F1D World Championships


Two F1D models made by Max Newcombe

by Australian Team Manager Steve Nelson

The 2018 international F1D event was hosted this year by the AMA in West Baden Springs, Indiana USA from 19-22 March. The F1D event is one of several free flight events officially sanctioned by the FAI (Federation Aeronautique International), the international organisation that oversees all Aerosport, both model and full size aircraft.

The F1D world championships, held every 2 years, is for free flight indoor rubber powered duration models, and the aim is to have six flights of which the best two become your final score. The highest total wins.
This year there were 36 senior and 10 junior entrants from 14 different nations.

The Australian team was comprised of Tim Hayward-Brown, Max Newcombe, Alex Secara with myself as Team Manager and Alina Secara an Official Timekeeper. This is the first time since 1984 that the Australians have fielded a full team of 3 competitors and the first time they have all come from South Australia.

Indoor competitions can be flown in any suitable building but for record setting purposes they are classified by their ceiling height into 4 different categories. The higher the ceiling the longer the duration that can be achieved. The West Baden Springs site is classified Category 3 with a ceiling height of 29.5 metres and 60 metres in diameter. This is quite unfamiliar to the Australian flyers as the only sites we can get access to are normally less than 8 meters high.

The West Baden Springs Hotel Atrium. Site for the 2018 F1D World Champs

What is unique about the West Baden Springs site is that it is actually the atrium of a luxury hotel built in 1902,with six floors of hotel rooms built around the outside. All the participants and organisers were accommodated in the rooms which certainly made getting to the contest venue easy.

To aeromodellers who only fly RC models F1D models are about as foreign as you can get. In order to achieve high duration they are extremely lightly constructed from the best contest grade balsa wood and the fuselage reinforced with boron and .001” diameter tungsten. There is also increasing use of very thin carbon fibre to construct the propeller and flying surface outlines. A variable pitch propeller is normally used to limit the height the model can climb to. The covering is an extremely thin mylar that is virtually see through. It takes a lot of skill, a steady hand and between 30 and 60 hours to build each model, and each competitor normally brings 4-6 models to a contest, packed in a special box that is legal carry on luggage size for the airline travel.

2018 Australian F1D Team. L to R Max Newcombe, Alex Secara, Tim Hayward-Brown, Steve Nelson

The models have a maximum wingspan of 55cm and the minimum weight is an incredible 1.4 grams. To power this model a rubber motor with a maximum weight of just 0.4 gram is used. And yet a properly set up model in the right conditions can exceed 27 minutes in the air!
Being an indoor contest one would think that there is no wind or drift to contend with. Yet all buildings leak air no matter how well sealed they are and the temperature differential between indoors and outdoors can set up strong updrafts and downdrafts that are constantly changing. So one of the tactics when flying is to closely watch other competitors models to assess the conditions before launching your own.

Being a free flight model the competitor has no direct control of the model after he has launched. It is just trimmed to fly in left hand circles. Therefore it is possible for the model to drift into the wall or ceiling and become hung up or damaged thus terminating the flight. To counter this competitors are allowed to use a helium filled balloon attached to fishing line to steer the models away from threats. This is a tricky skill to master, especially if the model is 30 meters up scraping the ceiling. This is were the USA and European teams had a distinct advantage as they are able to practice this skill regularly and become very proficient. The Australians had little or no experience in this and several of their flights were terminated early when they hung up on the walls.

The Australian team all arrived a few days early through Louisville and Indianapolis airports and then drove the 1.5 to 2 hours to West Baden Springs in southern Indiana. Being early spring it was still quite cold, dropping below freezing overnight, so we had to dress warmly. The weekend before the world champs started there was an unofficial contest, “The Jim Richmond Open”, where competitors could practice and familiarise themselves with the venue.

In the 29 F1D world championships that have been held since 1961 the Americans have won 19 of these of which Jim Richmond has won 8 himself. 2018 marks the 50th Anniversary of his first world championship win. I doubt anyone else will ever be so dominant in this event.
On the Sunday evening we were treated to a preview of a new documentary on F1D flying called “Float” by Ben Saks that has been 8 years in the making. It contained footage from the last four world champs but was predominantly about current world champ Kang Lee of USA winning his first championship in 2014 in the salt mines of Slanic, Romania.

Monday 19th March was the official practice day. Unfortunately Alex was unwell and not able to practice but Tim and Max had some satisfactory flights. Tim was interviewed on camera by the Hotel’s media people and this footage appears on their Facebook site.

The ANZAC tables

On Tuesday 20th March, rounds 1 and 2 were flown. Conditions to start were not good as it was cold outside and the inside of the atrium was quite warm setting up a lot of turbulence. Most flights were sub 10 minutes. Round 2 was even worse as it started to snow outside! All competitors were questioning the wisdom of the organisers scheduling an event so early in the year. I suspect it was driven by the availability of the hotel venue during what is the quiet season before Easter.

Tuesday night the Australian team convened at a local German restaurant to work out an equitable order for flying for the remaining rounds. Each team is allocated a pair of timekeepers each day. They are responsible for the processing (compliance of weight and dimensions of the model) and the timing of each flight. Two watches are used for each official flight so only one competitor in each team can fly at a time. Each round is 3 hours long so effectively each team member has a one hour slot. As the conditions were expected to improve each day as it got warmer outside the popular time to fly was as late as possible in each round. This proved to be the case and all the best flight times were achieved after lunch. Our solution was to draw straws with the flying order rotating each round for rounds three, four and five. For the last round the highest scorer in the team would have the privilege of the last flight in the final round.

Activity on the Australian table

On Wednesday 21st March rounds 3 and 4 were flown. The snowing had stopped overnight but there was still snow on the ground and it was cloudy. Round 3 still produced below average flights for most. Indeed it was quite stunning to see a model that had fought it’s way right up to the ceiling only to encounter a severe downdraft and be on the ground again in less than a minute!

After lunch the cloud cleared and the sun came out improving conditions considerably. Alex did a 15:22 flight. The last to launch in round 4 was USA flyer Brett Sanborn who broke the Category 3 world record with a flight of 27:11.

Thursday 22nd March rounds 5 and 6 were flown. There were much better conditions from the outset today. It was sunny and becoming warm with most of the snow outside already melted. Alex had a reasonable flight of 11:27 but both Tim and Max had difficulties with steering and Max broke his model when it would not release from the line. Max achieved his best flight in round 6 with a replacement model scoring 13:56.
So far Alex had achieved the best flights and had the choice to fly last. The conditions were now so good he elected to fly second and scored his best flight of 17:14. This included his first ever steering in competition which was done perfectly following verbal instructions from his Romanian friend Aurel Popa in his native language!
Tim flew last for the Australians and scored 14:28, his best flight, but not as high as he had hoped for.

Again one of the last to fly was Brett Sanborn who scored 27:01, bettering the previous world record again, thus becoming the new world champion.

Brett Sanborn USA 2018 F1D World Champion

Final results were 1st Brett Sanborn, USA 54:12; 2nd Zoltan Sukosd, Hungary 47:52, 3rd Corneliu Mangalea, Romania 47:40.

Team winners were 1st USA; 2nd Romania; 3rd UK.
Australian results were Alex 24th, Tim 30th and Max 34th. The Australian team was 10th overall.

Full results can be found here.

In the evening there was a full presentation ceremony with 3 course dinner, with trophies, a podium for the top 3 place getters complete with flags and national anthem. Just like the Olympics.

While not the best result we could could have hoped for it was a valuable learning experience for all. We saw some fantastic flying including the world record being broken twice, saw stunning workmanship in the models and equipment, met some really interesting people and flew and stayed in a magnificent hotel. What more could we ask for ?

Whilst interest in F1D is very low in Australia it remains quite popular in other countries particularly Eastern Europe and USA. I would like to thank the MAAA for their support that helped Australia to compete in what is an absolutely unique facet of our sport.

All Photos from Steve Nelson