Events are now moving quite swiftly with regard to the Society acquiring a site to provide the basis of a National Model Flying Centre; so it seems now would be a good time to put all of this into a context which explains the powerful logic for moving forward swiftly with this important initiative.
Having been closely involved with all the processes leading up to the present situation, I am painfully aware of just how much the background and environmental issues are making model flying, as we know and love it, increasingly threatened in our overcrowded island.
Our use of RAF airfields or Army venues for our showcase events, such as the Nationals or other important activities, can no longer be relied on even with much forward planning. The attitude has changed not just because the fewer remaining suitable sites are coming under increased pressure for higher utilisation or being disposed of for commercial purposes such as housing and solar panel farms. In addition, recent court cases and public inquiries have created a more risk averse culture in the armed forces and in government.
Although we continue to lobby powerfully for access, we cannot be assured this will result in the use of the sites we would need for large attendance events over many days.
The Society, (BMFA/SMAE) first considered acquiring a flying site over twenty years ago; but back then we still had almost unfettered and inexpensive access to many airfields and, further, a bank balance which gave us little or no chance of acquiring a redundant airfield when they were being disposed of by the RAF. Was that a mistake? Complacent? Maybe with hindsight, yes.
As a result of the ongoing work of the feasibility study we now have the very real opportunity to acquire a site on long term lease which is fit for purpose and presents a meaningful starting point to develop facilities along the lines described in the original project plan all with the warm and willing support of an enlightened and enthusiastic landowner.
This proposed site, which you can read more about in the status report following the last full BMFA Council meeting on May 14th, initially provides for an area offering the potential for up to three flight lines and a control line area well away from noise sensitive premises in a delightful area of the country only a short hop south-west of our much loved Barkston Heath.
The potential to develop the site into something much more than just a flying area is a key attraction of the location. Important in your assessment of this opportunity is that the acquisition of the site and the essential groundworks and structural refurbishments are all within the current financial capabilities of the Society. But you will be pleased to learn that the landowners recognise the value to themselves and the local communities of our presence and are committed to inputting sizeable funds to assist in the work required.
I am pleased to report that your elected Directors on Council are virtually unanimous that we should push ahead with the legal processes to complete the acquisition and get started on the works necessary to get the site active and open for business.
Of course, notwithstanding all of the above it is important to note that there is significant work to be completed before we have a “done deal” and we still have a number of critical factors to address in order for the project to move towards completion.
From my perspective, I feel that the Society will have failed in its commitment to the development and furtherance of model flying if we cannot make this work. We didn’t take the long view twenty years ago. If we do not commit fully to seizing this opportunity now I do not think the chance will come again.