1991 RCM Article

Feb. 1992 Radio Commande Magazine

1991 Schneider Cup
by Jean de Besombes

The third edition of the Schneider Cup contested in the USA was characterized by the common preoccupation of the organizers and the previous year’s contestants: the wind. And what was it to be this year?

As strong as it was in 1990 where the Friday and Saturday were to be devoted to speed measurement and first courses, it continued through the days and Sunday they were able to run four heats in four hours, truly an achievement for the organizers. Their apprehensions were evident Thursday, the day of arrival and some other activities. All the more that the wind had not stopped blowing the past three years. As the wind died their fears faded…although!


Evidently, Arizona is not for us true Europeans in the main because one must first enter California after a dozen hours aboard an Air France 747 in order to get there. This year Oh, joy! The immigration formalities only took a quarter of an hour. There was plenty of time to rent a car (quite easy here and much cheaper than in Europe to cover a good part of the Mojave desert in a bit over 6 hours (speed limit 65 mph, about 105 km/h). It’s a long time on the desert on a freeway straight as far as the eye can see. But here it is very difficult to break the speed limits because the American police are remarkably effective.

Nautical Inn

We arrived at the Nautical Inn Convention Hall around noon on Thursday for a reunion with Bob Martin, the organizer always assisted by his charming wife, Katie, who gave me a press release and two new items of interest. The first was that the wind which always blows is required to be absent tomorrow and for the rest of the contest (Her source was not divulged). The second was that we will stay at the Nautical Inn, a very practical arrangement since the festivities were to start at 7 am.

Some of the models we had seen before and we went on to the others.

On the contrary, a new disease: seven of the registered entrants had crashed and destroyed their models in the two weeks immediately preceding this very contest.

Among those, the very beautiful Savoia S-65 of John Sullivan (Editor of Model Airplane News) and Mike Johnson, who had received a static score of 98 points of a possible 100 the year before and finished tenth. It seems that the wing covering simulating a radiator detached in flight and passed over the back and crashed full speed. In the course of tests on Lake Elsinore to the north of Los Angeles, the Curtiss R3C2 of Harlan Warwick (9th the year before) and the Supermarine S6B of Jim Rasmussen (7th last year) were crashed due to radio problems. Another model very interesting to us French, the CAMS 38 of Richard Lucas, a new large-scale aircraft which also lost its chance when it crashed in tests. Ralph and Phil Burton, who had been present the year before with an AVRO S39 but were unable to fly it, too damaged by preceding flights, had built a new model again not seen here before, a “Short Bristow Crusader”. Unfortunately, here on Lake Havasu in their first test flights it lost power on a landing approach and found the other side, in California, when the pilot attempted to bring it around toward him it slowed and was severely damaged on the rocks. Another, the Macchi MC-72 with contra-rotating propellers (!) and integral starter that took two years in the conceptual design and construction by John E. Rapillo, had shown that the motor was not sufficiently powerful for a takeoff. He plans to have a more powerful motor for next year.

After having passed those absent in review, let’s see the ones who did come!

There were four Sopwith Tabloids, two very nice Bernard HV220s, a French airplane built for the Schneider but which had not yet flown because the motor which had been planned for it had not yet been received: the 2200 hp Lorraine Radium. A very fine airplane which had not been modeled before. The Deperdussin of the year before was there again but had been sold to Bob McClung although it was still flown expertly by its former owner, Richard Skoglund, our simpatico French Canadian who lives in Los Angeles and is called “Frenchie”. Another Macchi MC 72 with a single propeller (but not in F4C) and a Macchi M. 33 built in the classic balsa manner, beautifully made with balsa sheeting, and which would score well in an international scale model competition.

Friday, 1 November

Bob’s sources were good because by morning the lake was a veritable mirror: almost no wind. The first model to take off was the Macchi M 33 which had not flown before. It was therefore essential that it makes its first flight before entering the competition in accordance with the regulations, which were specific – it must have been flown successfully before. The CG appeared to be right and after a short taxi run (if I dare say), it returned and landed on the water. His pilot wanted to make some adjustments. After a change of propeller, he replaced the motor cover and took off again. In horizontal flight with a tailwind (if you can call it that with no wind!) while facing us he gave it left aileron and spun into the water, with the motor running right into the water. It was truly pieces that the recovery boat brought back without hope. The pilot said he had started a turn to the left to return the model toward him. An airplane at least! Damage…

Meanwhile, the timing crew was in position on the speed course, here on the beach among a group of rental houseboats. It’s not far from the hotel, but finally, all the same one needs a car to get here and the models were carried on a trailer. I met my friend Franck Kelly, who is responsible for timing and computing for the whole competition, in a piteous state, attended by the grippe, the same as we suffered this winter. But he bundled up in his wide-open van to operate the computer and keep warm and avoid contact with his aides. It is good he was able to be present.

The first model to be timed: Roy Slater’s Sopwith which took off, rose.. and plouf! is tumbled into the lake. It was recovered with a float detached and some other damage.

Second model: again a Sopwith which, on giving it the gas, it went over on its nose. Again the recovery boat! The recovery boat, which was provided by the Desert Hawks RC Club is a bit special: A rectangular platform capable of carrying a dozen persons aboard, with one peculiarity. At the bow, attached to the boat, is a platform about 1.5 x 2 metres, movable on vertical rails, covered with Astroturf. When the boat arrives near the “wreck” the platform is lowered under the model. It stays there without further manipulations until the parts victimized by the water are recovered and returned to the shore and its owner. Don’t forget that here all are very large heavy models and difficult to handle. Finally a fourth plane, a Sopwith, succeeded finally to make two passes past the chronometres. Then Bill Curry’s Bernard HV 220 which had already landed in the wind (but meanwhile was arisen) made four passes within 0.5% of the target speed, which gave him a score of 49.5 points of a possible 50. It doesn’t get much better than this! Moreover, the smooth flight was a beautiful sight with a very nice takeoff and excellent landing. Another Sopwith, classic enough except for the pontoons, without the Sopwith mark on the fuselage and with ailerons, was a little bit Schneider but is less to look at here than at Varese

The second Bernard of Don Panek took off in the wind, made his passes high, and landed without difficulty. He received 47.9/50 points with 2.1% off the target speed. It is worthy of note that the two Bernards were made from the same molds and equipped with the same Super Tigre 60 Twin as Bill Curry, one-timed at 68.4 mph and the other at 66.6.

The Macchi MC 72 started with a big noise, taxied and started to take off crosswind, and nosed over. It was recovered and the prop replaced and flown again. On landing, the timing was discontinued for the day because of wind.

Saturday, 2 November

One must start before 7:00, the same as at the little beach between the timers with less than 5 models. It was the same the Deperdussin which flew at 29.4 mph for 30 target, and he gained 47.9/50 points after six passes.

A Sopwith took off after four tentative attempts and finished after a short time with a left spin. The Macchi MC 72 took off after a long taxi run, made his passes, and had a brutal stop of the motor and landed very correctly in a “dead stick landing”. Fast, it had since after its first in static with 90/100 points, it was too fast by 6.5% at 72 mph for the 68 target. As for the killed motor, it was due to the encounter with a duck and since it was already scored it was declared that the loss of the spinner and propeller and henceforth would be permitted (without spinner for sure). There were no new ducks. The Sopwith which had hardly taken to the air is also of Ian McInnes which arrived, all the same, to make four passes out of five.
At present, the models were parked with stands for the course on the main beach at the Nautical Inn.

Before the first round, it was possible to total the points for static and speed the 7 airplanes that were participating and at the head with 133.5 points was the Macchi of Richard Pasqualetto. This was remarkable since he had also participated in the “Unlimited” race at Madera and it was a simultaneous win that he had come to gain. The “dead cousin”, as we say, on the hunt! Behind him, also ready, was Bill Curry’s Bernard HV 220 and he is an equally excellent pilot. He proved it in the tests. And behind, also very ready (128.8) unexpectedly, Roy Slater’s Sopwith but which wasn’t unknown because he finished fifth the year before.

Before starting the courses, we were allowed to observe an exhibition of a twin-engine seaplane designed just before the war: a PBM Mariner of 3.5 metres. He engaged the integral starters. The model came from Massachusetts. It was equipped with JATO (auxiliary rockets, 2 on each side, used to take off). It weighed 43 pounds. Unfortunately, after takeoff, it had a weak motor and returned to the shore in pieces of state: minus wing floats, wing broken…

At the start of the first round: just as I explained to you the year before and contrary to passed as a true Schneider and at Varese in Italy where the hydros flew one at a time, the spectacle was presented and we heard on each round several models at a time. For example for the first start, two Sopwith and a Bernard which flew around the three pylons at the same time. This made it much more exciting and the pilots also gained enthusiasm. But to see a group of models turning with speeds double those of others was not sad! It was the same thing for the next three with the Macchi MC 72, a Sopwith, the Deperdussin and the Bernard. The one that got it wrong was the second Bernard, Don Panek’s. That airplane was certainly recovered, but irreparable and its owner put the pieces at the disposition of his friend, Bill Curry. I cannot describe for you the details of the next three rounds of the day. Just an amusing note: in one heat with three Sopwiths, the winner did a victory roll and the motor quit and he made a “dead stick landing” to thunderous applause.

Finally, with three rounds completed, Bill Curry was in the lead (Bernard) ahead of Roy Slater (Sopwith) and in the third position the Deperdussin. Richard Pasqualetto’s MC 72 was fifth after a first flight with 11/50 and the third at 4/50. It was not a need for more glue that night to participate, but it was problems with his Sachs and sometimes his problems, perhaps a chill. Moreover, there were another three rounds and it was the average of the best five added to the static and speed points. He was not the only glue user that night because the enormous PBM was equally ready. There was another that repaired his wounds and bumps.

I have failed to speak of another Sopwith. again according to what I’m told. But this one, built by J. Paul Lussier (in addition to the well known 1/3 scale one) is at 1/2 scale. And according to Bob, it was built in his kitchen in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, his engine was not strong enough to do more than taxi on the surface.

Saturday night, to celebrate the final victory by Great Britain in 1931, there was a concours de costumes of the period and it was a great success.

Sunday, 3 November

And again the wind returned! Not common in this direction, it obliged the models to take off some distance away. But beforehand, we were to see the MC 72 and its owner in his room complete his repairs.

And the fourth round commenced with a heat of Sopwiths information or almost, to race for a place as in Formula 1.

One was damaged on landing after a great spectacle. The second part of this course was the MC 72, the Bernard and the sight of these racers with the ancient Deperdussin was there for the third year.

It proved to be an amazing regularity. He participated in all the rounds after three years with never a booboo, landed at 1/4 throttle while the others flew in the same strong wind with a speed of 29.4 mph.

The Macchi itself took off crosswind and bounced a bit but the wind caught a wing and it was to float throughout the fifth heat. Half of the wing broke off and he was finished. On the same heat, after having made all his laps around the buoys, gave the one, the greatest, and half bent in two with the Sopwith, the Deperdussin returned to make an impeccable, almost parachutal landing. But there, once on the water and parallel to the shore, he could only stay in place and could not return because of the wind. He simply kept the motor running while heading into the wind and waited for the recovery boat.

Because of the wind and since there were only four airplanes left, it was decided to cancel the sixth round. The average was awarded to the others (thanks to the computer). And it was Roy Slater who was declared the winner ($1000 US), Bill Curry and his Bernard second ($500) and the Deperdussin in third place ($300). When I mentioned before that there were only four airplanes still flyable (?) I made an error but in reality, the Bernard that made a crosswind landing was retrieved au jus and the float attach points were broken.. Before going to the Convention Hall for the awards, drawings, etc…

Here returned the PBM with strong glue and patches and was rebuilt during the night.

Once on the water, the starters were operated and he turned into the wind and made his first takeoff breaking off a tip float and then proceeded to break off the other.

He continued, bouncing both wings on the water, then made a magnificent second takeoff with the aid of his JATO, flew before the spectators but plunged in and landed on its back.

Before the awards ceremony, there was a drawing. One of the winners would be given a flight on a De Havilland Tiger Moth that we had seen flying past these three days.

Also sponsored by this charming town of nautical activities, among other manifestations, they had the world jet ski championships (one of my neighbors in Aix en Provence has come here to assist, invited by the Japanese jet ski manufacturer and we are between two at Aix to know “Lake Havasu City” and its London Bridge) came to make this Schneider Cup Reenactment thanks to not a few sponsors and to tireless work of the “Desert Hawks RC Club” and its indefatigable president, Bob Martin, without forgetting his wife Katie, of Frank Kelly and to the many others that I can’t know how many.

Now, The rest of the desert must be traversed to gain Los Angeles and like Lucky-Luke
“I’m a lonesome cowboy long away from home”…