1953 Joe Foster, 24, USA

For the first time in Free Flight history the 1953 Wakefield event would be part of a "World Championships", and the winners of the Wakefield, and the FAI Power event, would be forever known as "World Champions". The operations for running the World Championships was now in the control of the FAI/CIAM, and all decisions would be made by this body, in the context of the rules of each event. The SMAE no longer had any authority in the Wakefield International Cup event. On hand to record the history of the contest were the combined staffs of the Aeromodeller and Flying Models, who would publish a news letter called the "Cranfield Chronicle." New this year would be trophies for the Wakefield, and FAI Power Teams. The combined USATeams arrived a week early at Cranfield Aerodrome, England, the site of the contests. On the USA Wakefield Team were: George Reich, who was on the 1939 Moffett Team, and who is Dick Korda's brother-in-law. Cliff Montplaisir was back again after having been on the 1952 team. Cliff placed 10th last year. Here again after being on the 1951 Team was Joe Foster. Finally there was Carl Hermes, and Bill Fletcher the USA Team Manager. The FAI Power Team included: Stanley Hill, Carl Wheeley, Joe Elgin, and Dave Kneeland. So this set the stage for the first combined meeting that continues on to this day. There were skeptics, and they believed then that what was being contested for was not the true Wakefield Event, I am referring to the two articles, written by Bob Wells, and Martyn Pressnell, for AeroModeller, in 1978, and in 1986.

Monday, August 3,1953, began with the USA Wakefield Team thrilled with the knowledge that their Teammate Bob Kneeland had won the FAI Power Event, and was now the World Champion. Not only that, Team USA had won the FAI Power Team Trophy also! The weather yesterday for the power contest had been exceptional, but today, Wakefield Day was outstanding. As you may know, the weather at Cranfield in 1949 was miserable. Now on the field and ready to fly were contestants from 17 nations including: Arne Blomgren, of Sweden, the 1952 Wakefield Champion; J Nilborn who placed second last year, A Hakansson, and C Moberg, for Team Sweden. Team Great Britain included: Robert Copland, on the Team since 1936, Ted Evans second in 1950, John O'Donnell, on the Team last year, and his brother Hugh O'Donnell new to the Team, this year. Back again for Team Italy were L Kannenworff, 6th. last year, G Fea, G Nocetti, and E Sadorin. Team Canada came with: D MacKenzie, A Ford, H Higgs, and L Kleiman. A women led the Belgium Team: Madam L Ferber, not new to Wakefield, G Lippens, E Balasse, and M Ferber. From The Argentine, came a Team including: Eliseo Scotto, E Colombo, F Mursep, and A Sandham. There were Teams from: France, Germany (DDR), Holland, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, and Yugoslavia.

ROUND 1: Norcetti of Team Italy was the first contestant off, with a clean ROG launch, climbing into good air, for a max of 300 seconds! By the end of the first round, there were in fact 27 maximums! Joe Foster was on the Leader board with a 300! So were George Reich, Hugh O'Donnell, and Elisio Scotto.

ROUND 2: The weather was definitely holding, the lift was exceptional, with the infill breezes acting as strong indicators that a thermal had passed, and when to launch. Otherwise it was perfectly calm. The Leader board was quickly being filled to record the incoming maxes. Joe Foster had two, so did Hugh O'Donnell, Elisio Scotto, Mrs. I Samaan, A Hakansson, and C Moberg, they were all tied for first place! George Reich scored a 299, can you believe it! Whose contest was it?

ROUND 3: Elisio Scotto of Team Argentine was the first to enter the Leader board with a perfect 900 seconds! Team Argentine exploded as Elisio's name went up. Although the cheering had hardly begun before Hugh O'Donnell's name was placed just below Scotto's. Wait! They were placing yet another name under Hugh's this time! Joe Foster USA! A three way tie. It could have been a four way tie, had George Reich not dropped his second round. The round ended with twenty two 300 second maximums. Now the Contest was about to begin , anew. The officials confiscated the three leading Wakefields for reprocessing for the fourth round fly-off. Something peculiar had happened today, for the first time in Wakefield History there was a three way tie. Joe Foster, Hugh O'Donnell, and Elisio Scotto were officially declared joint World Wakefield Champions by the FAI/CIAM! According to the World Championships Digest "...a triple tie is officially recorded as the correct result, with the Argentine, Great Britain, and the United States of America, in equal position.." This was also recorded in the Cranfield Chronicle, the Model Airplane News of November 1953. Model Aircraft September 1953 included an article in "Here and There" titled WAKEFIELD FLY-OFF where the "Official FAI/CIAM Jury gave their explanation. This Jury included A F Houlberg (GB), M A Roussel (Belgium), and M Guillemard (France) who declared that "... the Wakefield Cup Contest is a three-flight competition, and at the end of the third round J. Foster of USA, E Scotto of Argentina and H O'Donnell of Great Britain had each made three maximum flights, and were thus Joint Winners." ( ! ) By 1995, there is still some denial going on. The NFFS Symposium has shown J Foster as the only 1953 Wakefield World Champion. I am not the "Official" word on this situation, but I do believe that the Wakefield International Cup Records must stand as recorded on August 3, 1953: Three Wakefield World Champions ! What is the problem? Why the denial?

ROUND 4: The fly-off round was for the possession of the Wakefield Cup only. The round began at 7:30pm, the rules required that all three contestants had to be in the air within 3 minutes of the first flight, and it was announced by the officials. Fourteen year old Hugh O'Donnell began winding first, and all that could be heard through the murmur of the crowd numbering five hundred, was the whirring clatter of Hugh's winder gears. A strand let go...then another... John stepped up and tied them off, Hugh began to wind again. Meanwhile Scotto had wound-up, he quickly inserted the nose plug, checked his Wakefield, set it down on the runway, grasped the wing tip, then slid his hand to the tip of the propeller, and let go! Scotto was first away. Joe Foster began winding his two rubber motors, each were 1/4 inch, 16 strands of Pirelli, and he patiently piled 600 turns into each of them, 1200 turns total, on 6 ounces of rubber. 

Fly for the Cup!  Joe Foster launchingFly for the Cup! Joe Foster launchingJoe's airframe only weighed 3.25 ounces. Joe's Wakefield shot straight up on the ROG launch, a heart beat ahead of Hugh O'Donnell, who now was also away. They climbed together, Foster's "clac's, clacking", past Hugh. Foster's Wakefield continued to climb for two minutes. leveling off at 400 feet, but not higher than O'Donnell; Scotto, was coming down. The contest would be between Hugh and Joe. Now their aeromodels continued on together, drifting in the same direction, Joe now higher, circling down. Bill Fletcher and Cliff Montplaisir were after Joe's Wakefield, Cliff shagging on foot. Hugh's Wakefield was gliding down above the cornfield at the far side of the aerodrome, Joe's Wakefield, still high, was beyond the same cornfield, with Cliff right below it. Hugh's Wakefield settled softly onto the tops of the corn, at 380 seconds. Cliff almost caught Joe's Wakefield as it landed at his feet 445 seconds, it was over, the Cup goes home with Joseph W Foster. No it didn't, Joe told me he never saw the Wakefield Cup again in 1953 or 1954. The AMA Officials took the Wakefield Cup back with them to AMA Headquarters, where they forgot to have Joe Foster's name engraved onto the Cup. This "oversight" was finally corrected by Bob White in 1987, who paid to have both of their names engraved onto the Wakefield Cup. How about O'Donnell, and Scotto? Are their names engraved on to the Cup? No. Should they be...? One last important note: there were two females entered in this contest, Mme L Ferber of Belgium, who placed fifth and Frau I Samaan, who placed eighth!

Place Name Country Round l Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Total
1 J Foster USA 300 300 300 445 1945
1 H O'Donnell GBR 300 300 300 380 1880
1 E Scotto ARG 300 300 300 164 1664
4 G Reich USA 300 299 300 899
5 Mme L Ferber BEL 300 295 300 895
6 J Nilborn SWE 293 300 300 893
7 A Blomgren (WC 1952) SWE 300 280 300 880
8 Frau I Samaan D 300 300 264 864
9 L Kannenworf ITA 300 273 300 873
10 E W Evans GB 272 300 300 872
Access full results
ch19drdHugh O'Donnell
Joe FosterJoe Foster's Wakefield


1953 International Competition Handbook, Gerold Ritz
M.A.N. Nov 1953, America wins Wakefield and FAI, Bill Dean
M.A.N. Jan 1954, Wakefield Winner, Joe Foster
Aeromodeller World Digest, August 1953
Model Aircraft, Here and There, Wakefield Flyoff
Aeromodeller Annual 1953
Aeromodeller, Oct 1953, All Three World Championships

Music: "Doggie in the Window"; Literature: "The Crucible", Cine: "From Here to Eternity"

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