Dillon Graves on quest for USA F3J Junior Team selection

John Graves 12 Year Old son Dillon is one of the countries finest young pilots and is very comfortable at the sticks of any RC model plane. His dad has taught him to fly at a very young age and Dillon spends a lot of time on the computer flyin ghte simulator to improve his skills. Recently during a visit to Florida by Mike Verzuh (last years World Championship winning F3J Team manager) Dillon was encouraged to try Soaring and attended the FSS2 event at the IRKS field to see what RC soaring was all about.  John acquired Kris Van Nostrans Pike Perfect to get Dillon started and Kris provided some initial lessons on the model. Dillon is now capably flying the Pike and today Jody and I spent a few hours in very gusty conditions working with him on launch, landing and thermalling. There is no doubt in our mind that he can quickly become a competition winning sailplane pilot and we intend to provide all the support and assistance we can to train him up in time to be a contender for the junior team at the US team selects later this year. If you see Dillon at the IRKS or Buzzards fields please offer him the encouragement this fine young man deserves.


F3B Distance Practice day

Gator Distance Practice


The weather really sucked this weekend. Yesterday we were rained out all day and today we were “socked” in with a ceiling around 500 feet. Since it was apparently even worse at the IRKS field Jody and I and Tony and Blaine hooked up with Ed White, Rich Kiburis and Alan Parsons at the Buzzards field in Oviedo for some fun. Ed had just completed building his new Supra Lite and was maidening it while Al was riding shotgun to test the ceiling for Ed. Al’s first launch lost the plane in the low cloud for 10 secs or so before Al got it back 50 yards downwind. Seemed the roof was at about 400 to 500 feet.
Jody and decided to go ahead and set up the 150M course and I can tell you that a 220M X 200M space surrounded by 80 foot trees is not ideal for F3B distance.
We were able to set the 150M course at a diagonal along with the winch. Luckily Mikes mono had arrived by Fedex so we strung 400M of mono onto my Ford long shaft and got ready to launch the Europhia for the first time. First launch of my new bird broke a ring on the chute setup so after repairs a quick relaunch saw the Europhia in cloud at the top. Amazing how quickly a sailplane disappears in soup like this. I made a few trim adjustments and reduction in mixes that I had set and we used the opportunity to show Tony how to call the turns so we could send him to Base B for some real practice. The Europhia seems like a nice flying bird so we got Tony set up with a radio at Base B to signal the turns.
The temp was hovering around the mid 50’s and with the breeze and misty conditions it was quite bloody cold. Jody indicated that he probably wouldn’t fly so we decided to practice a few launches with the Europhia and fly the course. Unfortunately walkie talkies are not the best devices for signalling and sometimes the first button press wasn’t heard, but it worked effectively enough to get some laps going. Blaine Miller who last flew F3B in the early 80’s commented on the fact that as I passed 12 laps the first time with plenty of altitude left, that would have been the 1000 points back in the day. That reminded me also of the days that we used to struggle sometimes just to get 12. My first attempt yielded 16 laps in the 4 minutes but I felt I could have done much better with many turns overshooting and some of them poor speed control slowing the model too much in the turn.
With the 5 to 7mph breeze she would slow a lot into the wind and seemed to need a fair amount of pushing to keep moving so I added 12oz of ballast for the second attempt and managed to stretch it out to 17 laps in the 4 minutes. It seemed to fly better with the added weight and the turns were smoother too. Staying up for 4 minutes did not seem to be the challenge but controlling the speed and flying in the best part of the air means there is lots happening in ones head. That’s what makes this challenge so much fun. What a great feeling to fly back and forth on the course and confidently improve the results each time. It was very hard to remain in the best air and fly a straight course. I found myself flying horrid angles wasting time to chase better air to find it wasn’t better when I got there. The third launch yielded 18 laps and that was the best we managed today. We did two more launches before the biting wind and the lure of wings, beer and footy at Flanagans got the better of us. The final two yielded 14 laps and 12.
Though it wasn’t quite the F3B practice we had hoped for – mother nature really gave us crap – but we did get to fly a little and some of the guys who have never seen an F3B course got a little glimpse of what it is all about.
For me I have tasted the challenge once again and I can’t wait to get out there to do this again.

LSF Task day at IRKS Oct 17 2010

The Gordon Report


Many thanks to Kris Van Nostran who came out early to set up the winch for a great LSF day at the IRKS field at Cocoa. Thanks also to John Kennedy who came out to practice landings and assist as well. We had an extremely productive day with super conditions. Low humidity – 75 degrees at noon and a high of 84 degrees at 4:00pm 5 -7 mph wind.
Got Jody Millers Xplorer in the air around 10:15am and had his 2km goal and return completed 15 minutes later. Jody stayed up and completed his L4 one hour during the same flight while we got Kris Van Nostran airborne and specked out with his Perfect. First try saw us run into a hole before the 1km mark so Kris landed and we went back. 2nd attempt was a straight shot there and back including a 60mph sprint the last 1km home to keep up. Kris completed his in jsy over 17 minutes from launch to completion. I rode in the back of Gordys truck with Jody and Kris while Gordy drove on these two G&R’s.
Then it was my turn on the 2nd time round to do a 2km. First attempt got out to the 2km mark and failed to hook up. Fell over trying to jump off the back of the truck (while it was stationary) to finish landing the X and nearly crashed it as I took a tumble. Saved the radio, saved the plane – lost some skin on the extremeties.
2nd attempt thermalled out downwind with Jody hgelping me to clamber into the truck and Gordy drove us the 2km out and back without stopping in lift that was simply amazing as the aircraft climbed nearly all the way out and with 1/4 neg camber coming home I just kept in front of the speeding truck to beat him to the end. .
So far so good.
Jody Miller – L4 2 km Goal and return
Kris Van Nostran – L4 2km Goal and return
Gordon Buckland – L4 2 km goal and return
Jody Miller – L4 One hour TD
Steve Formanek – L2 landings
Thanks for coming out also Steve. Its great that Kris has taken you under his wing and we look forward to seeing you get through the levels.
At about 1:15pm We decided to go down the road to the John Vennerholm 10km G & R course (where I got my L5 10km last year) on SR520 and get Gordys final L5 task completed. Gordy has been talking about getiing it done for over a year and conditions were never going to be more perfect than today. He had his imPerfect Pike on board and nicely trimmed and though I had a winch we forgot the turnaround so Gordy made the statement that if he couldn’t get away off a high start it wouldn’t be happening in any case.
We arrived at the SR50 location about 1:45pm and set up the high start and had some lunch. First couple of launches were downwind as the breeze had died and most of what we had was thermal induced we swung the histart through 90 degrees so Gordy could launch crosswind and on the 4th launch to about 80 feet he was returning to land fo another go when he hit a bump and began to climb out. I called out to him when he had enough altitude to pass over the adjacent powerlines safely and within minutes the Pike was at normal winch launch height. Gordy spent 10 minutes in a couple of different thermals to get out to about 1500 feet before we got him loaded in the truck and set off down the course. Jody drove while I talked incessantly to Gordy in the back and took photos. Jody drove at around 25 to 35 mph on the way out as Gordy kept the Pike on course staying out to the right side and ahead where we had a good perspective on the plane. Jody was also able to adjust his speed constantly to match that of the aircraft because he could see it out the windscreen the whole time. The 10km out was achieved without stopping to circle once and the height varied between about 1000 feet and 1800 feet. With just 1/4 mile to the end the aircraft was lower than we had been anywhere at about 500 feet but Gordy decided to run to the end and turn around. We passed a thermalling buzzard at this point and I truly believed we could go to the end and come back to him quickly and climb back out. As is happened we reached the end of the course with the Perfect still descending and a couple of hundred feet at best. We turned around and started heading back up the road. This is the only place on this course where the trees are close and visibility is restricted to just a narrow slot but someone above saw our plight and planted some good air in the narrow window we had. Gordy felt a bump and yelled out to stop. Stop we did and as he thermalled out above and to the right – 3 buzzards appeared from the left and also began to thermal out right above the truck. Someone certainly was looking down from above as we had basically no assistance from birds on the way out until we really needed them and then there they were. Gordy had found lift without a guide but if he had not the guides were there. It was with much relief that we finally set off again at slightly slower speed into the wind on the way back. Once again we made constant progress for all of 8km before Gordy finally decided to stop and thermal out again to be sure of making the final dash home. The course was completed in 58 mins and 59 seconds as Jody parked the truck where we started. Many cheers from Jody and I as Gordy brought the Pike around for a few photos before landing it. I have never seen a guy as stoked as this man was as he finally completed an LSF journey that has seen him help a lot of flyers along the way and promote soaring and the LSF to all who would listen.
Gordy- I salute you. You can be annoying at times but you are a helluva pilot and you have the kindest heart of anyone I know in soaring. You are unorthodox in your approach, but you are a good and dedicated teacher and I owe my L5 to you as I probably would not have had the enthusiasm without your encouragement. I was honored to be part of your L5 journey also and I am reaping the rewards of great joy and satisfation also as I work with Jody helping him complete the same LSF journey.
What a great day. One that will last forever in my memory.
Thanks mate.

“The Gordon Report” in Australia. April 18th, 2010

Sniper “up close and personal.”


I had the joy of seeing the Sniper in action – in person yesterday at the Brissy boys flying field. In two words. “Simply Spectacular.”
I have a rather unique perspective with having only re-entered the hobby a bit over 12 months ago and having only seen a molded sailplane for the first time at the end of 2008. I had grown up in Australia flying models and really only got into competitive RC soaring in 1981 when I met the great guys at the BMSC (Brisbane Model Soaring Club.) In those days the locals in Gary Jordan, Graeme Taylor, Jeff Poulsen, Dave Vels, Cameron and Bill Lawrence and others were working hard on developing designs to contest in F3B. At that time they were building veneer and balsa covered foam wings with glass over top. The designs were loosely based around the Southern Sailplanes Ricochet and I got really excited about F3B too. I bought a modified Ricochet from Jeff Poulsen at the time and learned to fly this new 3 task test with the locals at Redbank Plains in Brisbane.
In my case children came along and I stopped flying in 1986 for 23 years to return last year (after re-locating to Florida USA) and re-discover RC Soaring. I also found one of my old mates in this thread. That would be Larrikan aka David Vels.
To say I was “staggered” by the degree of sophistication the Brissy boys building talents had reached, would be a huge understatement. With only a short time back in soaring I didn’t have the knowledge of the evolution of molded model airplanes but had been led to believe that ALL this wonderful new technology came from behind the old “Iron Curtain.” With CNC milling techniques required to produce aluminum plugs etc it was obvious to me that the old guys in the hobby were correct. The sailplane models had got too complicated, too expensive and too “out of reach” for the average bloke to build at home!
Then I found David Vels, Evan and Jeff on this thread and like all the many readers around the world I was amazed at what they were doing and how really skilled these guys were in creating their own molded F3B masterpiece.
I became intimately familiar with a Sharon Pro 3.7 throughout last year campaigning her in TD contests in USA. I also owned and flew a variety of other molded models through 2009 such as a Europhia II, Onyx JW, Icon, Mach Dart, and more recently a HKM High End and an Xplorer. I had marveled at the strength, beauty and precision of these East european creations and had dabbled in the repair of some as well. As a machinist I could appreciate the complexity of the plug/mold creations and yes I was convinced that this was something beyond the talent of mere mortals like us.
Yet here on this thread an old mate who was a teenager last time I saw him and his aussie mates were actually biulding and sharing with us the creation of their own moldie. Not just an ordinary design either – but one with unique design requirements to be competitve AND light enough for the stresses of F3B competition. Yes I was staggered. I watched this thread daily for the last 6 months and couldn’t wait to visit Australia again to see this “beauty” in person and catch up with some old friends from a time long ago.
David was kind enough to arrange for Evan and himslf to fly at their club field at Harrisville on Sunday. Though I was a day late arriving with my wife from USA we did manage to hook up and the weather co-operated too.
My first impressions of the Sniper were “Hey this thing actually looks as good as any molded plane I have seen so far.” Then once Evan and David showed me some of the unique features of this bird and I looked really closely at her I can report that this airplane is a “work of art.” It really looks so good it probably should be mounted on a pedestal somewhere and never flown at all. It is simply way to nice and way too perfectly put togehter to risk actually harming it by flying it.
With a sort of religious reverance I asked Evan if I could hold it and in typical aussie style he said “go for it.” It looks perfect all over. It felt rather light for an F3B model and every part is so perfect that without doubt in my mind Evan would have to be the perfectionist’s perfectionist. The wing to fuselage transition is a beautiful thing with a leading edge “socket” for the wing to slide into and a trailing edge fuse fairing that leaves no gap for the spillage of air around the end of the flap whether in clean or launch flap position.
David also proudly pointed out for my camera lense the perfectly formed CF elevator horns hidden inside the fuse under an amazingly perfect cover.
Evan, Jeff and Davids workmanship with this model is something to marvel at.
The question was “how well does it perform?”
Jeff answered that question with a succession of launches and flights that were impressive indeed. F3B winches, mono, and technique have changed a lot in two decades away. The winches are weaker but the stretch in the mono is incredible. Full pedal from launch to zoom with the model holding tension enough to just allow the winch to idle over means a high and slow phase one launch and then all that energy is dissipated at the top as the phase 2 launch settings allow the model to accelerate and the dip and zoom is commenced. Pretty impressive stuff for a virtual “newbie” like me. The model appeared to thermal well also with Evan showing her off in a succession of flights thermalling downwind. She also moves through the air like a thoroughbred with that beautiful whistle a fast moving sailplane generates at speed. Evan demonstrated a mock speed run and the Sniper looked like she was on rails. The plane is a masterpeice and it will be great to follow this trios adventures in F3B competition as we go forward.
All in all we had a great day and I was reluctant to leave around 1:00pm as Sheralyn let me know it was time to move on. Thanks to all the other pilots at the old Brisbane Model Soaring Club including John Donaldson, Frank Long and the others for giving me a part of your time on Sunday. It was fun and I will be back.

Here’s the original page on RCGroups with plenty of photos too.

The “Gordon Report” in Australia.

New sailplanes all round

Sunday Feb 7th dawned a little breezy and chilly. We managed to get in some good air early. Then the day was breezy on and off and the sun came out just before noon. Ed sent the new Xplorer up and it flew pretty well from what I could see. Al maidened his new Shadow. Jody and I got in some boomers. I turned my club application & check in to Mr. Eckel. LSF aspirant paperwork is on the way also : ) Here’s a few pics from the day.
Story and photos by Rick Horlander

Buzzards Appreciation Day

Though it was forecast to be very windy and unpleasant – as is often the case the weather reality was a pretty fair day. Though a little breezy it was not bad but definitely not a thermal day. Jody and his dad Blaine got out early with Raed and Rick and set up a winch so we could get some flying in. Costa and Leife were there too getting some adjustments done on the ex Miller Edge. Tom Galloway made an appearance as did Jerry and a bunch of electric guys who I must apologize to – for not remembering their names. Rusty and arrived to set up the BBQ and by noon hamburgers and hot dogs were rolling off the grill. Everybody enjoyed a good day of comraderie and flying to officially start the year off at the Buzzards Field. I flew my Duck for 8 launches, shooting landings and attempting 5 minute tasks. With virtually zero thermal activity today the only hope was top slope the Northern treeline which worked quite successfully to lengthen most of my flights to 5 minutes or close. Raed maidened his gorgeous new Red on Yellow JW Ruby and did it fly well. A really nice ship and should give Raed a great platform for the 2M challenge this year. Rick was flying his Laser and like me found the air unfriendly with most downhill wherever we flew. The guys flew a few electrics between the slight drizzle which persisted. Though the weather wasn’t very co-operative for the Appreciation day it was still a great success and all that turned up had a great time.

Rick Maidens his new Xplorer too!

With such gorgeous weather available who wouldn’t want to get their newly completed sailplane in the air ASAP? Rick has been keen for a week now to get some lift under the wings of his immaculately finished White and red trim Xplorer. Seems like Xplorers are flavor of the month with Ed White getting one too and both the Miller brothers equipped with one of these machines as well. They sure are a fine flying airplane as we found out with a couple of handtosses of Ricks’s ship. Right off the bench with a CG at 108mm the Xplorer flew like it was trimmed out. A couple of clicks of up trim and a couple more tosses saw Rick ready for the winch. Ricks comment after the first launch was “wow!” He found the Xplorer a lot smoother than the Supra and the bigger wing area really signalling lift well.
For a cool evening lift was plentiful. Jody, with his Xplorer and I with the High End flew a series of 7 min tasks “man on man” and managed to get our times fairly easily. I even managed a 7 min when I was last to launch and lifted the turnaround out of the ground for a very low launch but got away in some nice air right over the field. Finished thermalling about 500 yards downwind and low over the western trees at about 4:30 minutes but still made it back with the High End to get an improbable 7 min. Jody shot some landings and added 3 landings to his LSF Level 2 sheet. Rick was extremely pleased with his Xplorer’s first sorties and is lookijng forward to the weekend. Jamie also came out to fly and put his Icon up late in the evening as the full moon rose. Jamie Buckland also practiced some landings with some Icon launches into the evening dusk before we called it a night and packed up the winch.
Congrats to Rick and Jody with their new ships and also great to see you out practicing Jamie. I can see that with the skills these young guys have – us oldies will have to sharpen our skills a lot to keep them from hogging the wood at each contest. You guys are going to help make this year a really good contest series.

Flying report today Jan 16th (Was Appreciation day)

Was a reasonable day at the field today. Even though the Appreciation day was re-scheduled and Raed sent out an email – a few did not receive it – so it was good to meet with Hank and John and Mike and a couple of others who did turn up out there expecting to see a crowd. We gave them the new date of Jan 30th to return for the real Appreciation Day.
Meanwhile Dave Forbes flew DLG and we checked out his Eraser Extreme but radio problems did not allow him to fly it today. I flew a few sorties with the High End and practiced landings with Leife Francisco. I showed him how we plan an approach to get some consistency with the timing of the landing. We plan to practice that with Leife flying his bird next time out. Costa flew his DLG with Dave and I finally got my 2M “Wood Duck” in the air. I love this old bird. She has heaps of wing and flys much better than the Laser 2M I flew last weekend. She also launches unbelievably high. Looking forward to getting her out on a good day.
The conditions were very warm and slightly breezy most of the morning with cloud obscuring the sun. By the time Jody Miller rolled up, the wind had increased considerably and flying wasn’t quite so pleasant as earlier.
Jody specifically came out to the field today to provide a Christmas gift to Costa and Leife – A present of Jody’s old Edge for Costa and Leife to learn to fly full house. What a wonderful gesture by Jody and I am sure that Costa and Leife are extremely happy with the gift. Good Karma points there Jody! Well done and well done Buzzards. We need a lot more of this sort of club spirit in the Buzzards! Very encouraging stuff indeed. A good day was had and we look forward to next weekend’s Gainesville DLG bash. CU there.

Christmas Eve Gordon Report

A small group of us flew on Thursday – Christmas Eve including Allan, Rich, Jody, Ed, Rick and myself. A good friend Tim Gess from MI was in town and wanted to show us the most recent developments of his self launching device (the OneWinch) for sailplanes. I had tried launching my OnyxJW with the device with Tim in March and it worked well but needed more improvements which Tim had made and was now ready to test it out again with some big ships. Thursday was very windy which dented the enthusiasm of Ed trying to trim his new Ava but Rich, Al and Rick were flying and I also used the opportunity to get some stick time on my High End. I found some great lift in the windy conditions and got a good 25 minut flight in. Rick launched his 2M Laser with Tim’s self launcher a few times with Rich Kiburis doing the towing. The launches went very well achieving launch heights which looked equivalent to a good winch launch. After a couple of winch launches with my High End we decided to try Tim’s launcher with a “big ship”. Once again Rich did the “towing.” I was only at about 150 feet when something broke on the apparatus and Rich pulling hard on the device was struck in the back with the end of the towing twine. Struck pretty hard too apparently as it left some nasty welts even through his pullover. Clearly the towing system worked extremely well but needs a little beefing up in a few places. Tim has a great concept which allows excellent launches either on your own or with someone towing. The cause of failure has been addressed. (In addition to using 350# snap rings Tim has also encased the end of the line in a braided dacron sleeve, before tying the knot. This greatly relieves the “stress riser” that occurs when you knot a line.)
We called it a day around noon and packed up to go home and get ready for christmas.

10km XC attempt at Kennyworld

Gordy Stahl, Ingo Donasch and myself planned to try for our LSF 5 Goal and Return flights at Kennyworld on Dec 12th or 13th. The weather forecast all week indicated that we would be in for a hot day with record temps in Ocala of 84 degrees. The wind was going to be swinging from east to west during the day at a strength of around 8 mph to 12 mph. Though not ideal wind the task was still doable so we set out on the Sunday to give it a try. Jody Miller came with us from Orlando and we were also joined by Art Scheurer at Kennyworld.

Unfortunately for us the entire XC attempt was going to be in vain because the weather forecasters got it entirely wrong. We were greeted in Kennyworld with overcast skys, cold wind and a cloud base of barely 600 feet. We didn’t see the sun all day and the buzzards were finding conditions tough. In fact when we were watching Buzzards successfully thermalling they were disappearing into cloud! It was a great opportunity for a dry run to test our equipment and planes. The old Vyger was assembled and flown a few times but the windy conditions were not her forte. I flew my High End for the first time and got some trimming and mode settings done on it. Ingo flew his Shadow a few times also to test the air. The biggest problem we had all day was that we needed much longer stakes to hold the turn around down in the loosely ploughed peanut field. The turnaround continued to pull out of the ground on any strong launches. We did have a fun day all round but we’ll need to try again with better weather conditions. Thanks to Jody and Art for being our loyal assistants.