TOP GUN 2010

Mar 28, 2012 No Comments by


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1st Place Team
Talk about realism! You can’t tell it from the full-size. Graeme Mears’ F-16 Aggressor waits for takeoff on the Lakeland Linder Airport tarmac. Graeme won first place in Team Scale as well as High Static Score in Team, and the Charlie Chambers Craftsmanship Award. (Photo courtesy of Graeme Mears)

1st Place Expert
First-place winner in Expert went to Matt Chapman with his impressive B¸cker Jungmann. He also won the High Static Score and the Best Biplane awards.

1st Place Masters

MR. TOP GUN Mr. Top Gun for 2010, David Wigley poses with his Westland Wyvern and his awards. David won first place in the Masters Class and also the High Static Score for Masters.

1st Place Pro-Am/Pro
Pro-Am/Pro winner Dino DiGirogio flew this amazing º.5-scale P-47 Thunderbolt. Dino also earned the Best Pro-Am/Pro Performance award.

1st Place Pro-Am/Sport
First-place winner in Pro-Am/Sportsman was Curtis Switzer and his unusual Curtiss B-2 twin-engine biplane bomber. Curtis also won the Critics Choice Award.

Celebrating its 22nd year, the Top Gun Scale Invitational remains the world standard for RC scale aircraft excellence. The brainchild of Frank Tiano, Top Gun 2010 as usual was hosted by the Imperial RC Club at the Lakeland Linder Municipal Airport in Florida, the same venue for the full-size “Sun-n-Fun” air show. Model Airplane News has covered every Top Gun competition since it first held in Coral Springs, Florida, in 1989, and for its entire history, this scale competition has continued to evolve and has pushed all aspects of the scale hobby forward. This year’s event enjoyed some of the best weather in recent history and with just a slight crosswind every now and then, the pilots had nothing to blame for their flight performances. Not that there was anything to complain about anyway, as the level of piloting skills was simply stellar. If you wanted to brand this year’s competition with a word it would have to be “innovation.” From the engine and power systems used to homemade prop-drives and modeler-designed landing gear, the level and quality of overall detail of these often exotic projects continue to drive the overall standard for the hobby as a whole. These aren’t your granddad’s scale planes for sure!


Top Gun veteran David Johnson fires up his ?-scale Albatros D.V for another flight in the Masters Class. Dave placed fourth with his impressive WW I German fighter.

Judging and flying started on Wednesday and the Pro-Am gang kicked off the event with a real bang. Easily the most popular of the classes, the Pro-Am/Pro and the Pro-Am/Sportsman classes, in which the pilot does not have to build the model, accounted for 57 of the early registered entries. At the end there were 14 finishers in each of the two Pro-Am classes. Expert was the next most popular class with 24 signing up early and 19 scoring on the leader board. A total of 11 Masters and nine Team entries made it all the way to the Sunday tally. Regardless of the class, all of the Top Gun pilots and their planes can be considered by any measure you care to use, the very best of the best.


Scorching its way down the runway, Graeme Mears’ F-16 makes an impressive high-speed pass. Team pilot David Shulman earned the Best Jet Performance flying the Falcon/Viper.

For the Masters, Team and Expert classes, flying accounts for only half of the overall score. The other half comes from the Static judging table, where contestants have their planes compared to the documentation pictures and scale drawings they provide. It’s no surprise that each of these class winners also earned the High Static Score awards.


ContestantModelStatic ScoreFinal Score
1 David WigleyWestland Wyvern96.917192.015
2 Richard FeroldiAnsaldo SVA-594.917188.679
3 Roy VaillancourtFW-190A96.333188.081
4 David JohnsonAlbatros D-596.750188.071
5 Bob ViolettLockheed F-80 Shooting Star93.500187.632


ContestantModelStatic ScoreFinal Score
1 Matt ChapmanB¸cker Jungmann BU-B197.333189.496
2 Jack DiazF-100D Super Sabre94.833189.007
3 Tommy WoodF-4 Phantom84.750188.594
4 Mitch EpsteinWaco YMF-594.667186.577
5 Gustavo CompanaRafale BO-193.250184.289

Eddie Newman walks his impressive Macchi 200 to the pits.


PilotBuilderModelStatic ScoreFinal Score
1 David ShulmanGraeme MearsF-16C Aggressor99.417195.984
2 Eduardo EstevezOctavio DePaulaFairchild PT-1995.583189.892
3 Lee RiceEddie NewmanMacchi 20096.417189.589
4 Dorun LuckBuilder, Gary AllenDH-82A Tiger Moth94.667187.124
5 Ransom FairchildBuilder, Marvin ErbesfeldSopwith Camel F-196.067183.643

Up close and personal

This ground view of David Wigley’s ?-scale Westland Wyvern S4 is impossible to tell from the real thing. David’s first place Masters-winning aircraft has a 100-inch span and is powered by a BME 100cc gas engine. Check out the video interview with David at

Eduardo Estevez comes in for another landing with Octavio DePaula’s beautiful Fairchild PT-19. Powered by a ZDZ 60cc gas engine the 27%-scale primary trainer has a 118-inch wingspan weighs 33 pounds and is built from Octavio’s own plans. Check out the video interview with Eduardo at

Heading up to begin a big loop, Mitch Epstein’s 33%-scale Waco YMF-5 biplane is powered by a Moki 215cc radial engine. Mitch placed fourth in Expert and earned the Best Civilian Runner Up award with his impressive biplane built from an AMR kit.

Powered by a Zenoah GT-80 twin cylinder gas engine, this beautiful ?-scale Fw 190A was flown to third place in Masters by Roy Vaillancourt. Totally rebuilt from a major crash, Roy’s WW II Luftwaffe “Butcher Bird” has a 90-inch wingspan and is equipped with his own scratch-built retractable landing gear. He also won the Best WW II award.

Masters Class With an impressive static score of 96.917, David Wigley’s 100-inch Westand Wyvern S4 not only looked fantastic, but with its homemade contra-rotating prop drive, his unusual warbird with its six prop blades, (one set engine drive and the other freewheeling) also produced some amazing flight harmonics! Powered by a twin cylinder BME 100cc gas engine, Dave’s Wyvern also sported a set of custom retracts that he designed and built himself to fully duplicate the form and function of the real deal! For all his efforts, Dave also earned the 2010 Mr. Top Gun award.

Expert Class First-time Top Gun contestant and full-size airshow pilot Matt Chapman earned a 97.333 with his beautifully executed B¸cker BU-B1 Jungmann. Powered by a DA 85cc gas engine turning a 28*10 prop, Matt’s 35%-scale WW II German biplane was built from Gary Allen plans and has a wingspan of 108 inches. Weighing in at 32 pounds, the Jungmann has amazing attention to detail including a shock-absorbing main landing gear that precisely reproduces the airborne gear sag and canter of the full-size aircraft. His first-ever, scratch-built plane, the B¸cker also earned Matt the Best Biplane award.

Interview with Frank Tiano

Top Gun is the brainchild of this man, Frank Tiano (right). During the weekend, Frank is constantly on the go and is a very hard person to catch up with. Rich Uravitch, our own MAN contributor and Top Gun Craftsmanship Judge, chatted with Frank to get some of the interesting backstory of the event and to find out what Frank thinks the future of Top Gun might be like. For the full video interview, check out

Lou Centrangelo flew this beautiful º-scale SPAD XIII built from a Balsa USA kit to a third place in Pro-Am/Sport. It has an 80-inch span and is powered by a Brison 2.4ci gas engine.


ContestantModelStatic ScoreFinal Score
1 Dino DiGiorgioP-47 Thunderbolt25122.464
2 Jason NollCessna 152 Skyhawk25121.542
3 Dustin BuescherT-45 Goshawk25120.453
4 Marco BenincasaP-47 Thunderbolt25120.391
5 Frank NollHawker Sea Fury25119.847


ContestantModelStatic ScoreFinal Score
1 Curtis SwitzerCurtiss B-2 Condor25120.614
2 Greg FoushiLavochkin LA-725117.963
3 Lou CentrangeloSPAD XIII25117.499
4 Pablo FernandezF-86F Sabre Jet25116.905
5 Don McLellenCA-13 Boomerang25116.706


Masters 96.917David WigleyWestland WyvernRC Sport Flyer
Expert 97.333Matt ChapmanB¸cker JungmannModel Airplane News
Team 99.417Graeme MearsF-16FlyRC

From the Roster

Each year, the type and classification of aircraft competing at Top Gun show a unique pattern of popularity. This year, the numbers indicate a definite slant toward the heavy-metal WW II warbirds. Here’s how the field shook out:

  • WARBIRDS …………………………… 61
  • WW II …………………………………… 31
  • WW I ………………………………………7
  • JETS ……………………………………. 20
  • BIPLANES…………………………….. 12
  • CIVILIAN …………………………………5
  • MULTI-ENGINE ………………………..2

Winner of the Pro-Am/Pro class was Dean “Dino” DiGiorgio flying this amazing º.5-scale P-47 Thunderbolt. Powered by a DA-85 gas engine, the big Jug has a 102-inch span, weighs 46 pounds and is built from Meister Scale plans. The landing gear is from Sierra Giant Scale. (Photo by SImon Delaney)

Matt Chapman

Full-size world class aerobatic champion Matt Chapman entered Top Gun 2010 with his very first scratch-built airplane, a B¸cker Jungmann, and won the Expert class! We got to talk to Matt about his unique project and why he picked it. For our full interview, go to

Why built this airplane?

Matt Chapman: I’ve had a love affair with B¸ckers for a long time. When I was 16 and growing up in England, I got my very first aerobatic ride in a B¸cker Jungmann, and the hook was set. From that point on I always wanted to fly aerobatics, and when I got older I always wanted to obtain and restore a B¸cker Jungmann.

We hear you have a full-scale B¸cker in your hangar/garage!

MC: I found a Spanish airplane still in the crate from the Air Force and I’ve been working on that for far too many years. When I was building this model, it was next to the full-scale B¸cker project.


  • Wingspan: 102 in.
  • Power: Desert Aircraft 85cc gas engine w/ J-Tec Radiowave exhaust
  • Radio: Futaba 12Z
  • Awards: Best Biplane, Expert Class, first place

Team Scale was again dominated by master builder Graeme Mears who earned a 99.417 with his newest ?-scale F-16C in an Aggressor paint scheme. Powered by a powerful AMT Olympus turbine engine, his Fighting Falcon/Viper spans 80 inches and weighs in at 58 pounds without fuel load. Built from a kit, Graeme’s F-16 is his third and it was completely detailed inside and out. And to push it up over the top, Graeme included two functional (and programmable) multifunction display screens inside the cockpit. The radar screen swept around and the other MFD cycled through various screens just like the real thing. Talk about perfection. Graeme also earned the Charlie Chambers Craftsmanship Award, and his team pilot David Shulman earned the Best Jet Performance award.


David Johnson makes another flyby pass with his Albatros D.V. Check out the full video interview with David at

The two top dogs in Pro-Am this year were Pro-Am/Pro winner Dean “Dino” DiGiorgio with his Meister Scale P-47 Thunderbolt, and Curtis Switzer with his twin-engine, Curtiss B-2. Dino’s º.5-scale razorback “Jug” is powered by a DA 85cc gas engine turning a Solo 24*8 prop and it weighs in at 46 pounds equipped with Sierra Giant Scale retracts. Curtis’s ?-scale biplane bomber spanned an impressive 168 inches and weighed 37 pounds; it’s powered by a pair of Saito 1.80 4-stroke engines each spinning APC 18*6 props.


Placing second in Expert, Jack Diaz flew his amazing F-100D Super Sabre. Built from a BVM kit, Jack’s model is seven years old and was the first production model produced from the Bob Violett’s ?-scale prototype. The F-100 is powered by a JetCat 120 turbine and has a 69-inch wingspan.

That Top Gun has grown and maintained its prestige over two decades is a testament not only to the hard work of Top Gun founder and organizer Frank Tiano but also to the dedicated participants. If you have the opportunity to attend in person, don’t miss it! Top Gun 2011 is scheduled for April 27-May 1 next year, so mark your calendars now! You’ll have the time of your life seeing the most realistic scale aircraft in the world, built and piloted by the best modelers in the world.


Best CivilianRick BoyerPitts SpecialFutaba
Best Civilian, Runner UpMitch EpsteinWacoS.O.S. International
Best WW IIRoy VaillancourtFw 190Ni
ck Ziroli Plans
Best MilitaryEddie NewmanMacchi 200Warbirds over the Rockies
Best Military Runner UpMike BarbeeT6A Texan IIPST Turbines
Best BiplaneMatt ChapmanB¸cker JungmannJR DSM
Best Pre WW IIRichard FeroldiAnsaldo SV5AKempinski Hotels
Best JetJavier IzquierdoT-45 HawkRC Model World
Best Pro-AmDean DiGiorgioP-47 ThunderboltZAP Glue


Best GasTom SmithSkyraiderQuadra Engines
Best ElectricSean CurryOV-10 BroncoNTR Metals
Best Multi-EngineChip GreeneGrumman TigercatFutaba
Best JetDavid ShulmanF-16JR DSM
Best 4-StrokeMarco BenincasaP-47Saito Engines


Engineering ExcellenceDavid HayesIS-1 BiplaneSierra Giant Scale
Charlie Chambers Craftsmanship AwardGraeme MearsF-16Bob Violett Models
Critics Choice AwardCurtis SwitzerCurtiss B-2FlyRC & ZAP Glue
Critics Choice Runner-upEd NewmanMacchi 200FlyRC & ZAP Glue
Grey Eagle AwardMike BarbeeFTE Inc.
Top Buns AwardGreg FoushiTop Gun Hussies

Flown to fifth place by Ransom Fairchild, this Team Scale Sopwith Camel F-1 was built by Marvin Erbesfeld. The ?-scale British Fighter has a 112-inch span and is powered by a DA-100 gas engine.

TOP GUN 2010 SPONSORS Major: FTE Inc., Futaba, JR DSM, Kempinski Hotels, S.O.S. International. Primary: FLY RC, ZAP Glue. Associate: Bob Violett Models, Model Airplane News, Nick Ziroli Plans, RC Model World, RC Sport Flyer, Warbirds over the Rockies. Supporting: DL Engines, NTR Metals, Quadra Engines, Saito Engines, Sierra Giant Scale, Top Gun Hussies, City of Lakeland, Imperial RC Club.


Championship judge Rich Uravitch

The Top Gun Invitational scale competition is, like any other form of competition, a judged or scored event. What makes it different from other scale events is that it has its own, unique set of judging criteria, especially in the “static” or nonflying portion. As a fan of RC scale modeling or one who is looking to lay the groundwork for your own invitation to Top Gun, you probably already know that your entry will be closely scrutinized by a panel of three judges, all experienced, all model builders. This trio will examine your entry for 15 minutes before you even get to the flight line. The yardstick that they will use to perform their task is your “documentation” package. This content-limited package, and your explanation, are what will be used to determine the score of your model. Pretty straightforward, huh? You’d think!

While Top Gun judging parallels other events with the accuracy of outline, finish, color and markings and craftsmanship criteria, the craftsmanship judge is permitted to get right up “close and personal” with your model (unlike the other judges, who are 15 feet away from your model). Outstanding details, not readily visible from 15 feet, jump out when you’re right on top of them, and so do flaws or less than perfect workmanship. Unfinished flap coves, obvious repairs, exposed wood or fiberglass surfaces in wheel wells are a few that come to mind unless, of course, your documentation shows it. As much documentation I have reviewed and collected on my own, I have not yet seen pictures of a full-size WW II warbird with RC logos on the tires or a J-3 with foot long clevises driving the ailerons! These potential point losers are easily fixed but often overlooked!

Craftmanship is judged both inside and outside the model. From 15 feet away, many details are not readily obvious, but up close, it’s all to be seen. Cockpits are not judged at Top Gun, but can influence the “Realism” portion of the Judge’s evaluation.

A review of the score sheets will always show that the winning scores are posted by the contestants that have done their homework both on the model and their presentations as well as on the flightline. -Rich Uravitch

The History of Top Gun

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