So You Want To Attend A Flying Aces Club Contest

A little over a year ago I joined the Flying Aces Club for twenty-five bucks. What is the Flying Aces Club? The Flying Aces website sums it up best:

The FLYING ACES CLUB is a society of individuals with a common interest that at times borders on a passion. It is our intent to preserve and promote the traditional building and flying of free flight stick and tissue model aircraft. Although competitive at times, the sharing of innovations, assistance and camaraderie is second nature to all that believe in the unique spirit of the FLYING ACES CLUB.

As someone new to the hobby, joining the Flying Aces was exciting, and intimidating. Exciting because I was part of something I found interesting – intimidated because  I wasn’t very good at making my models take flight. The newsletters are well put together and include model plans. The lingo, on the other hand, confused me quite at bit – and sometimes still does. I didn’t know anything about airplanes let alone the terminology that specifically applies to rubber powered free flight model aircraft.

I am providing the following information to other folks interested in joining in on the fun. I’ll update the information requiring correction and I’ll add new information to the post as it comes to mind. This isn’t “official” information, so it may not be completely correct, but is true to the best of my knowledge. This is what I’ve learned through my personal experience and I’m providing the information as a basic introduction.

Before You Attend A FAC Contest

You’ve successfully built a few flying models, checked the FAC calendar and found a contest you are able to attend. Now what?

1. AMA Membership

If you’re considering competing in any contest event you must have a valid AMA membership. Membership is $75/year and includes a monthly magazine. It’s my opinion the magazine is worthless if your only interest is rubber powered models. However, your AMA membership provides insurance if your model damages a person or property. It’s a good idea to have an AMA membership whenever and wherever you’re flying because of the insurance.

2. Documentation

If you’re bringing a scale model with you, regardless if it’s from scratch or a kit, you’re going to need to bring a copy of the plan, a 3-view of the aircraft design and photographs of the actual aircraft your model represents. Models that aren’t scale representations of actual aircraft may require a compliance check to make sure it qualifies for the category it will be competing in. Bring the plan!

As a “new guy” in hobby I had trouble determining what categories my planes qualified for. My first contest was the 2018 NATS in Geneseo, NY. This is probably the biggest contest every year for the club. To say I was overwhelmed when I pulled up to the contest, alone, with no clue of what to expect is an understatement. I found there was nothing to fear. Everyone is friendly, helpful and excited to see someone new. If you need assistance, just ask and don’t be afraid to offer assistance to anyone if you’re inclined.

3. Models, Tools & Supplies

I wasn’t sure what to bring with me to my first contest. So I brought everything I had, and I mean everything. My models were stored in boxes to prevent damage. I brought all my tools, glues, various sizes of balsa, tissue, rubber, wire – you get the point. I was happy I did! Every pilot seems to do the same. It’s no fun when a model breaks and you’re unable to improvise a repair on the spot. The good news is vendors including Easy Built Models and Volare sell everything free flight related at the larger contests: NATS, NON-NATS, Outdoor Champs, etc.

A pen and paper is handy to have to jot down information and to log flight times. Speaking of flight times, you’re going to need a stopwatch. Generally speaking, wearing a stopwatch around your neck signals other pilots that you’re available to time another pilot’s flight. Also, the stopwatch tends to be the fashion accessory of choice among pilots. You don’t need anything fancy, I paid five bucks for mine. You may get away with using the stopwatch on your phone at smaller contests such as those at Pinkham field, but not so much at larger contests.

Don’t forget the camera!

Leave the radio at home. I realized on my second day at the NATS that nobody was listening to music, or anything else that made noise. For how many pilots that attend the contests the events are surprisingly quiet. The quiet is wonderful! During contests every pilot is in their own headspace evaluating everything from the wind, weather, trim of their model, choosing which rubber and propeller to use, considering which models they’ll fly and when, did they take their meds, and a myriad of other things.

It’s quite relaxing to take a moment to listen to nothing but the quiet whirring of propellers in the sky and the occasional CRACK of a rubber band breaking while being wound.

4. Shelter & Comforts

At every multi-day contest each pilot brings a tent canopy, chairs and a some sort of table to serve as a workbench. Bring food, drinks, clothes for changes in weather (sometimes it gets windy) and anything else you’ll need for a day outdoors. You don’t want to have to jump in the vehicle on a supply run and miss all the action!

At The FAC Contest

Contest day has arrived, you pack up your vehicle and hit the road (if your drive is less than two hours you’re one of the few lucky ones). Here’s a few things I’ve learned from my scant experience so far.

Arrive Early

It didn’t take long for me to realize that the pros show up before sunrise. If the contest states its start time as 10 AM that means official timing starts at 10 AM. A smart pilot shows up early, sets up their home base and starts to test fly the models they intend to fly.

Vehicles will be lined up along the field, parked side by side. It’s not hard to find a spot, simply find a place to park. When you park it’s nice to greet your neighbors and introduce yourself. If you’re there super early and you see pilots setting up flags, tables, etc offer a helping hand.

Register

Once you’ve parked your car and made new friends you’ll need to seek out HQ (headquarters). HQ isn’t hard to miss, there’s usually flags (including one with a Flying Aces Club logo) and folding tables. Introduce yourself, explain that you’re new to the club and ask how to register.

Don’t be offended if you’re told to return later, the CD (Contest Director) has many responsibilities, especially on the morning of the first day. My experience has shown that the CD will introduce a new pilot to a helpful veteran. While you mingle it’s a good idea to ask about official contest protocol:

  1. Is self timing allowed? Generally speaking, you need to ask another pilot to time your flights. Smaller contests often permit pilots to time their own flights. This is a good time to remember the spirit of the FAC is camaraderie and socializing with other pilots that love the sport. Fun is the purpose of the contest, not setting the world on fire with record breaking times. There is no reason to embellish your times, doing so only hurts yourself.
  2. What is the schedule for the day? The flier for the contest will usually describe what events are on schedule for the day. Group events and mass launches are at specific times (which often change). Non-group event categories such as Embryo, FAC Peanut, etc can be timed anytime throughout the contest day. Remember to get your times turned into HQ before the deadline for the day.

At the big contests you’ll obtain a time sheet to log your flight times. I have a little plastic folder to hold the time sheet, my model documentation and a pen to log my flight times. I receive many envious glances and compliments on how organized I am with my nerdy plastic folder.

If you don’t understand something, it’s best to be honest and ask for clarification. My head was spinning at my first contest (still does). I was asked questions littered with foreign terminology. If I didn’t understand I’d say, “I don’t know what that is.” To my surprise I found many pilots with cloudy (no pun intended) understandings of some of the terminology. More often than not when I’ve expressed confusion the pilot was more than excited to take the time to share their knowledge.

Fly and Have Fun

Sounds easy. It is once you get the hang of it. You can fly whatever model you want, whenever you want (registration and AMA membership is still required). There are exceptions to this rule depending on the contest. Generally it’s not wise to fly unqualified models on the field during Group or Mass Launch events. This is because extraneous models complicate tracking and timing flights during group events.

Competing is NOT required

I’ll admit I’m still confused about what categories models qualify for. The large contests I’ve attended had no categories for motor stick models (models with a only a stick as a fuselage, such as the Peck ROG and Sky Bunny). Even though competing with motor stick models is not possible, you CAN still fly them.

Leave the drones, R/C models or anything with a motor at home. You may get away with flying these on the field, but the noise doesn’t garner much approval.

If you’re interested in the hobby, just go to a contest and mingle. Competing is not required. FAC pilots are a great group of dedicated people. Just about everyone is ready to share their tips and experience. My sister visited me at the NATS. She had an amazing time just sitting in a folding chair and taking in the sights and sounds (or lack thereof). There is so much to learn by simply watching pilots prep their planes for a flight that cannot be learned through watching videos or reading.

My personal goal for 2018 was to get an official time on the record books (flights need to be twenty seconds to qualify). Not only did I achieve this goal but I earned Third Place at the Outdoor Champs and Second Place at the Barron Field Races! I can honestly say that it’s not about winning or placing. The moment I attended my first contest I felt like home. Flying Aces Club contests are a retreat from the distractions life throws at me.

Hobbies like this are fading away, and this baffles me! There aren’t many places where people sharing a similar passion can meet in a friendly environment. Watching these models fly is a retreat that brings out everyone’s inner child. There are several multi-generation families that make an outing of the event. It’s a great time!

If you have any questions I haven’t covered here I’d be happy to answer them to the best of my ability. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Day Hiking The A.T. and Taxidermy

Appalachian Trail Taxidermy

This past Saturday my nephew Bernard and I did a little day hiking on the Appalachian Trail in the Delaware Water Gap. During our expedition we chewed on teaberry leaves and foraged a few wild raspberries and blueberries – leaving plenty behind for fellow hikers to discover. The forecast called for thunderstorms but the weather was on our side, gently raining shortly after each time we set up the hammocks for trail-side siestas. We stopped at Rudy’s Tavern in East Stroudsburg for a few pints and delicious bar pizzas for some post adventure refueling.

Sunday was filled with catching up with many odds and ends around the house. I worked a little on my Magic Mirror carving which I hope to complete soon. I also did some taxidermy experimenting with a song sparrow my sister provided me with a few months ago.  To my surprise I find the task of taxidermy relaxing. Freezer storage, however, is at a minimum at home and I have many big woodworking projects (some started years ago, some to start soon) on my horizon so I’ll likely pause the taxidermy hobby for a while.

Tie Dye and Star Watching Weekend

jchismar Lohr Weekend

This past weekend Amy and I visited with Pennsylvanian friends Linda and Jeff. We enjoyed good home cooking and plenty of fresh air. After finishing a delicious chili dinner on Saturday we lounged in the pasture around a fire, chatted and waited for the stars to come out. Jeff helpfully shared his knowledge of the sky while we peered through binoculars and experimented with cameras. We admired the moon (that’s the moon in the photo, not the sun) which rose later in the evening and one by one we doze off to sleep in the delightful cooling air.

Sunday morning Jeff prepared delicious french toast with eggs freshly retrieved from the hen house, accompanied by treats Linda cooked up. Energized by a relaxing night of sleep and a hearty breakfast we sprung into action. With Linda’s instruction we got creative making tie dye shirts. As the dye was setting Linda took the time to teach Amy the art of canning while Jeff and I entertained ourselves doing man stuff (not that canning isn’t man stuff). The experience flew by and we hope we can find the time to do it again soon.

jchismar Lohr Weekend

Also, I was mentioned in a news paper article this week regarding the Essex County, NJ Parks System. Check it out here.

Merry Cemetery : Sapanta Romania

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While visiting friends in Romania we had the awesome opportunity to visit Cimitirul Vesel, better known as the Merry Cemetery in Sapanta, Maramures. This has been on my list of places to visit for quite some time. The cemetery is filled with hundreds of colorful woodcarved grave markers. Each tombstone includes a carved scene which represents the deceased with a carved narrative about the person beneath.

Exploring this wonderful place is fascinating! I was thankful our hosts were patient with me as I examined the craftsmanship and creativity surrounding me. The slideshow above is a fraction of the images I captured during my stay. I departed the Merry Cemetery inspired with many new and creative ideas. I hope to find the time to tackle a few of the many ideas which resulted from the tour.

The Sounds of Romania

www.jchismar.com

I’ve returned freshly from an awesome Romanian vacation. My wife Amy and I visited with our Romanian friends Delia and Marian. I became friends with Marian while discussing 3D animation online. Amy and I visited Marian, and Romania, the first time thirteen years ago. Joining us on this two week trip were our German friends, fellow woodcarver, Lydia and her husband Hans.

I hope to share more of the Romanian experience in future blog posts but for now I will share some audio I recorded at various locations.

Mila 23 is a small village located in Tulcea County, Romania, nestled in the middle of the Danube Delta Reserve.  Thanks to Marian’s diligent planning I toured the Danube Delta for two days via speed boat and 4×4. We soaked in plenty of nature accompanied by sights of wild horses, pelicans and egrets. While relaxing at our villa in Mila 23 I placed my audio recorder on the windowsill to capture nature’s songs.

Mila 23 Day: Various birds, nature, distant boats and sounds about the villa.

Mila 23 Night: Dogs, insects, distant boats and sounds about the villa.

Sighetu Marmatiei is a quite village in northern Romania near the Tisa River.

Sighetu Marmatiei Morning: Various birds, roosters, nature.

Sighetu Marmatiei Day: People, playing children, vehicles, dogs.

Mamaia is the beach resort district of Constanta Romania.

Mamaia: Passing vehicles, pedestrians, distant discos.

Pounding Stones and Flying Drones at Crystal Grove

My wife and I had the pleasure of getting the camper trailer out for a weeklong end of summer vacation. Our destination was Crystal Grove Campground and Diamond mine in St. Johnsville, NY. We shared two exciting and fun days smashing stones to discover Herkimer diamonds. Finding the beautiful crystals was easy with a little experience and practice. Evan and Cecily are hospitable hosts and go above and beyond to ensure everyone is enjoying themselves.

I had an opportunity to fly my Hubsan X4 drone around the area. Having so much open space and sky to soar around is liberating! I collected some of the video footage I recorded from the drone and assembled a [somewhat shaky] video. Our poodle Fleur is oblivious about the thing buzzing around her head. I added a rocking Nightwish tune to add drama to the flight.

One night we found ourselves with too little time to prepare dinner at the camp. We drove into St Johnsville and stopped in Cosmo’s Bar & Grill for some takeout burgers and wings. I felt at home chatting with the bartender Mike and Speedy the local patron. Chris the chef invited Fleur to hang out back with his dog Bronx. The food was off the charts delicious. All in all it was an enjoyable visit. We hope to return to the area for more fun in the near future.

Kalalau Trail Topographic Map and Backpacking Tips

lalalau trail topographic map and backpacking tips

Some of you may recall my wife and I hiked the Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast of Kauai, Hawaii the last week of May 2015. When I was planning the trip I searched high and low for a good map of the Kalalau Trail with no success. The first complete map I found of the trail was in the parking lot at the trail head. I took a photo of the map and used the map on my camera screen while we were on the trail.

I brought the photo of the map home and digitally cleaned up the artwork in Photoshop. I added a few tips and hints regarding what I learned about parking safely and good places to camp along the way. I’ve done my very best to match the map at the trail head. To my recollection this map reflects what I experienced during my backpacking adventure on the Kalalau Trail.

I am sharing this map to help plan your adventure. The above image is only a small section of the complete map. Please remember, I am not a cartographer and I cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information.

Kalalau Trail Complete: 24 MB: (1) 21″ x 9″ page
Kalalau Trail 3 Pages: 16 MB: (3) 8.5″ x 11″ pages

Hawaiian Inspiration.

Bikini Blone Lager

Amy and I have recently returned from two weeks on the Hawaiian Islands: Oahu, Big Island, Maui and Kauai. Although we kept a fast paced schedule, we found time to relax and enjoy the sights, sounds and sensations Hawaii offers. On the Big Island we had the pleasure listening to Kai Hoopii play ukulele while singing Hawaiian falsetto during a performance at Volcano National Park. I recorded the show and in time I plan to prepare the recording for download. I did find time for a few creative endeavors. I painted a few watercolors and I worked on a much larger ongoing project (more on that in future posts).

While driving in Kauai we picked up a hitchhiker. To our surprise our passenger turned out to be Donny Pike of the classic vocal group The Lettermen. As if that brush with fame wasn’t enough we also learned of a secret surprise Neil Young concert that evening in Paia. Amy and I decided to stand in line and take our chances since our lodging was across the street. In short we waited four hours, didn’t get in the venue but made new friends. We did have a chance to watch through the windows and listen in the parking lot. Which was pretty cool anyway.

I had a great time appreciating the local art and wooden tiki carvings. The luau at Kilohana Plantation was a lot of fun. The open bar and buffet provided a solid foundation to enjoy the (touristy) program of singing and dancing. The great people at Kauai Backcountry Adventures hooked us up with a fun day of tubing and zip lining. For me, the highlight of the trip was hiking the Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali coast. The dramatic scenery and strenuous trail is spectacular. All in all Hawaii was a great time.

Sounds of the Grand Canyon Colorado River Dories

sounds of the grand canyon colorado river dories

To round out my blog postings regarding my Colorado River dory boat trip I decided to share some of the audio I captured. Audio is often more immersive and interesting than photographs or video. Properly appreciated audio surrounds and envelops the listener with new environments. The recordings I’m sharing are of nature sounds, sounds around camp and entertaining music provided by our guides.

Speaking of our O.A.R.S. guides, they worked very hard – but made it seem like a breeze. “Grand Canyon River Guides is a passionate association of folks who know and love the Grand Canyon like no other.  Some of us are guides, many are not.” If you download this audio, or if you simply want to make a difference, please make a donation to Grand Canyon River Guides

Preview & Download Sounds of the Colorado Dories for free.

O.A.R.S. Grand Canyon Dories Watercolor Sketches

o.a.r.s. grand canyon dories watercolor sketches

I’ve just returned from a two-week Grand Canyon O.A.R.S. Dory Boat vacation on the Colorado River. I had an outrageously awesome time making new friends, gawking at the stunning scenery and taking in everything Mother Nature has to offer. I stole a few solitude moments to plein air watercolor sketch the enchanted surroundings. The canyon seems to nurture creativity providing intoxicating landscapes full of inspiration.

Being in the canyon on the Colorado was a thrilling experience. New friendships were formed as well as great memories. Words and photographs cannot describe the Grand Canyon; the canyon must be experienced from within to be truly appreciated. I am thankful for the privilege of two weeks in the good hands of O.A.R.S. on the water and in the sand, sleeping under the Milky Way.

Please check out more of my Colorado River watercolor sketches in my art gallery.