BMFA Southern Area - The Southern Area of the British Model Flying Association SABMFA


Go to content

News Jul 2015

News and Newsletters > News > 2015

July 2015 News

Date Added 27-07-2015 11:15

The Free Flight Nationals at RAF Barkston Heath, Lincs. May 2015 Bank Holiday weekend.

For some totally unexplained reason I decided to attend the BMFA FF NATs last weekend and dragged my son along as well, He lives about 25 miles away from the site. I live between Pompey & So'ton. (200 miles away). The last FF NATs I attended was in 1956 when all FF and control line classes plus the very infant mainly single channel RC were all run as one. This was at RAF Andover where my Dad was stationed and when and where I got hooked on aeromodelling.
We chose Saturday and were blessed with variable sun & cloud, warmth and a light breeze from the East. In all the many years I have visited RAF Barkston Heath for the BMFA Power NATs in August this is the only time when the windsock was hanging vertical. Every other time it has been at 90degrees to the pole and bending the pole too.
The Power NATs are frantic! There are thousands of people attending, both competitors and spectators. There are probably over 150 different competitions going on over the three days. There is a camp site that last year exceeded 1500 places. There is a continuous flying display of large or very large models. There are upwards of fifty traders, 10 burger vans and a huge swap meet on the Sunday morning. RAF Barkston Heath is large but it gets well covered at the Power NATs. Bad weather on one day concertinas the competitions and it gets even more frantic.
The FF NATs are 180 degrees out phase with this scenario. It was so laid back that you had to keep checking to make sure the competitors had not gone all to sleep. (Some had). People were spread out all over the airfield but I would estimate that competitors and spectators did not exceed 400 on the Saturday. All the FF comps bar one are against the clock and you have to make a certain number of flights per day varying from class to class but anything from 3 flights to 7 plus a fly-off or two if more than one competitor reaches a perfect score. For Saturday the max flight time was set at 2mins 30 secs. This was to "try" and ensure that models stayed within the airfield boundaries and did not get lost in the thousands of acres of oil seed rape and young cereals surrounding it. Good try but not totally successful. With daylight lasting from about 0430 to 2100hrs there was a lot of time to get even 7 off 2.5 minute flights under your belt so hence the "lets walk down the field and screw the lot" approach. Very relaxing. There was one trader, our own FliteHook (John Hook) and one burger/coffee van.
Strangely enough there were a lot of control line models present. These belonged to the Wharf Dale CL Club and other dedicated CL clubs from Birmingham and Manchester. Apparently they had got the agreement of the Free Flighters to use the weekend for trimming and practice for the Power NATs in August.
Lots of vintage CL models from my miss spent youth. PeaceMakers, Veron models of all types including Panthers and Wethermen. KeilKraft models, Mercury, Contest Kits and a fair smattering of models from the old "Model Aeronautical Press" plans handbook of yester year. (MAP / Aeromodeller).
The competition FF models varied from the truly exotic all carbon machines to Mercury Mentors and anything in between. There were IC powered models of all sizes plus electric and rubber and of course pure gliders. Paul & I spent a lot of time talking to one of the competitors who was practising for his FAI competition on the Sunday. His model was exotic. All carbon and Kevlar. The wing span was 2.8m and the average chord about 125mm giving an aspect ratio in excess of 22:1. The wings are formed in foam by being CNC milled from a blank. They are very thin in section with a significant camber and are apparently super fragile in this state. The cores are then covered in carbon cloth reinforced with Kevlar where necessary. This is done in a vacuum moulding press and the final finish superb.
There is no flex or twist in these wings at all. The fuselage complete with pylon and fin is a CF/ Kevlar moulding and the tail plane C/F. The guy we were talking to indicated that he was the only one in the UK who had gone the full C/F route though they are more common in Eastern Europe.
The engine was a 2.5cc glow of Austrian manufacture and incorporated a 4:1 epicyclic gearbox and brake to ensure that the huge folding prop always folded absolutely flat against the fuselage.
The flight is controlled by a multi-function electronic timer which is activated as you release the model for flight. The time controls the engine run to 5secs by closing the air intake and applying the brake. It also controls the tailplane incidence so that the model "bunts" out of the vertical climb. It then sets tailplane and rudder for the glide. The de-thermaliser (DT) which pops the tailplane up at about 40 degrees to bring the model down after the agreed flight time is now RC controlled and the model is also fitted with a minature electronic beacon so the it can be tracked if it lands out of sight. Not including labour the owner thought he had spent over £3000.00 on the beast.


2.8m of carbon fibre elegance 22.4:1 Aspect ratio.

A very expensive engine incorporating 4:1 gear box, engine brake and huge folding prop

The multi-function electronic timer

The ultimate “model box” there are 5 complete 2.8m models and accessories in this box.

How is this for upmarket engineering?

A totally ballistic Veron “Panther” vintage Control line aerobatic model.

The owner of the CF model above undertook a practice flight whilst we were watching. The engine is started by an automatic starter motor in the model box; the rpm and noise are incredible. The pilot holds the model with the thumb of his left hand on the start timer button and his right hand on a notch under the tailplane. The model is javelin launched vertically and climbs at full power straight up to approx 500ft in 5 secs. At this point the timer shuts the engine down, applies the brake and the bunt setting. Unfortunately for our pilot the timer failed to operate at all. The actual engine run was about 20 secs but after 10sec it went into a series of fairly tight loops (even then the wings didn’t bend at all) when the engine eventually ran out of fuel the model was pointing vertically downwards and diving at great speed. We heard the thump even though we were 400yrds away at least. When we looked at the pilot he was in definite shock. We offered to collect the bits for him but he just stumbled, white faced back to his car and sat down quickly. Everybody who saw the flight reckoned that the model would be in a million pieces.
After about half an hour the owner recovered somewhat and went to collect his model. The only damage found was to the wing pylon which had sheared off. The model was buried a foot under the ground up to the wing leading edge but engine etc were all fine. I haven’t ever seen anyone so happy to have broken model.

Steve Warren 20-07-2015


Sub-Menu:


Back to content | Back to main menu