Ken Burdick battles with Bill Duane at the Houston World Cup FAI Combat tournament. All photos by Broadway Bod Busters.
Yes folks, it's true,
On the weekend of May 10th, 2008, there was a yearly F2d tournament hosted by Pat Willcox and others in the Houston area.
If you follow this sort of thing you would know that ALL of the U.S F2D team members for this summer's World Championships in Lourdes France are from Texas. Mike Willcox (Houston), Richard Stubblefield (Houston), Andy Mears (Lubbock). The first alternate Greg Hills is from California.
What this meant for this particular contest was that it's the last gathering before going to France, and anybody who was a player attended this gathering.
I don't think it was planned that way, but it aligned into a who's-who of U.S Combat flyers. The list of names was staggering. One flyer of note who was not there, Mark Ruddner. Mark is completing his Doctorial at MIT and had to attend a wedding with his family. (Some things just don't change, do they?)
Another missing link to the clan of top rate flyers was Ron Columbo who may attend the Bladder Grabber this year. Other than those two flyers, the field was complete, I believe the head-count was 35.
I was so busy getting my late-arriving equipment ready that I didn't see the list of competitors on the MACA Web site until a day or so before leaving, I was taken aback.it would be a good one.
The Rein Man Jeff was unable to fly due to his injured back, but came to help me stay organized and bask in the Houston sun and be with his peers, Jeff is a highly regarded flyer.
We left Seattle around 6 a.m. so all things were in sleepy mode getting there. The large red bag purchased from Evil Emo Creations worked without a flaw, it however was too large and I was roundly penalized on the return leg of the flight. If you know you have an oversized box, the only way to proceed is to use the skycaps and tip well. They were nowhere to be found on the return flight. The Combat Monster suggested that I have all of the contestants sign the bag. It caught on and before long people were all signing it to make a great memento.
Where do I begin? There were so many, I hardly remember them in order.
First of all let me say Mike Willcox is perhaps the best guy to have on your side. Smart, talented and creative. That being said, he also has a great sense of humor! In the throes of getting ready, emails between us flew like pigeons in a park, one of note read:
"Mike, where's a good place to stay????" He responded with a map and directions to Motel 6 that was about 10 min from the field. "Thanks bud!" and I reserved a room for Jeff and I for three days. The spokesman for Motel 6 is Tom Bodette is a famous author and speaker. As Tom would say "We'll leave the light on for ya" while the fiddle music plays in the background.
It was pointed out to us later, that if you indeed leave the light on, the bugs won't come out at night! Jeff and I slept with the lights on. They also have a policy of collecting all monies in advance. To say that the room smelled would be understated. The odor of bug repellant was so thick I remember thinking "If I don't breathe deep, I'll be okay"
When I told Mike about the condition of the place he looked amazed and said,"You didn't really stay there, did you!?" it was then that we got a round of advice from all about how to keep the cockroaches away. We spent the next few days humming the tune "There aint no bugs on me"
From the first time I flew an official F2D match, I have been my own worst enemy. I can rack up more over the line foot fouls than a centipede. I was in control of a match with an excellent flyer and had just fed him my entire streamer, the plan was simple, get two cuts and win the matchvery easy, no? No.
I was in the middle of getting a line on my first cut, was just about on the mark when Mack Henry screamed "FOOT FOUL!!!!" Part of my brain knew it was me, the other part that supposedly lined up the cut froze and I quickly cut off the entire streamer leaving us tied in cuts but me -40 for the foul.
Nobody at this contest had anything short of top of the line equipment. Airplanes were mostly Trintnof design with a few using a Wakkerman style sewn on elevator that I now understand the reason for. I'll try to make this brief.
Time was short, some of my ships flew perfectly while others were tail heavy. The Rein Man (photo at right) slotted the mounts more so I could gain more nose weight by moving the motor farther forward. We tested, it worked, and we left the next day. The formula was set.
I used the same two airplanes all of the first day and some of the second before getting hit. Engines were changed and two new ships were ready. I had to fly Greg Hill, the alternate team member when I discovered that I was once again tail heavy. There is no room for this condition in F2D and I was cut up as Rich Tupper said, "like a Safeway chicken"
We later discovered what the problem was besides lack of preparation. The elevators were quite heavy on some and half the weight on others! To ship the wings in the bag, I had removed all of the elevators thus scrambling any testing I had done before. I was just lucky that my first two airplanes were trimmed well.
Things That Went Well
In spite of all this, many things did go well for the BBB.
The Profi engines that I purchased proved to be as fast as or faster than the handmade AKM engine that is made from un-obtainium with a $500.00 ea price tag. The Profi started, needled and ran flawlessly for all matches.
Flying skills. While not at my best, my skills were there and just needed the equipment to be trimmed to them and a bunch more practice. With the exception of a few bone headed mistakes and a tail heavy airplane I was having no problems. One match against a highly skilled opponent (David Owens from Kentucky) (left photo) I had pulled ahead in cuts after feeding him my entire streamer. David decided to wrap me up in a line ball and attempt to cut the lines forcing a re-fly. As it was happening, I would fly out of the wraps and go for more cuts. After three of this attempt I told him it was stupid and it wouldn't work. He had just one little knot left for me to cut, so on the next wrap I cut the string forcing the center marshal to demand we level out. This was done at about the highest speed the engines today will run. It felt good to dig down and do something like that.
In The end
In the end I had exceeded my goal of winning 50% of my matches. I had finished seventh and felt great about that all things considered. Many of the best and brightest did not make it as far as I was able to. One of the advantages I had was Jeff to keep me organized. All things were ready and waiting for the pit crew at all times. This was another advantage I had, the Mears family Bobby, Andy and Nick pitted me both days without flaw.
The finals were somewhat disappointing because of the strategy used. If one of the flyers thought he was losing the match, there would be a technical protest or action to force a re-fly. It took several matches to complete the first and second place flyers. In the end it was and Allen Devue first, Bobby Mears second.
Make no mistake, each and every one of the pilots are in a fraternity derived from their unique skill. One of them is a name you may remember, Greg Wornell.
Greg was a member of the "Dreaded Canadian Contingent," a combat team from the 90's. Greg has been a Professor at M.I.T for several years now and this just happened to be his return into combat. Working with Mark Rudner, Greg found himself "hooked" again and put together a stable of impressive equipment as well as good flying skills.
There is much more but one hardly knows where to begin and end with it all. I can say it was the most intense and friendly weekend I can recall.
Kenny B and the Bod Busters
The winners. At right, the champion Allen Devue gets the traditional dousing.
The pits, with lots of planes ready for action.
Left photo: H&R Shutoff installed on a Bod Busters airplane. Right photo: Pit crew launches Ken't plane.
Ken's pit crew ready for action.
This page was upated May 21, 2008