But lately I'd been hearing intriguing stories from Dave about the group he flies with at Baylands. They weren't doing the endless hovering-and-rolling-circles that's all the rage in electric R/C circles. (Not to disparage 3-D flying; anyone who can coordinate a rolling circle gets my respect as a pilot. I just lost interest in spending much time at that sort of flying myself.
No, what they've been doing lately is combat flying ... dogfighting. The kind of flying I always thought looked most fun, only Dave and I could never get anyone else interested. You mean, there's a whole group of people dogfighting and I'm missing it?
When I came out to visit, a couple of my old dusty planes in tow, Dave let me use one of his old Boomers (a bit easier for a rusty pilot to fly than the full-on Wild Wing) for the combat. We only had 4-5 planes in the air, but I was hooked right away. Dogfighting is way more fun with five planes than it is with only two. It's still surprisingly difficult to hit each other, even when that's what everyone's trying to do. But even when you don't make contact, it's exciting and beautiful.
When you get a lot of planes in the air, twisting and turning and looping and trying to stay in a little compact region because that makes it more likely they'll hit, Dave put his finger on what it's most like. You know those David Attenborough nature shows where a huge school of sardines or anchovies has gathered, and dolphins herd them into a tight compact ball of shining shimmering silvery streaks, and then the seabirds come and dive from the air while the dolphins are darting in and out from below? Attenborough calls it a bait ball, and that's what Dave calls our combats.
We're gradually pulling in fresh mea--er--new recruits to add to the fun. A week ago last Saturday we all trooped up to Dublin to meet with some east bay combat flyers. We had as many as ten planes all fighting at once. Pete has a video online of the Dublin Melee ... video from a digital camera really doesn't get the feeling across, but it's a start, and gives some idea of the challenge of keeping track of which plane is yours.
Try imagining David Attenborough narrating about the bait ball while you watch the video. Helps a little, doesn't it? Or if you're going for the feel of combat, ditch the narration and play something like the "Asteroid Field" theme from the first Star Wars.
[ 22:20 Sep 30, 2008 More misc | permalink to this entry | ]