2016 FAI F1D World Championship Team Manager’s Report - Nick Ray
The 2016 cycle saw the largest American presence at a World Championship in more than a decade. The United States fielded a full Junior Team for the first time since 2006 as well as both returning World Champions. Aurel Popa graciously helped arrange the Otto Hints Memorial and our accommodations during the pre-contest. Having the time to acclimate and practice before the World Championships goes a long way to level the playing field. The majority of the U.S. fliers used the Otto Hints to practice and experiment with new models, but John Kagan managed to fly every round and posted a high time of 24:32
The official practice day was plagued with turbulent air, and the practice hours were extended and the opening ceremony was abbreviated. At the technical meeting later that night, it was agreed that doors to the mine would be shut, except for when vehicles needed to enter or exit the mine to transport disabled persons. Controlling the doors helped to keep the air flyable. Nevertheless, the turbulence definitely influenced the results of the contest.
Joshua Finn started off round one with a 20:48 for the seniors. John Kagan followed up with a round one high time of 25:43, while Brett Sanborn posted a 24:02. Kang’s first round flight proved that out climbing the site would still be an issue with the new rules. He hung on the catwalks at 7:05.
Round two was largely about getting a good backup time on the board before attempting any more aggressive flying. To that end, John put up a 24:52, and Brett posted a 22:51. Joshua landed a 20:14, which put the team in first place after day one.
After a strong start the previous day, the third round saw many in the American contingent struggle to better their previous times. The air was still quite turbulent, perhaps even more turbulent than the previous day.
At the end of the day, 2 of the U.S. seniors were sitting on top, but everyone was aware of how quickly that could change. Calin Bulai rose to the top of the juniors with an incredible 25:45, and surpassed John’s 25:43 for the high time of the contest. If Zoltan Sukosd was able to land the big times he previously had shown he was capable of, the U.S. was going to need to improve to keep up.
The final day of the World Championships feature a special kind of “anything can happen” tension. In case we had any doubts that the air might have improved, as John was landing, we heard clapping from across the mine. Zoltan had just landed a massive 26:37, thus establishing a new high time for the contest.
Kang launched at the end of the round and his model climbed quickly to the roof. He spent a few minutes flying between the catwalks and bumping the ceiling. It felt like the entire mine was watching his flight. Miraculously, the model descended below the catwalks. It was clear that it was going to be a big flight, but we had to wait for the model to land to see just how big. The model touched down to applause at 27:59.
The Hungarians moved into the top team spot after round five, and the field of contenders for the individual world championship title appeared wider than it had been since the start of the contest.
The contest came down to the final round, with mere seconds separating first and second place. Kang decided to take a more conservative approach and flew below the catwalks. He still posted an impressive time of 26:55, which was enough to secure him the World Championship title. Zoltan flew valiantly, and his final flight was 27:57. Only 30 seconds separated Kang from Zoltan. John finished out in third.
It was a privilege to return to the mine, especially in the company of the U.S. team. I enjoyed getting to see old friends and make some new ones. I want to thank our supporters who weathered the week underground with us, and Bud Layne of Spantech for his generous support of the team. I am looking forward to seeing everyone in two years at West Baden.