Model plane fliers converge on Gray

Model plane flyers say it’s expensive, but rewarding

wcrenshaw@macon.comNovember 17, 2012 

GRAY -- You don’t have to be rich to get into flying model airplanes, but you do have accept that several hundred dollars can become a pile of rubble in an instant.

At the Dixie Aeromasters Toys-for-Tots Fall Fly-in on Saturday, even the most experienced fliers said they’ve crashed more planes than they care to think about.

“It’s been plenty,” said Scott O’Quinn, of Centerville after flying his jet-powered plane. “You probably couldn’t put a number on it. I get depressed thinking about it.”

The upside is that the key components can usually be salvaged from a crash and put into another plane. However, enthusiasts definitely do not recommend that a novice try to fly a model plane without some training.

The good news is that model-plane fliers are a friendly bunch and are willing to help. The announcer at the fly-in said all anyone has to do to get into the hobby is contact a club member.

“We’ll do anything we can to help you short of buying the plane for you,” he said.

Another good idea, fliers said, is to ask someone at a hobby shop that sells planes, and they will probably be able to put the buyer in contact with someone willing to train them.

The event featured a wide variety of planes, from small foam planes to large replicas. Planes were powered by gas, jet and electric engines.

Thomas Anderson of LaGrange had the largest plane, a yellow Clipped Wing Cub with a 16-foot wingspan. It’s half the size of the real thing. He owns 50 planes, including one with lights that can fly at night and illuminate a large area.

Like many others at the show, he said one thing he enjoys most about the hobby is the camaraderie between fliers.

“The best friends I have, I met doing model planes,” he said.

The price of a plane can range from $200 to thousands of dollars. Anderson bought his Clipped Wing Cub used for $5,000. He figured it cost about $8,000 to build.

Wind conditions Saturday were on the verge of being too strong for flying, and some of the less-experienced fliers didn’t want to risk it. But Anderson took the Cub up and performed some impressive aerobatics even in those conditions.

He said he doesn’t spend too much time worrying about losing a plane.

“It’s kind of like taking $5,000 to Vegas,” he said, just before take-off. “If you can’t afford to lose it, you don’t need to take it.”

Chuck Perkins, of Macon, had one of the least impressive planes to look at, but he gave one of the best performances. He flew a small, nondescript plane that cost about $100. But he had fitted it with a jet engine that costs about $3,700 new. He bought it for about half that used. He calls it 22 Caliber.

“Someone told me it’s like trying to fly a 22-caliber bullet,” he said.

He zipped the aircraft around the field at speeds he estimated reached more than 160 miles per hour.

One challenge in flying is finding a good location. Most of the planes do not need a lot of landing and takeoff space, but it’s not good to fly over residences. Also if homes are nearby, noise complaints can arise. The club’s field in Gray is specifically set up for flying, including pilot stations and concrete platforms for working on planes.

Proceeds from the event benefit Toys for Tots, which is operated by the Marine Corps Reserves.

Anyone would like more information about how to get into flying model planes can visit www.dixieaeromasters.com.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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