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.
The “Gordon Report” in Australia.