By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON – Face turned skyward, Ken Wilson’s eyes intently trace the path of airplane. From a distance, the plane looks tiny. As the plane approaches with the faint buzz of its engine, it’s still tiny.
Wilson’s hand clutches a control box, and his thumbs make deft movements to bring the radio-controlled model airplane plane in for a gentle landing on the grass strip.
That grass strip marks what was once Ace Airpark. Now, it’s home to the Anderson Aero Modelers, a group bonded by their love of flight, tinkering, building and hanging out together. What seems to draw each one of them into the group is their interest in flying radio-controlled airplanes, but what ends up keeping them in the club is the easy camaraderie.
“This is a good flying field. The guys here are very helpful, very friendly,” said Wilson, from the Fishers area. “I’ve been helped a lot by the other members.”
Wilson started flying RC in 1995.
“I build ’em and fly ’em.”
Wilson, like pretty much everyone else in the club, flies a variety of models both nitromethane fueled or driven by electric engines. “Scale models, trainers, aerobatic, 3D extreme aerobatic.”
Wilson is among the 51 members who regularly fly or hang out at the club’s spot. The Anderson Aero Modelers is a charter club of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, the national RC aviation organization headquartered in Muncie.
The club flies “helicopters, airplanes, anything that flies,” according to AAM president Don Sanqunetti. The models can be built from scratch, which is likely to involve balsa wood, or often they are assembled from Almost Ready to Fly kits that might be made of foam, balsa or plastic. With an ARF, the builder must install servos and electronics, and mount the engine. RC pilots use a radio transmitter that "talks" to the components in the airplane.
“You can start out pretty cheap,” said Mike Baldwin of Anderson, as he pointed toward an electric model made from foam that a pilot can get into for about $100.
Don’t expect, however, to stop at one airplane.
“It gets expensive,” said Pat Garrett of Middletown. He pulls a 38 percent 330S Extra out of the trailer he’s dedicated to his hobby. He sets the giant bright yellow and red plane up on the grass, where its 110.5-inch wingspan transfixes even the other seasoned flyers in the club. Inside Garrett’s 6-foot-by-18-foot trailer, he still has a dozen other airplanes neatly housed.
On a workbench in the trailer, he sets the radio up in a model labeled Escapade for another club member. At home, he has a shop dedicated to his RC hobby, and another six airplanes. Garrett’s been flying since 2006.
“I dived right in," Garrett said. "I always wanted to do it. I finally got someone to show me how to fly, and joined this club. It was all downhill from there. I just love the hobby.”
Flying takes place over the 700-foot by 125-foot runway that the club leases from Madison Park Church of God. Club members mow and maintain the area. The field has five stations, four of them with safety benches, along the flight line. Spectators remain behind the fence, and everyone generally stays behind the flight line. The club employs rules to keep everyone safe.
For those who want to learn how to fly RC, the club’s the way to go. They have what’s called a “buddy box,” a trainer control unit that can be connected to a radio transmitter.
The group gets together for a club meeting once a month, but most of the time, club members just head out to the field in the evening and on weekends when the weather’s amenable. Occasionally, the group has a cookout when family and friends set up lawn chairs and enjoy their potluck dishes. Whenever they get together, there’s likely to be planes in the air, but also plenty of “hangar flying.”
“There’s a social aspect here to it,” said Sanqunetti. “A lot of flying happens under the tarps.”
“We piddle around with planes, we sit and visit,” said Garrett. “It’s a nice place to come and enjoy the outdoors, share stories, ideas. That’s the main thing —it’s very enjoyable.”
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If you go What: Anderson Aero Modelers radio-controlled flying club Where: Just southwest of the Madison Park Church of God, 6607 Providence Drive, Anderson. To get to the flying field, enter the church parking lot and go to the southernmost tip of the lot. From there, follow the gravel drive to the site. When: Members fly weeknights and weekends when the weather's good. Club meetings take place on the fourth Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. More info: Check the club website at www.anderson-aero-modelers.com. or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, the State of Indiana has proclaimed Aug. 17 as Model Aviation Day. On that day, the Academy of Model Aeronautics will celebrate at its national headquarters in Muncie. The celebration at the national headquarters will feature two air shows, free admission to the National Model Aviation Museum, and hands-on activities. Spectators will have access to two on-site events hosted by the Hoosier Dawn Patrol and the Mid-Indiana Society of Thermalers club, a local RC sailplane club.