|The First Big Show Of The Year|
The 27th Sandown Model Symposium, to give it its full title, took place over the May Bank Holiday weekend of 4/5th May. This was almost a month earlier than last year's date but for those that can remember, it was in fact back in its more familiar position on the calendar.
The show came in for some criticism last year, for being overcrowded. Many modellers were caught up in the crush, not able to see all the trader's wares, and many thought it was even dangerous. This was all due to a refurbishment of the main grandstand areas, with the usual upstairs areas not being available to the show organisers. All this was completely out of their hands.
So, with the refurbishments completed and the familiar dates re-established, what would this year's show be like?
We attended the show on the Saturday, and by all accounts, this was the better of the two days, weather wise. We arrived from south Wales by eleven o'clock and drove straight in. No queuing! We had managed to avoid trouble by taking the A307 to Esher through Cobham thus avoiding the usual jams on the A244 into Esher town centre.
We all grabbed quick coffee in the bar and then dived in! Traders were already doing a brisk trade and by my observations, this continued all day! More of them later.
This year the upstairs areas were designated for clubs and organisations. So I quickly dash upstairs to find out what was going on up there. I depositing my coat with friends on the BMFA stand and chatted with John Henderson, who is a BMFA Public Relations Officer, (and a fellow club colleague of mine). There were always plenty of people gathered around asking questions, buying information booklets and most importantly joining up. It's important at a show like Sandown, that the BMFA are represented.
So many visitors to the show are new to the hobby or have come to see just what it's all about and I believe that the BMFA has an important role to play in guiding these 'newbies' in the right direction.
Next to the BMFA was the Bumpy Green stand. This is an online modelling community, the first time such an Internet based group has exhibited at Sandown. It's run by three guys from Hertfordshire and is now into its second year. The web site carries information and articles in a similar way to our own.
Sharing the Bumpy stand was a newly developed web site for modellers. On RC Auction (www.rcauction.co.uk) you can place or bid for anything you want (of a modelling nature). RC Auction provides the facilities to place bids against listed items. The site is categorised into specific areas, engines, sports aircraft, scale etc and they then acts as a go-between when the auction closing date is reached. Depending upon the sale price, RC Auction takes a small percentage for their troubles then puts seller and buyer in touch with each other. Nice one!
Also making a big impression on the upper floor was the Southampton Soaring Society. RCM&E columnist Tony Baker was on had with a wide selection of scale gliders including his own Rosenthal Discus CS with a massive 5-metre wingspan. All the SSS models were ably demonstrated with the help of Tony's little helpers! Tony told me that the Southampton Soaring Society is the only ALL scale gliders club in the county. He was also promoting the various events on the SSS's calendar and their excellent web site. (web.ukonline.co.uk/sssrcsoaring).
Tony also suggested that clubs should look a little hard at various opportunities for funding. There are pots of money out there he said, if only one took the time to hunt them down and persist with the inevitable paper work!
Moving along, and RCM&E had the biggest display on the top floor. On show were all the models featured in the magazine over the last twelve months. From Alex Whittaker's Bellanca Skyrockets to Mike Parry's Chorus Gull that was resurrected from a Brian Peckham original. Also catching my eye was a couple of fun fighters. The electric Speed 400 powered Spitfire and Me 109 will be featured in RCM&E very soon.
Of interest to builders of the popular Tony Hijhuis Leccy Lanc was the display of an even bigger electric Lancaster. Again designed and built by Tony, this Lancaster was attracting an awful lot of attention. John Clark, RCM&E assistant editor, told me that it too would be appearing as a plan in the magazine very soon. Not a free plan however - you'd never get the mag through the letterbox!
Also on hand, on the RCM&E stand was the editor himself, Graham Ashby. Graham's prodigal Shuttle Z TS helicopter (stolen and recently recovered) was on display promoting the newest magazine to the Nexus range. Graham is very excited about the imminent launch of RotorSport. Although, he did tell me that it's not a new title. A magazine of this name was launched some years ago but apparently didn't do very well. But, Graham now believes that the time is now right to give it another go. With the 'collective rise' in popularity of helis, and Graham at the helm, he believes the new magazine should go well. Graham tells me that there will be initially two issues this year, with the first one being published on June 28th. As Graham will continue with the 'day job' at RCM&E, he will be having a busy few months ahead of him. We wish the new magazine well.
Out on the flight line the main crowd pulling flyers were Marco Benincasa, with his very aerobatic ZN-Line Majestic, Dave Wilshere from Motors & Rotors, displaying his Graupner turbine powered Hot Spot and the turbine powered helicopter of Wolfgang Simon.
Anticipation rose in parallel with the rise in revs of the Hot Spot's turbine. A helper was seen down at the last fence on the racecourse, unwinding a bungee. A take off dolly was prepared. Both bungee and dolly were acquainted with each other and the model placed on the dolly. The turbine was wound up to full revs and on the signal, the dolly, with model on board, shot off like a scalded cat down the makeshift runway!
The aircraft took to the air and there was a gasp of delight that the model was airborne and the system had worked. But all was not well! Dave Wilshere was throttling back almost immediately after take off. Landing was called! One circuit, a gliding approach and landing, and the model was safely down.
But what had gone wrong? Dave, was in fact sensibly, playing it very safe. All most immediately after take off Dave noticed that the control of the model was not as crisp as he was expecting. On inspection after landing, it was discovered that one of the control horns on one of the four elevons had caught the dolly on take off. The horn had ripped out giving Dave less than complete control. This was unfortunate for the expectant crowd, he said that he could have continued with the demonstration but landing straight away was the prudent and right thing to do.
Marco Benincasa had more success with his aerobatic display. Flying the YS 140 powered ZN-Line Majestc Marco, who has been Italian F3A champion on four occasions, put the aircraft through the full range of crowd pleasing manoeuvres from rolling circuits to the inevitable prop hanging demonstration. It was in my eyes, a truly magnificent display and I was very fortunate to view it at such close quarters. However, some people were inevitably drawing comparisons with Christophe Paysant-Le Roux's equally fine demonstration last year.
Also very impressive was the Graupner NH90 turbine powered helicopter of Wolfgang Simon. This awesome looking machine came to the flight line on a purpose built trolley and a myriad of electronics including a lap top computer to set up, adjust and run the turbine before and after every flight.
Back inside, the main trade area was filling up, but with out the crush of last year. Yes, the crowds were three deep at some stand, like Sussex Model Centre and Al's Hobbies, but people seemed to be coming away with plenty under their arms. A couple of stands had set up flying display areas. These areas were protected by netting and many of the popular range of indoor helicopters were on show.
Slough Radio Control Models demo area was particularly busy. They had two flyers brought in especially from the Czech Republic to demonstrate the MS Hornet indoor helicopter. I think it was the very impressive inverted hovering demo that caught people's attention. This heli was being sold as a complete package including dedicated radio and an upgrade kit for around £350. Paul Bardoe of Slough Models told us that he couldn't sell them quick enough!
Pete Tindal's Aeroplanes were also very busy. I called into see them but they were so busy selling and demonstrating most of their stock that I didn't want to disturb them! The Profilm was proving a popular as ever and the Exicitation and the Second Innovation kits were also going well. (www.petetindal.co.uk)
PermaGrit's Ian Richardson was also having a busy few days. He had only just returned from Florida, where he had been competing at the famous Top Gun event. (See report elsewhere). Ian had entered his Bob Violet F-100 Super Sabre in the team event and had come second! Well-done Ian.
Both Ian and his wife Tracey had the complete range of PermaGrit tools on show including several new products. The Spar Slotters comes in a range of sizes, 3mm, 6mm and 9.5mm and are all 140mm long. You can buy them in both a course or fine grade for £5.10p, £5.54p and £5.95p respectively. Ian and Tracey were also promoting their latest catalogue. (www.permagrit.com)
If you have been following the various modelling newsgroups and forums since the show, you will have read all the usual gripes and groans about this year's show. For example, the flying displays aren't very interesting, too much of one demonstrator on the flight line, the hall were too crowded, there were less trade stands than in previous years and there were few bargains to be had, the show just isn't what it used to be, blah, blah, blah.
To be honest we hear it every year! Yes the flying area is cramped and safety issues should be reviewed, but Sandown is not a flying show. The flying is mainly there to promote a company's products. And if, as happened on the Sunday, wind and weather conspire to make flying difficult for some demonstrations, the companies with models that can handle the conditions will use the vacated slots!
Catering arrangements were, sometimes overwhelmed with the lunchtime rush and rather expensive if you were buying a hot meal. I found however that a sandwich, coffee and bag of crisps to be very reasonable. I would however, like to see next year, more than one burger/hot dog van outside. The queue at one point must have stretched over half the length of the grandstand! But if you were queing for food then it was certainly nice to see Chris Foss flying at Sandown once again!
The trade show this year was not disappointing to my mind. I found no problems with overcrowding. I've seen worse at local car boot sales on a Sunday morning! I find that having all the well-known stores and manufactures available under one roof, to be a great shopping experience. At home I have two model shops twenty miles apart. Both difficult to get to and park! Neither can offer me instantly, the range of kits and accessories that can be found at Sandown. Go with a shopping list in mind and you will not be disappointed.
Comparisons have also been drawn with the Wings & Wheels Show held at North Weald every year. If you want a flying show then Wing & Wheels is probably the show for you. But if you live anywhere more than an hour and half west or north of London (as many of us do!) you have to think twice before deciding to trek around the M25 to the east of London.
People who live further north are catered for with shows like Cosford, Weston Park, Woodvale and especially the Nationals, where last year there was a great trade show.
It's horses for courses, especially at Sandown :-) and if you can only afford one show a year and live in the southern half of the UK, I still recommend Sandown as a great day out.
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