Bordertown 2006: Year of the Snake
It might be risky to do comparisons between Lamaroo and Bordertown, in 2006. So I won't. However our visit to Bordertown did have its own peculiar ambience. It was also not as far as Lamaroo! At Bordertown, you fly out on a real airfield - CASA charges our SSA a hefty amount for the couple of days that the field is closed to full sized aircraft. Accommodation is in the sprawling building of the Bordertown Gliding Club, with trophies, photos, kitchen, chinwag area, shade trees, patio, BBQ, dorms, all just a stone's throw from where you fly off into the blue. Er, the very blue.
Col' Colyer and I arrived at about lunch-time on Friday after a pleasant trip exchanging yarns and ideas. We soon found that it was windy. Very windy. Other people are already settling in. Seeing there's no flying because of all the wind, we fall back into the discussion and explore modes, and wander around investigating the field, the people, the models - and the 1:1 scale gliders. Talk about leviathans! Three hangers of them. Compared to our models, real gliders are big and heavy and it really was a bit of a wake-up call. No wonder our small little craft can disappear off the top of a thermal!
Murray's Grob was on display at Lamaroo, but was incomplete. He had made good progress with the model after Lameroo and I found him at his camp-site conducting final preparations for a maiden flight. That is, if he could muster sufficient courage and get the radio transmitter thingy to behave at the same time. Col Colyer had finished his new Fox, and was looking forward to giving it a go. Colin assembled the Fox out of the wind behind the clubhouse. We were impressed. The blue on the model matched Colin's trailer logo. A nice touch. People were arriving all the time. Numbers grew. We waited pensively for Saturday, wondering what was in store for us. More wind?
We talked the afternoon away. It blew until the sun was low on the horizon. All Friday, Chris Carpenter waited patiently for a fly of his Discus 2B. It was not until dusk, at about 5:30 (AEST) when he got hauled up behind Paul Clift's blue tug and had a go in the much calmer air that is usually around late in the day. A couple of very pleasant flights were had too. What a lovely aeroplane. It flies very well and the wings flex just a nice amount, and are very thin.
I wake-up on Saturday morning. No wind to be heard, well, not much anyway. During the early part of Saturday the indeterminate breeze had us waltzing around the aerodrome like a bunch of nomads looking for a place to pitch camp. Eventually we stopped. We were sort of in the middle - and took off from there for the rest of the day. You see, once the day woke up the wind direction depended on the thermal activity in the vicinity. It was changing all the time. More than a few take-offs and landings were with a tail-breeze. With winches it would have been a very frustrating day. However we were aerotowing, and took it all in our stride.
The game commenced. Once things got under-way we played glider airport to our little hearts' content. Gee, did we do some flying. Every launch after 0930 or so, had a better than even chance of striking a thermal. The tugs were great. There were, I think, five of them. And they all did a great job. However special mention should go to Paul Clift who would always conclude the launch with the eager glider guider at the top of a lofty launch with a jovial "Have a nice flight!" - with efficiency second to none. Paul flies the blue tug, recently returned from a major disaster - which is now actually yellow(!). What a good colour for aviation.
One of the more eventful flights of the day was when Murray Will's Grob was let loose. The maiden flight was full of excitement. There were more functions than control sticks and the notion of sharing throttle and spoilers on the one stick, depending whether the motor was on or off, proved to make more sense in theory than practice. And the plane arced up and down over the sky as all the variables combined into a somewhat mind-numbing exercise of radio just in control. Chris Carpenter (chief test pilot) was still recovering an hour or so later. Murray flew it for a couple of minutes - and gave it a jolly good talking to after the flight. However, apart from the dysfunctional exhaust silencer (loud!) and what sounded like excessive rpm, everything went reasonably well. I think the radio system was reconfigured somewhat for the second flight, which went a lot better. But that's another story.
Now that the meteorological concerns of the day seemed to have been resolved, planes started being deposited on the airfield. Lots of planes. Everyone's hopes were set on having a good day. You've got to make hay while the sun shines; or is that when the wind doesn't blow? Lots of great models were appearing. Others were busy almost disappearing in the direction of up: thermals aplenty.
It was Colin's turn to have his maiden flight. A John Copeland Fox, resplendent in basic white with blue trim. The aircraft was equipped with cockpit, pilot, passenger, panel, attitude indicators, the works. Colin spent a bit of time waiting for a tow. Col' wanted a fast tow. You are allowed to be choosy on a maiden flight, especially with a Fox. Colin was hedging his bets - assuming for the time being that the tug should be no slouch. Paul's blue tug was the one that Col' was waiting for. And he waited. Colin is patient, but he had a new plane that he was eager to fly: and Paul kept Colin (unintentionally) on tenterhooks for at least half an hour. I thought Colin might explode. But no, Colin can be patient. Boy was he patient. Things started to drift in favour of Colin, and I was determined to try and get some maiden flight photos.
The camera I have has a healthy reach. So I don't need to be really close. I make my way over to the hangers so that the plane will be in the air, if all goes well, as it flies past me about 30 metres away. I'm almost at the hangers and Danny Malcmon exclaims something to do with a snake. And there it was. Stationary. Head held high, about 6 inches off the ground. (Well: tall for a snake!) Length, around 1.8m. Snake was still: hadn't met Danny before. Wasn't sure if he should proceed. Danny was however in no doubt about proceeding, and left me to it. You guessed it: snake was around about the spot I wanted to be to take my photo. Hello snake, move over. Snake comes toward me - I say my good-byes too.
The snake was brown. So I guess it wasn't a black snake. He seemed to have satisfied himself that today was a day for very small planes. Remember the ones in the hangers? After I backed away a few metres he lost interest in me and rather sedately made off in the general direction of the runway - at about 90 degrees to the rays of the sun. In retrospect I think the sun determined his course: the warmest path. So off he went. It, or is it he, was lucky the pits were not in his path. I'm sure he would have gone straight through and been enthralled by all the little aircraft. But no, his course saw him about 40 metres to the south of everything. And he disappeared into the stunted crop just off the airfield. We all got back to the business of flying. I've been on model flying fields for years and had never seen a live snake before. Very interesting. His skin glistened in the sun.
So I resumed my position to get that shot of Collin's FOX thinking, I'd better keep my eyes open around here. No telling what you may bump into, or tread on. The maiden flight went well, I got my photos, and I think Colin was very pleased. And so he should have been. He won the "modern scale" class. There were at least two other maiden flights that day. Martin Simons had his two Weihe 50s to fly. And they went very well, more or less! A few teething problems were apparent, especially with D-7080, but it was obvious that, as far as flying was concerned, they could deliver. Very pretty in the air, and obviously very light too. Well done Martin!
I'm not normally a trouble maker. Those interested in entering the "low key", "easy does it", "not for sheep-stations" scale comp collected their entry forms for the scale judges to collect and grade various aspects of the model in question. From my point of view there was a column missing. The one that ensured that the judges discriminated as to the pedigree of the model. The highest score in the category that was missing would be "scratch built, own design". The lowest rank would be "ARF". My poor old Schweizer 1-26B looked doomed, as did Colin's Golden Eagle and other hand built models scattered around the field.
I had a bit of a moan to Michael Lui. He had decided not even to enter. He put a lot of work into his model, a 1/4 scale Bergfalke, and looked like getting no credit for it. That galvanized me into action, and I had a quiet word with someone. After that, I think the message got to the judges. Things improved so much that I even managed to talk Michael into entering the competition. Way to go.
The day progressed, and only got better. We all concluded that 100% should be awarded to whomever was responsible. Unfortunately, unlike Lamaroo, there was a smattering of disasters. Theo's beautiful little Schempp-Hirth Minimoa apparently had a violent manouevre thrust upon it on tow and broke a wing off. Way up there. Long way down. I helped Theo retrieve the pieces and told him about the snake to cheer him up - as we were now in the paddock into which the snake escaped.
The non-event of the day though goes to Gary Mac. Towards the end of the day he got out his little Schweizer and sent it off behind a tug. Or tried to! I was out on the field at the time between the second flight of Murray's Grob and the first flight for the weekend of the Stemme 10. I saw Gary's Schweizer coming along behind the tug. What a spectacular series of gyrations, whilst still on tow. Every time the viewfinder of the camera lit back up after a photo, I expected to see the model splintered on the ground. I took four photos and present 2 of them here. You should get the idea. The last photo was after release and after the subsequent impact. I have not shown the results here - it was all too terrible. A Schweizer no less. That's aeromodelling! It wasn't until much later I found out that there was no damage to the little plane.
Things went a lot better for the next flight of the Grob. This time they used the runway. The real black one. We paid for it, so using it was a good move. Here's the proof. I know they are a long way away, but I didn't want to wear the Grob: it weighs 20kg+. This time the Grob leapt into the air and flew around like a regular aeroplane. Smiles all round after landing too. Unknown to me however was the motor's severe overheating problem, because when the engine cowl was attached there weren't enough vents for the heat to escape. However it flew really well. Congrats Murray. John Copeland's Stemme 10 was next. A wonderful model and a couple of nice fly-bys to boot. Just great.
During the day there were many happy campers. I had the pleasure of announcing a landing and then flying for another 10 or 15 minutes, catching a thermal at the threshold. Gary Mac had a thermal flight of almost half an hour-in complete control. Col' was busy doing aerobatics and 100mph landings settling in with his Fox. He also had a few pleasant outings with the perennial Golden Eagle. We all had a great time - with only some exceptions. Danny Malcmon was in the thick of it having a good time. Wayne Jones turned up with three models, but unfortunately went away with about one and a half. Geoff Moore had a couple of flies, and probably wished his new big tug was ready for service. Henryk had his really good-looking ASW27B. It sure was an eyeful in day-glow orange trim. Theo's Discuss was not damaged, much to his relief! Anthony's Lunak had an innovative radio installation with everything mounted on a circuit board that reticulated all the various power and signals to the correct locations. Very interesting and worth a look.
The day was drawing to a close. So much fun: such little time. This photo sums it up. So most of us had a great time and stuck at it until the sun sank somewhere off in the approximate direction of Adelaide. Oh well.
Competition results? VARMS did OK as you can see. But I bet the South Aussies come back fighting! There were two categories, Modern and Vintage. Have a look!
1st. Collin Collier and his Fox
2nd. Chris Carpenter and his Schempp-Hirth Discus 2B
3rd. Henryk Kobylanski and his ASW27B
1st. Michael Lui and his Bergfalke
2nd. Tim Morland (me!) and his Schweizer 1-26B
3rd. Colin Collier and his Golden Eagle.
A special trophy was also awarded to a tug pilot and his plane: Greg Potter and his lovely 1/3 scale Fly-Baby.