Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Dateline: August 2007

Euro Prospects

In two weeks time, Hollandglide will be over. Let us hope that the
Dutch at Deelen know how to work the weather miracle and avoid all rain
and high winds. Then many of the competitors will be making their way
to Trnava for the European Championships and the Trnava Cup. Time to do
some forecasting, hopefully with more success than last time.

The sixth European F3J championships in Trnava, Slovakia has attracted
60 senior pilots and 37 juniors to compete for the second most
prestigious prizes, second only to the world champs. The Trnava Cup
which will be held 17, 18 and 19 August before the main event and is
open to all F3J pilots has attracted 156 entrants so far. That will be
a stern challenge too.

The most remarkable feature in advance for the championships is that 40
out of the 60 senior pilots from 20 countries were at the World Champs
last year in Martin, and 24 from the 37 juniors - 16 countries - were
pilots last year. As much as anything, these FAI contests are an
opportunity for the F3J enthusiasts to renew friendships and compare
latest ideas, models and techniques. F3J contests are mostly tight to
the finish with split seconds and five landing points making all the
difference between top places. It is unlikely to be different this

Over recent years this Gossip column has run through most of the team
members and managers, with odd bits of commentary. This year events
have conspired to leave me with little guidance on form. Models seem
unlikely to have moved on much, according to my information, but we
shall soon see.

So instead of having to plough through lots of names, I shall pick out
one or two highlights, with predictions to guide the betting.

The number of fly-off places will be officially announced by contest
director Milan Blazek at the start and could be 12. These are likely to
come from David Claeys, Belgium; Adrian Lee from UK; Damir Kmoch from
Croatia; Primoz Prhavc from Slovenia. (I omit Primoz Rizner from
Croatia this year because for the last two years I have seen him as the
top place winner and he has let me down. I know it makes him even more
nervous to be favourite!)

Sebastian Feigl and Tobias Lammlein from Germany seem set to make the
last rounds and they will likely be joined by Philip Kolb, flying this
time as reigning European champion and not part of the German team. In
the last Gossip, I reckoned he had already won the F3J Eurotour after
five events. He is certain winner having scored 103 again in Sofia last

Jan Kohout, another ex-champion, will join Jaroslav Tupec from the
Czech Republic in the fly-off. Jaroslav told me last year that he was
too old for international championships - I can give him more than ten
years, but I’ll never fly like he can - and I’m pleased to see he
changed his mind.

The Italians were magnificent last year in Martin and enjoyed noisy
support. This time Massimo Verardi will make the fly-off again. Frank
van Melick from Holland, one of the few to fly his own-design models is
a good fly-off bet. Incidentally, if you want the best restaurant in
Trnava, then follow the Dutch team led by manager Jos Kleuskens because
he will have booked the best table there. Host country Slovakia will
win two fly-off places I bet, Juraj Adamek and Jan Ivancik.

To complete the fly-off list I’ve dithered between the three Turkish
team members. Many neutral supporters in Trnava will want this team to
do well since they will be hosts for the 2008 world championships in
Istanbul. My bet is Murat Esibatir.

Fourteen names for twelve places are my best guesses, and I wish
everyone, named or not, the best of luck, no unfortunate mid-airs and
enjoyable protest-free flying.

Who will be the new champion? Favourite for me is Jan Kohout, for he
will be trying seriously hard this year. Team prize? My hope is
Slovakia as hosts, but equally likely are the Czechs or the Germans,
who will have the youngest senior team on the airfield.

Muddy tales

UK’s awful summer continues, and so far we haven’t had an F3J
competition which has not been hampered by showers, storms and winds.
We live in hope that one day this year we shall enjoy a thermal
competition. We came close at Twywell last weekend with most of the
slots flown out, even the flyoff in the early evening. It did manage to
spatter a few drops of rain during two of the slots, just to be

But we flyers cannot moan: in England thousands of houses have been
flooded, 120,000 families have been without running water for more than
a week, 20,000 homes are without electricity. Guesses on the causes
include a southerly shift in the Atlantic jet-stream, global warming of
course, but in fairness most continental Europeans expect the English
summer to be wet.


The UK leg of the Eurotour, Interglide took place June 23/24, and
Tobias Lammlein from Markdorf in Germany flew over to take part. Allow
me to share some of the trials and tips.

For those who don’t know Tobi, he was World Junior F3J champion in
Lappenranta in 2002 and he will fly in the senior German team this
summer in the European championships at Trnava in August. He’s a top
pilot. He is in his second year of a mechanical engineering degree in
Switzerland, and the weekend break to get to Interglide was at the end
of term.

Tobi lives 15 minutes away from Friedrichshafen, from where you can fly
with Ryanair to Stansted in 90 minutes. Big snag was that his model box
did not arrive, and by 9.00 pm all hope of flying his three models was
gone. We phoned my friend Andre Borowski at the hospital in Enfield and
borrowed his Sharon Pro for the weekend. Tobi started programming the
model into his Graupner MC24 at 11.00pm, added an extra 30 grams in the
nose, went to bed for a few hours before leaving at 6.30 am next
morning for Marsh Gibbon.

Prospects were gloomy, plenty of rain forecast for the next few days,
but on reaching the field, the rain had stopped leaving lots of mud.
Walk within a metre of the ground sheet on which models were assembled
and the wings were splattered with mud, which dried like cement within

Tobi did a handlaunch to test his settings, added another lump of
weight in the nose, flew in the second slot and scored a thousand with
his first towed flight, then went on to take second place in the
fly-off. If ever proof was needed that it’s the pilot that counts, not
the model, this was it.


Interglide contest director Graham Wicks (left), organiser Tony Vale
and second place winner Tobi Lammlein collecting his spoils courtesy of
Ace Models and Graupner.

Couple of highlights from his flying: in the second slot Tobi was
circling tight with three other models and came close to a mid-air.
“I’d forgotten it isn’t my model,” as he broke away to look for some
lift in isolation. Then in the flyoff, flying really high, far beyond
my vision as spotter. “I must be careful,” he said, “I’m close to
cloud.” A minute later, “It’s in cloud.” It seemed an age to emerge,
and I would never have found it with my eyes.

The real treat for me was having Tobi as my spotter. I gained tenth
place, far higher than normal, and that was 100% due to his bullying
and guidance. Several times my Supra flew far beyond my normal
boundaries, not only for visibility but also risking safe return. Each
time Tobi was confident that lift would be there - and it was.

How can he know that lift is most probably there? “It’s a hunch,” is
his explanation. How does he know which way to fly after the zoom? He
spends plenty of time following models flying each slot, but in the 30
seconds before his own launch, he claims that he remains unsure of
which way to fly: “Usually that decision is when I’m in the air.”

For many seasons, Tobi’s spotter - Germans call it “coach” - has been
Philip Kolb, especially in FAI championships, and experience of each
flight presumably rubs off. Is that how you learn to read air? As a
young boy his father Stephan Lammlein coached, but for competitions the
father/son relationship became too close for comfort and Stephan
stepped aside.

I remember last year at Martin’s World Championships, Joe Wurts
launched all three US juniors and did the spotting. The pilots were
excellent flyers, and Joe’s guidance was terse: “I don’t like that sky
- better left.” (Or similar) All the time Joe was looking round, 360
degrees. When a move was needed, his direction was ready.

My problems with spotting are first vision, then spending too much time
watching my pilot’s model, then advising too late that someone has got
reachable lift, and then persuading my pilot that he might try for it.
Most spotters I know spend most of the 10 minutes acting as co-pilot,
which is usually a waste

Spotter should rarely be co-pilot!

Biggest laugh I had timekeeping a couple of years ago in the
Hollandglide fly-off, was when an ex-world F3J champion flew with a new
spotter; his usual mate also being in the fly-off. Half way through the
first 15 minutes, I overheard: “Look, I don’t mind if you don’t say
anything. I don’t really mind if you keep on talking. But whatever you
do, don’t talk stupid!”

So drink a toast to all spotters, as vital to success as any pilot. The
same goes for the towmen! Wouldn’t it be a good idea of some of our
best spotters spent a little time trying to coach us mere mortals how
to do the job better!

Interglide was the first time in my UK experience that the contest
director insisted that we flew some rounds in the rain - admittedly
light but continuous - to ensure that the event would be valid. Anyway
Tobi was due to fly in the next slot and asked if I’d got any “XYZ”
which I could not translate, for his wings.

Turning to Adrian Lee, he borrowed some washing-up liquid from his
caravan, and wiped top and bottom of the wing and tailplane surfaces,
just the gentlest of smears but leaving the wings sticky and slightly
slippery. Tobi wanted the liquid to disperse any water bubbles
collecting on the surface as the model flew, to minimise aerofoil
degradation, presumably the green stuff breaking surface tension. When
the model landed at the end of the slot, there were no bubbles, and the
slot was won.

To end the saga, Tobi’s three models in the box returned to
Friedrichshafen one and a half weeks later, apparently via Palma de
Mallorca. He has still to see his 50 Euro “sporting luggage” fare
refunded. Ryanair told him several times that they were a low-cost
airline with no electronic label facilities and they could only find
the box when it turned up. Two days after the box returned home,
Ryanair phoned up asking if he had found the box yet!

At Stansted airport I discovered that if you inquire about lost
luggage, you cannot talk face to face with anyone, you can only speak
on one single phone at the far end of arrivals, and that phone is
usually engaged. But if it weren’t for low cost air travel, many of us
wouldn’t get to many Eurotour contests. So take it or leave it!

Radio revolution is here

Only in the last two weeks have I flown a model with synthesized
transmitter and receiver, with complete success thankfully. I remain
suspicious. With a box of crystals in my transmitter case worth far
more than the transmitter itself, I feel slightly done by. Also after
three decades of relying upon crystals to make my models work and avoid
interfering with others flying at the same time, crystals take on a
spiritual importance, like candles on an altar, and I’m loathe to
abandon them.

But I am told that synthesized transmitters are now accepted by top
pilots as 100% reliable and convenient in use. I have heard some doubts
about synthesized receivers, vulnerable to mobile phones etc., by
nobody I know has blamed them for a crash or interference. Again the
habit of changing and checking crystals dies hard.

The world of serious model radio-controlling is about the change again
with 2.4 GHz transmission, not the sets which have been selling for the
last year or so with limited range and only recommended for indoor and
park-fly models, but Graupner’s new Intelligent-Frequency-Select (iFS)
system, due to become available in August - any day now.

Both the new transmitter modules - you can continue to use your
existing set - and receivers have a host of features too long to list
here. Extra special to my mind is that Graupner says that up to 120
models can fly at the same time. The receiver and transmitter talk to
each other all the time, and your model and trannie will change
frequency as soon as interference is detected. As pilot, you will not
be aware of any change.

Airborne sensors in the model will send real-time information back to
the transmitter on a four line LCD screen, and you will be able to
track battery voltage, height, air speed, temperatures etc., and the
feedback can be converted into audio signals into your headphone. This
part of the system is still under development, say Graupner, and they
reckon up to 256 sensors in the model can be monitored. What can that
number be useful for?

Most importantly, the transmitter’s output power can be adjusted
between 10mW up to 100mW, because different countries have their own
regulations on what is permissible. The 8 and ten channel receivers
which will be on sale will have a range of 800 metres on the ground and
2 kilometres in the air, if you can see that far. The transmitter
aerial is about 12 cm long, and the receiver has a tiny stub aerial

For the technically inclined, all this sounds pretty impressive. But
for me, I wonder what the reactions will be among the powers that be in
FAI, what changes might be triggered eventually in all the F3 class

For the moment it is quite simple. IFS will not be allowed in any F3J
competition because: “Any device for the transmission of information
from the model aircraft to the competitor is prohibited.” But that
can’t last for long.

The whole approach to running competitions to date has been the limit
on the number of pilots who can fly at the same time. Hence we have
man-on-man rules, that is a number of rounds with several groups
(slots) in each round.

The limiting factor in future could be how many gliders can be flown
and landed on targets reasonably safely at the same time? - 20, 30 or
even more. I suspect that we will not see 120 models up at one time,
although that would make the model manufacturers rub their hands in

With slightly modified rules and staggered launches, you could
certainly have two or three times as many flying in each group on most
contest sites. That could be fairer and more exciting. The many and
various options which iFS opens up, if it proves as successful and
reliable as promised, will certainly lead to some healthy debates in
the not so distant future. Tomas Bartovsky and the folks in Lausanne
are going to be busy!

End of gossip for now!

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