Google The Unplanned Homeschooler: Model plane enthusiasts hope to help young flyers take off

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Model plane enthusiasts hope to help young flyers take off

The 13th Annual Hatbox Field Memorial Fly-In is coming up October 10 and 11, 2014. This event, hosted by the Three Rivers Area Model Plane Society, draws in model plane enthusiasts from several states, and features all sorts of remote controlled aircraft, including planes, helicopters, an even giant planes with wingspans of more than 10 feet!

A while back, my kids had a chance to see a smaller exhibition of model airplanes in flight. They thought these replica planes were awesome. I thought likewise of the pilots, who had the planes doing loops and dives that would rival what we had seen at an air show. I took the chance after the show to interview a couple of the pilots about how folks could get started with the exciting hobby of building and flying model airplanes.

I spoke first with Howard Davidson, who has been a member of the Three Rivers Area Model Plane Society (T.R.A.M.P.S.) based in Muskogee, Oklahoma for many years. He was more than happy to talk about how to introduce model airplanes to new flyers, because as he said, “There aren’t a lot of young people flying these days.” 

One barrier to new model airplane pilots is the cost. A plane can cost several hundred dollars or even over one thousand, depending on the plane you choose to build. An inexperienced pilot will certainly have a harder time controlling the plane, and a crashed aircraft can cost quite a bit to rebuild. This is why Davidson recommended that people interested in trying the hobby start the same way many conventional pilots begin, with a flight simulator.

Davidson said his favorite flight simulator for model airplanes is the RealFlight R/C Flight Simulator available through hobby stores. He said that although the simulator program costs around $300, that is a small cost compared to an actual model airplane, and you can try out lots of different models to see what types you like best.

Davidson didn’t have the benefit of a flight simulator when he started flying decades ago as a child.  Neither did his friend and fellow T.R.A.M.P.S. member, Gaines Smith. Smith told me that another way that kids or adults who are interested in learning to fly model airplanes is to come out to a club meeting. There are many remote controlled model airplane clubs across the country, and lots of those open the doors to interested new members so they can check out the hobby first hand before they invest.

Smith mentioned that the T.R.A.M.P.S. club will sometimes let prospective pilots try flying a plane with what is called a buddy box. This contraption is sort of like a driver’s education device for the plane. It allows the main pilot to turn over the controls to a secondary remote, while still able to switch back into control in case of trouble. Their club meets on the first Saturday of each month at Hatbox Field in Muskogee, Oklahoma early in the morning and they welcome visitors to come out and watch them fly.

If you can't make it to the Hatbox Field Memorial Fly-In, check with model plane clubs in your area to see what events they have coming up. You're sure to meet some interesting folks who are happy to help you and your kids learn all about flying these amazing machines.

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