SCALE AIRCRAFT SOCIETY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA
How aeromodelling and this Society’s endeavours interconnect
We are a special interest Aeromodelling group - a society of like-minded people who have scale modelling amongst some of our passions.
We exist for sharing and enhancing all aspects of scale aeromodelling, building and flying irrespective of experience. All of our members belong to one or more South Australian MAAA affiliated clubs.
Leonardo Da Vinci (1452–1519) might be considered to have started Aeromodelling when he launched his model of a helicopter design from a famous tower. It flew using gravity and landed intact, and in all likelihood was the first notable model aircraft in history.
By the mid to late 19th century, enthusiasm and quests for flight had upsurged steadily to become many a national pursuit. Included were successful manned glider flights by Otto Lilienthal. The activities of others culminated in the 20th century with the first successful powered flight of a heavier-than-air man carrying aircraft by the Wright Brothers in 1903.
Parallel to these successes, miniature models of concepts were sometimes built, often mirroring misguided ideas, but they enabled original designs to be corrected and refined. The 20th century did indeed bring aeromodelling into being with an abundance of gliders, rubber and motor-powered models, all the time with advancements in materials, equipment, knowledge and methods. Some complex technical features in models which were only a pipe dream even in the mid to late 20th century have been perfected and are accepted by many today as unremarkable. The background story of their evolution is a separate and fascinating field itself to explore.
So, it became established that if you wanted to pursue aeromodelling as a hobby, you had to learn how to build your own model from plans and materials which required fabrication, assembly and finishing.
Currently, in relation to THE SCALE AIRCRAFT SOCIETY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA:
- Members share lots of building & flying techniques, helping and learning from each other by discussion, teaching and demonstration.
- Regular meetings and flying events are conducted for members at which interested or aspiring modellers are welcome.
- Items and reports are published in the state MASA Newsletter.
- Not all members are competition minded, but there are competitions available for those who are. Competition is entirely optional and has different categories of challenge that are judged in various ways.
- Apart from flying at their home club fields, our members fly regularly together at scheduled scale model fun fly events during visits to various club fields and flying with the host club’s members.
- These fixtures have become a part of the annual MASA flying programme. The Scale Aircraft Society is always grateful that these visits can take place, and it is wholly due to the good will of host clubs, their committees, and members.
- We have scale modelling information for member’s use - specialised gear and techniques giving solutions to questions such as “where can I …” and how do I…”.
Then in the late 20th century, a bit more than 20 years ago, a monumental change occurred within our hobby. Modellers were presented with the choice either to build models from scratch as always (outlined above), or make use of the latest option to purchase new, virtually complete models.
The age of the Almost Ready to Fly model (ARF) had arrived. These models are mostly constructed in the traditional built up method and shrink film covered. Moulded models using foam or glass/carbon fibre reinforced plastics are also available, and that has coincided with vast improvements in electric motor and battery technologies. Models are bought only requiring some flying surfaces and fuselage to be bonded together. Completion is achieved by installing some hardware, engine and radio equipment. This has become a global phenomenon involving many commercial enterprises in numerous countries. Newcomers to the hobby can be flight ready now in much less time (days) than the previously required full build from a kit, or a plan and pile of materials (unless someone else did that for them).
There are a couple of mixed blessings to the relatively uninitiated accompanying this, and apply to more recent beginners to our hobby who are now heavily exposed to the ARF option.
It seems though that the reduced manual assembly work required that shortens the time spent getting airborne does have a bit of a price. The advantages of the shorter time taken to get a model to “flight ready status” imparts far less teaching overall about the structural makeup of airframes and fitment details when compared to modeller’s abilities developed in earlier times past. Sometimes outcomes during handling and flight materialize as less than desirable. These can include mismatches of engine power and airframe, for which over-enthusiastic flying may exceed airframe strength. Sometimes lowered durability and resistance to minor “hanger Rash” is depressing.
Then there are times when the extent of damage to an ARF after a “high deceleration moment” may be severe and/or extensive. It seems that a notable number of fliers are liable to discard a perhaps repairable airframe rather than try to make it flyable again. Maybe this is due to lack of know-how, manual ability, confidence, and possibly time – a shame.
Pre ARF-modellers have developed insight about the requirements for adequate structural strength of airframes that are sufficiently lightweight, yet robust. Those are most important skills! The resulting knowledge gap that discourages repair can be significant when an ARF model is damaged, with repair very often being a reasonable option for “those in the know”.
Nevertheless, ARF aircraft are enormously successful and have been the road to very many modellers achieving solo status and higher wings award levels.
These comments are genuinely not intended to be derogatory at all, but underscoring one outcome from choosing ARF models to begin our hobby. However, ARF’s are extremely popular for many very good reasons, and the majority of modellers of all interests with both little and much experience own them as we all can see at our club fields.
Over time, quite a number of the post ARF advent modellers who are stayers in the hobby seek advice about how to repair a damaged model, and about scratch building. That learning process is of course the road that pre-ARF modellers have already travelled. This is great, and all members who are able should give advice and help as much as possible when requests for building and repair guidance from fellow club members are made. This encourages and assists those who wish to broaden their skills, and gain wider satisfaction from our hobby.
It is NOT a requirement that Scale Society members need to be: -
- Highly skilled at building models. As discussed, this usually develops over time with scratch building practice. All scale models have considerations and requirements for structural strength, materials, engine, control, weight and balance that are no different to any other category of model aircraft. The complexity of construction is often reflected in the choice of the full-sized aircraft subject chosen, as well as the number of airframe functions included – retracts, flaps, wing warping, bomb dropping, etc.
These models are built with accurate scale plan form, profiles and cross sections, and finished with levels of detail chosen by the builder, which can be moderate to great. This sometimes depends whether the model is to be built and flown as “standoff scale”, or entered into serious F4C competition level – that is entirely the builder’s choice. Models are often built with no intention to enter any competition.
- Building models that have such accuracy and detail that it is a worry to risk flying them. Many highly detailed models are built and flown by members – often for their personal satisfaction. They put as much or as little detail on scale models as they wish to achieve. In most competitions, models are judged 3m away and much of any fine detail is not seen. Accordingly, such detail is rarely, if ever judged.
- Requiring special tools. A basic set of tools is all that is required. More, exotic or expensive tools usually reduce work time, but are certainly not essential.
- Requiring lots of time to be spent in building models. Some scale models do take a lot of time to build if large and/or complex. However, a basic scale model takes only a little more time than say a sport model. The scale subject chosen usually indicates the amount of work needed. Scale model construction can be challenging, often needing a bit of Ingenuity, (which all modellers develop) and at times can be “fiddlier”. However, it is emphasized that the vast majority of modellers should be able to learn to produce a successful and satisfying flying scale model aircraft. Help is nearby just by reading printed sources and by discussion with others who have building experience. Scratch building skills can be gained by purchasing a model kit of a straight-forward aircraft (not necessarily a scale subject), assembling and finishing the model. This teaches the builder typical proportions and types of material which make up the various parts of a satisfactory model. Finishing skills are also learned at this stage. As a huge bonus, those building skills can be used to repair many a damaged ARF model that may well otherwise be consigned to the rubbish bin! On the other hand, modellers can build a scale model that is not especially complex from the many excellent plans that are published by Model Magazines, sold by model shops here and abroad, and there are other sources including the internet. Material requirements and size/shape are given on all of these plans. Whatever you do, you make and assemble the parts from sheet and stock materials following the plan and instructions, and guess what? - There is your just completed first “self-built” model
- “Someone special” to compete in scale contests (all include flying). Definitely not!! Many longer-term model flyers would know a lot of the flying manoeuvres already. Probably these have been attempted and perfected at their home fields. All of them can be looked up and learned during your normal club flying. In the category of “Flying only”, modellers can compete using an ARF scale model, as static judging and scoring does not happen.
Scale modellers find the category rewarding and strive to achieve the satisfaction levels that they set for themselves. By now it is probably apparent that most modellers construct with varying degrees of complexity and detail to achieve their own goals. Over years of scale building, modellers often raise the level of their personal “bar” to take on a challenge that has not been tried before.
Some Scale Modellers build very detailed models that do take some time and effort, but have a break from that subject for a bit and turn out say a simple sport model from scratch. This only takes a couple of weeks! Very therapeutic! That is, some “Scalies” don’t just fly scale! They also like building!
SASOSA hopes that the above presentation has helped to demystify scale modelling as rewarding, challenging, and within people’s abilities, rather than a puzzling, off the beaten track aspect of our hobby.
All modellers are cordially invited to attend our general meetings which are held bi-monthly at Parafield airport, or with our Southern Chapter, which meets at Noarlunga. Please contact our Secretary Trevor Woolfitt at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 8250 0198 or 0402 815 957 for further information..