SEN 1284<

Table of Contents SEN 1285

  1. Hotmail
  2. BFMA proposal from the FAI Web site
  3. 2B or ! 2B


Two recent issues on SEN were blocked by Hotmail. We believe that this block has now been lifted. For this reason we re-sent the B item.

BMFA - Technology and FAI FF Competition


FAI Free flight competition aeromodelling is a technological sport. Technology continues to move on and is now a major focus at the International competition level. The issue is that technology is now becoming, more and more, the over arching driver of FAI free flight competition.

We cannot put the genie of technology back in the bottle, we have to learn to live with it, but there comes a time when we have to “manage” it. Technology is what motivates much of the interest in our sport, however it needs to be controlled. Without some measure of control, problems will arise – in fact this has already started.

In addition changes are being forced upon us by factors external to model flying. Whilst at the same time there is an internal lobby group that feels all the problems can be solved by changes to organisational procedures. Further groups favour restricting performance there are others who would leave everything untouched. However, the general feeling of most fliers is that as a movement we have lost our way while trying to correct the problems. A way of changing and bringing these disparate views together has to be found.

A Solution

In the past CIAM/FFSC has looked ahead. It was the CIAM/FFSC who created the World Cup, this was a centre inspired idea. We need another inspiration to take us forward in the management of technology. We need to consider making changes to the way that we manage our sport to reflect the current situation.

In the UK the British Model Flying Association (BMFA) administers Free Flight via its Free Flight Technical Committee (FFTC). Early in this decade the FFTC realised that similar technology and management problems had arisen in the British Free Flight movement and that something radical needed to be done to correct these. The result was the development of a cohesive plan that would:

  • Implement restrictions on performance and technology development, but not prevent such development, or make models that relied upon advances in technology redundant.
  • Base the restrictions to performance on the premise that flying sites were getting harder to find and were generally smaller than in previous years.
  • Introduce low technology alternatives that would give “equivalent” performance to the (now performance restricted) unlimited technology approach.
  • Alter the calendar of events so that there was a good balance of flying old and new technologies and equal opportunities for all approaches to be successful.
  • Look for ways to encourage new participants from a wide range of age groups, and aim for growth, rather than containment.

Our experience so far is that implementation of this plan has been largely successful. The Specifications now implemented in the UK are set out in Annex 1 and Annex 2 at the end of this paper. There are still a few problems to be addressed but they do not have an impact on the overall concept. Above all we have learnt that radical change can be introduced, and, that once it is realised that there is no alternative, the “new” opportunities produced create a re-awakening of enthusiasm. Further it has reinforced the requirement of the need for proactive management. Specifically that changes need to be proposed by the “management” in advance to avoid potential problems. The UK Free Flight management (FFTC) are continuing this process and will be holding a conference in early 2009 to present further ideas and gather more opinion from fliers themselves.

This paper suggests a way of making similar changes within the FAI class specifications in an effort to stem the “Unrestricted Technology Problem” and achieve similar objectives to those that the UK FFTC had set for itself. It will also suggest the method by which future problems may be prevented by proactive planning and monitoring.

Issues to address

  1. There is nothing inherently wrong with Technology per-se, or its continuing development. However, currently this development is left generally unrestrained until a crisis arises. When such a crisis occurs corrective action is taken. The action, being reactive, often causes yet more extreme developments to take place. A vicious circle of development and reactive control is thus created. Further, over recent years this development has acquired a commercial input – albeit at a “cottage industry level”. This has resulted in a feeling among modellers and fliers in general that we could effectively be putting the future of the sport in the hands of manufacturers and commercial developers.
  2. The dropping of the builder of the model rule has allowed those on the periphery, without the necessary skills or access to materials to participate, which is to the positive good. Model performance has improved generally and is available for purchase However some of the technology involved is now of such complexity that only factories can produce it, we thus get what we are “given”. To stay in the race fliers are having to make an “investment”. In the process we may have traded much of the skill of the builder for the skill of the flier, the craft aspect of the sport could be dying away and then who would, or could, create the future ideas and progress them?
  3. Current major class specifications (F1A, B, C, and E) appear to be based solely on what is required at the “Championship” level. Given the fact that major championships make up around 3 to 4% of the international calendar and less that 1% of the total of main FAI class flying throughout the world this is really not a sensible basis for class rules/specifications? The effect of these “Championship Orientated Specifications” is to reduce general, individual country based participation and push our sport beyond the reach and interest of many fliers. We should have a contest structure where the World Championship is the pinnacle, but an accessible pinnacle. Access should be open to a mixture of resources and talents.
  4. - Show quoted text -
  5. The World Cup has been a positive benefit in the stimulation of International competition. On the negative side many fliers of the international classes, within member countries, now look on these contests not as an attainable pinnacle but as something only within the reach of a “few” with sufficient time and money to take part. Consequently those without such means – the vast majority – are loosing interest in international classes. The net result is an overall decrease of participation in international classes not an increase.
- Show quoted text -

Many forces have taken us to our current position, but all of the above illustrate that a change can and does have both positive and negative benefits. This serves to make the point that the situation is not straightforward and conflicting arguments exist, consideration of these conflicts has to be taken into account.

In short we must try to stop the vicious circle and create a virtuous one in its place, we have painted ourselves into the corner, and we need to find a way out.

The Objectives

  • To moderate the effects of technology development.
  • To restrict current performance to a level where it is acceptable within the constraints of flying sites that are generally available worldwide.
  • To formulate “less technologically complex” alternative specifications that produce “equivalent” performance to the restricted current performance level.
  • Set up a proactive planning and monitoring activity within the present CIAM/FFSC structure that will prevent future “runaway” situations.

The Plan

To achieve the above objectives the idea is that we actually allow development to proceed. However, there is a price to be paid for the continuation of such technological development, to maintain a level field. The price is that we “handicap” the technology approach, while levelling the field by allowing an “equivalent performance” to be achieved with a low-tech alternative specification. It will be up to the flier to decide which approach to select.

Crucially these alternative specifications, outlined below, are not separate classes. They are intended all to been flown together as one class. In the UK this principal is known as “combined” classes, and our experience is that it works very well. Different fliers decide that one approach is more attractive than another, dependant upon their interests and experience. However in reality any of the approaches is capable of producing the same result. It is the job of the “management” to ensure that the overall level of performance is acceptable in the first place, and that each alternative approach is truly equivalent and that it remains so through monitoring and continued change.

Specification Changes

They are brief and only in outline, needing filling out in detail at later stage. However the essence of the correct “balance” in performance is there:


F1A/1.Flapped wing models, or other unlimited developments, are allowed at current weight and area specifications but have to be flown off a 40 metre line.

F1A/2.Bunting and Circle tow models are allowed at current weight and area specifications are allowed but have to be flown off a 50 metre line.

F1A/3. Models restricted to fixed, straight tow only hooks, simple Auto Rudder and DT only. Current area specifications but no minimum weight. Flown from a 60 metre line.


F1B/1. Unlimited technology allowed at current weight and area specifications but Rubber weight limited to 30 grams maximum.

F1B/2. Models restricted to fixed pitch/diameter propeller units, one tail movement (single VIT) and Auto Rudder; current area and weight specifications; Rubber weight 35 grams.

F1B/3. Models restricted to DT only (no functions at all). Current area specifications but no minimum weight. Rubber weight 40 grams.


F1C/1 Unlimited technology allowed at current weight, area and power specifications but Engine run limited to 4 seconds.

F1C/2 Models as per current area, weight and power specifications but restricted to direct drive engines and “fixed geometry”; Engine run 5 seconds.

F1C/3 Models restricted to DT and Auto Rudder only (no other trim changes permitted). A maximum area specification of 35sq. decimetres but no minimum weight. Engine restricted to direct drive, plain bearing, maximum size 2.5 cm3. Engine run 10 seconds.


F1E/1 Unlimited technology allowed at current specifications. (Note: current specifications produce acceptable performance but do not employ acceptable technology levels.)

F1E/2 Models restricted to “conventional” magnet units (electronic drives not permitted). Mechanically programmed rudder movements permitted but tail movements restricted to DT only. Time scores achieved are multiplied by 1.1 before “percentages” are applied to reach the final points score.


F1Q/1 Unlimited technology allowed at reduced battery weight specification of 100 grams for Nickel types and 60 grams for Lithium types, 15 seconds maximum Motor run.

F1Q/2 Models restricted to “Brushed Motors” at present battery restrictions. 20 seconds Motor run.

In both F1Q categories Fly-off Motor runs would be reduced by 5 seconds in each round to a minimum of 5 seconds for Category 1, and 10 seconds for category 2.

Development, through this mechanism of specification management, is not stopped but controlled. Existing models are not made redundant. Future innovations are considered and regulated accordingly.

Fliers are not sidelined by being either priced or engineered off the flying field. The competition is thus opened up to those who like to fly the main international classes but have been put off, or those who have ceased to compete because of the current level technology required. The commercial outlets can continue and the homebuilder can compete on the levelled field. There is thus more variety and choice of model options.

Further we suggest that in the UK we experiment with a set of alternative category specifications (alternative for the current performance levels and specifications that is) for our own FAI specification contests. The results of our experiments can be fed on to give a factual basis for its debate.

Planning and Monitoring

In effect monitoring already exists – that is all fliers take note of developments taking place or even instigate their own. The very nature of competition dictates that they use this information to formulate their own response. What is required, from an administrative position, is that this information is used to produce a continuing plan for “organisation and specification development”.

At present the change process provides specification alterations in “reaction” to situations that have already taken place. What is required is that the administrative body provides proposals in advance of requirements. In short, that it becomes proactive.

As there is no present formal mechanism to provide this “proaction” we suggest the following:

That a working party is set up from membership of the CIAM/FFSC. This should ideally consist of a small number (6 or so) of members whose task would be to “formulate” future organisation and specification changes in advance of their requirements.

The group would need to base these proposed changes on information obtained from observing the direction of technology development (both high and low) taking place. Some of this information would inevitably come from their personal experience but the majority should be provided by interaction with “other” fliers. The group should also actively canvas “views” from a wider range fliers from other free flight classes, other aeromodelling disciplines and administrators, and even different sports – to access an “overall feeling” of what is desired/required. The latter would in fact form the bulk of the work involved. Web based and/or E-mail communications could form the basis of this but an extra full FFSC meeting might also be required.

As we have discovered in the UK that “both” of these components to the plan are needed to ensure it’s success. It requires a lot of work and may indeed need extra help – either extra members on the FFSC or help from the FAI’s full time administration. Nonetheless all of this is necessary, if international free flight is to survive and, importantly, expand.

Timetable and Stages

A timeframe has to be considered. The task could easily go on and on indefinitely if allowed to do so. We need to set a time constraint but at the same time be realistic. The stages that are required by the process will, to a great extent, determine the time frame. We suggest the outline of the timings below:


  1. Agreement by the FFSC that a “change” is required.
  2. Debate started on the actual specification changes and alternatives required.
  3. Debate started on how the proactive planning and monitoring functions can be set up.
  4. Publicity of proposals and details to the National Aero Clubs.
  5. Exact proposals/plan published.
  6. Feed back and discussion process started.
  7. Final plan announced for implementation in Jan 2010.


- Show quoted text -
  1. Implementation.


What we have presented is a plan to control technological development. At the same time the means for providing an alternative route to similar performance is detailed, whilst also providing a method of control and monitoring of its progress. These ideas taken together, we believe, will provide a solution to the declining levels of participation in International Free Flight.

The plan takes the world of International free flight forward. The measurement of success or failure will be the simple criterion of achieving a greater participation in international free flight competition.

Do we think that these ideas will be the answer? The answer is yes! Do we think that leaving things alone would be better, the answer is no.

We commend this paper for consideration.

BMFA FFTC December 2008

Annex 1 – BMFA Combined Classes

In the UK Combined Class contests are run by flying together various ‘individual’ classes all to their individual class specifications at the same time and to the same max. Each of the individual classes have their specifications tailored to produce the ‘similar’ performance levels. Thus a Vintage Glider flown on a 100 metre line is expected to have an equivalent performance to a current F1A flown on a 50 metre line. Similarly a BMFA class Power model, F1C model and BMFA Electric model are also expected to have similar performance levels.

After two years of running these contests it has become clear from the results that the specifications have been set correctly and that a variety of classes have produced the winners.

No particular class has dominated – this was the object. The great advantage has been that the enthusiasts for each class get to fly what they want to fly, and, have much bigger entries to compete against. As a result interest in contest flying as a whole has been increased.

Combined Glider

F1A Current Specifications 50 metre towline
BMFA Glider See Specifications in Annex 2 50/75 metre towlines
Classic Glider Models from period 1951 – 1960 75 metre towline
Vintage Glider Models from period to 1950 100 metre towline  

Combined Rubber

F1B Current Specifications 30 grams rubber
BMFA Rubber See Specifications in Annex 2 50 grams rubber
Classic Rubber Models from period 1951 – 1960 75 grams rubber
Vintage Rubber Models from period to 1950 100 grams rubber

Combined Power

F1C Current Specification 5 second motor run
BMFA Power See Specifications in Annex 2 5/7/10 second motor run
Slow Power See Specifications in Annex 2 10/12 second motor run
Classic Power Models from period 1951 – 1960 12 second motor run
Vintage Power Models from period to 1950 18 second motor run
F1Q Electric Current Specifications 25 second motor run
BMFA Electric See Specifications in Annex 2 28 second motor run

Annex 2 - BMFA Individual Class Specifications

Note that the following are not ‘full’ rules. They are
extracts and/or edits from the BMFA rule book. They are for illustration of class combinations only.

BMFA Glider

Two types of model are permitted:
  1. Models fitted with bunt launching and/or circle tow devices – 50 metre towline.
  2. Models not fitted with devices to allow bunt launching or circle towing; auto-rudder is permitted – 75 metre towline.

Other than above there are no restrictions on the design, area or weight of the model.

BMFA Rubber

The amount of rubber used shall be restricted to 50 grams (lubricated).

Other than above there are no restrictions on the design, area or weight of the model.

BMFA Power

The maximum size of engine is restricted to 10 cm3.
The maximum engine run allowed from the moment of release of the model will be:

  1. For models fitted with mechanisms to enable bunt transition from power to glide – 5 seconds.
  2. For models not fitted with bunt transition but fitted with other moving – 7 seconds.
  3. For models not fitted with any moving trim surfaces other than DT – 10 seconds.

Other than above there are no restrictions on the design, area or weight of the model.

BMFA Slow Power

  1. Models shall have no timed moving surfaces apart from DT.
  2. Fuel supply shall be suction only, i.e. no pressurisation of tank either from the engine or from a self pressurising tank.
  3. Engines up to a maximum of 3.5 cm3 may be used but they shall have plain journal bearings. Folding propellers are not permitted.
  4. The maximum engine run from the release of the model shall be 10 seconds for glow ignition and 12 seconds for diesel or spark ignition.

Other than above there are no restrictions on the design, area or weight of the model.

BMFA Electric Power

  1. Motor maximum size 600, brushed type only
  2. Maximum motor run from release of model 28 seconds

Other than above there are no restrictions on the design, area or weight of the model.


Too Bee or knot Too Bee

Hi Roger.

Bee Alert #2: I talked with James, the farm manager for Blackwell Land
Co. about our bee problem. He told me that the hives belong to a
private bee keeper that they hire for their orchards. He contacted
this guy, and called me back in about an hour, saying that 98% of the
hives will be gone by Saturday. Very pleasant guys, and obviously,
very easy to work with. There will probably still be some bees on the
field, but nothing like I was expecting. gb



Roger Morrell