Florida native Jason Shulman bundled up for a cold semifinal flight.
Wickizer as his
for lunch several of the days we were there. A braai is the
South African version of a cookout, complete with steaks and
a local sausage called Boerewors. The excellent food was only
one example of the generosity we experienced.
Geoff Dale, the Snoopy club president and my primary
contact before our arrival, was gracious enough to drive me
around town in search of some necessary hobby parts and tools
that we were unable to bring with us. Part of that adventure
took me to Aerial Concepts, Johannesburg’s premier hobby
It’s important to note that the postal system in South
Africa is plagued with challenges compared to ours in the US;
therefore, ordering products online is rarely done. As a result,
the hobby shops—and this one in particular—dwarf anything
you’ve ever seen in the US. Pictures can’t do it justice.
This store had millions in inventory, with airplanes and
products never seen in stock in the US, including dozens of
turbine jets, 40% aircraft, and plenty of accessories. We were so
amazed that the entire team made multiple trips to shop for
Our days at the practice field went well. The team critiqued
every flight, trying to perfect each nuance. Every day was
windy, which proved to be excellent conditioning for what was
I have yet to mention the cold. It was the end of the
South African winter, and although it was sunny and midday
temperatures were often comfortably in the 60s, the morning
temperatures were usually slightly above freezing. These
morning temperatures, combined with a bitter wind, made for
some uncomfortably cold hands on the transmitters.
Let the Games Begin
Any event of this size comes with much formal processing,
weighing, measuring, and inspecting the aircraft from every
team. With 30 countries participating, we all had designated
times for aircraft processing along with a one-time slot for each
pilot to put up one practice flight at the official flying site. Our
turn came and went uneventfully. The team members were
well prepared with their equipment in order.
The opening ceremonies were run by the event coordinators
in conjunction with FAI and the South African Model Aircraft
Association. The marvelous stage was surrounded by 30 flag
poles flying the flags of each participating country.
As team manager, I had the honor of returning the perpetual
World Championship team trophy won by the US in 2011.
In similar fashion, Christophe Paysant-Le Roux of France
returned the individual perpetual trophy—something he’s had
to do six times! Every country and team was introduced as
well as the judges and event directors.
For those who don’t closely follow F3A or RC Aerobatics in
the US, the format for the World Championship is as follows:
Each country may send three pilots to compete, as well
as a Junior competitor younger than
18. Every pilot flies four rounds of the
preliminary or P sequence, which is
moderately difficult. The best three of
four P flights are kept and combined into
a single normalized score. The top 30% of
the pilots then move on to fly in the semifinal contest.
The semifinal consists of two rounds of the final or F
sequence. This schedule is significantly more challenging and is
intended to provide more separation among the top pilots. The
best two of three scores—the original combined preliminary
score, along with the two semifinal scores—are used to
determine the finalists. The top 10 go on to fly a completely
The final round consists of four flights—two flights of the
Known F sequence, and one round each of two Unknown
sequences, chosen at random, from a catalog of maneuvers.
Both Unknown scores are kept, along with the better of the
two F scores, to determine the individual world champion.
The team champion is chosen based on the combined
placing of all three team pilots for each country at the end
of the contest.
The first four days of the competition consisted of flying the
P sequences. Because of the large number of pilots, we were
divided into four groups, each flying in front of a different
set of judges. We received raw scores after each flight, but we
couldn’t compare scores until each pilot had flown in front of
each of the four judging panels.
All members of our team were flying well. Andrew
consistently put up the best raw scores, with Jason and Brett
25 Model Aviation MAY 2014