Up, Up and Away
High flyer Sinead McNicholl braves the rain for the 7th Jet World Masters
More than 100 model pilots from over 30 countries descended upon St Angelo’s Airport in Enniskillen for ten days of fierce and friendly competition in the 7th Jet World Masters competition.
NI has never held the competition before and to win the bid was a major coup for Robert McCartney, Aidan Lafferty and Graham McMillen, who pitched the location after competing at the 2005 event in Budapest. The trio fended off contenders from Israel and the USA to put NI firmly on the world's turbine aeromodelling map.
NI has now joined a list of countries including Germany, Austria, Thailand and Hungary to have hosted the international event, held every two years.
There are many rules to adhere to when competing in the event. A unique stipulation is that the jets must be based on a full-sized aircraft in existence, or a design from the past. Gordon McCrea is manager of the NI jet team.
'The first element of the judging that takes place before the flying competition is to assess how accurately the model represents the full size aircraft that it was copied from,' McCrea explains. 'Competitors usually have photographs of the original aircraft at hand and they will try to make their model look exactly like them.'
As a spectator new to the sport it was clear to see that a lot of time and dedication is involved in the planning and building of the models. With investments of around £15,000 and taking hundreds of hours to research and build, the standard of the models was evident for all to see.
A few of the models competing were worth in excess of £30,000 whilst others cost less than £5,000. McCrea insists that model aeroplane flying does not have to be an expensive sport to get into.
'I would imagine that golf, fishing or any other sport would be equally expensive. You can spend as much or as little as you want on it. In fact, you can get started quite cheaply. The models on display here would be expensive but that does not have to be the way you begin.'
On show was an exhibition of a variety of different jets from different countries, powered by miniature gas turbine engines and flying at speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour. Viewers were treated to manoeuvres normally only seen at the world’s most prestigious air shows by aerobatic display teams such as The Red Arrows.
The audience watched as the competitors performed majestic tricks such as inside loops and horizontal rolls. Title holders Germany showed why they are the leaders in the model flying arena, and put on a great show. The NI team, however, went into the competition with little experience of jet flying.
After winning the bid to host the event, the process of selecting a jet team to represent NI took place on Saturday, November 24, 2006 at the Cotton Mount Arms in Mallusk. It was decided that Stephen Browne, Robert Graham, Phelim Lundy, Matthew Poots, Chris Robb and Ian Robb would fly for the team with their models based on the Sea Vixen, Sea Venom, F15, Canberra, Hawk and the F5 jets. The team then developed the models and started to train for the competition.
'We have never been in a position to send a number of pilots to compete in other countries like Austria or South Africa,' McCrea admits. 'We had perhaps one pilot who traveled, whereas this year we have a full team. Considering that this is our first time entering a team into the Jet Masters, I think we did OK.'
The NI team manager is confident that the spectacle and uniqueness of the event on show will boost the profile of the sport at home.
'Hopefully it's something that young people will see and start to take an interest in. And I think the event will also boost tourism. We have had people from Moscow, Australia and from China. They have all thought it’s a marvelous place to come to, despite the rain, quite a few have said they would like to come back and fly at some of the flying sites we have.'
The experience has certainly left the team hungry for more with the NI manager looking forward to the future. The next event has been planned to take place in Cyprus in 2009 and after the success of this years' championship, let's hope that NI will have a team ready, aiming for the ultimate title of World Model Jet Champion.