TOP GUN 2008

Mar 26, 2012 No Comments by


Two Decades of Scale Modeling Excellence

The man with the dream, Frank Tiano, was constantly on the go making his 20th anniversary event a big success.

Flown in team scale by Dave Malchione Jr., this º-scale T-34B Mentor is the work of Mark Frankel. Powered by a Zenoah GT-80 twin-cylinder gas engine, the Mentor has a 99-inch span and weighs 42 pounds. The team placed seventh in the class.

The title of Mr. Top Gun 2008 went to David Hayes with his tried and true Rockwell Thrush agro crop duster. Flown in the masters class, David’s ?-scale Thrush earned a 96.833 static score and won the class by only 0.010 points. David’s piloting skills and very prototypical flights made the difference.

The winner of first-place team scale, Graeme Mears, built this amazing USAF Thunderbirds F-16 Falcon flown by David Shulman.

Flown in team scale by Raymond Johns, Mike Sibly’s A-10 really impressed the judges. The Warthog received the highest static score (99.667), in Top Gun history. Mike also took home trophies for Best Military Aircraft, Best Jet, Best Cockpit Interior, and the Critics’ Choice award for exceptional craftsmanship.

For the serious scale competitor, there are many excellent events worth traveling to. But by far, the pinnacle and gold standard for world-class scale action is the annual Top Gun Scale Invitational. This year, Top Gun marked its 20th anniversary. As always, the 2008 event, created and promoted by Frank Tiano, continued to set the highest standard of scale competition and excellence. Hosted by the Imperial RC Club at the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in Lakeland, FL, this year’s event boasted some 113 registered participants and 40 hobby vendors. Even the weather cooperated and the pilots were treated to minimal crosswinds and moderate temperatures allowing their engines and airplanes to perform to their best possible limits. And with such favorable conditions, the scores were extraordinarily close.



This ?-scale A-7D Skyraider was flown to 11th place in Pro Am by Kirby Cole. Powered by a Quadra 75cc gas engine turning a 24◊10 prop, the 101-inch-span Skyraider was built from Ziroli plans and is equipped with Robart retracts.

This rarely modeled Avro Vulcan jet bomber is the work of Sam Snyder and was flown in team scale by Steven Ellzey. Having a 111-inch span and weighing 53 pounds, the Vulcan features a pair of JetCat P120 turbines for power. The team placed 10th and Sam also earned the Grey Eagle award.

David Johnson placed second in masters with his beautifully done Albatros D.Va. Dave’s WW I German fighter has a span of 108 inches and is powered by a Fuji 64EI gas engine. Dave also won the Best Total Flight Score award.

90-year old turbine jet pilot/modeler Retired Col. Bob Thacker (left) takes it easy under the shade of the announcer’s tower umbrella. Announcer Sam Wright is on the right.

Greg Hahn flew his impressive Beech D-18 twin to first place in expert and also earned the Best Gas Engine Performance award. Built from Ziroli planes, the Beech is powered by twin Fuji 43cc engines.

In team scale, this Bae Hawk was the work of Henry Nguyen and was flown to 12th place by Sung Kim. Built from an Airworld kit, the huge jet is powered by a JetCat turbine and has an 83-inch span.

From the beginning, Top Gun has always been intended as both a serious competition as well as a great social event that draws the best scale modelers together to enjoy the sport, while also providing an excuse to get together and have some serious after-hours fun. Getting to know fellow competitors on a personal level cements relationships that often develop into lifelong friendships. Top Gun is definitely not only about the flying!

Another thing that makes Top Gun different from other events is its judging. Static judging is divided into three sections: outline, color and markings, and craftsmanship. Each category receives a maximum of 30 points for a total of 90 possible points. An additional 10 points is awarded for realism and for the model’s overall scale appearance. There are four rounds flown for flight judging. For masters, expert, and team classes, two flight rounds are flown on Saturday and two flown on Sunday. Each of the 10 flight maneuvers is awarded a maximum of 10 points for a maximum score of 100. The lowest scoring flight round is thrown out and the remaining three rounds are averaged together to determine the contestant’s final flight score.

Each contestant is required to fly four mandatory maneuvers: takeoff, slow flyby, fast flyby and landing). An additional five optional maneuvers are left up to the contestant’s discretion. Again, realism is judged and a maximum of 10 flight points are awarded during each round. For a maximum flight score, the contestant must perform the maneuvers prototypically of the full-scale subject airplane. The contestant’s final overall score is determined by combining the overall flight score and the model’s static score.


Being lucky enough to have been associated with Top Gun from its inception, I’ve had the unique vantage point to see it develop and mature into the world-class scale event it is today. I’ve viewed it from behind the camera as a magazine editor/writer, from the flightline as a competitor and in recent times from behind the judges ta
ble. After reviewing 20 years worth of coverage, some interesting points have emerged. Although the event has expanded dramatically, now requiring a five full days to complete, many of the same basic points remain. The static judging teams, for the most part, have remained intact for some years providing consistent judging. The overall quality of the models has remained about the same, which you would expect at this level of competition, but the influence of high levels of prefabrication (ARFs) has become clearly evident. It is now possible to buy composite airframes in most model types from Warbirds and Bizjets. Most, if not all, come with neat panel lines, access hatches, rivets and fasteners already molded into the surface. Do these models jump out of the box right onto the static judging table? Not by a long shot! There is a lot of systems integration and finishing to be performed. How much of that is modeling is a question that always has been, and will continue to be, debated.

The models, as part of their growing sophistication, continue to grow in size. A smallish, 60- to 70-inch P-47 for example, would no longer be a player in this arena. Some of the models in this year’s competition approached 10 feet or better in wingspan. The size, sophistication, and prefabrication do not come without a price tag, however. A quick tabulation shows that some of the models on hand could easily exceed $20,000, exclusive of labor (which you wouldn’t consider anyway because this is a hobby, right?) Now, before you jump on that number and proclaim, ìI wouldn’t spend that kind of money on an RC model to compete in any contest!î remember that this is Top Gun, not just any contest, and you still get there by invitation only.

Top Gun has also seen many RC scale firsts. Among these is the fact that it was the first Invitational Scale competition ever. It was also the first competition to feature a turbine-powered model: the propane-fired, JPX-powered F-16 brought all the way from France. Team scale, which combines the building/finishing talents of one modeler with the flying skills of another, was also pioneered here. To better evaluate and ultimately reward the modeler for his efforts, the craftsmanship judge was given free reign to get as up close and personal with the model as he chose. Top Gun was the first competition of its type to receive worldwide coverage on ESPN, a major factor in providing positive exposure of our hobby/sport to the general public.

So, in what direction is Frank Tiano likely to be taking this prestigious event and what will it look like in 20 years? Many things are conceivable. Regardless of the path the hobby and the event may take, Frank will undoubtedly make the necessary adjustments to ensure that Top Gun will further mature and adapt to the modeling climate to provide the competitive and entertainment value on which its reputation is based. Whatever turn it takes, I’m still prepared to hobble out to my mailbox, put on my reading glasses and be thrilled to receive my invitation.
óBy Rich Uravitch




Gerardo Galvez’s PT-17 shows off its colorful markings and craftsmanship that earned it High Static in the masters class. The closer you looked the better the model looked.

Michael Selby’s A-10 comes in for a landing after another successful flight in team scale. His static score was the highest ever for the event.

Richard Crapp brought his well-executed Fairey Swordfish biplane again and earned the High Static award in the expert class.

In preparation for the 20th anniversary of Top Gun, Frank consulted with his many judges and decided to make a few changes regarding jets and prop aircraft competing against each other. With many issues considered, the new final ruling states that all jet models, regardless of power system, will have a 1.5-percent deduction in their flight scores. Also, tricycle gear-equipped propeller-driven aircraft, regardless of powerplant, will receive no additions or deductions. Any tail-dragger aircraft (except jet examples) incorporating a tail-wheel will receive a 1-percent addition to their flight scores. All tail-dragger aircraft using a tailskid will receive a 2-percent addition to their flight scores.

Also, any model in any class that has been timed out by the three-year rule may return and compete. For all future Top Guns, the three-year rule has been amended so any model aircraft featuring an airframe that was scratch-built and is eligible to compete in the masters or designers class, regardless of what class it has flown in, can now compete for a total of four years in its original color scheme, and for a total of eight years if the color scheme has been dramatically changed from the original. This does not apply to models built from plans or enlarged plans, highly modified kits, or models that feature kit components along with some scratch-built components. And the new rule changes are retroactive to 1989.

In the end, what this all meant is that for 2008 we saw several old favorite models come out of retirement to compete. One such model was David Hayes’ ?-scale Rockwell Thrush agro crop-duster. Competing again in the masters class, Dave’s impressive piloting skills and low-level prototypical passes, complete with functional crop-dusting spray equipment, allowed him to capture the 2008 ìMr. Top Gunî title.


Masters. With a score of 97.33, the winner of the masters ìhigh staticî award was Gerardo Galvez with his beautifully finished Stearman PT-17. His classic º-scale primary trainer biplane has a span of 100 inches, is 77 inches long and is powered by a DL 50 engine turning a Xoar 22◊10 prop. Gerardo uses Futaba radio gear and scratch-built the Stearman’s landing gear.

Expert. Also scoring a 97.33 was Richard Crapp, who won the expert ìhigh staticî award with is Fairey Swordfish. Beautifully detailed and equipped with a torpedo between its gear, the Swordfish has a span of 103 inches, is 75 inches long, and weighs 33 pounds. Power comes from a Laser 300V engine turning a 20◊10 prop. Richard uses a JR 2.4GHz radio system.

Team. Michael Selby, with his very impressive A-10, won the team ìhigh staticî award with a near perfect score of 99.667. Mike’s ?.8-scale Warthog has a span of 120 inches, is 112 inches long, weighs in at 54 pounds, and is powered by a pair of PST 1300R turbine engines. It is built from a Mibo Models kit, uses PST landing gear and is controlled with Futaba radio gear.


Steve Thomas flew this º-scale Yak-11 in the Pro AM-Sport category and placed seventh. The Yak is powered by a 3W-85cc twin-cylinder gas engine and has a span of 98 inches.

This is a Saab J-35 Draken and is the work of Frank Alvarez who flew it in expert to an 18th finish. Powered by a SimJet 3600 turbine engine, the jet has a 77-inch span and is 121 inches long.

Roy Vaillancourt returned to Top Gun with his Hawker Typhoon and placed fourth in masters. The ?-scale Typhoon has a 97-inch span, is powered by a Quadra 75 and weighs in at 47 pounds. Roy also won the Best Military (Runner-up) award.

Placing eighth in the masters class, Stephen Sauger competed with this impressive Stinson Tri-motor. Powered by three O.S. .25 2-stroke glow engines, the º-scale Tri-Motor has a 90-inch span and uses Airtronics radio gear.

Dave Foster (13th in Masters) drops a torpedo with his Nakajima B6N2 Jill torpedo bomber right in front of the judges. Dave’s model was one of several 3-year rule retirees that came back to compete after the new rule changes. He also earned Best 2-Stroke.

This highly unusual entry is a North American F-107A and was flown in the masters class by Ron Schwarzkopf. The 29-pound jet uses a JetCat turbine for power, has a 59-inch span and is 98 inches long. Ron placed tenth in the class.

Placing sixth in the masters class, David Wigley flew his Westland Wyvern S4. The model has contra-rotating propellers (the rear set are driven by the engine), and the sound the airplane made during his high-speed passes was amazing! David also earned the Technical Achievement award.

Though past Top Gun events have been dominated by jets and other turbine-powered aircraft, this year seemed to be dominated by warbirds. Even though the title of ìMr. Top Gunî went to David Hayes with his colorful civilian crop duster, the majority of the competition field was decorated with war paint. Of special note was 6th place masters finisher David Wigley with his unusual Westland Wyvern S4. Complete with countra-rotating props, scale and functional Fairey Youngman flaps, homemade retracts and a torpedo drop, Dave’s impressive warbird earned the technical achievement award. Dave’s Wyvern was also featured in the May 2008 issue of Model Airplane News as a construction article.

If you have a soft spot for jets, Top Gun delivers. All the jets were equipped with turbine engines and were of the very highest caliber. From the unusual scratch-built examples like Sam Snyder’s 1/12-scale Avro Vulcan to Sung Kim’s incredible º-scale Bae Hawk built from an Airworld kit, all the jet jocks flew their aircraft to the edge of the performance envelope.

The winner of the team category was Graeme Mears with his USAF Thunderbirds F-16. Flown by David Shulman, the red, white and blue ?.8-scale Falcon was built from a Marijn Penninx kit and was powered by an AMT Olympus turbine. It had an 80-inch span, was 114 inches long and weighed in at 49 pounds. The F-16 also had a smoke system and David flew Graeme’s jet like he was performing with the rest of the Thunderbird team. From big cloud-busting loops to extremely low-level, high-G turns, all maneuvers were punctuated with a thick, white, lingering smoke trail.

The 2008 Top Gun event was an excellent blend of the new and old and there was a definite increase in the overall quality and skill shown by all pilots and builders. With such a wonderful blend of action, accuracy and inspiration, it makes you wonder what the next two decades have in store for scale modelers wanting to test themselves at the Top Gun level. If you’ve never attended this spectacular scale extravaganza then you owe it to yourself to make the effort. I guarantee, it will change your perception of what quality and craftsmanship is all about.




Masters High Static (97.33) Gerardo Galvez Stearman PT-17 Aero Tech Models
Expert High Static (97.33) Richard Crapp Swordfish Tribe Foods
Team High Static (99.667) Michael Selby A-10 Red Bull
Best Civilian Aircraft Wayne Siewert Porsche Mooney Composite-ARF
Best Military Aircraft Mike Selby A-10 Warthog Futaba
Best Biplane Richard Crapp Swordfish RC Report Magazine
Best Pre-WW II Aircraft Rich Feroldi Albatross RC International
Best Jet Mike Selby A-10 RCJI Magazine
Best Pro-Am Entry Brian O’Meara Sea Fury JR Radio
Engineering Excellence Dave Wigle Westland Wyvern Sierra Giant Scale
Best Cockpit Interior Mike Selby A-10 Warthog Sarasota Avionics
Charlie Chambers Craftsmanship Award Octavio DePaula PT-19 Bob Violett Models
Grey Eagle Award Sam Snyder Robart Mfg.
Top Buns Award Ali Machinchy Top Gun Hussies
Special Recognition Award Sam Snyder Vulcan Ray & Robin’s Hobby Center
Special Recognition Award Gerardo Galvez Stearman Sport Flyer Magazine
Special Recognition Award Walt Fletcher Fokker Triplane Kempinski Hotels
Special Recognition Award Justin Sands Mig-15 Model Airplane News
Critics’ Choice Award Mike Selby A-10 Warthog ZAP Glue


Best 4-Stroke Performance Danny Corozza Laser 200 Saito Engines
Best 2-Stroke Performance David Foster Nakajima B6N2 Jill O.S. Engines
Best Gas Performance Greg Hahn Beech D-18 Fuji Engines
Best Multi Performance Dennis Crooks P-38 JR Radio
Best Jet Performance Ray Johns A-10 Warthog Futaba
Best Total Flight Score Dave Johnson Albatross S.O.S. International


1 David Hayes Rockwell Thrush 96.833 191.100
2 David Johnson Albatros D5a 95.167 191.090
3 David Ribbe MiG-15 95.250 190.262
4 Roy Vaillancourt Hawker Typhoon 93.667 188.691
5 Rich Feroldi Albatros D.5 95.417 188.237
6 David Wigley Westland Wyvern 94.167 186.372
7 Bud Roane Sopwith Pup 93.917 185.292
8 Stephen Sauger Stinson Tri-Motor 95.750 182.652
9 Gerardo Galvez Stearman PT-17 97.333 181.416
10 Al Kretz Stormovik 92.917 180.577


1 Greg Hahn Beech D-18 94.667 190.743
2 Dennis Crooks P-38 Lightning 94.333 189.916
3 Jack Diaz F-86F 94.833 189.885
4 Bob Violett F-86F 94.833 189.311
5 Mike Barbee Waco YMF-5 93.667 188.944
6 Dustin Buescher F-86 94.500 188.855
7 Steve Unze F-4 Phantom 96.667 188.560
8 Tom Smith A2H Skyraider 94.583 187.882
9 Justin Sands MiG-15 94.000 187.411
10 Rod Snyder L-39 94.333 185.815


1 Graeme Mears/David Shulman F-16C 99.167 194.712
2 Mike Selby/Raymond Johns A-10 99.667 193.858
3 Wayne Siewert/Scott Russell Mooney 97.000 189.125
4 Olen Rutherford/Howard Davidson Beech D-18 95.583 188.545
5 Dale Arvin/Jeremy Arvin SNJ-5 93.000 188.445
6 Bob Gonzalez/Frank Noll Waco YMF-5 91.583 187.912
7 Mark Frankel/Dave Malchione Jr. Beech T-34B 93.917 187.334
8 Gerry Kerr/Jim Hiller F-86F 93.500 187.075
9 Octavio Depaula/Eduardo Esteves PT-19 93.833 187.047
10 Sam Snyder/Steven Ellzey Avro Vulcan 96.250 186.788


1 Dino Digiorgio Me-109G 25.000 122.339
2 Brian O’Meara Hawker Sea Fury 25.000 122.297
3 David Payne B-17G 25.000 120.992
4 Jason Shulman F-16C 25.000 120.853
5 Marco Benincasa P-47 25.000 120.151
6 Ray Labonte Tucano EMB-312 25.000 120.000
7 Jason Somes F9F Cougar 25.000 119.355
8 Gerardo Diaz F-100D 25.000 119.355
9 Andreas Gietz F4U-1D 25.000 119.351
10 Thomas Singer Tucano EMB-312 25.000 119.250


1 John Boyko Pitts S1-S 25.000 119.646
2 Danny Corozza Laser 200 25.000 119.604
3 Dave McQueeney F8F-2 Bearcat 25.000 119.183
4 Billy Thompson Sopwith Pup 25.000 116.248
5 Vince Veltri A6M5C Zero 25.000 115.395


  • ZAP Glue
  • FlyRC


  • FTE
  • Futaba
  • JR Radio
  • Kempinski Hotels
  • SOS International
  • Tribe Foods
  • RC International
  • Robart Mfg.
  • PST Engines
  • Red Bull


  • Bob Violett Models
  • Horizon Hobby Dist.
  • Model Airplane News
  • Nick Ziroli Plans
  • RC Jet International
  • Warbirds over the Rockies


  • Aero Tech Models
  • Composite ARF
  • Fuji Engines
  • O.S. Engines
  • RC Report
  • Ray & Robin’s Hobby Center
  • Saito Engines
  • Sarasota Avionics
  • Sierra Giant Scale
  • Sport Flyer
  • Top Gun Hussies
  • City of Lakeland
  • Imperial RC Club
The History of Top Gun

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