There is recorded knowledge of Model Flying in Northwick Park since the mid-1950s, and well before that full-size primary gliders were flown there too (see “Horizons: The history of the Air Cadets by HR Kidd)[i].
In the fifties, flying was largely based around control-line models, and you can read about it in Peter Scott’s reminiscences in the link provided below. Peter and George Copeman were early members of the Model Flying club and pictures of them at the Nationals appear in the Aero Modeller magazine of September 1960 (see Fig 1 below). Club meetings were at the nearby Byron Court Primary School. Peter was also attracted to gliders and when a very young Sean Bannister appeared at the field one day, it was Peter who introduced him to the sport. Sean was incredibly inventive and competitive and went on to design his own gliders, and subsequently became world champion in RC gliding with his beautiful Algebra, which is still available as an RCME plan (see fig 2). He has had innumerable international successes spanning a decade since the mid-1970s.
Even in the sixties, around the time when the northern part of the park was ring-fenced for the new NHS Hospital, there were complaints about the noise from the residents of Norval Road, on our southern boundary. All engines, big and small, were 2-strokes at the time and some of these complaints were probably justified. By the mid-1970s the relationship between the model club and Brent Council had deteriorated completely. The Council applied for a by-law seeking an outright ban on model flying. Thankfully, they weren’t successful, however, permitted flying times were drastically cut to two hours on Wednesday and four hours on Saturday. Following the by-law introduction in September 1977, the club moved to Bovingdon, until they re-organised and became the Phoenix club and relocated to their present flying site in London Colney, opposite the Mosquito Aircraft museum.
A few years after the by-law was introduced, Brent Council began to issue permits to flyers of I/C engined aircraft. Fees were levied and Park Wardens would sometimes visit in a policing capacity to enforce the rules. Individual flyers still continued to come to Northwick Park, and we were introduced to the sport in 1985 when “Hungarian Joe ” taught us how to fly our first RC trainer, a Precedent Hiboy. We all knew him simply as Joe; nobody actually knew his surname (whilst researching for this report I’ve only just found out that it’s Franco). Often bare-bodied, save for a pair of blue military-surplus shorts and sandals, he had a great white mane, and a shock of white hair that made him look like Methuselah, perhaps even older (see figs 3 and 4). Latterly, to increase flying time, he took to glider flying and flew as often as the weather permitted. I shall always remember his solitary glider, suspended, satellite-like in geo-stationary orbit, in the skies above Northwick Park. Then, sometime in the late nineties, Joe (who had been a widower for a while) met his second wife-to-be, and stopped coming to fly. We guessed he was busy with other things.
Another charming character was Victor Sassoon. (see Fig 5 – second from right) Victor lived in Wembley, and Northwick Park was the ideal location for him. Often he would arrive at dawn, before the wind had picked up, and commenced test flying his free-flight rubber-powered aeroplanes. It was a weekend in late 2016 that Victor spent his last days in Northwick Park hospital; a fitting place if ever there was one, as it overlooked our flying field. Many of us were flying that weekend, and we sent him our good wishes.
Around 2010, we lost more of the field, on our Northern boundary, to the new Golf Course. By this time Derek Morrison (see fig 4) and David Bell were representing the Northwick Park Flying Group and were the main liaison with the council.
In addition to silent flight aeroplanes such as gliders and rubber power, electric models had now become very popular. The electric fixed wing aircraft posed no threat however, the size and variety of rotary wing craft in particular, were once again a source of irritation to one or two residents of Norval Road. Complaints were received regarding the noise emanating from rotor blade tips and there were meetings with Parks Services to measure the decibel levels. There was a proposal to amend the existing by-law to include electric aircraft. In about 2013 - 14, we were required to curtail our flying activities by 6pm on a weekday and 5pm in the weekend in the Summer; even earlier in the Winter, though on what legal basis is unclear, as the new by-law has, we believe, still not been enacted! Membership immediately fell from over 50 members to less than 15. We then applied to join the BMFA as an affiliated club, and have been so for the last three years. Happily the predominance of electric aeroplanes and changing demographics have led to many residents now looking upon us as an asset to the diversity of sports in Northwick park and we are no longer seen as just a nuisance.
After the launch of our website by Rajan Mendis three years ago, there has been a gradual flow of newcomers to our club, though membership is nothing like what it used to be; current membership stands at 20. Most members fly fixed wing aircraft and one of the latest exciting activities is air-to-air photography. In figure 6 is a single frame from drone footage taken of Northwick Park flyer Mayoor’s WotsWot aeroplane coming into land.
We are now on the hunt for a suitable mascot for our flying club. Runners up are Raffi’s King Charles Spaniel, Bobo, and Molly, a Labrador cross, who loves to visit our site as often as her master, Roy will allow her.
Figure 1 - George on left, Pete on right at the Nationals (from Aeromodeller September 1960) –taken from (C) Peter Scott 2015 - Last edit 1 November 2016
Figure 2 - Sean Bannister with award winning Algebra - ) –taken from (C) Peter Scott 2015 - Last edit 1 November 2016
Figure 3 – The south field, N’wick Park – Joe acting as coach to Derek and son in the mid-seventies
Figure 4 – Joe who taught generations of modellers to fly – picture taken in the mid-seventies
Figure 5 - Members of the Northwick Park Flying Club in 2015 - Victor is second from right
Figure 6 – Mayoor’s Wots Wot on the cross-wind leg, before landing. Northwick Park Hospital is in the background - picture taken by Raffi Minassian in 2017