27 May 2020

COVID-19: the impact on the Aeromodelling community and CIAM

Because it is easy and affordable to build and fly one’s own model aircraft, Aeromodelling comprises pilots and officials of all ages and backgrounds, from all around the world, giving it the largest and most diverse community in air sports.

The competition scene has been hit hard by the Coronavirus outbreak, with all World and Continental Championships (CAT1) either postponed or rescheduled, in addition to many local events (CAT2). Furthermore, the very popular World Cups will not have any rankings this year. The upheaval is profound, but the FAI Aeromodelling Commission (CIAM) has rallied to the defence of its sport, adapting to the many changes while working hard to find solutions to unprecedented challenges.

We asked Antonis Papadopoulos for his thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 on the Aeromodelling community and its activities. A seasoned Aeromodelling official and pilot, he has been the President of CIAM since 2012, and active in the Commission since the 1980s.

What is the impact of the new Coronavirus on the Aeromodelling competitions due to be held in 2020 and 2021?

A lot, and unfortunately it is difficult to say for the moment how long this will take. It is like sailing in unchartered waters. At least for this year all the planned World and Continental CAT1 events with the confirmation of the organizers were postponed or cancelled. This is not something that ever happened in the past. This is difficult because it is affecting a lot of things. Rules change is based on this fact and it is not easy to skip a year. In addition, for next year there are similar events awarded, and it’s difficult to reschedule everything from the beginning.

Most of the regional and local CAT2 events are already cancelled and we’re hoping to hold them next year. No World Cup ranking will be in place for 2020.

It’s worth noting that the existing rules don’t have specific provisions for “Force Majeure” situations, which is a lesson learnt from this very unpleasant situation. And since the health of the competitors and the officials takes precedence over any other matter, it is difficult to say when we will be able to start again. We have hope and we are making plans but also we need to follow all the instructions. And, of course, the situation is not the same for all FAI members. It’s a difficult puzzle with an undefined number of pieces…

How did CIAM face all these changes?

Actually, it was not only changes but challenges as well. We reacted quite fast and we immediately contacted the various organisers. The Sub Committee chairmen and the World Cup coordinators did a tremendous job. CIAM is a commission with close to 15 World or Continental Championships organised annually and more than 350 CAT2 events. Don’t forget, we are volunteers and this adds much more value to what we do. 

How did the Aeromodelling community react to the impossibility (for many) to fly model aircraft?

In some countries, restrictions have started to be lifted. For the last two months almost no practice took place. In every country the authorities issued specific rules and we all had to cope with them. However, this offered a benefit for many of us. As you know, Aeromodelling is not only flying. It also includes building, and we found more time for this part of our hobby.

However, we now have to be very careful. We don’t have experience implementing social distancing and I’ll give you an example: maybe in the field I need to use something that I don’t have with me, for example some glue, or a tool. Before, we would help each other. Now we have to avoid this. Being on the flying field is not only for flying. We would exchange ideas, share experiences and, of course, socialise. Now we have to adjust our hobby to fit the times.

How has this situation affected CIAM’s meetings?

The CIAM Annual Meeting in April was postponed. It is difficult to say when it will happen and how. It is easy to say that we have tools to make it happen electronically, but we need to adjust  many things. For example, the time zone. An electronic meeting has to be scheduled differently from a face-to-face meeting. It will not be possible to be in front of a screen from 9am to 6pm. So a lot of preparation would be needed beforehand. At CIAM Bureau, we are not afraid about this. However, we need to think what the current set of rules allow us to do. 

Has anything good come out of this unprecedented situation for CIAM?

The lesson learned is that nothing can be considered as standard or as a default. We all have seen how fast COVID-19 affected all of our lives. It wasn’t easy. We started using the tools available to communicate and with this opportunity I may say that we started communicating more frequently than before. We have to be optimistic but of course we need to follow the instructions. COVID-19 is still here and we must not forget this.

Which message would you like to send to the aeromodelling community?

We have to think positive. Consider the opportunities and prepare for the next steps. But above all, we have to STAY SAFE.