SEN 1259 2008

Frank Parmenter 1922 – 2008


Frank was a lifetime member of AMA, and his models displayer a L431 for his number.


He was inducted into both the AMA Hall of Fame and the National Free Flight Society (NFFS) Hall of Fame.


A short overview would hardly do him justice but I will try. Frank was born and raised in Chicago Ill. In the years leading up to World War II, Frank, as a teenager, had achieved National fame for his many wins around Chicago (a free flight hot spot in those days) and at the National Championships.


As WWII started in 1941-42, Frank was enlisted to go to Langley Field Virginia, (Along with other young men who build and flew models) to go to work for NACA, (which later became NASA). They built the models that were used in the Wind Tunnel testing for WWII fighters and bombers. Frank was held out of WWII service until close to the end of the war. He then served as a crewmember of a C46 that flew throughout the Pacific.


Following his WWII service, Frank Returned to Virginia and continued to work for NACA.  He and his wife Sandy were married in the later 40s and raised a family of three, Jean, Charles and Mark. Frank then continued in his winning ways locally and nationally. When the international Free Flight competition started up in the early 1950s in the Glider, Rubber-powered and Gas events, Frank started to fly all three. In the years that followed, Frank made the Rubber-powered team, then called the Wakefield event (now called F1B) and flew in numerous World Championships on the USA team. He also served as the USA Team Manager multiple times taking young Mark with him on several occasions.


When NACA, now called NASA, moved to Houston in 1962, Frank and family made the transition with the Aerospace division. Frank came as head of the NASA Machine shop and retired from NASA as a GS-14 in the Mid 70’s. Having been flooded out twice in Houston, Frank moved the family to Georgetown TX soon after his retirement.


As the years passed, Frank flew less but stayed deeply involved with running contests at the Seguin Aux field, for many years Frank and the late Russ (Bear) Snyder ran the Tri-city Annual as the CDs. Even these last few years, Frank always attended all of the Texas Contests and many others on a national level. At all of these events, Frank was recognized as one of the sport of Free Flight’s early pioneers who contributed so much to all of us who followed.


My own involvement with Frank Began in 1961 when the USAF held their World Wide Championships at Langley Field, Virginia, where Frank helped coordinate all of the flying activities in the weeklong competition. I was stationed at Randolph Field in San Antonio a year later when Frank moved to Houston and attended many contests that Frank and his Houston Club sponsored. At these contests I was privileged to begin to know him and his family on a personal level.


In 1981 when I was selected as Team manager to the USA team to Burgos Spain, I was able to turn to Frank and draw on his experience as a team manager. He sent me a book from each of his times as Team Manager in which he had detailed all of the tasks that needed to be taken care of for International Travel for the team as well as the American supporters who would be the responsibility of the USA Team manager, especially in the Communist countries. I believe his attention to details came from his work for NASA in the Space Program.


When I returned to Austin Texas in 1982, Frank was one of the first to call me and let me know of all the wonderful Free Flight activity that was going on at Seguin with the Tri-City Club. Frank and I attended many out of state meets together and in later years shared a room at the Seguin contests where we shared stories of our families that we had come to know over the years. Many evenings were spent around motel swimming pools where we enjoyed the camaraderie of the Texas Free Flighters.


In 1985 when I was one of the USA Team Managers that took the American team to compete in the World Championships at Livno Yugoslavia, Frank was one of the 53 Americans who made the trip and toured the countryside competing in two large International Free Flight events as well as supporting the American team at the Championships. While there, Frank spent many hours with old acquaintance from many nations who he had competed against at previous World Championship. All of us had a great time and forged deeper relationships with many modelers from around the world. Frank was a great ambassador and showed all of us how to do it right.


Frank was know by many, respected by all and tremendously loved by those of us who had a chance to become part of his life.


Reid Simpson

Athens Texas

Early RDTing and Partial Grace

In my last posting about grace (FAI’s Second Serve and Reducing

The Grace Period SEN 1248) it was argued that reducing the current

grace period of 20-second, in light of RDTing being used to get second

attempts, should be done carefully – as it could change the whole

tenor of FAI flying. Maybe we could now take one more step.


The rational for retaining the grace period as is reduces the risk of

new technological developments and covers up small mishaps or

unexpected glitches. In fact each flier can use or misuse a grace

period every round – which is the “second serve” feature of our



RDTing was originally introduced as a safety feature for F1C.

To my knowledge – it has not been used as a means to get a second

attempt under the 20-second grace period. However, as soon as

it was legalized for other events, F1A fliers have been able to eek

out a RDT derived second attempt following a poor launch.

Conceptually F1B fliers, at important contests, could pull the trigger

if their model is pushed over on its back just as the VIT kicks in –

causing the model to loop. But doing this is ugly – costing a pair

of blades.


An early RDT is easy to verify. It happens when something goes

terribly wrong and requires a quick transmitter reaction by the flier

or his/her helper. Furthermore, the model itself carries a physical

RDT receiver with its antenna, a fact that could be established after

the fact. In the future, organizers might even require contestants

to declare their RDT-wired-models in advanced, during processing.


It seems that the next step is to decouple early RDTing from the

standard 20-seconds grace period. Suppose the grace period for

early RDTing is trimmed to 15-seconds or even 10-seconds. Fliers

might still use early RDT as a means to get a second attempt, but

this would be much more risky. Suppose you RDTed your F1A and

its down in 12 seconds. If the early RDT grace period is 15-second

you lucked out, but if its only 10-seconds your official time is 12

seconds. So early RDTing will mostly be used for safety reasons –

which was the intent in the first place.


On the other hand, models without a RDT capability, or a RDT

capable model which the RDT was not used, are still subject to the

20-second grace period, keeping things as there are. (The latter

will have to prove this to a skeptical jury).


Ideally, a uniform early RDT grace period should apply to all events,

including F1Cs.  But F1C, or F1Q for that matter, require two

operations – the first to cut the engine/motor, the second, after

the model has slowed down a bit, is RDTing it.  So, we might end up

with a compromise – say 15-seconds grace for all events, or event

specific grace periods – such as 10-seconds for gliders and rubber

powered model and 15-seconds for F1C and F1Q.


Curtailing the grace period for early RDTing achieves the best of

both worlds: retaining RDT primarily for safety and retrievals, while

leaving the tenor of FAI flying undisturbed.



An Engineer's approach to selection?

As a new flyer to the Free Flight community, I thought I might add a different perspective on the Team Selection process.
Some of you know that I am an Engineer so I am going to take an Engineer's approach to this issue.
The first thing I believe necessary is to understand what are the "Requirements."
Is the purpose to win a team gold medal or individual medals at the WC? Is it to help grow or maintain the sport of FAI Free Flight? Is it to enjoy the camaraderie of FF? Is the goal to have the most people involved or the "Best " people involved?
Knowing the requirements prevents one of the most common mistakes in engineering - developing a solution before the goal is even set.
I would propose that the first thing our community agrees on is what are the "Requirements." Then we work on how to get there.
For example, if winning gold medals is the goal, we could play a couple of scenarios. We would need a process by which the best people with the best equipment are at the WC. This could be further broken into choosing some person(s) who statistically has a high percentages of wins (As in the Americas Cup Process) or it could be the person(s) who is great under pressure and performs well at an individual contest.
Good equipment would obviously also make a difference. Should having three world-class models be a minimum for being on the team? On the other hand, would we allow a hotshot person with one good model to be on the team?
I think talking to Alex or one of the other competitors who came from a "Take Home the Gold" team selection method would have some very interesting insight.
On the opposite side of the "Take Home the Gold" process would be "Enjoy the Camaraderie of FF." The process to achieve this would certainly be much different. Getting as many people to as many contests as possible and insuring that everyone had a good time would be paramount.
For me, I reserve my opinion to a time when I feel I am personally ready to be on the USA Team. However, what I would encourage is that we figure out what we as a community really want to accomplish.
This can only come by knowing what the "Requirements" are.
Best regards,
Mark Belfield

An E-mail address for Yuri B?

I bought some miniature milling cutters from Yuri two or three years ago and the e-mail address on the pack is: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Martin Dilly

Selection Thoughs from the only FAI guy in Louisiana who is not on the 2009 team
Dear Jim,

I read with interest your discussion of the team selection process. I also took not of the data supplied by Chuck Markos on contest participation. These two items together gave me pause, because they each are indicative of a shrinking pool of participants.

In your discussion, you weigh the value of retaining the 75 minute / four contest standard in place since the mid 1990' s, vs. a more open system that would bring more people to the finals. The previous system in place allowed anyone who finished first or within 95% of the first place time, to go to the finals. This system promoted contest participation, but to a lesser extent than the current system. If we were to go to a more open system, I think this system would be superior to a $5 per minute program. What might help is making participation in the program free (with your FAI stamp) to those who enter FAI sanctioned events, just like the Americas Cup.

But I think we are missing the big issue, the issue that Chuck's data pointed to, that participation is low overall. With the exception of a few popular contests (Livotto for instance) participation overall was VERY low. Single digits dominated both columns of data. I also noticed that finals participation was lower overall than it was when I last went to the finals (1994). I think that if we had data on age it would show a durth of people between the ages of 25 and 60. Recruitment from outside, rather than tinkering with internal structures is the only long term solution solution.

Ross Jahnke (The only FAI guy in Louisiana who is not on the 2009 team)

Arizona FF Champs

On December 6 and 7 we will have the Arizona Free Flight Championships in Eloy, AZ. This is the last America's Cup and National Cup contest West of the Missisippi for the year 2008. There are AMA, NFFS, and SAM events plus the separate FAI contest. The two fliers with information about these Arizona Championships can be downloaded from the Master Contest Calendar at the NFFS web site . It should be cool in the mornings but will warm up to about 70° during the day.
We hope to see you in Eloy in less than 5 weeks,

George X as viewed by his friends in the OCD youth program

George Xenakis  (1929-2008)

George at the Kids Contest Scoreboard, January 20, 2007.  Nicolas is holding an E-Z Penny designed by George for the OCD Youth Program.
The model airplane program that you have been enjoying was started at Miller Middle School and at the Moreland West San Jose Community Center by Mr. George Xenakis. Mr. Xenakis passed away on November 1st. We often consulted him about ideas for improving the program, and he always had creative suggestions. We will continue the program as best we can without his guidance.
Many of you who flew your planes in our local competitions will remember "Mr. X" helping you with advice on airplane adjustments, winding rubber motors, celebrating your successful flights, and handing out trophies and prizes. He was the person who started the contest series way back in the 1970's, and Mrs. Xenakis is the patient person who tabulated scores at the contests while you all gathered around her to see who had the best scores.
Mr. Xenakis had a long career in aeronautical and space science working for the military, NASA and Lockheed. His contributions to model aircraft are many. He made the first recording thermal detector, pioneered in-flight adjustable surfaces, wrote many technical papers that are often referenced in technical articles, flew for the US on several World Championship teams, and also represented the national Academy of Model Aeronautics for free flight at the international model aeronautics governing body. He designed many of the beginner-friendly airplanes that we use in our program.
If you would like to send condolences to Mrs. Xenakis and the Xenakis family, you can send them to Mrs. George Xenakis 1468 Bergerac Drive, San Jose, CA 95118.
Lou Young

Roger Morrell

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