The Basic Carrier Deck Weekend Workshop at the ModelAir Mayfly
Old Warden Airfield near Biggleswade
Report by Andy Housden
In contrast to the event at Damyn’s Hall Airfield two weeks previously when the weather couldn’t have been much more aeromodeller-friendly, Old Warden suffered rather badly from the wrath of the gods upstairs! Friday’s forecast proved to be quite accurate: the passage of an occluded front during Saturday which created some unpleasantly heavy rainstorms throughout much of the day, and the passage of a warm front on Sunday which gave a morning window of more-or-less flyable conditions but an afternoon deteriorating into light rain.
Although a gratifying number of Carrier flyers turned up despite the conditions – thanks, chaps – the Saturday was a complete write-off and the Sunday morning weather window was rather more breezy than expected, discouraging a number of attendees from actually taking to the air.
In many ways the star of the weekend, though – sensibly – he didn’t attempt the maiden flight, was Bilston’s Brian Hunt with his beautiful new BCD Boulton Paul Sea Balliol. Brian works at Cosford’s RAF Museum in the West Midlands and his model is a scale copy (with a different colour scheme) of the museum’s Sea Balliol, the sole remaining example of this aircraft. Look at the photograph – now isn’t that the best possible interpretation of Rule 11: “…the scale-like appearance of a specific navy aircraft…”? Well done, Brian! The weather conditions generally caused much more huddling in cars and chewing the fat on Carrier and other aeromodelling matters than usual, and more tinkering with gear rather than actual contest flying.
Nevertheless, there were always things of interest to look at (between the showers!) and Dave Holmes, another Bilston club member, spent some time playing with his Carrier model self-launch device, more commonly known as a ‘stooge’. This is simplicity itself and is best described as half of a normal door hinge with a removable wire pin passing through the hinge tubes. Dave actually made the item from scratch with thin sheet steel and used a ‘P’ clip as the pin (so it would remain secure until withdrawn), as can be seen in the photograph. The hinge plate is thin enough to drop down between any deck panel joint – the joint at the back of the normal deck launching position is obviously best – and a G-clamp across the underside frames of the joint ensures it doesn’t pull out. The hinge tubes protrude just a few millimetres above deck level and don’t represent a significant hazard to either wheels or hooks. All that’s needed thereafter is a tailskid or tailwheel with a wire loop that can be dropped between the hinge tubes and secured with the pin. A simple piece of string is fastened to the inboard end of the pin and runs out to the pilot’s position. Engage the stooge, start your engine, walk to the circle centre, rev up and pull the pin out. Off you go – all by yourself! Have a look at the system being used to great effect in the Gallery!
The relatively few flights that were made inevitably took place on Sunday morning and often suffered from significant turbulence, producing lower scores than might otherwise have been expected. Not surprisingly, Dave Holmes, having been experimenting with his stooge, was the first up with his Martin MO-1 but elected to fly conservatively during both flights. The breeziness caused four overshoots prior to a successful hookup on the first flight, but the model was gobbled up by an unexpectedly severe ‘downwind hole’ on the second flight before he could get it back on the deck. Fifth place wasn’t exactly a reward for his boldness!
Fourth place Andy Housden also found that the wind conditions were actually worse than they appeared, and decided that discretion really was the better part of valour. Simply trying to keep the ex-Trevor Tabor Short Seamew from being eaten by the gusts of wind kept his low speed run from being particularly slow and despite being able to get back down on the deck for both of his flights, he was unable to get above 200 points.
Ian Gilbert had rather better luck, although a number of attempts were required by even this expert flyer. Surprisingly, considering the wind conditions, he had better success with his lightweight electric Fairey Spearfish than with his old faithful, the Westland Wyvern. Nevertheless, even the Spearfish had to be flown relatively conservatively, but his lower-than-best score of 225.1 was still good enough for the top place.
Mike Welch proved to be the most nerveless pilot of the weekend and flew his Fairey Fulmar, not the most robust of models, carefully but quite boldly. One flight was quite enough for him, thank you, but the Fulmar can be a very slow flyer if handled well – it was – and his score of 200.3 points got him third place.
Last flight of the day before the rain gradually set in was that of Gary Church with his Grumman AF Guardian, its repairs after the fairly severe prang at Damyns Hall Airfield two weekends ago being almost invisible! Gary decided on just one flight, but it was a good one under the conditions, resulting in a score of 224.9 and second place. Had he squeezed a mere 0.3 seconds more out of the slow run he would have beat Ian Gilbert into first place – but that’s contest life for you!