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Written by Don Slusarczyk
2018 FAI F1D World Championship for Indoor Model Aircraft
Event Coverage
As seen in the July 2018 issue of
Model Aviation.

Photo Gallery

2018 F1D Indoor Free Flight World Championship

This video originally appeared in the April 1, 2018 edition of AMA's webcast: AMA Air. Find more episodes at

It has been 38 years since an Indoor FAI F1D World Championship was last held in the atrium of the West Baden Springs Hotel in West Baden Springs, Indiana. Since 1980, the flying site has been remodeled into a luxury hotel and the rules for F1D have changed twice, but the competitive spirit of the Indoor Free Flight (FF) class is as strong as ever.

On March 19-22, 2018, the best Indoor FF modelers from around the world gathered to compete. Forty-seven competitors (37 seniors and 10 juniors) representing 14 countries came to this small town in Indiana to compete in the 2018 FAI F1D World Championship for Indoor Model Aircraft.

The atrium in the West Baden Springs hotel is 200 feet in diameter and measures slightly less than 97 feet high, making it an FAI Category III building (a ceiling height between 15 and 30 meters). This site is known for good flying conditions and most of the AMA Category III Indoor FF National Records have been set at this venue.

The atrium in the West Baden Springs Hotel is 200 feet in diameter and measures slightly less than 97 feet high.

Flying inside the dome of the West Baden Springs Hotel provides challenges with various obstacles. Here, the harpist statue gently cradles an F1D aircraft flown by Constantin-Alexandru Visan of the Romanian Junior Team. Photo by Glen Simpers.

Jim Richmond Open

It is customary to hold a contest before a world championship to allow competitors who are unfamiliar with the site to have an opportunity to get their models trimmed out and ready for competition. This year, the two-day contest was called the Jim Richmond Open, named after eight-time F1D World Champion Jim Richmond. It celebrated the 50th anniversary of Jim’s first Indoor World Championship, which he won in Rome in 1968.

On the first day of the Jim Richmond Open, conditions inside the building were turbulent. Models were riding updrafts one minute and downdrafts moments later. It was a frustrating experience for those trying to trim models. On a cold, overcast day, the normally calm, buoyant air inside becomes turbulent as cooler air drops in the center of the building. It was far from the record-setting flying conditions that this site is capable of.

US Junior Team members Joseph Szczur (L) and Ross Clements (R) make some necessary repairs.

The next day, the sun began to shine through the windows and the conditions inside the atrium quickly started to improve. As the air settled, flight times began to increase and people were rushing to complete two flights before the 5 p.m. deadline. At one point, at least 17 models were simultaneously in the air. Evan Guyette, the 2014 F1D Junior Champion, was able to get in two flights in excess of 24 minutes, making him the winner of the inaugural Jim Richmond Open.

Monday (Practice Day)

The official practice day started out much better than the previous two days and was good for test-flying and trimming. The Senior and Junior teams took this time to fine-tune their models in preparation for the first two rounds that would start the next morning. With the models safely packed away, everyone was ready for the next day, but Mother Nature had plans of her own.

Competitors often design their own containers for storing and transporting their aircraft and propellers. This field box belongs to Brett Sanborn. Pierce photo.

During the night, a snowstorm blew in and the outside temperatures dropped from the upper 50s to slightly below freezing. The light rain turned into snow and everyone knew the conditions inside the atrium would not be good. As snow continued to fall, the opening ceremony was held, and the 2018 FAI F1D World Championship for Indoor Model Aircraft had begun.

The unexpected snowstorm that arrived during the beginning of the competition made flying conditions difficult for the first few rounds. Photo by Nick Ray.

Tuesday (Rounds 1 and 2)

During the morning test-flying session, propellers gently spun in the breeze as they sat on the table. Test flights showed that the up-and-down drafts from a few days ago had returned. The first day would be difficult as Round 1 began.

The first round each day had to be flown between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and the second round between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. With poor flying conditions at the start of Round 1, everyone decided to wait to see if flying conditions would improve.

Kay Long and her husband, William, represented New Zealand. Simpers photo.

As the 1 p.m. deadline approached, competitors gave the air a try to see what would happen. John Kagan was the first member on the US Team to put up a flight. His model climbed out, but soon was near the center of the atrium and the downdraft pushed the aircraft out of the air in less than 4 minutes. Chris Luo, the first US Junior to fly, launched his model and it soon drifted over to the restaurant area where the downdraft nearly made it land on a table where two people were eating breakfast.

Chris steered his model back to the flying area and it soon drifted over the pilots’ pit area. His model continued to fly over the pit area near the wall for a flight time of 11:22, which was then the high flight time for the contest by a Junior or Senior. After the model landed, it seemed that flying over the pit area was the only viable option.

The pilot pit areas were crowded during the Jim Richmond Open. The tables were rearranged after the World Championship started. Ray photo.

As Round 1 came to an end, flights were going up, but nearly all caught the downdraft and landed in less than 10 minutes. Mark Benns, from Great Britain, was able to successfully fly in the pit area and scored 18:08, the high time for Round 1. The snow kept falling for Round 2 and Thierry Marilier of France was able to get an 18:10, however, the rest of the field was unable to break 11 minutes.

Wednesday (Rounds 3 and 4)

The snowfall continued through the night, and by morning several inches had fallen. Most expected another poor day of flying, but the weather forecast showed the snow moving out and sunshine on the way.

Tony Hebb, from Great Britain, put in the high time of Round 3 with a 19:23 to boost his team’s score and individual standing. As Round 4 started, the sun began shining on the floor of the atrium, signaling that good flying conditions were on the way. With the air temperature rising in the atrium, the air began to stabilize.

Having a selection of propellers is critical during competition. Photo by Colleen Pierce.

The French Junior Team capitalized on the thermals generated from the sunlight hitting the floor. They all made flights in the 17- to 18-minute range. Those who waited slightly later in the round were rewarded with higher flight times. John Kagan put in a 21:43, which was his best flight up to that point.

Defending World Champion Yuan Kang Lee, from the US, put up a 22:57; Mark Benns flew a 22:20; Jake Palmer of the US flew a 21:43; and Corneliu Mangalea of Romania flew a 21:28. The competition was picking up.

Brett Sanborn, from the US, went up for his fourth-round flight and put up an amazing 27:11 time. This was not only high time for the round, but would end up being the high time for the championship, a site record, an AMA National Record, and a new FAI World Record!

Brett Sanborn’s aircraft logged a flight time of 27:11. It was the high time for the contest, flying site record, an AMA National Record, and a new FAI World Record! Photo by Jay Smith.

As these last flights landed, people began to gather around the large computer monitors at the processing table to see the individual results and team standings as the scores were entered into the scoring system. With only two rounds left and a great weather forecast, the last day would decide the contest.

Thursday (Rounds 5 and 6)

The morning test-flying session was busy. People showed up early to get ready for the final two rounds. It was sunny and clear outside and the temperature inside the atrium was slowly rising. It was going to be a good day.

Pilots often wear magnifying glasses when working on their aircraft. The lightweight airplanes and propellers must be handled delicately. Photo by Dillon Carpenter.

Zoltan Sukosd of Hungary put in a 25:45, his best for the championship. Jake Palmer, who had bad luck in the first four rounds, put up a 22:36 (after a midair) to boost his individual placing and the US Team’s score.

It came down to Round 6 to decide it all. The air was so good that high flight times started coming in fast. In fact, 14 of the top 15 contestants posted their best flights in Round 6. Corneliu Mangalea put in a 26:12; Mark Benns and his teammate, Tony Hebb, both put in flights of 25:04. Jake Palmer put in a 24:46, levying the US Team into first place.

Horatiu Somesan of Romania put in a 24:50, pushing the Romanian Team into second place slightly ahead of Great Britain. The final standings were coming down to the wire. While all of this was happening, Brett Sanborn put up another big flight of 27:01, only 10 seconds less than his time of the previous day. Brett now had the two highest flight times of the championship and was solidly in first place with a two-flight total of 54:12. All that was left was to see if anyone else could catch him.

In team standings, the US finished first, followed by Romania and Great Britain. Ray photo.

John Kagan had a midair early in Round 6, which allowed him a reflight after the end of the round. His flight of 25:05 added to the US Team’s lead. Zoltan Sukosd needed a big flight to beat Brett, but only managed a 21:21 time. When all of the other airplanes had landed, Brett Sanborn had done it! He had become the 2018 Indoor F1D World Champion!

Improved lift in Rounds 5 and 6 had several models in the air at the same time with close flying and collisions. Simpers photo.

Brett Sanborn, 2018 Indoor F1D World Champion, has been on the US Team five times. At age 31, he is the youngest person known to be an F1D World Champion. Photo by Vanessa Kuhn.

In second place was Zoltan Sukosd with a two-flight total of 47:52, and in third was Corneliu Mangalea with 47:40. In the Senior team placement, the US was first with 148:22; Romania came in second with 128:57; and Great Britain, with 127:34, was third.

In individual standings, Brett Sanborn (US) was first, followed by Zoltan Sukosd (Hungary), and Corneliu Mangalea (Romania). Ray photo.

In the Junior category, Vladyslav Klymenko of Ukraine was named Junior World Champion with a two-flight total of 40:00. Baptiste Rompion of France was second with 37:07, and his teammate, Eliott Crosnier, was third with a 36:30. In Junior team placement, France was first with 109:52; Romania second with 92:06; and the US was third with 80:20.

US Junior Team member Ross Clements set a new AMA National Youth Junior record with a 14:45. Joseph Szczur also set an AMA National Youth Senior record with a 15:32 flight, edging out his teammate Chris Luo who had a 15:11.

The Junior teams take the podium. France won first place; Romania finished in second place; and the US was third. Ray photo.

Congratulations to all of the competitors in the 2018 F1D World Championship for Indoor Model Aircraft, and a special thanks to all who worked hard to put this event together at this fabulous location. It was a world-class contest at a world-class site.

—Don Slusarczyk


F1D 2018 World Championship for Indoor Model Aircraft

West Baden Springs Hotel

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