August 1973 (the 18th), I was just turning 13 years old and could
only dream of owning an R/C airplane, much less an R/C helicopter.
It was still a time when very few people possessed the skill or
money to become proficient enough at flying helis to consider competing
in a contest. There were no programmable radios, and the metal-to-metal
contact of gears and mechanical connections wreaked havoc on the
72 MHz receivers. Gyros were of the Hiller mechanical type; piezoelectric
versions that integrated with the tail rotor servo were yet to be
invented. Many of the models that appeared at the 1973 Helicopter
Nationals were either entirely home built, or modified from a standard
kit. Having struggled with a
helicopter myself in the late 1970s, I can attest to the difficulty
posed by trying to keep the tail under control when engine speed
changed, which was constantly since fixed pitch was the rule of
the day. Thank goodness for modern inventions that allow just about
anyone to successfully an R/C helicopter!
RC Helicopter Nats
Photos by John Burkam and Gene Rock
Static Judging, Gene Rock's original design scale Boelkow BO 105,
(TOP) was easily the winner. Note the cockpit is entirely free of
mechanical components. It has collective pitch and is a real performer,
too. Second place went to Dario Brisighella's smart Kavan kit Bell
Jet Ranger (left). It Is also a fine performer and shows Dario's
More than 20 modelers competed in
the five events with a good variety of designs. Flying was excellent
in spite of very windy conditions. / by Gene Rock
Annual RC Model Helicopter Nationals were held at Fond du Lac (Wisconsin)
Airport on August 9 and 10. Fond du Lac proved to be an excellent
site. It was only 15 minutes from Oshkosh, where the Model Airplane
Nationals were being held, it was easily accessible, it had good
motel accommodations, and the wind was from across the field. In
fact, the weather, quite similar to last year's, was warm, sunny
Originally the contest was to be a set of precision
maneuvers but, due to a lack of qualified judges, it was changed
to a race against the clock in four events. The first was a ten-ft.
constant heading square with a landing at each corner. The second
was a cargo pickup in which each contestant was to pick up a hoop
and carry it to a landing pad 30 ft. away. Third was a Figure Eight
around two pylons 50 ft. apart crosswind. Fourth, was Solo Pylon
Racing with two pylons 100 ft. apart placed with the wind and one
pylon crosswind on the left. A fifth flying event (not against the
clock) was Expert's Choice with each pilot listing his maneuvers
and performing them in sequence. All events had a five-min. time
Walt Schoonard's big, attractive Cobra which placed third in
Scale, has one of the nicest civilian color schemes seen on
Along with his fabulous scale model, Gene Rock brought along
his SSP·S to fly in some of the Maneuvering events.
Al Doucette's magnificent CH-21C Tandem. The model works, has
a Wankle engine and all control systems are scale, but even
after five years of work, the radio is not yet installed. He
plans to learn to fly choppers with a kit before trying his
Dave Youngblood's original design model is an exceptionally
easy to fly model even in strong winds.
Fay Peoples' much modified 2B placed first in the Non-scale
Steve Darlington's Kalt' Huey Cobra with the rigid head flew
smoothly for him even in the strong winds.
Close-up of Schoonard's Cobra. Imagine operating one of these
for civilian use without armament, heavy protective skins, etc.
Tom Herr, youngest contestant, displayed respect for his model
and good sportsmanship by not flying in events in which he felt
he was not competitive. We all thought he flew quite well in
Hughes 300 by Du-Bro (one of many Du-Bro versions) in the Figure
Twenty-one pilots turned out to pit their models against the hazardous
first four events. This flying tends to eliminate models and/or
pilots when a wind of 15 mph or greater is blowing. Toward the end
of the second day, the field of models thinned considerably. Luckily,
there were no crashes that proved fatal to any models involved.
The first event, constant heading square, was very heated.
Everyone was fresh; eight of the entries were under 30 sec. Ernie
Huber's Schuco-Heqi Huey Cobra came out on top with an amazing time
of 19.7 sec. Bob Bentley flying a Du-Bro Hughes 300 came in second
with 23.5 sec. and Dave Keats' Hughes 300 was awarded third place
with 24.1 sec. When any part of the landing gear was on the pad,
time was called provided the model stayed there. This was the easiest
and the least frustrating event, though the wind gave some models
problems. In this first event, it became evident that the Hughes
300 in its scale configuration has a tail wagging problem. The reason
for this is the very small scale sub rudder. Though this can be
a problem for the beginner, it can be resolved by substituting a
rudder of approximately three times the area.
In the next
event, four hoops were placed downwind from the landing pad. The
pilot was to pick up one hoop and carry it to the pad. If one was
knocked down, he proceeded to the next; if all four were knocked
down, the pilot would land while the judges set the hoops up again.
I know one pilot who took the whole five min., knocked down at least
16 hoops and did not score! I won't mention my name.
Brisighella with a Kavan Jet Ranger would have turned in good times
if his model had not slid out of the landing pad for both attempts.
A high speed rigid or spring-loaded rotor seems almost a must for
this event. Faye Peoples stuck his great big training nose-wheel
through the hoop like spearing a fish and carried it to the landing
pad in 13 sec. - Fay's third highly modified 2B flew as well as
Young AAM editor Ed Sweeney put on a set of old
blades he knew worked, fired up his internal 19-powered converted
Du-Bro 505, took off and practically flew through the hook and carried
it to the Landing pad in 14 sec. I think if he had just missed the
hoop, it would have bounced to the pad. Ron Wiensch took third with
a Du-Bro Hughes 300 in 17.5 sec.
The Figure Eight course
was the first event of the second day. The number of scoring entries
was down to 12. The pilots soon found more models wandering around
with almost a couple of flyaways, and one near fatal crash into
a movie camera tripod. Ernie Huber's first round 9f 25 sec. was
good enough to win, but his second round of 21.2 made him unbeatable.
Dave Gray, flying a Hughes 300, came in second with 27 sec. Gene
Rock's SSP-5 came in third with 28.4 sec.
The last event
against the clock was the most spectacular. The Solo Pylon race
had seven scoring entries. Although the average speed for the course
was 20 mph, speeds of 50 mph were obtained with a 20 mph tail wind,
that would have added up to a 70 mph on the downwind leg. The pylons
being so close together meant that the downwind leg was a constant
left turn command and therefore not much faster than the upwind
one, At least two models hit the deck on the upwind leg, bounced
back up and continued to fly. The upwind leg seemed to be a severe
dive for most models except the Huey Cobras. Ernie Huber again came
out on top with 37.6 sec. Dave Keats at 39.2 sec. won the second
spot and third was Bob Bentley with 40.2. The Huey Cobra seems to
be a faster model than the Hughes 300, but the pylons being so close
did not prove it. Most of the times in this event were very close
and those over one min. usually meant that a pylon was cut.
The last event was Expert's Choice with the pilots required
to list their maneuvers. There was no limit on the number of maneuvers
to be done in a five-min. time limit.
Ernie Huber could
do no wrong. He hovered into the wind and then to the left and right
followed by S turns into the wind and then a spot landing. He then
proceeded to drag his skids on takeoff, followed by crosswind high
speed pass with a hammerhead turn. He also did a beautiful left
slide along with a vertical climb to 50 ft. and then a vertical
descent to a spot landing. During the contest it was found out that
Ernie removed 10 sq. in. from the Huey Cobra's rudder which enabled
him to hover gracefully in a crosswind. Ernie used an as 60 and
Dave Youngblood took second place with
an excellent flying scratch-built. His model seemed to hover effortlessly
in the strong wind. His square with constant heading and his stall
turn netted his highest scores in this event. Gene Rock took third
still flying the S.S.P.-5 with a tail rotor gyro. The gyro slowed
down his pinwheel and stall turn. The gyro has since been corrected
to incorporate higher yaw rates.
All models entered at the
NATS were eligible for static judging in Scale or Non-scale provided
they could fly for at least 15 sec. According to the rules, no modeler
could win or place in both Scale or Non-scale.
In the Non-scale
event, Faye People's scratch-built No. 3 highly modified 2B took
first place. The model is two-stage belt driven with a clutch on
the intermediate shaft. The tail rotor is driven by a flexible cable
inside an aluminum tube. The heat sink on the engine was spring-coiled
around the head just above the exhaust. Very ingenious! The fan
was simply a two-bladed prop made from sheet aluminum. Every part
had a satin finish including a swirl finish on his sheet aluminum.
The model is powered by a ST 56, and it has a 54-in. dia. rotor,
using Kraft six-channel single stick.
Second place went
to Dave Youngblood. His model seems to be a cross between a 2B a
SSP. The model is powered by a 60 with a 65-in. dia. rotor using
Kraft equipment. Dave's model flew extremely well; the training
landing gear giving him a low center of drag seems to be its only
Dave Keats' converted Du-Bro 505 won third place.
The 25 internal engine powered Whirlybird flew all over the sky
with graceful Figure Eights and high speed passes, yet it hardly
took more room than a backyard to maneuver.
in Scale went to Gene Rock's Boeing Boelkow BO-105. The model is
powered by a Webra 60 turning a 4 1/2 ft. dia. with the tail rotor
turning 6900 rpm. Collective pitch is coupled to the tail rotor
and is achieved by moving the Hiller gyro bar vertically. The fuselage
is fully monocoque with no bulkheads or stringers. The drive system
and servos do not interfere with the scale cockpit area. The cockpit
includes a scale pilot, a carpeted floor and wood grained back seat.
The radio equipment is Pro-Line and the finish is six-tone HobbyPoxy.
Because neither this model nor Dave Keats' converted 505 were entered
in the flying events, they flew the 15 sec. minimum flying rule
to quality in static judging. Second place went to Dario Brisighella's
beautiful Kavan Jet Ranger. Dario is so meticulous to scale that
his engine was primed through the chrome turbine exhaust pipes.
His power was a Webra 60 complete with working navigational lights
and a blinking light for fuel level. The handling characteristics
of the model were very scale-like, especially the jump takeoffs
and precise altitude control. During the contest, it was learned
that offsetting the rudder so that it unloads the tail rotor in
forward flight (left turn) would help solve the right high speed
turn problem of the model. Having only flown this model for two
hours previous to the contest prevented Dario from putting his model
through its paces.
Third place was awarded to Walt Schoonard
flying a civilian version of the Schuco-Hegi Huey Cobra. The model
was powered by a Veco 61 using a Kavan carburetor. The model sported
a four-tone color scheme including instruments on the control console.
Walt's faulty equipment was overcome by his sheer nerve. Honorable
mention goes to Al Doucette of Texas. His model is the CH-21C tandem
rotor. This model was constructed with such careful attention to
detail that it could not be distinguished from the full-scale bird
except for the size. Everything on the model is scale including
swashplate, pitch links, hubs, etc. Al has spent ten years on and
off to get his model to this stage of completion. The model has
been tested with a Wankel engine and is waiting for the radio installation.
The 15-sec. time rule prevented Al from taking first place.
Naturally, the Grand Champion award went to Ernie Huber who
had first in the Constant Heading, Figure Eight, Solo Pylon, and
Expert's Choice events. The grand championship award is an accumulation
of all events. Flying skill awards were based on just the flying:
Ernie Huber was awarded first; Faye Peoples, second; and Gene Rock,
Dave Keats brought four models to the NATS. Two which
were not mentioned or entered were the RCH Jet Ranger and a Du-Bro
505. Dave is the third or fourth owner of the Jet Ranger and has
highly modified it to get it back into flying form. Some of the
modifications were a new hub, reworked drive for the swashplate
and tail rotor slider. The gears in the transmission were also repatterned.
After all this, the model flew relatively well, but was somewhat
heavy. His Du-Bro 505 was not flown.
Everson displayed his new trainer powered by a Ross twin. Of all
the scratch-built, non-scale, aluminum bodied helicopters that have
shown up over the last couple of years, this one has probably the
most pleasing lines. Harold and his son also displayed their blinking
light fuel level system. The light continues to blink until the
fuel is low or there is a power failure. He also displayed rod ends
that far surpass the quality of any other available on the market.
His price is around $16 for the fuel level indicator and $1.25 for
his rod end. Address: Harold Everson, 224 N. Rankin St., Appleton,
Steve Darlington flew a Kalt Huey Cobra powered
by an Enya 45. The model featured a rigid rotor and handled extremely
well in the wind.
On the afternoon of the second day, many
of the sun-burnt pilots anxiously awaited the judges' final decisions.
Some pilots flew to pass the time while others talked about the
type of contest they would like to see in the future. At least three
types of contests have evolved in the past two years: Clock, Precision
and Free Style. If everyone involved would submit in writing their
preference to John Burkam before next year's NATS, maybe this problem
could be resolved. We need to submit the type of contest and the
kinds of maneuvers we all would like to the AMA board next year
at the Model Airplane NATS to be recognized by AMA in 1975.
All of us involved wish to extend our thanks to John Burkam
and Dale Willoughby. Without John Burkam's perseverance, this contest
would not have been held.
Posted October 1, 2011