Please do not be alarmed, but there’s a reasonable chance the chap in our airforce who recently suggested the government should spend $12.4 billion bolstering our air combat capability with F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft probably started his career making a model aircraft propelled by a long twisted rubber band.
Before we make unfair jest of our military we should point out that most astronauts throughout the world, including Adelaide’s own Andy Thomas, were inspired by this same simple passion representing the most basic art of flying.
Don’t use that metaphor “it’s not rocket science” either while passing a classroom at Investigator College Goolwa campus because since 2003 they have been learning just that – how rockets fly.
Their teachers are members of the Goolwa Indoor Model Flyers Club, whose passion for model aeronautical craft is remarkable.
Leading this activity as part of a student extension program is Ben Usher, 78, of Middleton, who is president of the club. “We teach the theory or basis of aerodynamics, history of flight, how to read a plan and make the planes, and how to make and guide the gliders,” he said.
“It’s the basic grounding whether you make it a hobby for a lifetime or you make it a beginning of a lifetime career path in civil aviation or the airforce. We are proud that at least eight of the students have considered a career in the RAAF because of the program.”
Visit the Goolwa Sports Stadium on the first and third Saturday afternoon of each month and you realise these guys take it serious, but without losing what lured them as kids in the first place – the passion, excitement, just plain fun and perhaps most all, being mesmerised by how these things actually fly.
There are also the outdoor enthusiasts who form the local South Coast Model Aeronautical Association based at Currency Creek who control every model that flies from the state of the art planes, jets, gliders, helicopters and multicopters – costing as much as $6000 – that perform acrobatic maneuvers and nose dives the same as the real things.
Some are radio controlled, and even powered by long rubber bands twisted so tightly they create propulsion and controlled by incredibly delicate design that ensures they circle and land smoothly on their wheels as would a normal small aircraft.
And when it comes to the outdoor aeronautical models that are capable of flying above 500 metres requiring approval like any real aircraft we get can into the jets powered by petrol or nitro-fuel, and some models substituted with electrics using low-cost but powerful compact electric motors and high-capacity LiPo batteries.
According to Ben, who owns more than 30 model aircraft, it can be more than a hobby with competition as high as
international level. In these games you can in various divisions and among many things race, perform the best acrobats or simply get “shot down”.
The sport or hobby is governed nationally by the Model Aeronautical Association of Australia, which embraces 28 outdoor clubs throughout SA under the auspices of Model Aerosport South Australia.
“It is high-tech and high-flying stuff,” Ben said. “We might be talking about models, but they are not toys; they are miniatures of the full size things. Importantly, in the history of aircraft planes have been made by testing models.”
Ben made his first model plane aged eight, and used his passion for model aircraft to reach through to servicepeople in his role as a chaplain in the Royal Australian Air Force, which took him to posts overseas and 17 places around Australia. Model planes bring out the “kid” in all of us, so the art of communication is struck.
Like many things, Ben’s wife, Lily, thought she couldn’t beat him so she joined him at the Goolwa Sports Centre also getting fun out of using radio controlled model aircraft. Ben is one of the few South Australians to have won at the Model Aeronautical Association of Australia national championships – in three events when the titles were last held at on the Fleurieu Peninsula in 2006.
Mind you, the sport has its more than serious element. Graham Modra lives at Brooklyn Park, yet is a member of the Goolwa indoor club because he said it can be mayhem in some of the metropolitan indoor model aircraft centres with some younger enthusiasts acting as if they were “Kamikaze pilots”.
“It can be quite intimidating,” Graham said. “It’s nothing for your model aircraft to be attacked mid-air and see it crash.”
Lindsay Petersen, 74, who is vice-president of the Goolwa club and president of the South Coast Model Aeronautical Association, made his first model plane aged 14, and lives for model aircraft.
Like so many enthusiasts he was in his glory last Sunday when thousands gathered from around the state to attend a spectacular airshow of model craft at the Strathalbyn Model Aircraft Club to help raise funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Some of the model aircraft had wing spans of five metres, and they came in all shapes and sizes. They were the magnificent men and women with their flying machines.
“To me, it’s a hobby that has been nearly all of my life,” Lindsay said. “I left it briefly to spend more time with my family or my business, but I always found my way back. It’s something that gets hold of you and you never want to let go. It’s a place where you make a lot of friends, genuine people always prepared to help you.”
For the record, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft don’t have one rubber band to propel them. It’s not rocket science to work out they don’t run on the smell of an oily rag either.
There are 28 members involved in either or both the Goolwa Indoor Model Flyers Club (indoors) and the South Coast Model Aeronautical Association (outdoors). If you would like to know more about either club contact Lindsay on 8555 0601.