Hooked on flying small scale planes


Hooked on flying small scale planes

Hello Pilots!  JOMAC was fortunate enough to recently have been featured in the Dainfern Precinct Magazine (in fact we made the cover page!) The article below is a transcript of the actual article published in the 8th issue of 2019.

Take your pick – would you like to fly a light aircraft, soar above the fields with a glider, test your skills with a helicopter, impress the spectators with the speed of your jet, perform aerobatics – or do all of that and more?

Isn’t it strange how catching a commercial flight to go somewhere has become so stressful? It’s hectic getting through the traffic to the airport. Then there’s the check-in and standing in the queues to have your luggage and carry-on items scrutinised. Then you have to throw away the water that you brought with you to stay hydrated, queue to get on the plane, find a space to fit your bag or backpack in the overhead compartment and sit like a sardine waiting for take-off. It’s like being in a human-processing machine - everything is controlled.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could do the controlling? Well, you can and you don’t have to go far to do so, either. Join JOMAC (the Johannesburg Model Aircraft Club) and you can have a whole lot of fun flying and gliding Situated just south of Northern Farm, where the energetic go to do their more strenuous hobbies of mountain biking, off-road trail riding and horse riding, the JOMAC airfield commands great views of the countryside and offers excellent facilities that include a Lapa where they braai, toilet facilities, space for picnicking and, of course, space for parking your van or trailer (or both) alongside a work bench where you can tinker with your own pride and joy – your own model airplane.

Flying model aircraft is suitable for all ages, from 8 years to 90 years – boys, girls, men, women, grannies and grandpas - if you are interested in flying, you can do it! “Many of the enthusiasts who are longstanding members are pilots or retired pilots, so flying is in their blood. Then there are the varsity students who come along to test out their projects – but we would really like to see more children and teens engage in this hobby. It’s so much fun and any child who has done any kind of video gaming would love it,” says Bradley Davies, who is a member of the JOMAC Club committee.


There was a time when, to fly a model airplane, you had to build it from scratch. But nowadays, you can get ARF (almost ready to fly) and RTF (ready to fly) kits and there’s been a move away from fuel-powered planes to battery-powered planes that are much quieter - and the battery takes just 20 to 30 minutes to re-charge.

“As a hobby, flying model aircraft was always considered to be a very expensive recreational activity. But it has become much more affordable,” comments Howard Callaghan, one of the club’s longstanding members. “You could get started with a kit that costs just R1500, including the transmitter and equipment used to control the model aircraft, and progress from there. But we advise anyone wanting to start, to first come to the club and get advice from the experienced members in terms of what they should buy - rather than buying something first and discovering afterwards that it’s not really suitable.”


Whether you opt for a quieter, battery operated craft or the noisier fuel-powered  plane, fortunately, noise is not a problem at the JOMAC airfield. They’re at the northern extremity of Steyn City with the Northern Farm Self Help Co-op as their immediate neighbour. However, being relatively close to Lanseria Airport, they have a 122m/400ft height restriction, which is the international standard for flying model aircraft.

“We’re here with the blessing of the Civil Aviation Authority and Lanseria Air Traffic Control,” Howard explains. “We’re very aware of the need to comply with all the regulations. Drones are not allowed to fly at, or from, our airfield and, if we see a full-sized commercial or private plane flying in the vicinity of our field, we ground all our model aircraft until the plane is out of range again.


Originally operating on the northern side of the N14 highway, the club moved close to the Incubation Hub until housing developments started to spring up and they had to move to their new location, where they managed to secure a long lease from the City of Joburg. After clearing away dense bush on the 2ha site, they constructed their 200m long, 12m wide smooth asphalt runway which is capable of accommodating any type of model aircraft, including jets. Having been exceptionally frugal in past years, their finances also allowed them to build the Lapa and some of the work bays, as well as the ablution facilities. “Being out in the countryside, theft is a problem, so we try to make everything theft-proof, which is why the work benches are made from cement and we try to have everything fixed in place. As part of the long term development plan, over 50 trees and shrubs have been planted and much of the area has been grassed over. In additional to our asphalt runway, the plan is to have a grass one running parallel for the gliders.”


The club is currently running a membership drive and, for a limited time, their    R1 000 registration fee has been waived. Full annual membership for adults is    R1 500, for juniors under 18 and students, the membership is R620 per annum and, for seniors over 65 (on the 1st of January), the fee is R840 per annum. In addition, membership to SAMAA (the South African Model Aircraft Association) is mandatory – R430 per annum for adults, R240 for juniors under 18, and R280 for seniors over 60 – this includes insurance against accidents or incidents. It doesn’t matter when you join JOMAC, as the fee is calculated pro rata, so you can pretty much dive in and start straight away, whenever the flying bug bites you.


In October, look out for the annual intervarsity challenge that will be held at the JOMAC airfield. Aeronautical Engineering students from Pretoria University (Tuks) and University of Witwatersrand (Wits) have been very busy building their own model aircraft to compete in the high speed race. The challenge is to conceptualise, design and build a radio-controlled model aircraft that is capable of taking off under its own power and flying over a short course as fast as possible. “It’s fascinating to see some of their inventions,” says Jon Hancock, who now builds model aircraft full time. “Some fly and some don’t!” The event this year will take place on 20 October 2019, from 8.00 am, and visitors and members of the public are very welcome. In mid-November, they will also be having a Family Day and, every year in May, they hold a May Day which is normally very well supported.

The original article can be accessed via the following address:



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