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Dagenham model aeroplane club offers help to keep drone users airborne after new laws come into force

PUBLISHED: 15:00 18 December 2019

L-R: John Edwards, Stephen Adams and Neal Price with a few of their model aircraft. Picture: Jon King

L-R: John Edwards, Stephen Adams and Neal Price with a few of their model aircraft. Picture: Jon King

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A model aeroplane club is inviting people with drones to become members and avoid their aircraft getting grounded under new laws.

Dagenham Model Aero Club's "magnificent men" and their "flying machines" meet every week at Central Park in Rainham Road North, where their model aeroplanes can be seen looping, diving and rolling - weather permitting.

It's a hobby that is subject to strict rules, including flying safely, keeping airborne models in sight, soaring no higher than 400 feet and not operating in restricted areas.

Until last month, use of drones - unmanned aerial vehicles - was more relaxed, but new rules have come into force.

Drone operators now have to pass an online test about using them safely and legally. They also need to register with regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority.

L-R: John Edwards, Stephen Adams and Neal Price. Picture: Jon KingL-R: John Edwards, Stephen Adams and Neal Price. Picture: Jon King

The clamp down comes amid fears of drones striking real aircraft and concern over their use smuggling drugs into prisons.

Which is why the club is stepping in, offering to train drone pilots and spark a wider interest in the hobby.

Club vice-chairman, Stephen Adams, said: "[Drones] have got such a bad press because of a few idiots. If we can encourage people to fly legally it's good for us and for them."

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Members of the club - officially established in 1948 - are offering instruction and help for people to meet the British Model Flying Association's standard (BMFA).

Doing so allows operators to fly without a qualified person present.

Club secretary, Neal Price, said: "The days of people saying, 'It's my drone, I can fly where I want', are gone. You could now face a hefty fine. If you're a BMFA member, you've got £25million third party insurance."

Members of Dagenham's club are all insured through the organisation.

Stephen Adams with his de Havalland Mosquito, known as 'The Wooden Wonder' when it was flown during the Second World War. Picture: Jon KingStephen Adams with his de Havalland Mosquito, known as 'The Wooden Wonder' when it was flown during the Second World War. Picture: Jon King

But membership at about £59 for an adult offers more besides, including learning how aircraft work and how to handle engines.

"It's the camaraderie of the club as well and the advice we can offer," Neal said.

Stephen added: "Plus you're out in the fresh air instead of stuck on the computer."

"[The hobby is] a lot more accessible than it was. We would offer advice on building [model planes] and are happy to pass on our experience," Neal said.

Neal Price with his Extra 260 modelled on an aircraft used for aerobatics. Picture: Jon KingNeal Price with his Extra 260 modelled on an aircraft used for aerobatics. Picture: Jon King

For more about the club and to get in touch visit dagmac.bmfa.org


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