A Short History of Model Airplane in Hong Kong and
Hong Kong Model Engineering Club Limited
To the right: Mr. Siu Chuen at the HKMEC flying field during the construction of the main runway
The history of model airplane development in Hong Kong is rather vague and I could only give a brief account, based on my memory. I would be pleased if any reader could provide feed back with more information to make this article more interesting.
I remember that, while I was a kid, I attended a model airplane flying session at Kowloon Tong before the Second World War in 1940/41. It was held at a vast leveled site east of Waterloo Road where there was no development. It was rubber power or gas model free flight. I felt at awe with strong admiration in watching those big boys in preparing their lovely balsa model covered with paper tissue. It was hand launched and it took to the sky, climbing in circle until it ran out of fuel or rubber power. It then gently glided back to earth. I feel so proud of them. It was my strong admiration that they were the greatest men on earth.
Time flies and my second encounter with the hobby happened in 1952. It was a contest organized by Pan American Airline (PAA). It could be called “the PAA load competition” whereby contestants built a free flight powered model with engine capacity not exceeding 0.05 cubic inch. The plane carried a load of 1 or 2 oz. weight and a fix amount of fuel. It was hand launch for take-off. The one stayed longest in the air will be the champion. I recalled that Andrew Wong (an old timer still active in flying RC electric in U.S.) was the Champion. My team headed by Billy CHUNG Cho-Yiu came second. The contest was held in Shatin. Unfortunately PAA did not host any further contest after 1952, perhaps there were not enough participants.
With the availability of radio control gear, RC model became a new sport in late 50’s and the Hong Kong Model Engineering Club was established around that time. They secured a flying site at Shatin, at the British military airfield by the Shing Mun River. Andrew Wong was the Club’s secretary. The site was later surrendered to government for development of Shatin New Town. Our Club moved to Shek Kong military airfield. I became a full member in 1966. We have more than 10 active members. Such a small group of enthusiasts became close friends. In November 6, 1969, our Club formally registered with Hong Kong Government and the name was changed to Hong Kong Model Engineering Club Limited. There were seven founding members and I am one of the surviving members. In early 70’s, a private airplane intruded into our flying field at Shek Kong and one of our hot-blooded member flew his RC plane near to the real one, with a view to scare him off. The end result was that Crown Agent of the British Government took back the site from us, despite repeated appeals made by our club.
Soon afterwards, our club managed to secure a new flying site, a football field at the FUNG KAI Middle School in Sheung Shui. We have a wonderful time there for more than a year until the same hot-blood member had a heated argument with the nearby farmer over compensation of damage caused by model airplane crash. Again, under pressure from the farmer, the School authority has no option but politely kicked us out!
Well, we ended up flying at various undeveloped sites at New Territories such as Kau Wah King, Tai Po etc. for a year or so before we secured a new site near Lau Fau Shan in 1975. It was a patty field owned by two local landlords. The lease covered ten year at HK$2000 per year. Members clubbed together around $300,000 and built a runway of 350 feet by 60 feet. It was built with 4” chunam paving (a weak material comprising of cement and, soil). We have a rain shelter of 30’ by 15’, and a small store house of 6’ by 6’. The site was far from ideal with many site obstructions whilst many modellers still preferred to stay at our flying site. Time flies and the landlord increase the rent to something more than $10,000 per year and more. Meanwhile our club suffered damage by vandalisium twice. In 1996 the landlord demanded further hefty rental increase. It was beyond our financial means and the site was given up.
In 1992/3, the committee decided to search for a new site as it was aware that the LAU FAU SHAN site may not last very long. Somehow we found a new site at Sheung Shiu, a government flood pond which activates only at heavy rain. The site measured 1000’ long by 300’ wide. It was 10 feet below the surrounding area. There was no development nearby except that village houses will be built in the near future. Member enjoyed flying there until 1998 when new village houses were built. Residents complaint to the village head on nuisance caused by us and we were advised to stop flying for safety reason. It was a painful decision that the club have to terminate our activity indefinitely in order to maintain good relation with the villages and government.
The committee then decided that we must look for a permanent home as we have been chased out of our last FIVE flying sites from 70’s to 1998! Serious site search began in late 1998 and eventually a site at Tai Tong East Borrow area, Yuen Long South was secured in late 2003.