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Radio-controlled models rest between rounds. (Courtesy RCCA)

Radio Clash

Do model airplanes ever fight each other?

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Don’t mess with the Wolf Pack Squadron. They will chew up your streamer and spit it out in pieces.

In the world of radio-controlled dogfighting, model airplane enthusiasts battle each other—or rather, their models battle each other—for dominance and acclaim. The keys to the competitions are 30-foot by ¾-inch streamers attached with cotton strings to opponents’ tails. A round starts with a call to “start combat.” The fight lasts five minutes. Removing any part of a streamer from another airplane earns you 100 points, and returning from the sortie with your own streamer intact gets you four points per foot of streamer. Each competitor is assigned a judge that does the scoring independently of the pilot, and the Muncie, Indiana, keeps track of points and maintains national rankings.
It’s a niche world that mirrors actual aerial combat, where technical improvements and piloting skill mean the difference between glory and ignominious defeat.
The RCCA runs several classes of competition, the most popular being “slow survivable combat,” according to Rick Fraley, the association’s event director and a legendary model dogfighter. SSC is an “open class” competition, which means pilots don’t have weight, power, and other limitations on their airplane design.
Fraley’s garage in Eaton, Ohio is another center for radio combat veterans, who come to cut foam wings for new designs that make their airplanes faster and more lethal. The Wolf Pack Squadron, made up of Fraley and four cohorts, was once, according to the RCCA website, “the scourge of the combat circuit.”
Even with that rep, the ultimate national trophy has eluded Fraley. “In the past I have finished several years in the top 10,” he says. “Unfortunately I do not have a title.”
Keep fighting, flyboy!
Got a nagging question we can help you answer? Send an email to Joe Pappalardo at pappalardoj@si.edu

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