Bringing Model Flying Into The Classroom

Education, Explaination & Mitigation
By Derek Rowe

Building the BMFA DartSouth Wales R/C Society members who are fortunate enough to fly at Llandow during weekdays may have noticed an unusual flurry of activity during the middle of July. The rush of young talent wanting to experience our hobby was a group of volunteer boys from Barry Comprehensive School during their Activity Week.

The Headmaster introduced the Activity Week some four years ago, to provide younger boys with an opportunity to undertake a range of sports, hobbies and pastimes, which they might otherwise never experience.

The aeromodelling module has been a popular part of every Activity Week so far. It is a collaborative effort between a number of organisations combining to provide a complete course in building, trimming and flying models with and without in flight control. All in a day and a half! Each module begins with ten boys spending a whole morning in a classroom, each building a BMFA Dart, a rubber powered indoor model, under the stern eye of John Henderson who is the Public Relations Officer for the BMFA. Fellow members of Barry Aeromodellers ably supported him. This year they were John's brother Eric, Graham Prosser and the ubiquitous Cliff Pittman.

The kits are subsidised by British Aerospace or whatever it is they call themselves these days, so the price to the school is one it can afford. It's John's objective that every Dart is completely built by lunchtime; he has not failed yet.

While the adhesives are curing in the classroom during the afternoon, John and his cohorts provide the boys with hands-on instruction of trimming and flying other Darts, this time made from Depron by John and Eric, often the evening before to replace losses incurred during the previous afternoon session. It is John's promise to the boys that everyone will have a successful flight; no change there then. These flying sessions have taken place in a variety of locations, the school hall, the school dining room, the sports field in good weather and even in the Barry Fire Station engine house, (the chief fire officer ordered the fire engines outside especially).

At the end of the first day the boys leave the classroom with their own BMFA Dart, which they have built themselves and are ready to ready to fly. I do not believe many of the Darts survive the journey through the school gates, but the sense of pride and achievement in making a machine that really flies must last a little longer, surely.

The final half-day of the module is made possible by the generosity of the members of the South Wales Radio Control Society. With the approval of the committee, the club flying site at Llandow is used to provide each boy with hands on experience of a fixed wing aircraft under radio control. SWRCS involvement does not end there either; club members give up their own time and risk their equipment to provide the necessary buddy boxes and trainer aircraft.

Frank Watkins and Derek Griffiths both took holidays to bring the hobby to unknown boys whom they may never see again. Tony Blake overcame his insecurity and proved himself to be a most able instructor of nervous boys. In addition, other members of the club contributed to the event, Justin McCarthy entrusted his buddy box to the author for the week so that Tony could have a working dual control set.

John Townsend did admirable work with his camera, and the results accompany this article. He did this even though I recently damaged his car with a model during take-off.

Other members, including Steve Adam, Clive Pleasants, Tony Allen, Kerry Thomas and Neil (whose surname I can never remember, forgive me) also assisted by entertaining boys as they waited for their individual turns at the controls. The flying instruction given to the boys involved a few minutes trying to fly straight and level with the inevitable turns at the end of the runway. At the end of their period of instruction, each boy flew a loop, which prompted a wide range of comments from the boys regarding the perceived difficulty of the manoeuvre.

Regardless of the words they used, it was evident from their facial expressions that flying a loop gives rise to feelings of pleasure and accomplishment. At the end of their half-day at Llandow the boys left, wearied a little by the efforts of concentration, but enriched with memories of actually flying models which otherwise, for some if not all, could never be more than a dream.

Perhaps, just perhaps, in many years to come, those memories might stir an adult into joining the hobby; he might even bring his sons with him. The benefits brought to the boys during Activity Week would have been nothing more than a Headmasters whim if all of the participants mentioned here, and those I have omitted to mention by reason of amnesia, had not given freely of their time, their skills and their goodwill. I am extremely grateful to them all, and I am certain that the boys are too judging by the number of volunteers for the activity each year.

Now comes the confession, the observant among SWRCS members may have noticed that the yellow club trainer has been notable for its absence from the field recently. The reason for this lies in the fact that during the first flying session of Activity Week it tried to share air space with another Flair Cub, and came off worse.

The damage was so serious that the airframe had to be scrapped. Fortunately, Terry Pengelly had generously donated a Tiger 25 airframe to the club some time before and it was in storage in awaiting an engine and radio gear.

Thus, the club trainer is now a Tiger 25 with an ageing OS25 engine and Futaba controls. The boys were neither responsible, nor instrumental, in the demise of the much-used Flair Cub, which has introduced many inquisitive bystanders to the hobby and to the club. It just happened to occur during a boys' flying session.

As soon as they had established their innocence they seemed to appreciate the excitement of the occasion. The culprits in the incident are not to be named but they include a membership secretary and a past chairman who say in their defence that two into one won't go, and anyway I did not see the other Cub coming!

By Derek Rowe
South Wales Radio Control Society
Photographs by
John Townsend