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Model citizen is flying the flag for Britain with his passion for planes

PUBLISHED: 11:24 16 October 2014 | UPDATED: 11:24 16 October 2014

Michael Woodhouse flies his model aircraft at international competitions. He has been competing since 1967. Photo: Bill Smith

Michael Woodhouse flies his model aircraft at international competitions. He has been competing since 1967. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant

Boasting some of the features of a Russian hand grenade and costing around £1,500 each, they are more than just toys.

For model planes are a lifetime passion for Michael Woodhouse, who picked up the hobby as a City of Norwich School pupil and never let go.

As soon as he was earning money as an accountant, the Eaton man took his flying to the next level.

Now 72-years-old, he is the longest serving member of the Great Britain free flight duration model team – and will fly the flag for his country in the world championships in Mongolia next year.

The grandfather, of Marston Lane, makes carbon fibre planes powered by giant rubber bands, and the aim is to make them stay in the air for as long as possible.

Remote controls are forbidden, with electronics on the aircraft, which has a 1.8-metre wing span, steering it in a giant circle.

The parts used to make the planes cannot be found in normal shops, so Mr Woodhouse has them produced for him in Poland and he runs his own online shop called Free Flight Supplies to sell the extras that he does not need.

One part, to move the rudder at timed intervals, shares technology with the trigger mechanism for a Russian grenade, Mr Woodhouse said.

He conducts most of his practice flights at Sculthorpe, near Fakenham, but said it is a challenge to hone his skills. “Our biggest headache in this country is the weather and finding the space and place to do it,” he explained.

In the world championships, teams of three from each country will complete seven flights each with the highest combined flight duration winning.

Mr Woodhouse took part in his first tournament in 1967, and wants to continue until 2017 – to make his half century.

It can be a dangerous hobby, as Mr Woodhouse has broken bones while rushing to launch his next plane, fallen over when elastic bands have snapped and seen £1,500 disappear –after forgetting the battery for a tracking device.

Do you have an unusual hobby? Email samuel.russell@archant.co.uk

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