During a conversation between myself and Bob Rowland at the 2007 BMFA National Championships it became obvious that there were many club flyers visiting our flightline who would like to fly precision aerobatics, but not convinced they were ready to enter a competition.  The seed was set.  We arranged to invite pilots who were not members of the Association and who had not entered a competition to come along and and have a go at flying a few manoeuvres.  A couple of loops, then a roll on the centre line to start with, but lots of encouragement to fly our Clubman schedule. At this first NPod 14 pilots flew with models ranging from 'High Wing Trainers', 'ARTF Caps' and AcroWots to 110 sized aerobatic models. See the report and photographs here: Photo Gallery .

Several GBR/CAA members wanted to be involved and volunteered their services free of charge.  Bob Wasson, Ken Moss and Matt Hoyland agreed to take several pilots under their wing for the day as mentors, so that each pilot could progress at their own pace and receive coaching through the day.  Mentors priorities during these days are to help pilots make steady progress without expecting too much too quickly and above all, flying safely and in a way that models are not put at risk.  Other GBR/CAA members helped to make sure the day ran smoothly, Steve Haywood, Chris Bond, Steve Hunt, Bob Rowland and myself helped to organise the flightline and help with engine starting, if required, to make sure little time was wasted.  We charged 5 per pilot to cover the venue costs, calling cards and score sheets. Any surplus going into the Public Relations fund of the GBR/CAA.

The day was exceptionally well received and the word spread throughout the Association and many NPods have been organised in all parts of the Country.  We now hold several around the country each year.  Look out for announcements on our contest calendar here: Competition Calendar .  If you want to be involved and perhaps run one at your own flying field please get in touch and we will do our best to get something organised.  E-mail

To help any flyer who may be thinking of joining us and who has not had the privilege of attending one of these open days I pass on some comments made at the NPods by club flyers:-

I was a little nervous when I arrived to say the least, but I soon found my mentor really helpful and friendly. I had difficulty doing two loops on my first attempt but by the end of the day I had flown the Clubman schedule, not very well, but I managed to string all the manoeuvres together.   Although a huge amount of progress can be made in a day with some help, a pilot has to practice at their own field to progress further, but the basics will have been learned. 

All the experienced flyers appear to make their flying so relaxed, but we take off and everything looks rushed as though we have to get the schedule completed a quick as possible.  One of the biggest lessons to be learnt will be not to rush the take off and fly at reduced throttle whenever possible.  Treat the take off sequence as any other manoeuvre and use all the sky available.

"It was amazing when I visited my first GBR/CAA competition as a spectator.  Everyone's engine started immediately and no one had a engine cut through any of their flights".  After presiding over many NPods it is obvious that club flyers do not spend time tuning their engines, or they expect to get Ferrari performance from a 'Ford Pop'.  There is no need to have a top performance engine but a lower powered model will mean you have to perform smaller manoeuvres within the capability of your setup. Unexpected engine cuts that prevent the model returning to the runway are the major cause of model damage.

"I had no idea you fly so far away".  If you use the full F3A aerobatic box you will fly around 150 metres away from you and in a straight line which measures approximately 259 metres each side of the centre line.  With smaller models we would expect you would fly a little closer.

"I did not realise that flying was continuous at a competition, as soon as one model lands the next to fly has its engine running and ready to go"  We try to get as much flying as possible at a competition and therefore we would expect the next person to fly, to start his engine as soon as the previous model is on a safe approach to the runway.

"Can I fly any model I like at a NPod"?  As long as your model is under 7Kgs and is not noisy, yes no problem.  Some clubs would require your model to pass the standard noise check though.

"Do I have to fly a schedule"?  Not at all, although to get the most from the day your flying will need to be structured and you should be prepared to fly the same manoeuvres on each flight to enable progress to be measured.  Many pilots have started the day by flying a few loops and rolls but finished off being able to fly the Clubman schedule.  Flying a schedule also helps to focus your mind when you return to your own flying field so you have something tangible to practice.

"Do I need a BMFA 'A' certificate to fly at an NPod"?  Not as far as the GBR/CAA are concerned but the club holding the event may have some local rules for their field and those rules must be observed, so please contact the organisers and make sure you don't have a wasted journey.   You do require a 'B' certificate to fly in GBR/CAA competitions.

"Do I have to fly crosswind"  At most sites it should be possible to take off and land into wind but learning to cope with a cross wind will be good experience, and improve our flying.  Generally at a competition you would have to use the runway, and it may not be direct into wind and in extreme circumstances some concessions may be made for landing.  This is something that will be covered at the competition pilots briefing by the Contest Director.

"I did not realise how difficult it is to perform 2 round loops on the centre line"  Practice makes perfect and helps to bring some discipline to your flying.

"Do I need a two metre models to compete"?  No.  Many flyers believe that flying accurately is all to do with the model and yes at the highest level it helps.  Trimming a model is very important though, better the model is trimmed the less time you have to spend correcting its flight path.  See our basic trim chart here: Basic Trim Chart  .  Having trimmed the model the main part of flying precision aerobatics is skill of the pilot on the 'sticks' which only comes with practice.

..... and finally when you see the top flyers performing a schedule, remember it is the culmination of hundreds of hours of practice that produced the smooth and accurate flying.  You can do that as well but there is no magic formula, just practice.  Any GBR/CAA member will be willing to give you all the help possible, but ultimately it is your thumbs on the sticks which make the difference.

Several NPods are covered in our photo gallery at: Photo Gallery

A basic trim chart can be found here: Basic Trim Chart