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F2D News Ė 14 August 2004
Mark Rudner

Hi everybody, Iím back with the FAI News after a brief two month vacation from writing. As many of you know, I took this time off from writing in order to focus on training for and competing in the F2D World Championships as a member of the US team. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who showed up in Muncie both to help run the contest and to observe the event/support our team. It was really great to see so many people out there and to find so many people willing and eager to help out in every way possible.

Just before I headed back to the F2D training camp in Los Angeles at the beginning of the summer, we held the District I F2D Combat Championships in Kingston, MA. We had originally planned to run full F2D rules with two models, etc for this contest, but due to a lower than expected turnout we scaled it back to the one-airplane format. The site was beautiful, but the weather cold and windy. Chuck Rudner came out from California to compete in the contest, and was joined by 6 New Englanders (including myself) to round out the field at 7. The high speed of the F2D models compared to the speed of the more sedate GX models to which the New Englanders were more accustomed, combined with the high winds, led to a somewhat high level of carnage for the contest. Everyone had a great time, however, followed by an excellent barbeque hosted at the House of Stas on Sunday afternoon. Neil has prepared a more full report of the contest itself on the NECN website for the interested.

This past weekend, the Eastern Massachusetts Championships of GX and F2D combat were held in Middleboro, MA. Although originally scheduled as a two-day contest, the approach of the foreboding remnants of hurricane Charley forced us to move F2D up to Saturday afternoon following the conclusion of the GX rounds. The level of flying at this competition was markedly improved compared to what we saw in Kingston back in May. The carnage decreased significantly, and nearly all of the matches involved several minutes of intense, but controlled, excellent combat. As the center marshal for a large fraction of the matches of both contests, I also noticed that everyoneís body language is becoming much more relaxed and deliberate Ė a very good sign.

Itís really great to watch this growth and improvement as everyone gets adjusted to the higher level of performance of F2D models, and also to see how much fun everyone is having with them. I guess weíve found an exception to the saying that you canít teach an old dog new tricks Ė if youíre worried about trying this event because youíre not accustomed to the high speeds or quick cornering of these models, I think Brian, Matt, Neil, Ken, and Jeff are prime examples of how, with a bit of work and practice, this new beast can indeed be tamed. If you were to ask any of these same guys which of their models are the most fun to fly, I guaranty they will tell you that it is their F2D models. As far as expense is concerned, the availability of production Cyclon engines at $100 a piece has really lowered the barrier to getting equipped to try this event. Almost everyone in the contest, I included, was running the Cyclon PC6 engine this weekend. So far they have proved to be very consistent, reliable, and well behaved in the pits.

Okay, thatís enough of a plug for the event for now, so Iíll switch to my last point which is an important observation that I made recently. First let me say that the ďmost improved pilotĒ award for this weekend definitely goes to Ken Hargreaves. I think anyone who was there will agree that he really stepped it up several notches since May, and put up an outstanding performance this weekend. For the benefit of everyone who reads this column and may be new to the event or still trying to develop better confidence when flying combat of any type, Iíd like to mention some of the major ingredients fueling this marked improvement.

Aside from putting in many flights with his models to become more comfortable with them, Ken made one key adjustment within the past week that made all the difference. Last weekend, Neil, Ken, Will Rogers, and I had an F2D training session in the field behind Neilís house. In the first match that I flew with Ken, I could feel that he still wasnít that comfortable flying combat with these models, and noticed a tendency for him to over-turn on many of his maneuvers. This is a very common problem, and many people donít even realize that itís happening during the heat of battle. After the conclusion of that match, I discussed the problem with Ken and we decided that the source of his problem was really that his planes were just a bit too touchy for his comfort-level at this time. Even though he had no trouble flying alone with these models, flying with another person in the circle and being forced to make precise maneuvers puts a very different spin on things. To remedy the situation, we moved his control horn up to the top hole (reducing the total control throw), and moved his engine forward a bit to get the CG farther forward and add a bit of stability. We then went through several carefully scripted exercises to help build his confidence in flying his own models while looking only at mine. During the week, he made these same trim adjustments to the rest of his models and took several flights with each. By Saturday, he was a whole different flyer.

In the first round, I was matched against Ken, and wasnít quite sure what to expect. Within seconds after the start combat signal, however, I could already feel that he was a thousand times more comfortable with his models than before. His maneuvers will deliberate and precise; his body language told the same story. We flew a hard-fought match that went buzzer-to-buzzer without a single near miss or close call.

The moral of this story is that with just these simple trim adjustments (the loosening and re-tightening of 3 screws), he was able to get his models performing within his own comfort zone Ė and thatís what made all the difference. It is true that F2D models have the capability to turn on a dime, and perform exceptionally tight, quick maneuvers. It may also be fun to set them up in test-flights so that they perform this way and you can marvel at their amazing flight characteristics. However, when it comes down to winning matches, the single most important thing (more important than speed or quick cornering) is comfort. If youíre not 100% comfortable with your models trimmed in match setup, it doesnít matter how quickly or tightly they turn because they wonít end up where you want them to be anyway. Setting your models up so that you donít tend to over-turn in the heat of battle can sometimes be all it takes to get things settled down and put you on the track towards success. This isnít a problem just for beginners either Ė after the first couple rounds of the world championships I found myself in a situation not unlike Kenís. I had set up my models to make quick and snappy maneuvers in test flights, but in the match I was over-controlling by just enough to really throw me off my game. After making the necessary trim adjustments to my models, I felt much more comfortable, my confidence returned, and I flew some of the best combat of my life.

I hope this hits home for someone out there and helps make flying combat that much more comfortable and enjoyable. See you in the circle!

If you have any questions or comments, please email Mark at rudner@mit.edu