By Paul Walker ......... Download a pdf of complete 2008 Nats results
The 2008 Nationals was held from July 13 through the 18th. This year there was a new ED. It's hard not to think of Warren Tiahrt when thinking of the NATs, but this year was run under "new management"! Paul Walker has taken the reins for the time being from Warren, and now fully understands what it takes to make this event happen.
If just taking over the running of the NATs wasn't enough, it was also decided to generate new software to runs the NATs. The previous program wasn't flexible, or easily editable. It served the stunt world well for many years, but it was time to update to a format that everyone else can work with. Howard Rush decided he could help out by providing the programming necessary to put this in Microsoft Excel. This is Howard's second hobby, and side benefit of the knowledge gained from working at Boeing! The only significant difference was the method of circle assignment and the flight order draw. This process was shown in the pilots meeting for all to see. The flight order was a draw of ping pong balls. When the pilots meeting was over, the pilots knew their circle assignment for all of qualifying, and their flight order for those days as well. This process allowed the pilots to "set" their clocks for the following days.
The new software had some cutting of teeth. It would lock up at times for no apparent reason. It was discovered later in the week that the auto save function was causing the problem, and the auto save time was reset for a week, and all the lock up issues ceased. The ED also discovered at the pilots meeting that the AMA had to be carefully checked. It turns out that the "official" entry list I was given at noon on Sunday was short twelve people who had actually entered. This was discovered when the circle assignments were made. Some of these people noticed their names were missing. All came to a halt while these twelve names were added to the "official" list. Then the circle draw was done, and flight orders were drawn. Note: Don't trust the AMA in this matter again, and make the software flexible enough to handle that situation!
The week didn't start well for some. John Leidle drove all the way from Seattle for the NATs. On the way, he stopped in Minnesota to get in some practice before arriving at Muncie. Unfortunately, he had an accident with his PA plane, and proceeded to place it in a landfill there. Undaunted, he continued on to Muncie to fly Classic on Monday. Jim Aron, on his first practice flight, had the lead-out cable break "near" the bell crank. It happened just after release, and proceeded to do the tightest outside loop imaginable. This accident eliminated him from competition. He was seen later in the week autographing the divot that he left on the "L" pad. Check it out on circle 3 next time you are there. Dan Banjock had a low inverted "landing" that took his prop and scraped his vertical tail. He was able to recover from this incident and finish a personal best placing.
The appearance judging and the pilots meeting were held on Sunday, in the 180 building. Once again, there were many beautiful planes on display. On the front row, with 20 points, was Phil Granderson. During the appearance judging, the pilots meeting was held. As discussed earlier, there were exciting times getting things straight. Once the pilots meeting was finished, the pilots reviewed all the planes and voted for their favorite plane for the Concours trophy.
Sunday was also Beginner and Intermediate day. Allen Brickhaus and Bob Brookins were the event directors. The entry was down this year, perhaps due to the high cost of gas. The flying was completed early in the afternoon as a result. Of note here is the fact that the AMA made a significant effort to have the grass field prepared and ready for the competition. It was in nice shape, and was cut short and the ruts were gone. Thanks AMA.
Monday was Classic and Old Time, again on the grass. These events were run by Mike Keville. Mike has already informed me that he will not be the Event Director for this event next year. We will need another ED if this event is to continue at the NATs. Similar to Beginner and Intermediate, the entry level of these events was down. The side benefit of this is that flying was done by early afternoon.
The major administration task Monday was the preparation of all the qualifying score sheets. The PAMPA dot matrix printer that has been used for so many years would not talk the same language with the Excel program. This forced a change in direction. Once again, thanks to the AMA for stepping up and helping us with the solution. The solution was to print the score sheets on the laser printer, and once the judges applied their scores, they were copied prior to the addition. The AMA supplied the printer, right out of the NATs headquarters. This slowed things a bit for the tabulators.
Tuesday was the first day of qualifications. Flying started on time, and went smoothly. During this first day, the tabulators took several hours to get into their rhythm. This, unfortunately, got them behind and the scores lagged as a result. I have no concept what happened during the flying this day, as I was busy trying to do anything I could to help get the scores out as soon as possible. I want to give everyone a huge "thank you" for your extreme patience with our efforts to get the scores out on Tuesday. That evening, I evaluated where the problems were and found several options to allow the scores to be processed faster. These three options were presented in the PAMPA meeting that evening, and the pilots agreed overwhelmingly to one option. That option was to have a sign-up sheet at the trailer for pilots who wanted copies of their score sheets. This allowed the score sheets to be added immediately, and the scores to be posted quickly.
Wednesdays' scores came out MUCH faster, and were done about a half hour after the last flight was in. This allowed the next days' draws to happen at the field. Marilee McMillan helped out the tabulators by manning the copy machine for the score sheets that needed copying. Watching what happens in the scoring trailer that caused slowdowns, I noticed that the biggest problem was when the two tabulators didn't arrive at the same score. Since one was on a calculator, it was difficult to find where the difference occurred. They would have to re-add the scores at that point. Next year, both tabulators will have laptops and the difference will be much easier to discover, thus increasing their speed.
In reviewing the four qualifying Open circles, there seemed to be a good balance of pilot skill. There were several great scrambles for the top five in each circle. It wasn't decided until nearly the last flight of the day. Shortly after the last score was up, the draws for the Advanced finals and Open semi-finals was done. Once again, the pilots left the field knowing when and where they were to fly the next day.
Thursday saw the Advanced Finals, and the Open semi-finals. This is by far, the toughest day at the NATs, as two flights are flown, and both are added together to determine the results. This day requires a quick mind and a good memory to count all the maneuvers done. I know it's happened to most of us at one time or another and this year there was a pilot in the Open semi-finals who managed to do four loops on his first flight, and thus lost pattern points and a chance to move on. Sorry about that, Phil!
In Advanced, Germanio Becerril scored an impressive 1057.67 for the win. This required two quality scores, and he got them. Welcome to Open next year Germanio! For the first time I am aware of, this year there was a tie for fifth place in Open. There was much discussion, all options discussed, and it was decided to bring all six to the Top five Flyoff! The Top five finalists were Orestes, Brett, Windy, Bill, with Derek and Howard tied for fifth.
The finals went off without a hitch. There was lots of good flying, as the weather was near perfect. After the second round was complete, Brett was in the lead and looking good and with Orestes lurking in second. By Friday, the tabulators were on top of their game, and I could devote more time to watching the flying. That I did in the final round. Brett flew before Orestes, and could have closed out the contest with a great flight. However, there were a few "misses" here and there, and he opened the door for Orestes. Well, more like unlocked the door, and opened it a crack. Seeing Brett's flight, Orestes collected himself, and knew he could put in a great flight for the win. And that he did. A very nice flight and he scored enough to win by 1.25 points. Congratulations Orestes. In the battle for the "new" title, Howard was the first to finish sixth in the Top five. A feat that will likely not happen again for some time!
The competition closed out, and the PAMPA banquet was held Friday evening. The highlight of that event was the presenting of the Concours trophy to Phil Granderson. Congratulations Phil. We all said our goodbyes, and headed home.
I would like to thank all the helpers during the week. Without their sacrifice, the NATs wouldn't happen. Please give them a thanks next year! At this time, I would like to put in my pitch for judges for next year. I also need two new appearance judges. If you have a desire for that, please let me know, and we can make a deal.
I would also like to make note of the super weather conditions that we had this year. The Saturday before we started had an evening thunderstorm come through and blew at the AMA facility up to sixty miles per hour! The next day it was fine, and stayed fine until we were finished. The next day, there were thunderstorms and wind! We couldn't have fit it in any better. Let's hope next year goes as well. We'll see you then.
This page was upated Oct. 8, 2008