Right Stuff Continued - 2002 F1D World Championship

My previous article, Right Stuff for the Gold - Science Olympiad to World Championship Win in Indoor Model Aviation was an overview of how the winning US Junior F1D team had their start flying indoor models in the Science Olympiad program, progressing to the F1D class of indoor model. This article will describe the selection process to become a member of the World Championship F1D Indoor team, the competition in the Finals in Akron Ohio in 2001 and the World Championship in Romania in 2002.

Currently the F1D team selection process consists of series of regional semi-finals held in various regions of the US and a finals held at a common location. Typically, since the world championships are held in a high ceiling site, it is desirable to locate the finals in a high ceiling site. During this team selection process, Akron was chosen as the finals with the majority of the regional semi-finals taking place at other high ceiling sites including the Akron, Lakehurst New Jersey, and the Kibbie Dome in Moscow Idaho. High ceiling site is not an absolute necessity; one region even hosted the regional junior semi-finals in a high school gym in Centerville, Ohio. Since the points carried forward to the finals are based on percentages of the winning scores for each regional with the winners receiving 100 points, ceiling height was not a major factor in the semi finals.

Team Finals 2001 was held in Akron Ohio at the Lockheed-Martin (formerly Goodyear) Airdock on September 1 - 3, 2001. Ceiling height is 179 feet with obstructions on floor and exposed beams in the ceiling. Three days of flying characterized with close competition and bizarre occurrences, with the winners not determined to the final minutes of the contest. Previous to the contest, the juniors were discussing the pros and cons of the complicated variable pitch propellers and would it be a worthwhile advantage in the finals. In retrospect it was thought Doug's mastery of the VP prop is what won him the top spot on the junior team.

A few of the junior highlights were:

Parker Parrish's last flight was a good one (28:05) pushing him from fifth to second, his regional points gave him a three point lead over Ben Saks.

Matt suffered a bout of bad luck when his plane flew through a crack between the clamshell doors of the hangar and the walls of the hangar to the outside. The model was completely destroyed.

On the last round of the last day Doug had a very good chance for a flight over 30 minutes. At 27:55 into the flight and 100 feet high, the rubber motor came off the prop shaft with 150 turns left in it resulting in a zero flight score because the model had dropped a part in flight.

Last to fly was Brian Johnson; he needed a flight of slightly over 28 minutes. It looked like he could make this because the last two flights had ended in mid-airs with winds and height to spare. On his last attempt, Brian had the air to himself. With a minute to go in last round his prop shaft broke.

The US F1D team was as follows: Defending Champion : John Kagan     Team Manager : Ray Harlan

Junior   Senior
Doug Schaefer   Jim Richmond
Parker Parrish   Larry Cailliau
Ben Saks   Steve Brown

First Junior Alternate: Matt Chalker



Selecting a suitable indoor site to hold an Indoor World Championship is not an easy task. Besides the physical requirements such as adequate ceiling height, accommodations for food and housing near by, monetary issues are just as important. If not for the efforts of the Romanians and the availability of the salt mine in recent years, there might not have been an indoor World Championship because they were the only bid given.

Slanic Romania has been the site of several previous Indoor World Championships, but the 2002 World Indoor F1D Championship will be remembered for several "firsts". These include first time for; a full US junior team, new rules 55 cm (21.65 inches) F1D's were flown in a World Championship, and the widespread use of new construction techniques; Y2K2 film and un-braced models. Included with the 55 cm maximum wingspan rules, rubber was limited to 0.6 gram, previously it was unlimited. Possibly the most impressive "first", was the US junior and senior F1D teams taking first in both team and individual. This was out of 14 juniors and 31 seniors representing 14 nations.

Not every F1D competitor is pleased with flying at this site because of the harsh conditions (cold and dark), but it could be they are just looking for a change as the last five out of six World Championships were held in the mine. US Senior 2000 World Champion John Kagan made an analogy between the challenges of flying different indoor sites and the challenge of playing different golf courses. He went on to say that if your planes are not up to the task of flying in the harsh environment of the mine, it could cause much grief in the contest. Techniques that had worked in other flying sites were not appropriate for the mine.

Some of the competitors were having trouble getting their planes to climb close enough to the ceiling to put in good times. Propeller selection was critical with 18" to 18.5" diameter appeared to be what was working. Jim Richmond experimented with a variable-pitch propeller but ended up using a prop that was 35 years old.

Other competitors were having trouble with motor stick breakage and they thought it was because of damp conditions. Too light of wood and high launch torque were more likely causes. With such a small cross section rubber motor used to stay at 0.6 gram limit, competitors were winding more, and backing off less. In the 2000 World Championship under the previous rules, planes might use close to 2 grams of rubber.

The new 55 cm F1D planes did not seem to have as much problem starting the initial launch circle; this had been a problem in 2000 with many of the 65 cm (25.59 inches) planes in the mine. Flight times were better than had predicted after the 2000 World Championship, when it was thought that 26 to 28 minutes would be high in the mine under new rules. John Tipper, from the UK, had the high time in 2000 of 47:21 under old rules; the time in 2002 was 36:15 by Jim Richmond. Doug Schaefer had the highest junior time with 36:12.

The Journey to Romania was the first international competition for the US Juniors. Before the trip, Matt Chalker's history teacher had remarked that travel is the best form of education. In their accounts of the trip to Romania the US Juniors all commented on the crazy, fast driving of the Romania motorist. US senior member Steve Brown told them it was "a lot better than in years past". They all mentioned the number of dogs wandering loose around the town of Slanic.

Perhaps even scarier than the road trip from the airport at Bucharest to the hotel in Slanic was the elevator ride down to the caverns below. Crammed in a small steel box, they descended quickly downward and came to a jolting stop. Steve Brown again assured the young men, "it was a lot better than in years past". The modern improvement consisted of a light and some shielding from dripping saltwater.

More positive aspects were the food and the scenery around Slanic. The currency exchange from dollars to lei, gave the guys the feeling they were millionaires.

US team members practiced for three days preceding the contest using reduced motors until the last practice day when they switched to full motors. A reduced motor consists of a reduced length of rubber and a length of wire to simulate a full flight but reduced a proportional amount. In some of the practice areas of the mine the drift was very bad. The actual contest consists of six rounds over the last two days, the two best scores are added together for a total score.

The US Juniorís F1D models were a night and day improvement in craftsmanship from their first F1D planes. The planes the juniors used for the World Championship were all of their own design; more or less. That is they borrowed ideas and proportions from other planes and added their own ideas as well. Doug Schaefer's plane was much influenced from a 65 cm. design by John Kagan; the prop outline that Doug uses is original. Originality in Matt Chalker's design was in the shape of the wing and stab.

US Juniors Doug Schaefer and Ben Saks showed the world they were tough competitors right from the start. In round one Doug Schaefer and Ben Saks both flew 33:04, by far the highest times of all competitors.


Doug Schaefer

Ben Saks

Their luck changed after the first round, Ben had trouble with his planes running into the walls, his times for rounds 3 and 4 were under 15 minutes. Doug discovered a loose wing post after the third round, made the repair, and had a mid-air with a plane from the Spanish team in round 4. Although his flight time might have suffered by a couple of minutes, Doug decided to keep the 32:40. Round 5 was particularly stressful for Doug with his first attempt stalling out and his re-flight resulted in another midair. Doug accepted the 32:51 because he was running low on motors, but Ben Saks would come back with a 33:10 to over take Doug.

For the sixth and final round, the pressure was really on Doug to get a great flight yet he had only one motor he thought suitable, and that motor had been fully wound before. Doug wound slowly and launched at full torque for the first time. When Doug's plane reached the ceiling, it shared the space with five planes. It wasn't long and the other planes began to drop out, literally. The first plane was circling inside of the orbit of Doug's plane, but hit the wall and hung up. A mid-air took two other planes out of the way of Doug's plane. In several minutes, Doug's plane alone circled at the top of the mine where it remained until 18 minutes into the flight, then made a slow descent landing with only 12 turns left.

Pressure is now on Ben for a great flight, but on his first attempt he had a mid-air with a plane from the Hungarian team. Ben's re-flight was 32:09, not good enough to over take Doug, he captured second in junior individual, Doug taking first. Third place in junior individual would go to Somesan Horatiu of Romania. Somesan's flights were very consistently around 27 minutes, but never were to go over 28 minutes.

Canadian F1D competitor Dr. Edmund Liem had written the following paragraph for a Canadian modeling publication that I think is a great tribute to the image the US juniors are portraying to the world.

"Doug Schaefer and Ben Saks delivered quite a performance, not only in the flight times, but also in intense competition. Both maintained their coolness during round 5 and 6, they acted very mature, almost un-junior like. It was an interesting observation that on day 3 more and more seniors paid visit to these juniors and asked them questions. Usually it is the other way around."

Matt Chalker's performance was equally impressive, especially considering he had only six weeks in which he built and tested four F1D planes. His flight times improved over 12 minutes over the course of the practice days to the final rounds. Each night at the hotel he spent rebuilding and lightening his plane with help from his team members.

Matt Chalker

Indoor World Championship 2004 in the giant Cargolifter hangar in Germany has F1D fliers excited about the next World Championship. One can only hope the US will have another junior team to fill some mighty big footsteps.


2002 World Indoor F1D Championship  Junior Individual Winners

Left to Right

Somesan Horatiu - Romania - Third Place

Doug Schaefer - USA - First Place

Ben Saks - USA - Second Place


Bill Kuhl


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