History

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HISTORY

Carrying on the pioneering work of the Ulster Model Aircraft Club before and during WW2, the Club was formed in 1945, developed rapidly in the enormous surge of enthusiasm for Aviation following the War. The main activity was Free Flight, by far the dominant form of flying at that time. This continued throughout the War, and the Irish Nationals were held at Baldonnell, with the prizes presented by Eamonn de Valera. Harry Daulman featured prominently in these events and.was a founder member of the Club.

There has always been a strong competitive element in the Club, with names like Norman Osborne and Gordon Drew participating in the Wakefield Cup at Cranfield in Bedfordshire in 1947. Tommy McClelland, still active in the Ulster Club today, won the Irish Nationals Power event in 1951. Harold Stevenson, Bob McIvor Ronnie Armstrong, now flying with NIMSA, were young enthusiasts in the Club at this time. There was further representation in the Wakefield at Cranfield in 1953. The local Team flew in the United Kingdom Challenge Match over this period, beating everybody in Rubber on one notable occasion. The UK event was flown at Toome in 1952 and 1956.

Club members flew in the Free Flight World Championships in 1958 at Cranfield, in 1963 in Austria, 1967 in Czechoslovakia, and 1971 in Sweden. Over the same period, the Club had many successes in the Irish, Ulster, Leinster and Munster Championships, many flown at the Curragh in Kildare and at RAF Bishopscourt, both excellent venues but very different. Jim Adams from Stewartstown was the most successful flier locally over this period, with Maurice Doyle and others competing at the British Nationals and the World Championships.

From about 1955 onwards, Control Line activity developed in the Club and there was regular participation in the local events, with Train and Bus loads travelling on occasion. At first, the only other Club locally was in Larne, and several Combat and Stunt events with them were closely contested. Butlins sponsored Modelling at this time, and the Club supported the relaxed events at Mosney. In the 60s, more regular events around Ireland led to a very well established season of Irish, Ulster, Leinster and Munster Championships. Team Racing, Aerobatics and Combat were all supported in numbers. Derek Wilson, who revived the Club in 1962 by rallying round all the old members, and Graham Dickson flew in the World Championships at RAF Swinderby in 1966.

By the 70s, local Goodyear racing was the mainstay of Club activity, and there were regularly 9 teams from the Club alone, with many others joining in from Craigavon and elsewhere. By the end of the decade when the World Championships were held at RAF Woodvale near Liverpool, the Club sent three Teams in F2C Team Race and 3 fliers in Aerobatics, by far our largest numbers at these events. The F2B Team was John Hamilton, Maurice Doyle and Brian McDonnell, and the F3C Teams were Maurice Doyle/Robin Kane, John Hamilton/Bertie Wright and David Thomason/Mark Thomason. Following concentration on F2B as below, when the World Championships were held in Sweden in 1982, a full F2B Team travelled, John Hamilton, Maurice Doyle and Mitchell Shaw.

This resulted in regular participation in the British Nationals, mainly in Aerobatics, but also in Goodyear and F2C almost continuously from then to the present. John Hamilton soon became a regular Fly-off contender in the Gold Trophy, eventually coming second and third, and Maurice Doyle was similarly in the Flyoffs, his best placing being 4th. John also won both the Vintage and Classic Aerobatics events, as did Maurice Doyle. John and Maurice have also competed in other events in England and Scotland, John notably being Scottish Champion several times and CLAPA Champion, both in F2B. He has also won the Irish F2B event a record thirteen times in a row.

Following the example of Scottish fliers coming to the Ulster, and Club fliers to the Scottish Nationals, the Home International for Aerobatics was inaugurated in 1986, and was very much John Hamilton’s project. It has been very successful in encouraging all the Countries to both hold it and compete. It is a very sociable event, but gives every flier the opportunity to produce their best possible performance. It is very much a Fliers event run by fellow fliers. It has now reached its 21 st year and will be in Scotland in 2008. The Irish Team have won it three times.

In the late 70s and early 80s, Robin Kane and Maurice Doyle built on the Club expertise in Goodyear to win the British Nationals Open Goodyear in 1981, and were 2nd next year. Mark Thomason, who with brother David was one of the juniors who revelled in the golden age of Goodyear locally in the 70s, now lives in England and has been very successful in all classes of Team Racing, notably representing GB in F2C at World Championships. The Control Line European Championships were held at three Sisters near Wigan in 1989, and the Club provided the Irish F2B Aerobatics Team and Jimmy Ferguson and Maurice Doyle flew in F2C.Team Racing.

In the 90s and 00s, there has been continuing activity in Control Line, mainly in F2B Aerobatics, and the Club continues to be the only primarily Control Line Club in Ireland. There has been recent resurgence of Control Line, first in Cork and now in Dublin. This has been very welcome locally and these fliers have supported us in competitive events and also in Fly-ins, all revelling in the excellent facilities at Tommy Patton Park. We have had the Chairman and Secretary of the British Model Flying Association over to visit, and their comment was “Would that we had these facilities for practice for the British Team!”.

Indoor flying is the most recent of the disciplines to develop here, but has very long antecedents. The Club had Clubrooms in Victoria Street many years ago, and there was some Indoor flown there. In the 60s there was flying in Church Halls and the like when available, the first indoor flight being 1.30 with a Gym Dandy in the Gym at Strathearn School in 1962. Following this, regular events were held at Maysfield, supported by Craigavon and Dick Whybray. More recently, the contacts with other Clubs in NIAA (particularly UMAC) encouraged the use of Lisburn as a central location, and by stages, the use of the Leisureplex has been established. The Club has always taken the lead in Indoor, but equally has been strongly supported by other Clubs to make events viable.

Rodney O’Neill has been the mainstay of the Club’s Duration fliers for some time, and in recent years, along with Maurice Doyle and Pete Watt, now in Mid Ards Club, has travelled to Cardington in Bedfordshire and to the Millennium Dome to compete in the British Nationals and the supporting events for the European Championships. Pete Watt has been very successful, winning the Pennyplane at the British Nationals three years running, and is the current holder of the British Record for F1L. Rodney has also run an Index competition at Lisburn which allows all types to compete

Indoor was initially exclusively for Rubber Duration and Chuck Glider, and was an excellent introduction for young newcomers, but over time, electric powered Radio Control models have become more viable in both performance and cost terms, and they are developing ever more rapidly. Many Club members are taking up this expanding area of modelling, and it looks set to become a significant part of our activity for the foreseeable future.

 

FLYING SITES

The club has used many flying sites over the years, starting with Free Flight at Hannastown. This area is now part of the Divis area owned by the National Trust, and they are very keen that it should be used by everyone, so never say that no-one wants us! We then moved to Hightown, a much less viable area, and the Ulster Championships were flown at Maghaberry about 1960. We also flew for several years at Star Bog near Larne. In 1966 RAF Bishopscourt became available, and from then to 1970, we had the use of this marvellous site, which saw the highest entry (33) in the Glider in the Ulster Championships in 1969 (and very likely the highest entry of any event ever in Ireland).

For Control Line, many sites were used, most commonly in the Inverary area. First was Belmont Park, and then the area at Inverary, the corner of Inverary Avenue then being open fields. There was then a period when a square of concrete (the floor of a demolished building) at Mallusk was used for several years. It was just wide enough for 1/2 A Team Racing, with about 1 foot for pitting! There was grass for Combat and Stunt.

We then returned to Inverary, and flew on the fields, then they were filled with refuse, and we eventually flew on top of the refuse (the dangers of methane had not been heard of!). There is a photograph of the assembled Club in front of the advancing pile of refuse, at least 2 m high, as the corner of the field was closed in! When the refuse had settled and grown a scraw, we flew on top of it for several years. For a brief period, the Club had permission to fly on Victoria Park, whereupon Shorts, who are opposite Victoria Park, and owned the Airfield, objected. The Corporation Solicitor investigated the Air Navigation Order, determined that our flying was legitimate, and confirmed that we could continue!

The Club used the Henry Jones Playing Fields at Castlereagh for several years, then secured the use of part of Nutt’s Corner in the 70s, and the wide runway was excellent for Team Racing and Aerobatics, with plenty of grass for Combat. A change to another runway on the other side of the road allowed flying to continue, although flying was interrupted for 6 months. This site saw the biggest Control Line events ever flown here, with 18 entries in Combat in the Ulster Championships on one occasion. Bigger entries caused pressure on time, and in the FAI Team Race Final on one occasion the Pit men had to find the models by the sparks generated by the tip skids as they landed!

The Club has for many years now enjoyed the use of a purpose built flying site, provided by the Belfast City Council. This was first at Blanchflower Park on the Holywood Road, Belfast, which was opened in 1986 and used until 2002. Re-alignment of the Sydenham By-pass resulted in a move to a new and better site in the Alderman Tommy Patton Park, also on the Holywood Road. This location was opened on 1st. June 2002, by Councillor Jim Rodgers, The Lord Mayor of Belfast.

The site is the only purpose built site for Control Line models in Ireland and one of very few in the UK. It has International standard tarmac and grass circles, marked for all classes, i.e. ½ A, A (F2B) and B Team Racing, and all Aerobatics (F2B).

5 thoughts on “History”

  1. tom mc clelland , I dont know if you remember me , about 1947/ 52 , flew at finaghy field, up on the mountain , bunny boyce was my buddy back then , frank mc donnell , norman osborne , norman drew , cant remember the rest , moved to london about 1952 , joined croydon club , then nat/service , flew in raf champs , had good club in st eval /st morgan cornwall , went to usa to visit , stayed live in florida , top gun giant scale etc just up road at lakeland airport every year , have not done much modelling since raf back in 58 , those were great days back in 40/50 had little money but managed to have a good time , everyone got on great , I think the best of times , I FLEW C/L STUNT AND F/F MOSTLY , ALL THE BEST CHUCK KNIGHT .

  2. A very thorough history of Belfast Model flying club. Brings back many memories for me.
    Last year I attended the C/L nationals and renewed contact with Maurice Doyle.
    I was quite surprised to see that the Old Aer Rianta Trophy which for many years was the Free Flight Power Trophy for the Irish Nationals is now presented for the R/C Scale Nationals.( a little disappointed that Free flight is no longer flown at national level, but at least that beautiful trophy is still motoring on). Maurice and I used to alternate regularly for this in the 1950’s to 1970’s.
    We had a photo of Maurice and me drooling over it in the Autumn MACI Flightlines.
    I was informed that Tommy McClelland who was the first winner of the trophy in 1951 was still active. I never met him but being the 60th anniversary of the Trophy, and the fact that he is still interested in model flying, I offer him sincere congratulations and it is a testament to the importance of a decent hobby in anyone’s life.
    I have since 1950 never missed a year of flying and the only year since 1955 that I missed catching a thermal was 1995, when I spent most of it in a mining bush camp in Northern Labrador without a model. I resolved not to miss out on thermals for the remainder of my life.
    I fly more frequently now than I have ever done.
    I went to Canada from 1966 to 1971 and Australia 1971 to 1974, but was back in Ireland from 1974 to 1979, and Canada since.

    Good flying,
    John O’Sullivan
    MACI #26, MAAC 5401
    John O’Sullivan

  3. I remember the panic Norman caused whjen he was flying his Tiger Moth at the back of the mountain – someone saw it, heard the engine cut and the Tiger noswed down in a glide. He promptly contacted the RAF and the boul’ Norman was on his way back down when he spotted fire engines and ambulances racing up the horse-shoe roar LOL. He didn’t know what was happening until he read the Telegraph about a ‘plane crash’ in the Hightown area.

    Regarding Shorts – I do remember the Ulster Championships taking place (albeit on the other side of the runway in the RNAS section) back in the mid 60s

  4. Re Chuck Knight.

    Just read your Comments on history of Belafast Model flying Club.

    Rememer you well. Wonderful days.

    If you wish to contact me further please use email address where you will be able to find out my telephone number. would be glad to hear from you.

    bertieholmes@hotmail.co.uk

  5. Time flies , Just hit on the site again wish I had seen toms reply sooner , I cant remember which irish nats power won by norman marcus , I was in a good position to win , I had spent most of the day trying to find my f/f power plane I must have walked 20 miles , got back someone had found my plane , a rush to get my flight in , I had a funnel made into a cone fixed around the fuel filter to the motor , someone kept pumping fuel into cone until I released the plane it blew out as fast as it went in I only got an 11 second run ,I got second ,I was 15 and half years old for that one, That was quite a model it was almost impossible to get it into a spin , it climbed vertical straight up , had many flights , gave it away when family moved back to england , Was it you at finaghy field when I had the piper cub with the ed bee and a propeller I had carved out of a piece of pine wood , it was so light it kept kicking back and I had a pretty bashed up finger and you gave me a plastic prop for it ,I cant rember if it was you or the guy that had been in the tanks in the desert in ww2 , who got shot up as he jumped out of the tank as it got hit , he lived across from bunny boyce , I remember I was on pillion seat on bunnys sunbeam motorcycle at the gas station getting a fillup when the bike burst into flames ,we watched as it melted into a pool on the ground , I remember the engineer exibition I had a shoulder wing f/f model , I never had it under power flight but I remember it had a terrific glide ,I gave it away to the guy who lit the street gas lights , He built a biplane WAKEFIELD rubber job. thats all I remember about him , have a hundred stories about the best times I think in those few years right after ww2 , hope you are well my phone # 863 904 8569 , you can write me at 5854 skylane rd mulberry florida 33860 usa , or if you can give me your phone # it only costs me 2cents a minute to call uk , all the best chuck knight.

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