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Bidding to fly model glider to Euro glory
WHEN Simon Jones was flying model aeroplanes as a child, little did he know that one day he would represent Great Britain.
But 40 years later, the Grove man is one of only two people picked to represent Team GB at the remote control glider European championships.
The international competition, taking place in France this week, sees 50 pilots from 18 countries battle to see who can keep their aircraft aloft the longest.
Two weeks before he was due to compete, Mr Jones needed help from a youngster to retrieve his hi-tech radio-controlled aircraft from a 70ft tree.
He said: “You do have the occasional accidents.
“With these type of gliders one of the occupational hazards is getting stuck in trees.”
He said he often had to climb trees up to 80ft tall to shake out the mini planes – which are worth more than £500.
The model aircraft can reach heights of 2,000ft.
The 47-year-old said: “I have not lost one. I have had to spend time searching for one, but most people have.”
The lightweight planes, which weigh less than 300g, are launched by hand.
The pilot then has to use their skill to keep the plane in flight for as long as possible.
Father-of-three Mr Jones, who is a member of the 60-strong White Horse Model Club, said: “You can fly these things a long, long way.
“They can become a speck in the distance.”
But he added: “There is the athletic side to it where you need to have a good launch technique and be strong.
“There is also the skill of finding thermals to make your flight times longer.
“You have to be able to ride the air.
“It can come down to seconds.”
Mr Jones, a manager at MacDermid Autotype in Wantage, has flown model aircraft since he was eight after his father introduced him to the hobby. He has about 12 model planes and practices at the club site beside the Ridgeway near Sparsholt.
This week Mr Jones is taking part in 14 different rounds over four days in the Chambrey region near the Swiss border.
The winner will be decided in a fly-off with the top pilots.
Mr Jones told of his pride at being chosen to represent Great Britain following the success of the Olympics.
He said: “It is the first time I have been to an international competition.
“It feels really good and I think with the Olympics we are on a roll at the moment. We really have that Olympic enthusiasm.”
He added: “The selection process is intense and is based on performance at UK and international events the previous year, so I was thrilled to be chosen as part of the GB team.”