3D Downunder 2003
As I said in my last newsletter, I was planning on packing the helis up and taking them to Australia to compete in the 3D Downunder and the Victorian State F3C championships.
A lot of preparation went into this trip, as it does for any overseas trip. Organising travel insurance to cover ourselves and the helicopters for the duration of the trip required a bit of phoning around as the standard travel insurance packages on offer were not comprehensive enough to cover all the helicopter equipment and I wanted to make sure they were covered for things like theft or destruction (not while flying ofcourse).
Carrying the helicopters overseas was also a new experience for me. Sharon,
Darryll and I went to a lot of trouble thinking up the best way of mounting
the machines and associated equipment into the Curtis case. We thought we had
it sorted. We were to find out later that we hadn't covered every possibility...
4am on November 20th we arrive at Wellington airport two hours before the flight to ensure we had plenty of time should any hiccups occur getting the helis on the plane. We got plenty of curious looks wheeling the big Curtis case through the airport and as we got closer to the check-in counters the people manning the counters exchanged pained looks with each other. I was going to take the line of giving minimal answers to questions and always refering to the helis as 'models'. Once the girl at the counter found at that the helis had engines in them her default reaction was to say no, however I opened up the box and explained that the helis had new tanks and lines and showed her some spare tanks for the return journey. This seemed to satisfy her and the helis were accepted on. I was carrying the 9Z in it's case as carry on luggage.
The four hour flight from Wellington to Melbourne went without a hitch, claiming the buggage took a little longer than expected after I waited and waited and waited for the Curtis case to come around the carousel, finally, I asked a passing Air NZ official who pointed me to an area on the other side of the baggage claim area where oversize items are often left. Sure enough, sitting there all by itself in the corner of the claim area was my case, where anyone could have walked by and made off with it... A quick external inspection didn't show up any visible damage and then it was off to customs before heading to the rental car counter. Apart from the strange looks as the Curtis case and 9Z went through the X-Ray machine, there were no issues passing through Customs.
We had booked our rental car through AVIS before we left, however the travel agent had neglected to tell me that unless you're over 25 (which I'm not until next month) you couldn't hire a large stationwagon. They didn't mind me paying for it, I just couldn't drive it. Luckily Darryll and Sharon were able to drive it so I could just sit back and be chauffeured everywhere.
We got lost about three times leaving the airport to get to Bendigo, but once on the road we were set. Australian roads are big, wide and straight with very few corners. A contrast to how it is in New Zealand.
Bendigo turned out to much bigger than we had expected, and true to form, we got lost another three times trying to find the motel. Motels in Australia are quite different to what we have in New Zealand. There doesn't seem to be any concept of a 'family unit' (a seperate bedroom from the living area etc), the units are small, but that doesn't stop the proprietors from charging well...
We had planned on flying on the first day, however we were all very tired and decided to just rest up after which I began assembling the models. It was at this time that I discovered that in designing the mountings for the Curtis case we had never bargained on the airline stacking what must have been over 100 kilos of stuff on top of the box. This weight had forced the top of the case down where it hit one of the Tempest's blade grips. The heads of the helicopters were resting in wooden cradels supported by their flybars. This meant that when the downward pressure was exerted on the blade grip it bent the flybar carrier. Anyone who knows the Tempest know's that flybar carrier is a fairly large one so the weight must have been significant.
Some quick phone calls to around various locals soon had me in touch with Gary Watson, Australia's Miniature Aircraft field representative who said that Fred Proos, the Australian MA dealer would have some spares with him at the field on Friday.
With the CS fully assembled and the Tempest built up and waiting on it's flybar
carrier we proceeded to the Bendigo field where we found the lawns being mown
and a couple of guys getting their models ready. We could see it was going to
be a hot day, but the thing I couldn't get over was the flies! The damn things
With the CS settled in and sorted out we went back to the pits to meet the guys who were turning up. One of which was Gary Watson, Australia's Miniature Aircraft Field Rep who has been stirring up a storm in the Australian F3C competitions lately. I'd spoken with Gary via email a number of times comparing notes on the Tempest and had spoken with him the previous night on the phone regarding my flybar carrier problem. Gary put in an impressive setup flight with his new Tempest 3D.
More and more guys started turning up and began erecting the vendor stands while I met Fred Proos who had a new flybar carrier for me and I set about getting the Tempest operational again.
The 3D Downunder event is the first major event in Australia to promote the 3D style of flying. The organisers took some of the fundamentals of the JR Challenge we ran here in New Zealand and modified it a little to fit with what they envisioned for the event. The idea is to develop the level of 3D flying and encourage people to branch out and further themselves.
There were three classes, beginner, intermediate and open. Flying to music was optional. I had spent a lot of time putting together a schedule of maneuvers and then put a soundtrack together, unfortunately, I ran out of time to do a practise run of the schedule to the music so the first time I actually flew to the music was in the actual event which was to my detriment. Most guys simply flew with music in the background.
The Aussies were very laid back about everything, hearing that most of them had also not flown to music and most didn't have a schedule of manoeuvres made me feel a bit better!
Everyone that we met was extremely friendly and helpful and a lot of fun to talk to and soon we felt very much at home at the field.
We saw some very good flying, and a couple of near misses. Somebody's Quick 50 just about pole vaulted into the ground while attempting low back flips, a very close save.
During the day a photographer from the local paper turned up to take a photo and put some information in the paper. Jared Hartley, one of the organisers asked if I would be prepared to do a pic of the Vigor hovering inverted. No problem I said, however ofcourse the photographer didn't want to point into the sun, which meant I had to look into the sun and he wanted the machine lower, and closer and lower and closer. Some fairly nerve racking moments! At one point I had the machine in a very low nose in inverted hover, with the blades probably about 5cm from the ground. All was going well until the heli fell slightly in an air pocket. All of a sudden there was a large SMACK and large amount of dust everywhere. I punched in negative and the Vigor blasted off into the air. I landed and very thing looked ok, just a lot of dirt and crap on the blades. My first (unintentional) blade scuff! Ofcourse the photographer didn't get it on film
Saturday morning dawned to fairly bad weather, quite a lot of gusty cross winds, flyable, but not very enjoyable. We parked our gear on the flightline and I went up for a test flight and found that the CS had to have an angle of bank of about 30 degrees on to fly straight and level in the crosswinds. The organisers decided to postpone the 3D event until Sunday hoping that the weather would get better so instead, we just did some funflying for the rest of the day.
One of the pilots to watch was Jamie Wilson who has long been regarded as Australia's best 3D pilot. He has just started flying Vigor CS's and certainly knows how to make them work! His chaos launches were definitely something to watch as well as his backwards rolling circles which were very nice.
Geoff Woodward was there with his Raptor 50. I'd met Geoff when he'd come over to New Zealand last summer where he was doing some impressive flying. Unfortunately Geoff had had a lot of troubles with his helicopter prior to the event and so had spent most of his time fixing and setting up rather than practising. However that didn't stop him and his little Raptor giving the big 90 helis a good fight!
Another notable heli was a little Hirobo Sceadu that sounded like a bandsaw. I swear the blades must have been up around 1900-2000rpm at times! It sure was responsive though!
I had noticed that there always seemed to be a heli performing tricks WAY WAY up in the sky. It turned out to be Kevin Ellison who although is quite deaf must have the eyes of a hawk to be seeing what his heli was doing way the hell up there! Kevin is a Mode One flier and was practising chaos manoeuvres. I've always said that anyone who can do a chaos or pirouetting flip in Mode One is the man in my book and Kevin pulled off a couple of recognisable ones.
The weather seemed to just get worse and from time to time people sought shelter in the many vendors tents or sampled the nice food being provided by the Bendigo club. It was while we couldn't fly that two nitro powered RC trucks made an appearance on the field and proceeded to tear around the place at full noise. I immediately took interest in this as I've always been quite partial to these little things and after watching these things go I could very much see one in my future! The guys took to jumping the trucks over hastily setup jumps, and boy could they fly!
With the rain moving in it was decided to call things to a halt early and go back to the motels before dinner. Dinner was very nice, a smorgasboard affair at a shopping center straight across the road from our motel. It just so happened that the Rugby World Cup final was also on and the Aussies were quick to point out that New Zealand had been convincingly beaten by Australia earlier. Things went a little quiet though when England's Jonny Wilkinson kicked the drop goal that won the World Cup for the British!
The weather hadn't cleared much by Sunday morning, infact it was really quite cold and I was glad I'd packed a warm jersey for the trip! I went and had a test flight while I waited for my caller Darryll and Steve to turn up, both of whom had been out until quite late the previous night seeing what the Bendigo night life was like. When I saw them I was immediately glad that I hadn't gone out too!