Flying model planes is very relaxing, according to Dr Malcolm Balfour of Murri Dental in Caboolture, Queensland, until you’re competing in the world championships
It takes quite a lot of time and practice to fly a model plane properly. It’s a bit like learning to drive a car—at first you’re concentrating on simply not crashing but once you’re capable, it’s more about perfecting your technique.
“My father flew model planes back in Scotland and I got into it when I was just a kid. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the sport is actually building the planes. A basic plane only requires a wee bit of final assembly. They’re made from kits and it’s really just installing the motor and the equipment to make it fly.
“However, constructing a competition plane requires years of plane-building experience. While a basic model plane only costs a few hundred dollars, a competition plane takes about two or three months to build and can cost up to $3000.
“In 2003 I was part of the UK team that competed at the world championships in Poland. I did quite well and was ranked 62nd in the world. I’ve also been in the Scottish team a number of times and I recently flew in the Australian nationals, ultimately coming third.
“A trial for the Australian team is being held in October this year. If I make the team then we will compete in an event in Thailand called the Asia Oceanic Continental Championships.
“In competitions, you’re given a list of manoeuvres to fly, such as loops and rolls, and they need to be performed cleanly. You also have to fly the plane directly in front of yourself and perform all the aerobatics in an imaginary box about 150 metres wide. There’s definitely an art to it.
“The controller and the plane have a range of about two kilometres. A plane would be out of sight before you lost control of it. However, there can be technical issues or a battery failure or a problem with the transmitter. It’s a terrible feeling when it happens. At the Australian nationals, two people lost their planes due to malfunctions. You could almost feel the wave of empathy that went through the crowd.
“Flying model planes competitively is a very rewarding sport. Not only do I get to travel the world and have fun with my hobby, but after a day of stressful dentistry, there’s nothing better than going out with my plane and enjoying the countryside.”