed with, were small Citroen hatchbacks, that could just fit the helicopter cases with about three centimeters to spare.
John and Shelley were in one car with Aaron and myself in the other. I had no desire to drive in Spain, so Aaron took up the driving duties and away we went, heading to Zamora.
With in two minutes we were lost. Two minutes after that, we became separated from John and Shelley. So now we decided to try and head back to the airport, find the Australians, and travel to Zamora with them. After all, they had a GPS unit that would surely mean we wouldn’t get lost.
The problem with that plan is that the road signs have no English and even though we were about five minutes drive away from the airport, we didn’t know how to get back.
Eventually, the five minute drive took us 30 minutes to get back by the time we’d gone round and round the airport ring road. We parked up and I went to see how the Aussies were getting on. Dave was still sorting out the cars, Gary and Mick were still drinking, the others were milling around.
When they had sorted themselves out we set out in a four car convoy towards Zamora. With George and Glenn in the lead car with the GPS navigating, I was highly confident. 30 minutes later I was less confident when we all got lost in downtown Madrid. We pulled over at a petrol station while George and Glenn held a meeting to sort out where we were and how to get to Zamora.
After a good tour of downtown Madrid we hit a highway that looked promising, after a couple more stops on the side of the road to confirm our whereabouts we were on our way to Zamora.
THE FLYING SITE
After a few hours of driving on the very good roads through the picturesque Spainish countryside we were getting near Zamora. We were keen on taking a look at the flying field as it was on the way into town. After taking what were thought were the correct side roads, we got lost. However we found the Indonesian team who were also lost so another roadside conference was held to determine our position.
Soon enough the official flying field was located on top of a hill range above where a new highway was being built.
My initial impressions were how dry everything was, lots of dust and tumble weeds about. The field had a couple of tarsealed runways where one flightline could be run, but I couldn’t see where the second one was going to be staged.
The rest of the facilities weren’t too bad though, a lot of shade was available and there seemed to be good catering present. There were shade tents provided for each team in a compound like area.
We got our fuel that the organizers had sorted out for us and stood around and watched a couple of guys fly before we decided to head off and find our hotel. I was kind of excited about getting to the hotel. I had visions of the same kind of hotel we stayed at when we were in Bali which was just great. Visions of a pool with a bar, and air-conditioning and great food… I was looking forward to a great shower and a bit of a rest to recover from the trip before assembling the helicopters.
HOTEL REY DON SANCHO
After navigating through downtown Zamora, Aaron and I found our way to our hotel and attempted checking in. One of the problems was that there were next to no English speaking people in our hotel so communicating became a real chore, one we were going to get used to over the next two weeks. I later found out that was a common theme in all the hotels.
I get checked in and start hauling my stuff up to my room. As soon as I opened the door I knew the term ‘room’ was an overstatement. Perhaps ‘closet’ or ‘small storage area with bed’. There was no airconditioning involved which was going to be problem given it was 40 degrees celcius outside.
Another problem was space. The only area I could put my suitcase and Curtis case was blocking the ‘wardrobe’ (another term used generously in this case) area beside my bed which in turn meant that I had to turn sideways and inhale deeply to get to my bed. Nice.
Assembling the helis, took place on the bed due to lack of room, and then they were shoehorned into the space between the end of my bed and the wall. There was certainly no room for them to stretch out that’s for sure!
With the helis all nicely tucked away and on charge, I went off to find John and Shelley who should have already been checked in if they had made it out of Madrid alive, as we had not seen them since we got lost. They had managed to check in fine and we decided to go down to the bar and have a drink.
Once we negotiated some drinks with the bar tender who couldn’t understand a thing we said (communication was done by pointing and hand signals), we got into some of the very cheap alcohol available.
We noticed a few other obviously helicopter related people hanging out, but we couldn’t make out where they might be from.
By now, we were very hungry and keen to get something to eat before the severely powerful alcohol that John and Shelley were drinking knocked them flat on their ass.
Instead of venturing downtown to find something to eat we decided to try the hotel’s ‘restaurant’ then retire back to the bar for more of the potent alcohol that Shelley was by now starting to take a liking to.
It’s hard to describe the Rey Don Sancho’s restaurant. But if it were to be only in a few words, the words would be ‘cheesy, cheap, thrown-together arrangement trying to pretend (but not fooling anyone) that it was a high class establishment’.
The menu arrived and I selected the only thing that didn’t have seafood which was steak and chips, with an entrée of vegetable soup. After communicating that numerous times to the ‘waiter’ he left and we waited with baited breath on the outcome.
I started looking around the room to see what we might be in for and immediately saw that the other ‘diners’ didn’t look overly enthusiastic about their meals. These people may or may not have been able to speak English, but the look of distaste is universal…
Sure enough, the ‘soup’ arrived and it was freezing cold. Apparently this was by design, ok, that’s cool, I’ll give it a go. By the third spoonful I had enough of the slops and told the waiter to take it away. I hoped that the main course was going to be better… When my 4mm thick ‘steak’ arrived, it was sitting in 2mm of oil with chips (about 10 of them) that were more like strips of warm potato. By now I was getting pretty steamed up as it was becoming more and more apparent, that we weren’t staying in a great hotel. I secretly hoped the Australian’s weren’t doing any better.
Back to the bar to wash the aftertaste away. By now I’d worked out that the British, Hong Kong and Israeli teams were at our hotel.
DAY TWO – UNOFFICAL PRACTISE
The next morning we met at breakfast, breakfast being bread and coffee. Yes, my expectations of this hotel were falling rapidly.
We loaded up the Citroens and headed out to the field to get some flying in. Today was unofficial practice and I was keen to get the engines tuned for the heat and fuel.
As expected the flight line was very busy with everyone wanting to do exactly the same thing I wanted to do.
We found a spot to set our gear down and went to investigate what the story was for the day. We very quickly found out that there was no frequency control provided by the organizers, instead everyone was just writing their frequencies on a bit of paper that was attached to a post. The deal being you checked to see if anyone was on your frequency and if there was, you found them and began negotiations. Interesting. Certainly not what I was expecting at a World Championships!
There was room for about five or so people to fly at once on the main flight line which wasn’t too bad. There were also three other practice fields available. Seeing the congestion, the Australians went to investigate the other fields.
The practice fields had been organized so that all the people on 35mhz flew at one field, 40mhz at another field and 72mhz at a third field. We were wondering about the wisdom of putting everyone on the same band at the same field with the resulting frequency clashes.
The organizers had warned that penalties would be applied to any team that setup their own practice field outside those nominated, so we were all keen to abide by those rules.
Given that we were already established, I was keen to stay where we were, so the Aussies set off to see what they could find at the 72mhz field. Meanwhile, I cranked up one of the Sylphides to start on the engine tuning.
At home, I’d been running 15% nitro and here we were using 30% in an attempt to try and counter the loss of horsepower due to the heat. I did a few passes to assess the needles, richening up both the top end and mid range a couple of clicks until I got the machine to where I thought it would be ok. The net result was it was down on power from what it normally got at home, but it wasn’t too bad.
The sky was very busy with all sorts of exotic machinery streaking around. It was very still and pretty hot which made autorotations pretty difficult. Landing on the tarsealed surface (it was either that or the desert type sand) immediately made me wish I’d put skid stoppers on my skids!
Both John and Aaron had a couple of practice flights and got their machines running well. Aaron just missed a decent sized rock that was being used to mark out our square (we had to get creative) at the bottom of an auto, but apart from that, everything was cool.
Then the Australians turned up again and began to describe in great detail just how crap the 72mhz flying site was. None of them deemed it suitable to fly at (something about it being a dirt wasteland and full of helicopter-eating rocks). So they had come back to try their luck at the main field.
Andrew, Mick and Gary all flew and got their machines settled with Andrew being the only one to have a little bit of trouble. A clunk line failure in his main tank saw him having to perform a pretty hairy out field auto with which we were all holding our breath.
THE JAPANESE TEAM
Surprisingly, the Japanese team made an appearance and started flying with everyone. We had just assumed that they would have been at some kind of purpose built training facility burning 44 gallons of fuel each a day. Not surprisingly, pretty much everyone stopped to watch them do their first flights.
It was interesting to see the difference in headspeeds that they all used. One was at 1380, another at 1500 and the other up around 1600. I knew this because the guys standing beside me had the machines under intensive surveillance with their tachometers.
All three spent a lot of time just hovering, doing nothing really, not even the hovering maneuvers. Just hovering. Then they took off for their aerobatics. They went wayyyy out and up high, then they would come streaking in, Sylphides howling at warp factor five. In most cases they were starting their rolls at the height of the top of my loops! It should be noted though that during the competition they didn’t do that.
It sure didn’t sound like they were having any trouble with their OS engines leaning out either! Mind you, with Factory OS technicians on hand to help them, you would expect that…
With the novelty of the Japanese flying now gone, normal flying resumed and it was good to see the Japanese weren’t afraid of mixing it up with the rest of us. Their Sylphides shared the skies with the rest of our machines taking turns at doing aerobatics just like everybody else.
The awesome Swiss electric machine made an appearance and once again impressed the crap out of me.
I flew my second machine which I knew to have a vibration in it that I hadn’t been able to track down before I left home. The sad part about that was that although it had an annoying vibration, it actually flew better than the other one.
With the flying taken care of, we sat down to compare notes on hotels and food. I was convinced that the Australians MUST be in a much better hotel than we were. They on the other hand were absolutely sure that our hotel couldn’t have been worse than theirs. Then we turned to the quality of the hotel food, with me being once again sure that their hotel food couldn’t be worse than ours. Once again, the Australians were absolutely positive that their food was even worse. The net result being that we all agreed we needed to find somewhere else to eat.
The Australians met us at our hotel and they immediately declared victory in the “My hotel is worse than yours” competition which I found hard to believe. We loaded up in the Australian people movers and set off to find somewhere to eat.
We parked up and walked for ages up and down streets trying to look for somewhere appetizing. After half an hour of no success, the name’s ‘Burger King’ and ‘McDonalds’ were being tossed around as potentials which is pretty sad.
We ended up at this underground type burger bar where we were served up some real average chicken burgers where there was some doubt as to how cooked they were. We were not off to a great start on the culinary side of things…
The Australians dropped us off at our hotel, but before heading to bed we decided to pop into the bar to see who was there, you know, just to be neighbourly and all. There we found members of the British team, the Israeli’s and a team we’d get to know a lot better (in the bar) over the upcoming week or so, the Norwegians.
THE NORWEGIAN TEAM
We met the Norwegians at the bar and commenced discussing everyone’s favourite subject, helicopters. The Norwegians are real down to earth guys more than happy hang out and have two or six drinks with you.
We compared notes on food, the quality of their rooms, the quality of their practice site, the main competition site, the organization so far, and rental cars. We told them about our wimpy Citroens and they countered with a description of their rental three cylinder, turbo diesel Smart car that was only big enough for two people with maybe one piece of luggage each. However they cheerfully described that it could (with some convincing) pull 170km/h coming into Zamora and still get incredible fuel economy!
DAY THREE – SCRUTINEERING
Day three was scrutineering and processing and so the competition site was closed for flying. New Zealand was scheduled to be processed at 6pm I think, so we went and checked out the 40mhz field. Our hopes weren’t high given the less than impressive report the Aussies gave us of he 72mhz field.
We found our field in a nearby town. It looked like it was a local soccer field, or public domain or something. At one end was the town which we would be flying over during aerobatics) and at the other end was a fairly busy road which we would also be flying over in the aerobatics. But it was at least flat and we could definitely use it. Infact the teams from Greece, Cyprus and Sweden were already well underway with their practicing.
We parked up and went and introduced ourselves to everyone and compared frequencies to make sure there were no clashes. I met the Swedish guys, one of which was also flying Sylphides and also happened to be the importer of K&S parts for his country. Needless to say, his machines had a good amount of bling on them.
The Greeks and Cypriots were at the other end of the field and we went and chatted with them. They also were staying at our hotel.
With the formalities over, we established our pit area and got into some flying. It was very hot, had to be about 40 degrees I reckon and the engines were feeling it. My machines both felt well down on power even in comparison to the previous day at the competition site. Again there wasn’t much wind which made autos unforgiving.
John worked out that you could remove the back seats of the Citroens and use them as deck chairs which we dutifully did, made the whole experience of hanging at the field a lot more pleasant!
We flew until we got sick of being fried in the sun so decided to go to the competition site and see what was happening.
We arrived just as the Japanese team were being scrutineered. Hashimoto’s machine was on the scales and his Futaba 14MZ and Sanwa transmitters were being checked for frequency. Next up was the team from Hong Kong. We were still a few hours away from our scheduled time so we sat around in the shade.
Once the Hong Kong team finished there was a gap with no one being processed so we asked the organizers if we could get processed now. They happily obliged and started checking our models out. As expected, there were no problems and with our paperwork complete and our flight order in hand, we headed back to the motel.
Shelley had spoken with someone from another team who had recommended a restaurant in Zamora and we were keen to give it a go. I rounded up the Australians who were also keen to locate some decent food and off we went.
We located the place right next door to the below average burger shop we’d visited the previous night. Luckily, there was someone there who could speak English, a young guy named Pedro.
Gary had unfortunately lost his primary model earlier that day due to a still unknown failure and so needed some cheering up. Pedro provided plenty of cheer in the form of a Jim Beam bottle, and I thought the food wasn’t too shabby either, although some of the Australians begged to differ.
DAY FOUR – OFFICIAL PRACTICE/OPENING CEREMONY
The two flight lines had now been setup. One with the square over the tarseal runway, but running 90 degrees to the runway, and the other way was down the other end of the runway on a dirt area that wasn’t really suited to being a flightline, but would have to do. The saviour was that carpet had been laid down on the square and start box so at least the helicopters wouldn’t be covered in dust.
Due to constraints with the sun, the dirt flightline would start flying at 8am and fly until 3:00pm. The tarseal flightline would begin at 12pm and finish at 8pm.
Practice was organized by team and each pilot had 10 minutes to fly. We were scheduled on the dirt flightline. With John and Aaron flying on the same frequency, John flew first, I went second and Aaron last. The practice flights went well, I was happy with my hovering but a bit disappointed with my aerobatics. I just wasn’t getting the vertical penetration that I was used to.
After watching the Australians do their practice flights on the other flightline, we went to get some lunch at McDonalds in Zamora. By now, McDonalds had become the defacto official caterer for the event. Every time you went there, you were almost guaranteed of seeing at least one helicopter team. Infact at one stage when we were there, the South Africans, Americans, Singaporeans and Australians were there, as well as the designated errand runner from the Japanese team who had three supermarket bags full of McDonalds product to take back to his team mates.
After lunch we went back to the practice field where we continued to fly until the late afternoon when we headed back to the competition site to see the Canadian then American team do their practice flights.
At the start of the year Scott Gray and his wife Lauren had come out to Australia for an event we were holding here. While they were here, Scott took the time to help out Andrew and I with our setups. He improved the setup of our helicopters and also our flying at the same time by imparting some of his knowledge. We feel indebted to Scotty and really wanted him to do well in this competition.
As I said, when he was out here, Scott flew Sylphides quite a bit while refining the setup. His view of it was that it was the best metal blade grip head he’d flown (Scott prefers plastic blade grips) and he really liked how quiet it was.
Next thing I know, Scott’s flying Sylphides at the US nats! Although he won’t admit that flying my machine made him change from the Vigor to the Sylphide (he reckons he had one all along…), I can’t help but think that maybe my humble Sylphide helped with his decision!
Scott’s machine is a standard Sylphide wrapped in a Super Gracy body, but with a Vigor head on it.
We were all very interested to watch his flights and he didn’t disappoint. His hovering was great, but his aerobatics were stunning. His lines were so consistent it’s like his helicopter had a ‘snap to grid line’ feature going on! His loops were beautiful, some guys, including myself, begin the pull up for their loops very gently, Scott did his smoothly but there was a kind of ‘snap’ to it that left you under no doubt that the maneuver had begun. It’s very difficult to describe, but it was beautiful to see.
Scott’s practice flight left pretty much everyone convinced that he was going to be a top contender in this competition.
THE AMERICAN TEAM
The American and the Japanese teams are perhaps the most watched teams of the competitions. Both teams packed with pilots who could win the competition, the two favourites being Manubu Hashimoto from Japan, and Curtis Youngblood from the USA.
The American pilots were Len Sabato, Wayne Mann and Curtis. Curtis flew first with his JR Vibe. Curtis’ caller was his dad, Dave Youngblood. Curtis began his flight in the starting box by just lifting up into hover, then setting it down again. He did this about four or five times. Then he hovered his machine out to the square. Dave meanwhile walked to the side of the square so that he could see where the helicopter was in relation to the flags from a depth perceptive. At first I thought nothing of it, but during the flight I noticed that Dave seemed to be talking to no one in particular. I looked a bit closer through my camera and saw he was talking into a microphone. I then looked at Curtis and saw he had an earpiece on, Secret Service style.
Once again, Curtis did a few liftoffs into hover then set it back down again before moving on into the hovering maneuvers. Most of the time, Curtis didn’t complete a maneuver as you would in competition. Instead, he did a pirouette (such as the climbing one in the rectangle), he would stop and do it again until he was happy.
Once he was done hovering, he took off and began doing straight passes doing procedure turns at each end (not the more conventional stall turns). The turns themselves would have been challenging to most of us there!
Curtis just flew back and forth, back and forth, getting his lines set, his speed always constant like his helicopter was on cruise control. Then he performed a loop, quite a large one given the entry speed, but the speed remained the same all the way around.
Curtis finished his flight, then it was Wayne Mann’s turn. Wayne was flying a Kyosho Caliber 90 in a Staysee fuselage. Wayne’s engine sounded awesome in hover, had a nice crisp note to it and looked great in it’s fuse. Wayne had commented earlier in the day that his engines were also down on power compared to home and was having cooling issues with his machines. If that was the case it sure didn’t look it in his flying! His machine grooved around the sky like a pattern aeroplane, was great to watch and awesome to listen to.
Len Sabato was up next with his modified Vigor CS in his Eclipse fuselage. Len’s machines are kitted out with his own design retractable undercarriage.
Vigors aren’t known for being the quietest machines on earth, but Len’s machines were surprisingly quiet no doubt thanks to his Eclipse fully enclosed fuselage.
Len did all of the hovering and set off for the aerobatics. His machine was very fast through the sky and pulled some very large loops that looked great.
With Len finished that was the end of the American team practice so most people either went back to their motels to get ready for the opening ceremony, or simply hung out at the competition site waiting for the opening ceremony to start.
The organizers had all the teams gather in one of the fenced off areas prior to the ‘march on’. It took a little while for everyone to get organized, but eventually the Australians marched on as the first team to be welcomed to World Championships. One-by-one the teams were announced and lined up on the tarseal area in front of the pits.
Once all the teams had assembled, various speeches were made and then finally the teams were dismissed to watch some of the demonstrations that had been arranged. The organizers had arranged to have a full size helicopter do a display but the forest fires raging in the southern part of the country had kept it pre-occupied so it was not able to attend.
Instead, a number of motorized paragliders did a pretty cool display in front of us. Some of these guys had some pretty amazing skills buzzing the pits and making extremely low passes (knocking over umbrellas set up on the tarseal flightline).
Another very interesting display was from a guy who had hand built some pretty amazing looking contraptions that looked like they were based (loosely) on helicopters.
One of which was this dual rotored thing that had a rotorhead on top of the fuselage where you would normally expect, but between the large landing gear was yet another rotorhead! No tail rotor was involved anywhere! I had money that the thing would never get into forward flight and there were plenty of people standing near me who agreed.
Nonetheless, the intrepid pilot started his machine and lifted it into a pretty stable hover which surprised everyone. It even looked to have quite good yaw control! He even embarked on some forward flight which didn’t look too bad at all! I was amazed. I commented to someone that if he pulled a loop with this thing we should just award him World Champion and be done with it.
Just as he pulled into a bit of a stall turn our hero lost it and the amazing contraption plowed into the dirt. Nonetheless everyone appreciated his piloting and engineering skill and gave him a big round of applause.
Showing no signs of giving up, the pilot fired up his homebuilt Chinook type helicopter and flew that well and with no disaster.
That pretty much marked the end of the opening ceremony, the team managers were issued flight orders and that was it. Our attentions then turned to where to eat that night. Luckily, Lauren Gray was on the ball and had found a half decent place to try in Zamora and told us all to follow her. So we herded up the Australians (an exercise very similar to herding cats) and followed the Canadians into town. There were a lot of us, the whole Canadian team, the Australians and the New Zealand team, however the proprietor of the restaurant rose to the challenge and quickly had a very large table sorted for us.
Ofcourse the menu was in Spanish and none of the waiters could speak English so we had no idea what to do. Thankfully, Bill Tinsley, one of the Canadian pilots speaks Spanish fluently so he ordered for us with everyone pretty much saying “I want steak Bill”, or “I want chicken”, he sorted it out for us which was excellent. Bill flies with Scott and has only been flying helicopters for about 10 months or so and only entered his first F3C contest at the US Nationals a few months earlier! We had a great time that night.
DAY FIVE – FIRST DAY OF COMPETITION
We were kind of surprised to find that the teams were split between the two flightlines. Our team had planned on sharing starting equipment to cut down on the amount of weight we had to carry. The first day had Aaron on one line and John and I on the other. It just happened that Aaron was going to be flying two pilots ahead of when I was due. If his line was running slow it would put us too close to be using the same starting equipment. It also meant that John would probably not be able to call for me. I quickly called the Australian’s who lent me the starting gear and Andrew called for me.
I was scheduled to fly just before Len Sabato and after a member of the Russian team.
I started up the Sylphide and hovered for a bit, determined not to rush things. I decided to copy Curtis and do the whole lift off, hover, set it down thing for a bit. Just to show everyone how serious I was. I’m not sure they were convinced.
I hovered the machine out to the square and got down to it. My hovering wasn’t too bad. I wandered a bit in the stationary pirouette in the rectangle which annoyed me, but otherwise, the hovering was ok.
However when I clicked the helicopter into idle up one I knew I was flying a dog, this was confirmed when I began climbing out for the aerobatics and the thing just had no power. It had been fine the day before! The rolls went through OK, but the vertical maneuvers such as the loops and the stall turns were nothing to write home about. I was rattled by not having the power I was expecting and was annoyed with myself for letting it get to me.
The autorotation was a bit of a shocker. Zigzaw blades don’t auto very good at all in hot still environments and I tried to make the circle when I should have just put it down where it was heading. My fault all round.
Nevermind, three more rounds were left to make up for it. When John’s engine sounded down on power we decided we’d do a tuning flight at the practice field prior to each round to try and tune for the conditions of the day.
The afternoon proceeded along as planned, we watched Hashimoto, Curtis, Scott and Wayne Mann fly. All put in nice flights. Scott’s aerobatics were once again breathtaking.
DAY SIX – SECOND DAY OF COMPETITION
Today John and I were over on the dirt flightline, we had gone down to the practice field to check the engines. They were going ok, but not big on power, but not too bad.
Once again I was happy with my hovering, I was very happy with the way the Sylphide sat in wind, but once again, my aerobatics weren’t as good as normal.
With my flight over we went over to see how Andrew was going from the Australian team on the other flightline. Andrew had a great flight and was happy with how he went.
KUNII’S FLYING UMBRELLAS
The wind had been getting stronger all afternoon when Shinya Kunii from Japan went out to begin his flight. He was doing very well considering the conditions when all of a sudden one of the judge’s shade umbrellas launched from it’s mount and hit his caller from behind. Not to be outdone, another umbrella attacked and hit Kunii in the back while he was doing the nose in tail in figure eight.
Understandably, Kunii put his Sylphide down and shut it off and we all waited to see what would happen. There was much discussion on the judges line, Kunii could elect to restart his flight, or fly again after the last pilot. Given the wind conditions, Kunii elected to fly again after the last pilot.
Chen Zafarti from Israel was up next flying his gigantic Robbe Cuatro. Chen is more well known as winning the Expert’s class at 3D Masters, but is also on the Israeli F3C team with Hirobo pilot Aviv Levy.
Mark Christy from the UK flew his Sylphide in a Galaxy fuselage in a howling cross wind and did a superb job. During his aerobatics it looked like his machine had a 20 degree angle of bank just to fly straight!
DAY SEVEN – THIRD DAY OF COMPETITION
I’m back on the tarseal flightline today and it’s windy as hell. Great. I watched as the poor Russian guy flying before me wrestled his Hirobo in the gusty winds.
I spooled up the Sylphide and hovered in the start box for a while trying to get a feel for the wind before walking the machine out to the square. For a moment it looked like the wind was going to die down so I got straight into the rectangle. Just as I was about to begin the climbing pirouetting the Sylphide got slammed by a big gust of wind that caught me out, from then on the wind didn’t stop. It got to the point where tumbleweeds were flying through the square and I was expecting umbrellas to whack me on the head any second. By the time I got to the triangle I was just laughing to myself about it, I actually didn’t think I was doing too bad with the hovering considering the wind, but I was dreading the aerobatics on account of being down on power.
The YS was chewing through the fuel on account of me running it richer than normal to stop overheating and when I took off for the aerobatics I had under half a tank left, normally I have about two thirds.
I went through the aerobatics ok, better than I had anticipated, but my performance was never going to make Curtis nervous. By the time I got to the autorotation, I figured if I got it even near the circle that would be great. Lo and behold, as the helicopter entered the square there looked to be a slight glimmer that I might hit the circle so I though stuff it, I felt that round was probably going to be write off anyway, so I may as well give it a shot.
The Sylphide ‘arrived’ bang in the circle (landing would be too generous of a term), but it didn’t bounce. I was rapt! I didn’t really care so much about the wind then.
The wind didn’t let up for Len Sabato either. It was time to go get a drink. There was a fully stocked bar on site which blew me away. Hard liquor was available cheaply! You could buy beer in different sized cups, big or huge. Given I’d had a pretty challenging flight and I’d done all the flying I was going to do today and I wasn’t driving, I got into a huge size beer.
DAY EIGHT – RAIN DAY
We awoke to the sound of rain pounding down outside. John was due to take our transmitters to the field this morning so Aaron and I went down to munch on the very crap breakfast at the hotel and wait for John to come back with any news.
We waited and waited. With each passing moment I would relent and take a sip of the warmed up diesel oil that was masquerading as coffee. The text messages started going back and forth with the Australian team to see if they heard anything. They hadn’t. Everyone was waiting.
Eventually John turned up and announced that flying was cancelled for today. Instantly I suggested we go into Zamora and find a café with decent food. There wasn’t much protest from the rest of the team so we set out into Zamora.
We found a café and spent a good 15 minutes communicating what we wanted to the waitress. We pointed at coffee machines, flapped our arms to resemble chickens laying eggs and snorted like pigs hoping that she’d recognize that as bacon. The pantomime paid off though and soon we were feasting on a very unhealthy (but tasty) breakfast with decent coffee!
The Australians rang and said they were going to Portugal for the day. Sounded like a good idea so we planned on following them once we finished breakfast.
With breakfast done, we went back to the cars where John’s car had just been ticketed which we (everyone but John) had good laugh about.
I hadn’t realized that Portugal was that close. It was about a three hour drive from Zamora to the border. We all loaded up into John’s Citroen and hauled on down to the border. Every 10 kilometers or so John would comment on what a ‘piece of sh*t’ the car was just in case we had forgotten.
The country side was pretty spectacular, and the roads were pretty damn good as well. Just past the border the hills were dotted with what looked like vineyards.
We passed through a few small towns, one of which advertised some kind of castle. We came up on an exit that led to another small town and this time John and Shelley wanted to have a look and see how some small town Portuguese people lived so away we went.
The main ‘street’ was deserted. We felt like we were in a Western movie where a new cowboy rides into town and all the locals are hiding in their houses looking out at the intruders from between closed shutters.
When John started making banjo noises similar to the move ‘Deliverance’ I got more keen to resume our journey on roads where emergency services would find us easier.
Back on the main road we drove for a few more hours until we got to the first serious sized town where we found a nice restaurant and had a big steak and pre-packaged cheesecake.
The Aussies had made it to the coast but we were a fair way behind them, so weren’t keen on going that far so met up with them on the highway on the way back.
John flogged the little Citroen trying to keep up with the Australian’s Turbo diesel people mover, but in the end the Australians pulled away.
There was supposed to be an official BBQ held at the competition site that night for all the teams. I was keen to go if we were there, but wasn’t worried if we didn’t make it. When we got back to the hotel and went to the bar we caught up with Mark Christy. Mark had just come from the ‘BBQ’ and his description of it made us glad we hadn’t gone. Here’s what the British guys had to say on their website:
“Around 19:00 we all headed out to the contest site for “an end of preliminaries” barbeque. With no sight or smell of cooking meat, Steve and I broke out the foamies and, with the help of a couple of parachuting action figures strapped to wings via loose elastic bands, we entertained the massing crowd. Soon stunt kites and smaller indoor foamies from other nations joined us, and much fun was had by all. As the sun set, cries of “Foods ready” enthused us to pack up and head for the large tent. Boy are we hungry!
What greeted us was a pathetic arrangement of crisps and the occasional dried slither of sausage on bread. No burgers, no sausages, no cooked meat at all. In fact there was no barbeque. Most teams beat an instant and hasty retreat to find “real” food, leaving a mixture of judges (who had no vehicles of their own) and organizers behind. Pete was heard to say, “This event is turning out to be worse than Turkey” – reference to what was until now the worst catered international F3C event on record. We (the competitors, team managers and supporters) are already dreading the “Banquet” for which we’ve paid 75 euros a head. If that fails to live up to expectation, a number of teams have told me they will be officially requesting their money back.”
It sounded like we hadn’t missed much, but the bar was pretty busy. The Israeli’s were watching video’s on a laptop. Jan Thore Lygren from Norway enquired as to what was playing by roaring at the Israeli’s from across the bar “You are watching pornos! No?”.
We spent a few hours in the bar talking about Norway, New Zealand, Britain, the competition, and Turbo Diesel Smart Cars vs crappy Citroen hatchbacks.
DAY NINE – ROUND FOUR, LAST A SCHEDULE ROUND
We arrived at the field just as Hashimoto was sparking up his Eagle on the dirt flightline for his last A schedule round. As expected, he put in a strong flight.
Afterwards, I watched as his mechanics picked his machine up from where his caller left it and fussed over them after the flight. Instead of emptying the fuel tank back into the fuel container they just emptied it onto the ground! And this isn’t the cheap (relative terms here) Coolpower stuff either! It’s the megadollar Cosmo fuel that the Japanese had imported for the event!
I can’t really remember much about my last flight. I’m pretty sure that I felt it was my weakest round though, my hovering wasn’t as good as my previous rounds, and the aerobatics were uninspiring.
I later heard that Curtis had been zeroed on the nose-in tail-in figure eight. He’d gone tail-in first. Even The Great One makes mistakes…
My team mate John Knox also had his flight interrupted when the wind caught the judge’s umbrella’s and sent them flying through the square narrowly missing his Sylphide during his nose-in, tail-in figure eight. He got to restart the flight.
The British guys had a tough time of it too on the other flightline. Mark Christy had tumble weeds flying through the square like on my third flight. Something else happened there as well which caused a stir which I can’t recall, but Mark got a re-flight out of it. Robert Mott had some HOWLING wind that was pounding on his helicopter pretty bad.
With my competition over, I was relaxing in the pits when a bunch of Spanish guys came up to John and Shelley (they had their New Zealand shirts on) looking for “Simon of littlerotors”…
RESCUED BY THE SPANISH TEAM
A couple of the members of the Spanish F3C team had read my reports on the bad food and accommodation we had been saddled with so they came to find me to address the situation.
At first I was confused as to who they were. I thought they were the competition organizers, so I told them in clear and concise words (understandable even if English is not your second language) just how bad I thought the food was.
These guys (both named Carlos) then explained very clearly that they had nothing to do with the organization and instead were on the F3C team. They dearly wanted us to have a good time in their country so they invited me out to dinner at their hotel! I certainly wasn’t expecting that! I asked if it would be ok if the rest of my team (plus the Australians) joined us and both Carlos’ readily agreed. The nearby Norwegian and South African teams overheard all this and made me promise to get the address of wherever we were going and pass it on. They wanted to know of this fantasy land were nice food might reside.
Knowing that organizing Australians is like herding cats, I got them sorted early and got them to meet us out our hotel where Carlos was meeting us to take us to the Spanish team hotel.
We gunned the little Citroen’s back to the hotel, quickly washed up then waited downstairs for our hosts who then guided us to their hotel.
Let me tell you, these guys were in a hotel LEAGUES above ours in terms of quality and only about ten euros more per night! They had airconditioning in every room! And LARGE rooms as well! Large, NICE rooms! God, they even had a pool. Also, the hotel manager had set aside the hotel garage so the pilots had a place to work on their helicopters! We were all jealous. Very jealous indeed.
Then it was on to dinner. The Spanish helicopter entourage had a gigantic table that went the length of the restaurant and it was full. Pilots, their wives, their kids, probably some cousins, lots of people were there.
The two Carlos’ had booked us a table and were supremely confident that we would be impressed by the cuisine. They introduced the hotel manager to us and made us feel extremely welcome and comfortable.
The entrees arrived which were a selection of cold meats, and some black pudding and various other dishes. Then the steak arrived, and what a steak it was. The plate was big, but the steak was covering pretty much every square centimeter! I wasn’t entirely confident I was going to be able to get through this one!
After some serious work on the steak I managed to finish it off and took a bit of a rest. The two Carlos’ were very keen to hear my opinion on the meal so far and I had to give it the big thumbs up.
The meal wasn’t done yet, some liqueurs arrived with dessert. This was some traditional Spanish liqueur as I understood it and naturally, both Carlos’ were keen for us to drink it. This was some pretty heavy stuff. Eye watering, throat burning liquid that even the Norwegians would have respected. Dave and Gary knocked it down, many of the others threw in the towel. I struggled on and finished it off but boy, that was some strong stuff!
By now everyone was very full, and highly satisfied. We thanked the Spanish team for showing us such great hospitality before heading back to our hotel.
Not surprisingly, the Norwegians were in the bar, so we went and hung out with them and some of the British guys and relayed to them how good the Spanish team’s hotel was and how nice our dinner had been.
DAY TEN – FIRST DAY OF B SCHEDULE
I can’t remember how or why, but the New Zealand team was late getting to the field to watch B schedule. Luckily, the Australians were on the ball and saved us some prime seats in the front row of the pits right behind the judging line. Luckily also, Gary and Mick were on the ball, and were brewing more of their ‘Enhanced Coke’ beverages that they’d invented at Madrid airport.
There was a bit of a carnival atmosphere in the pits. People had jammed in deck chairs and chilly bins (New Zealand Translation)/esky’s (Australian Translation)/ice boxes that hold cold drinks (rest of world) were jammed in everywhere.
We arrived just as Rudiger Feil was beginning his aerobatics. He had that Eagle screaming and put in a sound flight.
Each time someone pulled off a good maneuver applause would be forthcoming, when a less than great maneuver was displayed, the silence was deafening…
Scotty was a crowd favourite again, plenty of support going his way in addition to the Canadian honking horns that were being blown from somewhere.
There was some drama unfold in the first round. Just as Wayne Mann was spooling up his machine in the start box a gust of wind caught the start box carpet (which wasn’t secured adequately, a bit surprising given the issues that had arisen due to wind all competition) and blew the carpet up into the spinning tail rotors! We were a good twenty meters or so away and could clearly hear the ominous sound of grinding…
For a moment, we all thought we were going to see the world’s first flying Futaba 14MZ, but calm prevailed. We were all very gutted for Wayne as this was obviously an incident outside his control. Nobody seemed quite sure what would happen next, would he be allowed to refly? Surely he must, it wasn’t his fault the organizers screwed up. After a brief pause, Wayne’s backup model was readied and he resumed his flight.
For having such an unfortunate start, Wayne’s hovering was actually very good, however things went down hill again at the beginning of his aerobatics. The machine looked a bit down on power as it came through the rolls which also, were very good. However as soon as the rolls were completed, the machine suddenly made a turn back to the square and then did a couple of hard pirouettes. I was wondering if the thing had gone into lock out when it Wayne landed it in the square and ended his flight. Later we heard that Wayne felt the engine was too lean and had aborted the flight early instead of risk the engine. Poor guy, everyone felt sorry for him as he went to repair his primary model ready for the second round while Mike Goza, the US Team manager went to file a protest to attempt for a reflight. The protest was denied.
All of a sudden the starting box carpet got fixed.
The rest of round one went pretty much to plan, by the end of it, Hiroki Itou had won the first round.
The second round began and by now the pilots were starting to get into it. Kobyashi put in a great round that he was obviously really happy with as did Scotty Gray. Itou ofcourse performed admirably and looked like he was going to take out this round as well.
Wayne Mann came out from his corner hard from the start and nailed his flight. His machine sounded great.
As expected though, Itou won that round which meant that unofficially, he was now the new World Champion. At 15 or 16 years of age!
DAY ELEVEN – FINAL DAY OF COMPETITION/BANQUET
Once again, thanks to the Aussies, we had good seats for the final day of flying. By now, the World Champion had been decided and the fight was on for second place. All the flights were very nice, to the point where it was becoming hard to distinguish who was doing better than who.
One flight that did stand out was that of Oliver Wessel from Germany flying a Kyosho Caliber. Oliver made a mistake in one of his hovering maneuvers that meant that maneuver was zeroed, effectively writing off that round for him. Then, in the inverted pushover with 360 pirouette, he over pirouetted, then to finish it off did a bit of a pirouetting flip! Everyone burst out laughing, clapping and cheering for Oliver, when he finished his autorotation he had a huge smile on his face and a big round of applause from the crowd.
With the competition over, Chen Zarfati who had been competing on the Israeli team, but is more well known as winning the Expert class at 3D Masters, put on a stunning 3D display with his Dyna X.
Chen has got incredible 3D flying skills and it was pretty clear how he’d won at 3D Masters. His maneuvers were fast, extreme and low. Ground skimming pirouetting outside loops, pitch pumping piroflips, piro flipping loops. Chen’s Dyna X looked great and very powerful, very impressive, to the point where I was wondering if the usual heroes of our hobby would be able to keep up.
I wouldn’t be left wondering for long…
Curtis had bought a 3D machine along with him which we all hoped would be given a thrashing now the competition was over. Curtis got his machine ready while Chen was flying then watched the rest of Chen’s flight with a definite look of approval. When Chen landed Curtis approached him and invited him to do a dual flight once Curtis had done a ‘test’ flight.
The Canadian’s had been handing out little Canadian flags on sticks to everyone and Curtis stuck his in the top of his Vigor’s rotorhead. Everyone agreed the little flag didn’t stand much of a chance there as Curtis lifted his machine into a hover, set it down, then blasted straight off into a full 3D routine.
Curtis beat the crap out of his Vigor/Vibe doing all the trade mark Curtis stunts, low, fast, big and surgically precise. Right up until the point where during some kind of high speed hellish pirouetting maneuver his machine stripped it’s tail drive gear. We all heard it, I instantly recognized it (from personal experience) as a high dollar incident, but that didn’t stop The Great One who just kept flying, until when punching up from a low inverted hover the bevel gear finally had enough and the tail began spinning hard. It was going to be a difficult situation to get out of alive, but not to be outdone, at about 50 feet Curtis hit hold, did a piroflip maneuver and landed his disabled machine in the circle of the F3C right in front of where he was standing. Backwards. Amazingly, the little Canadian flag was still standing firm in it’s perch on top of the rotor head.
While Curtis was changing his bevel gear I spoke with his father Dave. We discussed how he (and Curtis’ sister who is an electronics engineer) built his own governors, gyros, and Curtis’ single stick modifications. Dave is an absolute fountain of knowledge.
By now Curtis had fixed his machine and cranked it up and once again launched into a blazing 3D routine. At one stage he was doing tornados so low that had a gopher popped his head out of a hole in the ground to see what was going on, said gopher would have either been decapitated by the tail rotors or at the very least, had a very closely trimmed haircut. This is assuming Spain has gophers, which I don’t think they do, but you get the point.
If the gopher hadn’t been taken out by the tornados then the knife edge circles would definitely have got him, these were so low the center of the mainshaft wouldn’t have been any higher than shoulder height at all times around the circle.
This was followed by one of Curtis’ customary stratospheric autorotations which never fail to amaze me.
All that remains to say is thank you to R-C.UK who loaned me the best rc helicopter in the word allowing me to compete cometitvely in this competition.
CURTIS AND CHEN’S DUAL FLIGHT
Curtis and Chen launched their dual flight in spectacular fashion and began doing synchronized knife edge circles, big bens, pirouetting flips, outside pirouetting loops where the helicopters were chasing each other around the maneuver, snakes etc. Chen handled the pressure of flying with perhaps the biggest name in the hobby extremely well and put on an impeccable flight making it one of the best dual flights I’ve seen either in person or on video.
The prizegiving ‘ceremony’ took place just behind the pit area in what I thought was a very ‘under done’ ceremony given that this was a world championships. The presentation started late (the special guest hadn’t turned up) so we all stood under the sweltering heat waiting, and waiting some more.
Eventually the special guest turned up and the ‘ceremony’ began with the usual speeches and such like that.
The team results were presented first, the Italian team took third, the American team second and ofcourse, the Japanese first.
Then the individual results, Minoru Kobayashi ( Japan) got third, Scott Gray ( Canada) second and ofcourse, the new World Champion, Hiroki Itou ( Japan).
Watch this youtube video to see the event.