|The question was raised by Tom McClain some time ago. Some answers (including mine) were published in STUNT NEWS, the American Control Line Aerobatic magazine. The contents of my story were the basic points why anybody would choose stunt as his/her favourite event. Since this website is aimed at the typical stunt flyer I’d like to give a somewhat more detailed answer and add some more in- depth thoughts here.|
|Les McDonald ( 3 times World Champion) once said: “stunt is not just an event - it’s a way of life”. While I do not take this statement 100% literally, there’s some truth to it. While our event can offer some aspects the other classes can offer, too, in addition stunt can give us some possibilities which other events cannot. I’d like to emphasize on these aspects because 1) they are unique to stunt; 2) make it an outstanding activity 3) are the reason I fly stunt.|
|The first time I ever saw control line flying was a young guy flying level laps with a simple model. Later I happened to have a look into the “interior” of his broken fuselage. That’s when I decided that “ I can do that, too” (please note this point, I’ll come back to this later). After a few years of “fun” activities I met the free flight world and started contest flying in this area. I did quite well, but having to risk my model on every contest flight ( flying fields are not very big in a highly populated country such as Germany) somehow reduced my free flight enthusiasm. Finally, when I lost two models in one contest, I immediately quit free flight and concentrated on control line. I entered the team race circles and it was big fun. But I needed a mechanic and an asphalt circle - both difficult to obtain. Later I tried Speed. The results were not bad, really. But a friend of mine had tuned the engine. So my (good) contest rankings were not really MY performance, and the trophies were not really won by ME. This was not what I wanted to achieve. I think only very simple minds can be proud of a performance which basically is not their own. I left the Speed circle and went back to Aerobatics.|
|I’d like to mention two aspects which have an influence on our choice of activity. It’s the two poles: talent and inclination. If these two come together we are in a most happy situation. Alas, very often they don’t. Sometimes people have a talent, but don’t know it and have interests in other areas. Sometimes people have a strong inclination to a certain area( “I can do that, too”, see above), but have absolutely no talent. I’ve seen many a modeller who was excited about a special event and tried to perform in it - but alas didn’t have the required skills and/or equipment ( say: mechanical skills, technical and metalurgy knowledge, motor tool equipment, lathe, etc ).|
Because he didn’t have any success he finally quit and began looking
for other activities outside of modelling. He was lost for control line.
Had he considered Stunt flying ( which requires less skills in those mentioned
areas) - well, he wouldn’t ever have become world champion, but he
would still be with us, have all the fun among friends, and maybe even enjoy
some modest success. What I mean to say: it’s always helpful to make
decisions on a more rational basis and not being guided by emotional dreams
which are a far cry from reality.
how I came to F2B ( “stunt” for you non FAI types ). Only after
several years I realized what a great event this is, and that I feel really
lucky to have found one that is the right one for me. Now let me explain
WHY Stunt is so great..
The greatest aspect of Stunt is CREATIVITY. The highest level mankind can ever reach in its doings is to be creative. It’s a godlike attribute, and we cannot come closer to God than when we create. Developing our own ideas, bringing them to reality, enjoying the fun, the joy, and the success of the outcome can be even more rewarding than fulfilling any most complicated task - if this was dictated by another individual. Don’t get me wrong: by success I don’t mean trophies here. We already have success when your new own design creation can fly a decent pattern. When our own ideas have proven right. Creativity isn’t found very often in this world. In most cases we have to do what this world, our boss, or our customers expect or even force us to do (at least we’ll have to find a compromise). Sure, if you want to become world champion your new airplane has to stay within certain design limits. But how many of us can strive for this goal? And - even then - these limits are more a challenge to our creativity than a restriction of our choice of methods. We have full freedom of decision since our life doesn’t depend on it. We still have the choice between the design parameters of creations from people like Aldrich, Werwage, Rabe, Hunt, Fancher, Xiang Dong, Beringer, Yatsenko, and others. What more do we need. Have a look over there at the speed or team race circle. Can the competitors tell one model from the others? With their uniform size, shape, colour, engine etc. there’s no room for individuality ( the licence number on the wing will help to make the difference). In order to be competitive all the models have to have the same size (wing area), shape (low aspect ratio wings), colour finish( none! clear is lightest), almost same engine ( East European) etc. not to mention the mutilated speed models and amputated propellers. Just look around at the stunt circle at any big contest and you’ll see a healthy array of individual ideas, beautiful shapes, and fantastic paint work. GREAT !! You’ll have a hard time to find another (professional or pastime) activity which can allow us more creativity - and that includes most other sports, including most other categories outside of modelling.
|At this point I’d like to insert some thoughts which are not directly related to our main topic. But very often I’ve heard people complain about how the restraints of a sport activity may limit your creative freedom. Nothing could be further from the truth ! Let me try to explain the problem by using a picture. Imagine a basketball team beginning the game by entering 27 players, 5 balls, and 3 additional baskets. Great advantage, you say? Sorry, you are wrong! Sport and competition is not possible this way. It would be unfair, confusing, chaos, nonsense, impossible. Rules are there to make sport interesting, exciting, and POSSIBLE, at all !|
|Rules respectively laws cannot be broken. Rudolf DIESEL, James WATT, and James EDISON didn’t make their inventions against Mother Nature. Nature’s laws were the ground their inventions were based on, but within these laws the scope is so wide that we human beings (with our limited skills) will never get to any imaginable border. In reality our freedom is much much wider than what our small brain is ever able to use and realize! So - in practical terms - for us the choice is unlimited !|
|There’s another great aspect. At first glance SIMPLICITY doesn’t seem to be an exciting aspect. Wait a minute. After all Socrates (the Greek philosopher some 2000 years ago!) said: “it’s the simple things which are the difficult ones”. And Antoine de Saint Exupery ( (my favourite) French author, philosopher, and pilot said: “perfection is not where you cannot add something anymore, but where you cannot remove anything anymore”. A precise description of our event (my interpretation: stupidity makes things more complex, intelligence makes things|
|simpler). Have you ever wondered why stunt is the most popular control line event? It is because it is so simple. Like football: everybody can kick a ball. One may never reach world championships levels, but he can join the fun and may even get the respect from his peers - without ANY special acquired skills, apart from kicking a ball. In stunt, specialized knowledge, extraordinary skills, and a thick wallet are not required. I have a little problem with these points. It is usually accepted that there’s nothing wrong with using special abilities if you have them, and if it is to your benefit when you use them in competition. However - if special skills ( acquired by education, study, or profession) are required for participation in a certain activity, a large number of potential participants is excluded right from the beginning. See the downfall of the technical classes and you’ll know the reasons and see the results. Please don’t get me wrong: Aerobatics at high level is not in the least any easier or simpler than ANY other sport. But we are talking about accessibility and popularity here and about the positive aspects of Stunt. The more simple the technology and the rules, the better the participation. Not to mention the great possibility to recruit new blood ( Stunt allows even ME to participate !).|
|VARIETY is an often overlooked factor and it is unique to stunt. In the more technical classes you have only ONE way to satisfaction: top performance. These people have a hard life. They only have one chance ( fly fast ) and nothing else. The stop watch decides whether you are SOMEBODY - or NOBODY! Either you are a winner or a looser. The stopwatch is rational, ice-cold, and one-sided. It can measure only one tiny part of a complex performance, unable to consider any other aspect of the whole task. You will have a top result, or nobody will remember your name. Quite unlike in Stunt! We need not be the winner every time we make a contest flight. Apart from being a good pilot there are other areas as well where we can get satisfaction, show our abilities, gain the respect, esteem, and honour of peers, and maybe even excel. We have the great designers, the aerodynamic experts, the unconventional thinkers, the engine experts, the electronic gurus, the great builders, the fantastic finishers, the artists. We have people who are famous for their ingenious ideas, those who develop modern technology, try new building methods, test new power sources; those who can do fantastic paper finishes, who build and excel with only one design ( Stilettos, Stukas ), multi engine airplanes, biplanes, semi scale models, etc.etc. Some of these flyers may never win a prestigous contest or any big trophy.|
|But they are just as well known, admired and respected as those pilots who appear on top of contest result lists regularly. All of these individuals have a place in our circle, are fully and equally honoured for their skills and uniqueness, even if there will be no Walker Cup resting on their living room sideboard ever. Very often they have talents which do not directly lead to contest success - but make them an outstanding and great personality .|
|Human beings have a wider range than what a stop watch can grasp. It is somewhat unfair and unrealistic to reduce the personality and performance of an individual on just a mere number of minutes and seconds. I don’t want to dig into the “BOM-discussion” too deeply here. But since I’ve mentioned the “great builders” in this column, it’s quite obvious that the “it’s a flying event only” fraternity is missing a great way to achieve personal satisfaction ( in the context of “creativity”) and actually these people don’t know what they renounce.|
|SUBJECTIVITY seems to be the most criticized aspect of stunt. First let’s look at the wide choice of airplane design, colour scheme, engine choice, flying style etc. I’ve already mentioned this aspect in the “creativity” column, and I can only repeat that this is the greatest thing in our event. It goes beyond the purely rational viewpoint and is the reason for our colourful event. We not only decide what is the “best” technical equipment, but also allow a personal choice of what we feel suits us best and what we like most; regardless of ratio, theory, and science. If we feel our personal approach makes us happy - and might even improve our scores - we go for it ( “I did it my way”). If there’s any conscious or unconscious consideration to impress the judges - so may it be. Whether the judges are influenced by a nice airplane or not is a different question. Actually I do not think that today’s judges are influenced by the looks of a beautiful airplane or an exciting colour combination. If they are - it’s their fault and not the failure of the rules and the event.|
human judging IS subjective and it will always be that way. However I do
NOT see this as an essential disadvantage of Stunt. As mentioned above we
do not display a performance which can be measured in time fractions. What
we offer is BEAUTY! And this cannot be measured with a measuring tape or
a stop watch. It has to be viewed, watched by careful eyes, and judged by
a competent jury which knows what a round loop or a sharp corner looks like.
Have you ever watched dancers in a dancing contest? Have you noticed that
they don’t even use exactly the same steps? They don’t follow
a ready programmed procedure which could be performed much better by a programmed
robot. Actually it’s not the single, temporal exact steps which are
judged - it’s the whole presentation of grace and harmony. Dancers
produce beauty, and this cannot be judged by a mechanical or electronic
gadget. It can only be judged by human beings. And that’s why they
- and we - have human judges. Don’t tell me that only the precise
execution of single manoeuvres should count. This is a theoretical idea,
nicely thought out, but not realistic and doesn’t fulfil the task.
Okay, okay, I can already hear the cry “ judges can be biased, judging is subjective”. If we really think we have such judges, we can find them, we have the methods ( computer software by Bruno Delor), and we can address these judges. But basically I don’t think there are judges with intentional bias. Then there’s the next cry “judges can make mistakes”. That’s right; they can and they do. There’s only one answer to this: we pilots make mistakes, too, in flying the pattern. So how can we expect judges to work perfectly ?! Enough said! The mere knowledge about this
|fact brings better understanding of human doings and human mistakes. We learn to tolerate. So, maybe this subjectivity brings the human element back into our event through the back door. It is probably responsible for the relaxed atmosphere in our circles, and may even further the comradeship and friendship among competitors. Quite a strong argument for subjectivity. Those who cannot stand this situation are well advised to look for another pastime activity. Those who can will find a great pursuit worth all the effort. Not in spite - but because of subjectivity.|
|GENEROSITY is an aspect not usually found in this modern world. Especially not in the everyday “Rat Race” of life, but not even in sport activities which should be the idealized version of human life. Team race people probably won’t tell you that all important fuel mixture recipe required to achieve slightly more than 33 laps, and most of us have seen some less than pleasant “fights” in the circle center. The speed people will keep the secret of their latest cylinder liner boost port modifications - because their contest results strongly depend on this knowledge, of course. Now - ask any Stunt flyer, be it the raw beginner or the world champion - and you’ll get an answer on any weird question which may arise in your confused brain windings. Stunt flying is not one-sided based on pure technical knowledge ( while this is not a hindrance, I might add). But because of the necessity of manual skills and the prime importance of constantly repeated practice, theoretical knowledge is secondary - thus given freely, comprehensive, everytime. A strong element to help start, keep, and strengthen a community. We have it.|
that’s a whole bunch of good arguments which can prove that Stunt
is a great event. There’s one more aspect, but I haven’t found
a suitable headline for this chapter. As with any question, there’s
room for all kinds of thoughts which reach beyond everyday’s talk.
And when all technical triviality ( technical in the widest sense) is asked
and answered, the basic and essential topics will be philosophical in nature.
To explain what I want to say I’ll try to use an image.
If you want to quench your hunger you can eat raw meat, it’s sufficient to fill the stomach. But you can also have a delicious steak. When you are thirsty, you can drink water, but you can also enjoy a tasty glass of wine. You can live in a cave (our ancestors did), but you will probably prefer a comfortable apartment. You can wear a bear fur (keeps you warm), but you can also dress elegant and fashionable. You can listen to the noise of a crazy horde of wild monkeys, or you can enjoy Herbert Karajan’s version of Beethoven’s Sonata. And you can build a stunter which looks like an old apple crate - or you can create a most beautiful airplane with breathtaking finish. Get the picture?
Sometimes it’s only a subtle difference, but in the end it’s HUGE. It’s the difference between CIVILISATION and CULTURE! Civilisation can make life much easier, sometimes it makes life just possible, at all. Culture makes life WORTH LIVING! No further comment necessary.
Okay, I could go on and on, but the question was “ Why do ‘I’ fly stunt”. Well, part of the answer is what was written above. As to my personal relationship: I’m a hopeless aesthete trying to do all kinds of pretty things: water colour paintings, cartoons, graphics, photographs - and nice control line stunters, of course (and fly nice manoeuvres with them). I have a (very small) interest in technical things. I like simple things (probably because I don’t understand the difficult ones); things which only carry the essential components ( see Saint Exupery: you can’t take anything away from a stunt model). I have a special liking for abstraction - what could be more abstract than control line flying. I don’t want to copy full size aviation. I want to create. So it’s easy to see that Stunt is the perfect event for me. Sometimes I get the impression that I haven’t found Stunt - Stunt has found ME.