FREEFLIGHT DURATION NEEDS YOU! - Part 1
This article is a plea to you individually not to let something that is really good die by doing nothing.
Many of the regular NORWIND fliers will know that several of us fly indoor duration models in national competitions. When we fly at NORWIND, we often get other fliers looking at the models and saying how nice they are to see flying. What most fliers don't realise is that they are witnessing (and unwittingly contributing to) the slow death of duration flying, both locally and nationally. There is nothing deliberate about this. It is the 'Grey Squirrel Effect', where fliers who are just enjoying themselves with their 'Ready To Fly' models, or fun models, are squeezing the lightweight models out by taking over the habitat, just like Grey Squirrels are bringing about the gradual extermination of the indiginous Red Squirrels.
R/C and heavier weight F/F fliers have many venues where they can fly. Duration fliers have very few (and even the venues which we CAN fly at, need a critical minimum number of people to attend, as they don't come cheap). Attempts at 'slots' for each type of flying (such as Rochdale meetings) don't work for real lightweights. The turbulance created by heavier models takes time to subside and makes it impossible to fly in any consistent fashion.
At a national level, we are now struggling to maintain enough duration fliers to field a team at World Champs and similar events. The Americans have a good youth programme, while our fliers are steadily getting older (with a few rare exceptions). The BMFA Tech. Committee are working hard to attract new duration fliers by subsidising meetings at Manchester Velodrome several times a year and offering 'introduction' classes. It must be really disheartening to see the lack of response from new fliers. It will only take the withdrawal of a couple of 'Stalwarts' and the whole thing will become untenable and duration flying will die.
You might conclude that this kind of modelling belongs in a past era and that it matters little if such models are no longer flown. I'd like you to consider just what is being lost if that happens. Apart from losing the sheer beauty of seeing models like F1D's fly an unbelievably slow speed (prop turning at less than ONE rev per second!), we are moving to an age where craft skills are being lost. I regularly fly with fliers who think that the height of achievement is to see a carbon fibre (or RTF, or CNC cut kit model) fly, usually with motors which are much too powerful, thus ensuring a spectacular climb, followed by an equally rapid descent! They know nothing about the sheer fun of the challenge of squeezing a long flight out of a miniscule amount of rubber. Any duration flyer can see a commercial, over-powered model zoom up to the ceiling and know that the owner knows very little about building or flying. They have no real achievement once the novelty wears off of seeing a plane fly that someone else has designed and basically trimmed for you. What role models we must be for our young people! The basic message is that you can always BUY fun and success! I started modelling in 1958 and have built and flown most types of models, including many R/C models. I can honestly say that the models which have given me most enjoyment are the indoor duration models. These have included some scale models, but even they become boring compared with 'film' models (Such as Penny plane, F1M and F1D).
"I COULDN'T MAKE FILM TYPE MODELS, THEY NEED SPECIAL SKILL AND EQUIPMENT"
The number of times I heard this from fliers who have looked at my models! It is absolute rubbish and unfortunately some duration fliers have been responsible for creating a 'mystique' about film models. ANY competent modeller can build a duration model and develop their skills. Nobody in their right mind sets out to build a 1.2gm F1D without trying some of the easier classes first! Anyone who can cut a bit of balsa can build a Penny Plane! The notion that film is hard to use is just wrong. You need to know the easy way of doing it,.A Penny Plane is much easier to build than a built-up fuselage, tissue covered model. The film is easy to buy too! Pauline at 'Flitehook' sells 'Polymicro' (the best starter film) by the metre. Props and bearings usually put fliers off, but they are actually available from Flitehook too! You won't be truly competitive with a commercial plastic 'Bulldog Type' prop, but it's a start! You can even fly a RTF 'Bulldog' in Penny Plane to get some experience at trimming and extracting max performance out of it. Balsa props require a bit more effort, but there are a few of us around who can help out if you get stuck.