U.S. Scale Masters Championships set at airfield

It has been decades since Freeman Municipal Airport has seen the likes of a World War II-era P-51 Mustang land on one of its runways.

And it’s highly unlikely a F-14 Tomcat ever flew anywhere near the field over its more than three decades of service to the U.S. Navy.

Both airplanes — in smaller form — are expected to make appearances at Seymour’s airport this weekend during the 38th annual U.S. Scale Masters Championships.

The event is being organized by the Southern Indiana Flying Eagles Academy of Model Aeronautics Club 2868. The club is based at Freeman Field, which was established as Freeman Army Airfield in 1941.

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“It’s about equal to the Olympics or the World Series of the (remote-controlled) plane world,” said Bob Bast of Seymour. He is a member of the club.

About 60 fliers from across the United States including Bob Sneberger of Seymour and some from as far as California will compete during the four-day event, which begins today on the club’s airfield on the west side of the airport. The public is invited to attend. Parking and admission is $5.

The Freeman Army Airfield Museum also will be open for free tours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday.

“We’ve made significant improvements to the field this summer,” said Steve Ort, also of Seymour.

“We’ve paved the runway, painted several places, added new trash bins and made some general improvements to make it better for everybody,” said Ort, who is president of the club.

To qualify for the U.S. Scale Masters Championships, fliers must compete in two categories — static judging and flying — at some of more than 22 qualifying events across the country to collect enough points to meet the requirements.

During the static judging, which occurs today, the model planes are presented to judges on the ground with documentation to compare them to the full-size aircraft they mimic.

“Everything has to be to scale. Everything has to match the documents perfectly, down to paint, rivets, doors, everything,” Bast said.

Ort said the model planes are the product of as much as two years of building and painting.

The planes range in size, but some can have 10-foot wingspans, actual working turbine jet engines and even working liquid crystal display panels, Ort said.

“These aren’t your run-of-the-mill models. These are the elite of the elite,” Ort said.

The flying portions of the event will be conducted in two sessions each Friday and Saturday and finish up Sunday.

Fliers try to fly the planes as closely to the real planes through a series of maneuvers and are judged on their accuracy, Bast said.

“If you have (a pilot with) a cargo plane, you’re not going to see them doing barrel rolls and loops,” Bast said.

He said some of the planes have additional features that can be showcased, such as the ability to drop replica bombs from bomb bays, dropping parachutists or trailing smoke.

Models and pilots are judged on a variety of things, including best markings, best documentation, best multi-engine, best World War I plane, best World War II plane, best biplane, most realistic flight team and best high-flight team.

“We’re just so excited to have the Academy of Model Aeronautics here,” Ort said.

The club is a part of the AMA and one of the four potential permanent homes for the U.S. Scale Masters Championships.

The event will rotate between those locations, meaning if selected, the club could host the national level event again in 2020.

“We’re just proud, happy and really excited,” Ort said.

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What: 38th annual U.S. Scale Masters Championships

When: 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday

Where: The Southern Indiana Flying Eagles Club’s flying field in the 1200 block of North A Avenue off the Airport Road entrance to Freeman Field in Seymour

Cost: $5 for entrance and parking

Information: Steve Ort, 812-498-8353

Also the Freeman Army Airfield Museum will be open for free tours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday.