of the NWMAC
earliest recollection of model flying in the Derry area can be traced back to
1939 when Dr. Austin Kinsella joined forces with Claude Austin of the famous Austinís
department store to fly free flight, predominately rubber powered models in a
number of fields surrounding the city. Little is known of how model flying progressed
during the war years but after the war the proliferation of airfields that had
been constructed locally as part of the war effort provided local aeromodellers
with access to some excellent facilities. The early 1950ís saw the NWMAC take
up residence at the decommissioned Fleet Air Arm airfield at Maydown. Maydown
perhaps saw some of the greatest technical advances in aeromodelling in the North
West as bang-bang radio control followed by reed equipment, became available.
By this time rubber had given way to diesel and then glow as the primary means
of powering a model.
the early 1960ís the MoD sold Maydown to Du Pont Chemicals who lost no time in
constructing a massive chemical plant on the site. Whilst Maydown was lost to
model flying forever, a ready alternative was available just a few miles north.
Eglinton like Maydown was a Fleet Air Arm station whose peacetime need was surplus
to requirements and was handed over to the then Londonderry Corporation. It proved
to be an ideal home for the NWMAC and one they would occupy for some 25 years.
These years saw the introduction of proportional radio allowing more complex and
powerful models to be built and flown. Engines were dominated by 2 stroke glows
with some 4 strokes appearing latterly. The mid-1970ís saw the appearance of the
first R/C helicopters within the club. These crude and difficult to fly machines
almost drove some into the local sanatorium! However others were made of sterner
stuff and progressed to become very proficient heli-flyers.
decision in the early 1980ís by Derry City Council (as the Londonderry Corporation
had become) to develop Eglinton as a commercial airport serving the entire northwest
region was to have profound effect upon the club and its activities. As the airport
developed, restrictions upon the activities of the club became more and more draconian
to the effect that in 1989 the Club decided to vacate Eglinton and seek an alternative
site. Land at Gransha hospital was our first alternative home, one that was occupied
for approximately a year until the authorities decided to build a new hospital
on the site!
the Club moved to the council playing fields at Prehen. Not an ideal location
constrained by a major road on one side and the River Foyle on the other. Also
access by the general public could not be controlled and it was not unusual to
find someone walking his or her dog across your flight path. Clearly a better
site was required.
negotiations had been opened with Derry City Council for assistance with the finding
and development of an alternative site during 1989; these negotiations now took
on a greater urgency. However we did not anticipate how long and complex a project
it would become! Finding a suitable site was relative easy. The Councilís landfill
site at Duncastle Road, Newbuildings was nearing capacity, indeed 5.5 acres had
already been topsoiled and fenced off and had the potential to make an ideal model
flying site. We made our proposal to DCC and waited!! It would not be until 1994
that the NWMAC secured possession of the site. Although it was agreed in principle
that the location was suitable DCC were developing a new waste management strategy.
It was not clear if the landfill site at Duncastle Road would be deemed surplus
to requirements or if it was to be extended. Extension would mean that planning
permission would be required along with an environmental impact assessment. Deliberations
with DCC on this issue were long and extensive but eventually they decided to
close the site and a 25-year lease was agreed subject to planning permission!!
This was another hurdle made more difficult as a number of objections were received.
Eventually we were able to placate the objectors and planning permission was granted.
Now all we needed was the funds to develop the site. The plans envisaged the construction
of a 60m x 20m tarmac runway access road and car parking facility, total cost
in excess of £15k. A cocktail of funding negotiated with Derry City Council, The
Honourable The Irish Society, Sports Council NI and fund raising activities by
NWMAC members e.g. marathon flight from Strabane to Derry, eventually raised the
necessary monies and construction could begin.The first model to fly off our new
strip occurred at Christmas 1995.
all of the above was going on we had not been idle. It was important to raise
the awareness of model flying within the local community and especially with local
Councilors and decision-makers. We took part in the annual N.I. International
Airshow held annually at Eglinton and in 1992 in conjunction with the Ulster Model
Aircraft Club we organized Eurofly 92 one of the largest model flying events to
be held in Ireland. Guest flyers included Hanno Prettner 7 times World Aerobatic
Champion, Philip Avonds World Scale Champion and Jo Koulen World Speed Record
holder. Another display pilot who was just developing a reputation in the model
display circuit was Steve Holland. These notables were supported by local flyers
and as a public relations exercise it was an unqualified success, dampened only
by the less that ideal weather conditions.
year we can reflect upon 10 years of tenure at our site at Newbuildings. During
that period the Club has continued to improve its facilities with the construction
of a club hut, improved safety provision and grass cutting equipment. It is without
doubt one of the best model flying facilities in Ireland.
Newbuildings hosts annually the N. I Area Scale Championships and the N. I. Area
Aerobatic Championships (Reports and photos from these events can be seen on our
events page). Novices can avail of dedicated training sessions under the tutelage
of BMFA appointed instructors and when the time is right apply for their A or
B examination. NWMAC members have also had noted success in both provincial and
international competitions. They formed the core of the Northern Ireland team
that attended the 1999 and 2003 Jet World Masters in Austria and South Africa
respectively. The NWMAC has always seen itself as a family orientated club and
this is reflected in its subscription policy and the recent adoption of a Child
and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy.
With such an illustrious past the onus is on the current membership and committee
to continue the development of the Club and its facilities. The current committee
has some exciting plans for the future, ensuring that the NWMAC continues to be
seen as one of the most progressive model flying clubs in the island of Ireland.