Northwick Park - The Early Days
Written by Derek Morrison
It was in the early 70's when I first became "hooked" on r/c model flying. Married and with a young Son, Sunday mornings over Northwick Park, watching a variety of model aircraft proved to be a great source of interest, indeed the spectators often outnumbered the flyers who usually totalled about 6-100 in numbers. At that time all flying took place in the large field adjacent to the railway using an "all weather" concrete cricket pitch as a runway or Pitts area, (now long gone).
I started model flying at about 8 years of age and helped by my Dad I progressed over the years to rubber powered a/c, gliders, jetex, free flight diesel and control line aircraft, but radio control flying was so much better and much more civiliseed, no running after uncontrolled aircraft etc. (in theory anyway but always the case and
although a lot more expensive than now, I took the plunge and a second mortgage (almost) and joined the club.
As far as I can recall, membership must have totalled at least 30/40 in number and the club was pretty active with a monthly meeting in a local Church Hall, normally well attended, interesting and worthwhile.
I was equipped with a 72 inch home built Saturn Apprentice powered by an OS 40 and with a Flight Link Sovereign 27 mg radio, a British and well respected piece of kit. I should add that we only had 4-6 frequencies to fly on and they could be seriously affected by CB radios (which were almost as prolific as mobile phones are today).
Thankfully the Home Office were a bit more lenient and only ratified a bye law in respect of noise pollution and I/C powered aircraft, (this is the one that may still be lawful and in contention). Unfortunately it drastically reduced flying days and times, it also decreed that flying was to be alternated between the North and South fields on an odd and even morning and afternoon day basis, almost necessitating the addition of a calendar, a compass and watch to the flight box. It resulted in a lot of confusion and several near punch ups with the cricketing fraternity.
As expected, membership of the club declined, we were still in the days of the 42/44 hour week and many people had to work on Saturday mornings, power flying was getting difficult and uneconomic and the only Sunday flying was gliders with a Bungee launch, not very successful on a flat field.
In the meantime, in an attempt to maintain the clubs existence, a new venue had been negotiated with a farmer at Bovington, a former RAF Canberra bomber base, (the airfield had been divided into segments and sold off to the farming community) in theory it was a good venue, we had a section of runway and plenty of space although it was a bit further away, but In practice things started to turn pear shape, incredibly the locals started to complain about noise, unbelievable! This was a former jet bomber base, apparently we were frightening away the local wood pigeons that they liked to shoot and also the other farmers seemed to resent our presence. I flew a few times, but was ill at ease and eventually stopped my last visit was on 29th November 1975. (the significance of this date will be explained later), incidentally the site now host's a market and a Prison. Good! Serves them right.
By then my own interest in flying had reduced considerably and disheartened by events I eventually stopped flying not my original intention it just happened gradually.
Sometime later Northwick Park model flying club went out of existence, later to be reformed relocated and called the Phoenix club at London Colney.
Many years passed, when about 15 yrs ago whilst over Northwick Park and quite by chance I spied a lone flyer, It was Joe my former Instructor and he was flying electric, I had just retired, you can guess the rest.
For the next year or two things were great then history began to repeat itself. Without warning, a letter arrived (from the onset I have always held a permit), stating that "due to an incident" we could no longer fly on a Sunday, no explanation just a statement from some "jobs worth". That was the final straw as far as I was concerned and I started to fight back. It later transpired that the "powers that be" had other plans for our field possibly becoming the Softball Centre of GB, but Lottery funding was not forthcoming, unfortunately an 18 hole golf course was and we lost part of our field, and two of our six flying site markers, part of a cunning plan I wonder?
The rest, as they say, is history, events over the last few years have proved to be at times difficult and stressful but if you believe in something then it's worth fighting for. And we kept on flying.
The irony of all of this, is that with the possibility of a new Bylaw, in the pipeline events over the last 40 years have gone full circle and if there is any lessons to be learned then it is, don't be complacent fight for what you believe in and question what you are told, Councils often use bluff tactics as recent events have proved.
Northwick Park has been synonymous with Model flying for at least the last 60 years, we must ensure that it continues.
I When I learned to fly, my instructor, Joe was a very well known and very respected flyer,someone who has done so much in furthering model flying at Northwick Park over the years.
As time progressed the club must have become too well known, there were stories abounding about noise complaints and nuisance (sound familiar?). The local press got involved and the Council stated that it wanted an all out ban on all flying, citing the above as a reason and defying the petition that was presented to them cotaining hundreds of signature of support for the club.
Derek and his Son, Flying on Northwick Park on the old field site near the railway.