The extreme sport you never knew existed
Gone are the days of straight and low model helicopter flying. In
the past few years this hobby has evolved into a popular sport, and is
now considered a challenging art.
X-Cell Stratus, custom painted canopy, Futaba digital servos,
V-Blades, carbon fibre 3D fins, Futaba GY611/S9256 gyro, YS 91 engine,
in model helicopter language this equals one impressive heli. On any
given day Whiteman Park is home to six model aircraft clubs as part of
the Western Australian Model Aircraft Sports Centre (WAMASC). At 12
noon Sunday, however, move over jets and planes, the Whiteman Park
model helicopter club arrives and stays until dark.
Whiteman Model Helicopter Club (WMHC) was formed in 2000 and
currently consists of 30 members. Darren Bowers, club president, is
adamant that this number will escalate, "the club has grown enormously
with approximately one new member per week in the last year."
Even though WMHC is expanding, model helicopter flying still remains
largely unknown by the general public. To the WMHC members, however,
the helicopter flight experience is truly incredible.
As the WMHC experience level ranges from beginners to seasoned
veteran flyers there is always someone on hand to assist a new member
during their first flight.
Bowers states, "there's nothing better than the thrill of doing it
for the first time." He continues, "it's such a personal challenge that
even the most sceptical will be totally stoked."
The basics of flying a model helicopter are fairly straightforward
to grasp, although keeping control of the aircraft is not such a simple
Bowers insists, "the public need to understand that you've got
[helicopter] blades going round at 1800-2000 revs [per minute]."
Members of WMHC admit they have injured themselves flying model
helicopters, sometimes requiring medical attention.
Due to the possible extreme nature of model helicopter flying, the
WMHC members consider safety to be a crucial part of the flying
Bowers explains, "we have national and state safety regulations in
place for a reason to ensure the safety of everyone involved," Bowers
continues, "it is illegal to fly model helicopters anywhere except a
MAAA [Model Aeronautical Association of Australia] registered field."
Nigel Brown, former motocross rider and current 3D (freestyle)
helicopter champion has been flying model helicopters for six years,
four of which were part time whilst he was involved with motor cross.
Brown would like to see model helicopter flying "take off" to the
level of freestyle motor cross. Model heli flying is aggressive and
something the public don't often see. Gone are the days of flying
straight and low. Until you see it, you just don't realise it."
Brown's flying style certainly reflects his view of model helicopter
flying. Straight and low is probably the only manoeuvre he does not
Currently in his fourth and final year of Mechanical Engineering at
Curtin University, Brown admits that he used to carefully budget his
money in order to afford the model helicopter interest.
Luckily for Brown, he was noticed by certain manufacturing companies
whilst competing - and winning - national 3D titles and is now
sponsored for the majority of his helicopter maintenance. This includes
the helicopter fuel which can cost 50 Australian dollars for 4 Litres
in retail stores.
According to the majority of the WMHC members, enormous amounts of
money are spent on all manner of hobbies and interests. Brown explains
that with regard to model helicopter flying, "beer comes second."
Later this year Brown will be flying to England, competing in the
International 3D Masters. Brown admits that although he is proud of the
model helicopter sport, "it's different coming from motocross which is
so much more in the public eye and such a man's sport." Brown
continues, stating that model helicopter flying is "like artistic
aerobatics, it's a mental achievement rather than a physical one."
Brown says, "if you can fly a computer simulator then you can fly the real thing."
Brown adds, "It's not a myth, [model helicopters] can be flown
fairly easily and they're not expensive to fix either. An average crash
will cost you about $100. Crash it once or twice learning to fly and
it'll cost you $200. With other extreme sports you'll be buying
motorbikes worth $10 000 and the maintenance costs are never ending.
Heli's really are a one time investment."
Most Sundays club Vice President; Alex Genovese attends Whiteman
Park with his wife Kathy and son Alex Jr, enjoying the sunshine and
close-knit community WMHC has to offer.
Mr and Mrs Genovese proudly make known that they are waiting for the
day where young Alex Jr will be old enough to partake in model
helicopter flying. Currently Alex Jr tinkers with his plastic toy
helicopter, taking it apart and reassembling whilst watching dad fly -
from a safe distance of course.
Visit the Whiteman Model Helicopter Club website to find out more
information on becoming part of the WMHC family, an exciting Sunday
adventure for the entire family.