The Australian National Championships
1938 – 2013

Written by John Lamont

AEROMODELLING in Australia dates back to the early 1900’s but it was not until the 1930’s that the first organized aeromodelling bodies appeared. Both the Model Aeroplane Association (a.k.a. the Model Aeroplane Association of Australia) and the Model Flying Club (a.k.a. the Model Flying Club of Australia) were based in Sydney, the MAA commencing in 1930 with Mr. Norman J. Lyons as Chief Commissioner and the MFC following in 1931 under the control of Mr. Ivor Freshman. These two groups competed for membership until, in 1937, Freshman and Lyons both departed their respective organisations.

Prior to leaving the MFC Ivor Freshman had commenced negotiations to hold a model aeroplane competition in conjunction with the 1938 celebration of Australia’s sesquicentenary year. Freshman’s proposal to the Australia’s 150th Anniversary Celebrations Council (AACC) was that the event would comprise three flying days, from Saturday 26th March to Monday 28th March, with an exhibition prior to the flying events to whet the public’s interest and to draw them to the flying events.

The AACC accepted Freshman’s plan and provided a grant of £500 for prize money and administration. Venues for the events were — Centennial Park for rubber powered models, Richmond RAAF base for fuel driven (i.c powered) models and the Sydney Town Hall for the indoor events. A formal presentation of prizes was to take place at a cabaret-dance at Marrickville Town Hall on the Monday evening following the indoor events. Every event carried cash prizes to ninth place with the fuel driven event offering the largest prizes: 1st £25, 2nd £10, 3rd £5,and the following six places £1 each.

Trophies as well as cash were provided for the four exhibition classes. First place secured a sesquicentenary medallion and £1, and 2nd, a silver cup and 10 shillings. The winner of Class 5, for petrol driven models, took home a petrol engine donated by the Texaco Company.

The “Grand International Model Aeroplane Championships” (GIMAC) was now a reality but Freshman’s vision of an International event was somewhat thwarted when the invited US participation did not eventuate, leaving only the three New Zealand entries to provide an international flavour.

The departure of Freshman and Lyons saw them replaced by H. J. MacKay at the MAA and William Caldwell at the MFC, presenting Caldwell with the task of running the GIMAC. Caldwell approached MacKay with a request for assistance, to which MacKay agreed, and the event then became a joint venture for the two groups.

In mid-March 1938, the first international competitors arrived in Sydney to prepare and test their models for the Grand International Model Aeroplane Championships, the event which is now considered to be the 1st Australian National Championships.

The programme of events was:



(Gliders and scale models were in existence at the time but were not included. Control line models first appeared at the 2nd Nationals at Bankstown, NSW in 1948 and radio control models at the 4th Nationals, held in South Australia in 1950-1951.)

1938 Nationals Results
Outdoor Class1.
1 V. Gray (New Zealand) 5min. 5.4sec.
2 J. G. Habib (Lismore, NSW) 4min. 58.4sec.
3 H.E. Vivian (South Australia) 4min. 54sec.

Outdoor Class 2.
1 J.G. Habib (Lismore, NSW) 4min. 29sec.
2 J. Fullarton (Sydney) 4min. 15sec.
3 R. Hardy (Sydney) 2min. 34sec.

Outdoor Class 5.
1 S. Parkinson (Victoria) 9min. 52.8sec.
2 G. Harder (Lismore, NSW) 9min. 34.4sec.
3 S. Drury (South Australia) 9min. 6sec.

Indoor Class 1.
1 V. Gray (New Zealand) 11min. 23.2sec.
2 J. Fullarton (Sydney) 9min. 15sec.
3 R.E. Allen (New Zealand) 8min. 28.8sec

Indoor Class 2.
1.B. Felstead (South Australia) 8min. 29sec.
2 R.E. Allen (New Zealand) 7min. 58.8sec.
3 J. Black (South Australia) 7min. 52sec.

Jim Fullarton recalls that Vernon Gray of New Zealand was the standout flyer with wins in two rubber powered events and Stan Parkinson of Victoria, with his 3m “Nimbus” powered by a motor of his own manufacture, had the most elegant model in Class 5.

Aeromodelling lapsed into a quiet period following the GIMAC. During WWII modelling materials largely unavailable and power model flying was banned for a period in NSW, although flying continued in other states.

In 1947 the former members of the MAA and MFC combined to form a club which, despite it being solely a NSW body, was named the “Model Aeronautical Association of Australia” (MAA-A). The 2nd Australian National Championships planned for 1948 by the MAA-A brought members from all states to Sydney and at a meeting in November 1948 the federal body known as the Model Aeronautical Association of Australia (MAAA) was formed.

From the 3rd Nationals in1950 to the 65th Nationals in 2012 the Australian National Championships were allocated by the MAAA to the states by roster, with the relevant State Association responsible for running the event. From five events in 1938 the number of events has increased to over eighty and has outgrown the administrative capacity of the State Associations.

Written by John Lamont
With acknowledgements to: Jim Fullarton - for his assistance and access to his modeling records.
Ken Burke - for permission to use extracts from his book “Politics and Personalities in Australian Aeromodelling”.
This article was originally posted in the MODEL AERONAUTICAL ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA INC. NEWSLETTER 05 /2012

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