The Winds Of Spring Lift Spirits Of Model Airplane Builders
Doug Hunt’s aircraft has “a twin-engine setup with OS-77 Dynamax fans, jack-screw wing-sweep servo and air brakes.”
It also fits comfortably atop a lunchroom table.
Hunt and about 35 other flight aficionados showed up Sunday for the 23rd annual Model Aircraft Symposium at North Idaho College.
The models ranged from balsa wood and tissue paper gliders to a four-engine bomber. The largest models had seven-foot wingspans and cost hundreds of dollars to build. Hunt estimated that he’s spent $3,500 on his model, a radio-controlled F-14 fighter.
“These are essentially winter projects,” said Clarence Haught, 62. He’s a member of the 33-member Post Falls Flyers, which hosted the show. Most of the crowd Sunday was made up of middle-aged men - people with the money and the time to devote to intricate models.
“I was unfortunate enough to have only one hobby, and this was it. I love to build things,” said Emil Neely, 57, of Post Falls.
Neely turned his modeling hobby into a job, working for 12 years as a model builder for the Boeing company’s wind tunnel tests.
In 1977, Neely began making and selling kits for remote-controlled planes. His company, Ikon Northwest, now sells 28 different kits, modeled after 1930s aircraft. Cost: $180 to $455.
Model builders like the idea of playing with their creations, especially recreations of planes from barnstorming’s heyday, Neely said.
The models also give owners the chance to fly “planes” they never could afford to own. Many of the club’s members are licensed private pilots.
“Especially the older crowd, they can’t fly anymore, so they turn to this,” Neely said.
“It keeps you young,” said Bob Conway of Spokane. The 74-year-old remembers the first time he flew in a plane - he was a 10-year-old in St. Maries, Idaho. A barnstormer in a biplane buzzed the town, landed in a field and sold rides.
“I just climbed in and away we went,” recalled Conway, who today designs and builds his own models. He recently built a flying boat designed to take off and land on snow, so he could fly a model during the winter.
Hunt’s F-14 fighter was a kit, but it is far more elaborate and costly than most. Inside the Fiberglas fuselage are hundreds of feet of wire, compressed air tanks and air valves. It took hundreds of hours to assemble, he said.
Eventually, the Sears television salesman will take his fighter out to a runway. He says he’s not afraid of crashing the model, despite all the work.
“Apprehensive, maybe,” he said.
Over in the swap meet section of Sunday’s gathering, 15-year-old Raymond Leonhardt was trying to sell a used flying boat model for $300. Leonhardt and other family members made the trip from Kalispell, Mont. to sell the plane and a tiny racing engine. By midafternoon, they’d sold three candy bars.
Leonhardt and his father have built 12 model airplanes, and the boy wants to get a pilot’s license soon. His favorite model is a Sig Kadet Senior, a plane with a 6-foot wingspan.
“It flies really well - big and slow, kind of kitey,” Leonhardt said. “It goes where it wants to in the wind.”