The Origins And Evolution Of RCBowling
or "How To Make Your Flying Buddies Think You're Insane"

The Origins

In an flying club far far away (Jersey Coast Sport Fliers - Colts Neck, NJ)...

Around the early summer of 2003, our club President, Stan Berger, Jr. had come up with a unique fun-fly called RC Baseball. It is a seemingly simple task of spot landing on a spray painted matrix of Home Run, Out, Single, Double, Triple that looked like a baseball diamond hopscotch board. It created a stir of activity and loyal followers, including me. The simple spot landing contest, with a twist, had a pace that kept our interest and was a hit with everyone (pun intended). I was hooked and inspired to come up with my own sports related event to replace my own carrier landing event that was losing interest. This drove me to find a new idea.

Fast forward to fall of 2003. I was on the roster for a fun-fly event listed only as "TBA" or "To Be Announced". This type of event could be a great surprise or colossal let-down depending on the idea. I had been a CD for a few other "TBA" fun-fly events and most of them were very successful. The pilots came to the field wondering what mayhem would be in store for them. Little did they know, this event would be different - very different - inspired!

I showed up at the flying field with my clipboard loaded with a stack of rule sheets. I placed the "bowling alley hardware" on the ground at my feet. I called out "pilot meeting!". Everybody came over with bewildered looks on their faces. I start to hear the hushed mumbling from the pilots:

  • "This ought to be interesting"
  • "I knew I should have put more garbage bags in the car"
  • "I should have brought a few more planes"
  • "Time to plant some balsa for the spring harvest"

That's when I started to worry.
I went through a lot of engineering and expense for this event. Someone has to try it!

When I explained the event, they were all facinated with the bowling concept but were afraid to be the first to try it. It was a relatively simple task, tow a ball on the end of string to knock down hinged coroplast pins in a number of passes. After explaining the whole thing I heard more comments: "He's nuts!" or "This is going to be cool!" Most of them had their mouths wide open and jaws dragging on the ground.

They all wondered who would be the brave one to try it first and potentially re-kit thier plane. One pilot finally stepped up and said, "Let's test this before we commit to it." He attached the tether to his plane and did a few fly-bys without pins to see if the ball was too much drag. He made several passes and declared that it was no big deal.

Game on!

This was the beginning of what is now one of the most anticipated annual club fun-flys!

The Evolution

RC Bowling v1.0 - WalMart Vinyl Play Ball - 2003 & 2004

When I first started the RC Bowling event, we used Wal Mart 9-inch vinyl play balls superglued to window suction cups with the hook removed. I used a 30 foot tether of 1/16" nylon contractor twine from home depot. To attach the tether to the plane, a loop of the same twine was tied around the top of the main landing gear legs and left slightly loose. The tether was clipped to this loop with a large heavy duty fishing snap swivel.

What we learned from RC Bowling v1.0:

  • Watch the airplane, don't just watch the ball!
  • Large fishing snap swivels are reliable and heavy duty for the task.
    The expense is fairly low, but they are tough to find in large quantities.
  • I started with 10 passes per pilot per frame to get somewhat decent scores.
    It now seems that 7 passes is the magic number for proper score accumulation without overdoing it.
  • The vinyl play balls have a funny aerodynamic property that causes them to oscillate at higher speeds.
    This creates problems with aim and accuracy if the ball oscillates up and over the pins causing a miss.
    See version 2.0 below for our improvement.

RC Bowling v2.0 - "Halloween Style" - 2005 to Present

In 2005, my event was scheduled in late October by the Executive Committee. After a couple of years of using the WalMart play ball as the bowling ball, and having the aerodynamic oscillation issue, I thought it would be interesting to try something new. What better way to do RC Bowling in October than by using a plastic pumpkin trick-or-treat bucket?

This initially caused fear and uncertainty with the pilots. "That's going to be a lot of drag!" was heard. Again, a pilot stepped up and tried to use the pumpkin bucket with packing tape over the hole. Same oscillation problem. I convinced him to take off the tape. Wow! No more oscillation and a nice straight flight pattern.

What we learned from RC Bowling v2.0:

  • Watch the airplane, don't just watch the ball!
  • The pumpkin buckets appear to be the best ball for the job. Aerodynamically stable and festive too.
    Just cut off the plastic handle and use a double loop of contractor's string in its place to attach the tether to.
  • Instead of flying one pilot at a time, fly 3 or 4 and have them call their pass to the scorekeeper.
    Have them call their shots like this: "Kevin shooting."
    This accomplishes two things. It is equivalent to calling "making a low pass" to the other pilots and it allows
    the scorekeeper to keep up with the action and know which bowler to credit with the next pin hit.
  • Cheap plastic "dog leash clip" style keychains work well for attaching the ball to the attachment loop.
    They have the added feature of being able to break away if someone catches the ball on a bush or tree.
    They detach and re-attach quickly allowing people to share a ball on their team.
    These are available at the key cutting counter at Home Depot.


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