Thousands attend model aircraft show in Perry

awoolen@macon.comMarch 6, 2013 

PERRY -- By the time the Southeastern Model Show was finished late Saturday, more than 4,000 people from as far away as California had walked past rows of model airplanes.

Three buildings of the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter were filled with 1,000 tables covered with airplanes of all shapes and sizes during the show, which started Friday.

From the trainer airplanes that beginners fly and cost a few hundred dollars to the “50-percent-ers” that are half the size of a real airplane and can run $10,000 each, the availability ran the gamut.

The Georgia Aircraft Model Association, which is located in Fort Valley, has been organizing the show since 2001.

From its humble beginnings in one building, the Southeastern Model Show now has more than 300 people selling.

Head organizer Norm Deputy is a former aircraft maintenance mechanic and said the swap meet is the biggest in the U.S.

He got into the sport of model aircraft because he wanted to build them. He now owns about a dozen model airplanes.

This is Deputy’s self-proclaimed farewell as the event coordinator because he will hand the reins to someone else to run the massive meet.

“It takes a lot of time,” he said.

Seller and model airplane enthusiast Gene Vaughn, of Warner Robins, started flying models when he was 12 in 1941. Back then, “it cost $12.50 for everything,” he said.

Vaughn grew up with an aviation background and worked for McDonnell Douglas, an aerospace manufacturer and defense contractor, for a number of years.

One of his passions is teaching children how to fly the model airplanes. He does demonstrations in Perry on U.S. 41 near the Haunted Barn.

Two of his pupils were helping him Friday at his booth.

Wesley Paskett, a recent graduate from Northside High School, and Chandler Silva, who attends Bonaire Middle School, both have the model airplane bug.

“A lot of people assume it’s for older people, but once you get into it, it’s a lot more fun than you think,” said Paskett, who is 19.

They also do night flying, which he said looks like falling stars when the planes inevitably crash into each other in the dark.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” said Vaughn, who is a member of both the Perry Flyers and the Georgia Aircraft Model Association.

Vaughn builds model airplanes on the side and can put together most of the planes in two days to a week’s time.

“It’s just a great sport,” he said. “Something you can do all your life.”

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