This article was originally published in Fly RC’s February 2016 issue.
by Sean Curry
Brian O’Meara has a passion that is helping to keep this great hobby of ours alive and well. Not a new face in the hobby, you will find him and his models gracing model magazines dating back to before many of our readers were even born! In all of those pictures and memories, there is a recurring theme in all of his subjects, WARBIRDS! 12 years ago, Brian released his opus on the Warbird community, WARBIRDS OVER THE ROCKIES. He, along with his lovely wife Bonnie, started from the ground up, taking all of the many decades of both awesome model event experience ones as well as a few terrible ones to put together a Warbird modeler’s paradise. Great flying site, central location (at least for Western US pilots), good food, excellent banquet…….throw in some serious pyrotechnics and a full scale airshow, shake well and voila! Right, if only it were that easy. Having some involvement in putt ing together a show of this size, I can tell you it is the passion that makes it all happen. The passion is also benefitting another group beyond the model Warbird community; mental health patients. The O’Meara’s donate all proceeds from the event to the organization Mental Health America/Colorado which averages a significant $25,000 each year.
The only criteria for participating in the event are that your model must be a warbird; any size, any era. I will let the pictures and their captions do the talking regarding this year’s entrants. There were plenty of interesting subjects and lots of great flying all weekend long. WARBIRDS OVER THE ROCKIES is setup as a fun ? y type of event. There are no judges to worry about with the exception of a beauty contest set of awards given out for “Best of” at the Saturday night banquet, more about this later. Just fly whenever you want and enjoy the modeling camaraderie for the rest of the day. Participants come from all over the place to attend, including from as far as Australia and Western Europe. Set in Arvada, CO on a huge piece of state land, the airfield has the benfit of the beautiful Colorado Rockies as a picturesque backdrop. Located just Northwest of the metropolis of Denver, visitors get the best of both worlds. The weather this year was superb with sunny skies and temps in the mid-80’s. A bit warm for September in Colorado, but no one was complaining aft er the surprise snow we got at last year’s event! All four days were perfect flying conditions with the only challenge being a bit of a crosswind on Sunday. It always separates the men from the boys, but even so, there was plenty of action all day long. Each of the four days, all in attendance were treated to a really cool halftime show.
A full blown pyrotechnics crew was brought in to load the field up with explosives each morning. During the halftime model flying demonstrations, radios were used to coordinate between the pilots and the pyro crew for strafing and bombing runs. Huge fireballs and loud explosions really made for an exciting show! Aft er the model show, an FAA waiver was in place to have a full scale airshow. A full range of full scale warbirds were flown, including biplane primary trainers to Korean War era fiighter jets. It was really cool and the planes’ flybys were up close and personal, much closer than you normally get to see at full scale airshows.
I have to mention my traveling companions for this trip because their presence definitely had an impact on me and any other scale modelers in training who took advantage of the opportunity to chat with them. Making the trek with me from Florida to Colorado were fellow modelers Richard Uravitch and David Platt . Two scale modelers who are, in my eyes, legends in the Scale Modeling Community. They have both been doing this since before models had retractable landing gear and back when turbine jet models were just a dream. If you see guys like these two or Frank Tiano or Brian O’Meara, etc. be sure to make some time to see what they are up to, check out their model setups and even their field equipment. They are all approachable and happy to share their knowledge. Of course, if they are in the middle of programming their radio for the last competition round at Top Gun, you may want to give them some space, but at a relaxed event like this they are usually just as prepared as you are to talk about model airplane stuff till they are blue in the face. I would be surprised if you don’t walk away with a tip or trick to add to your knowledge base and I know, at least for me, I can use all of the help I can get! Rich was out there for the same reason as me, to cover the event for a magazine. David Platt , on the other hand, was personally invited by Brian O’Meara to come out as an ambassador for our genre. A Scale Guru “member at large” as it were, he made himself available all weekend to anyone who had a scale question about his history as a designer/builder and even lent an ear to general model airplane questions. He also jumped on the PA system on occasion to accompany Sam Wright with his announcing duties, flexing his trivia muscles enough to stump even the experts in the crowd. While in Colorado, the three of us were afforded the chance to visit Brian’s shop during our downtime and what a treat that was, like a mini museum on its own. Brian had models dating back to dope and silkspan stuff from the sixties all the way to modern turbine powered heavy metal scattered about his numerous workbenches. Of course, I even picked up a few ideas while we were there to incorporate into the shop in Florida.
Saturday night we made our way to the “Wings Over The Rockies Air Museum” located at what was once the Lowry Air Force Base in downtown Denver. The museum houses a surprisingly diverse group of Military and Civilian aircraft including a massive B-52 Stratofortress at the front door and a B-1A Lancer tucked in one corner of the hangar. The museum was closed for the private event and several cockpits were opened up for photo opportunities. The atmosphere was very relaxed with an open bar which was followed by a lovely buffet style dinner. Aft er the dinner, the special awards ceremony was held. The trophies (see sidebar for list) presented were totally awesome. Tighe O’Meara handmade each one which included 1/72, 1/48 and 1/18 Scale warbirds mounted to their tops! The last, but not least, purpose of the event was to host the auction. Two things worthy of note about this auction; the prizes were donated by the generous sponsors (see sidebar for list) and the proceeds were donated by the generous hosts to Mental Health America/Colorado. There were some awesome deals to be had as well as a handful of bidders coaxed by Brian into going above and beyond to help support his charity. Again, Brian’s passion showed as he spoke about his cause. His comment that remained with me was that he chose Mental Health as his cause because it does not have the necessary visibility for whatever reason; whether it is because people are in denial or just don’t want to talk about it.
I was impressed last year, which was my first time ever attending the event, but this year WARBIRDS OVER THE ROCKIES has solidified its position with me as a premier Warbird event. Between the great site, full size airshow and pyro show, you can’t get a much more fun time crammed into a single space. Combine that with great friends and the beautiful scenery and you can see why the event is growing each year. A few of us Florida Warbird guys are already planning how to get our planes out there for next year, so come out and join us!