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August 5, 2013

Radio flyers takes off

By Cathy B. Koplen Contributing Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Although the Oneonta Radio Control Flyers had to pack in early on Sunday because of the weather, the group had an enthusiastic showing according to club president Paul Meyer.

“I guess we had about 100 people here yesterday (Saturday) and 17 pilots flying,” Meyer said.

The show took place Saturday and Sunday at Gilbert Fuel Sports Park in Gilbertsville. Several participants stayed the weekend in personal campers. 

Students from Gilbertsville-Mt. Upton Central School sold concessions at the show.

Most of the participants were gone by 2 p.m. on Sunday.

“Saturday was beautiful,” Meyer said. “We had a good show. Too bad about the rain and wind today (Sunday). A lot of people packed up early because of the weather.”

The radio control model airplane show included giant-scale aerobatic models, early fighter planes and small electric flyers.

“I am always learning something,” said Oneonta Radio Control Flyer member Al Kanser of Garrettsville. “There is always a new airplane to see. I take personal pride in building my airplanes. Like my one-third sized Piper Cub. It flies full scale.”

The Radio Control Flyers build their airplanes true to the design of the original crafts, scaling down the size and controlling the planes with transmitters. The pilots, who are stationed behind a fly zone, only perform maneuvers that the historic, full-scale crafts would perform.

“Like this World War I German plane, it would perform three or four maneuvers – evasive maneuvers and dog fights,” Kanser said. “Back then these planes were cutting edge.”

The weekend show was more of a fun festival than a competition. There were no mock aerial dog fights. However, as many as four airplanes were up in the air at the same time.

Most of the pilots build their own planes, and it can take more than a year of patiently piecing the craft together. It must then have three test flights before it can fly with other model airplane.

“Safety is our number one rule,” said club member Mike Jones. “If you are bringing in a new plane, it must have flown three times before you can fly with us. We have a lot of safety rules and regulations. Planes may not fly behind the fly zone, only in front of the pilot. And when we have more than one plane in the air, each pilot has to have a spotter. You really have to concentrate on your controls when you are flying, you need someone else there to tell you if someone is in your airspace.”

Jones said he began flying about six years ago when he bought a small Styrofoam aircraft and found out he needed some guidance.

“I am way out in the country and thought it would be fun to try flying a radio control plane,” Jones said. “I got a hold of a small Styrofoam plane and a radio transmitter. I took the plane up and then I realized I knew nothing about flying. So I went looking for an organization to teach me.”

Jones said the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) charges nothing to teach individuals to fly model planes. However, students must use a buddy box with an instructor until they become members of the organization.

“The buddy box is two transmitter,” Jones said. “The instructor takes the controls while the plane takes off. Then he can give the controls to the student. But if there is a problem, the instructor will take back control.”

Once a student becomes a member of AMA, they are covered by the organization’s insurance policy.

Ken Hall of Cooperstown has been flying radio control model airplanes for 34 years. It took Hall a year to build the Fokker D-VII he flew at the show.

“I love it,” Hall said. “I love planes and I love aviation.”

The Oneonta Radio Control Flyers is active in the community, participating with several children’s organizations such as Oneonta World of Learning and the Boys Club of Oneonta. The members hope to pass the love of radio control model airplanes to the next generation.