RCUniverse.com Event Coverage Watts over Owatonna 2013
By Jim Buzzeo
Photos and Video by Geoff Barber and Jim Buzzeo
It was a beautiful sunny morning in August 2013, when we arrived at the field.
Endless blue skies, freshly clipped manicured grass, not a breath of wind.
Flags hung limply among vendors tents, the smell was not of castor oil or kerosene but rather of pancakes and coffee.
The 700 foot runway beckoned, My ears were filled not with engine noise, but with PROP noise.
We had arrived once again at 'Watts.'
The Southern Minnesota Model Aircraft Club (SMMAC) is the host of several warbird and giant scale events, but for the last four years electric modelers have been blessed with their hosting of "Watts Over Owatonna," which is quickly becoming a premier 'electric only' event in the Midwest.
Located roughly 40 miles south of Minneapolis Minnesota, Owatonna is not exactly a sprawling city, but you'd be hard pressed to find a better venue or a nicer group of people to host an event like this.
From August 2-4, the skies over Owatonna were filled with every type of electric powered aircraft imaginable, from hummingbird sized two channel Nano-light airplanes to 50CC (electric equivalent) sized giants, helicopters and everything between, you'll find an electric powered aircraft to suit just about anyone who's into RC Aircraft.
The runway is a 700 foot long strip of textile fabric which has been widely accepted by the RC community as a replacement for the standard hard concrete or 'blacktop' type runway. My hometown club uses such a runway and I LOVE it.
The runway proper sits on a bigger 1200 foot grass runway with a second flightline (for parkflyers and helicopters) located at the West end, 90 degrees to the main strip.
The site itself is surrounded by acres and acres of farmland and open fields, providing an unobstructed view for miles.
In addition to the perfectly gorgeous surroundings the field is equipped with a large clubhouse, cooking and eating facilities,
portable rest rooms (porta-potties) that are actually CLEAN, a playground for kids, and 120V AC power all along the flightline.
The only things missing were my easy chair, TV remote and a mailbox where my retirement checks could be mailed, the field is THAT nice.
The huge flightline was packed with shade tents three deep full of airplanes of every size and shape.
Vendors and their goodies were there in force.
Each morning of the three day event began with a pilot's briefing held by CD Steve Mills, yet another all-around great guy and aviation enthusiast.
There were a total of EIGHT pilot stations on the main flightline, with additional stations for park flyers, indoor type 3D airplanes and small helicopters at the field's west end. With that many pilot stations and with the able assistance of the SMMAC's Volunteer Members (plus a few recruits from the nearby Twin Cities Rc Club: TCRC) there were plenty of opportunities to commit electric aviation.
Event Sponsors included Great Planes, Electrifly, FlyZone, RealFlight, Castle Creations, Hitec/Multiplex, Bob Smith Industries, Altitude Hobbies, Park Scale Models, ZAP, Higher Plane Productions, Dimension Engineering, Servo City, B and E Graphix, Aurora RC, GWS Props, Tactic RC, RC Lights, Progressive RC, Mercury Adhesives, Atlanta Hobby, And China Hobby Line
Watts 2013 had 150 registered pilots, each one having at least two or three (or twelve) models. The flight line was packed, but not uncomfortably so.
Pilots and Airplanes
There are a LOT of people who would say 'WOW it must be great to have a job flying Model Airplanes for a living.' Of course this is true, but Chris Sydor and Greg Meyer from Hobbico are two of the hardest working guys you'll likely see. Yes, the job INCLUDES flying model airplanes but that just scratches the surface. Chris and Greg were there everyday loading and unloading, answering questions, and generally being great guys.
Here's a short video of Chris and Greg doing what they do.
Hobbico At Watts
There's never a shortage of Warbirds at Watts and this year was no different. Everything from WWI SE-5's and Fokker DR1's to F-4 Phantoms and A-10's and everything in between. There was even a C-47 towing a Waco CG-4 both decked out with invasion stripes. The mass warbird launch is always a sight to behold. Once again, Watts came through with flying colors!
One of my personal favorites at Watts is the Combat event.
This year there were no fewer than 18 airplanes in the air at the same time, each with at least one crepe paper streamer attached.
If you've never witnessed the light hearted pure carnage that is RC Combat, you're missing a lot of fun! You may want to hang onto your hat for this video!
CIVILIAN, SPORT PLANES, AND 3D
Watts always seems to attract some of the most beautiful sport and civilian type electric airplanes and this year was no different. Even a Rogallo wing (think hang glider) and an autogyro were buzzing around the skies.
Civilian and Sport Video
This year we had the great fortune to witness several very young pilots honing their 3D skills to the 'oooohs' and 'ahhhhs' of the crowd.
14 year old Ashleigh Heath (who also wowed the crowd at Toledo this year) and SIX year old Noah Vierling were among several school age kids in attendance this year.
I can tell you from first hand experience when these young people fly, EVERYONE takes notice and rightly so.
Get ready: they're coming to a contest near you (and they'll PROBABLY beat you too!)
Seriously, I can't remember meeting nicer, more gracious kids than these.
We even added a late video of young Noah and his skills. It's the last video on this page.
This year, watts happened to occur on the same weekend as the IRCHA (International Radio Control Helicopter Association) Jamboree.
As a result, the flightline at watts wasn't exactly buzzing with Rotor noise but the Helis that did fly flew very well indeed!
It seems Man HAS FINALLY beaten the mosquitos for which Minnesota is famous.
Saturday night's 'Man Vs. Mosquito' Night flying event finally seems to have lost it's 'bite', pun intended.
After the Steak Dinner and Award Ceremony, LED equipped airplanes were buzzing around the skies each one trying to fly through some lighted 'gates' set up near the runway. This truly is something you have to experience to appreciate and the SMAAC's members and volunteers seem to have figured out how to keep those pesky mosquitos at bay. A great time was had by all and by 10 PM Saturday night, Geoff had to DRAG me off the field.
Night Flying Video
Awards and Recognitions
One Special Kid! 6 Yead old 3D Pilot
No coverage of this event would be complete without mentioning Saturday's Steak Dinner, which is still one of the best I've ever had. This year however the SMAAC survived a tragedy which no club should ever need to deal with.
Less than one week before the event, SMAAC's First lady Karen Johnson, Wife of Tim Johnson was lost in a tragic car accident while on vacation with her family. Tim is the owner of the club's field, and is one of the most genuinely caring people I've ever met.
Since the first 'Watts', Karen had been a fixture laboring cheerfully behind the grill from sunup till sundown all three days.
If there were ONE thing missing from 'Watts' this year, it was Karen who's personality and good nature will never be forgotten.
The Johnson Family agreed that Karen would have wanted the event to go on in her absence, Tim had a more colorful way of conveying that point which is a testament to his nature. The SMMAC Club and Johnson Family in particular are forever in my heart and prayers.
Sunday morning marked the 4th day in a row of perfect flying weather with blue skies, mild temperatures and almost no wind.
By the afternoon it was still hard to tear down the tents and start packing up the bus as I had made so many new (and not-so-new) friends that I simply didn't want to leave. (Plus, Geoff was driving so I knew I could nap on the ride!)
I cannot find the words to adequately thank The SMAAC's members, TCRC's Volunteers, Steve Mills, Tim Johnson and Family, the Sponsors and everyone else involved with making Watts Over Owatonna one of the biggest and the best all electric flying events in the Midwest. It's the people that make an event like this happen, and the people I've met at Watts each year are some of the best!
Thanks ALL for another wonderful event, we'll be back next year!
Jim Buzzeo and Geoff Barber for the Staff at RCUniverse.