|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 just returned from Corfu having sampled the hospitality of Spiros and the RC Hotel. First prize winner, Terry will be going out later this month.
When a small child is playing with his action figures, flying them round, and bringing then in for a crash landing shouting “Deadstick, Deadstick” you can only be in Corfu's RC Hotel, run by Spiros and Rula, and their son Nico.
We have just returned from a week there. We had long wanted to go, but were fortunate enough to win a prize which part-funded our stay there. We count ourselves very lucky.
We are Flappit and Plummet on the Forums and we are husband and wife aero modellers. Neither of us are experienced pilots, but Plummet has had more practice. Flappit had had perhaps half a dozen flights before the trip.
We arrived in Corfu by charter airline on the Monday afternoon, and were promptly met by the taxi that Spiro had organised. We were driven the 30 minutes or so to the hotel, and welcomed by Rula, who directed the taxi driver to our room, and invited us to return to the bar when we had got ourselves settled in.
The room was clean, comfortable, with air-conditioning (if you want), with en-suite shower and loo, and with large French windows opening over the swimming pool and the rest of the complex. It also had a fridge and a TV. We used the former but not the latter. It also had mugs, kettle, teabags and coffee. (As the tea drinker Flappit found that the milk cartons were too creamy for her taste, and they tended to crack or curdle if added to very hot tea as Rula explained to us. Tinned milk is available in their mini market if needed.)
There are two blocks of rooms, some upstairs rooms have balconies, the downstairs ones a veranda. The whole site has been landscaped. Old trees remain, but new plants are coming on well. The pool is quite large, beautifully clean, and with a broad paved area with plenty of sun loungers and umbrellas, and with a small separate paddling pool.
Downhill of the rooms and pool area is the bar. This houses the kitchens, the bar and the dining room, and has a broad shady outdoor seating area.
Returning to the bar we met a small bouncy lady called Linda and we were shown the intricacies of the menus. There are separate lunch and dinner menus. The hotel provides half-board, so drinks and lunches are ordered and paid for as required.
For lunch there is a small varied range of salads, burgers, omelettes, and sandwiches, prepared to order by Linda, often served with chips. We were asked to order dinner in advance. Spiros and Rula plan the evening meal as a communal affair, with everyone eating together at the same time around large tables.
Al fresco dining options were offered on very warm nights. Food is ordered in advance to allow it to all be served together. There are always special dishes on a blackboard, or you can choose from a varied menu. (Some dishes have a surcharge – fillet steak, duck, king prawns for instance – which seems quite reasonable to us.) The exception to this is their barbecue night.
We had our first Greek beer, and then pottered down to the flying site, where we could hear the unmistakable noises of helicopters hovering and engines being started.
We had a look at the models available (more info. on this later) and were delighted to see a couple of Prangsters like we have at home. We met Spiros and Joe, the two instructors (another one is starting soon). Joe set to, and sorted out transmitters and buddy leads for a Prangster. We fly Mode 1, while they more commonly fly Mode 2, but this was no problem to them. A few minutes later Joe had the model in the air, and had passed the buddy box to Flappit for a waggle. I then had a quick turn. We were all set for tuition the next day.
Back to the bar for more beer, and to meet and chat with the other residents. We were soon part of the family.
Dinner was served at about 9ish, so that the fliers can make the maximum use of the daylight. The food was superb. Do not expect silver service and waitresses in frillies, it is Spiros and Rula (and other volunteers) who handle the plates – remember the family atmosphere. If you want drinks or wine with the meal, buy it in advance from the bar. The house wines we tried were all good.
After dinner Spiros organised the tuition slots for the following day, and also checked demand for trips out on the following afternoon.
Being people who need 8 hours a night we made our way to our rooms to the distant sound of frogs on a nearby lake. We slept well. We understand that the evening can, on occasion, stretch well into the small hours for those who enjoy being night owls.
Breakfast starts at 8:30 ish. People with early tuition slots may need to fly first and breakfast afterwards. Cereal, juice, yoghurt, a full english, or whatever you want is on offer, with tea and coffee and bread or toast. The yoghurt with honey is very special.
Flying, and the
As trainees, we could only fly with instructors, and we each had a one hour session with Joe every day. This did not, of course stop us enjoying other's flying, and helping where we could.
Spiros' fleet of aircraft is varied, with trainers to 3D models, including some scale ones. They are (I think) all ARTF or well kitted originally. They work hard, and some of them show the wear and tear.
As trainers he has the ARC Ready2, Irvine Tutor 40s, the foam Magister, and two Prangsters. While we were there one Ready 2 was lost in the scrub land, but another arrived in the workshop as we left.
The Tutor 40's were hard worked, and sometimes reluctant to ascend (until larger engines were fitted.) The Prangsters, of course, behaved impeccably.
An Edge 340, Diablo, and many others represented the more agile fleet, while a Tiger Moth was a treat to see being sedately put through its paces through the week.
There are a number of electric models including powered gliders. Do not expect to see the biggest, most expensive models on the fleet for obvious reasons.
There are a number of helicopters, but I do not know enough to identify them.
There are banks of transmitters assigned to the models. They do not have a pegging system, rather, there is only one TX for each frequency. We were not involved with this as we only flew with the buddy lead.
We were introduced to the flying routine. There is a fuelling and cleaning table near the workshop. There you fuel the model before flight, and clean and re-fuel it after every flight. Once fuelled, you take it to the starting table.
This has a solar-array which charges a starting battery, and a glow clip and supply and receiver battery tester. The battery is checked before every flight – the trainers, in particular, are working hard for their living.
The starting table is well back from the clearly marked pilot's box. Running models are then carried to the strip, permission to go “on the strip” is requested, and then you return to the pilot's box for take off.
There is no flying from wherever you fancy, and there is a maximum of four (fixed wing) models in the air. Flying over and behind the pilots box is, of course, forbidden.
The strip itself is mown grass – it is no bowling green, but has fewer mole hills and rabbit scrapes than we have encountered elsewhere.
There were no cow-pats unlike at home! It is plenty long enough, and narrow enough to require accurate piloting – that was what we were there to learn.
Off the strip conditions are harsher. There are a couple of large lurking trees, which somewhat to my surprise, the Prangster kept out of. At the leftmost end of the runway and along the length of the far side of it is rough and prickly scrub. If you venture into it you should wear long trousers, long sleeves, and proper shoes or take the consequences.
Trips into the scrub are further discouraged by Spiros' cheerful shout of “Mind the Snakes”. Plummet was a member of a number of model hunting expeditions, with considerable success we might add. He returned relatively unscathed except for a beard full of foliage.
To the right hand end of the strip is is a large more open flatter area. Perfect in fact, except for the minor details of the two sets of overhead wires with poles. Oh yes, and the flat bit is a swamp. The wires are, in fact, not too troublesome. We did not see them troubled all week, although Flappit got close once.
The trainers, Spiros and Joe work really hard, juggling between doing buddy box tuition flying and fielding discussions and queries from the experienced flyer,. who might have equipment queries. They also keep an eye open to ensure safety. The training slots may not run to exact timings, everything being 'ish' but you will always get your full hour of their time somehow.
Plummet's Training Report.
I have to say that the systematic approach to model care and safety I saw in Corfu taught me a lot, and made me realise that I (and I have to say, some others in my club) had developed some rather slack habits.
Before going I was concerned that our skills were very limited. I need not have worried. There were all levels of capability from total beginner to plain astonishing, and all were accommodated.
I found myself with little time to ponder on all of that, as Joe took me on my initial flight in just the right way for me, without advanced notice so I couldn't talk myself out of it! He mentioned that he wanted to setup a Mode 1 tranny and check the Prangster's trim. He just gave me control, and the decision was made. Well I was so proud of myself and my self belief was regained, setting me up for my training session the next day.
I was able to have a good understanding with Joe and now have some confidence to guide others who are buddy-ing me in the future to work towards a better in flight communication.
I did take off three times myself (my first goes) and felt a lot more comfortable turning, keeping level and generally doing it myself most of the time. I was allowed, in fact positively had to, correct my own errors which was immensely educational! For some fun Joe showed me some aerobatics - intentional manoeuvres I might add not just the 'it just happened' loops!! An Immelman turn that was super to do.
I did one (heavy) landing then with a dowel replacement in Prangester's undercarriage all was well again.
I found approaches more tricky and frustrated myself with my lack of communication between my brain and thumbs!!! It will come no doubt. I have moved on by miles thanks to Joe.
As a women trainee flyer I learned a lot about myself and the hobby over my daily training sessions and by just talking to others. I can't help my gender and most of the time it didn't matter. The training gave me an equal opportunity to just have a go .
I learned how much I do know about building and how things work in casual discussions in the workshop and around. I stand in different flying shoes at the end of my first RC Hotel visit, hopefully not my last.
When we were not
flying, eating, drinking, or sleeping.
Fire Flies put on a lovely display in the darkness on most nights as we went to bed, and one even visited us in our room. It is worth mentioning that there are many insects and bugs, and they can get anywhere. The area's woodlice, for instance, seem to be determined to meet their end in the pool, and you will wipe plenty of insects from your models.
The pool was a good place to be in the siesta and attracted Plummet and others for a wallow on most days.
We are not walkers, but others told us that there is a pleasant circular walk taking in the lake and the Donkey Sanctuary.
The hotel is fairly isolated. This was part of the experience and for Plummett and Flappit, a wonderful bonus. You would need transport to explore the Island from the hotel. There are no nearby shops or bars (that we know of), but next to the bar is their little mini market, which does a good line in essentials, sunscreen, shampoo and the like. Nibbles such as biscuits, ice cream and crisps are available and the coveted RC Hotel tee shirts and baseball caps which were going like proverbial hot cakes.
Spiros organises trips in a minibus to various places, and we went on the ones to Corfu Town and to Paleokastritsa, a beautiful bay with a monastery on a steep hill. You should remember that Corfu does go to sleep somewhat in the afternoon – the siesta - so you may find shops closed during these trips.
Others went on an Island tour and came back with glowing reports of a wonderful trip, scenery, food and hospitality, which was especially enjoyed by the non flyers.
Our visit provided us an opportunity to see a full complement of guests and the atmosphere, and whether the hotel was quieter or full, it was friendly, informal and full of camaraderie. We were like minded people on common ground.
Maybe that's another reason why it was like home from home?
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The RC Hotel