November Blue Sky Day Ends 2023 Season

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By Dan G., MVSA Webmaster

A high start chute floated down out of the cobalt sky and it landed behind Rich R.. He didn’t notice, head down, walking east. It was 12:30 pm on Friday, the day before the last contest of the 2023 season. He stopped at the edge of the plowed cornfield, turned around and walked west.

“We don’t have a lot of guys volunteering for CDs and but, it can involve more work than you suspect.” Rich said on the phone the day after the contest.

Back at the field, he paced from cornfield to watering arm and eventually landed on his chair for lunch. This day the wind was light from the north and built to 5 gusting 10. What would tomorrow bring? Would this be the right field in the morning or would it be the main field? He would have to be ready with a plan on Saturday morning if the weather changed overnight. What would he tell the group Saturday morning at the main field? The contest would be broken – a mess – contacting the club members en route and the possibility of a split contest. So, he opted for Foley with a near 360-degree options for setup. Three hours later he would tell the club – it would be a East South East wind and the contest would be in Foley.

(File Photo) Rich R. (center) collects score cards from Dave Q. (left) and Bill R. (right) after a windy and cold Thermal Duration Contest on November 13, 2021.

Last year the season ended with early snowflakes and near freezing temperatures. Not many would fly and two would leave early; Larry, due to the cold and Dave due to the cold stopping his LiPo batteries. What would tomorrow bring?

The morning of the contest, Rich is the first to the field. He helps Bob W. set up the winch, walking the turnaround ESE as planned. He walks it a set number of paces – too few and these fliers complain it’s unfair and too many and the other fliers complain it’s unfair. This day, it will be just right.

“It felt like when you’re the CD you’re responsible for everything,” Rich R. said. “And that means people, relationships, equipment, working.”  

The pilot’s gathered for the pilot’s meeting. The planning is finished and the field is set. The air is a brisk 50 degrees – not too cold – not too warm. The sun is out and it promises to get warmer – not too warm. The air is quiet. There would be a contest and it was looking good so far. Three Thermal Duration Contests were cancelled this year for weather – on Saturday – they would fly.

“The whole field is in bounds,” Rich R. said as he briefed 11 during the pilot’s meeting. He smiled and paused for a moment, maybe for laughter. It was quiet. Bill O. remembers smiling.

The Winch

Early on, the winch went down. Rich R. jumped in and worked with Bob W. to resolve it. After the initial hiccup, the winch was up the rest of the contest. They worked together to order a new button for the retriever arm. The winch is the most important piece of equipment on the field – minus the planes. When the winch goes down, everything comes to a halt. The party stops and the host must step in.

“This equipment is working flawlessly,” Rich mentioned to Bob W. several times. “Thanks for getting the new battery et cetera.”  

The Accident and the Landing

Brian M. (right) walks his Radian back after his last flight of the day. His Euphoria was damaged before the contest. Fellow club members offered planes but he opted to fly his 2-Meter Radian for Unlimited and RES wowing competitors.

Brian M. brought his Euphoria for the Unlimited class competition although it would not be what he flew.

“I turned in time to see him catch it and a couple of expletives,” Bill O. said in a phone interview a few days after the contest. The accident folded one of the stabs – ending the day for the plane. “Rich came over and asked what happened.” Bill imagined Brian packing up and going home. There was no way he would fly the Radian for RES and Unlimited. Bill and Rich R. both offered planes to Brian but he declined both offers.

Brian M. whips his Radian around for an 85-point landing in Round 4.

Brian M. launched the 2-meter sized Radian for RES and Unlimited – Unlimited being the most surprising. He flew for 9 minutes 57 seconds and landed at the 72-point mark – 96% “perfect”. On a normal day this score would be good for first place but on Saturday it was good for 5th after one round – unbelievable. The highest score being Bill O. with a scorching 99.1% perfect and Dave Q. at 98.6% or 4 points out of 700. Brian landed in 4th place after two rounds and defended it until round 4.

Bill O. timed Brian for his last flight Unlimited flight of the day.

“I’m not even going to tell you about the time right now,” Bill O. said as Brian was still flying. “I said, just go ahead and fly your flight. He says, “yeah”. He started making his approach, and he said, “I’m too high. I’m too high”. He passed it up and turned back around and I thought, what the heck is he doing? But when he landed. He threaded a loop underneath the fuselage, and it spun him around and held him at 85 points.”

“Looking at his landing scores in particular, ’cause a radiant is very hard, you know, flaps, no spoilers,” Rich said. “He was doing (he laughed) very well, landing his radiant. And I had to watch a number of times and thought, wow, that’s really cool that he could do that.” – Brian M. flew 3 minutes 23 seconds in round 4 landing him back at 6th place in Unlimited, all with the Radian.

The Wedding

(File Photo) Dave Q. flies six days before the November TD Contest.

Dave Q. and a few others used all of the remaining power from both winch batteries on a beautiful fall day six-days before the contest. He told the group of his dilemma. Next Saturday on the last contest of the season he would have to choose between a wedding important to his wife and defending 2nd place honors in Unlimited. Would he bring his suit to the flying field? Would he wear his suit at the flying field? He could fly, change and get to the wedding on time not far down the road. The question was – was there time to make it happen?  

“I sent him a private email and let him know that at the point when he left after the third round,” Rich R. said. “He was in the lead by about 260 points (over Bill O. in 3rd place). And I think he really appreciated that. It simply confirmed that he was kicking some butt and really flying well.”

Dave Q. flew for 10:03 minutes in round 1 landing at 89 , 98% perfect – good for 3rd place, behind Bill O. in first and Bob G. in second – an 8-point spread between 1st and 3rd. In round two, he did it again – 98% perfect moving up to 2nd place behind the eventual contest winner. Bill O. would fly for 4:29. In round three, he would have the second-best round score and the best cumulative launching him in a solid first place, but he was out of time. It was time to pack it in and suit up.

It’s hard to gauge where one is at the end of three rounds, but Bill O. probably smelled blood in the water. With his competition for a 2nd place season finish, maybe his best ever in Unlimited, it was time to make some points.

Bill O. checks the sky before launching his RES plane at Saturday’s contest.

“I remember launching and Brian was coaching me,” Bill O. said. “Okay, turn flat, turn steady, turn smooth and follow the lift downwind. And I followed his advice, and I got my full 10-minute flight and a fairly decent landing. The fourth flight, I was wishing that all the flights had been like that.”

Bill O.’s fourth round Unlimited flight was 9 minutes and 51 seconds with 87 points on the landing. He took home 16 more normalized points than Dave Q. on the day but finished the season 383 points behind 2nd place Dave Q.. All in all, Bill O.’s best Unlimited season to date.

Constant Motion Machine

Rich S – Sometime during round one a van arrived. Flyers were shouting and waving their arms as it nearly drove over the winch line. Rich S. arrived late and had to choose which one of his three first round flights to drop. He chose not to fly 2-Meter and took a zero.

Rich S. seemed to lean into RES with 10-minute flight in round one topped with an 84-point landing. One round in, he was only 6-points out of first. It would be the only time he trailed an RES competitor. He flew for 9:53 in round 2 with zero landing points and ended the day 179 total points over Bob G.. The win was his second RES class win of the season finishing out 2nd place for the season.

Late in the contest, Rich S. was a near constant motion machine flying back-to-back flights. RES would be his best finish. On the drive home Rich R. collected his thoughts and reviewed the last couple days.

“I had one flight where I got nine minutes, was my only good flight with the Supra,“ Rich R. said. “I flew about the last four or five minutes at about 150 feet and it’s like, boy, this plane is like a ballerina out there. And then in the other three flights it flew like a rock. I must have some trimming to do on that Supra and I need to take it out for fun flies like next Saturday and see what’s going on.“

He would finish the day last place in his only class, Unlimited. For the season, he finished 7th place in RES and 8th in Unlimited. This would be known after all of the scorecards were entered and results of the day and season were tabulated well after getting home – not for the drive home. How did the contest go? What did he remember on the drive home?

“Standing there and watching people spread out on the winch and over by the landing tapes and people flying and then looking at all the cars and all the people pitting down there,” Rich said. “This was a really good day. You know, this is really neat. We got a lot of participation and this is as good as it gets.“

“This was a really good day. You know, this is really neat. We got a lot of participation and this is as good as it gets.“