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1979 FAI F3A Aerobatic World Championship



Many thanks to the South African Len Salter for this terrific report, many thanks also to Phil Stevens and Gerard Werion for the unique photos.

Baragwanath Airfield, south Johannesburg, South Africa
24-27 September. Report written by Len Salter.

South Africa was granted the privilege by the FAI/CIAM to stage this prestigious event at the Baragwanath airfield, from the 24th to 29th September 1979.

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This was the 11th world championship in the RC Aerobatic class. The many people who played a part in the organising and staging of this event can feel justly proud of their achievement in ensuring the universal approval of their efforts.

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Belgian National Team, G Wérion , François Lenaerts, Fernand Degotte, Alexandre Degotte , Yvon Wérion (TM)

An American visitor, who has attended the past eight world championships, said that this was the finest he had even been to.

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There was universal praise from all quarters, and no uncomplimentary remarks whatsoever regarding the running of this event, so those involved can justifiably acknowledge the accolades.

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US National team Dave Brown, Dean Koger, Mark Radcliff, Team Manager Don Lowe

The South African Aero Club was most cooperative, with Brig Gen James Gilliland, the AeCSA chairman, officiating at the trophy-awarding ceremony.

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Canadian`s Ivan Kristensen with his Saturn

Although competitive flying did not commence until We4dnesday 26th September, the on-the-spot preparations started on Sunday 23rd at the Milpark Holiday Inn, where the majority of the participants, helpers, supporters, and officials were accommodated.

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This centralisation, facilitated the administration aspects, and eliminated most of the problems associated with transportation to and from the flying site, a 15-km drive by highway. In the morning, a contingent of visitors was escorted to watch tribal dancing in the arena at the Durban Deep Mine, and much film and photos were taken.

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Credit is due to Gerry Levy, who’s energetic enthusiasm ensured that all overseas contingents were met at the Jan Smuts airport, and escorted to the hotel. The individuals responsible for this acted as liaison officers for the duration of the championship, and they were gratefully impressed.

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Gerry had allocated himself to the USA team, and they acknowledged his efforts on his birthday by presenting him with gifts and singing “Happy Birthday to you”.

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Clive and Henriette Alexander, ably assisted by Harry Rink, had accepted the onerous duties of transmitter control for the two flight lines that were operating simultaneously for five days.

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US Pilot Dean Koger with his EU-1

This entailed being at the field by 06:45 every morning, for all of the days.

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Roland Matt with Arrow

These two flight lines were located one kilometre apart, being at each end of the full-size glider runway, which was surprisingly narrow. A circular tarmac area had been prepared at each end to accommodate the specified 30-metre diameter landing area.

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Wolfgang Matt`s Arrow

Duplicated peg boards and frequency cards were prepared for both flight lines, and walkie-talkie communication, both boards were synchronised at all times.

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Wolfgang Matt, Liechtenstein

There were 49 pilots utilizing 27 frequencies, with some pilots having two transmitters, so control had to be fool proof – and it was!

The afternoon of Sunday 23 September saw the distribution of handsome satchels, containing a lot of relevant information for the contestants, together with lunch vouchers, the official championship badge, SAARF stickers, etc. Mrs Immelmann adequately catered for this department.

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UK Pilot Phil Stevens with his Lightning

Simultaneously, thee processing of transmitters took place, and every stated frequency was checked for compliance – there could be no errors here.

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Until this checking had been completed, the control system could not be finalised. It was a late-night finish before all the relevant information was correctly coordinated into the system.

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Team Liechtenstein

Much of the efficient preliminary organisation for the event can be attributed to Jack Immelmann, and to never-failing Dave Jenkins, a South African team manager at two previous world championships. Also deserving praise are Charles and Lettie Marincowitz, and Don Mackenzie for months and months of planning and work prior to the championships.

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At the airfield o Monday morning the processing of model aircraft commenced. They were weighed on an electronic scale to ensure a weight under 5kg.

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This took place in one of the three huge marquees, and no models were found to be overweight. The models passed from there to a cordoned-off stand in the field, where noise emissions were tested, at full throttle and rpm’s, the maximum permissible sound level being 84 Db on the A scale.

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12 year old Quique Somenzini with his Curare


A few were rejected, but all the models eventually passed after some attention. When all the processing was completed, practice flying was permitted on the official flying site. Teams had opportunity to do practice flying at many flying sites in and around Johannesburg and other towns on the Witwatersrand, and as far distant as Vereeniging.

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In service throughout the contest at the field, were two Hewlett Packard spectrum analysers. Each flight line had its own monitor, and both were capable of monitoring from 0 to v110MHz.

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German Pilot`s Guenter Hoppe`s Sultan 6

Every frequency in use was monitored prior to engine starting, then constantly throughout the flight.

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Dean Koger`s EU-1

There was no interference on any of the frequencies used, at any time, and only one transmitter was on 27MHz. Credit is due to the two flight line controllers, Digby Cranke and Mike Ward, who ensured that events flowed smoothly, without mishaps.

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The judge

They were in radio communication with the monitoring section and transmitter control. Also in service at the field was a Hewlett Packard computer, which rapidly gave print-outs of scores and positions.

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Our thanks are due to the computer operator Antoinette Jones. Ex SAARF chairman Charles Thompson ably executed his duties as contest manager, and flying site director George Casson controlled the proceedings in his usual competent manner.

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On Monday evening the official welcome for participants was staged at the President Hotel pool deck. An excellent braaivleis, accompanied by an abundance of good wine, ensured a memorable occasion. However, nobody ended up in the pool!

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Tuesday was devoted to team practice at the Baragwanath airfield, with each team being allocated 40 minutes flying time. In the early afternoon the gathering was entertained by Nick Turvey practicing aerobatics in his full-size Pitts Special over the airfield.

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At 16:00 an impressive ceremony marked the official opening of the championship. Each competing nation’s flag was unfurled in alphabetical order, to accompaniment of the country’s national anthem.

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On stage were Charles Marincowitz, Brig Gen Gilliland, Bertrand Larcher (director general of FAI), and Charles Thompson. Don Mackenzie read out a letter received from Hanno Prettner…

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Hanno had broken his wrist in a full down his stairs of his home in Klagenfurt, and he expressed his regret in the letter at not being present. He mentioned that he had finished his new Magic in South African colours as a tribute to the organising country (orange, white, and blue). His accident was disappointing news.

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Dave Brown with Tipoare

The biggest surprise4 at Baragwanath was the appearance of twelve-year old QuiQue Somenzini of the Argentine team. He was their champion in 1978. In practice he proved to be a very capable flier. He had a radio problem at the early contest stage, but was by no means the lowest scorer overall. He was accompanied by his father, who was also a member of the Argentine team.

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The unluckiest competitor was Jim Clarke from Ireland. He damaged both of his models during practice, owing to radio problems, and had to withdraw from the4 first round.

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British Nationalteam: Ken Bink`s Pacemaker, Martin Mc Intosh`s Dragon and Phil Steven`s Lightning

In accordance with the FAI Sporting Code, two flights each of schedules A and B were flown, with the better score of each contributing to the team totals. One round of each schedule was flown at both flight lines to give equal exposure to site and judge panels.

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Martin Mc Intosh`s starts his Dragon

Four rounds/flights were flown over the first three days, of one and one-third rounds per day, terminating at 14:30 each day due to the sun position in the west (the runway was oriented south-north, with flying on the western side. This planning allowed for a “rain day” if there were any delays due to bad weather.

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Southafrican Pilot John Brink with his Phoenix 8

Ten judges (one from the host country) officiated, with two panels of five judges each at each of the two sites. All scores counted, and they were averaged for scoring purposes.

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On Saturday morning, the six highest-scoring pilots flew two rounds of the C schedule, with the better flight score added to the previous total to determine the world champion. Only one flight line operated for the C schedule finals flights with all ten judges in attendance. Judges for this championship were:

Walter Burger SUI. Joe Dible IRE. Max Eichmann LIE. Geoff Franklin GBR. Heinz Freundt AUT. Camille Gerard LUX. Werner Groth GER. John Michell-Adams RSA. J Reggiori FRA. Bob Upton USA

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The championship commenced at 07:45 on Wednesday 26th September, after a short delay due to a light rain shower. There were no other delays during the contest.

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At the completion of the first A schedule flights, the top placings were: Italy, West Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Liechtenstein, and South Africa. One-third of the competitors then commenced the B schedule. The day’s activities were concluded by a few demonstration flights, the highlight of which was a skilful exhibition of helicopter flying by Pol Behm of Luxembourg, with a Schluter 222.

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Steve Thomson`s plane after accident

A strong cool wind blew throughout the second day, testing the pilots’ skills at drift compensation, but at least the sun shone all day. With the remainder of the first B schedule flights completed, the team of the USA excelled themselves in this round to compensate for a disappointing A schedule, and were now in first place as a team.

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The unfortunated British Team

Dave Brown the current USA champion, clocked up a score of 216 points (out of maximum possible 290) being the highest score of the contest at that point. Wolfgang Matty of Liechtenstein gained the second-highest score of 202, followed by Mark Radcliff (USA) with 200 points.

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The Italian team, who led at the end of the first round, had now dropped to fourth place. Switzerland occupied second, with team Liechtenstein in third. West Germany was fifth with the United Kingdom in sixth.

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The 12 year old Quique Somenzini

The South African team encountered misfortune in this round, when the head of a bolt securing the header of the tuned pipe to the engine of John Brink’s Phoenix 8 sheared just after take-off. This resulted in a loss of pressure to the fuel system and the engine stopped, but John landed safely on the runway with only seven points to add to the team total.

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When the second round of the A schedule commenced later in the day, John Brink compensated for his previous misfortune with a score of 197. Charlie Marincowitz contributed a handsome 191 to the team score, and Ivan Olivier 170.

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Once again Dave Brown and Wolfgang Matt lived up to their reputations with scores of 214 each.

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At the completion of the third round, Team USA had retained the lead, with Italy moving into second place, and Switzerland in third. The pilot placings at this stage were: 1. Dave Brown 2. Wolfgang Matt 3. Ivan Kristensen 4. Guenther Hoppe 5. Mark Radcliff 6. Bruno Giezendanner.

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Team-wise there were some notable absentees, mostly due to political pressure by governments who prevented the teams from participating: Japan, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Norway, Denmark, Spain.

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Weatherwise the third day (Friday) was the best so far, and a light wind presented no problems. With the fourth and final team round completed, as expected, the USA emerged winners.

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In this round, Dave Brown clo9cked up the highest score to date of 227 points. The USA team’s winning score of 1244 points (six flights counting) included a contribution of 442 by Dave Brown, 410 by Mark Radcliff, and 391 by Dean Koger.

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Fifty points behind the USA in second was the Italian team, who had displayed consistently good flying.

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The future new world champion Wolfgang Matt

The closeness of their scores was amazing, with Bertolani and Pasqualini both having scored 398 points, and Bertolozzi 397. West Germany, aided by a score of 420 from Guenther Hoppe, totalled 1172 points to place third.

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Bearing in mind John Brink’s misfortune, the South African team are to be congratulated for their sixth placing, out of the 17 competing nations.
There was no change in the individual placings from the order determined after the third round, so those six pilots participated in the C Schedule.

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Amiable Brian Dawson had competently completed a five-day stint as announcer on the excellent BP PA system, with the BP caravan as his headquarters.

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At 10:00 on Saturday, the long-awaited spectacle by the world’s top six pilots commenced. The sky was overcast, with a moderate wind blowing to test the skills of the competitors for the world title. Before the C schedule flights, Dave Brown was leading the field with 442 points, Wolfgang Matt was second with 438, and Ivan Kristensen third with 421.

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Fourth was Guenther Hoppe with 420, followed by Mark Radcliff with 410, and Bruno Giezendanner with 409.

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Because Bruno Giezendanner was only one point behind Mark Radcliff, the FAI jury decided to include him in the fly-off. This decision had no basis in the Sporting Code, and proved to be unpopular.

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To determine the final individual placings, the total points derived from t6he better C schedule flights (maximum of 450 points per judge) were added to the total scored in the better A and B schedule flights. This must be taken into consideration when comparing the scores of the seventh and lower-placed pilots, as the differences are in excess of 4 000 points.

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The next two hours provided the large crowd with the finest display of RC flying that they are ever likely to witness. The enthusiastic applause after each of the 12 flights indicated the spectators’ appreciation of the competitors’ expertise. Silence was maintained during each flight. Each of the judges had an assistant with flash cards, to hold up and indicate the score that each judge had given, for each manoeuvre. This added much interest, since the informed spectators were able to compare their scores to those of the judges.

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Wolfgang Matt flew superbly under pressure to win himself his second world title, with a lead of 38 points over second-placed Dave Brown. Dave’s teammate Mark Radcliff competently flew himself into third place, followed by Guenther Hoppe, Ivan Kristensen, and Bruno Giezendanner. The aircraft of the top three pilots were checked for conformity to the Sporting Code specifications.


The USA team members impressed in all respects. Apart from being the winning team, their dress and demeanour left nothing to be desired. It was always a pleasure to associate with them. Language problems prevented a close association with some of the teams, but the general standard of dress and behaviour was of a high order.


Just prior to the trophy awarding ceremony at the field, there was a cheese and wine lunch, and the tables of the4 huge marquee were adorned with an abundance of savoury edibles, and a plenitude of wine of many types. The King of the Belgians trophy and the MAP Team Trophy were presented at an impressive ceremony attended by Brig Gilliland. Apart from receiving the individual trophy, Wolfgang Matt received a laurel wreath and a bottle of champagne. This he shook up prior to releasing the cork, and the nearest bystanders received the benefit of his exuberance!

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Following this, Wolfgang gave a breath-taking display of free-style aerobatics which included a rolling circle, and a constant-altitude figure eight in knife-edge. It is worthy of note that Wolfgang’s Arrow (CAP MATT) was fitted with a Schneider Variprop.The use of reverse pitch after touch-down brough his model t6o a rapid stop. Dave Brown followed Wolfgang with an equally-impressive flight, which included a knife-edge climb and a sixteen-point roll.

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Pol Behm of Luxembourg then astounded his audience by performing loops and rolls with his Schluter 222 helicopter – the first ever witnessed in South Africa. Concluding the day’s flying was an impressive historical pageant of scale aircraft, dating from 1909 to present day.

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Ian Fraser and Colin Vennell arranged this which held the interest of all present. The most eye-catching model was a third-scale Tigre Moth.


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It was unfortunately a bit too windy for it to be flown. Weighing 17kg it is powered by a two-stroke Super Hustler engine developing three HP, the prop being a 24 x 4 Zinger.

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The last official event commenced at 19:00 in the Johannesburg Civic Centre with the Mayor’s Parlour providing an impressive setting. The many invited guests were faced with a buffet supper that left nothing to be desired.

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The food was supplemented with some excellent wine. Opening speeches were made by the Deputy Mayor and Charles Marincowitz, with Dave Jenkins as the able master of ceremonies.

All the competing teams were present, and all pilots and team managers were presented with certificates. On arrival later at the Milpark Holiday Inn, there was a party by the Irish team. Whisky flowed like water.

Text: Len Salter

Images: Phil Stevens, Gerard Werion


Place Pilot Country Plane Points
1. Wolfgang Matt LIE Arrow 438,8
2. Dave Brown USA Tiporare 442,2
3. Mark Radcliffe USA Phoenix 8 410,8
4. Gunther Hoppe GER Sultan V 420,8
5. Ivan Kristensen CAN Saturn SE 421,8
6. Bruno Giezendanner SUI Scorpion III 409,8
7. Ruggero Pasqualini ITA Galaxy 398,8
8. Benito Bertolani ITA Komet 1 398,6
9. Giuseppe Bertolozzi ITA Kosmo 3 397,2
10. Dieter Fritz AUT Curare 391,8
11. Ken Binks GBR Pacemaker 391,5
12. Dean Koger USA EU-1 391,2
13. Emil Giezendanner SUI Scorpion III 383,2
14. Norbert Matt LIE Arrow 381,4
15. Rudi Eiff GER Pegasus 3 380
16. John Brink RSA Phoenix 8 378
17. Martin McIntosh GBR Dragon 374
18. Gerald Shaw CAN Saturn 373,4
19. Charles Marincowitz RSA Dirty Birdi 372,2
20. Günther Metterhausen GER Sultan V 371,8
21. Alexandre Degotte BEL Galaxy 371,6
22. Jan van Beek NED Deception 369,8
23. Rene Schumacher SUI Arrow 366,8
24. Jean Mersch LUX Bootlegger/Phoenix 366,4
25. Ivan Olivier RSA Curare 366
26. Jan van Vliet NED Eagle 363,2
27. Christian Bossard FRA Galaxy 363,2
28. Tom Tubee NED Atlas 356,2
29. Gerard Werion BEL Mixer–S 355
30. Andre Lafitte FRA Arrow 343,8
31. Phil Stevens GBR Lightning 339,2
32. Ferdinand Schaden AUT Uranus 336,8
33. Francois Lenaerts BEL Galaxy 333,2
34. Gunther Marxer LIE Arrow 328
35. Victor Conde de Westarp BRA Alpha 324,2
36. Mario Watanabe BRA Curare 321,2
37. Paul Brennan IRE Curare 314,8
38. Lucien Gerard LUX Baracuda 312
39. Paul Behm LUX Curare / Atlas 397,8
40. Bernard Euzet FRA Mach 1 307,6
41. Daniel Falco ARG Oclaf 295
42. Trevor Hutchinson IRE Jensen Mk 4 295
43. Mario Somenzini ARG Curare 271,8
44. Salvatore Pompeii BRA Curare 261,2
45. Warren Hitchcox CAN Saturn 251,6
46. QuiQue Somenzini ARG Curare 246,8
47. Dan Doitch ISR Nesher 3 245,2

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