Free Flight is the original form of Model Flying dating back to the early 1900s. When the early full size pioneers started, they experimented with tethered kites and then ‘free flying’ models to prove their theories. Many of those pioneers now occupy the pages of the history books, but some became more interested in the models themselves, rather than developing them to full size versions. They became the founders of the SMAE (Society of Model Aeronautical Engineers), now called the BMFA (British Model Flying Association).
As the years moved on many looked for more controlled versions of model flying and eventually succeeded with Control Line (CL) and Radio Control (RC). Nonetheless many were still captivated by the freedom of the original Free Flight. It’s their successors that are the present day Free Flight fliers.
Free flying is what Free Flight models are all about. When launched the model drifts with the wind until it lands. This doesn’t mean though that it’s not under control. The control comes from the model’s in-built aerodynamic stability. Learning to utilise that stability is the very essence of Free Flight and leads directly to the performance of the model. Whether it’s an out-and-out contest machine intended for maximum duration, a delicately detailed scale replica, or just a simple model flown for sport, each involve mastering the control of it’s stability.
Generally models are of two types: gliders and powered. Gliders are towed into the air with a line, powered models have motors ranging from rubber types to internal combustion, electric and even compressed gas types.
All types of Free Flight flying involve the design of the basic machine – or the preparation of a ready-built model, the trimming of its flight pattern and the retrieval at the end of the flight. These different aspects together are what give Free Flight its unique attractiveness – technical expertise, manual dexterity and physical exercise. And, of course, there’s the social activity that naturally comes from any group following the same interest.
For many learning to make their models fly properly and enjoying watching them will be enough. But, the more adventurous will want to take part in competitions. The basis of these ‘contests’ is very simple – the length of flight time (duration). Models are required to make a number of flights (rounds) with a limited flight time (maximum or ‘max’) and the aim is to accrue the biggest total time. The specifications of the various classes are set so that making the model ‘max’ is quite difficult. However, at most contests there are usually a few fliers with a perfect score. They then have to make an additional flight (the flyoff) to decide the winner. All the different classes are detailed in the “Free Flight Rules Book” obtainable from the BMFA’s office or downloadable from the main BMFA web site.
What you do and how you do it depends very much on what you want to get back. You could spend very little money and just fly locally, or you might have ambitions to be a world champion – there’s room for every level of interest. Find out more at the other sections of this site…
Enjoy it all, there’s something here for every level of interest.