Toys event takes to the skies

Published 11:08 pm Friday, October 26, 2012

Weather permitting, a swarm of radio-controlled planes will take to the skies near Chuckatuck next Saturday to launch the Toys For Tots campaign in Suffolk.

2012 marks the sixth consecutive year of Hampton Roads Radio Control Club’s Fun Fly. Event organizers are expecting another large gathering of pilots, planes and spectators at Lone Star Lakes Park from 8 a.m. until about 4 p.m.

Activities will start with an 8:30 a.m. flag raising, shortly before a pilot’s meeting convenes and the flying gets underway.

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“This is our sixth year, and it has grown every year,” said Mills Staylor, the club’s vice president and contest director, adding that the event has become the first Suffolk Toys For Tots event of the season by tradition rather than design.

Pilots at club events are generally charged a $10 landing fee, and on Nov. 3 they can either pay the cash or donate a toy of comparable value, with all proceeds benefiting the Toys For Tots Foundation.

Previously, many pilots have arrived with both the money and a toy, while some have been even more generous, Staylor said.

There is no entry fee for visitors, most of whom also arrive with a cash or toy donation, he said. Toys and money raised at the Fun Fly and other Toys For Tots events are distributed to needy families at Christmas.

“Whatever comes in that day goes to Toys For Tots,” Staylor said.

A variety of special events are planned for the day, including a combat contest where electric foam planes trailing streamers compete to be the last streamer flying, as it were. “But sometimes they take each other out,” Staylor said.

Trainer aircraft equipped with so-called buddy boxes will also give visitors a chance to feel the wind beneath their wings.

Trained pilots get the planes into the sky before the novice takes control; pilots can intervene to correct any serious mistakes.

A fly-over by a World War I or II plane, courtesy of the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, is expected at about noon. “We have to have good weather for that,” Staylor said.

Food and beverages will be provided free of charge, though folks are welcome to pay with a donation, and raffles and drawings are also planned.

At some stage during the day, a plane will drop a box of numbered plastic golf balls, with numbers matching to prizes, which children will race out to collect after the package parachutes to the ground.

Children will be scouring the field again when a pound of candy is dropped from another plane.

Last year’s event had about 500 people, 70 pilots, roughly 125 aircraft and raised over $2,500 and close to 200 toys, Staylor said.

“It’s a good day out,” he added. “You get to see a lot of different types of airplanes fly.”