The following is reprinted with permission from the author...
On Oct 22nd I flew down to Vegas to attend the 1997 Radio
Control models Tournament of Champions and also do to some full
scale aerobatics (if you can call what I do aerobatics). I am
posting this to both the full scale aerobatics news group and the
model air newsgroup because it may be of interest to both groups.
Certainly anybody doing full scale aerobatics should go look at
what the best models do and a serious model acro flier should go
do a few hours full scale acro. The models flown in this contest
are not far off 1/2 scale and the prize money (180,000 US with
$40,000 to first place) is the largest purse for aerobatics any-
where in North America, full scale or models, or so I'm told.
By the way, since I was trying to watch and take notes at the
same time there will be mistakes on who did what etc. I really do
apologize for any errors, this is just supposed to be a quick one
guys opinion/review. Also I do make a few criticisms in this post
and they are only meant to help give my opinion. I can't fly
1/100th of the stuff these guys do but I can appreciate what they
do so please read it in the spirit it was intended. I'm also
concentrating on the free style stuff because its what I like best
and also because I missed some of the known program while trying
to do rotten immelmans and 1/2 reverse cuban 8's in a Zlin 242
over the desert of North Las Vegas. Here goes...
This years TOC first place went to Quique Somenzini for a prize
of $40,000 US dollars! What does it take to win at TOC? Balls!
The free style routine of Quique were very very ballsy with snaps
and hovers at inches from the ground. His routine started to Blue
Danube with a beautiful climb out and a lovely knife edge spin
timed to the music down to 10 or so feet. While Quique did some
very dangerous stuff in his free style which the crowd absolutely
went mad for (especially his compatriots :) the best part of his
routine for me was not the danger, instead it was one superbly
executed vertical rolling loop with 4 rolls in opposite directions
in each quadrant synchronized with the music. Incredible.
He also performed one of the best 1 roll rolling circles at about
5 feet above the bush tops with no discernible hesitation any-
where along the way. A sequence of snaps from knife edge to knife
edge flown at basically 0 feet had the crowd on their feet yel-
ling and cheering. Most folks this year were doing the 3d stuff
including loops around the cg of the plane both forward and back-
ward at 5-10 feet of altitude. Personally I'm not a big fan of
this stuff because it looks too much like a fun fly plane but I
guess when well placed in the routine it has its place.
Second place of $24,000 US dollars went to Chris Paysant Le Roux
of France. I must say that I think Chris gave a better performance
than Quique (heresy I'm sure). Chris' performance was less
pure danger and lots more of what I like. Superbly executed
maneuvers wonderfully synchronized with the music. The parachute
orange smoke bombs on the wing tips set off one superbly executed
rolling loop (1 roll I think) from deck height to deck height.
What really set Chris apart was the synchronization to the music.
He was flying to I believe big band music and had many snaps and
starts and stops of rolls well timed to the beat of the music.
Anyway, the rest of the guys were all good but Chris and
Quique were really the best. The other guys all had parts of
their routines which were excellent. You can get the exact stand-
ings of the rest of the pack from other sources. Here are some of
the highlights I recorded:
Todd Blose during his free style executed a lovely torque roll
which he then slowly led into a rolling circle. The transition
between the two was wonderfully executed. A similar maneuver
only in reverse (rolling circle ending in a torque roll stage
center) was superbly performed by Frazer Briggs despite at the
time 30+ mph cross winds.
Frank Knolls performed a beautiful rolling immelman timed to
California Girls. At the top of the immelman he transitioned it
superbly into an inverted flat spin. Really, really pretty. Another
very pretty maneuver performed by Frank was a flat inverted
turn flown very, very low.
Mike McConville, in very, very windy conditions did some of the
best 3d stuff of the show. End over end tumbles galore, with ex-
its and entries very well controlled. He also did in his final
free style a portion of his routine with the transmitter behind
his back .. WOW. Mike is a superb flyer, but some of the others
had better choreography which really makes up a large part of the
show. Next year Mike how about some really great dance music! Oh,
Mike did some of the fastest rolling circles and one very fast
rolling immelman I believe. We are talking near full aileron deflection
rolls here! Again, superb control but it did not go with
the music ... come to think of it I can't think of any music that
would go with stuff that rapid .. Saber Dance perhaps? Awesome to
watch none the less.
Saun McMurty did a superb and I do mean superb knife edge loop
and his free style was flown to Blue Danube (as were 3 or so others).
Jason Shulman flew to what sounded like Japanese music and his
flight was graceful and smooth and matched the tempo of the music
wonderfully. His smoke system unfortunately did not put out very
well (he was not alone, 3 or so others had poor smoke which real-
ly hurt their performances). Jason drew great applause with a
lovely center stage torque roll transitioning to a knife edge fly
away. Very neat and very smooth.
Kurk Grey, started his free style to Chariots of fire and
matched the music with smooth slow and deliberate flying. He
timed an entry to an inverted flat spin to the music exceptional-
ly well. Nose over 3d tumbles well timed to the "clashes" in the
Pink Panther theme were very entertaining to watch in the second
half of his free style.
Roland Matt, after a wonderful free style performance which
included a rolling circle with timed hesitation in the rolls
synchronized with beats in the music (don't remember what music),
performed a rolling break style approach with the last roll end-
ing just a few feet before touch down, awesome especially since
its not even scored! Actually several flyers did rather daring
takeoffs cross runway rolling or snapping just after takeoff. The
scoring did not start for most on the takeoff so it was pure
Bill Cunningham's free style was smooth and pattern like.
Including a beautifully executed diamond loop. Unfortunately he
suffered what appeared to be radio problems on short final after
his second free style. The plane ballooned up 30 feet then
stalled and dived into the bush. This is very unfortunate because
if I remember a discussion I had with Bill prior to the freestyle
he had dual receivers/packs isolators etc. How much more can a
guy do to avoid these problems. Actually I keep wondering when
somebody will show up with a pair of cell phones as a
transmitter/receiver. Its going to happen sooner or later and
you'd get telemetry too. If anybody needs that kind of reliability
its the top end scale and aerobatic models these guys build.
Speaking of crashes, Bills was the second crash of the event, the
first being the total destruction of a turbine powered jet which
crashed after making a 200MPH pass. It was turning back to the
field and my "unofficial" guess was pilot disorientation because
it was almost impossible to see at the distance it was at, its
height and the sun. I did not talk to the pilot after the crash
so its pure guess on my part. It could easily have been radio or
mechanical problems too. The jets were awesome however and put
on a great team show. This is the first time I've seen model turbines
fly and to say I was impressed would be a major understatement ...
I want ONE. One guy did one hell of a 4 point roll down
the runway at about 20 feet or so. Reminded me of the snowbirds,
quiet and smooth.
Chris Lakin (the only one flying a Sukhoi, YEAH I love
Sukhois, everybody else was flying Extras or Giles) had gone to a
lot of trouble for his music, a custom made dance song, "... gonna
go to the TOC with Chris & Dianna...", lots of fun. I hope
Chris keeps working on the big Su26 because we need the variety.
Chris did not put much in the way of 3d in his routine but his
knife edge spins on a 45 down line left lovely knots of smoke in
the sky. Chris also hurt his chances when the 30+MPH winds blew
one of his flat spins a bit close to the crowd. He was not alone
and Ivan Kristensen had a similar problem. (You should see
several thousand people all duck simultaneously :), that's right
several thousand spectators for the free style. The stands were
Speaking of Ivan Kristensen, he like Chris had gone to a lot
of trouble for the sound accompanying his free style. Beginning
with a tower to plane conversation where the plane's call sign
ended with "India Kilo", Ivan also used Star Wars, some classical
piano music and poetry to fly some very pretty and graceful
maneuvers. A lovely one roll rolling circle and a super sequence
of fast descending rolls were for me the highlights of his performance.
Hatta Hajime (Japan) flew a nice free style to the sounds of
80's rock and roll (theme from back to the Future). And I really
liked his synchronization to the music. He did some very nice 45
degree knife edge spins but like many of the others there was
little perceived risk and little or no 3d type stuff. Like it or
not the risk and 3d are here to stay at least in the free style.
Unfortunately for Hatta, the first known routine was a real bitch
including a 3 opposite direction roll rolling circle followed by
a 1 and a half snap into a 2 roll opposite roll rolling 180 and
then another 3 opposite roll rolling 360. Hatta like a few others
had trouble with this but restarted it and flew it well the
second time ... hell most of us can't even describe it let alone
One flyer, again I'm sorry I was too busy watching to write
down the name, flew a lovely 4 roll rolling circle where the roll
rate varied with the tempo of the music. Very, very hard to do and
my description does not do it justice.
There was also a take-off sequence done to the Jame's Bond
gold finger theme. I'm sorry I don't recall who flew it but what
a great combination! Slow rolls out from take-off, reminded me of
that great opening sequence with the jet powered BD-5J in one of
the bond movies, very nifty.
There were no less than 3 dead stick landings. I think most
everybody was running a 3w-120 on gas but there was an A-cubed
and a few other big twins. Most ran superbly. The North Americans
were the noisiest and the Matts from Litchenstein had super
Wayne Handley and his full scale Raven put on a great show
despite very very high winds which cancelled the model flying one
afternoon. Lumchevachs and other various tumbles with awesome
smoke made for great noon time shows and I hope they keep up the
idea of inviting full scale aerobatic pilots to TOC. It was also
fun to listen to Wayne and the TOC commentator talking during the
routine and the wise cracks about chiropractors etc drew some
laughs from the crowd. At one point Wayne was taking requests. I
heard some wise guy yell for 3 forward 3d tumbles ... but you
wait, give the full scale guys a few more years and they will be
doing it too.
There were also two fantastic demos put on by a heli pilot.
Sorry don't remember the name. If I had not seen it I would not
have believed it possible. Take-off to inverted hover at an inch
off the mast and I DO mean an inch. Reverse rolling circle,
reverse high speed rolling flight, straight as an arrow. The show
stopper however was a zoom climb to 500 or so feet, flip to
inverted power off and an inverted auto rotation down to 10 feet,
roll upright and finish the autorotation landing at the pilots
Anyway, guess we all have a lot of work cut out for us if we hope
to get anywhere close to this kind of skill level. So I'm powering
up the simulator and by next March I hope to be able to fly the
first couple of seconds of the known!
Anyway for now its back to snow and ice. After spending 4 days
driving around Vegas in a rag top (I got upgraded, dang it!) I
arrived back just in time for a major snow storm a major flu virus
and major work.
Thanks to all the folks who put on the show including the folks
at the Sahara. I'll definitely be going back next year.