Monday, 13 November 2017  |  Jonathan

A warm, slightly hazy and calm afternoon called the three of us to the flying venue.

My two friends were brothers and both had new models to try out, as did I.

Aero-modelling was still very popular when we were in our teens - model shops were common and kits and materials were readily available and affordable.

The latter was an important point to someone still at school and whose source of income was working Friday night and Saturday at Fine Fare in the middle of town.

As an aside, Fine Fare was one of the main supermarkets - ours was noted for cheapness, scruffy staff and, er, mice!

The day before our trip to the Goyt flying field, the store had suffered a flood.

Two of us who worked there also had the job of unlocking the store on Saturday mornings.

On this day, we got there to find water flowing under the front door and down the street.


Water was pouring through the ceiling over the biscuit fixture and the electrics had all fused.

There was a big row and the area manager threatened to sack all of us as no one owned up to causing the disaster.

Now, I can safely reveal that I caused the flood by leaving a mop bucket in the canteen sink the night before with the tap still running, purely by accident I might add.

Confession is good for the soul…

I must also confess to producing my latest model, a Mercury Magna well down to my usual standard.

Frog Magna

It was covered in my typical black tissue (I must have had a job lot of it from somewhere) with messy crinkle finish rather resembling an MGB dashboard or the body of a 1950’s camera. It was powered by an inverted DC Merlin 0.75cc diesel.

My friends had smartly finished models, Stephen had a Snipe and his older brother, Ian, a Mercury Matador. They were only a little unkind about the appearance of my Magna and their laughter only lasted minutes.

For a while, I couldn't get the Merlin to start and both Ian and Stephen had launched. The Snipe for all its good looks teetered on the edge of a stall during its flight and finally drifted off over a small rise out of sight, so Stephen set off after it.

Ian’s Matador was quite majestic, it gained great height in lazy circles before cutting and drifting gradually away, so off he went too.

Feverish flicking finally produced results with the Merlin and I launched hastily in case it stopped again. Alas, I knocked the tail askew as it went and the Magana roared round in a low altitude circle to the right.

A wing tip dug in and produced a cartwheel which ended the flight.

I expected a wreck, but the only damage was to the top of the cowl which was anyway detachable. This was quickly discarded, everything was put straight and off we went again.

This time the model gained height in a pleasing way, describing large climbing circles before the motor cut and it glided gently back to earth nearby.

What a result!

I couldn't wait to show my friends how well it flew.

But where were they?

I found Stephen first. His Snipe was lodged firmly in the top of the only tree around and wasn't coming out without a fight involving major damage - at least he would save the precious motor.

Ian arrived with the Matador, wing and tail in one hand and the fuselage in the other but hidden behind his back.

I filled them both in about the superb performance of my Magna, omitting the bit about the first attempt.

They seemed strangely reserved…

Bits of Snipe fluttered down through the branches eventually.

“Well at least you’ve got it back” I said. “We can still fly the other two”.

It was my George Formby “turned out nice again” sort of speech.

“Actually, we can’t” said Ian through gritted teeth and revealing the Matador fuselage.

It seemed that on landing, it had hit one of those hard moorland tussocks that had caused the undercarriage to smash its way through the internal structure with bad, bad results.

I only laughed for minutes and they took it surprisingly well.

We are now able to make the Magna as a full kit at The Vintage Model Company (Buy the kit here).

My test build shows it fits together well and a quick flight reveals a slow, stable, gentle performance.

It is so light that it should resist accidents quite well and this one doesn’t have a black finish to cause laughter from anyone.