BMFA Nationals 2021
Now that most clubs have been able to open again I hope that many of you have had the opportunity to dust off the cobwebs and get back into the air. With the weather starting to warm up (the last couple of days being an exception!) thoughts turn to what the summer has in store and I am sure that many of you will be wondering what the prospects are for a return to RAF Barkston Heath for this year’s Nationals – both Free Flight in May and the Power Nats in August.
Barkston has been the spiritual home of the Free Flight and/or Power Nats since the 1960s and, apart from a few exceptions when it was not available, one or both events have been held there every year since. However, as many will know, Barkston is still an active airfield under the control of RAF Cranwell and the BMFA is only able to use it subject to their agreement on an annual basis. We would normally seek their permission in January as it takes months of planning to put on these major events. For obvious reasons that request had to be delayed this year until after the Government had published its proposed roadmap of recovery from COVID-19 and there was a chink of light at the end of the tunnel.
Regrettably in the response received, whilst acknowledging and apologising for our likely disappointment, the Station Commander has said ‘no’ for this year. All departments at Cranwell need to concentrate on recovery from the impact of COVID-19 and they are actively limiting large and/or external events across all Cranwell sites. Furthermore, whilst the possibility remains of a second summer surge in COVID infection they are adopting a cautious approach across all their activities.
I appreciate that this will come as another huge disappointment to those for whom ‘the Nationals’ is so important, not only as competitors but also those regular supporters for whom it is an annual pilgrimage. On a more positive note, the Station Commander is now aware that next year will be our Centenary and she is optimistic that Cranwell should be able to support our Championships in 2022.
The BMFA Technical Committees and Specialist Bodies responsible for organising the various Championship competitions and the drone racing World Cup associated with the Nationals are now looking at alternative arrangements. For various reasons it is not possible to stage an event on the scale of either of the Nationals elsewhere, particularly whilst uncertainty remains over large public gatherings. Revised dates and venues for each discipline will be published on the BMFA contest calendar in due course.
Ian Pallister FSMAE