Group welcomes curious, newcomers to the sport

Wings of Williamsport, a radio-controlled (RC) airplane model club, has adopted as its mission the continued promotion of the hobby throughout the community.

Keith Bauer, club president, said most members fly sport models, but if an enthusiast is just starting out, it is best to get a trainer model – and get some experience flying with someone who has been doing it awhile.

The costs of flying RC models can vary. Starter, or trainer, models may cost about $300, but scale models bear price tags around $20,000, Bauer said.

“You can buy a jet in (that range. It) all depends on what you want to get involved with,” he said.

Some pilots fly scale model planes. War birds, a type of model that are 1/3 the scale of a real airplane, have 400cc engines powering them.

Helicopters also are popular, and some of the club members fly those.

Newcomers to the sport shouldn’t assume they can handle a high-end plane. It’s best to start out slow, learn the basics and advance as abilities grow, members suggest.

“You don’t have to have any special skill, but the best way to learn to fly is come to the field, get on a ‘buddy box’ and get an airplane up in the air,” Bauer said.

The “buddy box” allows someone to be introduced to the hobby and to train before taking a solo flight. Two controllers are hooked up to the same airplane in flight, and a seasoned flyer can take control of the plane at any time.

“A lot of younger people get frustrated with it,” Bauer said, but being able to know how to fly from a veteran helps.

In the past 10 years, the hobby has changed quite a bit, Bauer said.

One thing, he said, is they used to build their planes out a box of wood. Now models come “ARF,” or “already built to fly,” meaning that just a few things need to be assembled and bolted on.

“The biggest thing is the radios. The transmitters we fly the airplanes with used to be AM and FM frequency and now they are 2.4 gigahertz, which is a digital frequency,” he said.

The prices for the radios also has come down. Some now are made to be able to fly up to 40 planes and are run by a pretty sophisticated computer. This allows a hobbyist to purchase just one radio to control all of his or her models.

Club members often repair their own planes when they malfunction. Bauer said it helps to have some familiarity with aviation when it comes to that.