Any F3J pilot who has competed in contests worldwide over the past 20 years will be saddened to hear of the recent death of Jack Sile. He played a key role in F3J’s birth. Of course many soaring pilots also helped the transition from BARCS Opens to CIAM’s thermal soaring class, recognised around the world and until recently the most popular of R/C glider events. But Jack, in my opinion, came very close to being key.
Last week, 16 August 2019, Andre Borowski, my wife and I went to the celebration of the life of Jack Sile at the West Suffolk Crematorium. On the very same day in Trnava, Slovakia, New Zealand became F5J senior team champions in its first world championships, the successful three man team Joe Wurts, David Griffin and Kevin Botherway.
That excellent achievement would have brought tears of joy to Jack. He was team manager for New Zealand in 1998 for the first F3J world championships at Upton in England, his team pilots Ross Biggar, Andre Borowski and Stuart Grant, helpers Sydney Lenssen, John Barnes, Nick Evans. Sad to say, the Kiwis did not reach the podium, but the first F3J world champion was the legendary Joe Wurts from the USA, who a few years later emigrated and adopted New Zealand citizenship.
Jack Sile was born in Arkansas, an American citizen with a career in the US Air Force which he joined at 18 years old. Most of his military ca-reer of 27 years was spent in Britain at Lakenheath, and continued more years in non-military roles. He married his second wife Phyl.
He never lost his American accent. He had a warm smile and always with an amusing tale to tell. An active “do-er” and achiever with a wide range of interests and activities. When he joined a club or organisation, he gave it extra zest, he would happily accept the job of promoting and organising.
In R/C model glider flying he played a large part in persuading the FAI to adopt F3J championships. He enjoyed travelling in Europe and quickly joined the Dutch, Germans, French, Belgians, Czechs and Brits who had started annual Eurotour events, one in each country, with scores added to a league table. European contests had started with F3B, speed, distance and duration flying requiring high skills. F3J being ra-ther easier to fly in and cheaper, this new event grew rapidly.
How versatile Jack was can be judged by this list:
When Romania was chosen to organise the European F3J champion-ships in Deva, he was invited to act as contest director.
He wrote for Soarer, the BARCS magazine and a newsletter.
He started the technical lectures and demonstrations at the RAF Muse-um in North London where top pilots and designers could give their experiences and guidance.
He travelled each year to Lausanne for the FAI’s Aeromodelling Com-mission CIAM sessions writing reports for Sandy Pimenoff.
He was a dedicated supporter of Ipswich Town football club and worked as a steward and on the turnstiles for nearly 25 years.
He was an expert guide at Duxford and helped with restoration work.
When Rui Silva wanted to run the first international F3J contest in Por-tugal, Jack was appointed contest director.
He was a staunch supporter of the Peterborough Winter Series which was held in all weathers and drew pilots from North and South, East and West on the first Sunday of the month from October through to April.
On competition days he would go around the field with a collection box, complete with Neil Webb’s famous feather, to fund the Neil Webb Trophy to be awarded to the F3J World Champion every two years. Donations produced sufficient funds to pay for the magnificent globe of a trophy. The successful champion does need fitness to transport the heavy box and prize back home.
In those days, Jack was confident that BARCS membership, already close to 900, would soon top 1,000! Sadly that was not to be!
Over the last ten years Jack found the Masons, carefully choosing which Lodge to join, where he would be active in a reasonable time. At the Celebration of the life of Jack Sile, by far the biggest number of at-tendees were masons and their wives, and just a modest number of model glider pilots.
Jack and his wife Phyl, married for nearly 45 years, were good people to know and very worthy in every sense of the word.