Seaside Special

When it comes to the weather, putting on an outdoor model show in the UK can be a risky business, even in the height of summer. Mind you, for the last ten years the Hastings Model Airshow, located down south on the English Riviera, seems to have escaped the worst of our all too frequent summer squalls, basking instead in its own little micro-climate. As the hard-working guys and gals of the Hastings MFC would surely testify – just reward for the efforts of all involved, pilots, visitors, and club members alike. Accordingly, when the curtain was raised for the 2006 Airshow, the morning of the July 29 dawned warm and bright, a condition that lasted all weekend, and even spilled over into Monday morning! Now there’s a thing…

A real winner for the club, the show has been so successful in its first decade, the proceeds have allowed the go-getting Hastings membership to purchase their own 22-acre flying field and achieve a comfortable affluence in the process. This year, with a fresh new committee and chairman at the helm it was time, at last, for the club to relax just a little and enjoy the fruits of their labour in the knowledge that they’ve now firmly established this friendly little show as a firm fixture in the hearts and minds of the local model flying community and, moreover, the ever-present holiday-makers of the popular Victorian seaside resort.

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Hosting a model show on this scale is challenge enough and although most clubs in the country could probably muster the requisite skill-pool to cope with the organisation and logistics, persuading a star-studded list of visiting pilots to attend is an altogether different challenge.

Over the years the club has worked hard on its line-up and, via a handful of go-getting proactive members, has managed to cajole and encourage some of the best pilots in the country to attend. Such pilots often travel many hundreds of miles for little or no reward, other than that of sharing an enjoyable weekend in the company of likeminded enthusiasts. Clearly, when it comes to flying at the Hastings event, this is payment enough and at times the slot-board reads like a who’s who of the current show scene. Ali Machinchy, Mike Eccles, James Morris, Dave Johnson, Tony Nijhuis, John Greenfield, Rick Stevens, Colin Hammond, Ken Bones, John and Gregg Veasey, the Helger Display Team… I could go on.

It was obvious that the LMA were supporting the event, for the type and variety of large aircraft was very impressive. Moreover, many of the Essex, North London and Bulldock lads had turned out, putting on superb displays that kept the 5000 strong audience constantly entertained during the weekend.

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Of course, it’s all very well meticulously planning a show and inviting the best pilots in the land to strut their stuff, but if they all arrive to a disorganised flightline that prevents them from performing and restricts their flying hours, they’re unlikely to make a return visit. Well, I guess the longevity of this particular show speaks volumes in this respect, the key to its success being a professional, tightly organised, yet relaxed, flightline and slot-booking set-up that’s been perfected and honed over the ten years of the shows existence. With experienced and respected teams operating a slick Tx control and good no-nonsense flightline safety, the pilots can relax and do what they do best… display their aircraft to the hungry crowd.

Comfortably seated on the roof of his spotlessly clean Transit-based mobile commentary platform (take a closer look when you get a minute, it’s immaculate) Colin Hammond clearly enjoys the Hastings event for it is, after all, home territory for the ex London Bus driving instructor. His delivery here was light, enjoyable and informed, and what’s more, being an active display pilot in his own right, he even managed to log a few sorties with his super new Ziroli DC-3, which, I hasten to add, he handles beautifully. The Dakota is a particular favourite of mine and I delight in seeing one flown well.

Drenched in all that glorious sunshine on the Saturday, whilst battling a strong coastal crosswind on the Sunday, flying remained continuous for the duration of the event and although the breeze grounded some of the smaller aircraft on day two, the LMA boys raised the bar and carried on regardless. Dave Johnson seemed to almost revel in the conditions hauling his massive 17ft-span B-17 aloft with the sort of gritty determination that’s made him the accomplished all-rounder that he is. Joining Dave in the popular bomber slots was RCM&Es very own Tony Nijhuis, campaigning his lovely 13ft petrol-powered Vickers Wellington. A departure from Tony’s usual four-engine Avro offerings the Welli’ flew equally well and seemed to loose its rather ungainly appearance when airborne and free from the clutter of retracts. I much preferred its appearance in the sky and even began to loose my historic dislike of the aeroplane. In fact, having now seen Tony’s in the flesh, I’m warming to it more than I might have imagined. Strange that, isn’t it?

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Both days were filled with accomplished displays of all types, from Rod Bowning’s venerable toffee-dropping Piper Cub that thoroughly delighted the children, to Ali Machinchy’s spirited jet flying and James Morris’ aerobatic mastery that wowed the budding 3D flyers.

At the end of it all the Hastings Clubs tireless year-round effort had, once again, produced a corking show for everyone, pilots and spectators alike.

Like all these things, a club model show is only as good as the organising team behind it and, fortunately, the new HMFC committee are determined to ensure that the 2007 event is as good as, if not better than, this last one. As such the dates for this year are July 28 / 29, and since RCM&E will be sponsoring the show once again, you need look no further for details and announcements…

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