Bladder Grabber 2022

Contestants get their gear ready on Saturday morning for the beginning of AMA Fast Combat at the Bladder Grabber. Flying Lines photo.

AMA Fast Blast

Seven-round Fast Combat tournament, Aug. 13-14, Snohomish, Wash.
Half A Grabber double-elimination 1/2-A Combat contest, Aug. 12

Russ Hester wins Bladder Grabber

Bladder Grabber photo gallery below

Russ Hester of Florence, Ore., came on strong at the end to capture the Big Block championship at the Bladder Grabber Fast Combat Championship. Russ went 4-3 in the rounds, beat Greg Machen in a flyoff to make the semifinals, then beat Robert Smith in the semi and topped Greg Carter in the final match.

The 43rd Bladder Grabber went off smoothly with a slightly reduced entry level that resulted from some schedule conflicts and late administrative changes. John Knoppi stepped in to take over as contest director. With help from Buzz Wilson, Tony Huber, Ken Burdick and Gene Pape, the contest was a success. Weather was mild and strong cooperation from all the contestants made for the usual top-quality event.

The Bladder Grabber followed the format of recent years by having all contestants fly seven matches, with match records used to determine semifinalists. Smith was 7-0 in the rounds; Carter and Pape had 5-2 records. Carter beat Pape in their semi to set up the winner-take-all final against Hester.

Greg Machen, still in recovery from serious multiple injuries suffered in a pyrotchnics accident only a few weeks ago, won the 1/2-A Grabber double-elimination 1/2-A Combat preliminary event on Friday.

The top four in both events took home a variety of prizes that included cash, fuel, certficates and commemorative mugs.

Results of the 2022 BLADDER GRABBER Fast Combat contest (11 entries) (Northwest standings points in parentheses):
1. Russ Hester, Florence, Ore. -- 7 wins, 3 losses (11)
2. Greg Carter, Arcadia, Calif. -- 6-3
3. Robert Smith, Roy, Wash. -- 7-1 (9) (Pape conceded third place to Smith without a flyoff.)
4. Gene Pape, Eugene, Ore. -- 5-3 (8)
5. Greg Machen, Belfair, Wash. -- 4-4
6. Mike Alurac, La Mirada, Calif. -- 3-4
Jim Green, Olympia, Wash. -- 3-4
8. Russ Wilcox, Whittier, Calif. -- 2-5
9. John Knoppi, Seattle, Wash. -- 2-4 (retired)
John Thompson, Eugene, Ore. -- 2-4 (retired)
11. Dan Armstrong, Tehachapi, California -- 0-5 (retired)

HALF-A GRABBER results (12 entries) (Northwest standings points in parentheses):
1. Greg Machen -- 6-0 (12)
2. John Thompson -- 4-2 (11)
3. Russ Wilcox -- 4-2
4. Dan Armstrong -- 3-3
5. Greg Carter -- 2-2
6. Jim Green -- 1-2
Russ Hester -- 1-2
Robert Smith -- 1-2
Buzz Wilson, Belfair, Wash. -- 1-2
10. Mike Alurac -- 0-2
John Knoppi -- 0-2
Gene Pape -- 0-2

Bladder Grabber photo gallery

Contestants and officials were joined in a group photo for a couple of Bladder Grabber celebrities. Seated at left is longtime Grabber sponsor and contestant Bob Carver, and with him is former Combat superstar Norm McFadden. Both enjoyed watching the action. Behind are (from left) Mike Alurac, Greg Carter, Russ Wilcox, Robert Smith, Ken Burdick, Dan Armstrong, Tony Huber, Jim Green, John Knoppi, John Thompson, Fast Champion Russ Hester, Gene Pape, 1/2-A Champion Greg Machen and Buzz Wilson.

Fast Combat contestants, from left: Gene Pape, fourth place; Jim Green; Robert Smith, third; Greg Carter, second; Russ Hester, champion.

1/2-A Combat winners, from left: Greg Machen, champion; John Thompson, second place; Russ Wilcox, third; Dan Armstrong, fourth.

Half-A Combat action; unfortunately, the FL photographer was busy either flying or pitting on Big Block days, so did not have time for action photos on Saturday and Sunday. Flying Lines photo.

With a relatively small number of entries, many contestants were pitting for multiple entrants. Gene Pape assisted several fliers, including launching for Dan Armstrong in this 1/2-A match. Flying Lines photo.

Greg Machen, seriously injured in a recent fireworks accident, wore a face shield to protect injured facial bones and tissue. He flew to first place in 1/2-A and did well in Fast, too. Here he is seen on takeoff in a 1/2-A match against Russ Wilcox. Flying Lines photo.

Dan Armstrong returned to Combat after many years away; here he flies against Greg Machen in a 1/2-A match. Dan made it to fourth place in 1/2-A. Flying Lines photo.

Gene Pape provided airplanes for himself and four other competitors; here's his Fast fleet of Underdogs before action started. Flying Lines photo.

Teammates all weekend were Jim Green (left) and Robert Smith. Flying Lines photo.

Dan Armstrong (left) and Robert Smith struggle for control in a 1/2-A match with their lines crossed at the clips. Flying Lines photo.

Two Fast Combat planes await action. Flying Lines photo.

Combat can be hard on engines. This is Robert Smith's Nelson .36 after a head-on collision with a Nelson engine on a plane flown by Greg Machen; that engine also was damaged, with a split crankcase. Flying Lines photo.

Russ Hester (right) receives his prizes and the leader board from Contest Director John Knoppi. Flying Lines photo.

Greg Machen claims his prizes for winning 1/2-A Combat. Flying Lines photo.

A typical Bladder Grabber morning, with hot air balloons rising in the sunny distance as contestants prepare their planes and test-fly. Flying Lines photo.

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This page was upated Sept. 6, 2022