Robby Gardner may have a pilot license, but it doesn’t change his status as a newbie at the MACK flying field.
“In the model (airplane) world, a license just means a license to crash,” said Roger Brining, treasurer of the Model Association of Central Kansas. The pilots of these tiny, remote controlled planes say they’re mostly all members of an unofficial group called SAD: The Society of Aircraft Demolishers.
MACK members meet monthly at the Brining Farms shop, and do their flying at MACK field, located just south of the intersection of Patton Road and Railroad Ave. Model airplanes and gliders take off from a 550-foot runway situated on 12 acres of buffalo grass.
On Saturday, MACK members invited the public to the airfield, promoting the association’s safe, family-oriented activities with flying demonstrations and free hot dogs. Four children who came with their grandmothers announced they were ready to fly. Thirteen-year-old Curtis Schneweis found an extra propeller and was winding it up on a rubber band. “Watch it spin,” he said, as 7-year-old Christopher sat nearby. Their oldest sister Ciera, 12, said she’d like a remote controlled car, and after watching Brining land a plane, 5-year-old Faith said, “I wanna get one!”
There are clubs for children, Gardner said, but it will be some time before his own young children will be allowed to take up his hobby, which requires adult supervision and a lot of eye-hand coordination.
At least one adult visitor at the flying area Saturday was interested.
Doug Larson is already a member of the Golden Belt Model Railroad Association, but he had several questions for Gardner and other MACK members on Saturday. “I like hobbies, and this is a really neat hobby,” he said.
One question often asked is how much it costs to get started. Sport utility vehicles filled with models, controllers and spare parts attested to the fact that the hobby can be as involved as the modeler wants it to be. Glenn Pfortmiller likes to add lights and other features to his models, and on Saturday he sent up a plane with its own tiny camera for aerial photography. But a “toy” remote control airplane with a small controller can start at $35, club vice president Cory Dewald said.
Gardner said he got started for about $100, which is more typical of the hobby. He bought a foam ready-to-fly (RTF) tail dragger with a radio and a receiver. Unlike more elaborate models, the foam versions can survive a crash or two, he assured Larson. “I’ve fixed (my first plane) four times now.”
“They always say, ‘If you’re afraid to crash it, don’t fly it,’” Dewald advised.
Most models today have battery powered motors, but some use liquid fuel. Gliders simply use the power of the Kansas wind.
Jay Scott and Terry Radenberg spent Saturday trying out a new glider after Scott saw one on the Internet and wanted to try it. Scott said his favorite modeling activity is building remote controlled jets, which have been clocked on the MACK radar at speeds up to 128 mph. His goal is 135 mph.
MACK dues are $48 a year. For more information about the Model Association of Central Kansas, visit the website: www.mackrc.net.