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Written by John Cralley
The 2016 Worldwide Ringmaster Fly-A-Thon with the Sentral Illinois Radio Society
Event coverage
Republished from the District VI AMA News column in the February 2017 issue of
Model Aviation.

Bonus photos

Model Aviation February 2017 District VI

On Sunday October 2, 2016, SIRS members gathered, along with several visitors at the club airfield, to celebrate the 9th Annual Worldwide Ringmaster Fly-A-Thon. I am the coordinator/promoter for the entire Worldwide Ringmaster Fly-A-Thon, and I brought five of my electric S-1 Ringmasters.

For those who don’t know about this event, here is a bit of background. A decade or so ago, several Control Line (CL) fliers were using S-1 Ringmasters for Old Time Stunt contests. These models, when built lightweight (24 to 26 ounces), are quite competitive in Old Time Stunt.

Tim Mullins launches John Cralley’s clipped-wing S-1 electric Ringmaster for its maiden flight. John Cralley sits on a rotating CL chair.

The Fly-A-Thon is the brainchild of Las Vegas CL Speed merchant Joey Mathison who suggested, given the popularity of the Ringmaster, that it would be fun to see how many flights could be recorded during one weekend.

Dee Rice and Richard Grogan, from the Houston area, produced a set of simple rules. The first Ringmaster Fly-A-Thon was sponsored by the Brotherhood of the Ring Forum. It was held in 2008 when 62 pilots made a total of 255 Ringmaster flights. The event has grown in popularity and it is now the world’s largest CL fun-fly!

To participate, you simply fly a Ringmaster during the first weekend in October and report your flights, via email, to the designated email address and I add them to the total of reported flights worldwide. This year, a record 694 pilots recorded 3,928 flights in 17 nations on five continents—truly worldwide!

For our club’s fly-a-thon this year, the weather was foggy and cool at the airfield until the sun burned off the fog and it turned out to be a nice flying day. We have a rotating chair designed for CL flying (in case one tends to get dizzy), and I gave it a test run. It works fine, but there is no way to back up if the lines lose tension. (Trust me, I know.)

Our seven Ringmasters got a workout with several pilots using my trainers. New and former CL pilots, John Burrill and Jim Danforth, managed to crash my models. John hit the turf three times with my red clipped-wing S-1 trainer. Twice we were able to repair it, but the third time it went home with John to be rebuilt.

John Cralley’s son, Jason, helps granddaughter, Lindsey, fly a clipped-wing trainer. Photo by Greg Vertrees.

Jim was doing great, but ran out of room in a misguided outside maneuver and planted the yellow clipped-wing S-1 and took it home to rebuild it. I put him up on my white RSM Distribution S-1, which has hundreds of flights. He was enjoying a good flight until the up leadout cable parted from the bellcrank and he planted it, too.

Accidents such as this are why we perform pull tests to make sure the control system is sound, but pull tests are not infallible. I brought it home to rebuild because it was no fault of Jim’s that it crashed. The SIRS Fly-A-Thon wound up with seven pilots making 22 flights on the seven S-1 Ringmasters.

Our SIRS Fly-A-Thon was a relaxed and fun event, and it was rewarding knowing that we were flying with those 687 other pilots in groups in near and faraway places! We were all celebrating the wonderful hobby of model aviation, especially CL modeling. Every club, whether CL, RC, Free Flight, or some combination, should consider trying the Ringmaster Fly-A-Thon next October!

Jerry Bessler and son enjoying John Cralley’s EzJust CL handle. Vertrees photo.

Information about the event can be found at I am eagerly looking forward to next October and the 10th Annual Worldwide Ringmaster Fly-A-Thon!

Happy flying!

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