ASMS Students win “Encouragement Award” at Shepparton Mammoth Scale Fly In 2013

In 2013 students were offered the opportunity to build one of two radio control planes with the intention of taking the planes to an event in Shepparton, Victoria; The Mammoth Scale Fly In. This is an event that has been running for 33 years and is a meeting for pilots and planes that are in excess of 2.1metres for a monoplane and in excess of 1.7metres for a biplane/triplane. The school purchased and built a quarter-scale Fokker Dr1 triplane, commonly known as the last mount of the “Red Baron”, Baron von Richtofen. The second plane was a 1913 Etrich Taube. The Fokker triplane had a wingspan of 1.8metres and the Etrich Taube monoplane of 2.1metres.

Construction of the two planes occurred every Thursday morning during the University Modules time for the first three terms. The paint on the Fokker was literally drying on the flight line in Shepparton……

Eight students elected to make the trip. Year 10 students Lewis Cripps-Gray, Matt Smith and Year 11 students Nic Hunt, Anthony Kyriakopoulos, James Murphy,

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Josh Georg, Cameron Schrapel and Patrick Strolz. We were ably assisted in transport and maintenance of the troops by parents Connie Schrapel and Peter Ferris. The convoy departed the ASMS at 7:45am on Friday the 20th of September and arrived in Shepparton at 7:30pm in the dark, rain and mud. We had used Google maps for Apple to help take a “short cut” to the field which took us through some parts of country Victoria which would by all impressions be suitable sets for horror films like “The Conjuring”. The road we sought at the airfield and which we had been led to by Google maps for Apple was correct but the wrong “half”. Apparently the first and second halves are separated by a couple of hundred metres. A call to the Radio Valley Flyers (the club organising the event) contact had us on our way and arriving at the field a couple of minutes later. So far; Google maps for Apple two, convoy zero.

The lads set about feverishly mounting tents (in an area the club had very generously set aside for us) as it was late, wet and they were hungry. Tents erected we drove into Shepparton (the field is approximately 15km out of town) for tea.

Upon return I was required to work on the planes to ensure that they would be ready to fly on the Saturday. I didn’t quite finish off the Fokker but the Taube was ready. I clambered into bed for a few hours sleep, too scared to look at my watch…..

We were all soothed to sleep by the sounds of frogs identifying their territory in the billabong next to our camp site. I identified five distinct calls all made in perfect order of each other……

The next morning was the first opportunity to see the field in daylight and what an amazing sight it was. A windless, cloudless morning with mist lying low over a field surrounded by huge river red gums and canola crops. Those canola crops would be our saving grace later that day.

I was up early to work on the Fokker and the students slowly emerged from their tents after playing cards late into the night.

I collected our plane entry numbers and extra vests to allow our students to walk amongst the pits to view the planes and talk with the pilots. Anticipation was building. At 9am the pilots briefing occurred and the students had their first taste of what radio aircraft etiquette was about. We were welcomed by the club who were pleased to see “toddlers”. The average age of people coming into radio control aircraft is approximately 50 years of age…..

By about 10am there were approximately 150 planes and pilots

1375650_749979798350745_851675953_nAt 11am I joined the Etrich Taube into the queue for flight time. It was an anxious wait. With 3 terms of building by about 8 people the pressure to ensure a successful flight was high. About 30 minutes later I taxied the plane onto the runway and opened the throttle. To the cheers of the team the Etrich rose gracefully and flew with great elegance. Ten minutes later she entered a perfect landing descent and the team gleefully entered into high fives.and we were all in awe at the quantity and size of some of the aircraft. Twin engine model jets using turbines screamed their way across the sky at about 300 kilometres per hour. Model Engines brought their 4.8m four-engined Lockheed Constellation model which was a sight and sound to behold. Until the pilot on his second flight ripped half of the left wing off. There were mid-air collisions, pilot’s dead-sticking and perfect flights in abundance.

It was now back to finishing off the Fokker. At about 3pm I committed to joining the flight line. I knew the Fokker would be a flying challenge and the first time I had attempted a flight with a triplane. My time to taxi had now arrived. Lined up on the runway with the throttle opened the plane did a 360 degree turn to the right. Ok, I need more left rudder. Next run was another 360 degree turn. More left rudder. Third time lucky and she was off but she was climbing fast. Then she did a sharp drop of the left wing before a quick 180 degree turn to come back down the flight line; a distinct flying no-no. I had that moment when on a maiden flight where you question whether the plane is going to stay under your control before the plane took a sharp 90 degree left turn to take it away from the flight line. By now I had the planned trimmed for level flight and we were out of the danger zone. For 5 minutes the plane flew beautifully. Very manoeuvrable and extremely eye catching in flight. It then dawned on me that I was not sure I had control of the motor. A flypast within earshot confirmed this. A pilot never wants his first landing of a new plane to be without power and I was just facing that on a plane I know historically has temperamental landing qualities. With an explanation to the other pilots I would be dead-sticking (landing without engine) the plane in, I set her up downwind and cut the motor. I had heard triplanes have high drag and a poor glide ratio. To say the Fokker sank like a brick is an understatement. I very quickly realised I might not make the runway and have to land in the canola fields. This is how it eventuated. Matt and Lewis made the cross through the fields to get the plane and report upon the damage sustained in the landing. To their excitement upon return they exclaimed there appeared to be no damage. A subsequent inspection by the team concurred with that view. All that we had was a large collection of yellow flowers adhered to the exhaust oil residue which gave the plane a realistic WW1 look! Importantly however the Fokker had completed its first flight and survived. High fives were handed out again.

I set about identifying the fault on the Fokker and identified the error as an amateur mistake on my part……..

The students had sought and been granted permission for a campfire and feverishly set OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAabout building what looked like a tent made of sticks about 1.5m high. Before lighting however we were back into Shepparton for tea. The fire upon our return was surprisingly, to the students, unsuccessful. With time and some assistance we had a warm glowing fire to end a day of drama, anticipation, awe and elation. Except for me, I was back to that Fokker……

During the night rain came through as did the wind. This curtailed our flying until 3pm the next day when the wind had dropped significantly enough to make flying a viable proposition. During that time the students took the opportunity to cruise the pits, observe planes, buy planes from the shop run by Col Taylor models and talk with other modellers.

Our group was visited during the morning by Neil Tank, President of the Model Aeronautical Association of Australia. He had heard about us and wanted to meet the group. He expressed his thanks at our attendance and remarked on the quality of the planes the students had built. He also expressed his interest in me joining the National sub-committee for education; something I jumped at the chance for.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe official closing presentations for the event were held at 1:30pm and the club hosting the event thanked the group for their attendance as did Neil Tank again. The students really felt that their presence was appreciated, valued and that their work was admired. Which it was. The club then presented to the school a brand new 9 channel radio set worth approximately $500 as an encouragement award before hoping we would return in 2014. If I have anything to do with it we will.

After the presentations numerous other modelers came to visit the group including a gentleman who offered a charger for the radio as he had spares. Another offered a fuel pump for a similar reason. Another ran the students through how to program the new radio.

To see the students so valued for their excellent work was personally rewarding and justification for the students of such an amazing job on a task that to begin with seemed insurmountable.

We flew the Etrich twice after 3pm on the Sunday. We flew the Fokker twice after that as well. To say that the Fokker is a handful to land is an understatement. It ended up on its nose twice with no damage. Fortunately for me I appreciate that radio control modelling is a journey that will never be complete and that everyone is learning something new in the hobby on a consistent basis. I will get better landing the plane.

To say the Sunday night celebrations were fun is an understatement. After dinner in town we settled to a fire that worked almost straight away and stories of our glory. Except for me. I was Fokker’d out and went to bed by 10pm. I thought I deserved it.

We left at 7am on Monday 23rd of September arriving back at the ASMS at 4:30pm.

To say the trip was successful merely only begins to encapsulate the feelings of the trip. I cannot speak for all but even allowing for the fact I knew what to expect I was still astounded by the event, the people and the planes. I can only begin to explain my admiration and appreciation of the efforts of our students as builders and ambassadors for our school. They were elite in all respects of appreciation perhaps assisted by the fact they had learnt that if it took us three terms to build a plane (ignoring my 130 plus home to finish jobs) then we ought to be respectful of others planes and their builders.

A big thanks to Connie Schrapel and Peter Ferris for their able support. Without either the trip would not have been able to occur with the same numbers of students and supervision. Thank you! Connie had a set of three CB radios we shared during convoy duties which made conversation easy and for fun games of “I spy”. Connie also had a GPS which enabled us to get back from Shepparton to the field every night after dinner……

Read student reflections here

Thanks for being part of an amazing journey.

Plans are already afoot for the 2014 trip and new planes to be built for the event.

Until then, happy flying!

Matt Jamieson

Coordinator Curriculum Innovation; Science as Inquiry

Gold Wings Instructor; Holdfast Model Aero Club

International Federation of Aviation #68883