A new airplane has been heard zooming overhead lately near Shawano, Wisconsin. The pilot of this full-scale aerobat is Dave Scott practicing for the 2011 contest season in the airplane he recently finished building. While Dave has lived and operated 1st U.S. R/C Flight School in Shawano for the past 25 years, he grew up in Oshkosh attending the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) convention with his father and dreaming of the day that he would become an aerobatic pilot and someday fly in the show.
As a young boy, Dave built rubber powered free flight models until he started flying radio control (R/C) airplanes with his father at the age of 9. His goal was always to fly his models in a manner that mirrored the full-scale airplanes he watched during EAA. He especially idolized the great Bob Herendeen who flew his Pitts Special biplane with a style and precision that stood above everyone else. In fact, Dave named all the pilots in his models "Bob".
He eventually become an instructor in his local R/C club and taught the way he had learned, primarily through trial and error. After school, Dave moved to Colorado to pursue a career as a draftsman while continuing to fly and instruct R/C. As his skills and reputation grew as a flyer, people started offering to pay him to be their regular instructor, and that is what first compelled him to start developing a better program of R/C instruction. He was eventually encouraged by his father and others to provide full time professional R/C flight training, and in 1987 he returned to Wisconsin and founded 1st U.S. R/C Flight School in Shawano. He admits that a ton of mistakes were made the first few years that all sounded good at the time, but lessons were learned from those mistakes and his programs continued to improve.
Word spread about his school and now most of his 4 and 5-day classes are booked a year in advance. Approximately 70 students attend Dave's school each summer from all over the US and Canada, with ¾ of his classes consisting of aerobatic training and ¼ primary instruction. The difference between his school and other training programs is that Dave works to maximize every minute in the air through detailed pre-flight planning and teaching pilots to control what the airplane does instead of reacting to the plane. This way his students achieve success right from the start, and then the rest of week can be spent honing those skills. Dave has also written several flight training manuals featuring the techniques he's developed running the school and regularly writes training articles for model magazines.
His school's success eventually made it possible for him to start pursuing his dream of getting his pilot's license and becoming a full-scale aerobatic pilot. After earning his license in early 2002, Dave gained access to an Illinois flying club's Super Decathlon and learned to fly aerobatics using the same training techniques he teaches in his school. In August of 2002, Dave entered his first aerobatic contest and won the Sportsman category by 3 percentage points over 20 other pilots in his category. He also won the trophy for the highest percentage of points possible at the contest. He credits the result to the fact that models fly under the same rules of aerodynamics as full-scale airplanes, so much of what he already knew from flying models was transferable to full-scale aerobatics, and vice-versa. Dave won or placed in several more contests, but everything came to a halt when the older Decathlon he was renting was grounded. After 3 years without an airplane to fly, Dave bought a Pitts S1S airplane kit and has spent the past 2 years building and modifying the airplane to be competitive with the higher performance monoplanes he will be competing against.
Dave test flew his new Pitts on September 25. Despite having to hold in some right stick to keep the wings level, the controls were beautifully balanced and the plane performed great. A fast idle setting resulted in the first landing attempt coming in too high so Dave elected to go around. By widening the pattern, and probably helped by the fact that he was carrying a little power, he greased the second landing attempt right on the centerline!
Dave has since worked out most of the bugs and has logged more than 50 flights practicing Cubans, hammerheads, humptys, vertical rolls, torque rolls, snaps, and rolling turns. Under the supervision of his coach, he recently spent 2 days working on spins, including 5-turn flat and accelerated spins, both upright and inverted. The principle emphasis during the spin training was to cement the Beggs emergency spin recovery technique. Despite being an advanced R/C pilot and having competed in full-scale aerobatics, Dave found the accelerated and inverted spins to be very disorientating at first and it took several attempts before recovery started becoming automatic. Thanks to the training, Dave is comfortable spinning his Pitts in all attitudes and knows that if he ever became disorientated, he would be able to quickly recover using the emergency spin recovery technique.
Flying a Pitts has been Dave's dream since he was a kid watching the Red Devils and his hero Bob Herendeen fly Pitts biplanes in the Oshkosh airshow. Dave is Treasurer for IAC (International Aerobatics Club) Chapter 1 and owes much to the IAC members, EAA tech counselors, and friends who helped his dream become reality. Dave will begin practicing again for competition in early 2011. His goal is to compete in the 5 or 6 contests held throughout the Midwest and then attend Nationals in Texas in September. And to think, it all started with a father taking his son to airshows and getting him started in modeling.