Hi, this is Paul Naton, founder of Radio Carbon Art and producer of all of the soaring programs available for sale on this site. Let me tell you a little about myself and how I got into r/c soaring and the crazy business of making glider movies and instructional programs.
I've been flying R/C gliders since about 1988, and my passion for flying sailplanes has only grown more obsessive over the years. I started making and selling glider films in 1998, and I've grown my production company Radio Carbon Art into a full time business distributing my entertainment and instructional video productions all over the world.
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I've had a 'thing' about airplanes since I can remember. Most everyone in my family has had some involvement in aviation. My dad flew as crew on the famous China Clipper flying boats in the 1930's and then later on Catalina's and assorted Naval transport planes (MATS) in the South Pacific during WW 2 as a civilian air transport coordinator. My Uncle Norman, who took me for my first small plane flight in his personal Bonanza, was part of the Flying Doctors group in the 50's and 60's and flew small planes for many years in the wilds of Central and South America. My other Uncle David flew the FJ-1 Fury (naval version of F-86) for the Marines in the '60's. Grandpa Ross worked for Ryan Aviation in San Diego in the late 1920's and knew Charles Lindbergh.
My dad had a bookshelf full of vintage airplane books and out of all the volumes in my dad's collection, my favorites were those about gliders. One faded book in particular was filled with pictures of German sailplanes of the 1930's soaring at sites like the famous Wasserkuppe. This classic book 'The Beauty Of Flight' is now on my book shelf.
While I enjoy all types of aviation, gliding seemed the most magical and intriguing. My dad and I folded hundreds of paper planes and built countless Guillows 10 cent balsa gliders. These planes taught me the basics of aerodynamics and the importance of balance and tuning. Free-flight was cool, but I always imagined being able to control my little glider from the ground, giving it some bank just at the right moment to avoid that tree or catch a wind current for speed.
I then enjoyed aviation through plastic modeling and built about 50 1/72 scale aircraft kits. The latest AMA magazines were available at my elementary school library and I read those cover to cover and learning about the early r/c radio systems and dreaming of one day flying my own radio control model. My first flying model was a balsa and tissue Jetco Thermic Trooper free-flight kit. After weeks of building it in my clothes closet shop, it lasted a total of two flights before it returned to kit form.
Once I turned 12, I started to take full-scale glider lessons at the nearby Fremont, California glider school and later at the Calistoga glider port. At 12, you don't have much understanding of the air, and most of the time I was in way over my head as far as piloting, but I was progressing slowly towards solo. Unfortunately, my folks split up, and there went the lessons and glider flying for a while. At 13, I discovered sailing, and for the next 15 years I put most of my aviation activities aside, and focused on becoming a top racing skipper, turning professional at age 19.
Fast forward lots of years, to 1984 to be exact, to my college days in the Arts and Design program at the University of California, San Diego. UCSD sits on the bluffs of the pacific coast, virtually across the street from the famous Torrey Pines glider port and it's 350 foot cliffs. I was really into surfing at the time and a wave check at cliff's edge was my routine before and after the days' classes. I enjoyed watching the hang gliders and local group of old retired guys with their big balsa R/C gliders launching out into the building afternoon sea breeze. The R/C models were fascinating to watch, but I had no money or time to get my own plane going. Someday, I thought to myself, someday.
One spring day in 1988, I stopped by Torrey Pines to check out some huge storm surf pounding the coast. A front had passed through and it was blowing a stiff 25 kts. At the edge of the cliff stood a few guys flying some small gliders that were going really fast. I'd never seen anyone flying RC's in this much wind, and these guys were flying full-on aerobatics like at an air show. This type of slope flying was new to me and I spent the next 3 hours watching these guys and asking questions about the gliders. One of these guys turned out to be the legendary Charlie Richadson, then a little known Southern California sailplane designer, who was test flying his new Savaron twist-wing slope plane.
Seeing these pros fly high speed aerobatics in strong winds was a life changing experience for me. That day I decided that I needed to learn how to fly r/c gliders like those guys. Cliff soaring would be was something fun to do when the surf was flat or blown out, which is about 80% of the time, even in San Diego.
I started hanging around the Torrey glider pits observing the pilots flying and asking a million questions. My first actual stick time was on a guys' Gentle Lady which was a full three mistakes high. I quickly got the hang of turning, applying my full-scale piloting experience to the model. A little cocky now with 30 minutes of stick time in my log book, I went out and bought a Kyosho Melody, a semi-scale looking 1.5 meter plane and a Futaba Attack 4 AM radio. The rather heavy and fast Melody turned out to be a terrible trainer. I tried to teach myself to fly by gliding it off of the smaller cliffs in Del Mar. After a month of crash landings on the beach and nightly repairs, I finally had gained some control of the model, enough to try the big Torrey cliff on the next windy day. That day came, and yes, I had a long successful flight in real slope lift. I was hooked! But I still sucked at flying and had a lot to learn.
A few weeks later at the same big cliff, I stalled the Melody in a turn and crashed it well below the cliff's edge. I had to hike up 320 vertical feet up the trail-less crumbling bluff to the crash site. Right next to the Melody wreck, I spotted an entire wing tip of another glider buried in small landslide of sandy mud. Just under the dirt surface was an entire 2 meter Wanderer glider! It only took about 30 minutes to dig it out of the sand, excavating the glider out like some rare dino fossil. She was still in one piece! The planes power switch was in the 'OFF' position, hence the reason for the crash. After a week of careful restoration and the addition of a new receiver and battery, the Wanderer was ready to fly again. I spent every day that summer flying this easy to fly trainer, and finally learned to soar confidently and have complete control of my plane in all conditions.
My future mentor Charlie Richardson was just starting his glider kit business, CR AIrcraft Models, and he was often at the official Torrey Pines Glider Port cliff site testing his latest designs. I was always pestering Charlie with questions about his Turbo wingeron, a glider I desperately wanted, and we eventually struck up a deal. I did the graphic designs for his kit boxes and he built me a custom Turbo. I was very fortunate to have Charlie as my tutor as I was starting out, he taught me how to properly build, tune and fly the higher performance gliders like the ones he was designing and selling. After a few years of daily slope practice, I was good enough to started competing in slope races as a member of the CR Aircraft glider team. Soon CR planes like the Renegade and Raider were dominating the California slope race circuit with both of us bringing home many trophies and season championships in the early 90's.
Handlaunch gliders were becoming popular by 1991, and Charlie was working on some innovative HLG glider designs. At first I thought handlaunch was really stupid. Throw for hours and go up once in a while? I though that I'd just stick to the slope. I had that attitude until I caught my first big booming thermal from a 50 foot hand launch and climbed out higher and faster than I had ever done on the slope. Flying HLGs was really hard and frustrating, but I just had to learn how to do it. Finally got good after a year of daily practice. Charlie's Climmax series of HLG's where soon the most popular planes on the contest circuit, and I won most of the major U.S. HLG contests with this design. I still get more airtime on my HLG's then any other planes I own, and flying these light thermal gliders has never been boring as it is so darn challenging.
This whole soaring video thing started when Charlie and I wanted to make some simple demo videos to attract customers to our booth at the AMA model expo trade show in Pasadena, CA. We started video taping each other flying, showing off the aerobatic and speed performance of the CR gliders. Our first demo videos were crude, shot on 8mm video with basic edits done with 2 VCR's hooked together with popular music over-dubbed for a soundtrack. The trade show crowds went nuts for the videos because the flying styles were very cutting edge and in these pre-internet days, no one had seen slope soaring video footage like this.
I had a feeling that there might be a market for a more professionally produced film, but video technology was still seriously expensive. In college I had taken lots of video production classes, but you still needed a room full of really exotic gear to do even simple video shooting and editing. The technology was just not available for the type of flying film I envisioned. That would soon change.
Fast forward again. In 1997, I had the chance to take some serious time off and travel. I bought a VW camper, a high-tech Sony Hi8 video camera, a case of tapes, and packed my vehicle with planes and future wife Aimee and left on a no-schedule to follow trip around North America.
Now I didn't do this trip with the intention of making a soaring movie. However, after previewing some of the footage that we shot while flying gliders in some weird and wonderful places, I began to think about making a formal film about my experiences. My inspiration was the classic surf film 'The Endless Summer', the story of young guys roaming the world in search of perfect waves. I was doing the same thing in essence . . . searching for perfect soaring conditions where ever they might occur, in the vastness of America.
The trip was incredible, I wore out 3 planes, built 3 more in the van, and flew places with my glider that had not been flown before. How would I tell the story of this unbelievable adventure to my flying buddies?
I had over 20 hours of flying footage to edit together, and no way to do it. High technology to the rescue. I found this local San Diego guy who had just purchased a new Macintosh-based non-linear computer editing system, and he could edit the movie together digitally for a fraction of the time and cost it would have taken with analog tape to tape systems. He had a 20 gig hard-drive, which was huge and expensive for 1998, but could hold just enough footage for a one hour movie. After a few weeks of editing work, I had my first film done, the famous 'Endless Lift', first available on VHS tape. I spent $3000.00 on the whole production, a fraction of what it would have cost only a few years earlier.
The internet age was just starting, and I sold the first copies of Endless Lift through the then new RC Soaring Exchange e-mail list. Word of mouth spread, and in a few months, had made back the production costs and a tidy profit. I was suddenly in the film business.
A few years later, I made my second film, Endless Lift 2, which was a compilation of my best travels and soaring events since the Endless Lift journey. I shot the footage on analog Hi8 video but edited it on a better quality Avid editing system. The overall movie quality was OK, but I was never happy with the image quality and the lack of editing control when you are on the $60.00-by-the-hour studio clock. Again, new technology arrived just in time in the form of the new Digital Video standard, finally giving me a cost-effective way to produce quality films myself.
The first digital video cameras and affordable computer editing systems hit about 1999, and I invested in a Canon GL-1 pro DV camera and a PowerPC Mac with a then huge 80 gig hard-drive. Without this new video technology and the internet to sell the final product, a small niche company like Radio Carbon Art wouldn't be able to exist. Learning to shoot and edit like a pro filmmaker is an ongoing challenge which utilizes all of my talents, skills and design education. I do it all, write, shoot, edit, sound mix, design the graphics and titles, and create the marketing materials. My goal is always to make each film unique and in some way, and better than the last.
While the entertainment and travel films are a blast to make, I soon learned that the true value in making these videos was to teach others the techniques you need to know to be successful in the sport of r/c soaring. I still remember the years of painful trial and error I experienced when I was learning to build and fly, even though I was fortunate to be among really experienced soaring pilots. If I had a resource like my training videos to learn from, it would've saved me years of learning and lots of money. My first how-to program is titled The Secrets of Thermal Soaring, and it is still one of my best sellers.
R/C soaring is a young sport which is shaped in part by technology. There are always going to be new designs, materials, electronics and new flying techniques to learn. I spend a huge amount of time learning, researching, and testing the latest planes and products, scouring the planet for the 'best of the best'. My training video series will keep you updated on all of latest technologies and required skills as they evolve. My goal for Radio Carbon Art is to cover every aspect of the sport in detail and build up a comprehensive library of information that you can purchase, review, and learn from at your own pace. The Soaring Master Class training video series is an example of an ongoing project to bring together the knowledge of the great minds and personalities of the current soaring world.
As of 2011, all videos are shot in High Definition 1080P format, with the Electric Sailplane Clinic being my first all HD production. You can also now order Digital Download editions of all of our training videos and entertainment films at a more affordable price featuring instant download access, no shipping fees, and no taxes.
The last few years I've been focusing on flying high performance electric gliders for Altitude Limited Electric Soaring (ALES) competitions and learning how to fly the new F5J class of electric launch thermal duration tasks. I like electric-launch because a lot of the best fields I fly are too small to set up a winch and I would rather spend time in the air and not shagging a high start chute. I still love my F3K gliders and use them for keeping my low-level thermal skills sharp. However, nothing beats a big 4 meter thermal glider blasting off a strong winch with mono line or going vertical with a well-powered electric. I'll be a life long soaring junkie for sure. This sport stays interesting to me as there are so many new skills and types of soaring to master. GPS racing looks cool, but I just may have to get back to my slope soaring roots, I miss the speed and power of it.
You can use our contact form if you have any questions for me, I'm always available to help you out. Thanks for reading this, gotta go flying now.
Paul Naton • producer/owner Radio Carbon Art
Appendix 0: A Few Soaring Accomplishments - Contests:
1st day and 2nd overall Polecat ALES/F5J contest 2013-14
2 Time US 60" Slope Racing Season Champion
1st Place Unlimited Class - World Soaring Jamboree
4th Place 60" Racing Class - World Soaring Jamboree
Multiple ISR Contest Wins
Three 4th place finishes International Slope Racing Championships.
A few F3F contest wins, fastest time 34.10
A Few Soaring Accomplishments - HLG/F3K:
1st Place HLG - World Soaring Jamboree
1st Place Team IHLGF Poway
Multiple top 10 finishes IHLGF Poway, best 4th place overall
1st Place Riverside Open
1st Place LA Open and various TPG Club contests.
A Few Soaring Accomplishments - Other:
4th place 1999 World Speed Trials, second fastest gate time 167mph
Set Dynamic Soaring Record 173 mph, June 2000, a record that stood for 3 years
Developed frontside/shearline Dynamic Soaring technique
Design the first purpose built Dynamic Soaring speed plane the "Speed Runner" with Charlie Richardson
Appendix 1: Gear
What gear do we use to make the our videos?
All Mac's of course, lots of terabytes of HD space, Final Cut Pro Suite, Adobe Photoshop CS3 and Adobe Design Suite, IWork and ILife suites, and tons of other software. Two Canon SD and HD video cameras, Canon Digi SLR, Sennhieser wireless mics, Mackie mixers, lipstick cams, specialty mics, and lots of coffee, delicious dark coffee.
Appendix 2: What I Fly
Euphoria F3J 4m Strong • Euphoria F5J 4m • Xplorer X3 3800 F5J electric • Xplorer X2.5 3800 F3J • Xplodicon 4m high-power F5J electric • Icon 2 F3J 4m • Fonix F3 3m F3B/F3F • 1/3 scale moulded Discus CS • Mach 60" Wingeron • Carbon Shrike 60" Pitcheron • CR Carbon Contender wingeron • CR Climmax Pro • CR Raider F3 slope racer • Snipe F3K • Sirius F3K Disser edition • Zoloft Slope DLG • XP-4 F3K hlg • 4 channel modified Radian Electric • Radian UMX Mini • Radios: 2 JR 9305 2.4 DSMX
Left: At the 1999 World Speed Trails at Kiona Butte, Wa. I flew the second fastest time through the 100 meter course at 167 mph.
Plane is my CR/Naton designed Speed Runner, first r/c glider designed specially for Dynamic Soaring speed records. This plane set the DS record at 173 mph in 2000, a record that stood for 3 years.
Right: Testing my new Euphoira F3J 4m at my local field in Pennsylvania, 2015.
All prices are in USD.