Flight Fascination

August 23rd, 2018
Flight Fascination
People have been developing planes of all shapes and sizes ever since Orville and Wilbur Wright flew their first heavier than air craft over a hundred years ago.

A fascination for flight is a common thread that binds the members of the Strathalbyn Model Aircraft Club.

Club president Paul Mitchell said the hobby is as much about the process of making the planes as it is about flying.

“I’ve been building models my whole life,” he said.

“My father was a model builder and I reckon the first time I picked up a bit of balsa would have been at his feet.

“I was always gluing things together and copying dad.”

Imbuing the gift of flight to ordinary balsa wood is quite a talent.

“The satisfaction of being able to design and build and then fly your own aircraft was what got me into it,” Paul said.

“And that’s what keeps me coming back.”

Paul builds scale replicas of full-sized aeroplanes.

He has a preference for planes that are unusual and may not have been modeled before.

“At the moment I’m building a Gloster Gamecock,” he said.

“It’s a between-the-wars British fighter that never fired its guns in anger.

“My models tend to follow the structural form of the original so you’ve got to design the strengths and forces in mind right from the start.

“You don’t want to build in headaches for yourself.”

Paul’s penchant for building is becoming more rare in a hobby with an aging demographic whose younger participants can buy a plane and fly it on the same day.

“There are a lot of plug and play options,” Paul said.

“You take it out of the box and put the parts together which doesn’t involved a lot of design and building.

“It’s more aimed at the flying side of things.

“But plenty of people start with a ready-made plane, learn how to fly, then get a pen out and start designing their own aircraft.

With the popularity of smaller, more agile drones, you could be forgiven for thinking that there is waning interest in model planes.

For member Philip Birt, drones don’t offer the same challenge you get with planes.

“A lot of us have drones,” he said.

“But there’s not the same amount of skill involved in keeping them in the air.

“It is a more tech-based hobby.

“The logistics of keeping a plane in the air are different compared to a drone that you can program with a computer.

Phil runs the indoor flying activity every month at Cornerstone College’s Inbarendi gymnasium.

His enjoyment comes from seeing planes do what they’re designed for.

“I’m a visual person,” he said.

“I could sit at Adelaide Airport all day watching planes land.

“Even though models do look nice on a table, there’s nothing quite like like seeing them fly.

What comes up must come down and crashes are an inevitable aspect of the flying model aircraft.

“There’s and old saying,” Phil said.

“If you can’t afford to crash it you can’t afford to fly it.”

Part of the beauty of the hobby is the potential for catastrophe.

“All crashes are quite spectacular,” Phil said.

“It only takes a bit of a brain fade, you pull the sticks wrong directions and all of a sudden you’ve hit the ground.

“Then go out with a wheelie bin, pick up the pieces and start again.”

Along with the regular practical lessons in perseverance, the Strathalbyn Model Aircraft Club is a great social occasion.

“We have a really good membership,” Phil said.

“It’s got a great atmosphere and it’s a wonderful club to belong to.

“It’s somewhere to meet and socialise; to have a good chinwag.

The Strathalbyn Model Aircraft Club meets regularly at their airstrip just off Langhorne Creek Road, Strathalbyn.

They also fly indoors at Cornerstone College on the first Saturday of each month.

New members are welcome to come and learn to fly with instructors.

No model is needed to give it a try.

If you take to the skies like a duck to water, the knowledgeable members who know best can help you find the right model to get you started.

For more information contact Paul on 0401 828 026 or Phil on 0466 789 044.

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