Road to Top Gun — An Editor’s Invitation to Top Gun

Road to Top Gun — An Editor’s Invitation to Top Gun

And now for something completely different! For the very first time ever, an editor for Model Airplane News will be competing at the annual Top Gun Scale Invitational. I received my invite to compete from Frank Tiano himself while I was covering the 2015 event. MAN has been a major sponsor of the event for many years I have been covering the Top Gun event for 24 years.  I have to admit, the thought of being on the other side of the camera lens is very exciting. A couple of years ago I built a Balsa USA 1/3-scale Fokker Triplane and I have highlighted it’s construction with several “Build-Along” posts on the MAN website. I use a Spektrum DX18 radio system and the triplane is powered by a Zenoah GT -80 twin-cylinder gas engine. It really is a great flying airplane. After I finished detailing it, adding machine guns, a scale pilot figure, and giving it a nice bit of weathering, I was fortunate enough to win First Place in the WW1 Category at the 2014 WRAM show.


Having flown the Big Triplane at several scale fly ins and events, I also installed a smoke system and a bomb drop mechanism so I could replicate the antics of the Old Rhinbeck Aerodrome (ORA) founder Cole Palen. I chose his Triplane for my paint scheme. I always try to show off the model like Cole did for decades during his weekend airshows that made the ORA so famous.


(Above and below). My daughter Rebecca painted the flying pig on the full size ORA Fokker Triplane.


A special note here is that my daughter Rebecca painted the side badge (flying Pig), on the side of the airplane. In 2013, the folks at the ORA saw my model, they asked if Rebecca could repaint the full size triplane at the aerodrome! WOW!!! So not my model matches the full size paint job perfectly. “Or is it the other way around!?”

The Process


The first envelop arrived November 2nd and it contained the actual invitation printed on Top Gun letterhead along with a letter telling me what to do and how to fill out the contestant form. I quickly filled it out and sent it back, indicating I would fly in the Pro-AM Sportsman class.

Since the weather was cooperating, I put in a few more practice flights and started to work out a series of flight maneuvers to fly in competition. Since the maneuvers flown are suppose to best show off the airplane’s prototypical performance, I chose maneuvers I had often seen Cole perform at the Aerodrome while his Triplane was bombing Sir Percy Goodfellow, or trying to cut the toilet paper ribbon during the Delsey Dive, or while busting balloons.


So with the mandatory maneuvers being Takeoff, Slow Speed Pass, High Speed Pass, Landing and Realism, I chose the bomb drop, Chandelle, Split-S, Stall Turn and an Overshoot approach, as my optional maneuvers. Since Cole often had a smoke trail during his low altitude, high speed passes, and at the end of his dogfights, I will use Smoke to highlight certain maneuvers as well.


 (Above) Setting up the Triplane at the ORA flightline.


Updated: April 14, 2016 — 11:27 AM


    I had placed at a few scale events this info that Frank posted should get me in too!

  2. Good lookin Plane! and Good luck at Top Gun

  3. I’ve been following your build from the beginning , it helped me with my own dr1 . i’ll be using a DLE 85 with axial prop 28×6 I’m just finishing the sanding stage ,I have a ways to go .I should be finished by end of May. I can’t wait to fly.

    1. I’m glad you found the posts useful Mike!

  4. A great article Gerry. It is good to see how the entry process goes for such a prestigious event since most of us don’t get invited to an event, we just show up and pay our fee. Keep us up to speed with the rest of your preparation for what you are doing up to the event day.

    1. Thanks Ray, I will be updating as the grand adventure unfolds. Like I mentioned before, I have been covering the event for 24 years and this will be a new prospective. Stay tuned for updates.

  5. True Hope you do not crash-bummer

  6. Hey Jerry, way to go! We’ll expect full reports, Well maybe after you get back. You could be
    a little busy during the contest. Hals und Beinbruch! (break a leg)

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