Tom’€™s Silver Jubilee Celebration

MACI Aer Rianta Power Trophy 1951

Many MACI (Model Aeronautics Council of Ireland) members will have seen the magnificent Aer Rianta Power Trophy (recently being awarded for the Irish Nationals Radio Control Scale), which is a replica DC3, about 18 inches span, steel, on a massive plinth with the winners’ names on rows of plaques around it. Tom McClelland of Belfast MFC has the best memory of it of anyone, as he was the first to win it, when he won the Free Flight Power at Baldonnell Aerodrome in 1951. Sixty years on, he recalls that it was awarded at the MACI AGM by the Chairman of Aer Rianta (the Education arm of Aer Lingus, the Irish National Airline) , and moreover, he was awarded a replica, photo above, which he still has. He has made a magnificent gesture by presenting the replica to Belfast MFC to hold in perpetuity, a very much appreciated momento of a very special day for the Club.

The inscription on the replica is €œ’Aer Rianta Power Trophy, T McClelland, Belfast MFC, 11th Irish Nationals, 1951’€. This means that the first Irish Nationals was held in 1940, and in those early years, the presentations were made by the Taoiseach, Eamon DeValera, showing the recognition of Model Flying in those days. From 1945 to 1950, the SMAE (Society of Model Aeronautical Engineers) sent teams from England to fly in the Irish Nationals, and they naturally provided most of the winners in the Free Flight Power and Wakefield (Rubber powered) events, names like Bill Dean, Ron Warring and Norman Marcus. Tom was therefore possibly the first to win this top event from this side of the water.

At the AGM Tom met Jimmy Tangney, who was in the US Navy, and had come top in the Team Trials for the British Wakefield Team, but could not fly as he was American. Des Woods, who is mentioned later, said the English fliers came over “Because they had never seen a steak in their lives!”.

Tom recalls many details of the event and flying at that time. His winning model was a Banshee, an American design by Leon Shulman, still available as a plan for Vintage enthusiasts, and powered by an Elfin 1.8, a very powerful motor at that time. He also built and flew a Slicker 42, powered by a Mills 1.3, and other Kiel Kraft designs, the Bandit by Bill Dean, the Competitor and Ajax. He remembers flying at Baldonnell, and also at Weston Aerodrome, and several sites around Belfast. One was near the Railway Station at Finaghy, and also the flying site at Hannastown, high up on moorland behind Divis Mountain. It is still there, now owned by the National Trust, who are inviting the public to come and enjoy the wide open space.

Fliers from Dublin he recalls were Des Woods, Doc Charles, Billy Brazier, who had a Model Shop, and Johnny Carroll. Local names were a Father and Son called Croft, who flew Comets at Malone Aerodrome, now a Housing Estate, JJ Hanley, CWA Scott, who had a Flying Circus in the Thirties, and a pilot called Macintosh, who was naturally called “All Weather Mac”. Other names are Frank McDonnell, who flew a KK Outlaw, Sammy Young, who flew a Comet powered by an Ohlsson 61, Wally McCormick, who had a Low CLA design published in Aeromodeller, Howard Menary, Bill Tinnion, Bunny Boyce, John Rankin, Robert Gardiner and Wilbur Little, who owned ATO Model Crafts in Belfast. ATO was All Types Of, and Wilbur found balsa from Carling Floats  and succeeded in making a series of ATO kits in the time just after the War when everything was scarce.

Tom remembers that about 1950 the Belfast Club ran an Exhibition in the Wellington Hall in the YMCA, Wellington Place, Belfast, and it was a well supported and successful enterprise. Claude Austin, (later to be lost in a yachting accident) of Austin’s of Derry (a major Department Store, still prospering in Londonderry today) was flying Control Line models, causing quite a stink in the confines of the hall. Norman Osborne, a great F/F modeller of the era, still going today, and in contact through Howard Stephenson, was flying microfilm free flight indoor models and was not happy with the air disturbance caused by the C/L activity.

Tom is now flying with Ulster Model Aircraft Club at Nutt’s Corner and enjoying more sedate models than the screaming Banshee. He is a very modest and unassuming man, but enjoyed casting his mind back to the events of 60 years ago. Belfast Model Flying Club is very honoured to be presented with this valuable record of an event of note in the Club’s history.

Maurice Doyle