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Mario is one of the real characters of the SAM UK scene. When I first met him at Biggleswade Common he was flying, as ever, a battered Vintage Power model. The etching also shows Chateau le Diesel in a wine bottle, a favoured fuel dispenser. Not always though. At a Barkston Nationals, Mario was flying ROG all by himself from the main runway, just him, the model, a can of fuel and a rag. An intrepid competition modeller came biking down the runway at about 30 mph, heads up, looking at his sky high model and struck the fuel can pull pelt.

The resulting crash was spectacular in the extreme. Bloodied modeller, buckled wheel, unhappy flyer, extreme anger. "Look what you've done to my bloody wheel?" yells the flyer. Mario, calm as you like, surveys the carnage and completely unphased picks up his crushed and leaking fuel can and riposts "My fuel can looks a bit sick too!" whereby he wanders off undeterred to retrieve his model. Not the only incident that weekend either. The same power model chugged upwind for at least 600 yards and hit the door of a brand new car. The owner was very upset , angrily poking and inspecting the neat round hole.

Flying Faces No 3 Mario Gandolfi

It got a lot worse as Mario came by, picked up the wayward model, muttered something about there being no damage, and wandered off. At this point the incensed victim made like a motorboat and wailed, "But, but, but, what about my door?" Surprised at the fuss, Mario minutely inspected the damage and declared to the now apoplectic car owner, "Oh, dont worry about that mate, it happens all the time in London". How this chap never had a heart attack on the spot remains a mystery. Eventually the pair exchanged niceties, names and addresses and Mario's SMAE insurance saved the day.

He was a fascinating bloke to spend time with and once told me he ran a business in London making ballet shoes. Years later I was browsing a shop window in Cyprus and there for all to see was a pair of dance shoes inscribed with the name "Gandolfi". It's a small world. This cheery Londoner was the epitomy of "Cool" long before it became fashionable to be so. Never flustered, always a best friend and a pleasure to know. One of SAM's real gentle men.

Ramon Alban

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