Model airplane flyers have always been a rugged bunch that can only be dissuaded from flying by the roughest of weather. This is particularly true at contests, where those who dared to risk their aircraft's well-being to the elements competed against a smaller field of contenders. The story behind this particular National Championships in 1950 is interesting in that the U.S. Navy hosted the events on active bases, and the breakout of the Korean War occurring mere months before the scheduled date nearly caused a cancellation. Per the article, "By July 25th every Navy base in the country except Dallas NAS had been closed to the public." The Navy kept access open for the Championships. As it turns out, the weather was lousy the entire time with high winds and torrential rains.
The National Championships
Detroit club takes the team title and a Californian walks away with the National Championship; meet suffers worst weather in history
The 1950 National Championship. Model Airplane Contest - the midcentury "Nationals" and the 19th such competition - almost wasn't held. It was set up to be run off at the Dallas, Texas, Naval Air Station July 25 through 30 before the Korean conflict flared up. By July 25th every Navy base in the country except Dallas NAS had been closed to the public. So to the Navy goes great credit for the 19th Nats, the nearest thing to a "wartime" championships model aviation has ever had.
Navy's Blue Angels stunt team roars overhead in diamond formation. Crack aerobatic unit flew last show at the Nationals; members were ordered to Korea with their F9F Grumman Panther' jets.
The 1950 contest was the first to take place in the Southwest section of the U. S. Previous meets have been conducted at Detroit, Dayton, Atlantic City, New York City, Akron, St. Louis, Chicago, Wichita, Monticello, Minn. and Olathe, Kansas.
A/2 PAA-Load winners: J. Greenspan, Brooklyn,. 3rd; F. Ehling, Jersey City, 1st; G. Gardner of Pan-Am; D. Dougherty, Tulsa,·2nd.
At last - an "Oscar" for modeling! This distinctive award went to 1st, 2nd, 3rd placers.
Heavy rain opening morning of meet resulted in processing inside the work hangar.
Top team in 19th annual National Championships was from Detroit, Mich., Balsa Bugs club. Five men were permitted to compete as team from any A.M.A. chapter club. These flyers brought home the bacon (from left); Carl Redlin, Erwin Rodemsky, Bob Bienenstein, Paul Simon and Jim Lempke. Jim almost got individual Nat. Champ. too.
Heavy rains or 20-30 mph winds harassed more than 900 contestants all during meet. Wind was strongest on day of Half-A free flight.
Sponsored by the Downtown, Oak Cliff, North Dallas-Park Cities and East Dallas, Texas, Exchange Clubs, the outdoor events were run off at the Dallas Naval Air Station; the indoor events at the Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum in Fort Worth. No previous "Nats" have had a more loyal crew of hard-working officials.
John E. Clemens directed the meet; J. D. Dickey was chairman of the Exchange's executive committee: Capt. Hugh R. Nieman, Jr., CO of the Naval Station, represented the Navy.
When all the flying was ended Leslie Bartlett, 15, of San Diego, California was crowned National Champion, and the Detroit Balsa Bugs were declared the Champion club. Between registration on the 25th and the victory dinner on the 30th there was considerable activity - but only because 900 entrants who filed more than 2,900 entries in the 70 events were determined to fly at the National Meet come hail or high water.
Frankly, flying conditions were terrible. The weather bureau reported there'd been no rain during the same period for 15 years; yet the first day of the meet, Wednesday, opened with a record 1.22 inch downpour. Ditto for Thursday and Friday. Saturday and Sunday were different - no rain, just gusts up to 30 mph. All of this meant director Clemens took a terrible ribbing. Everyone talked about the "in-clement" weather.
A complete listing of the winners along with their times, speeds or points will appear in forthcoming issues, together with data on the models flown. As a departure from our regular reporting methods, here's a contestant's eye-view of the '50 Nats.
We Fly at the Nationals
By Frank Zaic
You don't have to go to the moon to get out of this world, just go to the Nationals. Loss of reason results when the decision to attend the Nationals is made. Perfectly good contest models lose their glamour and nothing else but new ships will do. Despite work, school and family obligations, practically every event is entered. Luckily, the Nationals come only once a year.
This year's trip to Dallas was on the long side for most of us, so that by the time we got there we were bounce-happy. Our first impression of Texas was that if a contest needed flat country to be a success, they sure had enough of it down there.
We arrived on the afternoon of registration day (the 25th). Expecting a long line we were pleasantly surprised that it was all cleared. Gave us feeling of good organization. The big hangar was like a bazaar; the tables were covered with brightly colored models. We saw some new designs and many old favorites.
We noted that Tulsa was back in the meet. Must have been at least two dozen boys from the town made famous by Roy Wriston, Bruce Luckett and others way back in '34. Goes to show that it takes almost fifteen years for a cycle to repeat itself. With the experience the boys got this year, next year should see a nice tussle between the West Coast and the Midwest. One group had a deluxe trailer with portable lights and radio in case the boys had to work late at night.
We met friends we have not seen for years. To many of us this is one of the best reasons for going to the Nationals - seeing friends from the other side of the country. We should have gone to bed very happy if we had not pulled a classical lulu. While changing cars in Hagerstown, Md., we forgot to transfer stabilizers. So there we were at the Nationals with five ships, all inoperative. So instead of having a good gabfest we had to stick to the work bench and chop up a wing to make a stabilizer of sorts. You know, National meet spirit and all that. We finally did get to bed with visions of brilliant sunshine and thermal activity that only Texas can produce.
Oh no, impossible! Could it be we only dreamed that we drove to Dallas and actually woke up at home? But it was no dream and the nightmare persisted. It was raining in Dallas, Texas. Who said not to bring a raincoat? Somehow, we felt cheated. Perhaps the rest of the boys did too. Actually, no one said anything as such things can happen in the best of states. And so the morning drizzled and rained away with cement and dope blushing on repairs.
Rains cleared after one o'clock and flying began. That is, for those that had a chance to test their flights during the registration day - the field had been closed for testing on Tuesday. Smart boys traveled to a nearby airfield for checkup and were they glad! It was a pity it had to be so as the hot trip did things to wings and stabs in the boxes. Warpage was terrific as many found out on short test flights. Since the meet had to close at five on the dot each day there wasn't much else to do but try to get as many official test flights as possible. Must have been fun for those who had both rubber and gas to fly. (We managed to get some sort of flights with our makeshift stabilizer, but no chance to show off with real good flights.)
Fifteen-year-old Leslie Bartlett of San Diego, Calif., shown left with Herold M. Harter, national secretary of The National Exchange Club, won the 1950 Notional Championship award with 31 point total. Runner-up was Jim Lempke, also 15, from Detroit, 27 points.
Take the foregoing and make it Thursday and Friday. Rain showed up with regular monotony on each of these days. Flights were short on the whole so that there was very little waiting for timers.
Sunday was the firs day we saw sunshine in the morning, but we paid a price for it as the skies were cleared with the aid of 25 mph southern breeze. And on this day A/2, towliners, ROW and Payload were supposed to be flown.
Half-A boys had fun of a sort. The models would up and over into the concrete, just like at the Wakefields last year. Towliners had the boys running with the wind for launching instead of the usual against the wind. Payloads behaved better because of extra weight. There were some long flights but on the whole the models drifted far fast.
That wind picked up cool air off the nearby lake before it came to us. ROW had it tough: chopped lake and warning of water-moccasins.
By now you might be getting impression that if you had to stay at home to be close to the draft board, you did not miss much. It is not exactly so - you should never miss the Nationals if you can help it. After all, somebody has to win, regardless of the circumstances. Talking about winning, wonder how most of the boys took the scoring for the National Championship? The open class was hotly contested with real top notchers and a lot of contestants which made winning first place mighty tough. Yet they had to compete with other divisions where entries in some events were very small indeed.
To me the Nationals are super-special. Many of us plan for the next one as soon as we start for home. And consider the younger fellows: they hear so much about them that it becomes their major ambition. All this means that we older men and boys have an obligation to see that their dreams come true.
And so. back to normal living. Sure was fun while it lasted.
Posted October 28, 2016