Every year the best modelers and pilots
in the world gather together to compete to see who can be "Top Gun".
This year the competition took place in Lakeland, Forida on April
28 - May 2nd. Top Gun has become a very special event for all involved
and almost has a "family feel" to it. Not only are the competitors
here to see how is the "best of the best", they also come together
has friends and family. Even though the competition was stiff on the
flight line, the feeling in the pits was more of a carnival atmosphere
with competitors, friends, and family moved from tent to tent to visit
with old friends, and to make new ones as well. For some entered in
this event this is the only time of the year that they will see each
One reason that makes Top Gun such a special event is that is set
up so that the public can meet and talk to those competing in the
event. The entire pit area for Top Gun can be visited by those who
show up to watch the flying at Top Gun. This gives the spectators
the opportunity to talk to the pilots and crew for each airplane entered
in Top Gun. And the participants for Top Gun gladly take the time
to stop and talk to the public that comes out to see the event.
There was something that happened at Top Gun 2010 that stands out
as the true spirit of Top Gun. The pilots that come to Top Gun each
year are here to compete in the event and will go the extra mile to
keep the competition going. That was evidenced this year by
Rich Crapp, a competitor from England. Due
to problems caused with air travel in Europe created by the volcanic
eruption in Iceland he was unable to get the plane he was planning
on competing with onboard the airliner. Even though he knew he would
not be able to compete he still traveled to Lakeland so that he could
at least be here for Top Gun. Once on site several suggested that
he could still compete. He made a visit to a local area hobby shop
and purchased a used Aeronca Champ that was hanging from the ceiling
of the store, and brought it to compete with. While it he had numerous
problems getting the engine to run correctly he still did his best
to compete in Top Gun. This "can do" spirit is the heart and soul
of this event!
The best way to explain about Top Gun can be found directly on
the Top Gun website:
From the Top Gun Website:
Top Gun was fathered by Frank Tiano in an attempt
to circumvent the rules that were being applied at scale contests
at the time. In the early days of planning T.G. Frank had a
lot of assistance from another well known scale modeler, David
Platt. Some of the rules in place at the time allowed sub par
airplanes to compete along outstanding ones with little or no
consequence in the final static score. And sometimes, the flying
scores for these not so scale models were quite higher than
the more accurate models because they were more stable. Enlarged
stabilizers, more vertical fin area and thicker wing sections
were the norm for many scale models and these models flew like
giant sport models. The rules were easy to get around and in
some cases out and out cheating would take place. Tiano's mission
was to get rid of the nonsense while offering an entertaining
event packed with action and fun for the whole family.
Top Gun introduced more stringent static guidelines and tougher
flying guidelines too. The event was far tougher to compete
in than the Nats or the ever-popular Scale Masters. And to make
matters more interesting, this was the first scale contest to
become an "Invitation only" event.
Top Gun is as much a Social Event as a model contest. With 70
to 80 contestants, there is a lot of work that goes on to make
the event come off, or appear to come off, smoothly. There are
20 paid Judges, a Score Keeper, and huge club involvement, this
time by the Imperial RC Club, that make it all come together.
There is a staff of 6, that set up and tear down the "show",
and 10 temporary employees that do everything from parking cars
to keeping the rest rooms clean. TG attracts, on average, 50
different model manufacturers and food vendors. Sort of like
a Mini Toledo Show.
The judging parameters for Top Gun are a little different from
most AMA contests. For example, the static judging score sheets
are broken down into 4 sections instead of 3. There are 30 points
awarded in each of 3 categories, Outline, Color & Markings and
Craftsmanship. Then there is a separate 10 points for Realism.
Realism asks the static judges to apply a score, from one to
ten, on how realistic the model is. Is it too shiny, over weathered,
does it look like a toy, or does it appear that the model is
a shrunken full size aircraft? The flight portion of the contest
includes 4 rounds of flying. For Masters, Expert and Team, Two
are completed on Saturday and 2 on Sunday. Maximum score for
the 10 maneuvers is 10 each, for a possible perfect score of
100. The weakest flight score is discarded and the remaining
3 rounds are averaged for a final flight score. The contestant
has 4 mandatory maneuvers and 5 optional maneuvers for 9 total
maneuvers and a final realism category for flight, worth a maximum
of 10 as well. The 4 mandatory maneuvers are Takeoff, Slow Fly-by,
Fast Fly-by and Landing. The 5 optional should be prototypical
of the full scale airplane. So, we don't see DC-3s doing 4 point
rolls, and since the rules prohibit any aircraft capable of
doing aerobatics from doing straight flight maneuvers, we see
great loops, bomb drops and inverted fly-bys from the airplanes
able to perform them. The title of Top Gun goes to the pilot
that has the highest total score, flight added to static, between
the Masters class and the Expert class.
To help understand a bit more about the judging process we took
a little time to talk to Jim Martin and Bill Hurt, who are both
judges at Top Gun 2009. Jim judges airplanes in flight and talks
a little bit about what he looks for when a plane is in the
air in front of him. Bill is a judge for the Team Scale Class
and gives us some real insight into what makes for a World-Class
Top Gun Model. We would like to personally thank Jim and Bill
for taking time from their busy day to talk to us so that our
readers have a better understanding of the judging process
Top Gun was created to reward true craftsmanship and attention
to detail. It differs from AMA scale competition in one dramatic fashion;
AMA scale static judging takes place at 15 feet from the model. Top
Gun judging takes place at a maximum of 15 feet with craftsmanship
and outline or color inspected from as little as 0 feet. That's right,
0 feet! Another difference is that static judging is broken down into
four categories instead of the three used in AMA scale. Outline, then
Finish, Color, and Markings, and Craftsmanship are judged with a possible
score of 30 points each. The last category is an available 10 points
for realism and this consists of the overall impression of the aircraft
looking like its full scale counterpart.
Competition at Top Gun is broken down into several classes.
Pro-Am Sportsman class: To fly in Sportsman a contestant may
have flown in any AMA judged competition but not have finished in
the top three in any two of the events. A pilot may also fly in
Sportsman if he or she has finished no higher than 15th in their
class at any previous Top Gun. The winner of the Sportsman class
must move up to Pro-Am Pro the following year. Also the documentation
required is much less stringent in Sportsman. A contestant must
have a photograph proving that the aircraft and color scheme exists
or existed. He or she can only earn 25 points for documentation
or none at all.
Pro-Am Professional class: Top Gun invitees that have won or
finished second twice in Sportsman are required to fly in the more
difficult Pro class. Also, aircraft that have "timed out" in Masters
and Expert may compete an additional two years in Pro-Am Pro class.
The same documentation requirements as Pro-Am Sportsman apply to
this class as well, meaning that documentation of the aircraft and
color scheme exists is all that is required. Even though these are
considered "amateur" classes, make no mistake, the aircraft must
be worthy of competing at Top Gun and would be a striking stand
out at nearly any flying field across the country. You won't find
any ARF's here, no matter how good looking!
Expert and Team class: The Expert and Team classes are essentially
the same thing. The main difference is that in Team Scale competition
the builder of the model can have anyone that he or she chooses
fly the model in the judged flying rounds. Expert pilots build and
fly their own aircraft.
Masters class: Masters Class is for the true craftsmen of the
world. Masters planes start on the drawing board of the builder
where they hand draw the planes and build the aircraft from scratch.
Landing gear and safety components may be obtained commercially
but the vast majority of fabrication is done by the individual presenting
the aircraft for judging and flying. Many of these planes are museum
quality works of art.
An event the size of Top Gun requires a large
group of people dedicated to putting on the best event possible.
There are two separate crews who make Top Gun possible that deserve
a moment of recognition here. They are the Judges and Officials
of Top Gun and the Imperial RC Club of Lakeland, Florida.
The Imperial RC Club provides the workers who
organize and operate the flight line for Top Gun (as well as Florida
Jets and Monster Planes). These members put in long hours in a
hot flight line environment in order to provide a safe and organized
flight line for the event. Because of their work there was no
confusion among the pilots as they came to the flight line to
compete, in addition they kept the area safe for all involved
in the event.
The other group mentioned was the Judges and Officials
for Top Gun. Without these people dedicating their time and skills
Top Gun would not be possible. Bill Holland is the groups Head
Judge and is responsible for keeping the judging team as professional
and fair as possible. All judges for Top Gun are hand selected
because of their knowledge in aircraft and their flight characteristics.
Both groups deserve very special recognition.
Top Gun 2010
Judges and Officials
Top Gun Flight Line Crew
Imperial RC Club, Lakeland, Fl.
Top Gun is an ever changing event and changes are
made to accommodate the hobby as it changes. In addition, changes
are made to help improve not only the quality of the competition,
but the location as well. Top Gun's organizer contacted us and has
asked that we include the following announcement of important changes
for the Top Gun 2011 competition.
I have been granted the luxury of sharing some very good news
with you here.
First, Top Gun, Florida Jets, Monster Planes and the new events
we are planning will be held at a new and different part of
Lakeland Airport, starting with ?Monster Planes? 2010. The new
area is being constructed as you read this and will feature
an 800 x 70 foot runway of beautiful Bermuda Grass. The overruns
will be grass also and will have no ?lip? so if anyone lands
short of long there is no consequence to the landing gear or
airframe. The flying area out in front of a pilot and to each
side is unrestricted.
Top Gun will get a Rules Change, perhaps the last one for awhile.
Because the Grass Runway enhances the takeoff behavior of tail
dragger aircraft, we find it no longer necessary to reward those
airplanes with a bonus score. There is an extra portion of runway
that will allow tail draggers to take off into the wind, should
cross wind conditions prevail.
The Top Gun Board has decided to add one new class and limit
another. First, the Team Scale class must consist of a Builder
and a Pilot. The Builder must be the ?owner? of the model and
must have financed the construction himself, with aid from the
pilot if needed. NO outside, financial, intervention is allowed
in this class, starting 2011.
The NEW class is titled ?Unrestricted?. The Unrestricted Class
will be comprised of a Minimum of THREE crew members and a Maximum
of 6. The model may be funded by any person or group of people,
a manufacturer, a company outside the hobby industry, we don't
care! There are NO rules concerning the building of the model
at all. ALL other rules of Top Gun static judging and flying
do apply. We ask that ALL Team Members of the Unrestricted Class
wear Team Colors, team clothing so to speak. We want to create
some interest in model aviation, bring back some spark to Top
Gun and we feel this class, looking similar to a NASCAR team,
may be a step in the right direction. Unrestricted Class will
be funded with prize money and awards the same as the other
The Last Three things:
ONE: ARF models are allowed in Pro-Am, as long as the outline
is considered by Frank Tiano, Chief Judge Bill Holland or Head
Static Judge Bob Curry to be accurate enough to be in the spirit
if the event. Permission to enter the model must be received
before the event.
TWO: The one thing that still remains ?unfair? to most contestants
at Top Gun is that molded fuselages and wings with perfect skins
and defined panel lines and surface details are sure to get
excellent Craftsmanship Ratings. These higher scores are without
a doubt easier to achieve with composite structures than with
wooden components that have been hand formed, sanded, fiberglassed,
sanded again, primered, detailed by hand and painted. With that
in mind we feel there should be some sort of adjustment to the
Craftsmanship Score only on Composite aircraft. And we mean
where all components are composite, not a model featuring just
a fiberglass fuselage. We have not decided how to do this yet
and all we can promise is that the adjustment will be small,
THREE: We are amending the TIMED OUT Rule effective with 2011
Top Gun. A model may compete more than three or four times.
The only limitation is that if the model has placed in the Top
Three a total of three times, then it IS timed out. We feel
this will allow some contestants, who have found it difficult
to prepare a new model over the past several years, a chance
to rejoin us.
Buy the way, we are considering to have ALL events we produce
to END on Saturday, leaving Sunday for open flying for those
who wish to do so while we are tearing the event down. But advertised
dates will be Thursday thru Saturday for all events other than
Top Gun. We are thinking that Top Gun might be able to run Tuesday
ALL Input and Comments are welcome to Frank@FrankTiano.com.
And with no further ado, we would like to present to you Top Gun
2010. We strive to be the most complete and comprehensive coverage
of the Top Gun event. Below you will find plane information, flight
video, and pictures of all the competitors in Top Gun 2010. We do
apologize that there are several planes that video is not available
for, but this was because of circumstances beyond our control.
We hope you enjoy our coverage of Top Gun 2010.....
It takes more than just the pilots and the
airplanes flying to make something like Top Gun an "Event".
Probably more so than just the airplanes in the air the "behind
the scenes" makes this such a great event to attend. Everything
from the tents to the pets to the kids to just about everything
else here makes this one of the best events in the country.
While the pilots are all competing against each other they are
still friends one they get back to the tent areas. Let our cameras
become your eyes to see some of the sights of Top Gun 2010!!