2018 was to be the 3rd time in the European F3A championship history that the tournament was to be held in Belgium. The championship was held in the AASH club, located near Sivry-Rance, in South of province of Hainaut, French speaking part of Belgium. This was to be the second time the club help the championship in history, first holding it in 1973.
For this year I enquired two new F3A models, The BJcraft Element, co designed by USA team member Andrew Jesky. Both models have almost Identical setups, running All futaba SBUS equipment, OS/Futaba speed controllers, Optipower batteries, with one plane running an OS Belt reduction drive motor setup and the other running the very popular Plettenberg Advance 30.10 F3A motor.
The season for me this year got off to an early start with preparation of one of the models already from the end of last season now ready for practice at the start of the 2018 season. This year also saw the introduction of the new P19 and F19 schedules which for me was an exciting and challenging new sequence as it is a clear step up in difficulty from the previous P17-F17 schedules. My practice schedules varied quite a lot this year due to the the long winter and late snowfall along with my own work and travel commitments.
The Irish team this year travelling to the Europeans was just myself. Now currently living and working in Switzerland, it was a short 6 hour drive from my door in Lausanne to the event location. Unfortunately, my newly appointed coach and helper, Frank Ellison, former Norwegian F3A team member now living in Geneva, had to pull out due to escalating work commitments. For me, this added to the pressure of the competition which would prove to the be a real test.
The lead up to the competition went quite smooth and both models were flying well before the time of departure. Oh course even with both models almost identical, there is always subtle differences between each plane, leading me to concentrate on just one of the planes before and during the championship. The day before departure was left with some last minute packing and preparation of spare parts and tools for the trip. Lucky am a very fortunate to have access to a full R&D laboratory and workshop at my current work of which my colleagues were very supportive and help in providing me with any spare equipment and materials I was lacking.
On the day of departure both nerves and excitement settled in as I durnied over the Jura mountains, across France and over the Belgium border. The 650km journey went quite fast across the beautiful french countryside and upon arrival to the main site it was obvious straight away that the event and organisation of the competition was to be outstanding by the AASH club.
Reality soon set in as some very professional teams arrived for early practice, with some teams already arriving 2-3 days before the event opening. Eventually I was greeted by the event organisers and also met a lot of present and past competitors which I had not seen or spoke to in a long time. This was really one of the highlights of the trip. The evening I got settled into the local B&B prepared the models for practice the next day.
The next day and for the forthcoming week saw me practicing quite early in the morning to avoid the extreme heat and high sun during the day which caused many teams to retire also and await the slightly cooler and more flyable conditions in the afternoon. For all my practice session I arranged with team GB to practice together and also meet the current team members. For me they provided help for both support and calling throughout the competition and practice. My hats off to the GB team for all their kind assistance during the championship.
The day of processing, official practice and the opening ceremony is always that filled of a little nerves and apprehension. Happily both models processed just fine but there was a small scramble to arrange another FAI sticker for my A model wish was ripped off during one of my practice flights the day previous. One of the positive aspects of the processing day is to be able to speak with other teams and for me this was with CPLR, former world champion and his new Galactika Plus models for 2018-2019. He is an extremely humble person who is very open to all questions and was even patient enough for me to practice some french speaking with.
Later that day saw the opening ceremony which unfortunately ended in a total washout with heavy rain and storms consuming the flying site and surrounding countryside. Luckily the AASH erected a very large marque so the remainder of the presentations and speeches were conducted in doors, accompanied with some local 9% belgium refreshments.
In general for the next 4-5 days the competition flights well ok for me. The conditions were challenging for all pilots as the the wind fluctuate from 5 – 20km/hr depending on the time of the day. Even the temperature hit a new high for Belgium with my 3rd flight at after midday being over 41 degrees. This did cause me to loss power in the last maneuver as my main battery pack lost one of its 10 cells due to the extreme heat inside the model. Overall I was a little disappointed with my own performance but I have taken away lots of good insight and constructive feedback to help improve. I felt the judging overall was very far and there was very little fluctuating between all 5 judges and the two different judging panels.
My flying for the championship ended here , with the top 30 pilots continuing to fly the more challenging ‘F’ schedule in the semi-finals consisting of two flights each, with 10 then progressing to fly in the finals (comprising two rounds of ‘F’ and two rounds of unknown schedules back to back).
These flights were spectacular to watch, giving an idea of the immense
skill level of the world’s top pilots and providing ample motivation to push myselves further domestically.
The competition ended with Frances Christophe Paysant-Le Roux being
crowned once again as European champion. Lassi Nurila from Finland came in second
position, followed by Gernot Bruckmann from Austria in third position. Andrea Cervi took the junior European championship position.
The competitiveness and skill level involved in flying at such an event, along with the great people taking meant that the anxiety of preparing for and competing had all but disappeared, with focus immediately switching to how to do it all over again for the forthcoming world championship in Italy.
Finally I would like to thank my sponsor Optipower for their continual support, The Swiss and Great Britain team for their help and support through the season and competition, my new flying home Club Lémanique d’AéroModélisme and the MACI for their support in sending me to the European championship 2018.
Competition aerobatics in Ireland is organised by the Irish Model Aircraft
Aerobatic Association (IMAAA), which runs a series of competitions throughout
the year for all levels of pilot skill (from novice to advanced). Newcomers,
regardless of skill level, are always welcome to take part in competitions and are
encouraged to get in contact with the IMAAA for information and guidance on
entering the world of competitive aerobatics. For further information, see the
IMAAA Facebook page or contact Shane Robinson (MACI