2015 SPA Masters
Chattanooga, TN
October 3-4, 2015

Well, with the SPA East Masters now in the books, along with the SPA West OPEN a week ago---the 2015 SPA season is now history.  For the East Masters, with 32 pre-registered pilots, the initial registration was up, but the final number of pilots Saturday morning was down to 22 due largely to the largest rain event the region had seen all year.  After studying the radar, Saturday was "scrubbed" (to quote an old NASA term), and by Sunday morning, commitments and other problems caused the final number flying to drop to 17.  It was disappointing, but those 17 who stayed experienced a unique and thoroughly enjoyable Masters.

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about SPA East Masters weather is that it is like a "box of chocolates" ala Forrest Gump--you never know what kind of weather you're going to get, but it often involves some combination of cool/cold temperatures, wind and rain.  We can think back to many past Masters events that were memorable, (not necessarily enjoyable however), due to weather, but somehow adverse conditions tend to bring out the "survivalist" skills that we all have to one degree or another.  Logically, most sane people wouldn't be out in the elements like this if they don't have to be, but "The Defiant 17" (and their support personnel), chose to stay and "tough it out" anyway.  We didn't know at the time that the only "washout" (with no flying on Saturday), that I can remember in SPA history would unexpectedly open the door for "other activities" that would turn things around, and make the 2015 East Masters unique, and a great success.

It was good of Dan Dougherty to coordinate activities and call the pilots personally to tell them where the "action" was Saturday afternoon--room 132, his motel room.  Dan (DD) had the great idea of a football party at the motel with party platters and "munchies" from Dan, and the beer (and soft drinks), from Scott.  Since nearly everyone stayed at the Best Western, people were popping in and out all afternoon, while indulging in the "party fare". 

Getting lots of people together in a non-flying environment throughout the afternoon provided a great opportunity for more leisurely and in-depth talk about "plane stuff" while displaying, (like "show and tell") different planes, (and plane parts like fiberglass cowls for example). We got opinions and debates about all kinds of plane-related topics, including servo favorites, (and why each was so great), innovative building techniques, the benefits of many R/C-related products and where to get them etc etc.  I don't know about anyone else, but I was writing all this stuff down, taking notes, and generally learning a lot.  The football games were on in the background, but most people weren't paying much attention.  Those with a special interest in a particular game went off to their own room because you "couldn't hear nuttin'" on TV.

Dinner was at 6:30, (meaning 6-6:15 PM) at the best place around for too much food and monster desserts--the City Cafe.  At the restaurant, Bobbie Johns won the ladies drawing of a beautiful basket loaded with "goodies" donated by Suddenly Social Media (Missy Varner).

Sunday there was no rain!  We saw partly cloudy skies with a nice crosswind in the face.  By flying two flight lines, three classes got 4 rounds in while all the others got 3 rounds, plus we managed to fit in the Memorial Trophy fly off between Jeff Owens & Jerry Black.   Unfortunately for the first competitive classes off the runway on Sunday, the toughest winds of the day were faced by the pilots who flew early.  This was especially challenging for the INTRODUCTORY and NOVICE pilots, who learned quickly what precision flying in a stiff cross-wind can be like. While the crosswinds were a problem all day, they diminished somewhat as the day wore on.  Temperatures also inched up slowly, so that by the time the awards and raffle was started, (more about that later), conditions were almost comfortable.

Greg Hoke did some big-time work on the runway removing as much water as possible (see below), but a few small puddles remained in certain low spots on the runway, making for some interesting landings when the planes would kick up a "roostertail" of water, (to quote a term used for hydroplanes).  The comment was made during my first landing, (in the largest of those remaining "waterholes"), that the puddle I drove my Rabbit through served as a great "waterbrake".  If you happened to be as good a pilot as Jerry Black, and Eric & John Nessler, you nimbly hopped over some of the puddles with the judicious use of elevator on landing--the rest of us just plowed through whatever was in front of our planes while landing, sometimes washing the wheels and wing bottoms in the process.

We hosted some newcomers at this year's Masters.  Bernie Olson, (all the way from SPA West), brought his Blue Angel which got a lot of attention and scrutiny.  Just a week earlier I had visited him in Fort Worth, attending their SPA WEST OPEN with clear skies and temperatures in the lower 90s--what a change a week makes!  Then from the distant north, Dr Charles Gray invited Dan Grotzinger, an old friend of mine from VR/CS that I hadn't seen in a long while.  Dan was the pilot I trusted enough and selected to fly Ed Kazmirski's personal Taurus II for its first flight in 45 years in Lexington Kentucky back in 2009--in other words, Dan is a good pilot, he's just new to pattern competition SPA-style.  He flew his first contest with us in SPORTSMAN.  Dan is a great addition to SPA, and I hope he travels from Indianapolis to fly with us again next season.  I think both Bernie and Dan had a great time in spite of the tough weather conditions, and I think both will be back.

Fortunately, there were no radio issues at Chattanooga this year, and the only plane that was lost was during a hard landing by Jim Johns in the 4th round of ADVANCED.   Duane Wilson received a laceration while working on a (booby-trapped razor sharp), APC prop (from a rival SPORTSMAN pilot [just kidding---really], so I did a quick bandage job and he continued to fly, (thanks very much Scott--it was deep and wouldn't stop on its own--ed).

A special mention about our PIO Bruce Underwood.  We saw Bruce at breakfast Saturday, then later in the rain-soaked Saturday morning "huddle" before Scott dismissed us for the day.  We didn't learn of his medical difficulties that sent him to the hospital for tests until much later in the day.  We kept him in our thoughts and prayers for the rest of the weekend, and were relieved when we learned on Sunday he had been released from the hospital.  He and Jane left Sunday morning for home.  Our best wishes for a speedy recovery Bruce!  Speaking of Bruce, Mamma Jane & Bruce did a great job on the plaques for the contest as well as the Points Championship plaques and the special SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD plaque that went to Greg Hoke.  As mentioned earlier, Greg took it upon himself to get up early on Sunday and work hard doing water removal duty on the runway to make our flying possible.  It couldn't have been a better choice.

Regarding the Masters awards and raffle, Scott has better manners than to dwell too much on the fact that he put together what was without doubt the finest raffle in the history of SPA, (in my memory at least)!  Two airplanes, a radio, and an OS .95 engine headlined the raffle, (which totaled 20 prizes), including many more smaller, (but still great and valuable), prizes to complement the big ones.  Every time Scott announced something about to be raffled I'd hear someone behind me saying "man I want that", or "that's good"--anyway you get the idea.  I don't know where Scott got the money or the deal-making skills to pull this off, but he did.  He probably taught Trump how to make deals. :)  The bottom line was that Scott worked very hard on this, putting it all together, promoting it, and then running the event in his usual "no nonsense" way.  During the raffle, I think he finally started relaxing and even smiling some, (kidding again Scott--ed).  Jim Johns was recruited once more to do the score entry in his usual impeccable manner, and as always, our favorite Chattanooga club "good guy" John Davis was the perfect host, and had a number of club member helpers to make it all happen--a fantastic job--we all felt very welcome there. 

It just goes to show that there is more to a contest than the weather conditions when it comes to making a very enjoyable, memorable event.  I think we all kind-of banded together, and enjoyed the "heck out of the weekend" in spite of the admittedly lousy weather.  Those who cancelled honestly missed out.  While I would prefer perfect weather and light winds, there was something special about this particular Masters.  Bruce might say it "put the cherry on top" of the season.

 Duane Wilson & Scott Anderson