- Last Updated: 14 February 2014
- Published: 28 December 2011
With the Australian Electric Flight Association now well established as the National organisation, it may be of interest to look back at the milestones in its creation along with a few notable players and events. This article has been produced from information supplied by Peter Pine and Phil Connolly and is more comprehensive than the one it replaces. Nevertheless, there may well be significant omissions and, if so, we would like these brought to our attention.
In the early 1980s Jack Black campaigned for the development of electric flight in Australia. From 1982 until he died suddenly of a brain tumour, Jack regularly attended the Sailplane Expo in Armidale, ran an electric competition at that event (in 1982 it was a State Association Point Score event) and delivered seminars on electric flight. His proteges at the time were people like Ian Avery, Peter Cranfield, Wayne Hadkins, Phil Stevenson, Richard Solomon, John Adams, etc. He also spent many an hour discussing and testing motors with Phil Connolly who, at the time, specialised in racing R/C electric boats. In those days Ian Avery published an electric flight newsletter under the title of the "Australian Electric Flight Society" - anyone who gave Ian $2 received a copy!
The Aussie team for the first Electric Flight World Championships was selected at the Wangaratta Nationals in 1986 - it was Wayne Hadkins (NSW), John Adams (NT) and Peter Pine (NSW). At this event in Belgium the three witnessed the First Electric Flight games masterminded by Peter Blomaart - and brought back the idea of fun electric flight events. Inspired, Peter started an electric rally in Armidale in 1987. The next year the idea had grown to a National Electric Flight Rally as a jamboree of electric events and the NEFR was born - Peter still has the brochures.
In 1989, Ian Avery suggested Nowra as a venue because it would be more central - despite nearly being rained out, a good number of electric fliers attended Nowra and had a ball. Then Ray Pike suggested Wangaratta to encourage southern electric fliers to attend, and the Wangaratta venue became locked in for some time. Even so, the 1990 Wangaratta event was run under the auspices of the AEFS and Phil Stevenson from Sydney collected the entries.
Peter conducted seminars and a trade display in Victoria at Glen Waverley school hall in the early 90s (followed by a day of electric flying at VARMS field) and this was where Peter met Phil Connolly for the first time. Phil’s interest in Electric Flight increased rapidly and on June 25th 1993, he chaired the first meeting of the Melbourne based Electric Flight Special Interest Group, under the wing of the VARMS association.
Those early meetings were held in Phil’s garage, fortunately, of three car size in view of the rapid growth in interest, and allowing demonstrations of motors, but somewhat cold in mid-Winter! The aims were to spread knowledge and to help remove the mystery surrounding successful electric flight. Even from the start, many of the current ‘names’ were present – David Hobby, Col Colyer, Malcolm Buckmaster and Cliff Fiddes giving presentations at the first two meetings.
Then in September and October ’93, the EFSIG had a special guest, Paul Rossiter who introduced us to scale electric models, arriving with a car absolutely packed with models – the Gee Bee alone nearly filled the car – or was it two cars, with Kathy bringing the rest of Paul’s fleet? Paul very soon took on a major role in the EFSIG meetings, acting as co-chairman, continuing until his move to WA in November 1996.
On the technical side, these were the days when ‘BB’ meant ‘Before Brushless’, the typical open F5B motor was direct drive, weighed over 500 gms and was powered by 27 1000 SCR Nicads.
The following year, 1994, saw a major emphasis on competitions culminating in the Electric Flight Games and ensuing World Championships at Wangarrata. A committee comprising people such as Ray & Erica Pike, Richard Solomon and Peter Pine, organised the event and arranged sponsorship by Sanyo Australia. Ray & Erica did much of the local organization and Peter Pine acted as F5B contest director. Much of the EFSIG meeting was competition oriented, not just for F5B and F5D pylon, but also for Endurance where VARMS and the EFSIG put in a serious entry into the Sunrise to Sunset competition. Phil was appointed team manager for the inaugural electric pylon World Championships in which the Australian team of Scott Lennon, David Hobby and Bob Hickman won the bronze medal behind Germany and the USA.
It was at this event that Aveox brought brushless motor technology to the podium, whilst the German team introduced geared F5B motors. Didn’t electric flight change when these two technologies were combined!
But it was also the time when the Speed 400 motor was introduced by Graupner and several presentations and testing activities took place on this ‘novel’ subject. Whilst the motors have barely changed, massive improvements in cells, micro radio systems, lighter models and better props, have all given this cheap motor an extended life.
A bit of a lull occurred after the W/C and, to give Phil a rest, the monthly meetings moved to Mani Riederich’s factory which proved a little too distant for a number of regulars. Then, Reg Neville came up with a church hall in Mt. Waverley which seemed to have so much space and heating and seats!. Meeting numbers increased steadily at the new venue. At the same time, the EFSIG Newsletter was born and sent to a circulation list of just 30 - previously news had been included in the VARMS “Aspectivity” Journal. A wider coverage of the Australian scene was included in the Moore Park Models’ Electric Flight Newsletter produced by Peter Pine, but this ceased in late 1995, and the EFSIG newsletter spread interstate.
Early in 1996, Knut Neuman, Tim Mellor and Mani Riederich took over the production of the Newsletter and the concept of ‘membership’ was born with a $6.00 annual charge to cover distribution costs. Then, at the end of 1996, Incorporation and a name change to the Australian Electric Flight Association occurred with all the necessary establishment of rules, legal issues and election of officers. Mani Riederich became the first president, with Knut as Treasurer and Neil Hardiman as Secretary.
The AEFA took over the running of the Easter National Rally, although, in practice, much of this workload still fell on the shoulders of Ray and Erica Pike. Having off-loaded both the hosting of Melbourne meetings and production of the Newsletter, Phil followed in Paul Rossiter’s footsteps and departed for Perth the day after the 1997 Easter Rally, confident in the knowledge that the AEFA and, in particular, the Melbourne chapter were flourishing
The following years saw much the same format with steadily growing numbers, distribution lists and general interest in Electric Flight, especially indoor flying. The Newsletter editorship was ably carried out by various Melbourne based volunteers including David Hipperson and then, in May 2000 passed to Lou Amadio in NSW.
This proved an excellent move, since it instantly brought much wider, if not fully National, coverage of the Australian Electric Flight scene. The AEFA Website was created and, during 2001, an official set of rules and classes for competition were agreed by a committee appointed at the 2001 NEFR. Under Lou’s reign, the quality of the AEFA Newsletter improved in leaps and bounds and members owe many thanks to him for his efforts over nearly 3 years. Subsequent editors from NSW were Owen Pearcey, Shawn Armitage and Colin Fleischmann who kept up the standard.
After a break for several years, Peter Pine resumed his activity on the electric flight scene with sponsorship of the NEFR event through his on-going involvement with Multiplex. In 2000 the NEFR was conducted at the Wollongong field in conjunction with an Easter Nats. The rally started to move around after that with an event in Wagga organised by Wayne Hadkins, and in 2004 it was held in the Barossa Valley, SA (the Barossa Club have asked for the NEFR at their field again in 2009). It was held once in Sydney and largely organised by Jeff & Jane Irvin. By 2005 the NEFR was being held in Cootamundra run by the Macquarie Club from Sydney.
In late 2007, editorship of the AEFA Newsletter turned full circle with Phil Connolly picking up the role again, but with major assistance from WA, SA, ACT, Queensland, NSW and other VIC contributors. Part of this role has been to co-ordinate responses and decisions from the AEFA Rules group with its multi-state membership. The LEG (Limited Electric Glider) rules which will replace the popular 7 cell glider competition class, is one such case.
So, even ‘though the AEFA as an association was only created in Nov 1996 by Melbourne based enthusiasts, earlier initiatives and journals from numerous other interstate ‘names’ should not be underestimated. These play a no less important part of the history. You can see from this account the large number of people from diverse locations who have contributed to electric flight in Australia; clearly the AEFA is a National organisation more than ever before thanks to the efforts of these people.