Demonstrating toy planes

Learning to fly something different

By Cpl Paul Bellingham – Airmens’ Representative RAFMAA

You maybe reading this Active magazine and thinking “what is model aircraft flying doing in an Active sports magazine?”

Believe it or not, it IS actually an approved sport within the RAF.

Demonstrating toy planes. The Royal Air Force Model Aircraft Association (RAFMAA) has been going now for over 50 years and its aim is to ‘Increase the effectiveness of the RAF by stimulating the interest of Service personnel in the science and art of flying by ‘fostering interest, inventiveness, and skill, in designing, building and flying model aircraft’ and ‘organising competitions (yes, competitions!) among Service personnel so that those with duties not immediately associated with aircraft, may experience the skill and art of flying’.


Now I don’t know about you but that seems a bit too formal.

Model aircraft flying has many different disciplines from Free flight aero modelling, to control line model flying and on to Radio controlled aero modelling.

So let’s break them down a bit.

Free Flight

Demonstrating tou planes. This discipline involves the flying of powered models or gliders both in and outdoors and greatly depends on the builders’ and flyers’ skill to successfully trim it for flight. These models are NOT under the control of the pilot once launched and all competitions are against the clock. All sounds a bit crazy, but in the right hands, it is a fascinating sight to see.

No doubt, as kids, we all probably dabbled at one point, with the polystyrene chuck gliders with little propellers on the front, that were available from the local corner shop. Well, things have come a long way since then with many hours spent trying to get that perfect flight, but as they say, everything must start somewhere.

Control Line

Definition - Models flown on the end of wires.

Demonstrating toy plane. Reported to be the only form of model flying where the pilot can actually ‘feel’ what their plane is doing, these engine powered models hurtle round in an arena at incredible speeds. There are a variety of disciplines in control line flying including Speed, Aerobatics, Racing and the legendary Combat. The latter involves tying long streamers of a set length, to the rear of your combat model and spending the entire flight trying to cut your opponents streamer with your propeller without, A: Having yours cut by your opponent, and B: Crashing. For this, you need quick reactions and often a few black bin liners in the back of the car for those who lose the battle!! Nevertheless, this is extremely good fun to watch.

Radio Controlled Model Flying

Probably the branch of model flying that most people are familiar with. These models vary from Gliders, which can be flown off flat fields or hillsides, which is known as slope soaring, to models powered by either internal combustion engines, electric motors and even gas turbine jet engines. Yes, proper Jet engines! This category of model flying also includes the biggest ‘boys toy’ of the hobby in my eyes, Radio Controlled Helicopters. These, in the right hands, are capable of some outrageous tricks, often defying gravity in unconventional flight positions, flying upside down whilst doing all sorts of aerobatic moves. Bet you can’t do that with a real one!

Demonstrating toy plane. Throughout the year, RAFMAA hosts a variety of events across the country including gliding competitions where models are often recording speeds of up to 250mph off the slope. Yes you have read that right, 250MPH! Also, there are a number of organised scale flying and Jet modelling events, which attract some of the Worlds’ best model pilots. Flying models that are viewed close up give you the opportunity to view the minute details that make them almost identical to the real thing.

Along with these events there is also a main RAFMAA Championships, which is held annually at RAF Honington in late August. This is a great event where every discipline that RAFMAA is involved with is covered through a variety of competitions, with all participants competing for some rather glamorous looking trophies. The event is run over 4 days and attracts the important Duty status, so no leave is required and it can also give you extra substance for you annual appraisals.

Aero modelling in the RAF isn’t just for high ranking officers or SNCOs, it is for all ranks and their dependants. RAFMAA membership is also available for ex-Serving members from all 3 Services and MOD personnel.

In addition to the sporting calendar, the RAFMAA supports model flying clubs at many RAF stations and will assist with hobby flying, teaching new modellers, providing insurance and membership of the British Model Flying Association. All RAFMAA members also have the opportunity to take advantage of the “trade Price” equipment scheme which is exclusive to RAFMAA.

So instead of sitting in your room in the block on your X Box or PlayStation, why not put those finger skills to better use and start flying with RAFMAA.

For more info visit the website at

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