Take a trip to Mahalakshmi Race Course on a Sunday morning and you could witness an exciting sport practiced there – aeromodelling. When the horses are not in action, aeromodelling enthusiasts fly radio-controlled, scaled-down versions of airplanes and helicopters. Aeromodelling is the art of making miniature aircraft models that look and fly like real aircrafts. It is a combination of craft, a bit of engineering expertise, coupled with creative imagination.
“Aeromodelling is highly developed in the United States of America. With the lack of open spaces here, the hobby is suppressed,” says Ashok Baijal, the Deputy General Manager of State Bank of India, who frequents the race course every Sunday. “The race course is the only open space in Mumbai where we can fly planes for free”, says S. K. Mishra of Indian Hobby Centre. The Mahalakshmi Race Course has started a Flying Club that provides third party insurance for an annual fee of Rs. 200.
Categories of aeromodels
Static aeromodels are replicas of airplanes that exhibit minute details of real airplanes. They are incapable of flight. These serve as learning tools in the world of aircrafts. Construction of these models demands a high level of engineering expertise, craft, carpentry and knowledge about the aircraft. Flying aeromodels are capable of actual flight. They need considerations of weight, balance and strength. Their main focus is on the aerodynamics than just external appearances. Balsa wood, polystyrene foam, bits of glass fibre, cloth and plywood is required for its construction. Some plastic moulded parts like the propeller and spinner cones may be incorporated. Glow fuel (70% methanol, 10% nitromethane and 20% castor oil) is used to fly these airplanes.
It is beneficial for beginners to use kits rather than trying to build models from random sheets of balsa wood. The hobby is prevalent in India since almost three decades. However, aeromodelling kits are being imported since the last seven years. In Mumbai, aeromodelling kits are available on retail only at India Hobby Centre. The kit includes a plan of the airplane, pre-cut strips of Balsa wood and a manual on how to get started.
“There is no joy in buying readymade airplanes. When you create your own airplane, there is immense satisfaction. You’re first crash motivates you to rework on your airplane,” says Ashok Baijal. Mehernosh started aeromodelling with a zero budget. “I went to the race course and watched others flying. There is a skill to operate the remote control and I learnt it by watching others and flying their planes,” he says. His interest in aeromodelling initiated him to study aeronautical engineering. TYBSc student, Ralph Cornelius worked at India Hobby Centre and earned the body of an airplane which he assembled. His passion has motivated him to invest in a chopper.
Benefits of Aeromodelling
Aeromodelling is very useful for defence purposes and disaster management. “Through these airplanes, manless flights are possible during wars. Also, by attaching a camera, one can survey a disaster prone area and capture images,” says Ashok Baijal. “The government can start by encouraging aeromodelling as a sport and then look into its commercial benefits,” he adds.