Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Retrofitting for the RCAF: Looking Back and Gazing into the Future, 2015.2.8

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~"Altitude with Attitude"~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~Story and Photos compiled from the dispatches of Zoe Connolly and additional sources
~~compiled by Faerie Scribe

It was announced on Saturday, February 7, 2015 that the Royal Caledon Air Force is to be split into two separate groups. RCAF Steampunk will be the group that dabbles in in the era ranging from steam to WWI aviation in dogfights and other RP. Connolly reports that, though Caledon will be retained in the title, the group will have its base in the Rundlelawn on the mainland, with more available open skies to fly.
Steampunk Aircraft from the RCAF Steampunk Group


The second group, the 401 Squadron RCAF, is to be a WWII role-play faction, fighting Nazis in the skies over the New Bastogne Occupied France and other similar regions.
New Batogne by Night

The RCAF WW2 group will also have another name change--the "C" will now stand for Canadian rather than Caledon. The groups have been given an open invitation from the Dogs on the Run (DOR) aviation group to use their sim, Pengo Bayou, for future dogfighting runs.

Over the years, it's been more and more difficult for the RCAF to keep people active. SL, for some, has been so cumbersome that viewer changes, server "upgrades," and the minefield of full parcels simply made it not worth the trouble to attempt to fly. That doesn't mean that the RCAF didn't have its memorable moments.

The RCAF (also dubbed "Connolly's Crazies" in the early days) has had a long and winding history. Founded on October 24th of 2007, when the group was first established, pilots took their lives into their hands any time they ventured into the virtual skies, whether or not they were fired upon. There was only one aircraft runway in all of Caledon. Connolly and another Caledonian, Virrginia Tombola, combined forces and purchased two plots in the mountains of Caledon Penzance. The original Connolly Aerodrome was built and the RCAF was born.
RCAF Penzance Parcels Prior to Sim Opening

On the Ground at the New Connolly Aerodrome

Then kismet happened. SL became better for flyers, Caledon increased the number of void sims (which back then, didn't have the strict limits they now have), and more people became interested in SL aviation. Interest in expansion led to an outpost being placed in Steelhead Harborside in 2008. An alliance was also established between the RCAF and Winterfell, opening the skies in that neighboring nation to flight paths.

There were numerous aircraft designers working in the Steamlands (and Caledon) during that period. Connolly describes 2008 as the RCAF's "sweet spot" because things were going so well. It wasn't all fun and games, though--the Connolly Aerodrome was the victim of a "terrorist" in early 2008. Molly Earnshaw's favorite method of destruction was to leave explosive teddy bears for unwitting visitors and pilots to find. The aftermath was loud and messy. The group prevailed however, rolling out a new logo, uniforms, and standardized badged aircraft so aviators could feel like they were part of a crew.
Unveiling the New Logo in 2007

RCAF Uniform

With the uptick in activity, the number of air fields in Caledon increased dramatically to a high point of thirteen different areas pilots could use for landing aircraft in 2009/10. These were as varied as the Sumie field in Cay, perfect for hydroplanes (this airfield still exists under the ownership of Dan Gervasi), to a flying mountain retrofitted as an aviator's pit stop (Raffles) over Loch Avie, to a flying city (Steam Sky City) and sim-sized airbase (the Iron Cloud in Caledon Middlesea) and everything in between.

During this time, several squadrons were established within the group. The Caledon Screamin' Tinies, was formed in late 2007 for the tiny aviators of the nation, commanded by Wing Commander Eladrienne Laval. The Screamin' Tinies had their own dogfights, though sometimes it was unclear if those who were defeated were downed by bullets or cuteness.
A Few of the Scream' Tinies

Screamin' Tinies Pre-flight Check

Also near the end of 2007, the Red Devils Squadron was formed for jetpack operators, commanded by Air Vice Marshal Diamanda Gustafson. Early 2008 saw the formation of the RCAF Lightning En Garde fencing team, commanded by Squadron Leader Valentine Janus. Squadron Leader Dan Gervasi led the formation of the RCAF Search and Rescue group in August 2008. Search and Rescue played a key role in keeping casualties down during a giant robot attack on Caledon in 2010 (pictures can be seen in Miss Wendyslippers Charisma's blog
At the end of 2008, Sumie's Task Force was formed for Anti-AirPirate Patrols. Commanded by Squadron Leader Aether Inglewood, the task force was named in honor of group captain and aircraft designer Sumie Kawashima.

On the weekends, the skies over the Firth, Penzance, or Lovelace might be filled with the sounds of engines and gunfire, whether from the popular dogfights or simply testing out the latest vehicles and technologies.
Dogfighting in Caledon

Fighting over the Firth

Plane down in Sound during Dogfight

Tiny Engaging in Dogfight

After leaving the skies, aviators could (and often did) relax and spin tales of their adventures at Prop Spinners or the Rusty Prop--both were in Steam SkyCity--Smuggler's Cove in Wellsian, or the Norseman in Cape Wrath.
Prop Spinners Pub

Swapping Stories at the Rusty Prop

Also in 2008, the RCAF and Connolly Aerodrome earned a mention in the first edition of the Primgraph and Connolly, herself, was written about in New World Notes.
When the announcement was made that Caledon would have a colony in Blue Mars, the RCAF made sure to have an outpost. Though flight was never established in Caledonia in Blue Mars, Prop Spinners still stands just a few steps from the welcome area. A Ning group was created for RCAF members to advance their personal RP storylines within the group as well as share photos, videos, and other news outside of SL. The RCAF started expanding, reaching out to other groups, including the Extropia sims which focused more on the era of dieselpunk.
WW dogfighting in Extropia--

By the end of 2008, however, things began to unravel. Linden Labs put strict limits on the various types of sims, creating what will forever-after be known as the "Void Sim Debacle."

A Handful of Brave RCAF Pilots from 2008

The open skies that flyers had grown to adore now bounced them at simlines declaring no admittance due to sim being full (even those not full became problematic for flight and sailing). (Read about the events of the Opensim issue through the eyes of an aviator at )
The newly formed alliance with Extropia went to dust when their openspace sims were closed. Virrginia Tombola, who was so important in the early formation of the RCAF, left SL. Another key member of the RCAF and a much beloved Caledonian, Sumie Kawashima, passed away in real life.

Sumie Kawashima Memorial Photo
Her memorial drew dozens of aviators to Steam Sky City, crowding the skies in a flight formation in her honor, before the memorial service at Prop Spinners Pub.

Things were bumpy in 2009. Flight conditions were reported to be horrid. Regular weekend dogfights became more sporadic. And then there was the introduction to the wild of laboratory-created air kraken. As if the skies weren't deadly enough, air kraken nests began popping up in the main RCAF dogfighting areas.
Dogfight Interrupted by Kraken
Kraken Chasing a Plane

In 2010, the RCAF-SOC (Special Operations Command) group was formed to look for opportunities to engage in RP and dogfights outside of the borders of Caledon in an attempt to revive interest in the RCAF as well as make connections with the larger historical aviation community in SL. Connolly handed off operations to Air Marshall Dan Geravsi and Vice Air Marshall DaveDorm Gaffer. The Ning group was lost when the provider went to a paid-only model and with it, many historical video clips, photos and stories of the RCAF in action.

In mid-2010, the RCAF attracted an attack from the SteamLand Hellcats which left the Connolly Aerodrome in flames.
Connolly Airbase in Flames

Connolly Airbase in Flames, 2010

There was talk about the Hellcats for several weeks thereafter (especially since their attack on Steam SkyCity destroyed the original city) but soon, they seemed to vanish completely from Caledon's lands with no word of what happened. Rumors surrounded their disappearance and this may be around the time that other rumors began circulating that members of the RCAF were "going rogue" and handling things "under the radar."

More reformation followed at the end of 2010 including the culling of inactive members from the group and a change of management of the Connolly Airfield, which was passed to Wing Commander Wrath Constantine.

In 2011, RCAF members took on a new mantle of being sleuths, inside Caledon and in our Steamlands neighbors. (More can be read about this in Miss WendySlippers Charisma's blog: )

In 2012, the RCAF began doing combined dogfights with the Dogs on the Run group and set up an outpost in their sims.

The skies over Caledon have been quieter for the past few years (unless you count the screams coming from Caledon Questers in Middlesea). The latest reformation is a means to try to revive the group and draw in new members, not only from Caledon but across the Grid. Want to see more activities in the skies within the nation of Caledon? As Connolly points out, wishful aviators need to take the initiative. This means event coordinators, recruiters, designers, and others should get pro-active and not wait on someone else to give an order or make a plan. What will become of this historical group as it adapts and adjusts? What will happen to those who love the visions of aircraft in the skies over Caledon? It seems to be that it all depends on how many will answer the clarion call to take the lead and become the next aviators with "the right stuff."


  1. No mention of the "Devil's Quadrangle" in the Firth? I remember stories about how many pilots and sailors that thing took down. Never knew what made that end of the Firth so dangerous, even before the kraken showed up...

  2. Thank you for the excellent article. A few corrections should be noted:

    1) Rundlelawn is 401 Squadron RCAF HQ (WW2) while the new Steampunk RCAF HQ is in Blake Sea.
    2) Extropia was actually a retro-future region where we happened to engage in dieselpunk style flying because it was a favorite of many RCAF members and Extropia residents.
    3) Due to the deletion of some source material and gaps in the record, your article omits mention of several RCAF officers who played key roles far greater than Dan Gervasi. At various key moments in RCAF history, they are: Desmond Shang, Sin Trentin, Thadicus Caligari, Phineas Messmer, Vidal Tripsa, and Cornelius Fanshaw.