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Is the hobby dying/dead

No IC Engines, limited Model Shops

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Tony H24/06/2020 10:22:41
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870 forum posts
242 photos

Hi All,

I have been in this hobby for years, it seems to me that the hobby is on its last legs with maybe a year or two left in it. I see IC engines have almost no demand and are barely being sold, model shops are going out of business all over and the stock levels are awful compared to the past.

What are your thoughts? I am concerned for the RC hobby as a whole, I can't see it lasting

Is it due to the new CAA Regulations? and costs?

Nigel R24/06/2020 10:46:48
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3971 forum posts
714 photos

People have been saying words to that effect since I can remember.

Don't forget there are currently 36k members and 780 clubs in the BMFA.

The shops going out of business has been done to death, some adapted to current shopping practices and some went bust. As has the IC / electric topic, I think.

Richard Clark 224/06/2020 10:50:27
398 forum posts
Posted by Nigel R on 24/06/2020 10:46:48:

People have been saying words to that effect since I can remember.

Don't forget there are currently 36k members and 780 clubs in the BMFA.

The shops going out of business has been done to death, some adapted to current shopping practices and some went bust. As has the IC / electric topic, I think.

As has "How can we encourage new flyers?"

Unless we have commercial interests in the hobby why should we care?

Alan Gorham_24/06/2020 10:51:15
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1291 forum posts
145 photos

Tony - we've had lockdown since 23 March - little wonder that all retail shops are facing huge problems!

I've ordered materials, rc gear, engines and electric motors from UK suppliers during lockdown. In conversation with a couple of them while ordering, they reported that they have never been so busy; doesn't look like a dying hobby to me.

As to cost: this is a hobby, it can cost whatever you want it to cost.

CAA regulations: have they actually had any impact? Compliance is trivial...

Gary Murphy 124/06/2020 10:52:25
434 forum posts
19 photos

When I was young most young lads had some interest in models. very few have this interest now. I would say the most interest is in rc cars.

Most young dads now are pc game players so their kids are not around real hobbies,

I don't think enough youngsters are interested for the hobby to continue as it as over the years.

Jon - Laser Engines24/06/2020 11:20:06
5550 forum posts
270 photos

I am not sure how other traders are doing but its been really busy here. Jan/Feb were stone dead, but the last few months have been extremely busy compared to the last few years. I think the high cost of Japanese engines is contributory but certainly its been ok for us.

I know others i the model trade have also been rushed off their feet as idle hands start building models.

Model Technics on the other hand have been slow as people couldnt fly so no one was using fuel.

I think Gary is right when it comes to young members. The allure of instant gratification from electronic devices is very tempting, but it also requires little effort on the part of the parent as they can plonk jr in front of the tv and its job done. On numerous occasions we have had youngsters visit the field with dad to see what its all about only for dad to turn around and say its too time consuming as 'i go to the pub on saturdays, ill get you an xbox instead'. And no i didnt make that up, one actually said that.

There is also the nanny state argument that kids cant buy fuel, knives, glue etc so couldnt build a model off their own back even if they wanted to.

To counter Richards point though, we need to encourage new people to come in to the hobby. If we dont, there is no longer a business case for making any of the stuff we all need. Also, why would we not want to bring new people in?

Tony H24/06/2020 11:23:48
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870 forum posts
242 photos

All I can say is I am seeing a steady decline in the hobby as the older generations die or stop being able to do the hobby, Young people see it as an old persons hobby and don't appear to be interested in it, also due to the fact that they will have to hang out with older guys their Dads age or older doesn't appeal to them.

I wish it was growing but sadly I see it fading away. Even just 5-10 years ago it was busier than it is today. I would be interested in seeing the BMFA Stats for members over the last 25 yrs.

Just Engines used to have a wide range of engines and parts now they have barely and mostly just OS.

I think the surge in sales due to lock down is irrelevant as all the flyers who cant fly will naturally fix there planes and build new kits with the extra time on their hands, causing sales to go up, but this is only temporary. The impending recession will probably destroy the hobby in the next 2-3 years (I hope it doesn't)

 

Edited By Tony H on 24/06/2020 11:26:51

Edited By Tony H on 24/06/2020 11:30:12

John Tee24/06/2020 11:33:15
877 forum posts
73 photos

Tony, the latest OS advert, back cover of February 2020 RCM&E, says that they have seen a surge in demand for medium sized glow motors so they don't think the hobby is dead yet.

John

Jason-I24/06/2020 11:40:59
327 forum posts
44 photos

Young people have been regulated out of the hobby. There is practically nowhere for them to fly legally, club fields present cost and transport issues for them (not to mention that clubs are a big turn off with all their rules and regulation and then having to stand around with a bunch of old farts whilst waiting for their 'turn' )

Even the wide availability of ready to fly 'park' fly foamies are a waste of time for many, as it is illegal to fly in most (if not all) parks.

I have come across several people who have purchased RTF models with good intent and then ending up selling them without ever having flown them when they realised there was nowhere they could actually fly the darn things.....

Edited By Jason-I on 24/06/2020 11:44:41

 

Edited By Jason-I on 24/06/2020 11:45:53

Tony H24/06/2020 11:41:05
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870 forum posts
242 photos
Posted by John Tee on 24/06/2020 11:33:15:

Tony, the latest OS advert, back cover of February 2020 RCM&E, says that they have seen a surge in demand for medium sized glow motors so they don't think the hobby is dead yet.

John

That's good to know

Barrie Lever24/06/2020 11:42:40
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260 forum posts
50 photos

Tony

I think you have a very bleak view for the future of our hobby.

Model flying certainly faces massive cumulative challenges going forwards, CAA regulation, changes in retail dynamics, conversion to passionless electric power, social changes and destruction of established manufacturers by low cost manufacturing to mention just a few.

None of these in isolation are a problem but added up they certainly create obstacles.

Having said this the hobby is as relevant now as ever before, people like us who have been in the hobby for a longtime (lifetime in my case) have to encourage new comers and show the great sides of the hobby that are really positive and fulfilling.

We had a birthday party last year for my Granddaughter, there were about 10 young kids invited, I made each one of the kids a personalised balsa chuck glider.

I laser cut and engraved the balsa parts and 3D printed the white plastic wing joiner.

Most of the kids really enjoyed the gliders and one little chap spent 3 hours battering his and some of the other gliders to pieces, he actually got pretty good at launching the glider over those 3 hours.

I would say be enthusiastic about our hobby/sport and share that enthusiasm with others and you will see people come and join you in what you are doing.

Best Regards

Barrie

dsc_0581.jpg

Robin Colbourne24/06/2020 11:44:29
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602 forum posts
17 photos

Model flying is and always has been a new and applied technology based hobby, so as with technology anywhere, it is continually evolving. First Person Video and drones are probably the main things that attract newcomers, and particularly youngsters, into the hobby. Like a lot of us, they will chop and change their focus once they are 'in'.

The rise of electric flight has also meant that a club is not essential for flying smaller models. A sports field, park or farmer's field will often suffice. Simulators mean that there is a fighting chance that some of these flights may even be successful. If not, the EPP construction is at least rather more forgiving than stick and tissue.

The other factor is that new entrants to the hoby are not necessarily youngsters. Pressures of careers,family and finances often mean that people are starting in their 50s or even older. Back in the mid-1990s I taught an adult education class, building and flying R/C models. I was in my late 20s at the time, and the second youngest one there. The bulk of the pupils were in their 40s to 60s with a few in their 70s and 80s.

The last factor is the failure over the years for clubs to invest in their own flying sites. I have been in so many clubs where the majority of committee meetings are about finding and retaining flying sites and having to suck up to the latest whim of the landowner; or go through the whole rigmarole again whilst losing members in the process. Buying a site will never be cheap, but any club planning to be around for the long term should definitely think of doing so. A bit of stability means that facilities such as toilets, clubrooms and model prep tables can be provided. Once you have on-site toilets and BBQ facilities, going to the flying field can be a family outing, which gives the social side that other sports thrive upon.

You only need to look around the multitude of niche Facebook groups to see that model building and flying is still popular. We are fortunate to have a hobby in which the recent lockdown was a benefit to get long term projects moving and that attic of ARTFs assembled and ready to go. The average modeller's mental health is probably in a lot better state than most of the locked down population by now.

Tony H24/06/2020 11:44:43
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870 forum posts
242 photos
Posted by Jason-I on 24/06/2020 11:40:59:

Young people have been regulated out of the hobby. There is practically nowhere for them to fly legally, club fields present cost and transport issues for them (not to mention that clubs are a big turn off with all their rules and regulation and then having to stand around with a bunch of old farts whilst waiting for their 'turn'.

Even the wide availability of ready to fly 'park' fly foamies are a waste of time for many, as it is illegal to fly in most (if not all) parks.

I have come across several people who have purchased RTF models with good intent and then ending up selling them without ever having flown them when they realised there was nowhere they could actually fly the darn things.....

Agreed, I think once the 40-70 year olds slowly decline in the hobby it will disappear. I think the largest amount of flyers are in the 55-70yr old range. Once they stop the hobby will be doomed because the demand for the planes and parts won't be enough to keep the shops going.

john stones 124/06/2020 11:48:25
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11590 forum posts
1517 photos

Another obituary ?

We're doing o.k, quite a few new members of late, we have no future without them, bills to pay and losing us old uns at a steady rate. This new fangled tinternet thingy has brought us more exposure, and new members.

Tony H24/06/2020 11:53:10
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870 forum posts
242 photos
Posted by Robin Colbourne on 24/06/2020 11:44:29:

Model flying is and always has been a new and applied technology based hobby, so as with technology anywhere, it is continually evolving. First Person Video and drones are probably the main things that attract newcomers, and particularly youngsters, into the hobby. Like a lot of us, they will chop and change their focus once they are 'in'.

The rise of electric flight has also meant that a club is not essential for flying smaller models. A sports field, park or farmer's field will often suffice. Simulators mean that there is a fighting chance that some of these flights may even be successful. If not, the EPP construction is at least rather more forgiving than stick and tissue.

The other factor is that new entrants to the hoby are not necessarily youngsters. Pressures of careers,family and finances often mean that people are starting in their 50s or even older. Back in the mid-1990s I taught an adult education class, building and flying R/C models. I was in my late 20s at the time, and the second youngest one there. The bulk of the pupils were in their 40s to 60s with a few in their 70s and 80s.

The last factor is the failure over the years for clubs to invest in their own flying sites. I have been in so many clubs where the majority of committee meetings are about finding and retaining flying sites and having to suck up to the latest whim of the landowner; or go through the whole rigmarole again whilst losing members in the process. Buying a site will never be cheap, but any club planning to be around for the long term should definitely think of doing so. A bit of stability means that facilities such as toilets, clubrooms and model prep tables can be provided. Once you have on-site toilets and BBQ facilities, going to the flying field can be a family outing, which gives the social side that other sports thrive upon.

You only need to look around the multitude of niche Facebook groups to see that model building and flying is still popular. We are fortunate to have a hobby in which the recent lockdown was a benefit to get long term projects moving and that attic of ARTFs assembled and ready to go. The average modeller's mental health is probably in a lot better state than most of the locked down population by now.

I fully agree the average modellers mental health will be in a lot better state than most of the locked down population for sure, that's the beauty of this hobby it focus's the mind.

alex nicol24/06/2020 11:55:04
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388 forum posts
17 photos

I must admit I'm inclined to agree with the sentiments expressed above.

I'm a member of a small club membership is about 18 and of the 18 about 6 or 7 are regularly active. That said the majority of the others do turn up regularly come agm time and renew their memberships. Since the beginning of the year we have picked up 2 new members, one returning to the hobby and the other a complete newbie with an interest in drones.

With regard to modelling purchases I took the decision a few months back to stop making any significant new purchases and start using the engines that are gathering dust in their boxes. My last 2 builds were a plan built Chilli Wind and just coming to completion a scaled up version of a Rival/Big Easy by the same designer. They put a fair dent in my balsa and covering stocks but it could be argued I had far to much stuff squirreled away in the first place. The only regular purchases are fuel, few servo's, epoxy and other sundries. The other decision I took I only order from UK suppliers. I'll use HK but only if its coming from the UK warehouse.

Cheers

Alex

Barrie Lever24/06/2020 11:58:25
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260 forum posts
50 photos

Double post !!

Edited By Barrie Lever on 24/06/2020 11:59:40

Tony H24/06/2020 12:02:32
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870 forum posts
242 photos
Posted by alex nicol on 24/06/2020 11:55:04:

I must admit I'm inclined to agree with the sentiments expressed above.

I'm a member of a small club membership is about 18 and of the 18 about 6 or 7 are regularly active. That said the majority of the others do turn up regularly come agm time and renew their memberships. Since the beginning of the year we have picked up 2 new members, one returning to the hobby and the other a complete newbie with an interest in drones.

With regard to modelling purchases I took the decision a few months back to stop making any significant new purchases and start using the engines that are gathering dust in their boxes. My last 2 builds were a plan built Chilli Wind and just coming to completion a scaled up version of a Rival/Big Easy by the same designer. They put a fair dent in my balsa and covering stocks but it could be argued I had far to much stuff squirreled away in the first place. The only regular purchases are fuel, few servo's, epoxy and other sundries. The other decision I took I only order from UK suppliers. I'll use HK but only if its coming from the UK warehouse.

Cheers

Alex

Alex,

This is what I mean, vast majority of the club members barely go flying so no/limited purchases to support the industry. I have about 12 built planes mostly IC and 4 kits waiting to be built. I keep thinking to myself should I sell the vast majority and just keep a few to fly so I don't have such a big investment in a hobby in decline? Also planes and IC engines don't seem to sell so well these days so I am worried what I would get for them on flee bay

kevin b24/06/2020 12:10:47
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1848 forum posts
146 photos

Craft based hobbies go back to a time when people were looking for something to do with the (little) spare time they had. Even in the 1960's TV was still a bit of a novelty, with very little choice. These days people don't even have to get their bums out of the chair (or bed) in order to be entertained. As far as I can tell, anything constructive doesn't seem to fall into the category of "hobby" nowadays. There will always be people who like to make things, but as a percentage of the population I think it will continue to contract for some time. It will be interesting to see the effect of electric cars on the number of people who "tinker" with vehicles.

Recently an eminent scientist expressed concerns that engineering sciences were suffering because young people aren't learning practical skills by taking things to bits and putting them back together as they did years ago. You take the back off a tablet, or phone, look inside, then throw it away.

Nigel R24/06/2020 12:15:49
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3971 forum posts
714 photos

"There is also the nanny state argument that kids cant buy fuel, knives, glue etc so couldnt build a model off their own back even if they wanted to."

The mail order process seems largely uninterested in who the recipient is, and I haven't visited a model shop premises since returning to the hobby. Just saying.

My kids spend hours and hours doing Lego, which is a thing that has gone through a proper renaissance in the last few years. They're not actively building flying toys but they've helped with foamboard stuff. Sometime over the next few weeks I'm going to get them to make flying car. A few days ago I made an ant farm with my eldest. In short they both enjoy putting stuff together. Will they pick up planes? Realistically, probably not. But they might want a drone - they're more the latest thing. RC cars seem quite popular at the minute.. When I picked up RC in the very late 80s helicopters seemed like the latest thing. On this forum we are mainly fixed wing (and mostly wood) flyers/builders - these haven't been the latest thing since about the 60s...

You're right about most folks just wanting to plonk the kids in front of an xbox for the whole day. I don't think that is a new thing though.

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