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Old 07-29-2018, 02:35 PM
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A few observations....
Yes, it would be great if they would move the Nats around each year, but that was a big part of the reason for obtaining the Muncie property. A single, centralized location owned by the AMA. For many years the Nats was hosted by the US Navy at sites around the country. The Navy also provided manpower to support the event. That stopped in the early '70s (if memory serves) and the Nats became a traveling circus for a couple of decades. The USAF hosted 3 Nats at Westover AFB in '83, '85 and '91. I competed there for the first 2 and it was fun to be able to see all the other events (many of which I had participated in during my formative modeling years). Cost and logistics (suitable site) both for the Nats and the AMA headquarters (in DC for many years) motivated the purchase of the Muncie site. Last year the pattern Nats were off-site for the first time in years, but it required a herculean effort on the part of the organizers to achieve the event success.

Will there be another off-site pattern Nats? Possibly, but I doubt it will be on a regular basis (it had been discussed some years back to alternate between Muncie and different locations around the country; it is just much easier to have them at the AMA site). I don't think moving the venue around will have much impact on participation. This year the Nats had 71 pilots in attendance: Intermediate - 6; Advanced - 11; Masters - 22; FAI - 32. This was a team selection year for FAI which always provides a little bump in numbers. New Nats locations may improve the numbers in the lower classes depending on location, but the numbers reflect the direction that pattern participation has been heading for the past decade (or longer). As an aside, I have been informed that IMAC participation has been declining as well, but I have no numbers to support that contention.

There are few 'major' events from a competitive perspective in the modeling community. More popular are the fly-in type events like Joe Nall (barring rain-outs). Probably the largest competitive R/C events are Frank Tiano's scale events in Florida. There is some prize money available, but the TOC was a very special event thanks to the generosity of Bill Bennett who funded most or all of the TOC events as he was a modeling enthusiast. The industry can't afford to provide prize money at the scale of the TOC events not to mention the location and event 'perks'.

Lastly, pattern has become a very elitist event as cost and level of difficulty have increased significantly in the past 15 years or so. Not only has the flying become much more challenging, but, by default, so has the judging. From a personal perspective, I started flying R/C in '69 and flew in my first pattern competition in '72 or '73. Back then the initiation into R/C was a bit more daunting. Radio reliability had improved significantly, but was still a regular issue as was radio interference. The first airplane I flew in competition was a 3 channel Andrews S-Ray. Novice pattern back then had no inverted maneuvers and (from memory) looked like: take-off, straight flight out, procedure turn, straight flight back, immelmann turn, 3 loops, 1 roll, landing pattern, landing perfection and spot (touching down inside a 50 foot circle). A couple of years later I competed in the New England regional contest at Fitchburg (Mass.) airport and there were 41 competitors in Novice (I placed 6th with an Aeromaster) and almost 100 total pattern contestants. More than at this years Nats. We can't go back to the 'good old days', but I think that finding a way to make pattern more appealing is essential to longevity. Classic pattern seems to be generating a good deal of enthusiasm (smaller, cheaper models, easier schedules, easier to run contests) perhaps because of simplicity. I enjoy pattern at all levels, but I suspect that a simple '60 sized' model is less intimidating to a pattern newcomer than a Pandora or Galactic.


Last edited by flywilly; 07-29-2018 at 02:38 PM.