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Text, photos, and video by Mark Lanterman
As featured in the
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So there I was at home one night, when I received a text from my editor, Jay Smith. “Are you going to the Ohio Dawn Patrol fly-in this weekend?” Truth be told, although it was on my calendar, I hadn’t given it a lot of thought. A few texts later, I was making plans to attend because Jay couldn't make it.

If you’re unfamiliar with what a Dawn Patrol event is, it actually traces its name back to a movie of the same name, made back in 1930, The Dawn Patrol. It starred Richard Barthelmess and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and won the Academy Award for Best Story. The movie revolves around the pilots, crew, and aircraft of a World War I Royal Flying Corps outfit. Although many of the aircraft in this film weren’t the typical fighters involved in the war (they were reworked Travel Airs, Thomas-Morse Scouts, etc.), it easily transported the audience into the new world of air-to-air combat.

Fast forward several decades and gatherings of vintage and WW I aircraft became more and more popular. Whether the aircraft were originals, such as those at the Rhinebeck Aerodrome, or a mixture of original and replica aircraft like those that gather at the National Museum of the United States Air Force every other year, the name Dawn Patrol lives on.

With the popularity of these events, it wasn’t long before the aeromodeling community caught on and Dawn Patrol events started popping up across the country. These events are fun-flys and offer a setting where builders and pilots can get together for a great weekend of relaxed flying and friendship. Any vintage or WW I fighter aircraft manufactured on or before 1918 can enter and fly.

This time, the Dawn Patrol was making a stop just outside my hometown of Cincinnati, at the Cincinnati Aeromodelers’ field in Harrison, Ohio.

There’s no mistaking when you reach the Cincinnati Aeromodeler’s field with this sign.

Although I’ve lived in Cincinnati my entire life, I’ve never visited the Cincinnati Aeromodelers’ field, so I had no idea what to expect. As I got closer, my GPS had me driving along densely wooded, winding roads and I was thinking that I must have made a wrong turn somewhere.

I pressed on and eventually a small sign appeared, pointing me down a rough gravel road. The trees were now even denser down this single-lane road, and at the end of it I reached the unmistakable sign marking the field. As I made the final turn to the field, the trees parted and I found in front of me acres and acres of clear field with two nicely mown grass runways. All of this was set in a wonderfully picturesque backdrop of trees and gently rolling hills. Unless you heard the engines from the main road, you’d never know the field was there!

My first task was to find the people in charge and introduce myself. The Event Director was Paul Westrich, and his two CDs were Lee McDuffee and Barry Vogel. In talking with them about the club and this event, I learned that this group of roughly 50 members started holding Dawn Patrol gatherings back in 2008 and the event been growing in popularity ever since. More than 30 pilots were on-hand that day, some from as far away as New York, Wisconsin, and Arkansas.

Even the p.a. speakers were dressed up in period fashion.

Wandering the pit area and flightline, I saw a dizzying array of monoplanes, biplanes, and triplanes. Most models were in the 1/4- or 1/3-scale variety. It looked as though Balsa USA kits were the most popular, but there were a few smaller electric-powered ARFs and to my surprise, many scratch- and plans-built models.

By far the most popular model was the Fokker Dr.I triplane. Other than all having the Iron Cross markings, all of them were unique in color scheme and even size.

Now I’ve been involved in Scale for quite some time, both for fun and in competition, but every once in a while I’m surprised by something new. One of these was a Sopwith Camel with Russian markings. That’s right, Russian. It was built by the CD himself!

Then there was Gary Denzler’s scratch-built 10-foot wingspan Demoiselle. This award-winning model not only looks great, but the pilot that Gary created actually looks as though he’s flying the airplane because his hands and feet move with the controls, and his head looks left and right with the rudder input.

When you build a 10 foot wingspan Demoiselle, you can’t skimp on the pilot. Gary Denzler went the extra mile by animating his pilot to move with the control inputs.

Gary Denzler’s Demoiselle on landing. Looks like he’s holding quite a lot of left elevator by the way his pilot is facing.

If there was an award for the largest wingspan, I believe that Keith Zimmerly’s D.H.4 was the winner at more than 14 feet (14 feet, 3 inches to be exact). It was also one of the most stable models in the air. Even with the gusting and sometimes swirling winds, Keith flew it like it was on rails.

When I took the time to look closer at many of the models, it became apparent how much time and effort when into these airplanes. Sometimes you really had to look close such as in Ed Andrews’ Fokker Dr.I. Ed took the time to construct a complete “flying” cockpit. By that, I mean that all the instruments and details were correct. He even added a working compass in the dashboard made by modifying a key-chain compass.

But there were also models that had details you couldn’t see. Greg Emerick with his Sopwith Pup, Doug Bailey with his Fokker D.VII, and Sam Parfitt with his Nieuport N-17 had incorporated a similar feature just below the surface.

To give it that added bit of realism in the air, they have added an onboard, air-powered paintball gun system, controlled by a spare channel. This isn’t to shoot paintballs, but instead to give that “rat-a-tat-tat” sound as though the pilot was firing his miniature machine guns.

I could go on about the great modelers I met, as well as their fantastic aircraft, but I’m going to let my photos and video speak for themselves. Suffice it to say, if you ever find yourself anywhere close to the southwestern corner of Ohio during late July, make the trip to the Cincinnati Aeromodelers’ field for the Dawn Patrol event. It’s a great club, a beautiful venue to fly at, and they make a mean barbecue. Oh, didn’t I mention Hogzilla? There’s no better way to end a wonderful day of flying than with a dinner carved from part of 250-plus pounds of outstanding barbecued pork!

-Mark Lanterman


Cincinnati Aeromodelers

8470 Lawrenceburg Rd.

Harrison OH

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Very nice job on the article and photos - it was great seeing you at the event!!

Event Director Paul Westrich has announced the dates for the next edition of the Ohio Dawn Patrol - all interested need to set aside July 19-21 for the 2013 version - hope to see you there!!

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