The 2009 Loch Insh Splash-In

A Gangster ready to depart

The second weekend in September has to be the best of the year. I haven’t enjoyed myself so much for a long time, and the flying was great too! Although I'm rarely able to get to events such as this, I think that all clubs should try to host a Splash-in, and encourage members to attend events in their area.

Just south of Inverness, Loch Insh is a long way north, but the scenery is truly spectacular, so it's well worth taking a few days extra holiday just to enjoy the countryside. Loch Garten and its Ospreys are just a few miles away, Loch Ness and Fort William and Ben Nevis are an easy tour, and the trip up the A9 from Perth is delightful and well worth the effort. And if you want, there are numerous Distilleries where you can see and taste for yourself how Scotland comes to be so brave. A good Speyside malt whisky ranks amongst the best of the best.

Patricia and I stayed at Insh House B&B, where we've enjoyed excellent hospitality many times before. We breakfasted watching numerous birds at the bird table, with regular visits from red squirrels from the ancient Caledonian forest surrounding the house. Nick and Patsy Thompson tell us they occasionally see Pine Marten in their garden, and on an early morning walk through this forest to the lochside I saw an otter playing in the water.

The imposing 120" span Radio Queen

The event took place at Loch Insh Watersports Centre and was hosted by the Cairngorm Model Flying Club. Visit their website and see for yourself what a wonderful place they have. 

By the time I arrived around 7pm on Friday evening they had done all the hard work in marking out the site so we relaxed in the bar. The sunset that night (see pic below) was just breathtaking with golden clouds and still water maturing through deep pink to purple as the light faded.

The following morning was sunny, perfect for flying and well before 10am I could hear models as I walked down. OOPS!! I had promised to look after transmitters, although Ray Lambert was the real hero of the tent. He also flies the tug that tows up the big gliders at the Cairngorm Gliding Club at Glen Feshie.

We saw the tug and gliders several times over the weekend spiralling high above us. Wind blew gently and directly on to the shore, so launching was easy - just stick the plane at the water’s edge and pull the trigger. There was a steady ripple on the water so planes unstuck easily. We were allowed plenty of room on the loch, defined by big buoys, and the other activities kept to themselves. Colin MacLean was our safety officer for the weekend, and he kept us all to order. We had a max of five planes up at any time, and that happened rarely, even with almost 30 transmitters signed in. Colin had a sophisticated B&Q toolbox to house all his vital supplies - a place for everything, and everything in its place. Another novel outfit in pink used a child’s trike as a caddy with a pink lunch box as a trannie case. Simples!

Since there is a grand total of one member in my club, I have no-one to compare notes with, no-one to check my modelling skills against. I was gobsmacked to see the sheer quality of the craftsmanship displayed here, relatively few ARTFs, and several planes I saw when I was down here a couple of years ago.

That means, they haven’t crashed them! I am impressed! The tremendous helpfulness and enthusiasm offered was remarkable, but this seems to be characteristic of the model flying fraternity. There was also a huge range of models and engines displayed. And if something dropped off, Scoonie Hobbies had come all the way from Kirkcaldy with a van full of goodies to screw and glue back on again. Andy the Scoonie Loonie is a real good guy!

One eyecatcher was a Flair Hannibal built in a month by Alan Gibson from the Glenrothes Club. He had a Zenoah 26 hidden under that silver cowl, with a lot of grunt. He told me the hand-painted lozenge pattern took him half his build time, and longer to draw out than to paint! I can believe him. He had no floats big enough so he enlarged a set of Magnatilla float plans by 50%, and they worked well. The C of G was right first time.

William Bremner from Invergordon brought his Aquastreme with an O.S. 61 doing the business. He said this was a crib off an Extreme, and it flew well. Douggie Eustace sported a breeding pair of planes which at one point seemed to be held together with some sort of umbilical chord, perhaps a battery charger. They were called Cava 1 and Cava 2, his own design for twin electric 200-size motors. The plans were published in Flyer magazine last year. The planes weigh hardly 1.5 kg and go like stink with a wild whistle at take-off and fast low passes.

When he wasn’t flying he was sitting in the sun with a large group from the Cumbernauld club drinking Cava (hence the name of the model!). They long ago earned the sobriquet “The Cumbernauld Reprobates” when they were found to be getting through more Cava in a weekend than glow-fuel, and I can tell you from personal experience that their Cava was good.

Douggie's Cava fleet The Radio Queen graced us with her imposing personality. She was a 120” span high wing monoplane in cream and blue with a big wing area and an Enya .91 FS standing sentinel at the sharp end. She floated gracefully round the skies. Alistair Lamb had built her after stretching the plans by 150%. Now aged 84 he felt others might benefit from flying her, and Lawson Fargie twiddled the sticks.

The star of the weekend was, unquestionably, Alastair Sutherland’s Jaytee. This is short for jet trainer, but why he needs a jet to train on, I can’t imagine. He has been flying the real ones for years, and his handling of this one was masterful, quite outstanding!

People for miles around knew when Jaytee took off, and Nick Thompson immediately stopped what he was doing, a mile away, and saw the jet scream over the trees and execute arrow-straight rolls, four-point rolls, and loops with exquisite precision. Nick’s Father worked with De Havillands and he remembers the sounds of their early jet engines, similar to this Wren 54. Alastair reckons it comes close to 120mph, and I can believe him. He has mass-balanced all the control surfaces to reduce vibration, and built the model to manage the speed. There is a delay of several seconds from idle to full power as the turbine winds up to 160,000 rpm, and boy!! Do you hear it! If you are lucky you can get poached salmon out of the jet stream as it boils the water and emits steam.

Alan Gibson's Hannibal gets away

Now, where might you keep the fuel in such a plane? Yes, of course, you keep it in a cider bottle. It just happens that this is exactly the right size for the fuselage, it keeps the C of G right, and it contains enough fuel for 6 minutes of wild excitement. Who needs Viagra when you have Jaytee? It also just happens to be about £50 cheaper than the official container, and so far hasn’t broken on impact with anything. And it will assist this mean machine to climb vertically out of sight

I have NEVER seen one bottle of cider put such huge grins on so many faces as those displays! Well done, Alastair!  And he had a lot of fun emptying the bottle in the first place! Strictly on an experimental basis, you know.              

The wind freshened during the afternoon till it was about 10-15 mph, but this didn’t stop our intrepid Aeronauts who flew on till around 5pm. There were a few fliers who have no need of a peg board, don’t use 35MHz and who have never heard of a Gigahertz. There was a lone Osprey who had not yet flown south, and a couple of years ago I saw a Golden Eagle flying fast across the far side of the loch and lifting over the mountains in to the Findhorn valley. Magnificent!

Sunday dawned dreich. That means wet and dull, misty and, well, just dreich. The “Scotch Mist” was falling gently, (alas, this is NOT a Speyside Malt) and the water was flat calm. The cloud base was low, the surrounding hills disappearing in to the mist. A Multiplex foamie was skittering about trying desperately to unstick but just didn’t have the power to jump in to hyperspace and get on the planing step. Darth Vader had asthma. And that was the end of flying for one or two models whose power was marginal, until the wind began to stir the treetops and put ripples on the water.

Quite a sunset on Friday evening!

Jaytee wisely sat this session out. Just ten seconds from take-off and she would have been out of sight in the cloud, trackable only by that marvellous sound. But Radio Queen floated regally on, just at the cloud base, visible in and out of the mist. Turning away down the loch the engine suddenly went dead and spat the prop off. She floated on to a distant touch-down and was rescued by Bill Terry in the RIB who worked tirelessly all weekend. Closer examination suggested that this Enya now had two short con-rods rather than the regulation long one, a tragic end to flying for the day. Let’s hope John Haytree will have a spare.

The 'Cumbernauld Reprobates' retired under plastic sheeting and definitely weren’t getting through much glo-fuel. But by lunch time things were looking up and people were flying again for a few hours more fun before drifting homewards.

There was one other tragedy during the weekend. An aeronaut saw his plane glitch ever so slightly, so brought it round to land. Just as he was lining up on finals it glitched again and dived headlong in. Retrieval was achieved, but the nose and a new Jen 56 engine were missing. We know approximately where they are, but is it safe to go fishing for them? Particularly as Loch Ness is just a few miles north? During my breakfast warm-up walk I came across two earnest fishermen who had just caught and returned an enormous Pike. You have been warned! On land we would have had the bits to put back together, but the fun of this event is in the camaraderie. I just wonder how sore Alastair Sutherland would be if his jet had gone looking for Nessie. He wonders that, too. But it didn’t.

Our grateful thanks to all who worked so tirelessly to make this weekend such fun, to our hosts Loch Insh Watersports Centre, and to all who contributed to the raffle in support of club funds. Many thanks to Dot and Bob Johnstone and others  for their help here. And will we come again? Yes, indeed, and probably to other Scottish Waterplane events throughout the year.  See you there!

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