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Of Balsawood, chainsaw engines and super glue: my love for RC airplanes

Of Balsawood, chainsaw engines and super glue: my love for RC airplanes

Stamps, the New York Giants, scrapbooking - everyone has some kind of hobby or interest. Me? I build and fly radio controlled model airplanes. I've always liked to work with my hands and, ever since I was very young, I've had a love of aviation. When I was 23, I obtained my private pilot's license. Combine these aspects with my other interests of painting and carpentry, and this hobby seemed like a natural progression. This is a hobby that offers something for everyone. I can sequester myself in my shop, working on my latest creation, deeply involved in the required woodworking, electronics and painting. After hours (and sometimes days), I'll emerge covered in sawdust, my hands caked with glue but with the satisfaction of having created a machine that flies under my control. When I head out to the flying field with my creation there are always several fellow club members there to offer support. Our flying club, The G.C.A. (Gonna Crash Anyway) RC Club has more than 50 members. Like G.C.A., there are flying clubs all over the country chartered through the Academy Of Model Aeronautics, the premier national RC model airplane organization comprised of about 500,000 members.

So, RC planes may seem like a pretty ordinary endeavor. But, get a few hundred folks together who share this obsession and it easily becomes something extraordinary. Every year for the past 46 years, on the weekend following Labor Day, many like me make the journey to the Rhinebeck Aerodrome in upstate New York. This is a special group of modelers who focus on building and flying scale models of aircraft from the turn of the century and WWI eras.

For me, there's something special about these aircraft as they hold a particular appeal of a time when flying was new and unknown. The technology we take for granted now was in its infancy. These flying machines were elegantly simple and each was designed and truly built by artisan's hands, not computerized assembly machines. Where better to gather and fly these airplanes than on the runway of the Rhinebeck Aerodrome, a location famous for its vintage aircraft?

As an artist, I like to look at these machines as kinetic sculptures. Built literally from a pile of sticks, they are covered with fabric and painted to look like the orignal aircraft. When they fly, they have a charm and presence in the air unmatched by other types of models in the hobby. Although they're scale models, I find it fascinating that they aren't that differently built than their full-sized cousins. Since these aircraft are scale models of actual historical aircraft I also can imagine for a moment what the original aircraft must have looked like in the air 90 years ago.

I write this having recently returned from my latest trip to Rhinebeck. Of the three aircraft I took, only one returned. ("Gonna Crash Anyway," remember?) But in this hobby, everyone understands that it's not a question of "if", but rather "when" your aircraft will go down. Not to worry though - with the coming of Fall and Winter, I can look forward to spending time in my workshop creating my next aircraft that will fly next September at Rhinebeck.

What fun hobbies do you pour yourself into?

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']#[/author_image] [author_info]Jerry is our Creative Director. Among his many talents, he's excellent at Photoshop-ing Brian into hilarious poses.[/author_info] [/author]

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