31 May 2022

Over 3000 model aircraft in the air at once: BMFA centenary

To mark its 100th anniversary this year, the British Model Flying Association member clubs promoted their sport with an attempt to get as many model aircraft as possible into the air at once on 15 May 2022. The mass participation model flying event took place at 12:00 noon simultaneously across the UK, with a total of 3109 models of all types flying into the air at once.

An impressive 263 BMFA affiliated clubs participated in the event, which is an exceptional achievement. FAI welcomed the news of this remarkable aeromodelling performance and is issuing BMFA with a congratulatory diploma.

BMFA Buckminster
At BMFA Buckminster, 24 models flew as part of the event on 15 May.

The event on 15 May took place as part of a number of model aircraft events held across the British Isles to celebrate the centenary. The BMFA hopes that the sport will be showcased to a wide audience to encourage participation, and event ideas range from BBQs to displays at local agricultural shows or sports club fetes, and even offering other sports or youth clubs the opportunity to learn to fly a model aircraft. BMFA has produced promotional materials and products to support over 800 affiliated clubs in putting on events.

Simon Vaitkevicius, BMFA Records Officer, commented:

"I would like to thank everyone who participated and the clubs who hosted the attempt. It has been a fantastic event and has exceeded my expectations for participation and enthusiasm for all involved. Clubs around the country have made the event more than just a flight at 12 noon: some have opened their doors to non-club modellers, some have held social events, some airshows, and some used it as a chance to engage fliers of all ages. It has been a superb community building activity. I would also like to thank the press and TV for all of the coverage which has been achieved, which has given positive exposure to the sport."

The National Centre at Buckminster is also hosting an exhibition which showcases the legacy and history of model flying, from early compressed air and rubber-powered models to today’s gas turbine aircraft and multi-rotors/drones which have more computer power than Apollo 11 used to get Armstrong to the Moon.

The history of the BMFA

It all began in a tea room in London, England, in 1922, when the ‘London Aero Models Association’ met and members decided to extend the organisation's reach to accommodate model aircraft enthusiasts across the whole nation. It was F.J. Camm – brother of Sydney, who designed the Hawker Hurricane – and colleagues who renamed the London-based association to become the ‘Society of Model Aeronautical Engineers’, which has since been renamed the British Model Flying Association (BMFA).

During the early half of the 20th Century, shortages of balsa wood, engine parts and even paper on which to print the newsletters, presented challenges, but membership rose from 20 club members in 1935, to 500 clubs by 1945.

In 1957 the Duke of Edinburgh became the patron, and the following year the SMAE organised the World Championships for Wakefield F1B and Free Flight Power F1C (Aircraft with Piston Motor), following it up again in 1960. In 1962, 13 nations competed in the RC Aerobatics World Championships and six Indoor World Championships took place over the 60s, 70s and 80s.

As developments in materials and equipment have diversified the sport, so interest in model aircraft has grown. Nowadays, 840 clubs are affiliated with BMFA, which has 36,000 members. In fact, the BMFA has by far the largest membership of any of the UK Royal Aero Club’s twelve associations. The RAeC is a member of FAI and the Wakefield trophy for rubber models to the FAI F1B rules is among the world’s most famous model aircraft event which is held every two years with competitors coming from over 30 nations.

In recent times, new challenges such as compliance with regulation changes with the civil aircraft authority have been overcome and safety standards are allowing pilots to enjoy the freedom of model aircraft flight in security, whether they are flying vintage models or multi-rotor drones.

BMFA Centenary 2022 Buckminster

Images: Angela Tallett, Progression Marketing