For almost five decades, the Wagga Model Aero club has united lovers of all things miniature aircraft. Here, the club’s 2016 president David Roberts fills us in on what goes on behind the scenes.
Congratulations! We see the club’s 50th anniversary is approaching this year. How will you be ringing in the momentous occasion? “We’re still in contact with all our previous members so will see if they can join us for a party out at the club [which is out at the Connorton Model Airfield, about 8km south of Wagga]. That way, we can all have a good time together and reminisce over things.”
Take us back to the early days. How many members were there half a century ago? What about these days? “I’ve only been a member for about five years so I’m fairly young in the club! But I believe it started out with only eight or nine people. We now we have around 40 – and some of the originals are still members! One of our earlier members is Wagga mayor Rod Kendall; he’s still a member and so is his son, Jordan. The club has a real mix of people doing different things – people from all walks of life. A fair few are retired so they have plenty of time to tinker around in the sheds with their planes. We also have truck drivers, farmers, electricians, business owners, all sorts – even a few pilots who enjoy coming in to fly radio-controlled aircrafts. You’ll often find the older gentleman sitting out on the veranda having a chinwag.”
So, what really happens in a model aero club? “Some people scratch-build their aeroplanes, which means building from scratch using set plans or even making up their plans themselves. While other people buy them readymade or almost-ready to fly. So it might take some members an hour or two to get their plane ready – and it might take other people months or even longer. I know some people who have spent years building models, especially once they make bigger ones. And, of course, we have a lot of fun flying them too, and some of us even take part in competitions.”
What are a few things people mightn’t realise about flying miniature radio-controlled model aircraft? “It can take you all around the world. One of our members has represented Australia overseas! Flying planes is very popular, but you can also fly miniature helicopters and quadcopters [also known as ‘quads’ and ‘drones’, even though they’re not technically drones, according to David, as they’re controlled by radio]. They’re great because they have a first-person view, come with special goggles and it feels like you’re looking out the front of the aircraft. You can fly them through hoops, under trees, all around obstacle courses. Flying quads is becoming more and more popular worldwide.” Can anybody come and have a go at the club? “Absolutely! Get in touch. When a new person comes to the club, we can give them a go on an instructor plane free of charge.”
What do you love about being in the club? “Apart from going out and flying aeroplanes, it’s a real social club as well. It gets you out of the house and around likeminded people. Plus, there’s a real freedom and challenge to it. When you build a miniature airplane, you don’t even know if it’s going to fly – especially if it’s the maiden flight! There’s a bit of fear and excitement there.”
Have you ever crashed a model plane? “Oh yes, aeroplanes can crash. When I’ve crashed one, it’s been a big disappointment and you feel really down about it. But, on the other hand, when it doesn’t crash, it’s such a reward! You think, ‘Hey! I built that and it’s flying… it’s flying really well!’ So, there are two sides to the coin. It’s what keeps us all coming back. We put our heart and souls into our planes.”
For more information, including membership details and pricing, visit waggamac.org and facebook.com/waggamodelaeroclub