Yesterday, (Monday), Darren and I went to the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton for an Radio Control event. It was a competition to determine the best RC helicopter pilot. It was a dull overcast day and the winds were quite strong at ground level so obviously the higher you went the stronger the winds. I doubted that they would fly the models as the wind would make it difficult but never the less we went to see. If they would not fly then we would have a look round the museum reading exhibits that we did not read the last time we were there. We walked through the halls to the area outside on the flight pan where the competition was taking place, it was indeed windy here but they were flying anyway. We watched as the helicopter took off to music and started it’s routine. What the pilot was making this helicopter do was just ridiculous, it was on its side, jolting forward, upside down, flying outside reverse loops, doing what can only be described as cartwheels across in front of the crowd all as a dance routine to music. I could not believe what I was watching. They were electric helicopters, battery powered models but my God they were incredible. The routine had been going for around three minutes when the pilot did some more cartwheels, he was so close to the ground, gasps were heard from the crowd and then….no more flying, there was just the sight of debris blowing across the flight line with other competitors running to collect the debris to ensure the runway was kept clear of anything that could cause problems for the full size aircraft after the competition.

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I sat looking at what had happened, one of these helicopters is not a couple of hundred pounds, they are a couple of thousand pounds and the guy has just ploughed in, massively and yet the commentator just says that it will not have been the first time and will not be the last time that this will happen to each pilot. Clearly they can’t be married! Looking at the pictures, which are not great I admit, it does not look like much, but the tail rotors, body and main blades were in bits being blown around the flight pan. Gutting. Another pilot took to the sky and was doing similar stunts but this was a competition and so the pilots were having to push themselves to get through the rounds, which meant going closer to the floor and higher in to the wind. The models are quite big and robust, hence the price but it is what the pilots do to the models to customise them with more powerful motors and custom sprayed bodies amongst blades and who knows what else that really boosts the cost up.

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There were pilots from Germany, Israel, the States as well as the UK, this truly is a world wide competition, the commentator said on many occasions the fact that the pilots come form the four corners of the globe, which I am still trying to figure out even now as I thought a globe was round and therefore had no corners but still. These were not old and bold pilots either mind you. There was a couple of the youngsters who were throwing their helicopters around like you would not believe, and they were sixteen and eighteen year old’s. Most of the youngsters their age, and bear in mind they have to have been doing this for some years to be this good, are stuck on games consoles. I know our weather is less than desirable and that you need semi good weather to learn to fly which is part of the reason that my helicopter rarely comes out of the box, and also that the States and Israel have generally better chances of sun than we do, but still. Talking of my helicopter. I asked the model experts about mine, which needs a service, and by all accounts it is also capable of what these guys are doing. There was a nitro helicopter in the competition doing what they were doing but I am a long way off anything like that, I have to learn to fly it yet!

While they were on a break Darren and I went to the carrier experience which was not running when we last went. Fortunately there was a Sea Vixen as part of the display so I took the opportunity to get lots of pictures of it, where the colours change, what parts are which colours and it came clear to me that the colours that had been shown on the box of the model I am making were not exactly correct, mainly because they do not show you in detail how far down or around they go. This now means that I will be able to do it properly.






The colour grey finishes half way through the length of the air brake, and not at the start of the air brake.


The leading edges are grey, not white bottom and grey top as the box leads you to believe.


Now I know how far back the white goes underneath the tail booms.


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The Pitot tubes are black according to the box but they are actually silver tip, white and grey.



All these little things may seem trivial but I do like to try to get the models right if I am going to build it and what better way to research than go and look at the real thing.


There was also a Sea Hawk there which is a model that I have not finished yet, the colour scheme of the one on the carrier display had the same Ace of Diamonds that the model I have been building has but is not white and sea grey, it is sea grey and a sky colour, which continues up over the tail, however another has the same markings and is white and sea grey half and half which is how mine is shown on its box.

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Darren and I took the carrier tour, which we had done before but had a bit of time to kill, it is quite good actually and as I enjoyed it last time we went round it again. On the way round I noticed something, in fact there were of few of them.



The first thing that went through my mind was why would you have a stretcher specifically ¬†for one person, is he really that accident prone? And then of course, what if you needed a stretcher and your name wasn’t Neil Robertson? A strange idea I thought and so I may look in to what that is all about later.

After our look round the museum we went and had a look at the trade stands, there were some lovely models of all sizes here.

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Fortunately they only supplied the shops or I fear I may have ended up having some serious explaining to do when I got home!

I bumped in to a friend I have not seen properly for ages, Darren and I spent most of the day with him watching the displays of flying and throwing the helicopters around. When I was watching how close they were to the ground with these helicopters I was almost waiting for someone to crash, you would occasionally hear the blades scuff the ground and the crowd would oooooh and gasp and then the inevitable happened. Another pilot had overcooked the display and the helo was down. Another had a hard landing breaking the skids but all in all they were still going. The competitors just like the crowd were encouraging each other until it came down to the semi fianl and then the final. In the final, one of the young pilots ended his routine by landing the helicopter, intentionally and gracefully UPSIDE DOWN! What in the hell is that about? Unfortunately though, for all of the sixteen year old from Isreal efforts, he was pipped to the post by the young lad for the States.

3rd place participant.


2nd Place participant.



and the winner.



A podium photo.





It was a really good day out, I have been shown a flight simulator for the computer where you plug your own controller in to it and download your model of helicopter and teach yourself to fly it, I had a go on the simulator whilst I was at the show and crashed four or five times and so I figure it is a good investment. Maybe I will ask for it for Christmas!



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