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Written by Terry Dunn.
Hosted by the Wings Miniature Aircraft Society.
Online bonus event coverage with photos and video.

Glancing across the flightline at this year’s West Texas Warbirds (WTW) event, you could have easily thought that you were at an advanced-level Scale competition. The quality and variety of downsized military aircraft was far beyond that found at your average RC warbird gathering.

Now in its sixth year, the event attracted many of the top Scale modelers from western Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, and Oklahoma—and they brought some very nice airplanes! You don’t have to be a world-class modeler, however, to enjoy WTW. The best part of this event is that it provides a venue for those of us who are average modelers to rub elbows with some of our most talented peers in a relaxed, noncompetitive setting.

WTW is hosted by the Wings Miniature Aircraft Society (Wingsmas), based in Lubbock, Texas. The club has worked closely with the nearby city of Abernathy, Texas, to develop its little-used full-scale airport into an enviable RC facility. The result is a flying site with a huge paved runway, covered pits, and countless acres of wide-open Texas farmland. It’s no wonder the big boys come here to fly.

As a recent transplant to the Lubbock area and a new member of Wingsmas, I have some insight into the planning that went into this year’s event. Although awards and work parties were necessarily discussed, meetings invariably focused on how to make WTW relaxed and enjoyable for any modeler who made the trek to Abernathy. The club also strived to make WTW a public-friendly event with a spotlight on explaining and promoting our hobby to the many locals who stopped by.

Contest Director Bryan McLarty ran a tight ship and kept the flightline running smoothly all weekend.

AMA district VIII Associate Vice President Bill Holland (Prague, OK) flew this Composite-ARF Corsair at West Texas Warbirds. The sound of its Moki 250cc radial engine inspires goose bumps.

Steve Bushong of Midland, Texas greases a landing with his DA-50 powered Top Flite giant scale Corsair.

With the smoke system turned on, the four OS .91 engines in Jimmy Cowman's B-17 look like they are leaving contrails over frigid German skies in 1944.

Brian Schwarz (Amarillo, TX) powers his Top Flite giant scale P-51 with a Zenoah G62 motor. The model had impressive performance.

Skillful piloting and the DA-85 engine in Jimmy Davis’ Robart P-47 helped him bring home the ‘Best Scale Flight’ award. (Davis photo)

Jim Ellis’ (Guthrie, OK) Balsa USA Sopwith Pup won ‘Best WWI Aircraft’ honors. It is powered with a 3W-100 engine.

Les Morrow’s (Lubbock, TX) Modellbau F-86D gleams in the sunlight. A JetCat P-70 turbine provides power for the Sabre Dog.

Jerry Cowman’s Ziroli Stuka returns to base after performing a bomb drop for the crowd.

Mark Johnston (Albuquerque, NM), AMA District VIII President, prepares his Green RC Tiger Moth for a flight at Abernathy. A Saito 100 provides power to this graceful model.

Nick Johnson preflights his Composite-ARF Tucano as John Johnson and Joe Brozo look on. A JetCat SPT5 Turboprop provides good performance and a very unique sound.

The 2013 event was held on Labor Day weekend, with Saturday as the official start day. A significant number of out-of-towners arrived on Friday to get an early start on the fun. Most of the weekend was open flying, with a few ad hoc groupings and demonstrations thrown in. At midday on Saturday, all of the models were lined up in the pit area and the public was invited to take a closer look and vote for their favorite aircraft.

Although the big models provided plenty of eye candy, any warbird model was welcome to fly. In fact, Wingsmas member Don Shanks was one of the first modelers to take wing on Saturday morning with his 16-inch wingspan E-flite MiG-15—probably the smallest model at the event.

The rest of the weekend was filled with a variety of models spanning airplane history from a 1909 Wright Military Flyer (the original warbird!) to an Embraer Tucano turboprop. Wingsmas president and WTW CD, Bryan McLarty, led a team of air bosses who kept the flightline coordinated throughout.

Numerous turbine-powered models took advantage of the open skies at Abernathy to really let loose. Many of the spectators had never seen an RC turbine before and they were in awe of the performance, sound, and smell that these models provided. Nick Johnson logged several notable flights with his JetCat P-200-powered Skymaster F-16. Nick flew the F-16 hard and used its smoke system to good effect. He walked away with the Best Modern Aircraft award.

The spectators got a kick out of the dogfight demonstration put on by the modelers that brought World War I-era airplanes. There were even simulated machine gun sounds to complete the illusion as we all watched from no-man’s land. Among the participants was Jim Ellis with his Best World War I Aircraft award, a 1/3-scale 3W 100-powered Balsa USA Sopwith Pup.

During World War II, Lubbock was a center for training glider pilots. I was able to help recreate one of those flights with my electric-powered C-47 Skytrain, which towed a Waco CG-4A glider of the same scale (piloted by Bryan McLarty). Other WW II-era flights were logged by a large variety of models representing both the Axis and Allied powers. In fact, Jimmy Davis won the Best Scale Flight award with his DA-85-equipped Robart P-47.

The ever-innovative Gary Jones brought out a gaggle of scratch-built electrics. His large C-47, built from sheet foam, flew as though it was filled with helium! Most spectators were surprised to see that an airplane could fly so slowly. Gary also turned heads with his six-motor B-36 model.

Other notable WW II-era models were Terry Farmer’s DA-85-powered CARF Models Spitfire and Jimmy Cowman's large B-17. Decked out in desert camouflage, Terry’s Spitfire earned the Best WW II Aircraft award. Jimmy’s B-17 was built from Don Smith plans and is powered by four O.S. .91 engines. The model features impressive weathering and scale details. The spectators agreed and gave Jimmy the People’s Choice award.

As with all great events, WTW was seemingly over in a flash. The Wingsmas club would like to thank all of the modelers and spectators who attended the 2013 West Texas Warbirds event. It was evident that everyone had a great time and we can’t wait to see you back in Abernathy next year!

The club would like to extend an invitation to all warbird enthusiasts to come join us for some fun out in West Texas.

This Balsa USA Stearman looked great and was expertly flown by Jim Ellis.

How Many modelers does it take to hold back a Moki 250cc radial engine? Jim Ellis, Les Morrow, and Richard Dixon (L to R) made sure they weren’t understaffed for the job.

Bill Holland has his hands full as his Nieuport 17 gets caught in the crosshairs of Richard Dixon’s (Piedmont, OK) Fokker Dr1. Both models were built from Balsa USA kits.

Richard flashes his Dr1’s colorful trim scheme before settling in for a landing.

Bill Holland’s Air Magic F-15C was one of the many turbine aircraft that bewildered spectators. Bill’s model is powered by a Jet Central Super Eagle engine.

The west Texas sun glistens off of Brian Schwarz’s Hangar 9 Hellcat powered by an OS .91.

Jimmy Davis (Springdale, AR) wheels his Roto 85-powered Top Flite giant scale FW-190 out to the startup area.

Jimmy Cowman’s Top Flite Corsair had some landing gear trouble.

Cowman managed to get his bird back on the runway without too much damage.

The ‘Best WWII Aircraft’ award was earned by Terry Farmer (Wylie, TX) with his Composite-ARF Spitfire, powered by a DA-85 engine. I like the unique desert camouflage. (Farmer photo)

Nick Morrow holds Jeremy Edwards’ CMP Hellcat and helps tune the Saito 120 engine. This model has a deep automotive paint finish.

Jimmy Cowman (Clovis, NM) built this B-17 from Don Smith plans and added tons of convincing details and weathering effects to make it come alive. His efforts earned him the ‘People’s Choice’ award.

Nick Johnson (Lubbock, TX) put on an aerobatic display worthy of his F-16’s Thunderbird paint scheme. The Skymaster model is powered by a JetCat P-200. Nick won the ‘Best Modern Aircraft’ award.

Event Video Highlights

Award Summary

People’s Choice – Jimmy Cowman, Don Smith B-17 with 4 OS .91 engines
Best WWI Aircraft – Jim Ellis, Balsa USA Sopwith Pup with a 3W-100 engine
Best WWII Aircraft– Terry Farmer, Composite-ARF Spitfire Mk IX with a DA-85 engine
Best Modern Aircraft– Nick Johnson, Skymaster F-16 with a JetCat P-200 turbine
Best Scale Flight – Jimmy Davis, Robart P-47 with a DA-85 engine

2013 West Texas Warbirds Raffle Sponsors

Balsa USA
Bob Smith Industries
Dynamic Balsa
Great Planes
Micro Fasteners
RC Sport Flyer Magazine
RTL Fasteners
Sig Manufacturing
Tower Hobbies

by Terry Dunn


A big thanks to the author and photographer(s) for a great article!

Real planes, real sounds, real rc pilots!
Great production without all the glitz that gets in the way.
I want to HEAR the engine, SEE the whole landing - thanks!
And thanks to the modellers who made it happen.

I love this service. Thanks!

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