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2009 F3D Pylon World Championships Team Canada Report

2009 F3D PYLON






The Contestants

The 2009 F3D Pylon World Championships were held near Ballenstedt, Germany from July 20th - 26th, 2009. Twenty-two countries participated in the thirteenth biennial F3D Pylon World Championships including Australia, Belgium, Canada, The Czech Republic, France, Gatar, Germany, Guatemala, Greece, Italy, Japan, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and the United States. Fifty-five racers entered the event to compete for the individual and team championships. As usual, each country was permitted to enter a maximum of three pilots, along with a team manager and callers/mechanics.  


The Canadian Team

The 2009 Canadian F3D Team included veteran racers Harold Sattler of Metinota, SK (8-time team member); Murray Hamula of Crossfield, AB (2-time team member); and Henry Redekop of Regina, SK (3-time team member, but first-time as pilot); Richard Moldenhauer of Saskatoon, SK as Team Manager and caller/mechanic (3-time team member); and Lyle Baker of Saskatoon, SK as caller/mechanic (first time on team).  Combined, this team had more than 140 years of pylon racing experience under their belts (most of it in the very competitive Canadian Prairie Pylon Racing Association racing district, which is District #3 of the National Miniature Pylon Racing Association of North America. This district has produced many of Canada's top pylon racers.


Team Preparation

Following the team selection at the Canadian F3D Team Trials held in Regina, SK, in September 2008, the team's pilots began building and/or acquiring and assembling their pylon racers. As a pre-condition, each pilot was required to have three ready-to-fly FAI pylon racers in place for the World Championship. This is a daunting task in that very specialized racing engines, headers, tuned-pipes, and props have to be ordered from custom builders/suppliers in Europe, along with making or acquiring specialized tools for engine maintenance. This is both an expensive and time-consuming endeavour (estimates are that each ready-to-fly F3D pylon airplane costs about $2,500 and these pylon racing aircraft must adhere to very strictly enforced event rules for dimensional cross-sections, surface areas, engine and tuned-pipe rules, etc.


Eight of the team's FAI racing models were custom built SR-3s which were manufactured by H&M Racing located in Saskatchewan. The ninth model, flown by Murray Hamula, was an EVO-FAI model built by Big Bruce Racing, Australia, and purchased second hand from a racer in the USA. MB engines were used by the Canadian Team (and by a large majority of the racers competing in Ballenstedt). 


In addition to the preparation of the racing aircraft, the team members had to also make their transportation and accommodation arrangements. This included constructing and packing special shipping boxes for the racing airplanes to be checked as oversized luggage. Each pilot packed their models in reinforced triple-walled corrugated cardboard boxes measuring 75 inches long, 18 inches wide, and 24 inches tall (the smallest possible size to accommodate three aircraft each). Each pilot also had an additional box for his tools, starters, spare parts, etc. Originally, the team had decided to ship these boxes by courier in advance of the competition, but the cheapest price was over $600 each way for each box - for a total of more than $3,600. In the end it was decided to check these boxes as oversized luggage. An added complication in planning the trip was booking ground transportation for the team, their luggage, tool/equipment boxes, and the three very large airplane boxes. This required pre-booking a large nine-passenger rental van with a removable rear seat (very scarce and very expensive in Europe). (More on the complex issue of transporting the model pylon racing aircraft later in this report under the heading 'recommendations').


Team Trip to Ballenstedt, Germany

Four members of the team flew to Calgary to meet the fifth team member (who drove to Calgary), followed by a non-stop flight to Frankfurt, Germany. This was an exhausting trip taking in excess of 16 hours (including layovers in airport terminals), followed by a six-hour drive from Frankfurt to Ballenstedt. Most of the members of the team left home in the morning of July 15th and arrived in Ballenstedt at 9 p.m. on July 16th (this includes an 8 hour time-zone change). 


A minor glitch (2 ½ hour delay) was experienced with the Team's van rental at the Frankfurt airport. The vehicle that had been pre-booked was not available so a slightly smaller substitute was offered, which would not accommodate the team's large airplane boxes. Fortunately, with the very generous and gracious assistance of a congenial English-speaking car rental agent, we were able to negotiate the cancellation of our pre-booked rental contract and secure a suitably sized van (with a GPS) from another agency within the Frankfurt airport (but at a substantially higher rental cost). 


Upon the team's arrival at their hotel in Ballenstadt, Germany, the aircraft and equipment boxes were unpacked and checked-over. Thankfully, all the models and related equipment arrived unscathed. The next task was to reinstall engines, tanks, batteries, and other aircraft components that had been separated for transportation. Very exhausted team pilots charged their receiver batteries in preparation for an early start the next day at the designated practice site.


Practice Sessions

The team test-flew and practiced for several months prior to their departure to Germany. However, the team was limited in its attempts to conduct special team practice sessions due to unseasonable weather in Western Canada (a very late and cold spring, followed by an unusually windy, rainy, and cool early summer). In addition, team pilot Redekop had some set-backs with inconsistent engine runs on his new customized MB racing engines where it seemed no combination of tuned-pipe and prop, etc., would allow for a good needle setting and consistent runs (even though he used the same set-up as the other team members). Early speculation was that the fit of piston-to-cylinder wall was too tight - so he spent considerable time doing more 'bench-runs' using a smaller diameter break-in prop. This seemed to help but did not completely resolve the problem. Later, during the competition, he found out that some of his custom built propellers had slightly more pitch than others, even though they were all thought to be the same size and pitch. Changing-out these 'heavy' props improved the engine performance but overall they still did not 'needle' as well as they should have. After the competition Redekop planned to send the engines back to the manufacturer to see if they could determine the problem.


The team scheduled their itinerary to arrive three days earlier than the official practice schedule in order to 'fine tune' the engine set-ups and to get in extra practice flying at the competition altitude of 500 feet above sea level. A practice field was provided some 45 minutes from our hotel. The runway fell short of what would be considered a suitable field for landing F3D pylon racers. It included a very small paved section surrounded by fairly rough grassy areas. Landing on the grassy area with fixed gear or with retracts deployed would usually result in some damage to the gear and aircraft. Also, flying was limited to 10 a.m. to 12 noon, and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. (this was due to it being a club field which was only given over to the racers for these restricted times). Nevertheless, each Canadian team member managed to get in several flights the first day, but had fewer flights during the next two days as more teams showed up at the practice field. The protocol was for each pilot to place their aircraft at the end of a line when it was fuelled-up and ready to go. During the 2nd and 3rd day the line-ups, at times, would be 40 planes deep (about 1½ hour wait per flight). Weather was cooler than expected at 15C to 25C, with moderate winds, overcast skies, and occasional brief periods of light rain. Each day heavy, dark clouds were visible in the distant low altitude mountains to the west of the flying site but the heavier rains held off until late afternoons.


Overall, the 'unofficial' practice sessions went well for the team, although team member Murray Hamula did incur damage to his 'fixed gear' EVO's fuselage due to landing a few feet short of the pavement on one flight on the second day of the practice. A trip to a local hardware store for supplies and an evening spent repairing the damage returned the plane to 'race ready' condition. The team was upbeat and ready for the next four days of 'official practice' at the competition race site 'Airfield Ballenstedt' with its nearly kilometer long and 50 meter wide paved airport runway.


Official Practice and Processing

The long paved runway allowed practice from two flight lines. Pilots and callers were carted out to these flight lines by two flatbed trailers towed by cars. Again, long line-ups meant only a few flights per day per pilot on the first two days of practice. On day three the event's officials decided to allow two pilots per flight line to fly simultaneously. This reduced the wait times considerably. Canadian team members each got in about a dozen flights during the first three days of official practice, generally finding good needle settings for the majority of their flights and looking fairly competitive when compared to most others. As per usual there were some competitors from other countries struggling to find good engine settings, while a half-dozen others looked exceptionally fast (some of these competitors fly their F3D pylon racers year-around and manage in excess of 300 days of flying per year - something not possible for Canadian pilots).


Aircraft 'processing' took place on day three of the official practice, whereby all aircraft were inspected, weighed, measured, and engines checked for identification marks (engines had to be marked with each competitor's ID), and official stickers were applied to wings and fuselages after inspection. Only processed aircraft and engines were permitted to be raced with spot checks done throughout the tournament. Team Canada's racers all passed inspection, but a few required a bit of extra lead weight tape to achieve the minimum weight requirement. For the first time in many years, spinner nose radius rules were enforced, which meant that virtually every competitor had to change or modify their spinner nut (ironically the stock spinner nut supplied by the engine manufacturer did not meet the required minimum radius measurement specified by the rules). The Canadian team had been warned just a few days before that the stock spinner didn't meet the event criteria, and had ground and sanded their spinner nuts to conform. The MB engine manufacturer also brought a quantity of new spinner nuts that conformed to the rules and gave one to each competitor.


Opening ceremonies took place on day four of the official practice, with a flag raising ceremony and playing of the national anthem for each country represented at the competition. Once this was concluded all teams were offered a chance to see how the racecourse's electronic timing, lap counting, and light systems worked. Unfortunately, there was considerable confusion as to how the aircraft with colored wing tape identifiers would correspond to the #1 pylon light system and the lap counting system. Officials decided to review the process, make some adjustments, and have team managers review the system again the next morning before official racing started.


Day four was also the final day of practice where each team was scheduled for a 20 minute time allotment at the flight line to fly as many flights as they could with an official starter, course workers and the electronic light and timing systems in full operating mode. While the weather for the first three days of the official practice was not ideal, day four was even worse with very strong and gusty winds and periods of rain. When Team Canada's turn arrived at mid-morning, the inclement weather was not conducive to flying with winds gusting to 60 km per hour. Nevertheless, the team opted to use their designated time to go out to the start line and go through the 60-second start-up procedure, then shut down the engines at launch time. This allowed each caller and pilot a chance to see how the electronic start clock and launch signals worked. No competitors were able to fly until later in the day when the weather improved. Unfortunately, teams that could not fly earlier in the day were not able to reschedule their flights due to time constraints.


The Contest

The official contest commenced on Thursday, July 23, 2009, and concluded with a half day of flying on Sunday, July 26, 2009. A total of 13 rounds of flying took place, representing more than 250 three-plane heats over the three and one-half days of official racing. Periodic failures of the electronic timing and light system required several 're-flies', including about six involving Canadian team members. The overall weather conditions were generally poor with overcast skies and moderate-to-high cross-course winds with periodic rain squalls (during which racing would often continue). Surprisingly, temperatures were  cool - frequently in the low teens. While each team was provided with a shelter tent, most often the door flap openings had to be tied shut to keep model airplanes from blowing off their work tables while awaiting race heats.


The scoring system for F3D pylon racing involves taking the cumulative race times for each pilot (one second equals one point), plus '200' point penalties for any races not completed (due to engine flame-out or when two pylons were cut). If a pilot cuts inside one pylon a 10% penalty is added to his time (i.e. a penalty of 6 points for a 60 second flight).  In addition, with the completion of 13 rounds of racing, each pilot drops their three slowest times (or in effect counts their 10 fastest times). The winner is the competitor with the lowest points total.


Canadian pilots Sattler and Redekop finished the competition without having to count any '200' penalty points but Hamula ended the competition having to count two '200' penalty points. All three team members also had to include some 10% penalty points for cutting inside a pylon. In most cases, their incomplete flights were due to engine 'flame-outs' or 'non-starts' on the line, although rain during some races was also a contributing factor. In one race Sattler could not get his engine started because his engine's spinner cone was wet and his electric starter didn't have the necessary traction to spin-over the engine. 


Those familiar with F3D pylon racing understand that it is a highly technical event with critical engine 'needle settings' and the very best possible engine/tuned-pipe/propeller combinations. These racing engines need to perform on the extreme ragged edge of performance (near 'melt-down' with each run) in order to win. Getting this right on a consistent basis is no easy task, and the failure to do so is the downfall of many experienced F3D racer. For example, one of the world's top racers Chris Callow of Australia (a three-time F3D world champion), had four incomplete races and one race with a pylon cut, putting him into 42nd place (behind two of the Canadian team pilots).  


The Results

The top three finishers in the individual competition were Robert van dan Bosch from The Netherlands (1st with 588.27 points); Richard Verano from the USA (a very close 2nd with 590.92 points); and Randy Bridge from the USA (3rd with 594.31). Van dan Bosch, one of Europes top pylon racers for many years, also scored fast time with a new world record of 56.33 seconds.


In the 'teams competition' the USA ran away from the rest of the field with 1,793.41 points. The Netherlands came 2nd with 1,883.81 points, followed by and the host country, Germany, with 1,907.07 points. Team Canada's score of 2,342.08 included two 200 point penalties for incomplete races.


While the Canadian Team was disappointed with their 12th place finish (out of 22 countries), they were heartened by the fact that but for some engine problems their standing would have been considerably higher. From my perspective, their racing skills and technical knowledge were generally on par with all but a handful or two of the worlds' top racers. However, since Canadian's don't race F3D at home (competing only once every two years at the World Championships), they are at a disadvantage. To some extent, it is more difficult for Canadian racers to access the best and latest developments in F3D racing aircraft and related components when compared to those racers from Europe, Australia, and other countries that regularly race the F3D event.


On a positive note, Canadian team member, Sattler, recorded a personal best time of 63.98 seconds (and in another race was on pace to do a 62 second time but for a pylon cut). He finished in 29th position (667.74 points). Hamula recorded several good flights in the 64 second range, and was on pace to finish in the top third in the individual standings, but had engine problems in the final two days of the event. He finished 49th with 953.51 points (which included two 200 point penalty points). Redekop did well considering it was his first try at F3D racing and that he had to consistently race with very conservative needle settings due to unresolved engine problems. He finished 39th with 721.65 points. Should this team of pilots again qualify for the next world championships, to be held in Australia in 2011, my prediction is that they will move up in the standings.



The members of the 2009 F3D pylon racing team gratefully acknowledge the generous financial support received. F3D racing at the World Championship would be prohibitive, cost wise, if not for support received from MAAC and others listed below. Thank you very much. This listing is in order of contribution size.


MAAC (Model Aeronautics Association of Canada)

JR Propo of Japan

H & M Racing (Metinota, SK)

Redline Hobby Ltd (Regina, SK)

Alberta Sales Auto-Quip Sales & Service Ltd (Calgary, AB)

Airdrie Modelers Aircraft Society (Airdrie, AB)

Custom Courier Co. Ltd. (Saskatoon, SK)

Hub City Radio Control Club (Saskatoon, SK)

Canadian Prairie Pylon Racing Association (NMPRA District #3)

Dr. Roy Andrassy - Brentwood Dental Centre (Calgary AB)

Doug Houston (Calgary, AB)

Houston Trucking Ltd. (Calgary, AB)

Prince George Aeromodelers (Prince George, BC)

Draganfly Innovations Inc. (Saskatoon, SK)

HobbyWorld Inc. (Saskatoon, SK)

Central Alberta Radio Fun Flyers (Red Deer, AB)

Regina Windy Flyers (Regina, SK)

Ed Smith (Brantfort, ON)

Peter E. Thannhauser (Calgary, AB)

Stratford Model Club (Stratfort, ON)

Moose Jaw Radio Control Club (Moose Jaw, SK)

Fergus Model Flyers (Belwood, ON)

Portage Planes R/C Club (MB)



As team manager, I make the following two recommendations to MAAC in terms of support for future F3D teams competing at world championships.


The first recommendation is that MAAC travel assistance provided to team pilots and the team manager should also be extended to a maximum of two caller/mechanics (typically the team manager can call for one of the pilots). The reasoning is that the caller/mechanics are an integral part of the team and as such should be entitled to the same funding assistance. Given the high cost of travel, it can be very difficult to find callers/mechanics willing to make the trip without access to travel assistance.


The second recommendation is that MAAC should work to secure a courier company to sponsor the shipping costs, wholly or in part, for Canadian teams sanctioned by MAAC to compete at World Championships. I'm guessing other model aviation teams competing abroad face the same issue as did our F3D team - horrendously high over-seas shipping costs and very expensive vehicle rentals necessary for ground transportation. This year the F3D could not find any shippers that would transport the racing aircraft boxes for less than $3,600. Shipping these oversize boxes as checked-luggage is also becoming increasingly difficult (and expensive) as airlines reduce their checked luggage weight limits while adding significant penalties for overweight items and extra luggage. Airlines will also only accept oversize checked-luggage if they have room on the aircraft (determined only at the time of departure). When airplane boxes and equipment are shipped as checked luggage, it creates the need to rent large, expensive, and hard-to-find vans to transport the large boxes (and teams) from the international airports to the competition airfield sites. This year the ground transportation costs exceeded $3,000. Having a shipping sponsor for MAAC sanctioned Canadian teams would allow the team's equipment to be sent directly to the contest site and returned home after the contest. Of course, the shipping company would be credited as a team sponsor in each case.


Respectfully Submitted,



Richard Moldenhauer

Canadian Team Manager

2009 F3D Team October 4, 2009

Technical Report for F3D competition
in Ballenstedt Germany
July 20-26 2009

The competition at this year’s event was a step above that experienced in Muncie Indiana two years ago.  There have been advances in racecourse procedures and equipment, radios, props, airframes and piloting abilities that have improved race times and tightened competition.  These changes have further strengthened F3D’s position as the premiere world class RC pylon racing event.

Race Course

We flew at a full scale local airport that had seemingly a mile of perfect pavement.  Enough pavement to allow two practice courses setup and run simultaneously from each end of the runway.  The pavement was used by competitors with fixed gear to land on, and there was a cut grass strip adjacent for retractable gear pilots to belly land on.   The countdown clock, lap counting display and turn light system was all computer timed and controlled, mostly reliable and accepted as world class by the competitors.  It was developed and supplied by a group from the Czech Republic.  The colored wing sticker means of aircraft identification, which was initially frowned upon in Muncie, was applied and wholly accepted this time.  That system, developed in the USA, has greatly reduced the pressure on the volunteer course workers and simplified lap counting and race result calculations.  The event ran 55 pilots through thirteen rounds over four days.   Hundreds of heats ran relatively smoothly, with only a few re-flys, mostly attributed to timing errors or computer reset glitches.  Those types of problems do occur at most pylon racing events and are just part of life around the poles.  More aggravating were the few rain squalls that wandered through nearly every day.  


I believe that more than three quarters of the participants were using the new 2.4 GHz technology.  That in itself is the best thing that’s happened for RC pylon racing, ever.  Gone is the transmitter impound and the constant worry about frequency conflicts.  Organizers have more freedom to make up the matrix and don’t need to supply volunteers to hand out transmitters to the competitors.  There was a mix of radio manufacturers represented including JR, Hitec, Spektrum, Futaba, Graupner and Airtronix.  All of which performed flawlessly in the crowded RF environment.  


Ultimately, it is the prop that drags the airplane through the air.  I saw different blade shapes, sizes, swept tips, upturned and downturned edges, all made of carbon composite materials.  The speeds are up and the times are down as a result of more efficient use of the horsepower developed by the motors.  It really is what’s up front that counts, and there is no definite formula for what works best.  It’s more a situation of who can find the correct daily setup combination of airplane, prop, needle setting and flying aggressiveness to be consistently fast and reliable in every heat race.


Now here is where I observed the biggest change from previous World Championships.  The airplanes are becoming faster and stronger as a result of design and material improvements to dimensions and airfoils.  Most notable is the new EVO Next manufactured by Big Bruce Racing in Australia.  Other manufacturers have emulated the same design changes and a new level of speed and efficiency has been established.  Basically the wing has had the span extended to the maximum 1800mm allowed by the rules, and the chord and stabilizer area has been adjusted to maintain the legal total planform area.  They are faster, turn smoother and aerodynamically more efficient.  Seeing three of them fly tight for ten laps and turn blistering fast sub-minute times really is an exciting sight to behold.  The jury is still out, regarding landing gear styles.  The retractable setup has mechanical complexities that are slowly losing popularity to the fixed, fully panted wheel gear style.  I believe the majority of the pilots have moved to fixed gear because of simplicity and a lighter weight advantage.  The extra drag penalty can be overcome by flying a tighter course and more practice, practice, practice.  I noticed a few models with two piece engine/pipe cowlings.  A novel idea since the motor can be serviced and refueled between heats without removing the entire cowling.  Anything that simplifies any procedure with a racing airplane is bound to improve reliability.

Motors and Tuned Pipes

The MB Profi motor is by far the most popular choice of power plant in use today.  It has remained essentially unchanged for several years now and has a dependable service and parts network available to any modeler in the world.  There were a few custom motors from some of the competitors that seemed just as fast, but I’m not sure of their reliability factor.  There are not any rule changes in the works that will affect motor choice or availability, but there is a change for the tuned pipe for the next round in 2011.  Every airplane must be equipped with a silenced tuned pipe.  The new pipe with silencer will reduce the exhaust noise but will not affect the performance of the motor.  There are already a number of pipes tested and several options will be approved for use.  Approved pipes will be identified and available from their manufacturers.  Also, some of the airplanes’ cowlings must be modified to fit the silencer.  That also is available from the model makers.


F3D really is the Top Fuel Drag Racing of the RC world.  If you like experimenting, tinkering with motors and pipes, or building clean strong airplanes, try F3D.  The reward of adrenalin production and personal satisfaction has not yet been matched by any other event or activity that I’ve participated in.  The faster they fly, the smoother they fly, which has something to do with aerodynamics, I believe.

Submitted by,

Murray Hamula, MAAC #17457, Pilot for Team Canada F3D 2009.