Whangārei teen Nathan Walker is a model student - he’s also a model master after taking out the Junior and Open Senior titles at the Model Flying NZ National Championships.
The 16-year-old, a member of the Whangārei Model Aircraft Club, is flying high after winning the unprecedented double at last month’s championship, and now wants to get more young people into modelling.
Nathan said his aim going into the tournament, held in Carterton, was to continue the club’s proud run and become the latest national champion from the region, with the Junior Champion Modeller title being held by Whangārei Model Aircraft Club members for seven of the last 11 years.
But flying away with the Open Champion Modeller title - competing against some modellers with decades of experience - was a huge surprise and honour.
His love affair with model planes started when he was a young lad through his Dad Daniel’s involvement with the club and his modelling experience and expertise, but he didn’t take it seriously until more recently.
Nathan either constructs his creations from scratch or uses kit sets before adding his own features.
Throughout 2022 Nathan put in a great deal of effort, practicing most weekends and attending a number of regional meetings in places as far away as New Plymouth to prepare for his bid for national success.
After five days of competition at Carterton in a variety of event categories including speed, racing, aerobatics, combat, scale and duration in the disciplines of free flight, control line and vintage-style models, Nathan’s efforts were rewarded as he was named Junior Champion modeller and Junior Champion of Champions.
But before he could reflect on his achievements, he was also awarded the overall Open Champion of Champions. This was quite remarkable, and it’s believed to be the first time it has been achieved by a junior since the 1960′s.
“I find [making models] a lot of fun and I really enjoy doing it. It gives [me] a chance to get away from the schoolwork on the weekend. I just love the flying, and sense of freedom it gives,” Nathan said.
“I did quite a lot of flying last year to lead up to [the nationals], but before I got there, I had to build [his trophy-winning plane]. I enjoy the building part of it, and it’s quite satisfying seeing it take off and fly for the first time. I get a lot of satisfaction [from] knowing I built it and it flies.”
He also loves the discipline involved in making the model, testing it then taking it to a competition to see how it compares against others.
But, he says, anybody looking at getting into building model planes has to be prepared for their models to crash sometimes.
“It’s not always straight to the skies. Sometimes they crash and you have to be prepared for that, but the more you do it, the better you get. It can be disheartening when they crash, but keep going,” he said.
Nathan acknowledges he’s now got a target on his wings and everybody will be trying to take his titles off him when he defends them next year.
“I definitely want to defend them next year. I’ll just do what I did this year, but get better at each individual discipline, and hopefully I can have some success then.”
He enjoys making models so much he is devising a plan to get other youngsters involved.
“Watch this space. We’re working on something.”
Daniel said was proud of Nathan’s achievements and delighted he was carrying on the family tradition he started of making models.
“Nathan had been down [to the national champs] a couple of times previously with me, but hadn’t really shown much interest [in competing] until the last 12-18 months, so he’s only really been a serious modeller for 18 months or so,” Daniel said.
“We knew he had a good chance of [winning] the Junior title, but winning the Open was a big surprise; winning against people who had been doing it for decades - I’m sure there were a few eyebrows raised. It was just an exceptional effort, and we are all so proud of him.”
For people interested in getting into making models, Whangārei Model Aircraft Club is holding an event this weekend at the Portland Recreation Centre from 10am on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday will be aerobatic flying, and Sunday will be line grass flying.
For more details, go to: www.whangareimodelaircraftclub.com/.