What is control line "Combat"?

Mike Alimov gets a cut on Gil Reedy, Brodak's 2005

Combat is the simulation of what was called dog fighting. This term described the action between military aircraft that started with the First World War. Control line combat is a better way to describe the competitive events that happen now. This form of competition happens when two pilots occupy the same circle with each of them controlling a model airplane that is attached to a pair of lines. The lines are attached to both the model and a control handle, which is held by the pilot of that model. During a competitive bout both pilots are required to stay with in small pilots circle. This circle can be as small as 6 feet in diameter to one that can be nearly 13 feet in diameter. The model airplanes themselves are flown on lines that range in length from 35 feet to as long as 60 feet. The lines used in sanctioned competition are made of steel. They vary in diameter and length depending on the size of the model and the event it is flown in.

Audrey Nadein gets a cut on Al Ferraro at the 2005 New Jersey Air Wars

The object of the bout is to score points by cutting an opponent’s streamer with the propeller of the other pilot's engine. Both models in a bout or as most people call it a match, have a streamer attached to them. The streamer may be made of various materials. The material ranges from crepe paper to thin plastic.  The streamers are of uniform length and width and are secured to the model using string that ranges in strength from a pound or so to over 20 pounds to break.

Brad Smith and Mike Alimov get ready to do combat, Brodak's 2005

This event can be full of excitement. The most skillful pilots are very impressive to watch during a match. Each pilot attempts to do what is needed to win the match. This often is a demonstration of going on the attack and chasing after the other pilot’s streamer in an attempt to cut it as often as possible. The pilot flying defensively is doing all he can to elude the pilot that is on the attack.  The pilot flying defense is also trying to surprise the opponent in such a way as to forced him into reversing positions so that he can attempt to get points for cutting the streamer. These changes can happen quickly and take place often during a match.

New planes, new flyer, Kent Weaver gets his two new planes ready for some action

Points are also awarded for the time a pilot’s model is airborne during a match. A pilot can win a match on points awarded for this airtime. There is another tactic that good pilots often employ. That tactic is to reverse direction close to the ground. When it is well executed, the opponent that is on the attack will sometimes crash into the ground. Once the model is grounded, the pilot stops getting airtime points. If he fails to get back into the air, his opponent that is still flying will usually win with the airtime points he is earning.

MACA President Roy Glenn and Mike Alimov prep Mike's plane at Brodak's 2005

If this sounds like a real adrenaline rush, you have only heard a small part of the story. This is one form of competition that will keep most folks entertained for hours. There are combat events where the models go at high speed. This speed can exceed 120 real miles per hour for one of the classes of combat. At these high speeds, all kinds of things can and often do happen. You may have wondered earlier how the pilots keep from getting their wires tangled? The truth is that they often do get them tangled. In fact some of the more skilled pilots will fly consecutive loops in an effort to shake the opponent. This can be effective some of the time, but there are times when the opponent will continue to attack through a series of these loops. As long as both models stay within about one quarter of the circle, both pilots can maintain control. Two highly skilled pilots sometimes fly in and out of these line tangles with such ease that the novice spectator is not conscious of what has happened.

Just like high speed motor sports there are accidents. The faster the models go, the greater the chances of a collision. A midair collision is nothing less than spectacular. When two aggressive pilots flying these loud and highly maneuverable models collide, the scene changes from fast and noisy to serene silence with small pieces of the models slowing floating to mother earth. You can bet this adds much to the excitement of this form of competition. Naturally, for the spectators this adds even more appeal to watching these events. That is the plus side, but for the competitors it means that they need a fleet of models to compete in major events.

Unlike the beautiful models that are used for precision aerobatics, a combat model is simple, light and functional. Most combat models do not look much like a real airplane. Like any type of competitive equipment, they have evolved into efficient machines.

If you just stumbled on to this site, or you are a modeler with years of experience that has never seen this type of competition, you should consider attending a contest. Most of them are free to the public, so the only cost for a spectator is what is needed to travel. There are many contests that happen during the warmer times of the year. They are held all over the USA and the world. The Academy of Model Aeronautics (www.modelaircraft.org) sanctions these events in the USA. There are some that do a single event and others that can include a large number of events. Normally those that include multiple events encompass more than one day, while the single event contest is often done in one day. If you find time to attend a contest, you will be rewarded with entertainment that will be hard to forget. Please come and join in with the fun and do ask question of the people that are involved with the contest.

There's something for everybody to enjoy in Combat, if you'd like to pursue this exciting hobby/sport a subscription to Control Line World would be a great first step. You'll be introduced to Combat and all the other disciplines of Control Line Model Aviation, and at the same time receive a wealth of information about building, engines, testing, trimming, flying, and much more. You can also follow the links below, one of which will take you to the Academy of Model Aeronautics webpage, the internationally recognized organization of model enthusiasts in the United States, and the other to MACA, the SIG (Special Interest Group) for Control Line Combat webpage.

AMA, the Academy of Model Aeronautics

 MACA, the SIG (Special Interest Group) for Combat