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Written by Dave Gee
Remembering Bill Warner
As seen in the June 2020 issue of Model Aviation.

BILL WARNER MEMORIAL SKY BUNNY POSTAL CONTEST RULES

  • This contest is for rubber-powered FF Sky Bunny models. The model must be "built to the plans" with no major modifications.
  • Official flights must be made between Saturday, September 5, 2020, and Monday, September 7, 2020.
  • Each pilot can make unlimited attempts to get his or her single, longest flight time. Use a stopwatch or smartphone timer app.
  • Timing starts at model launch and stops when the model touches the ground, goes out of sight during the flight, or lands on any structure, tree, etc.
  • One entry per pilot. No entry fee.
  • Report your results to skybunnypostal@gmail.com by September 8, 2020. Please include the names of the pilot and timer, single best flight time, and the pilot’s date of birth. A photo is welcome but not required.
  • Updates and further information will be posted on the official contest page at www.wind-it-up.com.

WINNERS WILL BE ANNOUNCED IN THREE AGE CATEGORIES:

JUNIORS: Those who are less than 15 years of age.

SENIORS: Those who are 15 years of age but less than 19 years of age.

OPEN: Those who are 19 or more years of age.


remembering bill warner

bill warner with his astro
01. Bill Warner with his Astro .02-powered Lee-Richards number three annular monoplane built from drawings in the October 1976 issue of Aeroplane Monthly magazine. This model won FF Scale events at the US Free Flight Championships in Taft CA and at the Nats in Dayton OH. Photo by Phyllis Warner. (Source: AMA History Project, Bill Warner biography.)

bill is shown in 1995 with his twin electric powered
02. Bill is shown in 1995 with his twin electric-powered Miles M.18 FF Scale model of his own design. (Source: AMA History Project, Bill Warner biography.)

Legendary modeler Bill Warner passed away on March 12, 2020. He left us with a diverse collection of writings and some marvelous model airplane designs, but his legacy goes beyond that. Those who knew him have stories that sometimes border on legendary.

Jim Leuken tells of a Free Flight (FF) Scale seaplane contest at which Bill’s airplane made an excellent takeoff. As he stood knee-deep in the water, the model circled upward. Suddenly it turned downwind and headed for the hills. Bad news!

Bill turned to the distant model and bellowed, "Hey! Come back here!" The story goes that the airplane obediently turned back and gently splashed down close to where it had taken off. Some people just have the touch.

Jim is not the only one with a Bill Warner anecdote. Many years ago, I was the contest director of a large FF contest in the California high desert. A few modelers were gathered under the headquarters tent during the heat of the day, cooling off and chatting. I mentioned a particular modeling tool, a fine rubber winder for indoor flying. It was financially out of reach for me, and although I had been saving to purchase one, the maker had stopped production and retired.

Bill was present that day, listening to our conversation. He quietly got up and went to his trailer, returning with one of the unobtainable winders that I had been discussing. Handing it to me, he said, "This is yours now."

Although Bill was known to everyone there, I was a stranger to him. That act of generosity left me speechless with gratitude!

To this day, I get a pleasant pang of memory when I use that winder, remembering the fellow who had so graciously given it to me. Throughout the years, I learned that he had done many other kind things for individual modelers, as well as for our hobby in general.

Bill was exceptionally skilled at building and flying FF Scale aircraft. He won countless trophies at local and national contests. He was inducted into both the National Free Flight Society (NFFS) and Flying Aces Club (FAC) halls of fame.

After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, Bill worked for several full-scale aircraft companies. He became well known in the hobby community by producing a flood of articles and model designs for various aeromodeling publications, as well as writing the Model Aviation "Free Flight Sport and Scale" column for 20 years.

Bill began a career in education, teaching middle school students in the Los Angeles area until his retirement. He started and led model clubs for his pupils. He also created summer aviation programs at the California Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles. These early "science camp" sessions taught hundreds of kids about aerodynamics as they experimented with their own flying machines. Some of his students ended up with successful full-scale aviation careers, and many became skilled modelers.

Bill knew that taking a ready-built model out of the box was just not the same as using your skill to bring an airframe from raw materials to flight-ready status. This process is not only educational, it’s fun! Today’s kids are coming full circle with the rise of the Maker Movement. Being able to build something with your own hands is a useful skill.

His aviation classes used rubber-powered FF aircraft because building and flying one of these models teaches a pilot so many useful skills. Small, inexpensive, scratch-built models had advantages over RC airplanes in this situation because each kid got to build, fly, and keep his or her own model. The skills he or she learned with such an airplane could be used in any other type of aeromodeling that later drew a pilot’s interest.

Many of the models in these programs were designed by Bill. He made these aircraft not only simple enough for beginners, but with features that caught the interest of experienced fliers as well.

Perhaps Bill’s most famous and successful design was called Sky Bunny. The Sky Bunny was first published in 1988 in Model Builder magazine. It is a sleek airplane capable of perfect takeoffs and safe landings thanks to sturdy landing gear. After more than three decades, this model is still in kit production and is unsurpassed as a trainer and sport flier.

this sky bunny landed in a tree
03. Accidental camouflage! This Sky Bunny landed in a tree and nearly escaped the search party.

don martin was a full scale combat b 17 pilot
04. Don Martin was a full-scale combat B-17 pilot, but now he wins contests with his Sky Bunny.

Sky Bunny Postal Contest

Ronnie Espolt is a man of action. He came up with the idea of a memorial contest to honor Bill. How about a One-Design Postal Contest for Sky Bunnies? Ronnie told me that some younger readers might not know that a Postal Contest was an old-school way for modelers to compete from wherever they live.

It was a means of connecting with other fliers from around the world. Pilots would send in their official flight results by actually writing on postcards or paper letters! Weird, right? These days, we can do it by email, which saves trees and postage.

The Sky Bunny was chosen for the Bill Warner Memorial Postal Contest because it is easy to build and has high performance. Rubber-powered models have a tremendous power-to-weight ratio that provides a thrilling climb rate.

Chuck Imbergamo, of Wind-It-Up Enterprises, is the current producer of Sky Bunny kits. He has offered to make this popular product available to contestants for less than $20. Chuck’s kit includes clear instructions and top-quality materials. His website will also host a contest page where photos and updated information will be posted.

For experienced modelers who want to scratch-build their airplanes, Sky Bunny plans are available through the AMA Plans Service.

If you have questions about building your Sky Bunny, send an email to skybunnypostal@gmail.com. This is the contest headquarters contact where flight results should be sent after the Labor Day weekend contest concludes. There are several how-to-build videos online if you want further help.

Contestants are encouraged to post photos and flight videos on social media sites to help spread the word using the hashtag #SkyBunnyPostal. Bill Warner would have enjoyed knowing that new modelers found their hobby through his event!

SOURCES:

The AMA History Project Presents: Biography of Bill Warner

www.modelaircraft.org/sites/default/files/files/WarnerBill.pdf

Wind-It-Up Enterprises/Peck-Polymers

www.wind-it-up.com

Bill Warner Memorial Sky Bunny contest headquarters

skybunnypostal@gmail.com

www.wind-it-up.com/pages/sky-bunny-postal-contest

AMA Plans Service

(765) 287-1256, ext. 511

www.modelaircraft.org/ama-plan-service

Building a Sky Bunny

https://youtu.be/QUJRplsZIJk

NFFS

www.freeflight.org

FAC

www.flyingacesclub.com

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