R/C clubs promote interest in hobby
July 16,2004

Special Thanks for Permission to use this article to The Daily News, Jacksonville, NC

The aerobatics were spectacular: Loops, rolls, hangers, spins and stall turns were executed flawlessly at various altitudes. The pilots, however, never left the ground.

The Crystal Coast R/C (Radio Control) Club held its Summer Sizzler Fly-In Saturday at Myers Field in Newport to let members of various local R/C clubs get together and share their interest in flying model aircraft.

"It's a great hobby, and it's cheaper than golf," laughed David Jones, president of the club, which is comprised primarily of Carteret and Craven County residents.

The R/C club boasts about 75 members - ranging in age from 13 to nearly 90 - and is sanctioned through the Academy of Model Aviation. Club members meet regularly on the first Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at Myers Field and host the fly-ins, which draw a crowd from throughout Eastern North Carolina, a couple times a year.

"The neat thing about this hobby is there's something for everybody," said Jones. "Some don't do much flying; they just want to build. Others could care less about building."

Elton Fairless is part of that latter group.

"I'm more the kind of guy that wants to get out and fly," said Fairless, a world-class competitor who has Jones build the models Fairless flies.

The hobby grew for Fairless out of a long-term interest in aviation.

"My parents joke my first word was airplane," said Fairless.

That may not be too far from the mark.

The Cherry Point aerospace engineer has flown both full scale and model aircraft since his teens.

He started in R/C flight on the typical trainer-type airplane ("What everyone should start with") when a neighbor who flew gave the young Fairless his first plane.

Fifteen years later and he's still at it, competing and holding demonstrations throughout the country. Fairless credits involvement with an R/C club as key to his long-standing involvement.

"One of the things I like about this is the friendships," said Fairless. "All these guys are my friends."

Fairless has recently cut his flight time in half - not from lack of interest but instead due to recent fatherhood. But at Saturday's fly-in, he took the field multiple times, including demonstrations with his $7,000 competition plane.

Yes, $7,000.

A basic training system, however, will run about $300 for everything according to Jones, who flies anything from small models up to those with 10-foot wingspans. Average flyers typically stay in the $300 to $400 range throughout their involvement in the hobby. To protect that still-significant investment, Jones also recommends learning from more experienced pilots.

"If interested, join a local club," advised Jones. The clubs, he explained, have qualified instructors. His club boasts more than a dozen who will instruct at no additional charge. "If you carry one of these (planes) out to the back forty and try to fly, you're probably going to tear it up."

Jones said the club welcomes those who might be interested in pursuing R/C aviation to stop by one of the meetings and see what it's all about.

"We welcome people to come by and give it a try," said Jones, explaining that early training flights involve a "buddy box," where the neophyte is at the controls but a more experienced flyer can take over if trouble looms.

He also advises purchasing planes, kits and equipment at local hobby shops versus mail order.

"You're more likely to get help," said Jones.

While the ages vary greatly of those involved in the hobby, the gender doesn't.

Not many women are involved or at least "not as many women as we would like" according to Jones. "It seems to be a man thing for whatever reason."

For information, call (252) 727-4750 or visit www.coastalplanes.com.