Club soars to new model height
Soaring over the dry and dusty fields outside Roebourne, a plane is sent into a spinning nosedive, hurtling towards the hard red earth before pulling up and flying upside down, parallel along the length of a makeshift airstrip.
From there it moves into a knife-edge pass before gaining altitude again and circling the skies above the airfield as the man in control decides what tricks to pull out of the bag next.
Tom Price resident Paul Hatfield was one of a number of radio controlled model aircraft enthusiasts in the Pilbara, who recently came out to christen the Karratha Aeromodeller Club’s new home, taking his 55cc petrolpowered plane to the skies across the road from the Nor West Jockey Club.
Mr Hatfield said the joy of mastering new skills while flying, as well as the technical side of RC planes, was what drew him to the hobby.
“It was something I was always interested in, but I didn’t really know how to get into it as a kid,” he said.
“I went down to the local club and a few of the people there let me use their planes and eventually I got a job at Maccas to make enough money to buy my first plane.”
Mr Hatfield said new technology had made the hobby easier and cheaper to get into.
“You have all these self-stabilisation systems, so a beginner who has never flown before can take off a plane and it will fly itself quite easily,” he said.
If Mr Hatfield’s manoeuvres were eye catching, Port Hedland-based Charlie Lewis’ helicopter skills were downright insane.
The unpredictable nature of Mr Lewis’ high-flying antics was captivating; with the RC craft moving around in the air like an over-energetic dragonfly on a sugar high.
“I went to the local hobby shop one day and saw someone flying a little helicopter and thought to myself, ‘I have to have that’,” he said.
“These days everything is online, so if you can’t work it out from the instructions, you can go to Youtube or Google and all it takes from there is a lot of practise.
“Flying RC helicopters is a good mental challenge.”
Karratha Aeromodellers president Allan Brown said anyone interested in flying could use the club’s equipment before deciding if they wanted to go ahead and invest in their own gear.
“You are looking at about $600 for a smaller basic model or $1000 for a bigger one,” he said.
“With our buddy box system though, we can teach people from the word go, until they can afford to buy their own.
“There are a lot of groups who stick to helicopters or planes but we welcome the whole lot and everyone mixes well together.”
Mr Brown is optimistic about the future of the club at its new base, with several new members joining on in the past few months.
“We lost a lot of our old members recently (with the downturn) but it is good to see the numbers improving again,” he said.
The next projects on the clubs wish list are new toilet blocks and a concrete runway.
For now though, you will find Mr Brown and fellow RC enthusiasts watching the sky in their home towns, as the craft they control soars above the spinifex plains and red rock hills of the Pilbara.
Steve Eames flies over the Karratha Aeromodeller’s new home.
Hayden Rintoul’s drone.