National Free Flight Society

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  1. We have reached tipping point, when we will cross the chasm?
  2. Rocky Mountain FF Champs 2021
  3. Altitude …is not everything
  4. Addressing the Dilemma
  5. Home by noon
  6. Good News

We have reached tipping point, when we will cross the chasm?

 (with acknowledgements to Malcolm Gladwell and Geoffrey Moore, authors of two classic business and beyond books).

With FAI Free Flight we have reached a Tipping Point. This means the external circumstances, rules, environment have reached a point where our traditional way of dealing with the situation will no longer work and it is critical for FAI Free Flight.

With the FAI, CIAM, FFTSC and our National Aero Clubs we have a hierarchical, sometimes paternalistic, structure that managed our sport and has served us very well since before the Second World War.  It has taken input from many modelers and countries and moved the rules along to deal with changing circumstances and times. It has defined the rules and parameters of our sporting events so each event can come to a satisfactory sporting conclusion. The people in the CIAM, FFTSC and the different NACs do a great job; most are volunteers who give their time to support us.

Now we have arrived at a time where the combination of  increasing performance, decreasing field size, dated technology in measuring performance, aging population, inability to attract youth and properly engage with all our constituents have all come at the time of a pandemic the size of which we have not seen  in perhaps over  500 years.

This situation does not sound good but it is a situation that happens quite often in business and recreational activities, and successful people, companies and organizations can deal with it and survive and flourish.

I once worked for  a medium-sized  company and we were acquired by a very traditional  big company, one of the longest established in our business.  When we started working with them, I was surprised to see they were undergoing a major transformation.  Their board had realized that they were not keeping up with the times and if they did not do something, they would soon be in big trouble and out of business. They did a number of things. One was to acquire the company I worked for and one or two others to help them upgrade their technology, but the most important was to change the way they worked.  They looked at making sure all the stakeholders in the company bought into the changes by involving them in some of the key changes. This was a huge departure from their previous traditional top down way of doing things.   They understood that if people did not understand what was happening and feel they were part of it, the company transformation would not work. This was a traumatic experience for many people.  Now this worked but I must admit some people did not buy in, they said “oh I don’t like this new stuff”, “it’s only a couple of years until I retire, just leave me alone to do things as we always did”.  But as expected, the younger people wanted the changes so their  job would be there in the future, and a large number of the older employees were interested in the new ideas, appreciated they were being listened to and got with the program. They worked on getting more agile, adopting more modern decision-making techniques and making some key decisions quite quickly.

Now to us.

If you look at the FAI classes, F1C is the one with the highest performance and so is the one that people suggest changes to the most often.  Anytime this happens, there is an immediate outcry from the current flyers. They feel they are the most important constituent and have not been consulted.  They want to know who in that FAI to NAC hierarchy is a F1C flyer, have their concerns been properly expressed and are they being more penalized than other classes.  So clearly the hierarchy is not including them or communicating with them. And it’s just the same with the other classes.  Many sportsmen feel left out. We did see something a while back where an F1A towing rule change was proposed and some influential flyers on the FFTSC were able to do a test and prove that the proposed rule change “was not a good idea”.  They actually tested it on the field, not just talked about it.   This was not done with the introduction of F1P for the junior power class; no prototype model was built to validate the new rules and the class proved to be more difficult than intended. .

I’m a contest director of quite a big event and I don’t believe that I can run F1C properly anymore to “achieve a sporting result” because we are asking timekeepers to time an engine run with a fraction of a second accuracy. With only a 4 second motor run,  0.1 of a second  is much more important than in even a 5 second run. We have sportsmen who push the limit on the engine run, then dispute an overrun, sometimes using their status to bully the timekeeper and then concede under pressure to an attempt and on the reflight use a more conservative setting.  One could say this is just part of the sport, except when looking for timekeepers there are significant number who won’t time F1C  because they have been told by a sporting great that they are not capable of timing competently.  Here we have a rule requirement that can be hard for the organizer to satisfy, especially for a World Cup event.

And just show I’m not picking on the F1C guys, there are 2 cases in the sporting code where an altimeter can be used. The one under most discussion is the D/T flyoff.   The ‘other one’ is for a sportsman to dispute the timekeeper’s result in a flyoff situation. This one was , I think, introduced by an F1A Sportsman.

As an organizer I have to recruit from a cadre of “deaf” people, with cataracts in their eyes and slowing reactions times to provide at least 2 timekeepers per pole. They can be  challenged by top sportsmen?  While one could blame the sportsmen for not being sporting, it is rather a problem with the rules being hard to apply.

So, the answer is finding young people. Well these young people say “why are you using such an antiquated way of timing, you should be using electronic timing, I just watched  an F1 automobile race, no one challenged the timing there and clearly Red Bull or Mercedes would if they could“.  At the Olympics for simple sports like running, swimming, rowing, canoeing, there are no official geezers with stop watches in their hands; all is some form of automated timing.

Automated timing is kind of a special class of problem. We already use much of the technology in Free Flight and the R/C and Drone classes probably use the rest.  So why doesn’t some rich benefactor come along and fund it?  Somebody could “just do it” and show how great it is and everyone would jump on board.  A possible reason is that there is no guarantee that it would be accepted. Listening to our readership there are some who think it critically important and others think it is the death of the civilized world as they know it.  But, for example an official CIAM request to produce a pilot system might give some positive encouragement.

So here are some stakeholders who are maybe not consulted enough, the sportsmen, the contest directors and their helpers and the young people.

What’s next. We need to somehow decide if we want to Cross the Chasm and resolve these important issues or a come up with a less attractive alternative. Crossing the Chasm means that you have arrived at a point where to take the next step forward, a small incremental change won’t work. The next step is a big one.  Crossing the Chasm would involve figuring out how to overcome the issues facing us today, getting input, involvement and commitment from the constituents and probably prototyping some of the ideas, then getting back to the CIAM and constituent NACs.  Typically doing this requires some form of facilitator or leader experienced in encouraging the cooperation required.  It has to be a special project. Amongst our sportsmen we have people with a wide variety of skills. Perhaps there is someone or a group of people qualified for this task.  Just because to some of these issues seem large, it does not necessarily mean that the solution is huge and means changing everything. It could well be relatively simple. The difference could be just looking at it in a different way.

If we look at input from what we could call the Altimeter discussion (but is really much more general than that), there is close to universal agreement that there a problem … although not on what the problems is and certainly not on the solution.  It is also possible that we could have a solution imposed on us, maybe not so good.

The first task probably is to make a definition of FAI Free Flight. Maybe that’s a test case for finding the facilitator.
Or like some of those people in that company I talked about, we could just walk away, not care because I’m  going to stop flying soon, and then I can say how great the old days were.

Finally, a thought from Bill Hartill. Bill was one of the founding members of SCAT.  He passed away a number of years ago and his birthday was not long ago and his family and friends were remembering him on Facebook.  Bill had a reputation for being a bit hardnosed on the rules. Bill was the Contest Director for the 1993 World Champs at Lost Hills. This was the first big event in the USA after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and travel etc. was challenging for many people in Eastern Europe. At the very first planning meeting for the event, he was insistent that as organizers we must remember at all times that we were running the event for the flyers. We had to adhere to the Sporting Code but were not to be officious and were to make sure that all sportsmen could do their best.

Now we need to take the next step … decide whether we are going to Cross the Chasm or what?

Rocky Mountain FF Champs 2021

From: Don DeLoach

Come join us in Denver for the largest contest in the Mountain West. Forty plus events including  America’s Cup and National Cup (exempt) status on the largest flying site in North America. Every Free Flighter owes it to him/herself to experience our 22,000 acre slice of paradise, in our best weather of the year. Cool mornings, little chance of rain, light winds and shirt sleeve temperatures are the norm for Denver in late summer.
Visit Free Flight Calendar – The National Free Flight Society for the contest flyer and detailed information.

See you on the field!

Don DeLoach

Altitude …is not everything!

From: Klaus Salzer

I am quite happy to have stopped flying F1A and F1B in contests some years ago, since the current developments would have me stop now.

The focus on altitude, altitude, altitude is wrong in my opinion. Compare the glide of these high-launch planes with planes of 20 years ago: they are no better. More: they have very little thermal-seeking abilities, since those „cunning warps” would hurt launch height …

Judging just by the altitude after 2 min would completely ignore the fact, that one plane might be climbing, while the other one is in bad air, but had a 100m launch as compared to the one climbing from only a 60m launch … Should we not judge by the difference//from launch height?

I fondly remember flyoffs I have won from LOW launch height, since I chose to launch softly into good air while competitors waited … and it was too late to follow when they realized the air was good, even if they were able to launch much, much higher. And sometimes my plane just choose to fly somewhere else sniffing out good air by itself.

To avoid long flyoffs for gliders we should prefer shorter towlines. Modern e-timers could easily store launch programs for different towline lengths – which, of course, would have to be formalized and trimmed and tested before. And for really small fields a short line could be used for all flights. Go to a percentage ranking (like F1E) to make results come to equal numbers for different contests (a max is 100% whatever the time in seconds was).

Rubber and power would be more complicated – reduced rubber for flyoffs seems a bit complicated (but e-timers would help there too), and motor runs are very short already, but other people may have ideas there.

But, as I said in the beginning, it does not really concern me any more!

Klaus Salzer

Addressing the Dilemma

From: Roy Smith

Hi Roger,

I saw your comment.  It seems to me that the current fliers’ dilemma is an easy one to deal with.  Keep the current rules in place for a specified time, say five years, at which point the rules are going to change so that fully challenging, world class, competition can take place within the confines of fields that are widely accessible.  The period of time should be sufficient for the current models to have performed sufficiently that they can reasonably be retired, and the interim period would also allow sufficient opportunity for the fliers to acquire and develop the equipment necessary for the next phase.

I really believe that turning the FAI events into something that people can be involved in at many venues around the continent and around the world, and which will be determined by a straightforward time-to-the ground approach, is likely to attract more participants and would not detract at all from the level of skill and dedication required in order to achieve world championship status.

Roy E. Smith

From the Aeronut    Free Flight Forever


Home by noon

From:Michael Achterberg

Duration is target.  Roy and Dave are right.. If we add 200gr and cut wing span to 60″ we fix all 3 events. No more long flyoffs and long days. 5 rounds and done by noon.    No need to design a better aircraft, as they will all fly like crap.. An which F1 event are you competing in Roy??


 Good News

Sometimes we need to look around and reflect on the good things that happening or have happened. Here are a couple of examples.

World Cups

One of the best things for FAI Free Flight was the creation of the World Cups back in 1987.  This gave all of us FAI Free Flighters the opportunity to fly in a good international event with the best flyers in the World.  And  for those who don’t travel much, some of them will probably come to a flying site. Looking back at some of the first winners.

1991 World Cup Jan Vosejpka Alex Andrjukov Claus-Peter Wachtler Ivan Crha
1990 World Cup Juri Jablokov Alex Andrjukov Eugeny Verbitsky Jaroslav Mach
1989 World Cup Stefan Rumpp Norm Furutani Jan Ochman Klaus Salzer
1988 World Cup Stefan Rumpp Walt Ghio Thomas Koster
1987 World Cup Stefan Rumpp Deiter Paff Randy Archer

(1987 was an unofficial inaugural event, with the World Cup concept approved by CIAM at the 1987 Plenary meeting)
Special Credit has to go to Ian Kaynes for doing the scoring and maintaining the web site at

This gives an account year by year and drills down the results in every contest every year!  Everything you need to know and more. It has links to the World Cup rules and the World and Continental Championships results too, a real gold mine of info.

Free Flight Reporting on Facebook

Second thing is the various Facebook Groups about Free Flight. One of the oldest is just called Free Flight and our club’s is Southern California Aero Team (SCAT). And there are many others, if you want to suggest one let us know and we will publish reference to these.  If you organize or take part in a contest and can post the results or photos please continue to do so. Because of more limited travel it is important to post this information so we can all keep in touch and know what’s happening.  Some people have posted quite a large number of photos. This is good. People who do that do not always know the names of the people or the models they are flying.  When you see a photo of you and your friends , if want you should add your name and what you are flying.  This will help everyone keep in touch with their friends and what’s happening.