Website updated 16 January 2018


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I suppose, like many schoolboys of my generation, I always had a fascination for making things - mostly out of wood, as Blue Peter and its modern materials wasn't around in those days. It was inevitable that I got into building model aircraft. It was mostly Keil Kraft free-flight kits until pocket money would stretch to an engine and allow me to have a go at control line flying. Great fun, but my Mum was always going on about the castor oil I got on my clothes, together with the inevitable residue of paint and glue.

I took a break from aeromodelling in about 1964; this coincided with university, motor bikes, girls, beer, and progressed to marriage and children. I returned to the hobby in 1988, attracted by the affordability of decent radio control equipment. In my youth, radio gear was quite expensive; a four channel "proportional" outfit cost in excess of £100 (when wages were about £12 per week), whereas today a much more reliable 6 channel outfit can be bought for about £150.

I joined the Bristol Radio Control Model Aircraft Club , who taught me to fly - and what a great bunch of blokes they are. Actually, "blokes" is not a PC term since the Club has women members, and very welcome they are too. My preference is for scale models, or "sport" models (aeroplanes, not women!) that look like real aeroplanes and can be flown in a scale manner. I've built and flown several scale jobs: SE5A (RIP), Hawker Sea Fury (23 years old and still air worthy), Hawker Hurricane (just scrapped after 20 years), Heinkel He 51 (RIP) Stampe (RIP), and a bigger Sea Fury (ARTF, I'll admit). Nowadays I exclusively use Laser four stroke glow plug engines; they're British, and first class.

Heinkel He 51 Heinkel He 51 - 1/6 scale, Laser 90 powered

I now do a bit of flight instructing, and I'm a Club examiner in the BMFA proficiency scheme. My interest in scale also led me to have a go at competing in BMFA scale contests. I wasn't brilliant, but I achieved a couple of placings at flying (my models are not really built to the exacting standards necessary to achieve good static judging scores). I had a lot of encouragement and inspiration from my Club colleague, Martin Fardell, who has been competing at a high level in the UK for over 20 years.

In 2005 Martin asked me to help out with some flight judging at a couple of the contests; I was slightly nervous at first, but really enjoy it now. Some of the pilots I'm judging compete at international level and, at first, I felt a little bit like junior clerk trying an Old Bailey murder case. However, it's not simply a case of applying a defintive rule set; you need to have a good understanding of how the prototype aircraft would have flown. Many of the aircraft no longer have flying examples in existence, but most of us have usually seen something similar flying at places like Old Warden (Shuttleworth Collection) and other air shows, and it helps enormously to be able to fly the schedules that I am judging.

Not much has changed here in 2018, except that we are all a little older and many people have now moved on to electric propulsion, myself included. The pace of development in LiPo batteries and brushless motors has been significant over the last 5 years and it is now perfectly feasible to operate a 6lb weight sport model aerobatically and get flight times of 12 minutes or so. It also means not having to carry a heavy flight box with fuel, starter and its battery down to the field - and it's much quieter too!

I've now reached a watershed where I won't be flying my big (Laser powered) Sea Fury any more. I was intending to convert it to electric power but I think I'll just start on a new project.