By Andreas Kanonenberg
Interview with Winfried Ohlgart
(see photos below)
Winfried Ohlgart has become the godfather of jet modeling worldwide. Wherever jets are flown, people know his name. He’s the editor in chief of JetPower magazine, one of the two publications dedicated exclusively to the needs and interests of jet modelers. Ohlgart is also one of the founders and currently chairman of the International Jet Model Committee (IJMC), which is responsible for organizing the bi-annual jet model world championships. The 9th Jet World Masters will be held in the summer of 2011 at the U.S. Air Force Museum in Ohio.
Winnie, as Winfried is known to almost everyone, also dreamed up the JetPower Fair, which he and a small group of 15 hardworking friends have turned into the premier jet modeling event on the planet. What began in 2003 on a relatively small scale by now attracts hundreds of manufacturers, pilots, model aircraft and thousands of spectators. Every third weekend in September the JetPower Fair, staged at a local airfield overlooking the small German town of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, about 40 miles south of Cologne, is the place to be in the jet model universe. When things were winding down on Sunday afternoon, Model Airplane News[ITAL] hooked up with Winfried Ohlgart, who generously took time out of his incredibly busy schedule for this interview.
AK: Winnie, when did you have the idea for the JetPower Fair?
WO: After we started publishing JetPower magazine in 2001, we were constantly approached by readers who wanted to know if there was any way to get an overview of the entire jet modeling community—how to get started, what to fly, where to go. That was the first time I really began to think about an event that would allow us to present the entire world of jet modeling in one place. Two years later, in 2003, we organized our first JetPower Fair.
AK: What was the response?
WO: The response was overwhelming and somewhat caught us by surprise. We had more than 3,000 visitors, which we thought was absolutely incredible. And it went from there. One of the reasons the Fair has been so successful over the years is the gorgeous location up here in the midst of the vineyards. Our runway is 800 meters (2,600 feet) long, we have no flight ceiling restrictions and ample space to accommodate huge vendor tents, thousands of visitors every day and hundreds of campers. I live in the area, and I’ve known this place for a long time. When we got the go-ahead to stage the fair here, we were ecstatic. We feel privileged to be here.
AK: How big has JetPower become?
WO: It’s really unbelievable. This year, we’re featuring 114 companies from 15 countries exhibiting everything jet-related in two huge tents on 42,000 (!) square feet. We have 174 pilots and more than 200 model aircraft. There were more than 500 takeoffs and not quite as many landings (WO laughs), and over the three days we welcomed more than 10,000 visitors. The numbers are just incredible.
AK: How has jet modeling changed over the past few years?
The developments we have seen over the past few years are fascinating. Who would have thought just five, six years ago that model turbines would become as reliable as they are now? I remember the days without ECU, and look at it now: you move the throttle stick and these things come to life! That’s one of the reasons the public is so intrigued by model jets—it really is the crown jewel of aero modeling. And before I forget—turbine-powered helicopters have also become a huge part of the hobby. To watch a big-scale chopper perform just the way its full-size counterpart does is a real treat.
One of the trends over the past half decade has been larger and larger aircraft, but I do believe that we’ll see a reversal of that trend shortly, one of the reasons being the prohibitive cost. It is just not feasible for most fliers to spend upwards of $20,000 on a single model aircraft. Another major trend is on the electric model jet front; this is an area where there’s been an explosion in terms of development and progress. These jets are even beginning to sound like turbine-powered jets. It’s fantastic!
AK: Is there anything that gives you pause?
WO: I worry about over-powered model aircraft and jet pilots with an attitude that’s too carefree for my taste. It’s true that we’ve been very fortunate as far as accidents are concerned. But that doesn’t mean it will stay that way forever. There’s just no need for high-speed passes so close to the spectators; by flying these kinds of maneuvers I think we’re pressing our luck. I don’t even want to think about the consequences in case something happens. We’re right at the limit with these high-tech machines, and that means we have a huge responsibility. You can have a clean record for decades, but just one bad accident will destroy all that in a heartbeat. We will continue to enforce our strict safety rules without any exceptions. There’s no room for desperados at JetPower.
AK: What’s next for JetPower? Have you reached the limit?
WO: Yes, I think we have. Sure, we could get even bigger. But we don’t want to. What we have at this point feels absolutely perfect. It’s a huge community, and people have a great time. If you make the event bigger, it will lose some of its family feel. And no one wants that.
AK: What will change next year?
WO: 2010 will be 2.4GHz only. Most of the pilots this year no longer used 35MHz, and we’ve decided to mandate the new technology for next year. It’s the way to—it will make the flying even safer, and it will also be less work for us.
AK: What’s on your wish list for 2010?
WO: This year with David Shulman we had the first exhibitor from the U.S. We already know there will be more next year, and I really look forward to it. I still look at the U.S. as the place where it all started with people like Bob Violett. Without him I wouldn’t be in it today. We have hundreds of American visitors each year, and now we’d also like to see you here as exhibitors. It’s a great show and I’m sure you’d enjoy it, so please come on over.
AK: Winnie, thank very much for this interview. Good luck to you next year.
WO: Thanks! Hope to see you all at JetPower 2010 (September 17-19, 2010)!
JetPower 2009: Facts & Figures
- What: JetPower Fair, organized by Winfried Ohlgart in cooperation with the publishing house Modellsport Verlag (MSV) GmbH in Baden-Baden, Germany. JetPower magazine is published by Modellsport Verlag and edited by Winfried Ohlgart.
- On display are turbine-powered model jet airplanes, helicopters and turbine-powered sail planes as well as electric ducted-fan aircraft, which by now account for approximately 25% (and growing rapidly) of the jet model market.
- Where: Flugplatz Bengener Heide in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, some 40 miles south of Cologne in the western-most part of Germany, which borders on the Netherlands, Belgium and France a little farther south.
- When: every third weekend in September. This year the event took place September 18-20 (Friday through Sunday).
- The airfield Bengener Heide is a flying field for full-size aircraft and features a perfectly smooth 2,600-foot runway. The location and the vistas are spectacular (please see photographs).
- Weather: absolutely spectacular with temperatures in the mid to high 70s on all three days; no rain; very little wind. Extremely unusual for this time of year in Germany. Winnie Ohlgart seems to have some kind of deal with the weather gods, as the JetPower weather is famous by now for being mild and warm.
- No flight ceiling restrictions.
- 114 exhibitors from 15 countries.
- Camp grounds/parking for 250 tents/RVs.
- 42,000 (!!) square feet of exhibition space in two tents.
- More than 10 miles of electrical cable were laid to power the event.
- Winnie Ohlgart, his good friend Horst Westerholt and more than a dozen more helpers worked for six months to organize the event.
- Three 2-inch binders full of paperwork and permits needed to be collected before JetPower could open its doors.
- More than 1,000 gallons of beer, coffee, water and soda were consumed over the course of the three JetPower days.
- More than 20,000 servings of wurst, fries, ice cream, cake, etc. were sold in three days.
- The Combustion Chamber (Die Brennkammer) and the Kerosene Bar (Kerosin Bar) are located inside a medium-size hangar on the airport grounds. Tucked between the campground and one of the huge exhibitor tents this is where visitors, pilots and everyone else gather (starting at 8 p.m.) after a long day of flying, watching and shopping to have a good time and a beer (or two or three).
- 174 pilots and more than 200 model aircraft were on display this year.
- One flight line (with up to five aircraft in the air) open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- More than 500 starts and 495 landings. No equipment failures and no injuries, just a few mistakes and midairs.
- More than 10,000 visitors over three days.
- Flight show “Night of Fire” on Saturday (start: 9 p.m.). During the show, worldclass pilots took to the air with their illuminated jets and helicopters to light up the sky with breathtaking flights (including aerobatic performances) in total darkness. The show culminated with an amazing fireworks display at 10:30 p.m..
- JetPower on the Internet: jetpower-messe.de
1. F-16C Fighting Falcon in 1:4 scale. Scratch-built, full composite aircraft. The flight performance of this model is absolutely breathtaking, and its pilot, Andreas Finke, really knows how to fly this beast. The model is huge and heavy, which makes it virtually indistinguishable from the full-size Falcon—it looks, sounds and flies like the real thing. Truly unbelievable! This model is available as a kit.
Length: 148 in.
Wingspan: 97 in.
Engine: Sturzkopf TJ 42 (93 lb. of thrust)
All-up weight: 104 lb.
Max. speed: 220mph
Pilot: Andreas Finke
2. Dassault Mirage IIIC in 1:3.8 scale. Scratch-built by Frank Schroeder from Luxembourg, this huge jet was also equipped with the big Sturzkopf turbine. This engine puts out some 93 lb. of thrust, which will do incredible things to a model aircraft that weighs in at “only” 73 lb. Unbelievably nimble and responsive, Frank had fun “parking” his Mirage midair at a seemingly crazy 45-degree angle. Remember, we are talking about a monster of a model aircraft practically standing on its exhaust stream. To see Schroeder open the throttle and have the aircraft catapult skyward, disappearing in the clouds a few seconds later, is a truly spectacular sight. Well done, Frank!
Length: 143 in.
Wingspan: 85 in.
Engine: Sturzkopf TJ 42 (93 lb. of thrust)
All-up weight: 73 lb.
Max. speed: 245mph
Owner & pilot: Frank Schroeder
3. F-20 ‘Tigershark’ in 1:4 scale. Built from scratch by Friedhelm Graulich, this is one seriously big model aircraft. But Friedhelm (who is without a doubt the nicest guy among the top European airshow pilots) always manages to keep his aircraft under the magical 55 lb. mark. How does he do it? Simple: wood, wood and, again, wood—that’s how he gets it done. The model is a fantastic flyer.
Length: 142 in.
Wingspan: 83 in.
Engine: Frank TJ 70/16 Raptor
All-up weight: 52 lb.
Max. speed: 180mph
4. Harald Huf’s huge Sukhoi Su-27 in 1:6.5 scale. One of the most breathtaking model jets we’ve ever seen. Harald’s aircraft took eight (!) years to complete and just passed the waiver process in Germany. Starting in 2001, thousands of modelers all over the world followed Huf’s every construction move on his website. The aircraft has been flown successfully but, unfortunately, the paperwork necessary to get a flight clearance was delayed, which is why this big model was not allowed to take to the air at JetPower this year. The level of detail on this model is nothing short of amazing; take a look at the pictures as they do say more than 1,000 words.
Length: 133 in.
Wingspan: 89 in.
Engine: 2 x JetCat P200 (110 lb. of thrust combined)
All-up weight: 108 lb.
Max. speed: 190mph
Owner & pilot: Harald Huf
Exhibitors and Visitors from:
- Czech Republic
- Great Britain
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- United States