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A Tale Of Woe! (With A Happy Ending)

From Tony Volante

3 months ago I decided that I would like to get into flying model aircraft to add to my life long interest in aviation. As you can see at the base of the page I run the Flight Simulator User Group-UK, and have done so for some 9 years. We have almost 1000 members, all over Europe, many of them professional pilots, and as a result I have even flown light aircraft myself. But back to the plot.

I visited a local model shop and ended up spending around £350 on an electric model helicopter, RX, servos, analogue TX, batteries, charger etc. etc. You would have thought that the shop owner would have mentioned, when I told him that I had never flow a model aircraft before, that a helicopter is not exactly the best plane to learn with. As a result I have yet to get the HC to fly and it resides in my garden shed.

I then found that the 'Torbay Slow Flyers' met each week in the Kingsteignton Indoor Bowling Hall, just a few hundred yards from my home. I visited them and was enthralled to see those slow-fly, fixed wing models performing.

Back to the model shop, another £250 on a slow-fly electric powered fixed wing plane, RX, Servos, and batteries etc. I also joined the BMFA and the BEFA. As I couldn't see an 'Electric Flyers' club in Devon listed anywhere in magazines or on the Internet or the BEFAs web-site, I contacted the SW Regional Organiser of the BEFA and asked if there were such a club. Even suggesting that I would be willing to get one started if there were sufficient interest. His only reply was that the BEFA 'hoped' to organise an Electric Fly-In somewhere near Exeter in the autumn. No other help was forthcoming.

Next week at the bowling hall I told members about the new slow fly job I was building, only to be informed that "flying in the bowling hall was now at an end because the 'Teign Valley MFC' will be flying on the Newton Abbot Race Track (which is just behind the bowling hall) throughout the summer and autumn".

Slow flyer also consigned to the garden shed. Do you detect a pattern emerging here?

A few days later I visited the race track (I live on a hill overlooking it) and spoke to the guys who were flying there about joining the club. Whilst I was there I was enthralled to watch a member flying an electric powered glider.

You've guessed it. Back to the model shop........£280 etc. etc., plus more cash on extras like flight box, better battery charger, more batteries, and tools which I bought on my first visit to the Ascot and Sandown shows. Later I bought a second hand digital TX from a guy up north who advertised it on the BEFA web-site. It turned out to be faulty by the way and also now resides in the shed.

On trying to join the TVMFC I received conflicting info. One member said they were closing the club, another that they were moving, another that they had already 'moved'. Even the membership secretary didn't seem to know what was happening. At no time do I see more than one or two people flying at the track, which has severe restrictions on flying times by the way. There is a children's nursery within the track, so no flying between 8am and 6.30 pm 5 days a week, plus no flying when there is racing, football, car boot sales, antiques fairs, visits by Uncle Tom Cobley etc. etc. etc.

Next I visited the Torbay & District RFCs flying site near Paignton, about 5 miles from me. The guys were very helpful and interested in helping me get into the hobby. I have e-mailed the Membership Secretary 3 times and asking to join his club. Not one single reply!

Off to the Exeter and District RCC. GREAT. Not only did they welcome me with open arms, they signed me up as a club member on the spot. A few days later a club member checked over my electric powered glider (that was when the TX was found to be faulty and so he used his) and then even flew the glider for me. A had a big grin on my face as I saw my labour of love actually airborne. By the way, on joining the EDRCC I had told both the Membership Secretary and club Chairman that I was not really interested in flying IC powered aircraft and that I had a powered glider. Also that I had not flown a model plane before than therefore needed tuition and eventual certification.

Next step: Tuition. Swot up on all the BMFA and EDRCC club safety rules, plus lots of other 'training' info downloaded from various web-sites and in books I had bought in the hope that one day I would get to fly my model myself when 'certificated'.

I am beginning to think that instead I need to be 'Certified' for trying to get into this hobby!!

A week or so later I contacted the EDRCC Membership Secretary and asked what I needed to do to get the necessary tuition and eventually certification. His answer is below.

"Tuition is no problem but no certification can be given on powered gliders within the Club".

Result = The glider now resides in the shed amongst the growing collection of very expensive attempts to get into model aircraft flying.
Cost so far = Around £1000.
Flying time = Zero.
Enjoyment = Despair.
Clubs = EDRCC: Membership card returned with a request to refund my membership fee. TVMFC: Seems to be floundering. TDRFC: Membership Secretary must have immigrated.
Wife = Threats of divorce if I spend any more money without getting to fly at least one of my planes.
Result = I'm about to take up knitting!

Just what does one have to do to get into flying model aircraft in the UK if they are not interested in tearing around the skies with a fast and furious (and noisy) IC powered model. Just how does one get into flying model gliders, powered or otherwise, and/or electric powered planes? After all, there is not much joy in being into model aircraft flight purely as a spectator. Enjoyable though it may be it surely cannot replace the actual 'flying' of them.

The Next Day...
If nothing else this tale may be a precautionary story for those considering taking up the hobby to spend no cash until they've checked out local clubs, what they provide and are willing to accommodate in the way of aircraft at their sites. The piece above may also raise a few smiles, as "it isn't intended to be vindictive or a criticism of the way any of the clubs are run. Just a plea for someone in the know to point me in the right direction".

Maybe I will actually get my model to fly under my own control one day.

When I sent my 'Tale of Woe' to Flying Sites, I also sent a copy to Brian Pettitt, Membership Secretary of the BARCS. A copy also went to the BMFA, of which I am a member. They didn't bother to reply. However, Brian replied straight away and gave me the name, address and phone number of the chairman of the Riviera Thermal Soaring Club at Brixham, who also have some powered glider interest and a training/certification scheme.

I contacted Lorus Goring, club Chairman, and had a long chat with him relating my 'Tale of Woe'. He told me that with the RTSC I could be given training either with my own powered glider or a club thermal glider. Lessons can start as soon as the weather is a little more suitable. If fact I would have been 'flying' yesterday except for the poor weather conditions down on the Torbay coast.

The moral of the story for newcomers to the hobby. No mater what type of model flying you are interested in find a really good club FIRST. Maybe check out a few clubs in your area Contact them and have a chat with club officials and members BEFORE spending any cash. Make sure that they are willing to give tuition and eventual certification on the type of model you are interested in BEFORE you join their club. It can save a lot of unnecessary expense and disappointment when you find out later that they don't want your type of aircraft flying at their club

Best wishes
Tony Volante
Micro Aviator Editor
Flight Simulator User Group-UK

In reply Mr S.P. Taylor offers his observations.

I was at the same time saddened, amused but frankly unsurprised at Tony Volante's unfortunate experiences. The model trade is now focussed on the fast buck, - toys and ready-made models, so advise there is much denuded. 'Real' modellers, are getting thinner on the ground, and model clubs are at best patchy, - as you have ably proven.

If you are serious about flying, the best asset is a really good mentor, whether that is inside a club or out. Find someone who flies what you want to fly, - and manifestly does so competently. Becoming a member of a club is really not necessary, but certainly, it is worth joining the BMFA for the Insurance alone. There are many modellers who are not in clubs and never have been. (I've managed very happily for forty years!) You are far more likely to suffer interference, distractions and collisions at a club, as well as an endless stream of often petty restrictions. Of course, if you value the social interaction, then that is another matter.

Flying sites are not really a problem, especially for the sort of models that you want to fly and on your own. One just has to ask. I have flown models for forty years, had numerous flying sites all over the country, never had a complaint, never been thrown off a site and hardly ever been refused the use of a site when asking. The surest way to lose a site, is to have hordes of noisy models turning-up seven days a week, buzzing around from dawn till dusk, as has been proven time and time again all over the country.

Having learned to fly, - and an electric powered glider is pretty easy as a tyro, then you should be able to fly in a myriad of locations, in peace, and get a lot of enjoyment from your chosen hobby.

Good Luck,

In reply Cliff Harvey, 2018 Chair of the Torbay & Distrcit RCF says the club is still going strong..

I would like to give a reply to Tony Volante's letter {Tale of Woe) on your feedback page. I know the letter was 15 years ago but as it's still on your site and his comments are publicly available I would like to opportunity to reply. I am current Chairman of the Torbay & District RFC and would like to say this:

I'm glad Tony got sorted in the end but as current Chairman of the Torbay Club I would like to make a couple of observations. Firstly I'm replying to his letter 15 years after it was written (I've just become Chairman and wasn't a member at the time) but, as it's still in the public domain, I would like to point out that our Club is still here and very active for new members who want to learn to fly, or who are already trained. Secondly I'm pleased with the reception he received at our flying site but to email our secretary (at the time) on three occasions and not get a reply is unfortunate, it's a shame he didn't visit us personally again and ask for the secretary's phone number.

As of today's date we have an excellent committee with plenty of contact names and numbers on the club website and welcome new members and old.

Chocks Away,
Cliff Harvey Chairman T&DRFC

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