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  • Tribute to Al Wisher


    Al “Blue Beast” Wisher

    I first met ”Big Al” shortly after I joined Basingstoke Model Aircraft Club (BMAC)  around 1973 or 74.  I had built a Monterey 100 inch soarer (Radio Modeller Plan). Al had agreed to teach me to fly on Basingstoke new common.  I remember that first short trimming flight well. I gave the model a reasonable throw down the slope on the common, it flew very well and landed at the bottom.  I retrieved the plane and returned to where Al standing was with the Transmitter. “Now reverse the elevator” he said. Yes he had flown the Monterey perfectly down the slope reversing the elevator stick direction to compensate for my error.  Over the years I have taught a fair number to budding new pilots to fly, the first thing I do to this day before that first launch is to check the elevator for correct direction of movement, something’s  you never forget.

    At the BMAC AGM that first year Al who was Club Chairman was re-appointed. However, there were no volunteers for the Secretary’s job (sounds familiar).  Al simply looked across at me and said I helped you to learn to fly, so its your turn to help me, you’re now the new Club Secretary.

    I'm sure many of you will know that prior to flying radio controlled gliders, Al was a free flight champion having a number of “A2” designs published including the Wishbone, published in the May 1964 edition of Aeromodeller.  With the advent of proportional radio control systems Al turned to RC gliders, becoming one of early founders and promoters of the British Association of Radio Control Soarers.

    I believe his first model was a 2 meter model from a well known German company. He entered and flew in his first competition (BARCS Southern Area), without any prior tuition or practice and yes he won.

    Al was at that time employed as a representative by a large company of shop fitters. He would often be up early in the morning and drive to Birmingham for a 9am meeting, thus enabling him to be back in Basingstoke by early afternoon.  He would then be out as usual on Basingstoke common with his plane and bungee practising in all weathers.

    Al was probably best known for his large blue coloured rudder/elevator competition soarer called “Blue Beast”. BMAC used to hold a static competition in April each year to see who could produce the best looking model in each category. Well Al brought along this big blue coloured machine for the glider category, when it was assembled somebody remarked “that’s a big beast”. Hence the name of “Blue Beast” came about.

    Al formed his own competition team to fly in the BARCS league. This comprised Ken Glynn, Norman Elliot (who passed away this August),even persuading Norman to move from Mitcham to Basingstoke to be in the team,  Peter Lee (also deceased), myself and later on Adrian Lee to fly against Chris Foss, Ricky Shaw and many others in the BARCS league. At times Al would fly in the Midlands league, taking his wife as timer/spotter leaving his son Paul to stay with me and my family for the weekend.

    Al eventually moved up north, I assume with his job and he eventually settled in the Bolton area.  By then my job was taking me to South Asia for long periods of time so I lost touch with him. I did however manage to make contact with Al in September this year as I was at the time writing an article for the Thames Valley Silent Flyers (TVSF) magazine about Norman Elliot who flew in free flight competition with Al many years previously.

    Declining health over the last ten years meant that Al was unable to fly as much as he would have wished, and he died in mid-December, 2012. He leaves a legacy which means that he will not be forgotten.

    Clive Learwood

    ThamesValley Silent Flyers


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  • Our picks

    • At this time of angst in the Coronavirus Pandemic, many of us are feeling bored and without many opportunities to fly our models, and that means more time on our hands. So here is a chance to catch up Uncle Sydney’ Gossip Columns, running over the years from 1998 through to 2019.

      Before starting let me thank Jojo Grini who has maintained a web diary of all my reports in Norway and sent it round the world. Thanks also the Austin Guerrier who helped me to reach websites in UK and USA and other continents. And other F3J pilots told me that they enjoyed my Gossips.

      To read, type the following address: www.f3x.no/f3j/gossip/index.htm. Be warmed it takes a long time to read it in full.

      Sydney Lenssen
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    • by Sydney Lenssen, July 2018

      Brian Austin has been co-opted by the BARCS Executive Committee as the new President of BARCS. His three year term of office will be confirmed by the membership at the AGM 2019. I am confident that this announcement will be welcomed by all BARCS members. Many, if not all, members know Brian from his long record of achievements and activities in the silent flight field. He is especially known for his friendly cheerful manner, always at hand to help fellow modellers.

      Four years ago, Brian was awarded BARCS’ Eppler Trophy, in my opinion, the association’s the most prestigious award with a long list of distinguished aeromodellers such as Eppler himself.

      Graham James, BARCS President at that time, wrote the following citation: In the early years of BARCS, awarding was often a relatively straightforward decision as new construction methods, materials, wing sections, control methods and launch and landing requirements demanded continuous model development. Today, many of us have moved onto moulded ready builds and the skills of the true modeller are largely being lost.

      One person, Brian Austin, continues to lead the field in home design and build models. Responsible over the years for many familiar Open and 100s designs, his name is now better known in electric circles not only for his planes but also as a driving force behind competition rule progression. Names like Trilogy, Alacrity and more recently the Watts series of electric gliders, of which Watts New is the latest incarnation, will be familiar to us all. For many years, he has also been the responsible for running a very successful series of competitions in Essex.

      Although tempted by shiny plastic models too, he continues to fashion exquisitely beautiful soarers, built to standards that most of us can only
      aspire. They take the latest look and feel of moulded machines, but are built in more traditional ways. Brian pilots competition winning models.
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    • Can F3J survive the treatment meant to save it
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      Joe Wurts, the first F3J World Champion in 1998 at Upton-upon Severn, UK. Twenty years later with the latest F3J WC about to take place in Romania, many soarers are fearing that this could be the last.


      From next year pilots can use electric winches - either/or hand held winches - for launching their models. The models must have a maximum surface area of 150 dm2 and a minimum loading of at least 20 gm/dm2. There will be no dropped round in fly-offs, and no reflights for mid-air collisions after 60 seconds into the slot.

      CIAM, the world ruling body for this class is hoping that its new rules will halt the massive fall in numbers of F3J pilots wishing to compete, sixty per cent over the past five years and still falling, and restore its popularity.

      But among many F3J pilots, the bull is still shaking its horns. There has been an extraordinary shock reaction: hundreds of pilots from all over the world have reacted on social media, protesting, angry and forecasting the end of this class. Many pilots are concerned, ranging from previous finalists and champions to your typical enthusiast who enjoys travelling across country and continental boundaries to participate in their friendly sport. Only a few can see the logic and reasoning and are prepared to wait and see how the changes work in practice. More than a few want CIAM to think again!

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    • Rule changes to halt terminal decline
      Uncle Sydney’ Gossip column returns

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      Winches to be allowed.

      If this proposal goes through the “launch of the model aircraft will be by hand held towline or winch.” Ever since 1998 when the first F3J world championships were held at Upton on Severn, pressure has been on CIAM to bring in winch launching. At numerous team managers’ meetings held by Jury President Bartovsky during World and European championships, arguments for and against have raged. Many countries do not have enough people to give one or two man tows, so they run their qualifying comps to local rules using electric winches. I guess more than half of countries do this. When they turn up at FAI championships, their pulleys and hand winches are brought out. In the UK perhaps we had one or two practice sessions at home before leaving.

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      In CIAM agendas, any rule amendment is followed by its reasoning. 

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    • by Sydney Lenssen, BARCS President and Gary Binnie, BARCS Chairman

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      Year 2017 has been a mixed year, probably for everybody. The biggest triumph by far has been the successful opening of BMFA’s National Flying Centre at Buckminster. BARCS can be very proud that it was the first group of aeromodellers to utilise the facilities on offer by organising a successful Radioglide 2017 at the end of May. 

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      All the very best - and plenty of thermals - for 2018!

      Sydney Lenssen, BARCS President
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