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Part two of Andy Sweetland's FLIPreport

GO FOR IT!
Continued

THE SWISS "FLIP" ATTEMPT (BTW, "FLIP" = Five Thousand International Postal)

Saturday 6th May 2000, "Schwalbennest", near Basel, Switzerland. Race start approx 12.00 midday. 2 teams entered. Team SUI ONE, Heiner Borer (pictured here AFTER the race was done!) & Roman Mueller (pilots - that's Roman on the right, back to camera), Cessare Saccavino (even an ex World Champ pitman played that day!) & Valentino Saccavino (the pitman who had to build a new motor DURING the race!). Team SUI TWO, Pascal Giger & Toni Borer (pilots), Heiner Studer & Andy Sweetland pitmen (shown here Sweetland L, Studer next, Giger mid R, Toni Borer R).

Each team was equipped with 2 ea of the above Mezjlik models/motors; APC 7 x 6 props, unmodified. Squash bottle refuelling; fuel mix 15% castor, 55% JetA1, 30% ether, 2% (extra) IPN.

Weather sunny, some cloud, mostly fine and dry, a couple of rain showers. Temps 22 - 23 degrees C throughout.

Circle Marshall was Hugo Borer (it was quite an OK day for the race officials!) (FAI Sporting Licence); Official "Guinness Observer" and general "Swiss Aero Club Observer/Overseer" was Peter Germann (President Swiss C/L Sub Committee, FAI Sporting Licence). Timekeepers/Lapcounters, for Team SUI TWO Mrs. Ursula Borer (Swiss C/L Team 2000 Assistant Team Manager, FAI Sporting Licence); and for Team SUI ONE Mrs. Sylvia Sweetland. Witnesses were opposing team members (all hold FAI Sporting Licences).

At the start, SUI ONE drew well ahead (SUI TWO had starting problems and had to use their older, No 2 model for the first 3 or 4 tank fulls, until the motor in their No 1 model was fully warmed up). SUI TWO then started trying to catch SUI ONE with their model No.1, but airspeeds and ranges of both teams’ models were very similar. But at around lap 600 odd, SUI ONE experienced total motor failure (later found to be a broken con rod). SUI ONE attempted to continue with their No. 2 model but runs were only very sporadic (the motor in their No. 2 model was brand new and unrun before that day)!

At the 1st safety stop (1,000 laps), SUI TWO had overtaken SUI ONE. SUI ONE continued trying to make one workable motor out of two. SUI TWO continued faultlessly until about lap 1,500, so SUI ONE was given the No. 2 model from SUI TWO so that SUI ONE could continue. That model performed one or two tank fulls faultlessly in SUI ONE’s hands, then gave continual problems with either the engine continually cutting after 2 - 3 laps, or just running VERY slowly. (The trouble was eventually traced to the tank vent having come un-soldered and flapping loose in the breeze- not a Mejzlik quality problem but a tank that had been previously modified by Andy Sweetland)! Team SUI ONE then re-continued their motor rebuilding efforts on their own models because shortly the before the lap 2,000 safety stop, Team SUI TWO's No. 1 model crashed due to a line break (fortunately a Down line, and pilot Toni Borer successfully brought the model to a safe landing into the grass outfield then onto the safety fence. This problem was later found to be complete wearing through of the line EYELET!). Team SUI TWO recovered their No 2 model from SUI ONE, changed lines from that model to their No.1 model and then continued (model No.1 undamaged by crash apart from a small splinter broken off the hardwood wingtip).

After the safety stop at lap 3,000 the race continued without problems for SUI TWO, except that throughout this period - actually throughout the whole race – trouble was experienced with a VERY sensitive needle setting, plus uneven runs (OK for half tank, then too rich for remainder; or much too lean on take off and for 1st half of tank, followed by OK for the rest of the tank). These problems were due to SUI TWO's tank/shut off arrangement on both models - the long, curving run of the flex tube between tank and needle (via the fuselage-mounted shut off) resulted in a constantly changing fuel head, plus fuel surges on take off. This problem was even worse in the larger tanks that had been tried as an experiment before FLIP, which is why both teams had reverted to the original Mejzlik-supplied (approx 15cc) tanks for their FLIP attempts. A further problem for SUI TWO was the needle valve friction nut gradually slackening off in flight.

Meanwhile, SUI ONE had got back into the race by taking the motor from SUI TWO's No. 2 model (less spraybar assy - see below) and mounting that in their own No. 1 model. They got back into the race and continued very well, eventually retiring altogether on their 3,809th lap due to mechanic fatigue. SUI TWO meanwhile carried on OK, apart from increasing crew fatigue plus a slowly deteriorating motor run (needle valve setting becoming ever more critical). At safety stop 4,000 laps it was agreed that a further crew change would be made at approx lap 4,500, thus ensuring that both SUI TWO crews had the "honour" of completing 2,500 laps each. At lap 4,000 SUI TWO also changed to using SUI ONE’s model (fitted with their own No. 2 motor) as this was running perfectly, with none of the extreme needle setting sensitivity that was gradually slowing SUI TWO more and more. (After the race, the reason for that was found – SUI ONE had modified their spraybar assy from the standard "all straight through" type to a home-modified bar with a 900 bend at the nipple end. That was why they fitted their own spraybar when changing to SUI ONE’s motor, and that, coupled with a wing-mounted shut-off resulted in a much more "sensible" – and shorter – flexible fuel tube run. "Simple! Why didn’t you think of that Sweetland?").

The final irony (and crowd pleaser) was when SUI TWO’s motor cut at lap 4,993! But a quick re-fill and off again, accompanied by a very heartening "4,994 - 4,995 - 4,996 – 4,997 crowd countdown right up to the big 5,000). So at last we were finished, team SUI TWO having completed 5,000 laps in a total time of 5Hrs, 29 Mins, 29 Secs (including the 4 x 5 mins each safety stops at laps 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 and 4,000), and as above, with team SUI ONE having retired after completing 3,809 laps.

Total fuel used for the whole FLIP race (both teams) was about 5-6 Litres (naturally, at least 50% of that went all over the ground rather than through the motors!). Typical airspeeds throughout the race were about 26 - 27 secs/10 laps (all models, all on fairly "soft" settings of course), and average range was about 30 laps/tank. But as time wore on it became increasingly difficult for either mechanic of SUI TWO to fill their tank completely – the squash bottle chosen was too large and not flexible enough; and the nozzle was too small a diameter. That Andy Sweetland bloke with his "not so bright" ideas again!). The result was extreme right hand and arm muscle cramping due to the squeeze pressure required to fill the tank asap. The only actual model problem was one broken elevator hinge on one of SUI ONE’s models (cause unknown), but the holes in the ply bellcrank of SUI TWO’s No.1 model do now look rather elongated! (All other SUI models had Mejzlik’s earlier standard of a metal bellcrank). Neither of SUI TWO’s motors have yet been stripped but both seem to be fine – it should be noted that although SUI TWO’s No.1 motor was fully run in, it had not done too much running before the FLIP attempt; but their No.2 motor (used by SUI ONE for most of their 3,000 odd laps, AND for the last 1,000 laps by SUI TWO) was at least 2 years old at FLIP time and had flown "many many laps" before starting the FLIP.

Proceedings ended with an impromtu open air buffet plus a glass of champagne (and including a Formula 1 Grand Prix-type "winners spray") all over a very sweaty guy – they said "get that idiot called Andy Sweetland for bringing the whole crazy idea here in the first place!" But many thanks for the buffet and champagne to Heiner and Ursula Borer; and not forgetting special thanks to the 4 race officials too.

GUINNESS?

Switzerland then awaited results from all the other countries. Chile flew FLIP in Chile but neither team completed their 5,000 (retirements at 1,948 and 2,212 laps after a LONG struggle). Then they went to the Argentinian Nats the next weekend to try FLIP again (in Winter time over there then -  a car trip including driving over 14,000 ft mountains to get there! But unfortunately no further results were received by the time this report was updated (Oct 2000). The apparently large US entry petered out into just 2 or 3 teams flying GY in Phoenix, and 3 teams in South Africa also flew, and finished well. So far they look like the outright winners. There was an infortunate event during the UK attempt when one of the participants, Paul McPeake, publisher of the TR Newsletter "Line Check" suffered a heart attack at about 1,000 laps. That stopped racing (of course) and Paul was taken to hospital immediately. For a while things looked pretty dodgy for him but glad to say now that he is already back to work, back to modelling, and back to editing his excellent newsletter. The Lithuanians apparently had apalling weather during the one weekend in May 2000 that they could race, and all the other e.groups entrants seemed to have just "slunk away into the dark". Pity, 'cos this was a real first.

But as we agreed at the start of the whole thing, we (the Swiss) will proceed with putting our race details (plus those of the South Africans, and the Yanks as soon as they are received) up to the Guinness Book of Records. Whether or not those that did fly this (definitely!) one-off event  will find their names appearing in that particular "Hall of Fame" is of course in the hands of the Guinness editors, not us. We can but try.

But just speaking as part of the SUI TWO team for a moment, we may not have won our attempt at the FLIP Open Class but we do have one small consellation prize. Purely by chance (the 2000 European Comp Calendar only gave us 6th May as a possible date for our attempt at FLIP) we were the first team anywhere to have a go at FLIP. If we are correct in our assertion that a 5,000 lap C/L team race has never ever been run anywhere before, then we can at least say that Switzerland was the first country in the world to have ever done it.

To my horror, when I was talking to Heiner Borer about a week later (after MOST of the muscle ache had worn off!). Heiner was saying "You know Andy, for next year's FLIP all we really need is bigger tanks". With my tongue firmly in my cheek I did E-mail to John Bruman asking if he had any thoughts about running another FLIP in a year or so's time. I got a one word answer back - No!