Carrier Flying 2016 – Retrospective

It was nice to receive Andy Housden’s annual summary of Carrier flying, just before Christmas. Andy has been, as ever, the mainspring behind the organisation of almost all the UK events in 2016, and in setting up, judging, recording and motivating at the meetings, he was Indefatigable (I think there’s a carrier name in there somewhere!). Here’s what Andy has to say, :

Dear Mike

Wot? No naval-aviation-themed Christmas card? Sorry, but I’m afraid not! For no reason that I’ve been able to discover, my sole source of supply – the Royal Naval Historical Flight at RNAS Yeovilton – has produced nothing at all this year – even the Fleet Air Arm Museum has, unusually, had nothing from them, so had no Naval Aviation Xmas cards to sell either! So you’ll have to make do with this rather tamer alternative (a very nice card, actually) – hopefully normal service will be resumed in 2017…

Furthermore, to continue the theme of disrupted service, there have been some significant changes associated with the BMFA’s Control Line Technical Committee and I have not written my usual end-of-year report, which normally forms the bulk of this letter, so I may as well depart from tradition altogether for once and write a brief note from scratch. So here it is…


The general theme of disruption featured in 2016 in a major way, of course, as we lost Barkston Heath for the August Power Nationals. The additional work of arranging dates and venues by the Contest Directors of the individual C/L and R/C disciplines that this caused was significant. I won’t go into the lost possibilities of an all-disciplines-together C/L Nationals at RAF Honington, except to say that although in general C/L appeared not to be able to get its act together, Scale certainly did and ran its own Nationals at Honington without any apparent problem. I guess that one have to be consigned to the realms of past BMFA politics…


Nevertheless, with the cooperation of our own Carrier fliers, Ken and Sheila Sheppard of ModelAir  at Old Warden, the C/L Aerobatics organisers who operate next to the Carrier circle at OW (who were extremely cooperative) and, of course, all you Carrier officials yourselves, we were able to make sure that Carrier did have its annual National championship.


Our Nationals (see full report) were NOT blessed with ideal weather, but far from causing a disaster – though it did shake up the expected final placings somewhat – it actually did the reverse. Saturday could have been a write-off due to the dreadfully high winds, and ironically would almost certainly have resulted in a “no fly” if we had been at Barkston Heath with the same conditions. However, almost to a man our doughty pilots flew pretty much when they were supposed to (even if it was with gritted teeth!) and  we had a more or less full round of results for the day. There was, of course, significant Saturday evening model repair activity, though…


Very fortunately indeed, Sunday was a different kettle of fish and, whilst still breezy,  ensured that it was not just a battle for survival, but a day where pilots could finally demonstrate their capabilities without the risk of rendering their models back into matchwood!


Unlike the usual Nationals venue of Barkston Heath, where we can set up beforehand, are continuously on our own site 24 hours a day for three whole days, and can fly whatever hours we like during those days, the Carrier site at Old Warden, through no fault of ModelAir, was only ever going to be available to us from l0.00 to 17.00 on the two weekend days – and these times included access, setting up, all flying, dismantling and prize-giving. To describe this as having been fraught would be unreasonable, since all the Carrier fliers pitched in brilliantly to help and we were never short of willing manpower – just time! Despite this, there were NO major problems and we finished more or less exactly when we said we would. Not bad, eh? Not bad at all! However, the primary reason for our success was the patience and captaincy of the many officials who helped keep the event on track and under control.


The OW Nats was undoubtedly unusual and therefore required unusual methods – we had to run two decks simultaneously and continuously on the mornings and afternoons of both days and this required DOUBLE the normal number of officials. It was just as well that we had no space to set up an information tent or a training/practice deck, since almost all those who would normally operate them were needed to act as contest officials, and what’s more, almost all officials also flew, many in both classes!


I would therefore like to place my thanks on record for all officials’ efforts and time spent sitting in the yachtsman’s gale at the Old Warden National Championships so that others could make their contest flights; without them we would have had no competition, and it’s only because(mostly) the same people allow themselves to be coaxed into helping are we able to repeat what we do each year.


I would also like to repeat the congratulations that I gave at the prize-giving to ALL the contestants for showing the rest of the airfield that C/L Carrier, like its full-size counterpart, is an all-weather activity whose pilots will fly in conditions from which everyone else seeks shelter!


So, to summarise the season, 2016 has undoubtedly been another good year for us in Carrier. It was unfortunate that the Tyneside Weekend Workshop in early July had to be cancelled at VERY short notice due to the incursion of Travellers onto the site, but the lesson learned from this is that we MUST in future arrange for an alternative contingency site.


However, this loss was more than balanced by many other gains!

  • The May and July Old Warden events were better supported than ever
  • the August Leicester club contest had perhaps its best attended Carrier contest yet, reaching new heights with Andy Green’s innovative Waterplane classes using the club’s new water tank for the very first aquatic opportunity in the UK since the last two contests at the Cabbage Patch Nationals many years ago
  • the last contest of the year at Croydon, traditionally quite modest, had the biggest turnout for years and this permitted both BCD and Class l to be flown, plus a very well supported Scale contest.


So far as planning your participation during 2017 is concerned, the usual rule of thumb will be to assume that the same events will be held on the same weekends as in 2016, until the actual dates become available. However, you can expect the Barton Bash to move back to its traditional place in May (the date of the 2016 World Championships in Australia disrupted it this year) and, as everyone attending the BMFA AGM was told, we should be ‘quite hopeful’ that the Power Nationals will return to Barkston Heath in 2017!


So far as the latter is concerned, the building works that disrupted everything this year are now complete, the previously-resident Grantham club has been doing some excellent PR work for the cause of model flying, and the Commanding Officer responsible for Barkston has changed, with whom it is profoundly hoped the BMFA can build a better relationship than before. No guarantees of success, of course, but we are told that whatever is decided, we should know the outcome of the negotiations much earlier in 2017 than we did in 2016 – possibly even in January – so keep your fingers crossed!


For Mike specifically, thank you for your continued work with our web site, which is the principal source of publicity for Carrier outside the contest events themselves (aw, shucks, thank you Andy!). I also lament my sub-optimal performance with the provision of results. Let’s see if I can do any better next year…If you’ve read any of the Harry Potter books or seen the films, you’ll know what I mean when I say “Oh, for a House Elf’ – a small intelligent humanoid who is happy to undertake numerous mundane tasks and will reliably complete them for their owners!

(Don’t be too hard on yourself  Andy, you do a huge amount of work at the meetings  – but I guess most fliers (just like me) do like to see how they are doing and enjoy admiring pictures of themselves in action, so results and pix are always welcome – next year I hope to be able to get to many more events myself to report for the site, so between us we should be able to get that Carrier publicity machine well and truly off the deck!)


Anyway, may I wish everyone a Happy Building Season! Mike, I hope you can perhaps sort your Russian ducted fan model out next year, especially for the tarmac site at Croydon, as this’ll be something of a first in the UK for the last 40-50 years; or maybe you fancy making a waterplane of some kind for Leicester? How about combining the two with a D/F flying boat like the Saunders-Roe SR.A/1?  (Me – ARRGGHHH!!) OK, well maybe not!


So to sign off, may I offer my best wishes for Christmas and the New Year to all fliers, officials, enthusiasts and their families!