By Dawn Aerts
Iron County Today
ENOCH–Like the stories of the famous squadrons who swooped and darted through clouds in pursuit of the ‘Red Baron’ or the looming perils of the Wright Brothers, radio-control flight has emerged as a passion, but not for the ‘faint of heart.’
When Cedar City Radio Control club members Paul Schneider, Richard Burchby and John Ellison spend time together it’s all about the comradeship — the thrill of flying airplanes that soar high on fair days but can, unexpectedly dive to the ground on others.
Their club operates from an airfield, a small primary runway on a stretch of Three Peaks Recreational area in Enoch. As radio-control guys, they are familiar with the basic aerodynamic forces at work to fly straight and level, thrust must equal drag and lift, must equal weight.
The take-offs they agree are the easiest part of the flight, while inverted spirals, out of control spins and hard landings are mostly stressful. They acquired the strip of runway situated on BLM lands some time ago. Since then membership has been a steady 20 or so flyers who meet up in good weather with light to favorable wind.
“With these planes, you have to be perfectly ready for flight, said Schneider of their past-time, “Even with wind speeds less than 6 to 8 mph, handling can be difficult, and with equipment anything can go wrong.” As seasoned radio-control enthusiasts, they are adept at impromptu repairs and problem solving.
At flight time, they carry a buddy-box with components and tools.
While Burchby took up the hobby 20 years ago, Schneider, the club president, first ‘got into it’ with his brother at the age of 9; John Ellison, club treasurer, became one of the radio-control aviators eight years ago. Their building projects are anything from large-scale models, or warbirds to civilian-scale replicas using lightweight Balsam wood to using inexpensive plastic or foam.
Successful flyers need the keen awareness of a navigator, the know-how of an engineer and the nerves of a test-pilot — weather and wind speed can be a constant foil.
“Some guys come out to this field after work and look for good weather, they track what wind speeds may be by the hour,” said Schneider of flight risk. They are chartered members of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) who follow strict safety code.
According to Burchby, flight is best accomplished in the morning.
“I would say that the building of a plane is an important part of the hobby. But we always carry a tool kit, that includes everything from tape and glue, to spare parts with extra props as needed.” Some planes are easier to fly than others and light-weight trainer planes are common.
Club member and fellow ‘Ace’ Robert Cantu controls a plane with a 100” inch wing span that weighs 50 pounds, while providing demonstrations at regional and national airshows. Others make use of trainer planes, stick-built, float and glider-models designed to mitigate accidents.
Burchby began his radio-control training on a simulator.
“The simulator is a gadget using an on-screen controller — I bought it as a toy, but practiced on it for a year before a take-off.” Club members often follow a checklist. There is a ‘must do’ list as a pilot would use, said Schneider. “So you check all of the boxes, answer all of the questions: Are all the controls working? Are the connectors secure?”
Radio-control flyers concede that every model has an expiration date. There are slow fly and low fly, positive spins and float planes to master. “Even the most experienced in our group have had misfortune that can be anything from small mechanical issues to major wipe-outs.”
As registered flyers, they can access training, participation in regional events, safety-guidance and insurance options through AMA. Members may invest hours in building complex models from scratch, others prefer less expensive kits that are easier to repair or replace.
“With a ‘Pro-trainer’ we can help someone get up into the air and then, if there are problems take over the flight with a master control button,” said Burchby of members paired with beginners. “It’s fun to share this experience and to understand just what it takes to fly.”
There are dozens of maneuvers to attempt — spectators are welcome.
Club members pay $25 a year, but the first year is free. “From there it will cost anywhere from $100 on up (and more) for a basic trainer kit to begin with,” said Schneider. “But there is a lot of satisfaction in getting your plane in the air, flying it and then, landing it safely – a good day is perfecting a new maneuver and watching it fly for hours.”
Like the aerial- feats of WWI squadrons, there are daring flights that demand the nerves of a steely ‘Red Baron.’ “Some people think of these as not much more than a toy,” said Schneider, “But they are far from being toys – We can attest to that.”
Cedar City Radio Control Club members meet at the Cedar City Library on the 4th Thursday of the month, and then partner-up to fly radio-control model planes at Three Peaks Recreation Area on fair-weather days using hand-built models, or basic trainer planes (kits) designed for radio-control operation and flight.
Caption: Club members include, left to right, standing Richard Burchby, Robert Cantu, Paul Schneider (President); kneeling, Don Thomas and Arnold Vitarbo.