It’s been said that the only constant in life is change. As sure as the summer changes into fall, for the past 16 years the NEAT Fair has been the electric RC enthusiast’s first sign of the harvest season. The NEAT (Northeast Electric Aircraft Technology) Fair is the largest showcase of the ever-changing electric-powered sector of our hobby. For the better part of one week each September, the sleepy town of Downsville, NY hosts some of the finest airplanes and pilots from the RC community. The Peaceful Valley Campsite, host site of the NEAT Fair, is nestled between two hills on the banks of the Delaware River. The expansive grass runway is long enough to host 3 separate flight lines; one for quad copters, a second for standard fixed wing aircraft, and a third for park flyers. There is even a small pond for flying small floatplanes!
Despite life’s penchant for change, there are some absolute constants at the NEAT Fair. First, cell phone reception at NEAT will run anywhere from sketchy to non-existent! Second, you can rest assured that Tom Hunt and his tireless crew from the SEFLI club will treat you to a top notch event in which every “T’ is crossed and every “I” is dotted. Undoubtedly, there will be something in vendor row that you didn’t know you needed until you found it and there will be good food and conversation waiting around every corner.
Another invariable trait of NEAT is the magnificent quality of the noontime demo pilots. This year witnessed Dan Landis from Hobbico putting on some outstanding scale flying displays with the Top Flite giant scale FW-190 and razorback P-47. Dave Lockhart dazzled the crowd with elegant precision aerobatics flying his Allure with its unique contra-rotating prop-drive system. Dave Baron flew a gracefully choreographed aerobatic routine with his 3M sailplane and the Hitec Team loitered around the field with their Pilatus Turbo Porter while 2 RTF Zippers buzzed around below. The warbird mass launch thrilled the crowd as usual. This year featured 60+ aircraft locked in mortal combat with the added carnage of Dan Landis’ Hellcat bursting into flames after crashing on the field!
Given all of the changes that have occurred in electric technology over the past few decades, there is another constant that can be observed at the NEAT Fair. It is a something that we at Electric Flight admire and hold dear to our hearts. It is the constant of the built airplane. Sure, ARF’s are wonderful and have been largely responsible for our hobby’s surge in popularity, but there are still modelers who savor the true essence of modeling. These characters are part genius, part mad-scientist, part-artist, and part craftsman. They are the glue that bonds us to the past, to our true model aviation roots. They are aeronautical Renaissance men in every sense of the word. It is for these reasons that we at Electric Flight chose to showcase some of the handcrafted gems from NEAT 2015.
Adam Woodworth’s X-periment was a very unique design indeed. During the noontime demos, it darted around the field like a hungry tropical fish making it difficult for the spectators to which side was truly up! Designed as an aerodynamically neutral airframe, the X-periment performs the flattest rudder turns the author has ever seen.
Weighing in at 3lbs, the wings are constructed from replacement wing panels for the 3D Hobby Shop Extra 300 giving a wingspan(s) of 47”. Power is provided by a Hacker A30 running on a 4S 2200 mAh pack.
Another airplane from the prolific creative mind of Adam Woodworth is the gossamer model of the Daedalus man-powered aircraft. Flown outdoors in the calm air on early Saturday morning, the Daedalus’ 72” 3mm depron foam wings flexed gently on the lightest whisps of lift.
The model weighs 25g and is controlled by a Parkzone Vapor brick. Perhaps the most amazing feature of the model is that it is covered with the same mylar as the full-scale airplane!
Don Belfort brought his 1/3 scale Miles Atwood Special to NEAT. Scaled from a 1930’s free flight plan, the distinctive green racer weighs 10 lbs and is powered by a 60-size outrunner swinging a 16×10 prop with a Castle Edge 75 feeding amps from the Thunderpower 5S 5000mAh battery. The model features foam board fuselage formers to keep weight and build cost down. The tail surface outlines and wingtips are laminated balsa.
Jason McQuistion was on a mission to show the NEAT Fair patrons what can be done with foam board, a little ingenuity, and a lot of creativity! For the noon demo flights, he flew his Short Skyvan transport vehicle with the Space Shuttle Endeavor on its back. The Skyvan was flown slowly and realistically to altitude where it then released the Space Shuttle. The Space Shuttle glided, well, like the full size Space Shuttle (read brick) back to the field by Jason’s father. The Skyvan has a wingspan of 120” and uses two E-Flite .46 outrunners, two 4S 2200 mAh lipos, and two 100 A Suppo ESC’s. Flying weight is an incredible 6 pounds!
Another interesting airplane from the Jason McQuistion foam-works was the 100” wingspan Davis DA-2. Powered by a Tacon 90, 6S 3600 mAh lipo, and 100 A Suppo ESC, the Davis was built by Jason to give his dad a slow, easy-flying scale airplane. The model is approximately 1/3 scale and is built with fan-fold foam glued with a hot glue gun and hand painted with latex paint.
Jason explains, “I don’t understand why people say they can’t afford to get into large scale electrics. I have less than $200 invested in the Davis DA-2”. Check out more of Jason’s creations and insight for building large foam airplanes at his Facebook page “Monster Foamies”.
Jim Lloyd’s SE-5A was my vote for the wabi-sabi model of the event; “perfectly imperfect”. Jim traveled all the way from Ottawa to participate in NEAT and impressed the audience with his ¼ scale biplane powered by an Astroflight 120, 10S 8000 mAh ThunderPower battery and Castle 120A ESC. The model looks as a WWI fighter should; not a museum piece, but rather a well-used fighter serving on the front lines in the Spartan conditions of the First World War. The airplane is named after Jim’s faithful caller and wife Pamela and carries an onboard Wolseley Viper sound module from Model Sounds, Inc.
By far, the coolest warbird at the 2015 NEAT Fair had to be Mike Greathouse’s massive Yellow Aircraft P-38 Lightning. The 100” wingspan model featured Yellow Aircraft retracts and was powered by two Tacon 160’s, two Gens-Ace 10S 5300 mAh battery packs, two Castle Edge 120 ESC’s and scale varioprops. Originally, the model was built as a gasser with two DA-50’s but was totally demolished when the model lost and engine and crashed. Mike acquired the wreckage and spent 2 years painstakingly bringing the P-38 back to life as an electric model. The model is weathered just enough to make it look right.
Paul Thomas brought a few impressive machines to NEAT including a 1/6th scale Hall Bulldog racer built by Rob Caso. Powered by an O.S. 3825-750, a Castle 75 ESC, and 4S 4000 mAh Venom battery, the Bulldog is striking with its gullwing and colorful black and red color scheme. Paul put the Bulldog through its paces, evoking images of a 1930’s Bendix Trophy Race.
“It’s hard to find a built airplane here”, said Rob Caso about the 2015 NEAT Fair. Au contraire Mr. Caso! You need look no further than your own spot on the flight line! As we have come to expect, Rob Caso brought a number of outstanding scale airplanes from PA. His DeHavilland Tiger Moth is a piece of art. It spans 66”, weighs 8lbs, and is powered by an O.S. A50 swinging a 14×8 on a 6S lipo pack. The scratch-built model features a full cockpit complete with pilot entry door and a fire extinguisher! The scale sprung landing gear was built around oleos purchased from Hobby King. The Tiger Moth has taken a first place at the WRAM Show and it flies just the way Rob likes it; slow, scale, and predictable.
Another outstanding model from the prolific Rob Caso was the Fairey Swordfish torpedo bomber. Rob’s 2015-version of the Swordfish features scale folding wings and functional torpedo drop. With a wingspan of 37”, the Swordfish weighs 23 oz. ready to fly and is pulled around quite realistically by a 140W outrunner on a 3S 1300 mAh lipo.
Although this model is small compared to the myriad of giant scale planes we have become accustomed to, the little torpedo bomber is chock full of detail from the dummy radial engine to the intricate replica oil cooler and airbrushed graphics. Watching the Swordfish poking along during Friday’s Battle of Britain commemorative flight alongside Hurricanes and Spitfires seemed an odd anachronism, much like the full-scale Swordfish’s role in WWII!
At first glance, the quadruplane brought by Thayer Syme to NEAT looked like a unique albeit relatively simple design. How wrong first impressions can be! On closer inspection, the skill with which it was constructed and the extreme attention to detail could be fully appreciated. The design is scaled up from a free flight design by Jason McGuire and is called “Quattro Fortuna” by the builder. The 24” span model is covered in Polyspan and dope with airbrushed Italian national markings.
The author’s Ben Buckle Super Buccaneer spans 90” and features silk and dope covering. The model was originally powered by an O.S. .70 4-stroke but was retrofitted with an Astroflight Cobalt geared 40 motor swinging a 14×8 electric prop. The ESC is an Atroflight 204D with Liposhield from Dimension Engineering and juice comes from a 5S 5500 mAh from Gravity Hobby.
What better power supply for a vintage design than a vintage electric power system? The polar opposite of the 3D aerobats dominating the NEAT Fair, the Buccaneer managed a few stall turns and an arthritic loop during its tenure.
Photos and Text by Scott Copeland