When it comes to scale competition, there are many excellent events worth traveling to and participating in. But by far, the pinnacle and gold standard for world class scale action has always been the annual Top Gun Scale Invitational. This year, Top Gun continued to set the highest standard of scale competition Hosted by the Imperial RC Club adjacent to the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport and the enthusiasm and overall quality of the event was outstanding.
(Above) The Douglas TBD Devastator is infrequently modeled and it’s a shame. This is classic Naval dive bomber and, while it frequently takes a back seat to it’s brother, the SBD Dauntless, the Team entry from Raborn/Noser really captured the style and spirit of the subject.
As this year’s Chief Static Judge I was provided both the opportunity (and the time) to look “over the shoulders” of the three specialized judges actually scoring each entry in the categories of Accuracy of Outline, Finish, Color and Markings, Craftsmanship and overall Realism.
(Above) The Twin Beech King Air entry of Mike Barbee and Frank Noll looked great from any angle. A veteran of TG competition, the model was awarded 1st place in the Team category. 98.00 static score was well earned.
Of all classes of competition, only five (Masters, Expert, Team, X-Class and Unlimited) require the model to undergo a 15 minute period of static judging using detailed documentation packages submitted by the builder with his entry. The other classes require only a single image of the subject aircraft for documentation and earn a score of 25 points.
(Above) The cockpit on Tim Dickey’s PT-23 is every bit as accurate and nicely done as the exterior.
What are some of the things the Static judges are looking for?
The Craftsmanship judge scrutinizes each model from an “eyeball to surface” distance and very few flaws escape his inspection. Surface detail and overall texture are very important. Are the fasteners and rivets of the proper size, pattern and spacing? Are they of the correct type? If they are applied as glue dots which produce a “raised” fastener and the contestant-provided documentation photos show the surface to be flush riveted, a downgrade is in order. Exposed, non-scale control linkages are another area for potential downgrade. The sames goes for tires; the tires on your Cub, Champ or FW-190 shouldn’t have a “Sullivan Lite Fly” logo visible on them either!
(Above) The tail group of Larry Folk’s Cub Crafter “Top Cub.” 96.25 points in static, 4th place in “Expert”. Exquisite work!
The Accuracy of Outline judge compares the model, positioned 15-feet away, to drawings or photos (provided by the contestant) which clearly show specific elements of the outline like canopy position and shape, wingtip contour, spinner shape and other elements of the outline of the full scale airplane. These variances between the documentation and the full scale airplane are noted directly on the drawing/photos being used by the judge.
(Above) Take a look at the tail group detail on the Davis D-1K designed and built by Rich Feroldi. 1st place in Masters, 95.833 static. Gorgeous model!
The “Finish, Color and Markings” judge uses contestant-supplied data to arrive at a final score of just how well these elements were replicated. The data submitted usually consists of actual color chips used on the full scale airplane along with supporting photos and drawings.
In addition, all three judges assign a numerical score (from 1 through 10 points) for the overall Realism the model conveys from the prescribed judging distance. It still amazes me that so many models are downgraded in realism simply because the builder/finisher assumes that if subtle “weathering” and panel line definition is good, more must be better! Rarely the case….match the documents you’ve prepared for the judges, that’s all he has to work with!
(Above) Two-time “Mr. Top Gun” Bret Becker’s U2C has undergone some minor refinements from last year and ended up with 99.417 static score to take home all the marbles. It is a superb replica!
In what condition are you showing your model? Factory-new, in-service, freshly restored original, well-used; what are you replicating?
Very subtle weathering and paint fading replication, including the crazing of the canopy glass as a result of the various environmental conditions in which the full scale version operated should be simulated to the degree indicated in the documentation. In my view, one element of scale competition that represents its weakest link has always been, and remains, a poorly prepared documentation package. If you assemble you package before you start on the model, you can make the model match what you’ll be presenting to the judges. Too many times, and it is obvious, the modeler tries to “back into” the documentation, assuming “it’s close enough”. If you believe this and don’t put in the necessary effort to get it right, then that Winner’s Circle may continue to elude you!
Looking through the coverage we’ve provided over the years, it should be apparent that the models that shown up truly do represent the complete range of subjects spanning the history of aircraft, and all are equally capable of winning the event. There’s an obvious military and civilian mix of subjects, built by scale modelers with differing tastes and favorites in airplanes. And this is what drives some of the best modelers and fliers in the world to seek that coveted invitation to Top Gun… scale modeling diversity at its finest!
Text & images by Rich Uravitch