Model craft enthusiast
I started building model airplanes in grammar school and began flying them a couple years later. I didn’t know of any local model airplane clubs, so I tried to start a club in eighth grade. A dozen guys showed up, but none of us knew anything. A club and experienced pilots are a big boost to your success and help you avoid a lot of novice mistakes.
I got into model airplanes out of a fascination with flight and a love to build things. Along the way I learned a lot about electronics, building materials and techniques, and eventually how to land in one piece. I found takeoffs are optional, but landings are not. I enjoy the outdoors and the company of like-minded hobbyists. I’ve been flying at the model craft area at Pratt's Wayne Woods for about 24 years. The 23-acre field has a large parking lot, 4 acres of mowed grass, a 300-foot asphalt runway and a pits area with worktables designed for planes. I wouldn’t be able to fly locally without the field. Model aircraft require a dedicated airfield to fly safely.
Most of the aircraft at the model craft area are electric-powered airplanes made of foam. Some are gas-powered made of balsa and plywood. Most are ready to fly and need very little assembly. But I enjoy building my own planes from plans. They have about a 4 1/2-foot wingspan and use miniature engines that run on alcohol and castor oil. I enjoy flying precision aerobatics where the plane moves per a defined form, more or less. Takeoffs from the paved runway are smooth and graceful; but when landing on the asphalt, I usually roll right off the end before I slow down enough to turn and taxi back to the pits. I’ve seen a few drones, but most of these pilots fly a special race course or obstacle course under "first-person view," which is like sitting in the pilot seat of the drone.
Most of the pilots at Pratt's Wayne Woods are members of the Suburban R/C Barnstormers. They are a great bunch of friendly guys. They’ll give you a spare propeller when the ground jumps up unexpectedly to break your last one. They’ll tease you about your bouncy landings and help you look for your plane when you divert to an "alternate landing spot" in the weeds. They’ll sympathize with you when you crash and help you pick up the pieces and glue your plane back together. At the monthly club meetings there is a "show & tell" of someone’s latest airplane, technical presentations on building tips & tricks, electric motor and battery intricacies, radios and even a 3-D printer that can make an airplane. We have a club trainer for those learning to fly and fun fly contests for those who think they can loop three times and land in less time than anyone else. We meet the first Monday of the month at 7 p.m. at St. John Neumann Church in St. Charles.
It’s a great way to get some fresh air and sunshine. And a lot more fun than looking for a little white ball you deliberately whacked into the weeds.