A model of flying ability!

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 20, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

The crowd of Suffolk adults and children sat nervously on the bleachers at the Lone Star Lakes Park Flying Field on Saturday morning, unsure of what they were about to see, hear and feel.

Over the next few minutes, the awaited invasion began. Two planes pierced the blueness of the morning sky, battling it out in wing-to-wing combat! Bombs fell from the sky, narrowly missing a tank below! Two paratroopers leaped from their aircrafts, thankfully landing safely on the grass! An out-of-control jet hurtled toward the ground, narrowly missing its &uot;pilot&uot;!


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Throughout the raid, the onlookers spent most of the time in a stunned silence, occasionally letting out a collective gasp of amazement and wonder. When it ended, however, all they could do was cheer. They’d just been a part of the Third Annual Radio Controlled Air Show, presented by the Hampton Roads Radio Controlled Air Show Team, which promotes the sport of model aviation.

The club primarily builds sport and scale planes, said Ronnie Weaver. Sport planes are used for combat, and scale are built to resemble actual planes.

&uot;It took between six and seven months to build my P-51 Mustang out of wood and automotive paints,&uot; said Weaver, who created a replica of one of America’s most popular World War II warplanes.

Scale planes run on automotive gas and nitro-methane, which can run as high as $15-25 per gallon, Weaver continued (and people complain about having to pay $1.50 for a gallon of car gasoline!).

The club opened the show by flying a plane across the field holding a banner to welcome the crowd. Then several aerobatic demonstrations were performed. Standing on the ground with their large remote controls, operators wowed the crowd with such tricks as four-point rolls (in which the plane does a barrel roll, stopping ever 90 degrees), knife edges (in which a plane flies sideways) and snap rolls (planes do quick 360-degree turns).

&uot;We try to make flying look easy,&uot; said Rick Lawrence after taking his yellow &uot;Delta Dart&uot; plane for a spin. &uot;It’s a skill like anything else, and it’s a challenge to do better. Landing is the most challenging part, because you have to judge the plane’s speed while it’s coming at you. You have to slow it down, and there’s no perspective to really tell how fast you’re going.&uot;

The audience seemed to enjoy the combat drills more than any other single event. That’s when two planes go up, with streamers attached to each. The object of the contest is not to crash the other plane, but to use one’s propeller to snap off the streamers. At the end of the match, the winner is the plane with the longest streamer.

&uot;That’s a very enjoyable aspect of (flying model planes),&uot; said Gary Murdock. &uot;Waiting for a kill while keeping your own plane safe is what makes it interesting. You have to take advantage of where the other plane is, and still avoid a collision. It’s very difficult because you’re trying to set up the correct depth and altitude from the ground, rather than getting the perception from inside your plane!&uot;

After the aerial assaults, bombs and paratroopers fell from the sky. Don’t worry; the bombs were simply Styrofoam cups, and the soldiers were G.I. Joes, launched from planes that featured an &uot;eject&uot; facet.

Finally, Russ Goodwin strolled out to the runway to launch his aircraft. Goodwin set the plane down, and walked back toward the audience. Suddenly, the plane rolled down the runway, and seemed to take off on its own!

A shaken Goodwin attempted to bring the airborne vehicle under control, but it didn’t respond to his remote control. Tossing the tool to the ground, he started to take it apart, hoping to discover the problem.

All the while, the plane still spun wildly through the air. Abruptly, it twisted around, and zeroed back in on its sidetracked owner.

As the flying menace shot toward Goodwin, frantic screams of warning rose from the crowd. But just before man and machine made contact, the plan leveled out, and majestically rose back into the sky.

A few feet away, Gus Gibbony stood up and showed the crowd the remote control that had been controlling the plane all along. As part of the exercise known as the &uot;Farmer Act,&uot; the two men had fooled the crowd into thinking they were about to witness an accident.

&uot;I have to duck and pretend that the plane’s about to hit me,&uot; said Goodwin. &uot;We’ve been doing it for about three years, and it always gets a good crowd response. It gets people carried away to find out that they’ve been had.&uot;

Gibbony insists that he has never felt the urge to &uot;accidentally&uot; let the plane hit Goodwin! &uot;I just try to make it look as crazy as I can!&uot; he laughed. &uot;I’ve been flying planes since 1965. It makes me feel like a kid with a new toy.&uot;