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First, a very quick and simple introduction to Basic Carrier Deck : build a scale model aeroplane that has flown off a carrier deck in reality. Attach it to three lines (one up, one down, one throttle) up to a maximum 60 feet in length. Find yourself a model carrier deck - there are about 7 or 8 scattered around England (and several in Europe now). Take your plane off from the deck at full throttle. Fly 7 laps as fast as you can, which are timed from take off. The CD will signal to you when your 7 laps are up. Slow the model down and prepare for your slow laps. Signal to the CD that you are ready for the slow. Fly 7 laps as slow as you can, but the model must not fly at an angle over 30 degrees. Again, the CD will signal to you when your laps are up. Prepare to land, which must be on the deck to get points. The deck has arrester wires (just like the real thing) and you need to land and "hook up" for 100 points. There are varying amounts of points for landing (depending on whether you hook up or not).
To work out your points, take your fast time away from your slow. Add that to your landing points plus any points for scale and you have your score. And that's all there is to it - sounds really easy, doesn't it?
To set the scene of how and why I started to fly, it all began when Andy "Mr Carrier" Housden" organised a trip to Belgium for the weekend in a minibus with me, 11 men (I think it was 11) and about 20 model aeroplanes! Some would say I must have been bonkers to go, some would say I was incredibly lucky (me and 11 men!); I'd say I was completely and utterly nuts! At this point, I had never picked up a control line handle and had no desire to. I had, however, tried radio controlled flying, courtesy of hubby Gary and found it pretty boring ...
So, there we were near Antwerp at the first ever Belgian basic carrier deck competition. We took tents with us and used the club hut for cooking. After travelling overnight on the Friday, we arrived in time for a hearty cooked breakfast. Our hosts found our insistence of needing a fry-up quite extraordinary. There we were, cooking fried breakfast for 12 : eggs, bacon, sausage, baked beans, the works. The locals watched on in amazement as this culinary delight was tucked into by a dozen very hungry, very tired Brits. I think we confirmed their suspicions that the English are potty!! There followed a day of rest, relaxation and sleep mixed in with some flying.
At this stage, I didn't fly control line, I just went along to competitions because the guys that fly are such good fun and having a laugh is guaranteed. There are photos somewhere of me fast asleep just behind the deck (the same deck that had engines being started on it!). Apparently, pilots had to step over me to start and launch ... but no one seemed to mind - I think they were jealous that I could sleep amidst so much noise!
I only picked up a handle after watching the competition for the weekend and coming to the conclusion that it looked easy ... so I had a go. My dearly beloved (that's Gary) gave me my first lesson. Someone launched for us and we were off, full speed off the deck and boy, did that seem quick. Round and round we went with Gary hovering incredibly close to the handle, just in case I did something silly like let go (we didn't use wrist straps then) or fall over. We slowed the plane down and carried on going round and round got a bit giddy. When it was time to land, Gary told me what to do and when to do it and I landed! First time of trying, it was a hook up … and that doesn't happen very often. I then fell over because I was so dizzy!
But I was hooked (literally!) and that was 4 years ago.
The dizziness is the hardest part to combat - once you don't fall over at the end of a flight, it's much easier.
My first proper season went surprisingly well, but I had a very good teacher in Gary (who was the 1999 Champion) - I think I came in the top 15 for my first season. We have an agreement in our household that I cook dinner and Gary builds planes (ie, he can't cook and I'd rather eat than build!). This system works quite well but he does get pretty fed up when I break things. Once when I was flying, he threatened to smack me round the head if I crashed, guess what? I didn't crash ... the threat worked!
Basic Carrier Deck is a brilliant discipline for a beginner - if you get dizzy during the 7 laps fast (and believe me, the world goes by really quick), you can just shut the throttle. The carrier guys are good fun too - I have found that some other disciplines can be a bit "stuffy" if they don't know you but these guys are great. With carrier, even complete strangers are made to feel welcome. It's very much a good-natured sport, there is stiff competition between pilots but it's always in fun and everyone helps everyone else.
When I first started flying carrier, I was the only woman to do so - now there are 5 or 6 of us. Up to about 65 pilots fly at least one competition during the year and it is definitely a growing and popular sport and one I would recommend to anyone that likes the idea of control line flying.
Following on from Carrier, I flew in the Barton 2000 beginners' stunt competition earlier this year but that's a different story ..... and a far more nerve-racking experience .....
For more information on carrier, go to www.cheffers.co.uk.