1. Introduction

1.1     SMAE and the BMFA

Welcome to the British Model Flying Association (BMFA) which, as the Society of Model Aeronautical Engineers (SMAE), was established in 1922 as the national body for model flying.

It is a non-profit making association of model flying clubs and individuals who agree to join together and pool resources for the benefit of all. In almost a century of existence it has built up a fund of knowledge, experience and has accumulated benefits for its members which add up to an unbeatable membership package for you.

The SMAE’s recognition by the Royal Aero Club dates from 1922, but its roots can be traced back to 1909, the year in which the Kite Flying Association was formed.  Its name was changed to the Kite and Model Aircraft Association shortly thereafter and in 1921 it was replaced by the London Aeromodellers’ Association which a year later became the Society of Model Aeronautical Engineers (SMAE).  Many British aviation pioneers have been members, including Sir Frank Whittle, Sir Thomas Sopwith and Sir Alliot Verdon Roe founder of Avro.

Since 1948 the SMAE has been a Company Limited by Guarantee as are most of sport’s governing bodies in the UK.  In 1987 the Annual General Meeting of the SMAE voted to adopt a working title, the British Model Flying Association (BMFA).  The SMAE still exists as the parent body and its title is still used on all legal documents and for many functions of the Society.

Although both titles may be used throughout this handbook where appropriate, member clubs and individuals should use the BMFA title.  The colours of the SMAE are silver and blue and those of the BMFA are red, white and blue.

Much of the BMFA’s time and resources are taken up in working with government bodies, local authorities and other organisations in order to safeguard your model flying interests.  The BMFA also spends much time promoting and encouraging all facets of model flying.

Please read this booklet carefully and familiarise yourself with its contents as it will help you gain the maximum benefits from your membership of the Association.

1.2      Organisation

The BMFA is controlled by its Annual General Meeting and is administered by a Board of Directors, a Technical Council, an Areas Council (details in Section 25 of this Handbook), and Area and Technical Committees (see Section 1.4)

Much of the BMFA’s work is undertaken by a huge network of volunteers supported by a small full-time staff including the Chief Executive, Development Officer, Club Support Officer, and other support staff to further the running of the Association. The staff are available to answer your queries or put you in touch directly with BMFA Officers if necessary.

1.3      Objectives

The following are the main objectives of the BMFA and many of them stem from the original SMAE’s 1948 Memorandum of Association and still apply today.

  • The promotion, protection, organisation and encouragement of model aircraft building, flying and development in all its aspects in the United Kingdom, through the medium of clubs and individual members; assistance and guidance to model aircraft clubs or individuals; collaboration between members of the Society; and co-operation on behalf of members with the Civil Aviation Authority or other government departments and any other bodies and organisations in the United Kingdom and overseas.
  • To produce collect and distribute information in connection with model aircraft or the model aircraft movement on such terms as the Council shall think fit.
  • To encourage and support research in model aircraft design, theory and construction.
  • To control and record model aircraft performance within the areas under the jurisdiction of the Royal Aero Club.
  • To act as promoters of National and International model aircraft meetings, contests and exhibitions; as publishers, stationers and booksellers, general traders, dealers, agents and manufacturers, both wholesale and retail, of any articles of any description which may assist the development of model aviation.
  • To establish and support, financially or otherwise, or aid in the establishment and support of any educational scheme or establishment with benefit to the model aircraft movement.

                            Our motto is:               “UNITED WE ACHIEVE”

1.4      BMFA Areas

The country is divided into fourteen geographic Areas plus the Royal Air Force Model Aircraft Association (RAFMAA) who also act as an Area.  Every BMFA affiliated club in an Area is automatically a member of their Area Committee and the officers of the Area Committee are elected from the club delegates who attend the Area meetings.  One of these officers will be the Area's Delegate to the BMFA's Areas Council.

It is through the Area structure that clubs are able to put forward and to debate suggested changes to the way the BMFA functions and to instruct their delegate on how to vote at Areas Council meetings.  The delegate also reports back to Areas on the happenings at Areas Council meetings.

Individual BMFA members do not have a vote at meetings.  If you are not a club member you do not have representation at Area meetings and therefore no representation at Areas Council meetings.  You are therefore advised to join a club.

At any Area meeting your representative can hear the viewpoint of the elected Area officers and the representatives of other clubs as well as expressing your own club's opinion.

Each Area sends a delegate to attend the Areas Council which has direct responsibility for many vital aspects of BMFA operations including the Achievement Scheme (see Section 22 of this Handbook).  Four delegates from Areas Council serve as non-executive directors on the Board.

If your club is not making its presence felt at Area level, why don’t you consider becoming its representative?  Details of Area Meetings can be obtained from the BMFA Office.

1.5      Relations with the General Public.

It is important to remember that although our chosen sport is one of the larger of the minority sporting activities, we are still vulnerable to the negative aspects of public opinion.

The BMFA spends considerable time and effort creating the best possible public impression of model flying but all this work can easily be wasted if you fly in a thoughtless manner. Your enjoyment of model flying, now and in the future, depends on developing and displaying a highly conscious ‘safety first’ attitude towards your equipment and the flying site you use. The best publicity the sport can receive is through your actions and your responsible and safe attitude to flying at all times.

There is no place in model flying for those who do not consider other people's safety; nor is there a place for those who are inconsiderate about noise. One person’s thoughtless actions can jeopardise the enjoyment and pleasure of those many others who adopt a responsible approach. Considerate and careful model flying must always be our aim.

Clubs and members enjoy the benefits of flying from many varied sites throughout the UK. Everyone should remember that it is a common courtesy to make sure that they have the landowner’s permission before flying on any site.

Wherever and whatever you fly, BMFA expertise can help you liaise and negotiate with local councils, government agencies and other public and private landowners so that you can have the best and safest possible model flying facilities.

1.6      The Contest Scene.

The BMFA organises numerous contests at venues all over Britain, covering all the varied disciplines of the sport from indoor flying through thermal soaring to large radio controlled scale models. Details of forthcoming competitions and events are published on the BMFA’s website, in its own publications and in the commercial model flying press.

Newcomers to contests are always welcome and should not be afraid to participate. There is no doubt that competition will improve your skills, and even the experts can be beaten. Taking part in competitive events can add a great deal of enjoyment to model flying and it will also give you the opportunity to see some of the country's best models and flyers in action.

Contest organisation is the responsibility of the Technical sub-committees of the BMFA and updated rules for the various classes are published annually.  Section 26 lists the range of competition classes and the details can also be found on the BMFA Contests website (https://contests.bmfa.uk).

1.7      National and International Status

The BMFA is the body delegated by the Royal Aero Club to be responsible for all aspects of model flying in the UK.

Model flying is recognised by Sport England as an official sport. The BMFA is also recognised as the sole representative organisation for the sport in the UK by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), the world governing body for all forms of sporting aviation including model flying.  The FAI has numerous international committees relating to its various disciplines and the Commission Internationale d’Aeromodelisme (CIAM) is the committee responsible for our sport of model flying.  The BMFA is represented each year at the annual plenary meeting of CIAM by a small team of specialists who are delegated to speak for the UK.

The SMAE pioneered the present world programme of model flying and as a result is the holder of an Honorary Group Diploma of the FAI, an honour given to those who have contributed greatly to the progress of aviation.

The BMFA was also a founding member of the European Model Flying Union (EMFU), bringing together model flyers from throughout Europe to ensure that their collective interests are represented when new international regulations are being developed.

The benefits of our FAI and EMFU memberships are two-way, since we can learn much from the way the problems of model flyers are tackled by other countries, as well as giving them the benefit of our own experience.

The BMFA is empowered by the FAI to issue international sporting licences to individuals and this document is essential for anyone competing abroad or in any FAI international event. They are available at reasonable cost on request from the BMFA office.

1.8      The Outreach Initiative

The BMFA is extremely concerned about the lack of exposure of school children to model flying. Increasing competition from other activities and the lure of the computer game has led to a situation where very few children have had the opportunity to fly a model.

The long-term future of model flying in the UK may well depend on positive action being taken to counter this trend. Therefore, the BMFA has produced a package that has been designed to integrate into National Curriculum Design and Technology courses and which enables any teacher or youth leader of to make use of a structured course as an introduction to aviation subjects. The practical side of this course uses easy-to-build model aircraft as demonstration tools.  The BMFA Rookie (https://shop.bmfa.org/product/bmfa-centenary-rookie) is a new addition to the BMFA’s range of aircraft and can even be used to participate in international competition through the FAI. For younger flyers we also offer a durable ‘Foamie Glider’ (https://shop.bmfa.org/product/bmfa-foamie-glider).

The scheme is not aimed at recruiting junior members but rather to give children who may never have even held a model aircraft the thrill of that first successful flight that we all remember.

The BMFA Outreach Director and the Education Working Group co-ordinate the efforts of all who wish to be involved in this vital work. If you think you can help or you would like details of the package for your school, please contact the BMFA office for details. For those schools with existing model aircraft clubs or those who are considering setting up such an activity, the BMFA Youth Group Scheme will prove to be invaluable; see the section on BMFA Membership for details.

1.9      Codes of Practice and Achievement Schemes

The BMFA, as the national body for model flying, gives the best advice it can to all model flyers and other interested parties, not only on specific flying matters but also other legal responsibilities that members might encounter.  It has gathered a great deal of experience in such matters and this is freely available to anyone who requires it.

In some cases, it has published Codes of Practice on specific subjects and details of these are included in this Handbook where appropriate and are available for download from the website at www.bmfa.org.

For instance, as a practical means of improving radio control model flying standards, the Radio Control Achievement Scheme provides national standards and tests at various levels, across a wide range of disciplines., including power fixed wing, helicopter, multi-rotor, camera drones and silent flight thermal, slope and electric. Further details can be found in section 17, later in this handbook, and on the BMFA Achievement Scheme web site (https://achievements.bmfa.uk).

1.10    Contests and Records.

The BMFA provides and maintains Individual contest rules for all the model aircraft disciplines, including Indoor and Outdoor Free Flight, Control Line, R/C Power, Scale, Silent Flight, Electroflight and Rocketry.  International Class rules (the ‘F’ classes) are not included as such although the national variations to these rules are included. Copies of these various sets of rules are available from the Leicester Office or as downloads from https://contests.bmfa.uk/ for the BMFA classes or www.fai.org/ciam-documents for the international ‘F’ classes.

The BMFA is also responsible for documenting and overseeing all model flying records set in the UK, whether they are National or World Records. There are over 80 categories of FAI World Records plus many more categories of British National Records, both contest and non-contest.

Two booklets are available free of charge from the Leicester office or as downloads from https://contests.bmfa.uk/.  The first (No 2A) is the rule book and is required reading for anyone considering making a record attempt and the second (2B) is a full list of the current British records and record holders. A list of the current World records is also available.

If you are serious about wanting to set a record then a chat with the BMFA’s Records Officer is essential.


BMFA Handbook Online