A periodical overview of the sports path and progress in the US.
· "But more what we call in France VTPR "Voltige très près du reflief" (translation: aerobatics very close to the ground); this is a very spectacular type of aerobatics that requires very good skills and no fear". Pierre’ Rondel, 2005.
· Specifically "any aerobatic maneuver, figure or trick interpreted by the pilot that is performed successfully and in whole directly above the ground at any desired air speed within one half to one wingspan height above the ground”. Eric Johnson, 2011.
2011 marked a banner break out year of VTPR conversation and flying in the United States, specifically Southern/Mid California. This author in conjunction with fellow VTPR enthusiasts organized an all day VTPR fun-fly meeting that resulted in much progress on the slope and new model designs we now see in 2012. The idea was to explore and expose this little known fun style of aerobatic slope flying and to spur new conversation on modeling design for the sport. These two goals have been met and are on a growth path never seen before in many years. Thanks to the dedication of a few core enthusiasts of which I will name for posterity VTPR is experiencing new life and vigor in the states though it is still ever so slow. They are “CptMike” Ball, Paige “FSD” Anderson, Steve “Surfimp” Lange, “Awesome” Dawson Henderson, “Swiss” Peter and yours truly Eric “Oldscooler” Johnson.
Some long term goals now include the continuance of organized VTPR fun-fly events and the possibility of an official VTPR Cup Challenge spectator event with real prizes. And in the grand scheme it is hoped VTPR may be able to offer an official AMA sanctioned event for those inclined to compete. Currently the core group is having conversations exploring ideas to eventually come up with a VTPR event format with regards to pilot classifications, model types, scored compulsory and freestyle heat flights and overall event organization. All of this in a package that promotes FUN for which the sport was originally intended. Through these conversations and web postings we are finding out there is a wide disparity of opinions on the subject of competition. Some welcome the format and some flatly refuse to be a part. This is nothing new as every favorite fun pastime whether its potato sack racing or pitching horseshoes has their supporters and detractors when competition speak enters. In the end if fun is nurtured and remains the prime goal it is believed even a VTPR competition can offer slope soaring enthusiasts a great day on the hill.
There seems to be two classes of thought or styles of VTPR flying within the group and at large. One group which probably consist of larger numbers enjoy the smaller sized and ultra lightweight models. These types of models are usually sized from 48-68” wingspan, fly at slower speeds and offer a very active and crazy style of VTPR aerobatics. This includes flips and flops and all sorts of gyrations that can at times become difficult to follow as a spectator but it looks like the pilots are enjoying themselves immensely. Fun is definitely being promoted in this demographic.
Then there are pilots that prefer larger more majestic flying models that range from 80” wingspan and above. These models perform figures in a much more smooth and precise manner that can fly at lower speeds but can also perform very close to the ground maneuvers at higher speeds making this group a bit more daring and dangerous to the model. These larger models can get expensive with many hours of labor to construct. Needless to say even with all the risk fun is still the core reason this type of flyer can’t wait to get to the slope whenever he can.
With these two classes of flyers in mind it is a known fact that both are excited for either class to see each other perform their style of VTPR. There have been many disagreements and opinions leading up to today that would suggest there is only one way to perform VTPR aerobatics. This according to this writer is nothing further from the truth. As long as the primary definition stated above is met then however a performance is presented is solely up to the individual pilot. If there are compulsory maneuvers required in the event then that is a different story. But freestyle VTPR is open game and should be promoted to its fullest for the betterment of the sport. You’ll know it when you see it. This poses a daunting task in the points awarding department but its believed a simple and acceptable event format will be developed this year.
In VTPR style there aren’t many if any models on the shelf for the consumer to purchase and build as one would normally think. Most require obtaining a set of plans and “scratch building” to suit. This means VTPR modelers are usually above average builders that enjoy tinkering and adjusting for maximum ease of performing figures close to the ground. After all in VTPR the ground is your friend and frequently visited to maintain that friendship. Model survivability is paramount in VTPR.
Light weight low mass EPP (foamy) and Wooden (crunchy) models are being developed in the US to maintain this ground to plane friendship. Such planes as the Swiss Fish, Leviathon, Zeppelin, Big Fish LW, Stiction, Vol-Lent, Whale, Foiler 2.5, Axis 72 and other PSP models to name a few. Also it is hoped a “spec plane” will be developed that will be a dedicated One-Class event competition model of exacting specifications. Who will be the designer/supplier of this unique new design is currently up for grabs. If you’re interested please let it be known.
Every sport even in RC slope soaring have their slope of slopes that people will travel long distances or plan a vacation around just to fly it. One that comes to mind for the led sleders is Point Fermin. Another for the PSS group is Cajon Pass. Then for general slope soaring of all types of models is Torrey Pines. For the DS group, Parker Mountain. All soaring groups have that one slope they adore and dream of flying someday. In California a search is underway to find the “Mecca Slope” to perform the best possible VTPR in the most desirable wind conditions. One so far comes to mind and that is Marshall Peak slope in San Bernardino, CA., up highway 18 towards Crestline. Another one could possibly be Grass Mountain though the drive we hear can be treacherous. The hunt is still on and will be posted as soon as the gem of a slope is located.
All in all a terrific jump start year in VTPR. We hope you climb aboard in 2012!