The eagle eyed amongst you will notice that previous blogs have generally been designated by month, whereas this offering goes under the much vaguer title of spring, it’s been a busy start to the year hence the delay in producing the current update but there have been regular Facebook updates as well as the usual BMFA News catch up, however it seemed more important to focus on the ‘doing’ rather than the writing.
Anyway, enough of the excuses, there is much to report.
As you will recall the year started off with a continuation of the never-ending winter and we had a significant amount of snow at Buckminster which combined with some heavy rainfall led to some fairly wet ground conditions.
However, that didn’t stop us operating and over the winter we had a steady stream of pilots ready to make the most of the good days as they appeared, we did close the site when the weather was at it’s worst but always kept the site status page up to date with the aim of keeping members informed.
The indoor model car club made good use of the Events Building and held their last Winter Series meeting in mid-March, there has also been a number of commercial bookings which have helped to keep things ticking along over the winter months.
The, Team of dedicated volunteers continued to attend over the winter months and kept up to date with general maintenance as well as undertaking some new projects, the volunteer team continue to form the “backbone” of the National Centre and the amount that they achieve each week is spectacular, as ever, my thanks to these good ladies and gents for their dedication and commitment.
In terms of events, the year got going with a number of control line combat events, with both retro and vintage classes doing battle with freezing conditions, but getting plenty of flying in. Things really kicked into gear at the end of March with the Jet Modellers Association (JMA) Fly-in and AGM. It was a tense few days leading up to the event as on the Tuesday we still had snow on the main runway and a very wet site, however, conditions finally co-operated and on the Thursday the sun shone, the ground dried and the volunteers made the most of the opportunity, by the end of the day we had a beautifully cut and rolled main runway and pits area.
The JMA event was a huge success with around 50 jets on site and two full days of flying in near perfect conditions.
The following weekend saw us host the AGM and seminar of the Gas Turbine Builders Association (GTBA) which made for interesting use of the Events Building, they also made use of the car park to run up a number of scratch built gas turbines, fascinating stuff.
The third Sunday of April was a “biggie” as it saw our largest event at the National Centre to date with our first proper swapmeet (you may recall that we held one in December but suffered somewhat with the snow, although a good number of traders and visitors still turned up). All indoor space was sold out several weeks in advance and outdoor space also filled up rapidly, we knew it was going to be a busy day compounded by the hosting of a control line combat competition on the same day, the dedicated team of volunteers and staff were on hand to ensure that the day went smoothly.
Gates opened at 7.00am and we had a steady stream of traders and visitors all morning, again the ground conditions gave some concern following heavy rainfall but a combination of sensible driving and parking, and careful monitoring and assisting from the team meant that the day went off without a hitch, at the peak of activity we accommodated close on 300 cars on site, we did have one or two slippery moments but a bit of pushing and shoving and occasional assistance with a tow rope and FWD kept things moving. Well done to all involved.
The end of April saw another first for the Centre with a Discus Launch Glider (DLG) weekend.
The event was run by Mike Fantham and was aimed at encouraging those thinking of trying DLG (competition designation F3K) for the first time or those who were fairly new to the discipline. The weekend was a huge success with a mixture of classroom/ seminar time where all aspects of building, flying and competing were discussed and also plenty of time out on the flying field putting it all into practice.
Mike and his team of experts were always on hand to advise and encourage and we also had a trade presence from Neil Harrison with his Superfly stand, a great example of what having a National Centre is all about. The event was such a success that we have squeezed a second weekend into the diary, the next DLG “Improver weekend” is on the 11th/12th of August, keep an eye out for further details in the near future.
The Centre recently hosted an Achievement Scheme Review Committee (ASRC) Roadshow which was very successful and attracted around 40 attendees, the same weekend was set aside for an International Miniature Aerobatics Club (IMAC which is large scale aerobatic aircraft) Come-and-Try-It day, unfortunately they suffered with poor weather and only a small number of flights were carried out, the hope is that we can repeat this on a future date (the flying, not the rubbish weather of course).
The early May Bank holiday was set aside for an Electric Fly-in and despite conditions being absolutely perfect, with the required blue skies and light winds it was fairly quiet. Experience shows that Bank Holidays can be a bit tricky in terms of organising events as people often other commitments, however those who did attend had a great time and there was some really interesting aircraft on show, we will be running further Electric events as well as the general fly-ins and I am sure that these will gain momentum as the word gets out.
Mid May saw yet another new event for the National Centre with our first aerotow event which was very ably hosted by John Greenfield and the Ghost Squadron team.
The weather was pretty much perfect and a large selection of tugs (tow aircraft) and gliders were in evidence with two full days of flying.
The gliders were a very nice mix of traditional vintage wooden airframes as well as some very slippery ‘plastic fantastics’, the tug pilots were kept busy all weekend and made good use of the 1500 foot exemption that we have at the Centre, there were gliders in the air at all times and plenty of soaring flights to almost an hour in duration.
The same weekend hosted a control line aerobatics (F2B) competition so another good example of diverse activity at the National Centre.
In other news, we recently submitted the planning application for Phase Two of the National Centre project.
To recap, Phase two Consists of the development of more of the on-site buildings and conversion of the stable blocks into bunk room accommodation, and the creation of a shower block and an additional general-purpose space.
The application was submitted some weeks ago and in line with the planning procedure details were posted on the relevant Council website, this generated some feedback which did include a small number of objections leading to the decision being referred to a Planning Committee rather than by an individual case officer.
Following much advance work from our architect and the team I had the opportunity to speak on the project at the planning committee meeting (a whole three minutes allocated) as did a member of the Parish Council in opposition.
I am pleased to say that the Planning Committee were very receptive and several made specific positive comment regarding the benefits of the project, focussing on the positive aspects of model flying as an activity and educational tool, the positive benefits to the local area and economy and the positive development of previously derelict buildings and also noting the ideal rural location.
When it came to the final vote the application received a unanimous vote of approval (ten councillors and the chairman) which is great news and hopefully sets the scene for later phases of the project.
The provision of accommodation and associated facilities will certainly promote additional usage of the centre and assist those people visiting the site for whom travelling for one day is not practical.
We are still looking at the funding options and whilst we have funding available to commence the development we are also exploring external grant opportunities.
Very positively, the project has recently benefitted from a significant bequest from a deceased member’s estate (the late Geoff Goldsmith) to aid further development and a small portion of this has already been directed to the provision of a wooden flight-line shelter.
The other positive news is that we have again benefitted from generous sponsorship from Ad-Manum Consultants and this is being directed to the provision of 7 model preparation and starting benches as well as the flower planting at the entrance to the site (which was a huge success last year)
The day to day activity at the centre continues to increase (despite the poor weather) and we have a regular flow of visitors dropping in to either fly or just look around, season ticket sales have been very positive (ahead of predicted figures) and despite the fact that it is still fairly early in the year and it has been a slow start to the season the numbers are looking positive.
The primary challenge at present is keeping the grass cut, the wet weather followed by sunshine means that we are cutting it twice a week, again, the volunteers take on the majority of this work on a weekly basis.
Another important development at the National Centre is the employment of two part-time staff to assist with some of the day to day duties and more importantly to provide additional cover and flexibility, Steve Green and Roy Fergusson-Dalling joined the team at the beginning of April and are already proving a valuable resource.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words so I have added a selection of images (in no particular order) to provide a flavour of the activity taking place at the National Centre (to complement the 1800 words of this blog!).
We look forward to welcoming you to Buckminster in the near future, as always keep an eye on the website and calendar for event details and status updates.
In closing one more point occurs, when you visit the National Centre please take care on the roads, remember we are located in a rural location and fairly close to rural communities and farming, please observe the speed limits, drive considerately and courteously and take particular care when horses are present on the road, we have received praise on the conduct of our members which is great, thank you and well done to those who have already visited, remember, we are on show (particularly if you have aircraft visible in the back of the car).
Thank you to all those who support the National Centre project.