Your First Competition

Things you need to know:

You must be a BMFA member (Link to BMFA) or have evidence of appropriate insurance, and hold a BMFA 'B' Certificate or equivalent.  However for your first GBR/CAA competition you only need to pay your competition entry fee and do not have to be a member of the GBR/CAA.

Carry your BMFA and GBR/CAA membership cards with you to all competitions.

Complete the official competition entry form in good time. You will find an entry form on the GBR/CAA web site (Link to competition entry form), and either pay by PayPal or make your cheque payable to the GBR/CAA and date it for the date of the competition Your competition entry will be confirmed on the appropriate post for the competition on our forum.  If you have any questions talk to the Contest Director before the day.

The weather may take a change for the worse through the day so take a large sheet to cover your model and equipment.  It may also be windy; think again! - it will be windy; so have some method of holding the sheet down.

It is a good idea to find a competition close to where you live to start with.  Not essential, but a long journey has its drawbacks.

You may be asked to demonstrate that your fail safe is working correctly, it should reduce the throttle to tick over or stop the engine if the signal is lost (transmitter is turned off ) and recover when turned back on again. Perhaps you would like to read more information on this link. PPM/PCM

Generally 2.4 GHz radio equipment is used which means there is no need to impound transmitters before a competition starts. For 35 MHz operation aerobatic flyers are allocated certain frequencies by the BMFA.  You are asked what your preferred and second choice frequency is on the competition entry form.  Channels 63,65, 65 and 69 and 2.4 GHz are the only channels for our Associations use at the British National Championships, but at other competitions other odd frequencies may be accepted. 35 MHz transmitters may be impounded before a competition stars.  Talk to the CD before the competition day if you are concerned, but there may be local reasons why you cannot use some frequencies.

Please note that on some flying sites, and particularly on MOD property, entry must be sent by the stipulated date so that security clearance can be granted for access to the site,  so enter the competition in good time. To fly on this type of site you will need to stipulate how many there are in your vehicle and the registration number.  Remember to take with you your BMFA and GBR/CAA membership cards and some other type of identification.    For domestic competitions on club flying sites, don't be too concerned if in preparation for your first competition you start to run out of time to enter, telephone the Contest Director, explain it is your first competition and your request should be accommodated.  It is important to arrive at the flying site to be ready to fly before the pilots briefing, some sites are accessed through locked gates that will be opened for you between the times stipulated, or on MOD sites all attendees may have to enter the site in one group after security clearance.

In subsequent competitions you will be expected to take your turn to scribe for the judges.  This involves sitting at the side of a judge who may ask you to call out the manoeuvres.  If so, read the description of the next manoeuvre quietly to the judge, just as the previous manoeuvre is finishing.  The judge will call out the score for each manoeuvre for you to write on the score sheet.  The sheets will be collected and totalled.  Scribing can be very rewarding, you can watch the manoeuvres and then see how they are scored, it will help you to know what the judges are looking for.

You will need to bring food and drink, and a chair might be a good idea! 

Above all enjoy yourself.

Below: deep in contemplation of the next flight, flying from right to left on this day, notice the fork is straight and level on the bottom line approaching the centre of the 'box' ready to trace the next manoeuvre.

Skelbrooke 2005 - (I do hope I will be forgiven for including this photograph).

On the day: 

One of our well loved founder members, Geoff Franklin used to say "Relax, it's only a bit of fun matey". (We would all do well to remember that!).

Arrive at the competition in good time.  You will have been told what time the 'Pilots Briefing' is, and you need to have your model ready and ready for flight before that time. If you model is IC powered, check your glow plug is working and your starter is ready, you may be the first to fly.  This is also a good time to become familiar with the field and surroundings, meet other competitors and try to relax.  You may be allowed to run your engine briefly, (if you are using 35MHz you may be asked to use a DSC link*), but talk to the CD, if this is what you want to run your engine, there may be local rules which govern the running of engines.  No 35MHz transmitter can be switched on at any time on the site unless you have the peg, issued just before your competition flight, but there is no restriction on 2,4 use.

(* A DSC link is a wired connection between your transmitter and your model which allows you to work the servos in the model without switching on your the transmitter).

Be aware of what is happening.

At the pilots briefing you will be told the local rules of the flying field, where the 'box' markers are, (where the transmitter pound is for 35MHZ transmitters. You will put your transmitter in the pound at the start of the day, and collect it only when you have the peg to fly in the competition and at the end of the day.  Don't set off home without collecting your transmitter.).  You will be asked to confirm your frequency and be given the flying order.   Your transmitter may be checked for correct frequency operation and at the British National Championships this is done on the Friday evening or early before flying begins on Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning (between 7.30am and 8.30am I think), for those visiting on one day only.

Listen to what is being said, there's always one who doesn't, sorry Ken!   


Ashbourne 2005, CD Brian Hoare.  Note: The weather is always this good at our competitions.

or may be not

At the Association Championships 2004 and 2005 - RAF Wittering

There may be two ready boxes marked out, this is where you will start your model or plug in the flight batteries.  Always have a helper to restrain your model while preparing it for flight and carry your model to the end of the runway for takeoff.  They will also stand behind you whilst you are flying, calling the manoeuvres and whatever else you have asked of them to say, and collect your model from the runway after landing.

When you are called for your flight, move your model and starting equipment into the ready box.  (Get your frequency peg if 35MHz).  It may help with the nerves if you have a set routine at this time.  Transmitter on - receiver on, and check controls, switch off model and transmitter. Check your tank is full or your batteries are fully charged.  (If IC, turn the engine over by hand to check there is no hydraulic lock, check your glow plug is working and that your starter is connected and turning in the correct direction.  Have you got a clamp on the fuel line, do you need to do unclamp at this time? How are you going to restsrain the model during cecking?

At competitions it is necessary to start your engine or plug in your flight batteries as soon as the previous competitor lands, but not before, unless you are asked to do so by the CD or flight line judge.  Any delays here may reduce the number of rounds flown in the competition so delays should be avoided.  It is important not to panic if your engine does not fire immediately.  Failed glow plugs have been replaced after the start signal has been given, and the model has still completed the flight within the time limits.  At competitions like the British National Championships you will have two minutes to start your engine and eight minutes to complete the last manoeuvre in your schedule, however your 'attempt' will be terminated if your engine is not started within 2 minutes of connecting your glow lead or connecting your flight batteries.  The flight line judge will tell you when to start your engine or connect your flight batteries, and unfortunately when your two minutes are up if you are having a really bad day.

No matter how well prepared you are things will go wrong, even with the best prepared model and equipment, so don't be too concerned, if you need help, please ask for it.  At a recent competition there were three pilots flying in the FAI class with one propeller and one spinner between them, so after one model had landed the propeller and spinner were handed to the next person to fly.  These competitors were taking the opportunity to try a new propeller, but this is an example of the help available around you.

If after releasing your aircraft at the start of your take off run, your aircraft is touched again by your helper,  (take off and landings are not judged in FAI class) this will be considered to be an assisted takeoff and the manoeuvre will be 'zeroed'.  If any part of your aircraft is lost during flight, land immediately it is safe to do so.  All manoeuvres after the loss of a part of your model will be zeroed.  If you have lost part of your aircraft and it is not noticed until you land, your landing will be zeroed. If your exhaust starts blowing in flight, keep flying unless the CD asks you to land.  If you continue to complete the schedule you will at not loose the flight or manoeuvre points, but you will attract a 5 point penalty for a noisy model.

Your first competition will be a nerve racking experience, but you will learn a lot.  Your drive home will be full of questions and analysis of what happened through the day and what you did wrong, and what you did right.  You will probably not be able to wait until your next flying day to try and put some of those things right, and be looking forward to the next competition. If this is how you feel, beware you are hooked!

Typical GBR/CAA Competitions

 Association Championships, RAF Wittering 2004, and above at the British National Championships, Barkston Heath 2005.


There was a time when you had to beware at the Association Championships otherwise you may be given the task of looking after our Championship mascot for the year.  You don't have to win or lose, you just have to be off your guard for a few seconds after the comp has finished, and he will find his way into your boot. 

Unloved and unwanted  -  but now he is being very well looked after through 2005/06 and appears to be well behaved.