The year as ever seems to have flown by which is largely a by product of being so busy.
This blog has been somewhat long winded in the making and the eagle eyed amongst you will have spotted that there hasn’t been an update for quite some time, in my defence it has been “full on” at the Centre which of course is great news, hopefully the following update will redress the balance.
When I commenced work on this edition it was titled Spring, then due to lack of progress changed to Summer, I then had to rename it Autumn, I then pondered the title “Winter” but as time moved on scrapped that and arrived at Blog 2022 …….and changed all the tenses to past!
The following is something of a “round up of highlights” at the National Centre of which there have been many.
The Centre continues to be increasingly busy and now each year from early March until mid-November there is an event taking place at the Centre every weekend which is great news and of course is imperative to ensure that the Centre continues to be financially self-supporting.
We also accommodate a substantial amount of midweek activity and one of the ongoing challenges is to accommodate all of the booking requests and also maintain fair access for season ticket holders, overall we seem to have the balance about right.
In terms of large events the season got under way as usual back in March with the first Jet Modellers three-day Fly-in which was a huge success, as always at JMA events there were some spectacular aircraft in attendance and 3 days of safe flying.
April saw the first of our annual three SAM35 events with the Spring Gala and Swapmeet, again well attended and the swapmeet was as popular and busy as ever.
May brought a good selection of events with a GBRCAA aerobatics competition, the Freestyle Masters (one of our bigger events) and a Ghost Squadron aerotow meeting which are always well attended.
Of course, the big news of the summer was the weather, the hottest summer for some years so plenty of flying weather, however, it came with its own problems, we certainly saved some money in terms of the grass cutting at the Centre, but it was a continuous challenge to maintain the short grass areas in good condition.
The team here did a fantastic job and the grass actually looks in very good order again which is no mean feat given the conditions they were faced with.
June accommodated the BARCS Radioglide competition as well the second JMA Jet event and the SAM35 Retrofest and swapmeet and also an F3K discus launch glider competition.
June also saw the return of the BMFA Payload Challenge after 2 years, which was very successful and after the Covid enforced break attracted a number of overseas teams which was very positive.
The summer is naturally our busiest time with events taking place every weekend as well as a number of larger commercial bookings that cover midweek dates, these play an important part in the overall finances for the Centre and also represent a great range of related activity.
One of these was the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMECHE) UAS Challenge which is a design, build and fly payload mission challenge using UAVs (essentially model aircraft with some autonomous capability). It was an interesting event and very positive to be able to provide a turn-key solution to the IMECHE, we are already working on next year’s event.
June also accommodates the mid-year Swapmeet and SAM 35 Retrofest which is always a great event with a real feel of model flying jamboree and celebration about it, the weather was fairly kind and as ever the swapmeet was very busy, it was also great to see pretty much every corner of the site occupied by enthusiastic aeromodellers partaking in the broad range of model flying disciplines that make up a SAM35 event throughout the weekend.
Perhaps the main focus of the summer months were the various events of the BMFA Centenary celebrations, one of the main activities at the Centre was the staging of a six week exhibition in the Goldsmith Hangar. The Exhibition was largely the work of Jim Wright and Martin Dilly who supported by a team of dedicated volunteers put on a truly fantastic exhibition that would be a credit to any museum.
The feedback from the exhibition which covered the highlights from a 100 years of model flying has been exceptionally positive, and the overwhelming comment was it should be permanent. Sadly the Hangar was required for other activities hence the set time period, it was sad to be taking it all down after so much work went into putting it all together….the memory of hoisting John Greenfield’s half scale Orlik glider to the rafters in the Hangar roof will stay with my team forever, it does of course demonstrate what could be achieved in terms of a permanent museum if we can ever create space at the Centre.
The other highlight of the Centenary celebrations was a two-day garden party style event which was tied into our regular Warbird Fly-in to create a central theme.
The Friday was an opportunity to invite guests from a range of backgrounds and organisations who have worked with the BMFA as supporters or influencers. It was also a great showcase for model flying and of course the National Centre; the guest list included representatives from the CAA, other airsports governing bodies, the insurance industry, the model flying and general press, local dignitaries and the guest of honour The Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire hosted by our Society President Sir Michael Alcock and Chairman Ian Palister.
All round it was a very positive day capped off by a fly-by of the BBMF Spitfire and Hurricane which was spectacular and brought a lump to the throat of many of the guests.
The Saturday was also a very positive day and represented an opportunity for every BMFA club to nominate two members to attend as an acknowledgement of meritorious or long service in support of model flying and the club.
It was a very relaxed day and all of the guests had a very pleasant day, a fitting way to help celebrate 100 yeas of the BMFA and recognise the effort and commitment at grass roots club level.
Throughout the summer season we accommodated the usual broad range of competitions, fly-ins, training events and general sport flying at the Centre and the Campsite was also kept busy with many visitors taking the opportunity for a few days model flying break in addition to the event associated camping.
Autumn, the continuation of summer
2022 was really the year that kept on giving in terms of flying weather and the run of good weather kept going until late in the year. The autumn saw more of our regular events but also accommodated a number of National Championships following the unavailability of Barkston Heath. It was very positive that many of the disciplines were able to hold their National Champs at the Centre, many of them were able to re-purpose existing domestic competition bookings, however to accommodate the Control Line Nationals we put on a 3 day midweek event which worked very well.
Flying activity continued through September and October with very few events hindered by the weather and in fact most enjoyed excellent flying conditions.
Again, the late season JMA jet event was very successful as were the midweek jet fly-ins, all benefitting from near perfect conditions, albeit with the odd challenging crosswind day in the mix.
The SAM35 Autumn Gala was again well attended and the associated swapmeet was probably our busiest to date with over 300 cars on site, the National Centre swapmeets have become an established feature of the annual model flying calendar and are gaining in popularity every year, what a great way to recycle aircraft and equipment.
October was an especially busy month particularly for shopping events, as well as the swapmeet we also held the second Model Builders Show which although experiencing slightly lower visitor numbers than anticipated, was actually a very positive event with the majority of traders present reporting very good sales.
Also to round the autumn off we held a new event, The BMFA Model Engine and Aircraft Auction, this took place at the end of October and was a hybrid event broadcast live from the Goldsmith Hangar with on-line bidding as well as live bidding in the room.
It turned out to be a hugely successful event with professional auctioneer Bruce Collinson doing a great job, ably supported by the regular Volunteers as well as fantastic work from Andy Symons on the IT and Web side of things and Lisa McDade on the catalogue production and general support, a fantastic team effort with a very positive and professional outcome.
And….moving into Winter
From the beginning of November the Centre moves into Winter Opening which changes the site status more frequently to season ticket holder only.
There is plenty planned for the winter, and we will soon embark on our winter programme of equipment and machinery maintenance in readiness for next season, there is also plenty of project work to keep the Volunteers going such as the new campsite washing up area and plenty of larger maintenance tasks that we don’t have time for in the summer such as cutting the large conifer hedges around the carpark.
Also over the winter, we have work starting on the red building adjacent to the Reception area, this will be a multi-purpose space in support of the Head Office move from Chacksfield House in Leicester.
The aim is to convert the current downstairs meeting room into the main office space (keeping the current Reception).
The new building will serve as a meeting room, and hopefully a café/coffee shop, like everything else it is going to take time to develop infrastructure and facilities.
Already it’s the time of year when we start to populate the calendar for the coming year and 2023 is looking set to be another busy one with more requests for dates than ever before, which is of course very positive.
The downside of course is the potential to disappoint those that we can’t fit in, there are only so many weekends per year and of course not all of them are within the main “season”.
With this as a factor the midweek use of the site has significantly increased which is very pleasing and a good example of this was the holding of the Control Line Nationals over three weekdays which worked very well.
Historically, model flyers in general seem reluctant to attend midweek events, however this is changing and there seems to be a shift towards midweek activity which is very helpful in gaining maximum utilisation of the Centre (there is no doubt that some of the changing attitudes are down to the restrictions associated with the Covid pandemic).
There is no doubt that we have some challenges to come at the Centre but overall the picture is very positive. Support of the Centre is very good and utilisation is extremely positive.
As a team we always aim to deliver the best experience possible and always strive to add new events and interest, providing more reasons to visit.
Of course there are still a huge number of BMFA Members who have yet to visit, some due to factors that can’t be altered such as distance or personal circumstances, but also many that think it isn’t for them or there is nothing of interest….or it is only for the elite few……whoever the elite few are!
I firmly believe that the Centre is for everyone and we have demonstrated this at every opportunity, it would be great if all those who have yet to visit attended just one event during the coming year.
Of course, the main challenge (for every aspect of life) is increasing costs, at the Centre this equates to increased costs for such aspects as general maintenance, waste collection, toilet waste disposal, increasing fuel costs and increasing utility charges.
In reviewing the pricing structure for the coming year I have been mindful that to increase costs significantly would be a very negative step in terms of encouraging usage, however, we of course have to make the numbers add up to maintain the Centre as a viable and self financing facility for all model flyers.
For 2023 the day ticket flyers rate has been maintained at £10.00, there has been a small increase in camping prices to reflect the referred to utility increases. Whole site bookings have increased a little and commercial bookings have received an increase in line with general inflation. The price of a season ticket has increased by £5.00 (6%) and continues to provide free access to a huge range of events and also discounted camping making it great value.
We currently benefit from a little over 100 season ticket holders each year which represents and important early season income, our season ticket holders range from those who have purchased a ticket every year from the opening of the Centre as a show of support and visit only infrequently, to those who are with us on a regular basis and obtain true value from their ticket. The support of all of our season ticket holders is of course very much appreciated.
The other aspect of financial support is bequests and donations, sometimes a bit of an unpalatable subject but sadly we all leave the planet at some point. Since the Centre first came into being the project has benefitted form a number of donations and bequests. Some of these have been targeted at specific projects such as the Goldsmith Hangar whilst some are just directed to National Centre running and general improvements.
Going forward such donations and bequests will play an important part in the further development of the facilities, why not leave your mark on UK model flying and consider the Centre in your arrangements.
That’s all Folks
That’s the Blog for 2022 done, the images provide only a very small snapshot of the years activity at the BMFA National Centre, why not visit and sample it for yourself in 2023.
It just remains to thank all those who support the Centre through the year but in particular I would like to thank my team of Volunteers who work tirelessly throughout the year for the benefit of the Centre and our increasing numbers of visitors, I am genuinely honoured to have the support of these ladies and gents.
I shall endeavour to get back to more frequent updates during the coming year, until then, very best wishes for the coming year.