Flying sport with tourism potential


Gliding nicely: A pilot controlling his model sailplane, which relies on wind and temperature to fly, during the Malaysia-Singapore F3K event in Tanjung Senibong, Johor. — THOMAS YONG/The Star

MORE than 60 participants from Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand congregated at an open field along the Johor Straits to show off their skill in flying radio-controlled model sailplanes.

For the first time since its inception more than five years ago, the Malaysia-Singapore F3K event involving radio-controlled model sailplanes (also known as RC sailplanes or F3K) took flight in Tanjung Senibong near Pasir Gudang, Johor.

The two-day competition, on March 18 and 19, was jointly organised by Aerofly Johor RC Club, Malaysian Aeromodelers Club and Soaring Association of Singapore.

The event is an international contest for F3K planes, which are launched using a discus launch pad.

RC model plane enthusiasts admiring a model helicopter on display at the grounds of the Malaysia-Singapore F3K event.RC model plane enthusiasts admiring a model helicopter on display at the grounds of the Malaysia-Singapore F3K event.

Aerofly Johor RC Club president Keliwan Misran said it was the first time that such a competition had taken place in Malaysia.

“It is a great honour for the club that Johor has been chosen as a venue for the F3K event.

“The tournament had been held in Singapore, Thailand and Australia.

“We received a good number of participants or pilots for this year’s competition, including 25 people from Thailand comprising mostly students,” he told StarMetro.

Keliwan said hosting the competition in Malaysia would not only attract local RC sailplane hobbyists to participate, it would also boost tourism.

A demonstration involving a radio-controlled model plane at the Malaysia-Singapore F3K event in Tanjung Senibong near Pasir Gudang. ― THOMAS YONG/The StarA demonstration involving a radio-controlled model plane at the Malaysia-Singapore F3K event in Tanjung Senibong near Pasir Gudang. ― THOMAS YONG/The Star

He said the sport of flying RC aircrafts was still growing in Malaysia and that F3K models were unlike model planes.

RC sailplanes, he said, were not to be confused with petrol-powered model planes.

“The F3K is a sailplane. It it does not have a propeller or even an engine but relies heavily on wind and temperature or thermal current to fly.

“Batteries are used too but only for the remote control device,” he said.

Keliwan said the F3K model was vastly different from cheaper sailplane models that were made of foam and cost around RM300.

A radio-control model helicopter takes flight at the open space in Tanjung Senibong along the Johor Straits.A radio-control model helicopter takes flight at the open space in Tanjung Senibong along the Johor Straits.

He said the price for F3K RC sailplanes was more than RM5,000 because they were either made from carbon fibre, kevlar or balsa.

“The pricier RC sailplanes are either from US, UK or Europe. The ones used in the competition were imported from China or Russia due to their affordability,” he added.

“The hotter and windier the day is, the higher the F3K travels up in the sky,” said Keliwan.

He said the pilots at the competition were judged on several tasks assigned to them including the launching, flying and landing of an RC sailplane within a specified time.

According to him, three more similar events would be held this year.

A participant doing the discus launch to release the F3K sailplane at the Malaysia-Singapore F3K competition. — Photo courtesy of Aerofly Johor RC ClubA participant doing the discus launch to release the F3K sailplane at the Malaysia-Singapore F3K competition. — Photo courtesy of Aerofly Johor RC Club

“One event, taking place in September is on Tourism Johor’s calendar of events.

“It will welcome participants from many countries including Singapore and Indonesia.

“We are hoping that the government continues to support us.

“In Thailand, the sport is huge as the pilots receive government support and there are even workshops to attract more people, including youths to take up the sport,” he said, adding that the Aerofly Johor RC Club has 150 members.

The competition was launched by Johor TNB general manager Datuk Md Noh Md Seth.

He said that he, too, was an enthusiast of the sport. He started flying an RC helicopter in 2008.

“Then I got to know others who shared the same interest and we began flying RC planes and helicopters in Johor Baru.

“However, I stopped playing the sport when I was transferred to Kuala Lumpur.

“Two years ago, I was posted back to Johor and have been flying RC planes ever since. It is an exciting sport and gives great satisfaction,” he said.

Md Noh said that despite his years of experience flying model planes, he had never tried flying F3K models until recently.

“The F3K has no engine, meaning it does not need petrol like other model planes which burn fuel when flying.

“People should be encouraged to take up this kind of environmental-friendly sport as it helps protect the environment,” he said.

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