Owatonna, Minnesota is located about 40 miles due-south of Minneapolis on Interstate 35. With a population of about 23,000, it's little more than a stopover between Des Moines and the Twin Cities, yet the local R/C club is one of the more active clubs you'll find anywhere. The Southern Minnesota Model Aircraft Club (SMMAC) is famous around the state for their annual "Wings Over Owatonna" warbird event, but for the second year, from July 29-31 2011, they hosted Watts over Owatonna! Click on this Youtube Link for a video introduction to Watts over Owatonna!
The SMMAC field has a 700' runway covered with a nylon fabric matting which is a great surface - especially for electrics with smaller wheels! If you prefer, there is also a well-maintained 1200' grass strip running parrallel to the mat runway.
To add to the excellence of the site, there are many acres which are unobstructed for great flying. This is largely due to the fact that the land on which the field sits is owned by club member Tim Johnson, who not only owns most of the surrounding land, but Tim is also an RC pilot! A few years ago, Tim donated a large portion of his field to create one of the best flying sites you'll find anywhere.
The SMMAC field also has one of the best 'clubhouses' I've ever seen, where the SMMAC members are welcome to store their larger planes between flying days. And to top things off, Tim's wife, Karen spends all of her time at these events cooking up some of the best grub you'll ever sink your teeth into! I mean literally, this terrific lady is out there cooking from dawn till dusk! Breakfast started at 8:00 with pancakes, and she didn't stop cooking until 'last call' for burgers at around 5:00. Now that's dedication!
There are also clean, portable restroom facilities on site as well as a terrific playground for children and the flightline features both 120v A/C and 12v D/C power. Not only was the power used to charge batteries, but we had fans running to keep a breeze moving when the wind wasn't blowing!
The flight line was packed end-to-end with shade canopies, sometimes stacked two deep to help keep the sun away from planes and pilots.
Each morning started with a pilot's meeting held by Contest Director Steve Mills who did a great job (along with the rest of the club) organizing the event. Three Twin Cities Radio Controllers club members (Tim Len, Chris O'Connor, and Steve Meyer) served as additional flight line coordinators to make sure safety guidelines were followed.
Event Sponsors included ElectriFly, Futaba, Castle Creations, Great Planes, BlackDogRC, Flight Power, the AMA, Bob Smith Industries, GWS, Thunder Tiger, Sig and many more, all of whom provided an excellent assortment of great prizes. 2011 had 120+ pilots, and I'd say that close to a third of the registered pilots brought home a prize from the raffle drawings!
Pilots and Airplanes
John Dietz brought his Hangar 9 .40 sized Piper Pawnee out on Saturday. There was a stiff cross-wind that made taking off a bit more difficult, but John handled it with skill!
Howard VonRuden brought a really nice P-3 Orion in NAVY colors to get in the running for the multi-engine (motor) award.
Jim Sandquist, Mark Hampe, and Chris Sydor from Hobbico brought along an assortment of products from Great Planes, ElectriFly, and Flyzone.
A few of the planes from Hobbico were brand new - some of which hadn't been seen before Friday! The new planes were a Grumman Widgeon and a pair of Cosmic Wind racers from ElectriFly, and a Focke-Wulf FW 190 from Flyzone!
Team Futaba pilot Chris Sydor put many flight on the Great Planes WACO YMF-5D over the weekend. He is a very talented pilot and handled the WACO well!
Here's a short video of it in action!
Great Planes WACO YFM-5D ARF Or, Download the Video (23meg) CLICK HERE
One of the other new offerings from ElectriFly was the new F-16. This little plane was FAST!!! Thankfully, it could also slow down enough to get a few 'fly-by' pictures.
The largest plane that flew at the event this year was Wendel Hottman's 1/3rd scale Curtiss Jenny. The large prop was spun by a belt reduction drive system, and power was supplied by FIVE 5S 5000 mAh LiPo batteries! Wendel's Jenny won an award Saturday night, but we'll have more on that later.
The youngest pilot at Watts this year was 11 year old Collin Mayer. Collin began flying on a buddy-box at age 5 and soloed at 8 years old! As of this year, he is flying every type of plane he can get his hands on! While at Watts, his plane of Choice was his Parkzone Extra, commanded by his Futaba 2.4gHz 7C radio. Look out, Team Futaba, he's got his sights on one of those orange shirts!!! Way to go Collin!
There were so many warbirds at the event, I couldn't possibly have taken pictures of all of them. Above are some that caught my eye (and camera lens). Some of these planes look equally as good sitting on the ground on display as they did flying by. My hat goes off to all the builders that took the time to 'show off their stuff'!
Here's a video montage of some of the planes.
Watts Over Owatonna Montage Or, Download the Video (24meg) CLICK HERE
There were a couple of really nice looking airliners flying around too! Howard VonRuden piloted his 4-engined Constellation flawlessly, and Tim Len flew his customized E-flite Super Airliner. Tim's flight was cut short due to an aileron servo that quit working, and it was nearly the end of his plane. Just seconds before diving into the bean field, Tim was able to regain control of the large EDF jet, and bring it in safely.
CIVILIAN, SPORT PLANES, AND 3D
There was probably twice as many non-warbird planes present at the event. If you can think of a design, it was probably there! From flat foamies to large scale Cubs and Gee Bees, and Helicopters to a flying chicken! That's right, I DID say flying chicken! There were also a lot of EDF jets screaming around the sky as well. One of the best scenes from Saturday was a pair of foam EDF Panthers racing around the sky, while Jim Sandquist and Chris Sydor raced the two new Cosmic Wind ARF's! I would have gotten pictures, but I had the honor of being the spotter for Jim's Cosmic Wind.
The event also hosted two nights of night flying. Both Friday and Saturday night, brave souls donned their bug spray, long pants and shirts to show off their lighted planes and helicopters. The night flights were spectacular! The lit-up aircraft looked really cool in the pitch-black sky, and anyone driving by the field may have thought there were "UFO's" in the area!
Several awards were presented at the end of the day. Cal Branton won the Pilots Choice AND best scale awards with his very cool ME 262.
Wendel Hottman won Best of Show with his 1/3rd scale Curtiss Jenny, Howard VonRuden won the multi-engine award with his Constellation, and best sport plane went to Plenny Bates for his Thermal Air..
And the 'Smokin' hole award went to Howard VonRuden for crashing his Cessna 310 and foamie "lawn dart"!
Around 6:00 PM on Saturday, we had a wonderful dinner to top off a great event. Along with a huge rib-eye steak, we had a baked potato with all the toppings, a piece of garlic bread, and all the sweet corn we could eat. Again, Karen was at grill preparing this delicious meal for us! While we ate, several prizes were given away, and a few speeches were made to thank all the pilots and sponsors. Watts over Owatonna 2011 was a great event, and I can't wait to go back in 2012!
Keep an eye out for next year's events, whether you prefer their warbird fly, Watts, or some of their other scheduled Fly-Ins, the SMMAC club of Owatonna, MN will treat you one of the best days of flying you'll ever have! Keep an eye on their Website.
A huge round of applause to all the guy's (and gals) that made Watts over Owatonna another sucessful event!