Hobby takes flight
If you’ve always wanted to build your very own Mars spaceship, but worried that your meteorite screen might not take the heat, why not settle for a model airplane instead?
It doesn’t go as high, but is just as fun to fly, judging by this weekend’s crowd of flyers and fans at Thunder Bay’s Boulevard Lake.
“It is fun, and if you’re like me — both a builder and a flyer — it’s a real challenge,” Trevor Brasch, organizer of the annual Lakehead Aeromodellers Boulevard Lake Float Fly, said Sunday afternoon while flipping burgers.
“If you do a good job building it, your plane will fly, and fly well.”
As about 80 spectators squinted upward, 35 pilots put their radio-controlled float planes through the paces. There were about half a dozen crashes. But not to worry — the planes got picked up by a small “rescue” boat.
Many couldn’t keep their eyes off a Kenora-based, very life-like Beaver DH2 bush plane, which featured an impressive wing span of three metres.
Unlike battery-powered versions, a model plane that big runs on fuel and could remain in the air for about 20 minutes — depending on the skill of its ground-based pilot.
Brasch, who has been building and flying model planes for several years, said there’s a lot of practice and patience involved.
It’s no cinch, in other words.
“The first time I flew one I figured I didn’t need any help,” he said. “It was in the air for about eight seconds before it smacked right into a pole.”
Since the cost of building a large model plane can get into serious money, Brasch said beginners would do well to start with a foam-electric model, which, if you’re the handy type, can be assembled at your workshop for about $50 worth of materials. (Rigid foam, available at your hardware store, is the key ingredient, but there’s some electrical stuff, too.)
If you’re not handy, a good foam-electric kit can he had for about $200 at a hobby shop.
“Sixty per cent of our (Boulevard Lake) participants are using foam-electrics models,” said Brasch. “In fact, we just gave away one as a prize.”
The foam models can also stay in the air for more than five minutes on a single charge, depending, again, on pilot skill. Pilots must maintain visual contact with their planes at all times, regardless of what they’re made of.
In any event, the hobby appears to be taking off.
According to the Toronto-based Model Aeronautics Association of Canada, which has 12,000 members, there are 360 model-plane clubs across the country.
Brasch said the cost of electrical equipment, like transmitters, has been coming down in recent years.
More information about the hobby is available on the association’s website at maac.ca