The regional reps and contact details :

DeRenzy for Tauranga / Waikato / Hawkes Bay
Allan Knox for Blenheim & North SI 
Peter Hewson for Central SI 
Alex Taylor for Southern SI

Omarama Aero Tow - April 2016

Blenheim Aero Tow
- January 2016

Blenheim Aero Tow - 24th / 25th Jan 2015

Blenheim’s location is unique for an Aero Tow meeting. It is central enough to attract both North and South Island Scale Glider fliers. For the guys like Colin and Woo it is just a Ferry ride then a ½ drive to Blenheim here in the arid sun baked Wairau valley. This year we were back up the Waihopai just outside the air traffic control zone with a 1500 foot Notam in place. You can never take the weather for granted of course but leading up to the weekend it was looking very good across the whole country and we were blessed with 3 glorious hot bright blue sky days.

Off course, being Blenheim, we actually kicked off Friday afternoon up on the slopes of Meadow Bank Station. We had fun chasing the lift marked by large high flocks of seagulls. Neal Blackie showed just how efficient his old 5 meter ASW 28 / 29 really is and revelled in the conditions routinely burning up energy with fast runs and big aeros.

Saturday morning, as I rolled into the paddock, I was impressed by the number of cars, motor homes and big glider trailers. 22 Fliers registered and most had multiple models, many of them very large and impressive. Ross Biggar had come all the way from Auckland’s North Shore with a trailer full of big beautiful models. The big “up and go” glass machines were impressive but his 43% Ka6 was my favourite. Perhaps the most impressive performers though were Dave Griffins GPS racing ASH 31 and Colin Taylor’s ASH 26. Dave posted the longest flight at 1 hour 35 minutes and got a bottle of wine for his (and his friends) efforts. Colin may have been up even longer on day 2 but didn’t have the clock running. His ASH is scratch built but you would be excused for thinking it was an expensive moulded European so good is the fit and finish. Woo (Chris Norris) turned up with 3 big scratch built machines, his JS1, a Ventus and the gentle giant Grob 103 two seater.

Perhaps the most interesting and innovative model was Graeme Phipps’ (Mintie on RC Groups) 4 meter Slingsby T31. Have a look at his build log on This was its maiden flight and not all went to plan but it flew. Some minor mods in the wing attach area will see it flying well I’m sure. Graeme and Sand filled in the days flying a really nice little Fournier, again scratch built.

We had a contingent over from Nelson. Graeme Smithson, Sam Laidlaw, Phil Jordon and Murray Irvin showed us all that you don’t need big expensive models to enjoy aero tow. Phil’s little 2 meter ASW15 went great behind an electric 1.4 meter 185 Cessna. I saw the little ASW thermalling away well too in the strong Sunday afternoon lift. Sam’s little ASW28 looked great climbing out vertically behind Andrew Palmer’s big Pawnee tug.

We had 7 tugs on the field. As usual though the big ones were used most because you can hook anything on behind them. Andrew did the most work this time with his big DA 120cc powered Pawnee, but Peter Hewson and Scott Chisholm did a lot of tows too. From time to time smaller gliders were dragged aloft by Peter Deacon’s Morrissey Bravo, Carl McMillan’s Big Stick, and Graham Smithson’s low wing Big Stick complete with machine gun. We all owe our tug pilots a big vote of thanks. Usually Alex Taylor does the bulk of our towing but this time he enjoyed his gliders so could leave the trailer at home and fit everything into his super-efficient Peugeot Diesel. Just $55 worth of Diesel to get all the way from Gore in the deep south to Blenheim. Alex again got a bottle of wine for the furthest travelled.

An interesting new trend at this meeting was the appearance of in the nose electric launch systems like we use on ordinary electric gliders. Both Woo and Alex had set ups like this in big scale gliders. Woo broke his but Alex demonstrated his by launching a number of flights this way. Prop clearance can be an issue but it is a whole lot cheaper and easier than an “up and go” and it doesn’t cause a nose over at the start of the run like the high thrust line alternative. Watch this space I reckon. Full size use these too these days. They are called F.E.S. (Flight Electric Sustainer?) Check Woo’s post on this at


It wasn’t all scale though. Rex Ashwell from the host club flew his ex-Ian Harvey, John Ensoll built, Prima with a tow release fitted for the first time. Rex made it look easy. Many of us flew Primas back in the late 90s and it was great to see one in the air again. Ian Harvey (RV) turned up with his ARF ASK 21. It has a modest span at 4 meters has plenty of cord and area. Ian had some good thermal flights. I think the ASK21 is about $800 and represents a great largish entry model for Aero tow although some mods are needed to sort the structure and elevator control.

Speaking of plenty of cord, the Palmers flew a Red Bull Blahnic. Andrew really gave energetic aerobatic displays which had you wondering if it had its own power plant. Great fun and it was even seen thermalling high on Sunday, probably 1500 feet.

Electrics mix well with Aero Tow and provide extra models in the sky marking lift. RV and I had our converted Onyxs, Scott Chisholm brought his converted Pike Perfect while our club President, and Ken McMillan had the other Pike, a Superior this time. Peter France came all the way from Chistchurch to fly is big floaty see through Avalon. There was even an ALES 200 contest for those who were keen. Scott took out the wine for this one.

The Chisholm’s turned out as a family, Kids, wives and all. It is great to have Scott’s Dad Paul back in NZ and keen to get on and build big scale gliders. Paul is a fine modeller and I look forward to seeing his fist big built up model. A Ka 6 I think from an Australian plan and laser cut parts.

Both Peter Graham and I got to play with the Telemetry on our new Taranus radios. The young lady who lives in these could be heard chatting away whenever we flew. She speaks at least 10 different languages and keeps us up to date on height, time, battery condition and receiver signal strength and, at the flick of a switch, you can shut her up or turn her into a vario signal. Very handy. I really enjoyed the extra feedback when flying my SHK out to the limits. On number of occasions she said RSSI (Receiver Signal Strength) low when I was way out at the limit of my visibility. It was definitely time to head back up wind for another thermal.

Thermals where definitely better on Sunday. Saturday was really quite tough I thought although Dave Griffin did his 1 hour 35 minutes on Saturday. I know I never got close.

Overall though it was a special event, made particularly so by the people involved. We whiled away Saturday evening outside at the Argosy Café over fine food and the odd beverage. Scott’s kids even got to waggle the controls of the full size Argosy cargo aircraft parked in the restaurant grounds. I kept seeing the aileron servo tabs flapping away, clearly the Chisholms have two more budding pilots coming along.

Finally, thanks to local clubs, BMAC and MAMs, for hosting and to Ross and Fiona Chapman, our land owners for having us again even though it would have been easy to say no with the extreme fire risk.

See you all in 6 months’ time at the Marlborough Mid-Winter Aero Tow.

Allan Knox

More pics on the Aerotow NZ Facebook page:

More pics on the Aerotow NZ Facebook page:


Dave Griffin's Let Model ASH 31 7M Sailplane at Waimate Aerotow.


ASH 31 first flight
Filming of the test flight of this magnificent 7.2m sailplane was made possible by cameras on the ground, on the tail and wingtip of the model and on a mini quadcopter. Flown at CMAC field near Christchurch, NZ. Thanks to Dave Griffin, Andrew Palmer, Alex Hewson.

GPS Triangle Race - Southern Germany
Scott, Andrew, Rob and I were fortunate to have the time before the F3J Worlds to visit a GPS Tri Angle Race Event in Southern Germany. This video is a compilation of the footage I shot.  It is not a work of art and will mainly appeal to RC Soaring enthusiasts.  I will share a link to some photos from the event separately.  The footage of the RC Electronics display is poor, but I figure you can see enough, along with the commentary it tells the story .  Suggest you crank up the Res to 720p.

Invitational events at Blenheim

The invitational aerotow event in July 2013 at the ARA field was organised by the Blenheim MAC and featured 21 pilots from all round NZ (Auckland to Gore). Several tugs were kept busy, including a 1/3 scale Wilga (160cc powered), 1/3 scale Pawnee, Big Stick, 1.8m Beaver and even a small electric fun cub. Sailplanes were also many and varied, including a 7m ASH 31, 6m Antares, 6m Arcus, Ka8, Ka6, Discus 2C, various 2 and 3 m gliders and a beautiful 3.6m vintage Zogling. It is intended to have 2 invitational events at Blenheim per year, 2 in Christchurch and ones in Gore and Timaru in the South Island. 



Aerotow 1, Weather 1

An even score between the inclement weather and some persistent modellers was a fair result at the Christchurch Aerotow event at the Radio Fliers site in May. Modellers came from Gore, Dunedin and Blenheim as well as a good contingent of locals. There were 23 fliers signed up to make it, but the final score was reduced to 18 due mainly to some dismal forecasts.  A healthy turn out, nevertheless.

Those present were able to enjoy some good flying in the somewhat challenging S.E. and overcast conditions. Alec Taylor with his 1/3 scale Wilga and Alex Hewson with his father’s Pilatus Porter did most of the towing. The cloud ceiling limited the gliders to about 250m, but a range of models took to the air. Jonathan Gardener with his large vintage Minimoa spent a lot of time in the air. Peter Deacon tried his hand with several gliders as he wasn’t required to do towing duties for once, and Jack Coker had an impressive  Sperber on tow. Neal Blackie had his 5m ASK in the skies and Dave Griffin was flying several models during the day as well. Paul Hartley proved that his electric Twin Otter was more than capable as a tug before he had to leave early, and Reg Williams had a growing collection of gliders on show. Greg Clarkson had come from Waimate and showed his skill in this area of gliding as well as flying in the competition classes around the South Island.

The unfortunate combination of wet weather and fresh sheep manure made for an unpleasant mixture on the underside of wings and fuselages and the big Wilga looked like it had adopted another colour scheme by the end of the day. Alec Taylor was philosophical, however. A number of spectators came to have a look at the aerotow and were impressed. Although Sunday was washed out, the consensus was that we all had a great time and enjoyed each others company.


Aero Tow Invitational Meeting. Blenheim 26
th and 27th January

The first National Invitational Aero Tow meeting of the year went off brilliantly. Marlborough turned on beautiful weather both days, just a gentle north easterly and temperatures around the mid 20s. The Blenheim Model Aero Club’s (BMAC) flying site in the picturesque Ara Vineyard was nicely prepared and is famous for great thermal lift year round. So it proved to be.

Seventeen pilots turned up on Saturday morning, all keen to get into it. Graham and Ken Rose and Ross Brinsley had made it down from Hawkes Bay with Bill Derenzy all the way from Tauranga. From Wellington, we had Woo (AKA Chris Norris) and family and Colin Taylor with Co-Pilot Max. A great effort Guys, thanks for coming and bring all those big composite beauties like an ASH 25 and 26, JS1s and Discus well as more conventionally built Ka 8 and even a Fournier motor glider.

Mr southern aero tow, Peter Hewson, turned up from Christchurch as well as Neal Blackie. Neal lost his fine 5 meter ASW 28 in cloud on Banks Peninsula recently but Pete leant him his DG300 to fly. Graham and Marlene Smithson came over from Nelson. Graham like the rest of us at Top of the South, is just getting into Aero Tow but he turned up with a very capable Beaver tug and a Fly Fly DG808. Locally we had Carl McMillan with his 55cc Big Stick which is the main stay of our local aero towing and Pete Deacon with his very authentic looking Piper Pawnee which is great for the smaller models. The main stay of the Tug fleet over the two days was Peter Hewson’s impressive Pilatus Porter though, always impressive for its power and efficiency.

Many of our locals turned up with electric sailplane, DHLGs, aero towed thermal soarers and I even had an electric vintage model. These all flew very compatibly with the big scale stuff.

Both days developed great lift, particularly up the valley toward the hills. Long flights became the order of the day and an informal contest developed for the longest flight with the winner taking home a bottle of Marlborough’s finest. (only costs $2.00 I’m told).

Not satisfied with the day, the visitors decided they wanted to go slope soaring in the late afternoon. By 5.00PM most of us were up on the hills of Meadow Bank station facing the gentle Easterly and with Blenheim and surrounding vineyards laid out before us. The lift was huge as the valley below gave up the day’s heat. Models were disappearing upward at great rate and I heard Colin say he had been flying with the brakes out for 20 minutes at one stage. Woo had fun doing high speed passes down into the valley seeing how low he could go with his smaller JS1. He would disappear down at great speed with the long scale wings flapping and flexing only to recover all his height instantly with a high speed pull-up into the strong lift. I personally had fun sloping my 80 inch Scram vintage model. I never needed to run the motor except to scare away a hawk that was shadowing it a little to close. I tried a loop and he ignored that but a brief burst of motor did the job.

We arranged an evening out at Dodson Street Bar and Restaurant, retired there about 7.00 PM and enjoyed a convivial evening of beer and German style food around the big refractory tables. (all for $2.00 a head I’m told).

Sunday started much slower but we were soon back into absolutely beautiful thermally conditions. By now everyone had sorted out their favourite thermal hunting grounds and the longest flights were recorded on this day. Colin came out on top with a fine 48 minutes flight for the scale stuff . I think he had an advantage though with Co-Pilot Max’s advice and a vario chatting away to him.   I managed 57 minutes in the non scale and electric category with my old Alchemist Thermal Soarer suitably adapted to aero tow. This is a great way to use no longer competitive competition soarers.

By mid afternoon we packed up to let the Christchurch guys get away but this provided and opportunity for our Northern visitors to visit the world class Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre and see what Weta Workshop have done with Peter Jackson’s WW1 aircraft and memorabilia. As many of you know, this is a wonderful museum and not to be missed.

You guessed it though, they still hadn’t had enough. We all finished the day back up on the ridges of Meadow Bank (our thanks go the Duncan Grigg for allowing access to this great soaring site). Graham managed to spin his little moulded slopey down into the valley and loose it. It was very late when he finally found it.

All an all a fantastic weekend of flying, endless lift and great company from friends new and old. I reckon I logged over 6 hours on the sticks and that would be typical of others.

BMAC were wonderful hosts as usual. Murray Herd did a great job feeding us off the BBQ ably assisted by Rex Ashwell and Guy Marfell (Marf) and others. Thanks so much guys and to your committee for their support, from all of us. Lots of members from both the locally clubs (MAMs and BMAC) dropped by for a look. I expect some of them will be there next time with models of their own.

Finally thanks to our hard working Tug pilots, Peter Hewson (Pilatus), Pete Deacon (Pawnee), Carl McMillan (Ugly Stick, sadly in need of a rebuild) and Graham Smithson (Beaver).




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