Bladder Grabber 2006

Triple-elimination fast combat tournament, Aug. 19-20, 2006, Snohomish, Wash.

Reports by Mel Lyne, Ken Burdick and Jeff Rein

Photos by Gary Harris, Todd Ryan, Howard Rush and Fred Wilson

Alien wins the Grabber

By Mel Lyne aka "The Alien"

At least Howard says he's NOT a local. There was a ton of big name talent there, even Riley Wooten as a pitman. 39 fliers in all. Almost all the big names.

Northwest fliers Gary Harris, Ken Burdick, Jeffrey Rein, Jim Green, Dick Salter, Richie Salter, Chuck Matheny, Howard Rush, Milissa and Tony Huber, Buzz Wilson, and the Alien. Out of state fliers Chuck Rudner, Rich Lopez, Darrin Albert, Don and Chris Jensen, Jeff Dawson, Pete Athans, Mike Petri, Bill Maywald and Greg Hill from California, Steve Stewart from Arizona, Bill and John Duane from Florida, Texans Larry Driskill and Richard Stubblefield, The whole Mears clan, Andy, Nick, Bobby and grandpa Mears, Sean Dea, Allen DeVeuve, Emil Opffer, Ron Colombo, George Cleveland, Wayne McDaniel, Bob Burch and Mike Evans.

CD was Jeffrey Rein with Chris Cox circle marshall aided by Stephen Cox, Preston Briggs, Caroline Wright-McPherson, Ron and Inez Enos and Henley, Steve Helmick shutoff tester, Dave Robinson pull tester, Marilou on the scoreboard, Howard with the P.A. chatter, Pete Petersen plus all the field set-up crew helpers and haulers.

Action was fast and furious from the first horn. Northwesters were in tough and they fell. Harris and Dick Salter went out as did Matheny, Rush,Wilson and Green. Day 2 saw Rein, Burdick, Milissa and Tony Huber, Richie Salter and the Alien fight hard but soon they were dropping. In the final nine only one local remained, Richie Salter. Mike Evans, Andy Mears, Ron Colombo, Chris Jensen, Steve Stewart, Allen DeVeuve, John Duane and the Alien were the rest.

The Alien kept winning but faltered with a loss to Stewart. It came down to 3 fliers left alive. Andy Mears, Steve Stewart and the Alien. The Alien had to beat both fliers to win first. Down went Andy Mears in a fast kill. Then against Steve Stewart it was a D/Bat-type match with total pursuit, one cut against Stewart then a Kill on him. And the Alien had won. With superb pitting from Ken and Jeffrey and a host of help from the many supporters who promptly dog-piled him at the end of the final match.

Tankards with big fat money cheques(not in the Alien's native currency) were handed out through 5th place. A special plaque made by Tony Huber with all the fliers' and workers' names on it was presented to Bob Carver for sponsoring 29 Bladder Grabbers. There was also a cake in Bob's honor at the "Rush" party later that evening. A great time was had by all, even the Alien. And when Bob Carver asked for a vote for continuing the Bladder Grabber, it was a unanimous YES LET'S KEEP DOING IT!


1. Mel Lyne (Canadian, eh??) Garibaldi Highlands, BC. (39 NW points)
2. Steve Stewart, Phoenix, AZ
3. Andy Mears, Texas
4. Ron Colombo, Michigan
5. Chris Jensen, California

The last man standing in 2006 was Mel Lyne of Garibaldi Highlands, B.C., who beat 38 other fliers, using a modified Granderdog airplane and Fora engines. Fliers in second through fifth places share their spot in the limelight. Gary Harris photo.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Flying Lines combat reporter Mel Lyne, also known as "The Alien" says his initial report above was "a bit of a rush job" due to his heavy travel schedule (Yukon-Bladder Grabber-other northern climes on a family visit), and so when he got back from his travels, he had more to add. His update is below. (And, yes, we have no doubt that winning the BG leaves a person with "a bit of a rush," in more ways than one!)

Bladder Grabber XXIX

Updated info by Mel Lyne

The weather was perfect and the field was dry. There was a catered lunch both days and Ken Burdick supplied breakfast at the field on Saturday. The majority of planes seemed to be Yuvenko RTFs. But there were still a good many foamies either scratch built or from kits such as the Allenplane by Bill Maywald. Motors were Nelsons followed by Foras and a few fast Foxes. Henry Nelson flew Yuvenko planes with standard Nelsons running 15% nitro and was very competitive. Props were split between carbon GRS and APC.

There did not seem to be any equipment that was radically different. Maybe because Ed Brzys wasn't there! Chuck Matheny did use an interesting OS .32 that was very quick in his custom foamies. 3 or 4 competitors still used Phil Granderson's Granderdog design. The winner, Mel Lyne, used a standard Granderdog wing with metal mounts and an aluminum tent pole boom. This design is tough as it survived a "straight in" in a line tangle with Andy Mears and was re-launched by pit crew Jeffrey Rein and Ken Burdick to allow the pilot to still win the match with a cut and a kill. The Yuvenko planes generally are done if they do hit the ground.

Shutoffs were checked before each match but there were still 3 big fly-aways, one going a long way off. Reliability of shutoffs is still an area for improvement.

Ken Burdick and Jeffrey Rein pitted Mel Lyne's plane in every match flawlessly, usually getting up first. This was a big confidence booster for the pilot. There were definitely some matches where luck was a factor, but reliable equipment, great pitting and good piloting got the job done.

As well as the winners' cheques donated by Mr Bladder Grabber, Bob Carver, there were planes and a Fora motor donated by GRS Models plus more goodies from the sponsor list.

All in all a really great contest. Every competitor said they would be back next year. That says it all.

Bladder Grabber

Last Man Standing

By Ken Burdick

It's Monday August 21 and the Blader Grabber is now over. The months of preparation by Jeff, Howard and others are finished and we are left with the memories of one of the best combat events ever put on.

What made it that way wasn't just the well run machine that operates the event, it wasn't that we were lucky and convinced Chris Cox to direct the event either. I'm pretty sure it wasn't that the P.A system didn't break this year or that Jeff contracted a barbeque for both days.

A friend of mine in Rome said that people playing music is the "heart" of a party and without it won't beat. There were 39 musicians of sorts who came to pay homage to this one last fling and to lay "fast Combat" to its resting place. They were the best and while some of our peers couldn't attend, we knew they were there in spirit. All of these "gun slingers" are good and all fight with the little things that can separate the coveted first place from the others. Every one capable of the instant kill that makes Fast Combat what it is, every one itching to "pull the trigger" but waiting for that micro second when the opportunity shows itself.

Two names of note were with us, James Mears and Riley Wooten. Long since retired from the sport they came because they are tied to its history.

Like it or not ALL forms of control-line combat owe these two a debt of gratitude for leading the way a long time ago, now Bob Carver has joined their ranks.

Bob was the one who dreamed on a grander scale than others, always asking insightful questions like "what would it take to make the best contest in the world?" Bob became the catalyst behind those who plied skill and countless hours of work to make 29 years of The "Grabber" become reality.

So the look and feel of this one was special, no one wanted to go when it was over. Tired and dirty we just didn't want to leave each other, the party was still going on. Slowly we all said our goodbyes then and there. A party was to be held later but we all know it's the dirt, blood, anger and laughter that binds us together, once we're cleaned up it's just not the same.

Fast combat is not politically correct, it's too powerful for most ... noisy and dangerous. Just a few are able to do it or have the desire to, but for those of you who do, you're a real part of Americana. For those of you who have never tried it or prefer F2D, give some thought to the roots of your branch on this tree.

Bladder Grabber XXIX My Perspective

By Jeff Rein

Hi, my name is Jeffrey Rein. I was the contest director of the Bladder Grabber XXIX. Many of you have noticed that I have been suspiciously silent since the Grabber. The reason for this is because I have been in bed most of the last six days. All of my friends know that I am a bit fragile, (wimpy). Anyway after the adrenaline wore off Monday morning I went down hard with a back injury. I have no regrets, the contest could not have gone better. What make's a contest is not the months of preparation, but the fifteen support personal that donated their time to insure a great contest. And most important of all are the thirty-nine contestants who showed up from British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and any other state I may have left out. Without the competitors, we have no contest. I would like to thank each and every one of you who came to the Grabber for making it a world class event.

Weather was perfect! It was 81 degrees all three days, slight breeze and sunny. After Saturday's flying, it looked like two flyers were unbeatable. Ron Colombo, and Andy Mears. Three others were quietly looking strong. They were Steven Stewart, Rich Salter and Mel Lyne. I would have to say that this was the best combat that I have ever seen at the grabber. 120 matches, and maybe only 10 midairs the whole contest. With the likes of Mears, Stubby, Maywald, Burch, Deveuve, Hill, Cleaveland, Burdick, Rush, Evans, Nelson, Rudner, and a host of others, what would you expect?

Going into Sunday, a local, Rich Salter was still looking strong. Howard and Ken went out in the sixth round followed by me in the seventh, only after putting away Driskill and Bobby Mears, which was the best match of the weekend for me because we got to do it twice! I think Columbo put away Rich in the eight round, leaving Mel, the only local, (OK, he is within five hours driving distance, so we call him a local, even if he does not actually live in this country!). Columbo and Mears started to falter, but Steven and Mel put on a consistent charge. Steven then flew Mel and killed him for Mel's second loss. Steven then got his second loss on the way to the finals. Columbo and Mears now out of the hunt, it was going to be Mel verses Steven, Who had already been killed by Steven earlier in the day. Mel told me that he flew Steven wrong the first match. Mel was all quick and wiggly, and Steven was smooth and determined. "Mel, fly him diesel style. You are the king of diesel, so go get him". That is just what he did.He changed his tactics midstream to match his opponent, caught Steven off guard and got the kill for the win. Mel had just become the "Last Man Standing". Needless to say he was mauled after the match, and pictures will follow.

Now I have said all that so I can say this.

You see, we billed this as the last Grabber because everybody we heard from said they didn't want to fly fast any more.

At the award ceremonies, when Bob Carver handed out the cup for the "Last Man Standing", (and $2,500 cash), he said he wasn't ready for the Grabber to end! So Bob took a vote. "Who wants to see the Grabber come back again next year?" Out of 39 contestants, Bob counted 73 hands! "Who wants it to stop today? Dead silence, no hands. So it looks like by popular vote there will be a Grabber next year. Maybe not 39 contestants because of the commitment to the team trials, but Bob said we don't need 39 contestants to put on a world class competition, just the people who want to be here. You think easy pickings for the ones who come to get the Grabber cup and $2,500 cash? Think again! Locals have won the Grabber for the last two years in a row! Plan it for next year if you think you have the stuff to win "The Grabber".

More Bladder Grabber photos

Pit row at the Bladder Grabber is always busy, with planes coming and going to the circles, spectators and entourages following the action. Todd Ryan photo.

Left photo: Defending champ Milissa Huber with pit crew chief uncle Tony Huber. Right photo shows the crew getting ready to launch Milissa for a match. Below, the launch, and the match under way. Todd Ryan photos

Bladder Grabber people: Left, administrative chief Marilou Rush. Center: Sponsor Bob Carver. Right: Combat legend Riley Wooten, up from Texas to provide inspiration. Gary Harris photos.

Left photo: The Texas contingent (from left) Dick Stubblefield, Bob Burch, George Cleveland. Right: Dick Salter, pitting for Rich (in the blue shirt, background). Gary Harris photos.

Left photo: Mel Lyne holds his lane as pit crew Ken Burdick (left) and Jeff Rein test the shutoff for official Steve Helmick. Center photo: Bladder Grabber regular Bill Maywald. Right photo: Bladder Grabber regular and past champ Chuck Rudner. Chuck and Bill are from California. Gary Harris photos.

Left photo: Greg Hill of California is surrounded by airplanes in the busy pit area; spectators include Dirty Dan Rutherford (red cap). Gary Harris photo. Right photo: Buzz Wilson (left) and Ken Burdick pit for Jeff Rein. Todd Ryan photo.

The business end of two fast combat airplanes: At left, a Fora, at right, a Nelson. Todd Ryan photos.

The contest couldn't happen without a hard-working crew of officials. Circle Marshal Chris Cox supervised the Bladder Grabber judging corps, including (from left) Stephen Cox, Preston Briggs, Caroline Wright-McPherson, Inez Enos and Ron Enos. They're watching one match as teams prepare for the next match in the adjacent circle. Todd Ryan photo.

The lauch gets the excitement of a match started. Todd Ryan photo. At the end, it comes down to the few, the proud, the winners. Gary Harris photo.

All the competitors, and some friends, at the Bladder Grabber. Fred Wilson photo.

Some of the boxes shipped Howard Rush's house before the contest, containing contestants' airplanes. Howard Rush photo.

A great photo of the start of a match, with the pilots each watching the opponent's plane. Howard Rush photo.

Left photo: California flier, Bladder Grabber regular and Model Aviation columnist Rich Lopez. Right: A shutoff made by Tony Huber on a Fora-powered plane. Fred Wilson photos.

Additional photo credit: Photos inset in type above by Gary Harris.

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This page was upated Sept. 8, 2006