Ivel Model Aircraft Club

Model Aircraft Flying near Bedford UK

Our members are mainly from Bedfordshire and West Cambridgeshire

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info@ivelmac.club

A (Very Brief) History of the Club


Way back around 1968 a small group of like-minded model aircraft enthusiasts got together for a jar and a chat at the White Horse pub in Blunham. The pub has long since gone to become a house but several of that embryonic group are still around and still retain their ardent interest in aeroplanes. The group was comprised of Fred Lincoln, Cliff Goodwin, John Drake, Paul Careless, Colin Jenkins, Phil Lydiard and Chris Bashford. There had long been model flying activity on Biggleswade Common, not just from the names above but also from John Fisher of Hatch who ran a model kit company called Performance Kits.  It was through their chance meeting on the Common that it all began. 

Radio control in those days was predominantly single channel 'bang-bang' control and when the first set of fully proportional came along it was like manna from heaven.  Fred Lincoln, who managed the butcher’s shop in Sandy in Bedfordshire, had long known Lady Astell, a local landowner, through trade in the shop.  Lady Astell lived at the big house at Everton and part of her estate included the WW2 airfield at Tempsford.  At that time the runway itself was listed as an emergency strip but basically unused.  Fred already had permission to use it for his model flying.  A little liaison set the ball rolling for limited use by the group as a whole.  Sundays only were permitted, as the surrounding land was active farmland.




 












 



Early meetings, with the odd pint or two at the White Horse and later in The Bell, in Sandy, saw the beginnings of what we now know to be the Ivel Model Aircraft Club (Ivel MAC). We became officially affiliated to the BMFA and were now able to join the list of some 700 other clubs in the UK. The BMFA not only provided us with advice but gave the club its public liability insurance.  Following an advert in the local paper for other model enthusiasts, more people started appearing.  Initially, membership was small but over the following months, it steadily grew.  As seems typical with all model clubs, many members were ‘armchair modellers’ and it was seldom we ever saw more than the hardened regulars. Lady Astell liked her ‘Boys with their Planes’ and her gift of champagne at Christmas always went down well! 

Biggleswade Common was still used, as it continued to be for some time,  but this was mainly as an evening venue and on Saturdays.  If you could distract the resident cows from their inquisitiveness, it was likely that you would have a good flying session.  During our years at Tempsford, members also met at Waterloo Farm, just over the road from the airfield.  Sites at Gamlingay, Houghton Conquest, Wilden, Willington, Riseley and Colmworth had also seen their fair share of flying.

Ivel MAC used the Tempsford 'Drome' for over 30 years. The marked-out concrete runway served well for all classes, from lightweight sports to competition levels. Membership once peaked at 130 but most sessions only saw those hardened few braving the weather.  The Wheatsheaf at Tempsford became a regular haunt of a Sunday morning’s flying.  This limitation with Sunday-only use was accepted reluctantly, but soon became the norm that helped hold the club together on the social side.

We have always had several other secondary grass sites over the years. A field at Houghton Conquest which though ideal, was difficult to police reliably and eventually failed due to its use by outsiders. There was the field at Gamlingay through one of our members that would occasionally have to compete with gunshots from the nearby traveller site!

Lady Astell, the owner of Tempsford, died in the mid 90’s. The new owner was keener on rearing pheasants than entertaining the local model club and, after 30 years, we found ourselves having to look for pastures new - always a difficult thing, but with flexibility and an open mind, the club continued albeit with a smaller membership.

Ivel MAC has been proud to have had many national champions through its register of names. We have had Paul Careless, Les Knott and Dave Timberlake at National Pylon Race level.  Geoff Dallimer and Dave Dyer were Glider and Soaring champions, Ross Donovan and Dave Timberlake were with Aerobatics and Tony Francis and Ian Contessa were our champs in the Helicopter scene.  Around 1995 the club was proud to have Paul Gray who featured regularly in the Ducted Fan and Gas Turbine arena.This class of model was only suitable at Tempsford and after a couple of trials at other sites it was agreed to restrict their use elsewhere for safety reasons. More recently we have a national champion in a free-flight class, Andy Sephton, and a 3rd place Kev Wallace.

 

Ivel MAC was probably one of the first model clubs in the country to fly a model ‘On Screen’ via video telemetry, - now partly referred to as FPV.  During the 1970’s a cross-country flight was made between Biggleswade Common and Tempsford. This was a distance of some five and a half miles as the crow flies but considerably more when you take into account the circuitous route needed following from the back of a truck with your transmitter in hand trying to negotiate woodland.  You would not be allowed to do this these days!  The club has also used a model in conjunction with heat-sensing cameras for studies and research into bird migration via RSE of Cambridge.  We have had a high number of members who have made their modelling activities into their living. Both Paul and Colin became partners in the Ivel Model Shop in Biggleswade. Dave Handley became the technical director of Horizon Systems, a company making Radio Control outfits.  Chris Bashford set up Mainlink Systems - a company designing and building chargers and other accessories for models and industry.  Mainlink also became one of the key maintenance organisations for looking after much of the County Council’s audio and paging equipment in schools and retirement homes.

















Sadly not with us any more, we had John Drake who pioneered and proved much of the initial control techniques of model helicopters now taken for granted by most of the world.  Chris, still a member of the club, pioneered the use of Opto-Coupling for electronic speed-controllers way back in the sixties. He introduced to the world, the idea of battery analysing and cycling for enhancing R/C safety. Later, he also perfected multi-channel digital delta peak pulse charging for Nicad batteries when many of the ‘knowledgeable die-hards’ of the day said that it could not be done! -  This technology is now taken for granted and used for much of the world’s charging systems.

The club is now managed by a chairman and committee, oveseen by a group of four independent trustees.