Andy Housden’s 2021 Newsletter!

The UK Control Line Carrier Deck newsletter – Christmas and New Year Special 2020-21

Editor: Andrew Housden, 8 Denmark Road, Kingston upon Thames. Surrey KTI ZRU

020 8541 0186; 07551 924220;

Website:; Webmaster Mike May; 07786 034157;

Facebook: (TBA – work in progress); contact Paul Stubbs; 07917 817315;

Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to this very unexpected variation on the normal Carrier officials’ Christmas thank-you letter, which maybe itself as strange as this year has been! This is not going to be the restart of the old newsletter – experience tells me I simply don’t have the time to do it nowadays – but as what I want to say is rather different to normal, I thought I might temporarily bring the old Flat Top Flier back to life. FTF was originally A4 format because I could print at A3 and fold into A4 at work, but I’m entirely home-technology-based now, so the paper version has had to be downsized to print at A4 and folded to A5. Also, this ‘Flat-Top Flyer’ has initially just been sent to those who help/have helped in the organisation of Carrier, but it’s also for reading by anyone else interested in Carrier flying. Anyway – what’s in this Christmas and New Year Special issue?

  • Editorial: Covid-19, this past year and the future
  • Contest calendar for 2021
  • Carrier’s official contest Covid-I9 risk management strategy
  • My suggestions for Carrier’s Must-Do activities
  • My suggestions for Carrier’s Nice-To-Do activities

Covid-19, this past year and the future

Although we have largely been unable to meet and, for the first time that I can remember, we have also been unable to have a National Championships of some kind where almost all of you would have joined together – in one of the best teams of officials in Aeromodelling I would add! – I think the usual Xmas communication to you all is just as necessary even if the content is somewhat different to normal! As I write this, the Covid-l9 inoculation process has begun, and there are now queues of the elderly outside the vaccination centre in the university at the back of my house. OBVIOUSLY, we will not be ‘clear’ of this killer virus for a long time yet – whatever form ‘clear’ takes – so don’t count your chickens too soon. But – there IS now a reasonable degree of hope for the future.

My own opinion of what we should do in the future has changed a lot in the last 10 months, to my surprise. Even after the first Lockdown had been lifted and outside gatherings were hesitantly restarting, l was quite anti-any event, simply on the basis that although a flyer may be exposing his/herself to a quite low infection probability, the consequences could be so severe (ie: death!) that it was insane to risk all the remaining contest seasons in that flyer’s life for the sake of merely the remains of the 2020 season.

Obviously, I was presuming the worst-case behaviour, as evidenced by those lunatics who crowded the Bournemouth beaches at the first opportunity, for example – and if l had taken the typical media treatment of Covid situations as my yardstick (TV producers and newspaper editors are only ever interested in headlines and drama, so they seldom provide a balance view of what’s REALLY going on) – then the human race would have looked as if it had no chance at all! But that’s not true, of course. Really, most people can be quite sensible!

So, after I’d changed my mind about attending the ModelAir Festival of Flight at Old Warden on September 19th & 20th – l was originally intending not going – it turned out that it WOULD be possible to run future contests in a Covid-l9 safety compliant way. So the last event of the year – BCD during the SAM 35 Octoberfest on October 18th at the BMFA’s Buckminster Lodge – was re-publicised on the Carrier-Deck website beforehand and run by Chris Howell on the day, with me as the Circle Centre Marshal.

And it worked! I’m also delighted to see that the recent December Aeromodeller had an excellent article on the event, with a separate column about Carrier along with three photographs showing how we had altered our processes to remain Covid-19 compliant. So this event proved that it was possible to run a safe contest without a significant amount of extra effort or without spoiling participant enjoyment. In consequence, I am now planning a proper contest calendar in 2021. Now, obviously, as neither the state of the pandemic nor the official regulations at any given time can be predicted very far in advance of a given event – before a high level of vaccination exists, anyway – there will always be a significant risk that an event may suffer cancellation at very short notice. Our web site will play a vital role here, showing the state of play right up to the weekend of each event. Furthermore, whilst Carrier has so far lacked a Facebook page to provide additional and complementary information, I am extremely pleased to say that this omission will shortly be changing – but more of that on page l3.

So: whilst we can’t exactly predict the outcome of our planning, we MUST plan to have events, simply because Carrier IS its outdoor activities. No events, no Carrier. No Carrier means an inevitable slow drift of participants away to other activities that ARE taking place, and eventually No Carrier will mean NO CARRIER at all… So we are now planning a full calendar of twelve events – shown on page 6 – even if, though it’s quite usual at this time of year, half of the contests are still unconfirmed dates (shown in red text). Whilst we may sadly have lost the Leicester Carrier contests, we now have the new Buckminster events that effectively replace them.

Buckminster, together with Old Warden, are the biggest multi-event venues which WILL definitely host Carrier if the national regulations at a given time will permit such venues to operate at all. So these two venues represent six separate Carrier contests (three each) and will be the bare-minimum state of our contest calendar, ie: these are the most predictable events in this currently unpredictable world. The six remaining events, with the exception of the Nats, are run either by single clubs or single individuals and are likely to be less certain to take place, though we shall encourage all of them to do so, of course.

The Nationals are different: it could take its usual massive Barkston jamboree form, it could be Barkston but competitors only (ie: no spectators, trade stands or massive campsite), it could be a single venue somewhere other than Barkston (such as it was at Oakington in 2003, in which case it would certainly be competitors only), or it might even be the DIY efforts of individual disciplines (like it was for us at Old Warden in September 2016). Because use of Barkston entirely relies on the generosity of a few RAF personnel – plus the endorsement of the DLA – access to the field is utterly out of the BMFA’s control and in the current Covid situation where political reactions outweigh everything else, I fear the worst, but that’s just my natural pessimism, of course. Nobody would be more pleased than me to be proven wrong!

Anyway, we’re definitely intending to run events in 2021, but obviously we’re not sure yet how many will take place. What we must ALL plan to do when we’re on site is to be compliant with all the regulations – and preferably in spirit rather than just with the literal letter of the law.

Now, as far as I’m concerned, compliance is actually NOTHING to do with the rules – it’s to do with leaving your lifespan – and those of others – unaffected by Covid-19. If a single careless act at a single event means, to put it bluntly, that you eventually die (or, much worse, that someone else dies because of your action or inaction), all your/their future events, and the enjoyment you’ll/they’ll have got from them will go down the pan forever. That particular equation, ie: one error of judgement brings down the entire house of cards, should make no sense to anyone at all. Remember also that the Covid-l9 regulations are ultimately generated (however competently or incompetently) by the Government, which means that the unequivocal fact-based safety advice provided by all the scientists will have been highly politicised and watered down by the time it gets fed to us plebs. So if you choose to act MORE safely at any of the Carrier contests than required by the governmental regulations in place at the time, then:

  1. a) You’re probably way closer to the original scientific advice than the regulations are anyway, and
  2. b) I shall be delighted to see it! There’s absolutely NO such thing as excessive common sense!

Finally, we MUST remember our ages! Many of us are likely to be either close to or actually in, the age-related high risk groups – never mind any medical issues we may have as individuals. Even if you consider yourself young enough to have no age risk, the avoidance of Covid-l 9 has always been as much about making efforts on behalf of the people around you as it is for concern about yourself.

The planned 2021 Carrier contest season can be viewed by clicking HERE. There’s already been one date alteration (ModelAir’s MayFly) and although the list incorporates this amendment, expect others in the future. In any event, our website will always show the latest information, of course.



This is Document No. 20.10.20/l. The provision, maintenance and update of this document shall be the responsibility of Andy Housden, 8 Denmark Road, Kingston upon Thames Surrey KT] ZRU; 020 8541 0186 (Landline)/0755l 924220 (Mobile); ; BMFA Membership No. 059155. All enquiries and/or comments concerning this document shall be directed to him.

At Carrier contests, whether of the standalone type or as part of a larger multi-class and/or multi-discipline event, all CONTEST -RELATED Covid- 19 risk management activities shall be the direct responsibility of the nominated Carrier Contest Director. Covid-19 risks arising from activities OTHER than those of operating the contest shall NOT be the responsibility of the Contest Director

All Governmental Covid-19 restrictions that apply at the time and to the geographical location of a Carrier contest shall be fully observed by the Contest Director. This may even require that the contest be cancelled, irrespective of the length of cancellation notice that can be provided.

Where there is a formalised Track-and-Trace process operated by the overall organisers of the multi-class and/or multi-discipline event, the responsibility for ensuring that each Carrier contestant has registered shall be that of the individual contestant.

Where there is NO formalised Track-and-Trace process, the Carrier contact database maintained by Andy Housden shall be used in conjunction with the contest entry list for the Track-and-Trace function when required. Andy Housden shall undertake the administrative responsibility of this function whilst observing normal data protection requirements. The responsibility of notifying Andy of suspected or actual Covid-19 infections after the contest shall be that of the individual contestants.

Except when Governmental Covid-19 restrictions have been fully lifted, Covid 19-related protective items shall be available at no cost to all attendees at every Carrier contest and shall be: hand sanitizer, paper towels, antiseptic spray, nitrile gloves and facemask

Until the following requirements are altered by Governmental regulation changes, a maximum grouping of 6 people and a minimum social distancing of two metres shall apply to all Carrier contests. The wearing of masks is advised whenever possible, and conversations are recommended to be held cross-wind, rather than with the wind blowing directly from one individual towards another.

There shall be NO change to current BMFA Basic or Class l Carrier Deck rules. The traditional single Circle Centre Marshal (CCM) shall be retained for use during the slow run, but operating at a minimum social distancing of 2m from the pilot at all times. When it is deemed physically impracticable by the CCM to keep pace with the model, the CCM shall instead observe from a selected fixed position.

The Covid l9-related changes to normal contest procedures shall be:

A helper assisting in the transfer of model and lines from the line park or pit area to and from the contest circle or during recovery of the model shall observe the 2m minimum social distancing and wear suitable gloves or use hand sanitisation unless the helper is part of the contestant’s ‘Bubble’

Pull-tests shall be carried out as normal, but with the use of suitable gloves or sanitisation of control handle and pull-test equipment.

If a helper is part of the contestants ‘Bubble’, the helper may launch an IC-powered model normally, otherwise such a model shall use the deck stooge launcher provided. In the latter case, each model not fitted for stooge restraint shall be provided with a dedicated nylon cord loop- ended noose by the Contest Director which can be fastened around the rear fuselage and used to engage the stooge. Once the model is restrained by the stooge, the pilot shall start the engine and then move clear. The helper shall then take hold of model, release the stooge and provide a normal hand launch

Electric models that do not need holding by a helper prior to engine start shall operate normally.

All contestants shall be reminded individually at least once by the Contest Director that the health of their fellow contestants as well as of themselves can be endangered for ALL future contests by executing unsafe activity in just a SINGLE contest – so it’s not worth it. FOLLOW THE RULES!

Future Carrier Management Strategy

Lacking the usual annual season to summarise, and having rather more space than usual due to the newsletter format anyway, l think it’s worthwhile having a short review on what I believe is fundamental for Carrier’s survival, and even though it’s only my personal opinion, I offer it up as a genuine attempt to define what’s important for us all.

Carrier’s requirements: ‘Must-Dos’ in the short term
  1. Yearly contest calendar organisation to determine and earmark organisers, venues, dates and classes.
  2. Continual maintenance of website calendar to provide principal source of contest information.
  3. Equipment provision and contest direction at individual venues.

It’s a statement of the obvious, really, so none of the above should surprise anybody, of course. Without any one of them – so there’s no order of priority necessary here – Carrier will fall flat on its face within a single season. However, we do all these activities anyway, so we don’t have any particular problems here – but it’s always useful to define what Carrier’s fundamental requirements are.

Carrier’s requirements: ‘Must-Dos’ in the long term
Rules management to, primarily, contain or prevent undesirable trends threatening the survival of Carrier.

This category is much more difficult to be clear about. However, I’ve seen plenty of control line contest classes in the last thirty years that started out very successfully but either extinguished themselves quickly or simply faded from favour over time. The single common thread in most of these failures was a basic lack of rules management. In Darwinian terms, if you like, each such class failed to evolve enough within the aeromodelling environment prevailing at the time to survive. So, like a species that, for instance, couldn’t develop legs good enough to run from its predators, it became extinct and was consigned to the history books. As far as I’m concerned, rules management is just as critical as the first three activities listed, except that bad management may take several years or longer to have an effect – but it can still threaten the survival of Carrier just as seriously.

So far as rules management goes, it has to be a permanently monitored and permanently ongoing matter. We ALSO do this, though as it’s on an ad-hoc basis, essentially administrative and often has only limited effect on participants, the management activity is seldom obvious. Sometimes rules management has to happen quickly (for instance, the imposition in BCD of a 450, then 300 model attitude rule in 1995 & 1996 when, before that, there was no limitation, so one or two flyers who were capable of hovering vertically started to win all the contests using a manoeuvre that was distinctly un-Carrier-like). Sometimes rules management leaves the less urgent changes and only deals with them when enough have accumulated (which has happened on several occasions with both BCD and Class l when enough typos and grammatical errors have been spotted and it becomes worthwhile to correct them in a single update).

Occasionally, however, the rule changes need to be very quick, such as during the l997 season when some huge BCD models began to appear with MASSIVE wing areas – over 1000 sq. in. and therefore VERY good at slow flight! As the majority felt that this made BCD look very off-putting for new recruits (and also, very fortunately, by voluntary agreement by all the flyers of those big models), the 450 maximum wing area rule was put in place by the end of that season.

Ironically, I think right now we should also be considering something of a shake up to deal with (but NOT to remove) the super-lightweight electric-powered radio-controlled BCD models that have emerged within the last few years and which are un-levelling the previously acceptably level playing field – as BCD was always intended to be an entry-level class. Here and now isn’t the place or time to start a detailed discussion on this matter as the issues need to be considered both extensively and democratically, so I’11 save that for a later date…

Finally, Carrier’s requirements: ‘Nice-To-Dos’ (in any timescale)

1. Contest reporting to website.

2. Contest photography, captioned, to website.

3. Management of Social Media.

4. Provision of written/photographic magazine publicity.

5. Upgrading/modernisation of contest promotional functions: Nationals’ tents & tent displays; general contest training facilities.

6. Reintroduction and maintenance of Personal Best Scores and the previously used Novice, Sportsman and Expert skill categories.

7. Creation of plans of latest successful contest models & development of an up-to-date plans library.

8. Carrier Information Pack updating & modernisation.

9. Manufacture and selling of BCD starter kits & control equipment.

10. Newsletter.

This is my ideal Wish-List! These items are in this list because, whilst they are all obviously of value to any contest activity, if none at all are carried out, I do not believe the lack of them will be a mortal blow to Carrier. The order of priority is arguable and possibly even irrelevant, since the tasks in the list are sufficiently substantial that a single person, at best, could never achieve more than a tiny fraction of them, so anyone who is prepared to undertake anything at all, irrespective of its list position, I shall welcome with open arms!

  • Contest reporting to Website, as it’s complementary to the Contest Calendar, the latter being information shown on the website about what will happen in the future – so No.5 therefore shows what happened in the past, as Well as being a useful source of performance reference data for individual flyers. Whilst the transmission of contest results to our Webmaster can be somewhat erratic (and I’m the worst offender by far) this item fortunately happens and improvements require an increase in efficiency rather than a step-change of any kind.
  • Captioned Contest Photography to Website is where it is because it’s complementary to the website contest calendar. I used to take lots of photos while I was contest directing, so it could logically be argued that it should have been me to send photos to the website. However, the amount of work involved to select photos and add appropriate and accurate captions proved too much for me to cope with. Undoubtedly it didn’t help that I tried to write complete reports around the photos as well – and, believe me, that Work really IS time- consuming – but Mike May only ever got one or two reports out of me at the beginning of each season before they petered out due to time constraints, and yes – time constraints is also a generous description! In any event, because of the limitations of contest directing, much of my photography was very ‘samey’ and, because it was ALWAYS rushed, it was often quite poorly composed. It was also very distracting, which isn’t something the CD should be doing whilst timekeeping and/or Circle Centre Marshalling, is it? In any event, the best Carrier photographs I’ve seen have invariably been taken either by flyers who aren’t flying, or non-participants, ie: people who have the time to concentrate on doing it properly! As Carrier, at the ‘top end’ anyway, has recently been getting more and more competitive, I now simply don’t do it at all so l can concentrate properly on CD’s duties.
  • Social Media – as noted earlier, Carrier’s use of Facebook is currently zero! I’d hesitate to say that this is particularly a generational problem simply because the majority of Carrier’s participants happen to be 60+ (but – oops – I have said it, haven’t I?), and, to put it bluntly, just like all of the other items in this list, to make the item happen, some poor sod has still got to put the effort in to run it! But we’re in luck – my goodness me, yes! As a volunteer to undertake setting up and running a Facebook page on behalf of British Carrier, BCD and Class1 flyer Paul Stubbs from Crewe in Cheshire has found that I think he’s worth not ten pressed men, but a hundred! Many other aeromodelling activities have Facebook pages and there’s clear universal agreement that they’re of very high value to those activities. It may be, of course, that Facebook ultimately should be in my short-term ‘Must-Dos’ list, but I’m not competent to evaluate this because I don’t use it and know nothing about it. However, many other flyers DO use it — Paul tells me that Robert Schulze in Germany runs a Facebook page which has a number of our own UK flyers as members. And, embarrassingly to me, some of those fliers are nearly as old as I am! Maybe it’s my dinosaur tendencies I need to worry about, not my age… Our webmaster Mike May is also one of Robert’s Facebook page members, so between Mike and Paul, we have modern men at the helm of Carrier’s media and now stand a fighting chance on this front. Yippee! Definitely watch this space!
  • Provision of written/photographic magazine publicity. Priorities may be arguable, but from the point of view of promotion, and thus recruitment, and thus survival of Carrier in the very long term, it is quite possible that this category has disproportionate value to everything else that isn’t a Must-Do item. Magazine articles (of any kind, short or long) can therefore – probably – be regarded not as a luxury but perhaps a strategic necessity! But we’ve had very few in the last I0 years, so we do not have a very good recent record here at all. ..
  • Upgrading/modernisation of contest promotional functions. I’m glad to report some more good news and it’s in this area of activity! Although we sadly lost Carrier flyer George Ford a year ago last Christmas to cancer, it was the wish of both George and his son Nick that their ‘party tent’ once used at the Nationals, and from which Colin Buckle used to sell his vintage kits, should be given to Carrier. The hope is that this modern tent will provide better facilities than our existing old-fashioned frame tent used for the Information Tent at the Nats. We now have this tent, currently stored in Kent courtesy of the Info Tent’s PRO Ray Ewart himself. The Nats is, by far and away, the most valuable ‘shop window’ Carrier has for self-promotion, and the Info Tent is central to this need. We still need to learn how to efficiently store and transport this new piece of kit, and practise putting it up with minimum resources – but the potential of it is quite exciting! Furthermore, as the internal displays used inside the Nats Information Tent are now rather tired, having soldiered on for an embarrassing number of years largely unchanged, Ray and I are looking at a number of improvements, centred on some hands-on ‘demonstrators’ for the various combinations of mechanical 3~line and electronic control equipment that we currently use. These will be made in hardwoods and will therefore require considerable joinery skills. Now Ray IS a joiner by trade… what a very lucky coincidence!
  • Mike Welch, too, is considering, in the longer term, modernisation of the famous ‘Discs’ which have been a feature from time immemorial of the Carrier training sessions at the Nationals (where most of the BMFA officers and their children have experienced them) and at our various Carrier Deck Weekend Workshops and Old Warden weekends. The discs themselves are close to being indestructible, but Mike is now looking at replacing the I/C engines currently in use with electric units, which should make the trainers a little more user-friendly for both would-be pilots and our instructing/deck crew team who operate them!

The remaining items can be usefully grouped into two sub-categories:

  • Reintroduction and maintenance of Personal Best Scores and the previously used Novice, Sportsman and Expert skill categories
  • Newsletter are activities which will benefit existing Carrier flyers

PBS and the skill categories are functions which I used to carry out and they’ve fallen by the wayside simply because I can’t find time to do them these days – oh mea culpa! The newsletter, too, (ironic though this temporary resuscitation of it obviously is…) has gone exactly the same way, and whilst I enjoyed writing it, I’m neither as (relatively) fast or efficient as I once was. Such is increasing age (sound of violins, etc)  whereas:

  • Creation of plans of latest successful contest models & development of an up-to-date plans library,
  • Carrier Information Pack updating and modernisation
  • Manufacture and selling of BCD starter kits & control equipment are concerned with recruitment and therefore the long-term survival of Carrier.

 Model plans, Info Pack and ‘manufacturing’ items are much more optimistic areas and I can report progress here, I’m glad to say! Peter Tribe has started limited production of his electronic handle design to be sold in its own box, and has begun to produce the parts for a Douglas Skyraider BCD model with a veneered foam wing, suitable for I/C or electric power – both will be really good to have available! In addition, there are very many classic full-sized plans to download from the website

Also, Poole Carrier flyer Chris Hague, sadly suffering quite badly from medically-related C/L giddiness, has very kindly donated all his Carrier models to us. They’re currently stored by Chris Howell (thanks, Chris!) with the rather longer term intention of setting them up as complete sets of ‘model loan’ gear, ie: model, lines & handle sets that can be borrowed by non-Carrier flyers who show an interest.

So far as model plans go, I’d intended to update the original Grumman Hellcat BCD plan, issued free with the 68-page Info Pack we sell as an introduction to Carrier, for years. Model redesign required resulting from 22 years of flyers’ experiences means a removable symmetrical-section aerofoil wing, plus a separate bigger/lighter contest wing for later use. The first demonstrator will be modelled on the Hellcat, so it’s had to wait upon redesign of the model so the appearance is the same.

Furthermore, ‘redesign’ has extended to the Info Pack itself, the latest edition of which appeared in I998! It’s way out of date in respect of all our modern developments, so, in addition to the introduction of page numbering, a proper index and photo & diagrams to improve the big daunting blocks of text (obviously a genetically-embedded flaw of mine), it’s gotta have stuff about electric power and the various forms of electronic control. I’ve written a 4-page update as a slip-in ‘addendum’, though the main rewriting will take somewhat longer.

That summarises our progress so far as Carrier’s needs are concerned, but we mustn’t forget that, together, we already run one of the biggest Nationals events of all (contests, training, promotion and hospitality) as well as a web site and now a Facebook Page. When (in my opinion, at least) all fourteen areas of management listed previously are then considered, particularly as each one of us got involved in Carrier originally just to FLY, I think we’re doing very f***ing well indeed!

But there’s more! I’m putting out a call for examples of Carrier equipment for the Nats Info Tent demonstrators (squeezy and J-Roberts handles have already been donated) as well as new board displays and ‘model loans’. If you have any carrier-specific items spare, or see any for sale, particularly the Mick Reeves 3-line handle please let me know. Also, in future contests, please take more photos! Pass them to me or, better, to the Carrier Deck website – we can’t have too many! And when you build a new model, I’d like a copy of the plan, no matter how scrappy, for our library. And, finally, PLEASE don’t let me stop any of you from writing any kind of article about Carrier for ANY publication!