At model air show, fun-loving fliers test their control 20 pilots demonstrate their skills for onlookers

September 21, 1998|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

About 20 veteran model-aircraft pilots entertained nearly 200 spectators yesterday at Batavia Park in Rosedale, showing off their craftsmanship and remote-control flying skills at the Monster Modelers of Maryland Fly In, a fun event for large-scale model planes.

Each pilot was required to be a member of the Academy of Model Aeronautics and the International Miniature Aircraft Association.

Requirements included that aircraft have minimum wingspans of inches for monoplanes and 60 inches for biplanes, or that the model be built to one-quarter scale of a full-sized aircraft.

"You won't find any dumb thumbs here today," said Steve Snyder, 34, of Bel Air, referring to the pilots' skill with hand-held radios to operate a model's throttle, ailerons, rudders, elevators and flaps. (Ailerons enable a plane to bank, and rudders help it turn. Elevators allow ascent and descent, and flaps on the wings enhance lift.)

The model-aircraft academy has about 700,000 members and most are pilots, said Tom Obringer, 59, of Dundalk, who was field marshal yesterday for the sponsoring club, Sunday Flyers of Maryland. Obringer, who is certified by the academy, inspected each plane, making certain that remote-control radios worked properly.

Federal law requires that models be flown below 300 feet; real aircraft must maintain a minimum altitude of 400 feet.

Fly In director Ernest Hancock, 73, of Edgemere was a founder of the Sunday Flyers Club 26 years ago, before some members branched off from U-control models -- planes connected to the control unit by wire -- to fly models by remote control.

About 20 years ago, Hancock lost a plane that continued to fly northeast from Edgemere after a new battery for his remote-control pack went dead.

"Some deer hunter found it in a field about six weeks later at the Aberdeen Proving Ground," Hancock said with a chuckle. "I had my name on the plane, and he told a park ranger, who contacted me. As the crow flies, it traveled about 19 miles."

For many pilots, such as Paul Schaffner, 41, of Reisterstown, flying model planes is half the fun. Building them and the camaraderie shared by club members is the other half.

Schaffner began flying models as a child but abandoned the hobby for many years. Several years ago, his wife, Carol, gave him a model kit for Christmas. They now spend many weekends visiting model air shows in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

"You get out of it as much as you want to put into it," Schaffner said. "You can get started for $300 or $400, or you can spend $1,500 to $2,000, if you want."

For Steve Piaecki, 38, of Vienna in Dorchester County, the hobby is a father-son affair. His son Robert is a Navy pilot and Christopher, 10, passed his test to fly solo this summer after building his plane from a model kit he received last Christmas.

Anyone interested in Sunday Flyers membership can call Jim Belt Jr. at 410-360-2569.

Pub Date: 9/21/98

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