Grand opening of the West Wyalong Free Flight Field
Australia’s first free flight field and a Hall of Fame award marked the opening of the West Wyalong Free Flight Field, read more in a report from Malcolm Campbell.
13-14 September 2014
Free flight flyers from Queenslanders, Victoria and New South Wales, plus a number of R/C and R/C flyers from various NSW clubs met at West Wyalong NSW to celebrate a momentous occasion for Australian free flight - the opening of Australia's first and only free flight field owned by the flyers. Thanks to the foresight of the NSWFFS and the extreme generosity of Jo and Adrian Bryant, free flight modellers no longer have to worry whether free flight will continue in Australia, as fields become unavailable or are cut up for development.
The West Wyalong field is located in central west NSW, 15 hours from Brisbane, 5 hours from Sydney and 6 hours from Melbourne. For those who have been to Narrandera, it's less than 2 hours north. It is a flat 700 acre field 1.9 km x 1.4 km, with short grass, is easy to walk or ride on and has minimal trees - in other words, an excellent free flight field. Situated in sheep country, it is not suited to cropping, and that made it affordable. Anyway, crops and free flight aren't a good mix. A large portion of the field is leased to a nearby farmer to keep some sheep on it – it – and that provides a reasonable income. It also it keeps the grass down!
A good role up of flyers and spectators arrived early Saturday, including MAAA secretary Kevin Dodd. Once the flight line was established, it stayed that way for the day. Two quad bikes joined the few electric bikes of those who preferred not to walk. Saturday was a magnificent day with clear skies, good lift and minimal breeze from varying directions. Soon there were all sorts of models in the sky - vintage, scale, sporties, power and rubber and a few gliders. Flyers were aged from 7 to 94 years. There were several lay back competitions scheduled but we were all there to have fun, and the mix of models made it great for the spectators. A few limited function R/C models flew discretely among the F/F models, including a magnificent 4 m R/C electric glider.
Saturday flying comps ended by 3.30 pm and we adjourned to the newly placed runway and control line circles, to watch some R/C and C/L flying. The runway is behind the house and, when we got there, it was just like discovering another flying field, in the "back paddock". This property is really big and most F/F flyers would be happy to fly 2 minute events from this part of the field. The R/C boys loved it and a small group flew there both days. And now the NSWFFS is getting requests from other clubs to run R/C events there in the future. This of course could happen in conjunction with a free flight competition; there is plenty of room for R/C, C/L and Free Flight. West Wyalong has REAL potential for developing into an aeromodelling centerpiece.
Come 6 pm Saturday, NSWFFS president Terry Bond officiated at the Grand Opening and the speeches were well received. Understandably, the biggest cheer was for Adrian Bryant who will go down in Australian Free Flight history for his extreme generosity for backing the field financially. Adrian also responded to Terry's speech and later cut the cake with his and Jo's name on it. Jo passed away recently; she was very supportive of the field purchase.
Many years ago, Adrian was treated for an infection and an overdose of antibiotics left him with negligible balance. He was to be confined to a wheel chair but his perseverance saw him at flying fields, moving with the aid of a gnarly walking stick made from a tree branch. We nicknamed him Gandalf, from Lord of the Rings! It should be known that for over 10 years Graham Maynard and Albert Fathers took Adrian from Queensland south to all the major events. Albert went one step further, taking Adrian to the local Coominya FF field, helping him compete and retrieving his models. This was a selfless contribution on their part – and it kept Adrian involved in what he loved.
During the evening, MAAA secretary Kevin Dodd also awarded Roy Summersby his Hall of Fame award for his first place in the F1C world champs in France last year.
Saturday was perfect and Sunday was "more perfect", as the flight line remained in the middle of the paddock all day and there was virtually no breeze all morning. The Open Rubber fly-off commenced at 7.30 am and all three models landed within 15 seconds of one another, and less than 300 m away.
Mid-morning we were surprised to see a Jabiru light aircraft land on the new R/C runway, proving yet again the field is of adequate size. It later successfully took off. Turns out they were friends of an R/C flyer.
By midday the contests were over and the awards were presented, so ending a superb weekend of flying and comradery. The West Wyalong field will evolve into a premier site for southern hemisphere free flight, radio control and control line. I'm sure of that.