|Holiday Time In Corfu Courtesy of Spiros & Flying Sites!|
Last year (2006) the Flying Sites Forum ran a competition kindly sponsored by the RC Hotel on the island of Corfu. Runner up in the competiton was 'Plummet'. He and his partner 'Flappit' have posted a report about their visit. Now first prize winner Terry has been out to visit Spiros. Here's Terry's perspective on his prize winning trip.
The RC Hotel Experience
Since winning the Flying Sites Forum prize of a week’s half board for two at the RC Hotel, I have been greatly looking forward to my trip to Corfu. Since I am happily single, I chose my flying buddy Terry Antell (Biggles Terry on the Forum) as my companion for the trip. Perhaps as glider guiders we are less than ideal winners of this prize as the RC Hotel is principally an IC site with a few electric models, but BT is vastly experienced in most areas of model flying, including IC power. I have no experience of flying IC; the nearest I have come is an electric conversion of the Arising Star trainer.
Describing the RC Hotel is not going to be easy. I’ve stayed in posh hotels (and some not so posh ones!) I’ve been to flying sites, and to pubs and clubs. The RC Hotel is none of these, and at the same time all of them. It's like nothing else I have known. So perhaps the easiest thing to do is to describe my various impressions and thoughts as they arose, and try to share my moods with you as the holiday progressed.
We arrived in the small hours of the mornng at Corfu airport, and were met by the taxi Spiros had arranged for us. As Corfu is two hours ahead of UK time, some “jet lag” was apparent as the body adjusts to getting up early. But an alarm clock helps here! And the breakfast is worth getting up for!
Most hotels, expecting guests to arrive at 5.30 am, will have a night porter at the reception to greet them. But the RC hotel has no night porter, in fact it has no reception! Instead the taxi driver has your room numbers and takes you to them. I would recommend that any first time visitor allows Spiros to arrange the Taxi, as I suspect that few drivers will know where the Hotel is. Our driver, Theodore is a flier when his busy workload permits. It may also be worthwhile to get Spiros to arrange your car hire, as the car will be delivered to the Hotel.
The accommodation is in two blocks about 50 yards uphill from the bar area, and a hundred yards from the flying area. The rooms are clean and comfortable without being luxurious. Air con, en suite shower/wc, fridge, TV, and either 2 single or one double bed, and wardrobe etc. Tea, coffee and milk plus a kettle are all supplied, and regularly re-stocked.
We were donating a Zagi supplied by Model-Pro Ltd and my first move was to glue this together to give it time to set, unpack, and grab an hours sleep before meeting BT for breakfast, and my first exposure to the RC hotel experience. It was not until later that I realised that I had already had this, in the shape of the informal arrival.
It was at our Full English Breakfast that we met the lovely Rula, and soon after we met Spiros. He is like a LiPo battery – an amazing amount of energy in a small package. He is also charming, witty, perceptive and very, very clever! He is extremely hard working, but seems to love what he does. And his English is as good as mine! He may not be tall, but he is very much larger than life!
The next step was to take the short walk to the flying site. Here I found a well laid out workshop/hangar with an array of models. The helicopter fleet is made up of Raptors, and for these there is a hovering and tuition area near the hangar. The IC trainer fleet is mainly Tutor 40’s, but there are numerous other models for those competent to fly them. The electric fleet was, at the time of our visit, somewhat limited due to breakage and damage. There was an Easy Star, a couple of Twin Star 2’s, and an electric glider. All were equipped with brushed motors and NiMh batteries. From what I saw in the workshop, there were a few better models in need of repair. The electric fleet was at first somewhat disappointing. But they proved adequate.
The forum regulars will be aware that I have a low tolerance of noise, I find the screaming of IC motors nearby physically painful, but this was only a problem when the heli training area was in use, if it got too bad I simply moved away for a while. As Spiros informed me all the helicopters are equipped with zimmermann quiet exhaust in order to minimise the noise level.
The well sorted engines of the planes were no problem at all in this regard. The first flight is an orientation flight with either Spiros or his other instructor Joe, a likeable and very able man. I had a go with a Twin star, not a model I have any experience of, but easy to fly. Joe explained to me the layout of the site, no fly zones and the difficulties of the approaches, in one direction one drops in between the trees, in the other there are power lines, and on this occasion the wind dictated that the trees were the first to draw my attention. At first I found this very tricky, as I am not used to any obstructions on an approach, but once I had my bearings I was fine, and never again had any difficulty in a landing. (Except once –more on this later!) There is no “peg board”, the models are listed and a transmitter is already set up for each. The Transmitters are on a rack on trickle charge, and you simply look up which tranny goes with whichever model you want to fly. If you take your own models, you are allocated a frequency for the duration of your stay so you don’t worry about clashes.(it is up to you to check what you clash with and take precautions!
At this point it would be as well to explain the Insurance scheme in operation at the RC Hotel. You are asked to pay the first €100 if you crash a model and damage it beyond your capacity to repair it. Your repairs must pass scrutiny by either Joe or Spiros, but they do not expect invisible mending, just that the model is safe to fly and does not look too bad. If this inspection is passed, you are off the hook! You are not asked to pay the €100 up front, but at the end of your time, if you have not claimed, you pay €30 premium. In fact this play now, pay later philosophy runs throughout the Hotel.
As our trip was a prize, we had to pay nothing, but I am told that you pay your room bill at the end of your stay too, and also I think if you have had any extras on your meals. Items from the bar you pay cash for, and also from the shop. The whole system is very much an honour system, and I for one would not have the courage to abuse it - Spiros has a lot of friends! At the end of the week we paid our €30 plus our flying fees, which were very reasonable. I actually did a couple of minor jobs on models that other people had not repaired properly, working in a spacious and well laid out workshop was a pleasant change from what I normally have to use! And it enabled Joe and Spiros to concentrate on other matters and for me or BT to use the models.
In fact this is a major part of the way the RC Hotel works – you are treated as a visiting friend rather than a paying guest, and as a consequence we had a great deal of fun. I can hardly imagine any other hotel where when a group of old friends arrive late at night, the whole place is darkened and people hide behind the bar as a joke! But this happened at 11.30pm one evening!
BT and I had arranged a hire car for most of our stay in order to explore some slopes with the Zagi, which we completed assembling soon after arriving, using materials brought from home for the purpose. I had brought my Tx, an Rx and battery pack, but I had to take these back with me as they came from my own models. I am sure Spiros will be able to find replacements!
Despite going to two different sites one of which is a mountain peak 3000ft high and the other has a paraglider run of 8km, on both occasions there was not a breath of wind! One hardly expects to see midges floating in the air when one is on the top of Corfu’s highest peak, but this is what we found! We also took a slight diversion into Corfu town centre. This is an easy place to get lost in! BT managed somehow to get us into a pedestrian precinct, which proved harder to get out of than it was to get into. On our second trip out we were descending a narrow mountain road and turned a bend to become confronted by a BUS! BT nearly scored a phone box whilst taking evasive action!
So we had a go with the Electrics at the site. Having seen comments on the Forum in praise of the Easy Star, I wanted to try this, but the one battery they had for it had been used. Spiros thought that another one he had might fit, but wanted to try the C of G first, and this caused me some amusement! He flew it and it proved fine, so he passed me the tranny. I had a decent flight, caught a thermal and got her up to a respectable height, shut the throttle and was surprised at how buoyant the air was. In fact she would not come down! When I came to land, it was not till she sailed past me on a “missed approach” that I realised that Spiros had maxed out the throttle trim!
The four channel Futaba radio that we used needs to have the throttle trim fully up to get all the power from the ESC. All the time I had been “gliding” in a strong “thermal” I had been under power in a weak thermal! As a flier of electric gliders, I never touch the throttle trim, as I want the motor off and the prop folded to glide, and when the motor cuts on the Bec on full throttle I know that there is still a half throttle reserve to get me back to the strip if needed. BT explained that IC fliers often max out the throttle trim to avoid stalling the motor – a useful lesson learned! Once the motor was off, I landed without problems! BT also found that the recommended C of G for the electric glider was a long way forward of where we would have it. I found it practically unfliable in the recommended configuration, it was almost impossible to turn with the power off, but apart from maxing out the elevator trim it was fine when set up for gliding flight.
At this stage I had decided to book a lesson to learn to fly the IC models, but I had spent some time watching the Tutor 40’s and was unimpressed. These are identical to the Arising Star, and did not appear to fly as well as my electric version. BT, who also flew the Star, flew one on his orientation flight and was unimpressed, he last flew IC some years ago and the whole rigmarole of fuelling, starting, draining and cleaning put him off. I might have had the lesson and tried it, but on the day I had intended I did not feel so good and so didn't take it up. I might have had a wider choice of models to try, but IC holds no attraction for me.
By this stage I was getting into the RC Hotel philosophy, that above all it is a place to relax and kick back, and if you want to do a bit of flying too, it is there for you! I flew the electric glider, the twin star and the easy star, and enjoyed them, but there was nothing there to challenge me or give me the pleasure I get from my own electric models. I think I did two loops the whole week, and I can do that in 20 seconds flight with my Formosa! The future plan for the RCHotel fleet is to increase the number of models with higher performance aircraft on the electric side.
BT also felt the same, that we were enjoying a relaxing break in a lovely place with decent people, and model flying was not a priority. In fact I spent time watching, did a few simple repairs, chatting, and generally relaxing. In this latter we were greatly assisted by the relaxed attitude of the place. It is hard to be serious about anything when Spiros’ 4 year old daughter looks at you with her enormous eyes and asks in English “what are you doing?” Her older brother Nico is also a very nice young man and I think he will probably become a very good flier!
I should say something about the food, which I found entirely satisfactory. Tasty and satisfying. On one evening we had a barbecue, not my favourite meal, but nice for a change. Orders for the evening meal have to be made by 3.30pm, and diners gather in the bar and are called into the dining room when the 3-course meal is ready. This is officially at 9.00pm(ish) All times at the RC Hotel are –ish!
One mildly disappointing factor is that although you can be trained at whatever discipline you choose, by either Spiros or Joe, you cannot take a test. For Country members like myself, arranging tests can be a bit tricky, and expensive to pay travelling costs for an examiner. Spiros or Joe could easily do the testing in ideal conditions, and neither would be the type to pass someone who did not deserve it just because they are paying guests! Spiros told me that following the BMFA guidelines tests can be taken only by an examiner who happens to be there on holiday. It would be nice for the BMFA to do something about it. Of course, if an ACE happens to be visiting at the time …..?
In conclusion, I would say that the RC Hotel is a unique blend of Hotel, family home, flying site, and club that somehow combines all of these to become more than the sum of it’s parts. The friendly atmosphere is like nothing else I know, and I have tried to show that this is what keeps bringing people back, in some cases several times a year.
Whether you want to kick back and relax, or fly all the time, you can do so. If you want to hang out by the pool or the bar, take a trip, hire a car and do whatever you want, it all depends on you.
Nobody presses you to do anything, and whatever you decide to do Spiros and Rula will be there to help you enjoy it! If you are expecting a 5 Star hotel and hot and cold running waiters, go elsewhere.
If you want to relax and do a spot of flying, the RC Hotel is the place. It is no surprise to me after my brief stay that 70% of Spiros’ business is repeat visitors, and of those we met there the vast majority were not first timers. I left there feeling that I was going to miss some friends. Would I go back?
Tips for Visitors
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The RC Hotel