Classic F3A Pattern
‘Back to the future’
Since the early 1960’s, F3A aerobatics has often been considered
as the pinnacle of radio control disciplines. From control using reed
sets, through proportional radio, rate switches and finally to computer
sets and 2.4GHz, the models have evolved into the high quality, factory
produced items that retail for many hundreds, possibly, thousands of
In the early days, pilots looking for the perfect aerobatic airframe,
rolled their sleeves up, took up paper and pen and set to designing
their own. After each World Championships, it was often the winning
design that was introduced into the local plans service so that us mere
mortals could try and emulate the performance of the Masters of the
art of aerobatics. Foam wings and tails were regularly available from
a number of sources, and, armed with a load of balsa from the local
model shop, we would enter the model workshop over the winter to produce
next years competitive model (or two if you were really keen!).
Radio’s and engines were readily available and could be purchased
locally and so a year’s competitive flying could be obtained for
a reasonable level of investment. Compare that with the current competitive
situation. Airframes are produced by a few specialist manufacturers,
predominantly in the Far East, with designs changing every two years
or so to match the ever increasing complexities of the new schedules.
Added to that the cost of equipping these models with the latest servos,
motors and battery packs (F3A is almost wholly electric these days),
then the cost can be prohibitive for many prospective aerobatic flyers.
Mike Birch with "Capricorn"
Over the past few years, Paul Bardoe has tried to resurrect the interest
in vintage aerobatic models by the re-introduction of the Bullet and
Tornado models from the ‘70’s. In addition to these, the
Chevron has also been produced as well and will soon become available.
To reinforce this resurrection, three 'retro' fly-in’s have been
held, two at Sleap Airfield in Shropshire and one at Stow Maries in
Essex. The popularity of these events has prompted the suggestion that
the flying of this type of model should be put on a more formal platform
as some have suggested some low-key competitions/fly-in in the near
What age group qualifies as a UKCAA classic?
Whilst discussing this on the RCM&E Model Flying forum, the proposals
cater for aircraft designed from 1960 up until 1986. Although the later
years takes us into the realms of the early turnaround schedules, models
at this stage were still (predominantly) powered by .60 size two strokes
and models were still mainly own designs or built from published plans.
It would be idealistic to assume that radio sets from that era would
be resurrected and used in these times of 2.4GHz and 35MHz. However,
in 2012, Stuart Foster came to the Festival of Flight event with several
models equipped with radio from the era but with one twist, they had
been converted to 2.4GHz.
However, modern computerised radio sets can and should be used. Advanced
(for the time) radio systems were used by the top pilots in the 1980's
and are therefore well within the spirit of the UKCAA aims. With modern
F3A models using servos each costing over £100, it is refreshing
to know that the models we are considering here are quite happy with
the simplest of servos with ball bearing outputs. Indeed, it would be
simple to kit out one of the classic models for the cost of just one
servo in a modern day model!
Modern low cost 2 stroke engines are typically more powerful that their
period tuned counterparts and can be used as a direct exchange as it
is unlikely that period engines will be readily available. The addition
of a Tuned exhaust system from suppliers such as Just
Engines would add some additional power with the benefit of improved
Alternatively, builders may also consider electric conversions, many
of these models have ample space for battery packs especially those
that were designed for internal tuned pipes. The UKCAA would be interested
to hear from pilots who have made a successful electric conversion so
that the deatils could be passed to other prospective builders
Back to the future?
So where do we go from here? In the USA, the Classic Pattern movement
has grown steadily over the last few years and several events each year
are oganised and well attended. Through the Model Flying forum, interest
has been shown from a number of flyers and with further exposure will
hopefully grow into a very active group.
For the group to prosper, it needs pilots and builders who will encapsulate
the aims of the Association and produce these wonderful period models
and contribute by attending events, promoting the association and perhaps
providing articles and photographs for the website. We look forward
to seeing and hearing from you.