[Headline: 2014 Nats]
[Working subhead: A ‘family reunion’ with national titles?]
[Author: MA staff]
[Photocredit: Photos by NatsNews contributors.]
[Sidebar: Within text file.]
[Working headline for sidebar: Somewhere along the way …?]
When I met my husband, Melvin, in 1983, little did I know what I was getting myself into. Model airplanes! You mean toys? Well, I had never seen them before, but I am willing to try anything at least once so he introduced me to our local flying site and the members of TopClass. That’s where it all began.
Melvin isn’t like most of the members of the club who fly mainly Stunt. He flies those “other” events. You know, CL Racing and Navy Carrier.
One of our club members, John Holliday, started talking to us about going to the Nats. He told us stories about the previous Nats that he attended with his son and the next thing I knew, it was 1985 and we were on our way to Chicopee, Massachusetts, with John, his wife, and their son, JJ. Melvin, John, and JJ were going to compete and I had been volunteered to be the tabulator at the Navy Carrier event. And so it started.
Arriving on-site that first day to check in was scary. Here we were—two people in a new place with lots of people that we had never met. Some of them were people that Melvin had been reading about in model magazines for years. We walked up to the check-in trailer, affectionately called the Great White Whale, where we met one of the most amazing ladies that you could ever meet—Joyce Hager.
Joyce was in charge of running the Nats from that trailer. She did everything from checking in the competitors, entering new competitors, coordinating information for the event directors, answering questions, responding to requests from the Nats management team, to everything in between—doing all of this and more with a friendly smile on her face.
We were also introduced to the lady who was in charge of making sure that the Control Line portion of the Nats ran smoothly and according to the rulebook. That was none other than Bev Wisniewski. Through Bev we were introduced to her RC counterpart, Betty Stream, and her partner, Al Williamson.
We also met and became friends with so many people that they would be hard to count. We have seen junior competitors grow up to be Open competitors and were fortunate enough to meet competitors from all over the world when the 2004 Control Line World Championships were held in conjunction with the Nats.
Back when the Nats traveled, a group of volunteers was responsible for setting up all of the event sites and making sure that the equipment that was needed to run the events was on the site every morning. This group of individuals was made up of people who traveled from all across the country just to volunteer their time so others could compete. This was a thankless job, and unless there was a reason that you needed them for something, most of the time they operated in the background and you didn’t even know they were there.
The Nats was a traveling event until 1996 when it moved to the AMA’s National Flying Site in Muncie, Indiana.
This year was my 30th year attending the Nats. Although Melvin has continued to compete, I have done everything from tabulating at the Navy Carrier event, to being the event director for it, to volunteering as Bev’s assistant, to being chosen as her replacement on the Nats management team when she retired.
The location of the Nats has changed, and the Great White Whale has been replaced with the AMA Headquarters building, but the reason we go to the Nats every year hasn’t changed. Somewhere along the way, our kids became involved with us. Our son started competing, and our daughter tabulated for Navy Carrier.
They are grown up now and have families of their own. Our oldest granddaughter started going with us in 2012 so she could run Grandpa’s model shop while he competed. When she couldn’t go this year, her Mom and sisters went in her place.
What will next year’s Nats be like? I can honestly say that I don’t know, but I do know that unless something unforeseen happens, Melvin and I will be there. After all, it is the one time of year when our great modeling family gets together in one place at the same time.
Please don’t let anyone tell you that model airplanes are only for boys and men. It is a wonderful family hobby and I have thoroughly enjoyed the last 30 years.
—Brenda L. Schuette
The AMA Nats is much like a big family reunion. There is food, fun, storytelling, a chance to see people you have missed, and a little friendly competition. Unlike a family reunion, there are 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 that are competing. They’re your sisters and brothers. It’s like a big social party once a year,” said Wayne Yeager, who has helped run the Nats for 30 years.
Those relationships are what Phil Sullivan said have been the best aspect of being the FF manager. 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,” said Chris Montagino, a CL Speed competitor. “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 competitors’ lives for as long as they can remember. Carl Dodge, who competed in CL Speed this year, said he attended his first Nats in 1956. Carl 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 Scale and CL Navy Carrier competitor and NatsNews reporter, said. “What brings me back each year is the camaraderie.”
Melvin Schuette, who competes in and serves as CD for CL Racing, said he 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 of them since then.”
Also competing in the 2014 CL Nats was Chris Rud. The CL Stunt flier represented the US as the Junior member of the 2006 FAI F2B Team, but then disappeared from the radar. He returned this year after graduating from college, getting married, and starting a family, to dominate the Expert class.
Before the Nats was moved to the International Aeromodeling Center (IAC), in Muncie, Indiana, in 1996, it was held at naval bases across the country and was called the Navy Nats. Some who still compete in the Nats remember participating in the event when it the Navy Nats. 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 July 7 to August 7, in Muncie.
Participation in some events was up, but down in others. Phil Sullivan said there were seven more competitors in Outdoor FF this year than last year, but roughly half as many competitors in Indoor FF as in 2013. He said the drop in participation in Indoor FF could be attributed to the fact that the event was moved this year from Champaign, Illinois, to Moscow. He said Moscow was a somewhat remote location.
Outdoor FF typically has the largest number of participants. This year, there were 199 Outdoor FF competitors. Second-largest was CL with 168 registered to participate in events that included CL Speed, CL Scale, CL Navy Carrier, CL Stunt, CL Racing, and CL Combat.
James VanSant, a CL Speed pilot who has attended the Nats since 2000, said he noticed this year that the atmosphere at the annual event has shifted. He said it is becoming more relaxed. Although the Nats has always been about competing, “I think it’s more friendly competitive. People have been helping each other [more],” he stated. James witnessed this first-hand this year when those whom he was competing against volunteered to help start his aircraft while his father launched them.
Soaring competitor Skye Malcolm, who served as the CD of the F3H Cross Country Soaring event, said he also noticed that competitors worked together this year. Event participants had to contend with cloudy and windy conditions that resulted in short flight times. “There was a nice feeling of community—everybody conspiring together against the weather.”
The weather was a factor for many of the Outdoor Nats events. Those accustomed to Muncie’s typical hot and humid weather during the Nats were surprised by the cool temperatures and scrambled to local clothing stores to purchase coats and pants. Some days, the wind speeds were perfect for flying, and on others, they were strong enough to carry aircraft away for miles.
“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 few 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 said about this year.
“It’s something you can’t control but something you have to deal with,” Phil said about the weather. “Once since I’ve been here I think that 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,” said 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 (Pattern) Nats for NatsNews. In 2011, Jim also reported on the FAI F3A World Championships held at the IAC. During that event, “I just can’t tell you how many comments I got from pilots from around the world about how great the site is,” he said. “It’s pretty conveniently located. You owe it to yourself as an AMA member” to visit the facility.
RC Pylon competitor 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 resident staff really cares that we have the best experience possible.”
Wayne said those who don’t attend the Nats don’t know what they’re missing. “The thing that people don’t realize that don’t come to our Nats 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.
“The guys that 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 said.
“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 across 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 competes in the Scale and RC Aerobatics Nats, plans his vacation around the event each year “not only to compete, but to renew old acquaintances and make new friends,” he said.
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, said he’s made friendships through the Nats that have lasted more than 20 years. “I’ve had dinner with them, shared joys and not-so-joys with many of them,” he said.
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 Stunt flier, designer, event director, longtime NatsNews reporter, Beginner event director, and AMA Model Aviation Hall of Fame member passed away in late 2013. To honor him, CL Stunt 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.
Allen was a good friend to many Nats competitors and loved to fly.
“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 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.”
“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 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 said.
David said many of the Junior FF competitors “flew like adults. It was great watching those kids beat their fathers and grandfathers in the same event,” he said with a laugh.
It clearly also was a good Nats for young competitors in other events, such as Samantha “Sam” Hines. She walked away with the Junior crown in CL Stunt and stole the thunder from the top five adult competitors 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!”
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,” said competitor Mark Lanterman.
Steve Baker, an RC Pylon competitor, 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 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 listed below.[dingbat]