A Baby Boomerang heads skyward

Iíve been getting my teeth into electric ducted fan (EDF) models over the last few months - you may have read my ĎAdventures in EDFí feature in the May and July 2007 issues of RCM&E. Anyhow, what started this interest was my visit to the Paul Heckles School of Flying last June. Not just any old visit you understand, no I had booked myself on one of the Jet Experience Days that Paul runs periodically throughout the year. It turned out to be the best £125 Iíve ever spent.

The Jet experience day has been designed to allow flyers to get up close and personal with radio control jets. The day is a mix of tutorial and hands-on flight, with the aim of giving the pupil three (buddy-box) flights on a Baby Boomerang by the finish. Food and drink is provided throughout the day so all one has to do is turn up and fly.

Paul gives the pre-flight briefing

Paul Heckles may need no introduction, but if youíre new to the hobby then itís probably true to say that heís one of the very best multi-discipline pilots the UK has ever produced. Paul doesn't fly at many shows these days but to see him do so is pretty awe-inspiring. A knowledgeable crew of friendly helpers ably assist Paul, not least jet maestro Dick Spreadbury and right hand men (and ace pilots) Tim Clark and Geoff White.

It was Tim himself who took me up for three flights over the course of the day but before I could get my hands on a transmitter, it was classroom time!

The class itself was composed of a dozen fledgling flyers with varied levels of flying experience ranging from nothing at all, upwards. The majority could be described as experienced club pilots. Bacon rolls were distributed whist Dick Spreadbury showed us around a jet and explained how everything worked. Paul then took the floor and gave us some practical advice on what we would expect in the air whilst also providing a good do and donít list. Paul told us to always fly within our abilities and not to Ďtry-outí anything with the jetsÖ because he 'didnít have time to repair them'.

Jet Time

I was more than just a little nervous as instructor Tim and I walked out to the Baby Boomerang. Dick was handling all the starting procedures and we watched as he fuelled her up and switched on the systems. Tim explained what was going on and what to look out for to ensure that the model was ready to fly.

Dick Spreadbury fuels her up while Tim explains the starting procedure.

I didnít expect to take off and land the model so I wasnít disappointed when Tim told me Iíd just be doing the middle bit! So what was it like? Well, the Baby Boomerang wasnít too fast to keep up with, indeed she flew at a speed comparable with a fast i.c. aerobatic model so I was perfectly at home in this respect. Paul had advised us to be aware of the throttle lag and in practise this wasnít an issue, it took a few seconds for the motor to have an effect after advancing the stick but for me at least, this trait didnít seem a hinderance.

Another aspect we were warned about was to avoid any sudden change in direction, we had to keep things smooth. Paul had reminded us that we werenít flying WOT4s and not to pull turns on a sixpence with a model weighing 17 lbs. In other words, we had to fly jet manoeuvres.

They're a touch intimidating at first but this soon turns to sheer pleasure

My first nervous flight had been pretty sedate, just circuits really and I expected the other two to follow the same pattern, Tim had other ideas though so I was genuinely pleased and surprised when he started to coax some degree of improvement from my flying over the second flight. Encouraging rolls and loops, reversals and inverted flight, my nerves had vanished by the time I landed. Lunch was a very convivial affair, as by now the group had plenty to talk about, not least the morningís adventures.

The third flight was pure bliss, revelling in the Baby Boomerangs abilities, fear was replaced by pure pleasure - the sight and sound of a jet is quite intoxicating, especially when youíre at the controls yourself. By now I was flying the jet with the same degree of confidence that Iíd fly my own i.c. sport models.

Tim demonstrated how the model was forgiving at slow speed, yet capable of some breathtaking flight in the right hands. Paul closed the day by taking one of the Boomerangs up for a display that had us on the edge of our seats. Truly inspiring stuff Ė sometimes you just know when youíre in the presence of greatness and this was one of those occasions.

Paul Heckles has recently taken over the ATS flight school business and will be moving to their impressive facility just down the road. This augers well for the jet days as he'll have a bigger area from which to fly. Have a look at his website if youíd like to book in for the experience.

A great day with a great bunch of people, tutors and pupils alike. I'm sure you know how odd model flying days stick in the mind, often years down the line? Well, my jet day is one such, etched as one of the best model flying experiences Iíve ever had, simple as that.


The Paul Heckles School of Flying can be contacted on 01793 741397 or 07866 599988. See their website for more information.