Flight Club: James May sets records with a balsa plane

Dec 24, 2012 20 Comments by

James May of “Top Gear” fame has a series of shows called Toy Stories, and the latest edition features an RC plane that breaks a UK distance record! Here’s what the BBC has to say about the show, which you can watch in the video below.

“In this epic Toy Stories Christmas special, James gets to the heart of the nation’s childhood love affair with the model plane and sets out to achieve what seems an impossible dream: the first cross-channel flight ever achieved by an engineless, homemade supersized toy. If it survives the perilous 22 mile journey, James’s classic toy glider, lovingly built from over 1,000 pieces of balsa, will smash the British distance record.

James’s mission is dedicated to making the dream of flight come true for the generations of children who, like James himself, slaved for hours over balsa and glue only to see their fragile and much loved planes smash tragically on to the unyielding concrete of reality.

During his quest James turns Indiana Jones to unearth surprising new evidence that identifies children as the true pioneers of flight and wrestles with an underperforming glider that threatens to barely leave the ground. And what starts as a simple yet noble aim, takes James in many unexpected directions – to a mysterious and barely inhabited island, to helicopters lost in the fog and missing speedboats and what can only be described as the world’s first flying coffin for gliders.

Throughout James is beset by a series of dramatic problems requiring inspired solutions, near disaster and breakthrough which culminate in a thrilling and visually stunning last throw of the dice.

Underpinned throughout by James’s own infectious passion for flight, a passion he’s had since he first put glue to balsa as a ten year old, Flight Club is an epic journey into the unexpected.”


NEW James May’s Toy Stories Flight Club by MyJMPage

Debra Cleghorn, Featured News

About the author

Executive editor About me: I’m a publishing professional who has a passion for aviation and RC, and I love creating issues, books and a website that help RC pilots to enjoy this sport even more. I admire scale aircraft and enjoy the convenience of flying smaller electrics.

20 Responses to “Flight Club: James May sets records with a balsa plane”

  1. member22717 says:

    Thanks Deb for putting this on the MAN site. A great way to spend Boxing Day. Jim

  2. Frank Schwartz says:

    Who is the silly looking smirking twerp holding a cup of something or other…and who desperately needs a haircut..

  3. Newbeflyer says:

    WOW gee Whizzz isn’t that just brilliant!! Those Brits really know how to put on a good show. While us yanks decided to make a RC plane fly from the east coast of Canada and fly it all the over the pond to Britian just to see if we can do it, but really it was just to say hi via a rc plane. Good job for a glider

  4. Newbeflyer says:

    Love how he shows a heli and then simply walks away from it and shows another plane ……wonder what happened to the heli. Totally wrong and is not how to treat RC planes or helis as it could cause damage to poperty. Shows alittle resposibilitiy of how to fly RC planes and helis. Make me wonder just how quailfied he really is on RC and it’s responsibilities. Total disregard of safety is shown here. Hope he actually got a permit(Britian is very restrictive on where and when to fly RC planes) to even fly across the channel you don’t think for one moment that the French would like seeing a plane flying towards their country and not think it’s a threat to them (especially coming from Britian)LOL

  5. Newbeflyer says:

    First mistake it’s NOT a Piper Cub it’s a Champ dumbo!!!

  6. Newbeflyer says:

    Again at a flying field near real planes and he again shows no ability to fly RC plane correctly he crashe the Champ into a hangar. What a looney

  7. John G Quinn says:

    Glorious! I only wish my father, a WWII vet, aviator and “plank-owner” of the U.S.S. Enterprise (CV-6) was still alive to have seen this. I recently rebuilt his crashed 1966 r/c plane and am about to put it back into the air with modern equipment. This brought back many boy-hood memories of model building and flying scale and full scale with my Dad. Thank you, Captain Slow!

  8. Longtimeflyer says:

    What is it about human nature that, when we find ourselves unable to dream or achieve something thought to be impossible, that we must resort to criticizing those who can? “Newbeflyer ” appears to be an ironic name attached to such an astute observation.

  9. Kent S. Carper says:

    That was really well done, and a cool achievement.
    Congrats..

  10. Eduardo Zaborski says:

    Fantastic!

  11. Stephen Doherty says:

    An awesome modeling journey, thank you for the capturing this historic flight for us all to see!

  12. rogerk says:

    I enjoyed this. Kids clips the most.
    Memories…Thanks

  13. Robert says:

    Well done! I just wish people would stop referring to our planes as “toys”… They are not toys because toys cant fly. These are real airplanes that are subject to the same laws of physics that full scale airplanes are. The are many times less sophisticated and costly than our full scale bretheren. Everytime someone calls a model plane a “toy” I envision a 5 year old runnung around the room with his arm outstretched and a toy plane in his fist pretend flying.I mean cmon guys, its hard enough to get the our better halfs used to our hobby and keep them from throwing a fit when you want to buy the latest kit and/or ARF. I tell her it could be worse, instead of being home and tinkering with my models, I could be out somewhere tinkering with dice/cards/horses/women/booze and so on. Now I have her telling me “SEE even the guy on TV calls them toys!”…. I think this is going to cost me a new refrigerator LOL.

  14. Adrian 14MZ says:

    Bang on Robert. I know that James flies full-size but so do a lot of us ” RC Modellers “. It turned me right off every time he said ” TOY “. I ended up thinking to myself the next day that maybe he had to call our creations ” a toy ” for the sake of the show. I would like to here from James himself on this matter. So if you are looking in James or a friend of yours is looking in, I would like to see a post with your comment re this matter and I also have to agree with Newbeflyer, no way to handle model aircraft no matter how small. Adrian. Dublin, Ireland.

  15. BRIAN WINCH says:

    A truly great achievement in the true style of aeromodelling – very well done after the development that is part of our great hobby.
    Regarding the pedants – get a life. Get up off your armchair and do something worthwhile instead of picking stupid little bits that, really, were not mistakes – purely a part of presenting a story…do you think the actors eat the food they present on the promos? Same thing – all part of the making.
    Let’s go into our workshops and cut some balsa rather than cutting open a box with a ready made ‘toy’ inside – there…I’ve said the dreaded ‘T’ word and proud of it.

  16. Gustavo Pavese says:

    This is a wonderful story and very well done by the BBC guys.
    Congrats!!! I really spend an hour of joy!

  17. Kerry King says:

    hey Newbeflyer,
    Why are you so negative? Could it be that your really really really really really really jealous? That’s what it really really really really looks like.

    And Adrian,
    It is a toy because you fly the rc planes for fun and there is no real human in the plane. It is that simple, sorry. But “Toy” is not an insult. I love toys, a couple years ago I bought a whole lot of vintage Transformers and now I am into Lego. (this happens when you decide not to have children) Toys are great and fun! And toys like Technic Lego can be extremely technical. Ever heard about the Antikythera Mechanism? (check BBC docu) And it can even be made in Lego! (check youtube!)

    Anyway, that plane kicked ass!

  18. Dan Rodewald says:

    Great video, I was entertained!

    Last I checked, some people buy full scale planes and fly them around for fun, which makes that their “toy.”

    There are a bunch of baby boomers out there buying sports cars like challengers, mustangs, and corvettes, getting inside and driving them around for the fun of it. Again, this makes it a toy.

    Please people, chill out and stop getting all worked up about such silly things. I have $1500 spent on a 50cc biplane. I call that a toy. If you don’t want to call it a toy for whatever reason, that’s okay. You make yourself happy and call it whatever you want. It’s not a big deal. Finally, please acknowledge that I might choose to call things by different names than you do. Thats okay too.
    Everyone relax….

  19. Dan Rodewald says:

    One last thought… Toys indeed do fly! If you got a good enough arm, anything can fly :)

  20. Ray Hamlett says:

    Great Progran and Flight! I have a auto pilot system for My Decathalon Electric Plane and hope to get it out to the Desert this spring.I’ll be camping and flying with a laptop PC and sattelite guidance system. It’s ready for test flights before I install the somewhat expensive Guidance system

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