Western Kentucky/ Southern Illinois Stunt Champs Allen Brickhaus Memorial

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Written by Rachelle Haughn Twenty-six years of building memories Feature As seen in the JANUARY 2020 issue of Model Aviation.
The Adam’s Special is an Allen Brickhaus design. This one was also built by Allen.

Those who have been in the hobby for at least a handful of years know that it is about much more than building and flying. The cofounder of a 26-year-old Control Line (CL) Precision Aerobatics (Stunt) contest, Allen Brickhaus, knew that truth. For him, aeromodeling was about making memories. That was his goal when he and fellow modeler Charlie Reeves launched the event in St. Louis in 1993.

By the time the 2019 event rolled around, attendees of the Western Kentucky/Southern Illinois Stunt Champs Allen Brickhaus Memorial had plenty of memories to share. Some were happy, some sad, and some were funny. Many of their memories revolved around Allen—whether it was his larger-than-life personality, his love of great food, or his faith.

After the August 17-18, 2019, contest concluded, it too would be just a memory. Because of health problems, Charlie and co-contest director (CD) Jim Lynch made the tough decision that the contest had to end. “It’s not something that we want to do, it’s just that we don’t have a choice,” Jim said after the first day of the contest. A few attendees heard the news through the grapevine before arriving at McCracken County Model Air Park, in Paducah, Kentucky, and came armed with mementos to share, while others learned the news on the first day of the event.

The decision to end the contest clearly wasn’t an easy one for Charlie and Jim, but that didn’t stop them and 26 pilots from having fun and enjoying quality time with their friends. “Oh man, I just get here, and they close it … because nobody can stand me,” pilot Joe Pederson joked. This was his second year attending the contest.

Western Kentucky/Southern Illinois Stunt Champs Allen Brickhaus Memorial judges Lou Rankin (L) and Zuriel Armstrong (R) present Charlie Reeves with a wing signed by all of the pilots.
Mike Londke performs aerobatics with his SV-22 while competing in the Advanced Stunt class. He finished first and Ben Mills was second.

The Lutheran pastor from Missouri could only attend the first day because he had to preach on Sunday. “I came back [this year] because this is the best fun I’ve ever been to—and we fly airplanes sometimes.” Joe added, “I’m congratulating myself for not destroying my model.”

Like Joe, Allen, who passed away in 2013, was a devout Lutheran. On the Sunday morning of the contest each year, he read a devotion to the pilots shortly before flying commenced for the day. Since his death, Jim has given the devotion each year to honor his friend.

Charlie reflected on how and why the Western Kentucky/Southern Illinois Stunt Champs was founded.

“[Allen] needed a co-CD, so I fell right in with him.” Charlie shared that the inaugural contest was held in St. Louis because “Allen had good contacts in the Stunt community and had contacts in St. Louis and they allowed us to have it there.”

He added that they decided to create the contest “because we both flew Stunt and we enjoyed it. We [thought] everybody should fly it.” Charlie has served as the contest’s co-CD since its first year. The largest group of pilots that the event attracted was 45.

The 1994 contest was held in Metropolis, Kentucky, and later moved to Barkley Regional Airport in Paducah. The final 10 years of the gathering took place at McCracken County Model Air Park, the home of the Paducah Aero Modelers club, of which Charlie is a member.

In 2015, Allen Brickhaus Memorial was added to the contest’s name.

“Any time I wanted to fly, I’d call Allen,” Charlie said of his late friend. “We’d get together and fly and go eat something.”

“Allen was a great guy, a good guy,” said Dan McEntee of Missouri. “We miss him a lot.” Although Dan had some serious things to say, his red KidVenture hat with a propeller, windsock, and tail stated otherwise. He explained that he wears the hat when he volunteers at EAA’s AirVenture in the KidVenture area. Dan flew frequently throughout the Paducah contest and pitted for other pilots. He competed in the Expert class.

Two steps below the Expert class was the Intermediate class. Pilot LeRoy Polk, who has come to the Paducah event for roughly six years, competed in that class. “It’s a hobby that’s been good to share with other people,” he said about aeromodeling. “Every time we get together, I learn something new from somebody.” He added that the people are what have brought him back to the event each year.

Matt Neumann, of Vincennes, Indiana, has been coming to the contest for twice as long as LeRoy. He stopped to chat shortly after flying his original-design Star Trek Enterprise airplane with a large phoenix on its underside.

He first met Allen at the AMA Nats, where Allen served as the NatsNews reporter for CL Stunt for many years. Matt added that Allen invited him to his contest approximately 15 years ago.

When asked how he felt about the contest ending, Matt said, “I’m gonna miss it, considering there aren’t a lot of contests in my region.”

LeRoy felt the same way. “I’m gonna miss it. I found a good one in Canton, Georgia, but it will never replace this one. We all go to a barbecue place [in Georgia], but it’s not like going to Charlie’s house” for a cookout the night before the contest begins. Allen’s wife, Kathy, was at the cookout this year.

The feasting didn’t stop after Friday night. Members of the Paducah Aero Modelers cooked hamburgers, hot dogs, and other treats to make sure the pilots were well fed throughout both days of the contest.

Like a hearty meal, sometimes good things come to an end. But often, closing a chapter of one’s life means a new chapter is just beginning. When asked about their plans for the future now that they no longer have the annual Paducah contest to run, Jim and Charlie had interesting responses.

Jim, a member of the Millington Barnstormers R/C Club of Tennessee, has been competing in CL Stunt since 1968. “I plan to pretty much retire from the contest scene,” he stated.

Although one aspect of his hobby is slowing down for him, another is picking up steam. “I’m going to work hard for the Millington Barnstormers.” His plans include teaching others to fly, staying active in his club, and helping his 7-year-old grandson grow in the hobby.

Charlie said he planned to continue competing, traveling, and spending time with family and friends. “I’ve got a contest in Huntersville, North Carolina, in October [2019]. I have a daughter in Savannah that’s a veterinary dentist. I’m going to take her out to eat and then go to Tom Luper’s house and fly.”

During the awards ceremony, Charlie was presented with a wing that was signed by all of the pilots in attendance.

(L-R): Tom Luper helps Joe Pederson get ready to fly in the Beginner Stunt class.
Young pilot Ben Mills launches an Adam’s Special for Dan McEntee.
Ronnie Thompson (L) gives Jim Lynch a goodbye hug at the end of the contest.
Tom Dixon flies his Stylus airplane low for the judges.
Wes Eakin prepares to land his SV-23 Katana. He competed in the Expert class and Old-Time Stunt.
James Mills carries Matt Neumann’s own-design Star Trek Enterprise airplane away from the flight circle. The top of the aircraft features the science fiction theme, while the bottom has an eye-catching phoenix.

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Western Ky/Southern IL Stunt Champs 2019

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