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This is the second time I've been to the British Model Flying Association (BMFA) Nationals at RAF Barkston Heath. In fact the first time was last year, but then those of you who have looked at this website before will probably have read my article concerning last year's Nationals.
Well, this year looked to be blessed with better weather than last year, with the weather reported as possibly being the hottest weekend of the year. It certainly looked that way as I headed towards Grantham in Lincolnshire, from my home in Witham, Essex, stopping en route, to pick up a friend from Peterborough. Upon arrival we had to drive through a disinfectant bath, and wipe our feet on a foam pad soaked in disinfectant, as part of the Foot and Mouth preventative precautions that were being imposed.
Parking close to the action of your choice is very good, which is useful if you are disabled, and you can drive to and from the various flight lines.
First visit as always was to the trade stands to see what ones were present. There was a wide range of aeromodelling needs catered for, and the stands were located fairly centrally to the flight lines, with many of the familiar traders and the BMFA present.
Having stocked up on one or two items, it was on to the flight lines, with r/c scale being the starting point, as it was the closest to the main trading area. I have a particular interest in r/c scale and so started here. The attention to detail and standard of workmanship is, as always second to none, and the variety of subjects modelled varied. These ranged from World War One types, through to jet fighters. There is always a Spitfire in scale competitions, and this year was no exception. However, by far the most predominant type this year was the Tiger Moth, of which I counted no less than five. Other De Havilland types were also represented with a Leopard Moth, Puss Moth, and Mosquito. Another twin present was the Handley Page Hampden. Other aircraft modelled included a P40, Hawker Typhoon, Hawker Hunter, Cessna Bird Dog, Sopwith 11/2 Strutter, Sopwith Pup, to name but a few.
Next along from the scale flight line was the 'airshow' line where various models were being demonstrated. This particular line had various types, sizes, and scale of models being flown. I have to admit that this year there seemed a lot of jet models present on this line with most being gas turbine powered. This form of power is clearly on the increase in popularity, and as cost comes down will continue to increase.
Looking at the control line areas, there was combat flying, aerobatics, team racing, and carrier contests ongoing throughout the day. I was staggered at the team racing, notably the speed and teamwork involved, particularly in F2C. I spoke to one of the pilots - Ron Tribe about these models. The engines are 2.5cc diesels - usually made in Russia, and costing between £600-£1500 each. This staggered me, in comparison to the r/c engines that are in general use. These engines will propel these models at speeds in the order of 200mph! The races themselves usually have three fliers, each with a pit man. The engines are started and the models race for 100 laps (or 200 laps in finals). These models complete 10 laps in 18 seconds, and stop to refuel approximately every 35 laps. The pit man has a fuel can strapped to his arm which supplies pressurised fuel to the fuel tank, a prime for the engine, and the engine is ready to start with a single flick of the prop - or at least that is what happens most of the time! Oh yes, and the engine cut off is reset, which the pilot activates with a quick flick of down elevator, when he gets the signal to pit.
What was interesting to note was that most of the entrants were on the wrong side of forty - not that this is any reflection on the men concerned, more a sign that there is not any young new blood coming into the hobby/sport. Without this injection of new blood into any of our forms of aeromodelling, that form's long term future is at risk. However, this report is not on the future of aeromodelling, but the Nationals, and this is not the time or place to cover it.
Other flight lines for r/c models included pylon racing, aerobatics, and fun-fly. I had seen the fun-fly line last year and decided to look at the pylon racing line. I have to admit to being surprised by the number of classes and complexity (in some cases), and speed of the models. Club 2000 was a formula introduced last year and can be regarded as the ideal entry level class, yet still provide competitive and close racing. With some of the more advanced formula, the models were very interesting from both a design and performance point of view. I have to admit to finding one or two known names in the modelling world here. To those who have been modelling at least twenty years, the name of Phil Greeno is synonymous with model flying and car racing. Trevor Heasman on the other hand, is known in the 1/8th scale model car racing world as an ex European Stock Car Champion, who has also competed in model power boat racing.
I had hoped to go to see the thermal soaring that was taking place off site, but having been subjected to the variation in weather, and the late hour (well it was nearly six pm when I was ready to go!) I had to give it a miss this year. Though, I suspect that there would have been a number of max score flights owing to the lift being generated by a nearby hay stack fire which the local fire brigade spent the day trying to extinguish.
I think that my summary from last year still stands. The camping facilities for the event is good for the duration, and if you are interested in more than one form of aero-modelling, you should really consider going for at least two of the three days. If on the other hand one area is your speciality then one day is adequate, although you may miss out on how the competition is proceeding. The facilities were suitable, and there was reasonable access to all areas, which I believe for an event of this size is important. The BMFA have clearly given a lot of thought and effort in planning this event, to which I say thanks for the work. The Nationals I believe showcase aeromodelling in it's various forms not only to those people who have a specific interest, but provides an insight into the other forms of aeromodelling, and a reminder to those who have moved onto other forms. Finally, it provides an opportunity to make new acquaintances, and renew old ones. Long may the Nationals continue, and good work BMFA. I look forward to next year's Nationals.