Top Gun Part I - The world's greatest scale showdown

Posted by: Model Airplane News in Member Blogs


This year’s Masters winner was David Wigley with his consistently outstanding Westland Wyvern. Powered by a BME 102cc gas engine, his homemade counterrotating propeller setup uses one powered set of props and one freewheeling. His static score was an impressive 97.232 and his overall event-winning score was 194.357.

By the Model Airplane News Crew, Photos by David Hart

Now enjoying the Paradise Field as its permanent home, the 2012 Top Gun Scale Invitational celebrated its 24th consecutive year with event originator Frank Tiano at the helm. Located adjacent the Lakeland Linder Airport, Frank’s purpose- built RC flying site is as good as it gets for any scale modeler and aircraft. With so much time and effort invested, Paradise  Field now plays host to all of Frank’s overthe- top RC events including Florida Jets, Monster Planes and the 12 O’Clock High Warbird event. The runway is a beautifully manicured grass strip plenty wide and long, and the flightline is arranged in favor of the pilots. With the sun to their backs for most of the day and the weather being next to perfect, this year’s scale shootout was a huge success and all of the aircraft, regardless of type and landing gear configuration were on equal footing. This venue has to be seen to be believed, it is truly an RC scale pilot’s field of dreams.

Schedule of events

With so many competitors, Top Gun is not your average weekend event. The event cranks up on Wednesday and the action continues all the way until Sunday afternoon. Contestants in the Expert, Masters, Team and Unrestricted classes all get static judged on Thursday and Friday and the Pro-Am pilots fly one round each day on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. At the end of Round 3, the top 16 in Pro-Am Sport and the top 14 in Pro-Am Pro go on to the fourth and final round flown on Sunday.

The pilots in Expert, Masters, Team and Unrestricted fly two rounds on Saturday and two rounds on Sunday. There is also practice flying from 10:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday and with time permitting, practice flights can be flown before and after the Pro-Am rounds. With so many experienced staff members helping out, this year’s event went off without a hitch.

On the flightline

One of the many things that make Top Gun such a special event is the informative and entertaining voice of the announcer Sam Wright. Sam knows his stuff and how! He is personally involved in planes both scale and full size, so when it comes to accurate play-by-play commentary, Sam always delivers the goods. He really does live up to his nickname “The GoldenVoice of RC.” Even at the end when all the flight scores had been calculated, Both Sam and Frank team up to award the well-deserved hardware and awards. This happens both at the banquet hall for special achievement awards and on Sunday afternoon when the final awards are presented to the hard flying contestants. It’s like being on the red carpet at Hollywood’s Academy Awards, except these movie stars are the pilots and their amazing planes.

Every year it seems that the competition gets closer and closer. And to prove this fact, for the Top Static Score award in Team this year, there was a tie to three decimal points! The scores were both 99.423 between Mike Selby with his amazing A-6E Intruder and Graeme Mears with his exquisiteT-33.

For the paying public who filled the bleachers to experience RC scale at its best every day, and to give all the competitors a break for lunch, there’s a wonderfully orchestrated noontime airshow. With several daring and down-on-the-deck demonstration flights flown by some of the best pilots in the industry, to an impressive WW II Warbird Scramble under the direction of Air Boss P.J. Ash, and both electricpowered and turbine jets, there are few full-size airshows that that deliver a completely enthralled crowd!

A class act

There are several classes of competition at Top Gun and the rules have been developed over the years to best apply to Top Gun’s Prime Directive of not giving any single type of model a distinct advantage. Quality alone, both in building and flying, determine the outcome at Top Gun. All aircraft must have a pilot figure in the cockpit and there is a “Builder of the Model” rule in place for the Masters, Team and Expert Classes. The Pro-Am classes and the Unrestricted class are exempt from the Builder of the Model rule. All Top Gun aircraft must be worthy of a Top Gun invitation. ARF models are eligible, but are limited only to the Pro-Am and Unrestricted Classes. They must represent a full-scale aircraft color scheme. Class-winning models are subject to a five-year time-out rule. If the model has never won its class, it may compete for an unlimited number of times. The entire Top Gun rulebook can be downloaded at

Fight to the Finish

Winner David Wigley (right) grins for the camera along with Jack Diaz (winner for Expert Class) after the awards presentation. Jack and David were neck and neck all weekend long for the Mr. Top Gun title. (Photo by Frankie Mirandes)


Masters Class

This category of competition is for those contestants who designed, build, engineered and fly aircraft of their own creation. This class often produces some of the most unusual entries and certainly the competitors have much time and effort involved just to develop their airplane.


First Place, Masters Mr. Top Gun

 Second Place, Masters

Dave Johnson did an amazing job of flying his 1/3-scale Albatros D.V and earned a respectable second place with his Fuji 64-powered WW I biplane. He earned a final score of 193.042. Not bad at all for flying against WW II heavy metal!

Third Place, Masters

Jeff Foley worked hard to improve his Bf 109E Messerschmitt fighter and flew it very well. Powered by a DA-50 gas engine, he finished with a score of 190.700

Fourth Place, Masters

Gwyn Avenell’s beautiful Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless earned him a score of 189.793. The dive-bomber is powered by an O.S. 300 twincylinder engine and is equipped with dive brakes and a droppable bomb.


Fifth Place, Masters

Roy Vaillancourt did a great job with his Top Gun veteran Focke Wulf Fw 190. Powered by a Zenoah GT-80, Roy’s Butcher Bird received an overall score of 188.060.


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