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A buzz of excitement

The Wairarapa Model Aero Club must have one of the most beautiful clubrooms in the region.

While its storage container at Hood Aerodrome is modest, the club’s dedicated flying zone sweeps before an unobstructed vista of the Tararua range and under the wide sky of Masterton’s rural fringe.

Twice a week, 20-plus members gather to fly their radio-controlled models, discuss aero-building and glean advice from more experienced flyers.

Doug King, 91, of Masterton [and formerly Carterton], remembers first being enthralled by model aircraft as a 10-year-old.

“My cousin had been sick and started building them at home.

“They weren’t radio controlled back then, they had model diesel engines, or were rubber band powered,” he said.

Rubber band powered planes are in the ‘free flight’ category, which still exits and is popular at national championships.

They are configured to fly in a certain way – for example, they may have the rudder set to a gentle turn to the left or right.

Some have to be chased after a short flight, while other free flight aircraft may have a control line, with the pilot holding a wired control stick for up and down movement.

These days, King carries his own stool and electric motor-launched glider from his car to the flying field, where he uses a radio transmitter to fly in seated comfort.

The transmitter he holds communicates with a receiver in the aircraft, with a rechargeable battery doing the grunt work, as King sends the glider through a series of formations.

“Model aircraft fascinated me, so much so that at one stage I took on full-size engineering [as a job],” he said.

He worked as an engineer for Rural Aviation in New Plymouth.

Model aircraft flying appeals because it isn’t a high impact sport, club president John Farmer said.

“People think if they crash a model aircraft, it’s all over but it’s amazing what you can fix with a hot glue gun – the aircraft are remarkably strong.

“People don’t have to spend a fortune to do this – we have a club plane people can use to try it out.”

There is no membership charged to those under 25.

Beginners fly with an approved instructor, who holds a ‘buddy box’ [linked to the beginner’s radio] and can take control of the aircraft if needed.

In line with Civil Aviation Authority rules, each club flying session must have an ‘observer’ who watches pilots, while flying above 400 feet is forbidden for all members.

The club boasts aircraft of all shapes and sizes, including vintage models, ‘foamies’ made from foam, small electric powered models, to aircraft with internal combustion engines.

One member, Ernie Theedom, flies model helicopters and has been involved in the sport since 1963.

The Wairarapa Model Aero club was formed in 1934, with the first radio controlled model aircraft flown off Hood Aerodrome in 1941.

That same year, the club went into recess for the remainder of World War II and reactivated in 1946.

The Wairarapa club is affiliated to national body Model Flying New Zealand [MFNZ] and abides by its safety regulations, Farmer said.

Permission is required from the aerodrome operator to fly within 4km of an aerodrome [including the helipad at Wairarapa Hospital], from any location, including private property.

“You would also need to get permission to overfly private property and check any local council regulations concerning the use of council property,” Farmer said.

“Any person flying a remotely controlled aircraft, or drone, is also required to fully understand the airspace in which they are operating and any restrictions that apply.”

The Wairarapa Model Aero Club is seeking new members. Contact John Farmer [email protected] or 027 429 2116.

Club days Thursdays and Sundays from 9am at Hood Aerodrome, Manaia Rd entrance. Indoor flying at Clareville Stadium, Carterton, on the third Wednesday of each month. Visit the club website waimac.org.nz.

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