Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1169, (24 - 30 October 2013)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1169, (24 - 30 October 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Through the air

Flying aircraft models has its diehard fans. Mohamed Abdel-Razek reports

sport1
sport1
Al-Ahram Weekly

Many people in Egypt do not know an aircraft model can fly in the air; they believe it to be science fiction. But this is a global sport which started as a hobby in1912. The sport kept on growing and getting more high-tech through the decades till it reached Egypt.
Model flying is based on free flight models which people used to build themselves and hoped they could fly without any external control, like radio control, for example.
To learn more about the history of air models in Egypt, Al-Ahram Weekly asked someone who has lived nearly every moment of his life in the field. Bahaa Sabri is in fact one of only a few experts in Egypt on model flying. “Free-flight model aircraft started in Egypt in the 1950s and for me in 1979. The whole sport was sponsored by the Egyptian Aviation Club, established in 1912. Free-flight models taught us everything about flying a model, as we used to build the model from scratch, balancing and crafting every edge in the model to make it fly,” Sabri said.
Model air frames are usually made out of lightweight material that allows it to be more efficient, like balsa wood, polystyrene plastic, fibreglass, foam and carbon fibre. There are many types of aircraft models, starting with the entry level ones like the park flyers and trainers. Park flyers are usually small fixed wing models that you can fly in your backyard, powered by micro electric motors. They usually have a foam frame.
Trainers are a must to start learning how to fly, exactly like commercial pilots. Trainers can be powered with nitro engines or electric ones. Then there is the professional stage where you get to fly gliders, jets, pylon racers, and scale models. Starting with gliders, they usually need an experienced model’s pilot because they do not rely on getting their lift power from motors. They depend on natural lift produced from warm air or wind. Jet models along with scale ones are one of the most expensive and heartbreaking types of models. A jet or a scale model may accelerate your heartbeat when you see it flying while hearing its thundering sound track, and it might also break your heart if you crash land one of them. A jet or a scale model is mostly made out of fibre glass and carbon fibre, powered by micro turbine engines like the ones you see and hear in the real F16s. That is why they break your heart when they crash. Some jets are powered by environment friendly ducted fan electrical engines and some scale models have nitro engines. Moving on to the last type of  fixed wing models, the pylon racer is a small model that flies across small areas because of the difficulty of seeing it as it goes over 240 km/h.             
“In the 50s and 60s, Abdel-Hakim and Abdel-Hamid Abdel-Nasser, the sons of former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, were the pioneers of flying air models in Egypt. Therefore, officials in the Ministry of Aviation at that time took special care of the hobby and considered it a sport,” Sabri said.
When asked about the history of competitions , Sabri added, “In the early 80s till the early 90s we used to have three annual championships -- Al-Ahram, Girges Masiha, and the National Championship. We were only 20 pilots in Egypt, foreigners and Egyptians. We used to go to Imbaba Airport and start flying our models. Among the first remote control owners in Egypt was Nabil Al-Sergani, the famous jeweller, and Yousef Gallad, of the Egyptian Gazette.”
The Weekly also asked the general secretary of the Egyptian Aviation Club, Waffik Al-Tabli, about the activities of the club and how they are working on making the sport flourish in Egypt. “We always do our best to support the sport in Egypt as well as the pilots. For example we order the latest equipment from the world over for the pilots. We also provide authorised places for the pilots to fly their modes like the 6 October Airport and Smart Village.”
Regarding support from the Ministry of Aviation to the models community Al-Tabli added, “We don’t get any funds from the Ministry of Aviation the way we need to bring the sport to higher levels. For instance, we have part of the 6 October Airport at our disposal, but we don’t have the resources to establish our own base there.”
Ahmed Zidan, Egypt’s best helicopter pilot and two-time Middle East champion, talked about the present and the future of the sport in Egypt. “To be honest, this sport will not go anywhere until we get proper support from our local club, which we are not being given for the time being. So I advise any interested person in this sport to rely completely on himself, starting with a simulator, then the biggest entry level model he can get, a good instructor, and the most important thing -- to read a lot.”
On the possibility of the helicopter team going to the World Championship Zidan said that while we can go to the championship and win in Indiana next year, “we first need to fulfil some requirements: full financial support from the club, full time professional trainers, four pilots, and two years of intensive training.”

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