Wednesday, November 8, 2017

What I Like About Free Flight V - Contests

Just getting my free flight models to fly consistently without crashing is fun but I am increasingly enjoying the competition aspect of outdoor free flight.  Psychology Today article had this to say about competition:

For most people, there is something inexplicably compelling about the nature of competition. Perhaps that’s because, as some scholars argue, “competitiveness” is a biological trait that co-evolved with the basic need for (human) survival.

Happy Free Flight Contestant

The time I spend at a free flight contest goes by the quickest of anything I have ever done. Maybe too much so as I really do not spend much time socializing with some really nice people.  I also fly some RC sailplane competition which keeps one busy also because you are either flying or timing a flight at smaller contests.  Larger RC sailplane contests can have you waiting a fair amount of time between flights; I only have entered one of those. Amazingly I received a third place trophy mainly because I flew fairly consistently without crashing. In my younger years when I flew RC pylon racing, the spare time was spent standing under a pylon to watch for “cuts”.  I also raced electric RC cars for a time and spare time was spent replacing broken parts or being a “corner marshal”.   

Small RC Sailplane Contest

The competition that I have participated in has been the “objective type: as opposed to the “subjective” type where maneuvers or appearance are scored by judges. To me a contest that can be scored by time keeping is the most fair. With free flight there can be a huge number of factors that result in those times. I also flew indoor free flight and did pretty well after several contests; the indoor environment is rather controlled compared to all the factors present flying outdoors.

Registering Free Flight Models at 2016 Nats

Flying outdoors the conditions can change during the day.  Often the wind starts out very light and increases during the day but it can also get stronger or weaker at anytime.  Thermal lift usually gets better later into the morning. This is where strategy comes into play, do you try to get flights in during calmer air with less likelihood of thermal lift or fly later when the wind is blowing harder and your plane is more likely to drift off the field.  Then you probably have so many flights to get in with all the events you are flying, waiting very long to fly is not an option.

Young Winners at Nats Free Flight

Winning at an outdoor free flight contest I have no experience in yet but I sure plan to keep trying. From what I have seen in outdoor free flight; that if your plane is built and adjusted to a fairly good level, a relative new person does have a chance at winning. With the other radio control events I do not think there is much of a chance for a beginner to win.

Bill Kuhl


  1. I got third place in my first contest with the Bong Eagles. I know what you are thinking, but no there were 5 entries. I might have moved up a spot with another flight, but was worried about losing my Jollywock. The wind was kicking up and the Bong flying site has some rough terrain with lots of high weeds.

  2. I was surprised to get 3rd in the last MMAC contest in P30 with Polecat X. I was worried to about keeping it out the corn.