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F3A season review by Steve Underwood

Steve has recently shared his view on the 2021 F3A season and has answered the question we all keep asking him…

..is that another new model Steve?

For those of you that are new to F3A you may want to read this article first before continuing. It briefly explains what F3A is, the schedules and how it’s judged… and also features Steve.

Enjoy the article below and many thanks to Steve for sharing.

All the best, Matt

F3A in 2021

by Steve Underwood

Winter hours are upon us now so flying time is shorter and now the Competition Season has passed it was time to reflect on the few comps I had managed to attend this year.

The first comment that was generally passed was, “another new model Steve?” Yes, another model! Then the second question was always “why?“.

The short answer is the World/European Champions release new models and they, in general, are the most proven models on the market. They have been designed by the best of the best, then many, many, top flyers use them. Therefore they are proven. So you put your faith in what you would think are the best models for that season.

However, having said that, let me explain my learnings from the various models I have had this year.

The two main trends

Canalyser’s – The latest trends in pattern models have two canalyser’s, one at the top and one at the bottom of the fuselage with the wing in the middle of the two. They also have swept back wings, and they have the wow factor. All looks good but far from the truth as we have found out.

AKUMA with two Canalyser’s. Elementary with one.

Biplanes have made a return also with pros and cons on a similar level but do generally perform well.


Akuma F3A Pattern Model
AKUMA F3A Pattern Model, Steve Underwood

The first model I made was the Akuma pattern model, made by our French friend and very well placed designer. This was to prove a problem child on what I wanted out of the model. With just 50 flights in, I decided it was not the model for me.

Reasons being with the swept wing I had to fly faster than what I wanted to with the contra power system. the Contra system is actually enables you to fly slower. Therefore the setup was clashing with the speed of the model which in turn through my flying style out.

Double canalysers made the rudder so very sensitive and trying to get a good feel for the model was near impossible.

Even removing the lower canalyser did not help.

Where do we go now?

The Skyleaf biplane

Futaba radios produce a line of f3A models for the Japanese market. These are high end well designed models that generally you can not get shipped out of the japan.

However a few emails to Nick Moss at Ripmax and I managed to have two of these models sent on special order from japan. One for myself and one for another flyer. Both to be built by me. The downside on ordering these was the 3 month wait time.

The skyleaf biplanes arrived and were assembled very quickly, due to every thing being ready on the table. Futaba servos all round, Futaba ESC, Advarun contra power system and Powerbox switch

Advarun contra power system.

After the first trimming flights I soon noticed the familiar “contra issue”. This is the the thrust line, contra power systems need left thrust always! Don’t ask me why but they do, and a small bit of down thrust for good measure.

Having now a model that was doing what I wanted to do, I continued on to practise P21 FAI schedule.

P21 FAI schedule

Having now spent three years out of completion flying it was tough getting back into it. I decided to fly with a good friend Brandon Ransley who has been a UK team member and national champion.

This was to iron out all the wrinkles and we soon racked up 65 flights in no time for the first competition. I placed 3rd overall, not to bad.

Flying at competitions really does up your game and pushes your own flying to another level. The next competition would be the British Nationals, flying the same P21 schedule.

With 117 flights now completed on the Skyleaf biplane, the model was feeling like an old friend. I was happy to compete at the Nnationals. After 2 days of flying I managed to win every round in the competition and my scores were as high as the P & F  flyers, so we are on the right track. And all that practise payed off.

The Pavana

Steve Underwood’s Pavana

After the nationals and my return home it was time to get the latest mono plane out and trim this model. This was the latest design by Gernot Bruckman, a very big mono plane called Pavana. Gernot won every competition this year with this model so my expectations were extremely high!

This model was built in slow time as a project and gave me something to do, also the model worked out lighter than the bi-plane and dwarfed it in size.

The first flight was so uneventful!!! That’s what I like to be honest. Same old issue, left thrust and down thrust required, apart from that the model was super stable and did not take long to trim .

So we put a good 60 flights on the model, and headed for a competion running along side the team trial, same judges for P21 and the P21 & F21 team trial flyers.

I done this so I could get feedback on the models presentation and my flying with the top flyers in the UK at this time. All flights done and the Pavana had done what I hoped! All 6 rounds had been won in a very convincing way with one round nearly beating the team trial flyers…

The only down side to trying these models is the cost and time to assemble fly and trim them. Then at the end you may not like the model.

I’m a great believer that some models suit different people and styles of flying, and it is only by trying different model that you can truly find the model that has your name on it

After flying over 220 flights on these models I have used the same Overlander batteries and they are still going strong!

The one we don’t talk about

I have left one model out of this topic which I will do another article on how to trim the model and basic set up which can apply to any model. We can address the BJ CRAFT advantage soon…..

BJ Craft Advantage, more on this next time

Final thoughts

So overall a great start and finish to my 2021 return to pattern flying, next year will soon be here so I best go charge some batteries…

All the best, Steve

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