Model Aircraft Section

The MAMS Model Aircraft section operates from a model flying site near Tuamarina. Club Flying days are Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday, mornings (about 9am until noon)for power flying and Wednesday and Saturday for Glider flying at Tuamarina Flying Site, but members have access and can use the Airfield at any time (Note:- entry controlled via locked gate).

The Flying site at Tuamarina consists of a 100 metre by 20 metre main runway running East to west, and a 60 metre by 20 metre North south. The airfield is located between the stop bank and the Wairau river, approximately 2.1km from Tuamarina on land the Society has leased from the Marlborough District Council. The flying site is a recognised danger area ("Danger area NZD 629 Quarry")for flying model aircraft, this zone is 1km radius from the flying field and North of the Southern edge of the Wairau river, this area allows us to fly models up to 1000 feet AMSL.

Flying site location map:Open the map and zoom out for a better indication of our location

View MAMS Flying site in a larger map

The Club is predominantly involved with flying Fixed wing Radio Controlled(RC) Model aircraft, with a small minority flying a little free Flight or Control line or RC Helicopters or Quad Copters. Radio Controlled Model aircraft include a huge variety of aircraft ranging from tiny indoor models weighing several grams up to large scale aircraft weighing several kilograms, including Gliders, fixed wing, Vintage, and Helicopters. Some members build and fly their own models, some build from Kitsets, and many buy and fly Almost Ready to Fly(ARF) model aircraft. Most people new to this Hobby now start with ARF's or Ready to Fly(RTF) models. Building from plans or kits can be a very satisfying aspect of the hobby for those with a creative bent. Model aircraft design and aerodynamics is also a fascinating side to the hobby. For some examples of our activities see the video below, and also the Newsletter on the Link on the right, or check out our Aircraft Projects Page.

Model Flying Video

About Flying Model Aircraft.

If you are interested in model aircraft you can learn a bit from books, videos, and the internet, but the best way to learn is to join a club. There are two in the Blenheim area, MAMS and BMAC. Club members share an interest in Model aircraft and can provide help and advice to newcomers on the best ways to get started. Our flying site is not open to the general public but if you are thinking of joining a club you are welcome to come along on our club flying day, Tuesday or Thursday(usually for the retired members), or Sunday mornings. If the weather is good there is usually someone there, see the location map above. Or contact Carl (MAMS Flying contact person).

When you first start learning to fly you will be learning the basic controls,trying to fly straight and level and doing turns to the left and right while maintaining a reasonable height. It is not as easy as it sounds but having a proper trainer aircraft helps a lot. The local RC Model flyers fly mode 1 or mode 2 (we have one mode four flyer). What mode refers to is the way the two main control sticks are set up. Mode 1 has the Rudder and elevator on the left control stick and throttle and aileron on the right hand stick, this used to be the most common setup locally but now mode 2 is becoming more common. Mode 2 has the Throttle and Rudder on the left Stick and Aileron and elevator on the right hand stick (much like the Joystick on a fullsize aircraft). There should be members available to give advice and training on either mode, we have a model trainer (a Bixler) set up on a Buddy box on mode 1 to give new flyers some initial training. What the Buddy Box means is that we have two transmitters linked together with a cable, the instructor has the Master transmitter and the trainee has the Slave Transmitter. It is like dual training on fullsize aircraft where the instructor can fly the model then give the trainee control, but if things go wrong he can take back control at any time.

A useful aid to learn to fly RC planes is a Flight Simulator you can use on a computer. These usually have a controller the same as the radio transmitter (some allow you to connect the actual transmitter the the computer)and the program allows you to fly various models with the view on the computer screen showing the view you would see when flying actual models. The controller can be set up as mode 1 or 2 as you prefer and allows you to fly helicopters, gliders, or powered aircraft. While it is not exactly the same as the real thing it is close enough for getting used to using the controller and seeing the effects of the controls and getting used to seeing the model at all attitudes and orientation(flying away from you, around, or toward you). A major benefit is that crashes don't damage anything and you can hit the reset button and try again. To explain a bit about the controls I mentioned earlier when talking about modes are rudder, elevator, aileron and throttle. The rudder controls yaw, move the control left to yaw the aircraft nose left or control right to yaw the nose right(all attitude references are as viewed from looking forward along the model centreline). The elevator controls pitch attitude up or down, pull the control back to pitch the nose up (model climbs and slows down), push the control forward to pitch the nose down (model speeds up). The aileron controls roll, move the control left to roll to the left or right to roll right. Throttle control controls engine power, control back for slow or forward for more power (to climb or fly faster). Turns are made by using a combination of Aileron and elevator (and maybe a little rudder), aileron to roll the plane like leaning a push bike into a corner, and a little up elevator is used to keep the aircraft nose up and increase the lift as the plane turns, a little bit of rudder in the direction of the turn also helps. Simulators can also simulate various wind strengths and directions. If you can fly well on a flight simulator without crashing it will not take much practise to fly real model aircraft.
If you are buying new Radio Control gear I recommend getting Transmitter and receiver on 2.4GHz frequency, the older frequencies used require a strict control using a Peg Board system to ensure only one person uses each specific frequency at a time. The 2.4GHz radio systems available allows many radios to be used at the same time.
There are no dedicated model shops in Blenheim, but Basis in Renwick sells some Balsa and some basic items and Roselands Garden centre sells ARF's, fuel, batteries and a good selection modelling supplies (for cars boats and planes). A lot of modelling supplies are bought off the internet. Some New Zealand suppliers are on the link below for the "MFNZ Links Page". There are numerous international suppliers around the world that will happily ship to NZ.


Aerotow is a method of launching Gliders or Sailplanes using a powered Aircraft and a Tow Line. The Tow Plane can be any size from a Foamie electric to a large petrol powered model, whatever is appropriate for the size of glider being launched. The Tow line is best to be about 30 metres long. Both the Tow Plane and Glider need to be able to release the Tow line remotely, although the Glider can be attached to the Tow-line by Velcro and peel off when required. The Tow-line is connected to the Tow-Plane on the top not far aft of the centre of grivity, not from the Tail as on full-size aircraft. The Glider is flown behind and slightly higher than the Tow Plane and wings kept parallel with the Tow-plane's wings.

The Video shows Model Aerotow, with a variety of Models of various sizes. With pilots from around the country. At Blenheim Aerotow meeting at Blenheim 2016. Thanks to Peter Hewson and all those that took part.

Viewed from the Tow Plane, The Glider sits behind the Tow-plane above the slipstream up to level with the Towplane. The easiest launch is behind a powerful Tow-plane and climbs steeply straight ahead into wind. Longer Tows require turns to be carried out, the glider matches the towplanes angle of bank, don't cut the corners. The video ends with some aerobatics on the tow-line, although it is not easy to see it does show that aerotow is not too scary or position keeping is not especially critical.

Slope Soaring

Slope soaring is using the wind blowing up a slope to keep a glider airborne. Depending on the wind speed and site location almost any type of glider can be flown, from little Foamie models to large scale model gliders, or electric gliders. In light wind conditions DLG or 2 metre thermal gliders are good for making the most of light breezes or thermals coming off the slope. Stronger wind provide more energy for heavier scale, aerobatic, combat or speed models.
The fastest radio controlled model aircraft in the world are Gliders, Dynamic soaring is the latest developement of slope soaring and allows tremendous speeds to be obtained with specially designed models. At the moment the highest claimed speed is 498 mph (801kph) and the highest in NZ is 456mph (Top 20 RC speeds claimed, Dynamic Soaring)
MAMS Flying section has regular Slope soaring meetings during summer (during Daylight saving time)each Wednesday afternoon, weather permitting, meeting at 5:30pm at the carpark at the west end of the Wither Hills walkway (off Rifle Range Place)to decide which slope site to use. Usually a bit of hiking or hill climbing is required to get to the sites. So far our flying sessions have not included any Dynamic Soaring.

Health and safety aspects of Model Aircraft Flying.

Flying Model aircraft is a relatively safe pastime but there are dangers. People do get injured, and around the world there have been people killed by model aircraft so it needs to be taken seriously. Model aircraft club rules and operating procedures have been developed over time to minimize the risks, and Model Flying NZ (MFNZ) handbook and Wings Badge program have guidelines for safe operation of model aircraft.

The dangers of flying model aircraft are:

1. Spinning propellers.

2. Models colliding with people or property.

3. Fire.

4. Toxic Chemicals

How do we avoid the dangers:

1. Spinning propellers:

A spinning propeller contacting any part of a person is going to hurt or cause damage, from cuts to amputating digits or limbs depending on the size of the propeller and the size of the engine driving it.

With Glow and petrol(Gas) engines the main risk is during startup and tuning the engine. The model should be in a safe area clear of other people and restrained before starting so that it will not move forward when the engine does start.

To start the engine you can protect your fingers you can use an electric starter, or a chicken stick, or heavy leather gloves (common when starting petrol engines).

Do not wear loose clothing that could get caught in the propeller, a neck strap for a radio transmitter (or a tie or scarf) getting caught in a running propeller could be nasty, as could loose sleeve cuffs.

Once a glow engine is started the glow plug lead should be removed (unless you use onboard glow battery) from behind the propeller, not reaching over or around it.

Tuning Gas and glow engines requires extreme caution, engines with rear carburetors or rear mounted needle valves are preferable as they give a little more distance between the propeller and your fingers. With the engine running at full power and tuning for maximum or near maximum revs is the worst possible time to slip up and get fingers in the propeller.

With electric motors driving propellers the propeller should be considered alive and dangerous whenever the battery is connected. If the battery is to be connected while programming the radio the propeller should be removed or the model restrained from moving and the propeller should be avoided, accidently reversing the throttle channel would see the motor burst into life at full power.

2. Models colliding with people or property.

MFNZ has guidelines for setting up for setting up a safe flying area with separation between spectator and pit area and flying areas to keep safe separation between active models and people. Models should not be taxied close to spectators or any people.

Before flying thoroughly preflight the model, especially make sure everything on the model is secure and the controls work correctly and in the correct sense, be sure the model is safe to fly.

Flying areas should be clear or public areas and any buildings.

Do not fly over or toward people. Flying should be flown over the active runway and the area opposite the parking/pitt area. At our flying site the Parking and Pitt area are on the North side of the runway, with a barrier between them, so the flying area is to the south or clear to the east and west of the runway. The intention is that if a crash should occur for any reason the model will hopefully land well away from people (or buildings vehicles, or livestock).

No one should go onto the Runway to launch or retrieve models (or any other reason) without clearance from any pilots flying, and time on the runway should be kept as short as practical (if anyone is flying).

Flying should be done from the pilot box so pilots can inform each other what they are doing, eg Landing, overshoot, touch and go, low pass etc.

The pilot box should be located toward the downwind end of the runway so the model takes off away from the pilot box and landings aimed to touchdown in front of the pilot, so any tendency for the model to swerve on the ground does not endanger the pilots.

At our club only four pilots can fly in the circuit area at a time, this is to avoid midair collisions and damaged models falling from the sky, and reduce pilot distraction.

3. Fire.

Fires caused by model aircraft are very rare but can happen, and consequences can be serious. A fire extinguisher should be kept handy while operating model aircraft.

Fuel should be kept in safe containers and model aircraft fuel systems should be checked and maintained to avoid leaks.

Standard safety precautions are required as with any flammable liquids, no naked fames or smoking nearby, nothing to create sparks etc.

Jet (Gas Turbine) aircraft are a serious fire risk. Due to our club airfields size, location and local fire restrictions we do not operate gas turbine aircraft. MFNZ has guidelines for operation of model jet aircraft.

Lithium Polymer (LiPo) batteries can cause fires. Model electrical systems should be designed so all components operate within their specified voltage and current ratings and there are no possibility of electrical short circuits occurring.

LiPo battery charging should be done with the correct charger designed for Lipo batteries and carried out on a safe fireproof surface.

If a crash causes a fire in the local vegetation the fire service should be called immediately.

4. Toxic Chemicals

Model aircraft fuels are toxic so avoid skin contact and breathing the fumes. Model flying with Gas and Glow powered models is carried out outdoors so ventilation is generally not a problem.

Model aircraft glues and paints can be toxic and the manufacturer's warnings and instructions should be followed. Generally avoid skin contact and avoid breathing fumes.

General information

MFNZ Logo Model Flying New Zealand promotes and manages model aircraft flying in New Zealand. They run national competitions, help modellers to compete overseas, support fun fly-ins and rallies, develop safety guidelines, produce a magazine (five times a year) called Model Flying World, supply insurance for MFNZ members, encourage clubs and liaise with Government bodies, the Civil Aviation Authority, Radio Frequency Services and other organisations. In short, they do their best to see that we can fly your model in as safe environment as possible and enjoy this fun sport.

MFNZ Links page, includes NZ retailers and other info. New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority rule relating to model aircraft operation New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority information publication

Handy Links Page