When Roly Taumann and his wife were looking for a tree-change, Benalla was always top of their list.
After raising a family and running a business in a busy Melbourne suburb, Mr Taumann was looking for a relaxed life that allowed him to continue his passion - flying model aircraft.
“I was a member of the Gliding Club in the ‘80s, but that was BC - before children,” he said with a chuckle.
“So we knew the area well, and it is fantastic, we love it up here. We love Benalla.”
However, it was the town's proximity to the Wangaratta Aero Modellers Club that convinced Mr Taumann it was the place to retire.
“I've been modelling for about 55 years, and a lot of the members here I already knew,” he said.
“And if you’ve got a common interest you’ve got ready-made friends, so we fitted straight in.
“I was in a club in Melbourne, but it was totally different to this one, it was a much bigger club with about 250 members. I was a member of that club for 46 years.”
Mr Taumann, who is now 70, shows that the hobby is one that can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of their age.
Club secretary Geoff Mitchell said model aircraft flying was an activity that could be enjoyed by anyone who wanted to give it a go.
“Most of the members in our club are a bit older or retired,” Mr Mitchell said.
“However, if you speak with them you will find that most have been flying for a long time.
“And we do have younger people in our club, probably around 30 years old.
“But we enthusiastically encourage younger kids to give it a go.
“Roly comes from a club that had a few young fellows under nine years old.
“There’s a variety of planes that people could use when they're starting out.
“An affordable plane might cost about $200, then you have to buy yourself a transmitter, and they can be in the region of $600.
“There are a variety of other little bits and pieces like a battery charger that you will need.
“But you can get yourself going for under $800.
“However, the reality is if you are thinking of taking this up the best thing is to join a club.
“When you join a club you will find that most of the club members will have some older planes and commonly they will share them.
“And there is a market and you can exchange parts and do things a little cheaper.
“It’s a wonderful sport because there are many different styles of flying, and styles of construction, and you can cater for your interests as they change throughout your whole life.”
Mr Taumann, who brought along three different aircraft, said the dynamic nature of the hobby was one of the best parts of it.
“Every flight is unique,” he said.
“The weather conditions change and every model flies differently — and that’s what keeps you coming back.”
Watching the level of skill of the controller operators on display as models overhead perform loops, barrel rolls and a range of other manoeuvres, it seems like they are so good they never have a crash.
Mr Taumann however, in fits of laughter, confirmed this was certainly not the case.
“If a crash was going to put me off I would have quit 50 years ago,” he said.
“Most crashes you can repair the plane, but it depends on your skill level.
“That’s why I say aero-modelling is character-building, as there is no reset button.
“If something happens you go home and ask yourself: `Why did this happen? Was it my fault? Am I the one who caused it?’ Or, `What has caused it, and how do I prevent it in the future?'
“So it’s a learning curve all the time, and this is what makes the hobby interesting, at least for me.”
The three planes Mr Taumann had with him were an electric ducted fan plane — a model of a jet fighter; a high-wing Cessna 150; and a glider.
“The glider is a lot of fun, we need to have another pilot tow it up, which people in Benalla will be familiar with,” he said.
The sport was always developing and Mr Taumann said the main three changes in his time had been the development of electric engines, battery storage and technological advances of the transmitters.
“About 10 to 15 years ago when the electric motors first came in it was not great — they didn't fly well,” he said.
“But these days there is no difference.
“In fact probably the electric planes are a bit better performing.
“The radio gear is also much better.
“We used to be on 36 MHz and we’d have long aerials and then it went over to 2.4 GHz, which is the same as mobile phones use.
“So frequency clashes have disappeared as the transmitter automatically selects a band that is not occupied by another plane.”
Mr Taumann manages to go flying about twice a week and encourages others who join the club to do the same.
“I just love it and find it very, very interesting,” he said.
“You come up here, you forget everything you have been dealing with all week, all the hassles are gone.
“You're amongst same-minded people, it’s fantastic.
“You have a chin-wag and you solve 99 per cent of the world’s problems.
“And you make really good friends.”
● If you are interested in having a go at model aeroplane flying, you can phone Geoff Mitchell on 0407 489 185.
● For more information search Wangaratta aero modellers on Facebook.