Vince Mulhall makes a slow low pass with his Sig Kadet LT-490 trainer model airplane at the Bawtinheimer Airfield on Sunday.

Plane truth: flying models fun

Bob Sharpe is quick to correct Rob McCoy when he suggests that Sharpe’s wife “thinks” McCoy created a monster in her husband.

Bob Sharpe is quick to correct Rob McCoy when he suggests that Sharpe’s wife “thinks” McCoy created a monster in her husband.

“No, she knows you created a monster,” he says with a laugh.

For it was five years ago that Sharpe walked into McCoy’s machine shop and told him “you can laugh your ass off if you want, but I’ve always wanted to fly remote-controlled airplanes.” Unbeknownst to Sharpe, McCoy was already something of a fanatic when it comes to model airplanes.

“So he got me started and now I have 40 of them,” explained Sharpe while out at Bawtinheimer Airfield southeast of Red Deer.

The two men are among the 50 members of the Central Alberta Radio Fun Flyers, a group of enthusiasts for whom owning a few dozen model planes might be closer to the norm than an oddity. The group was founded in 1976 with six members, once had a disgruntled member burn down the clubhouse, and has adversaries in a few neighbours near the flying field who are no fan of the relatively low din the planes emit.

But McCoy, the club’s president, says it is a pleasant pastime that is easily accessible to all. He initially wanted to become a pilot, but found model airplanes to be the next best thing.

“I’ve always been interested in planes, and I could never afford to get my pilot’s licence. Back in the day when I first started talking about it, I was making $435 gross a month. It cost $40 to fly a plane for an hour, and they said you should do 10 hours a month,” said McCoy.

And though he has now spent thousands on his “madness” for the miniature aircraft, not to mention the 200-some hours he spent assembling one of his planes — an antic he festooned with musical notes and a picture of his beloved mandolin — he said it need not be an expensive pursuit.

It is an opinion shared by Will Gross, a national champion last year in model airplaning.

“It’s probably one of the cheapest hobbies out there . . . For $500, you can have a really nice airplane that’s going to give you a lot of satisfaction, a lot of fun,” said Gross.

It can be cheaper too. Gross has started his son, at five years old, on an $80 machine.

Gross got involved in the sport nine years ago, and is now up to doing 1,100 flights per year. While the plane he uses for precision acrobatics costs around $7,000, he has earned himself sponsorships and this year will travel to Johannesburg, South Africa for the world championships.

Though he does many difficult advanced manoeuvres such as a rolling circle or an equilateral triangle with his busy thumbs, he says he hasn’t crashed a plane in over four years.

“Most people have the idea that model planes are these little things that you just whip around, and then they see a big plane doing passes so low and how powerful the engines are. People get really excited about those things,” explained Gross.

The public will have its chance to get excited about such things on June 22, as CARFF will host an airshow at the Bawtinheimer Airfield on McKenzie Road. The free show starts at 1 p.m., with introductory flights to be offered with an instructor in the morning, also for no charge.

For a map to the airfield and for more information on the club, visit For further information or to join, contact McCoy at 403-396-5747.

Just Posted

Stolen vehicle and gun seized in Blackfalds

Blackfalds man to appear in court

Blood moon over Red Deer

Moon captures attention

China grants Ivanka Trump 5 trademarks amid trade talks

SHANGHAI — The Chinese government has granted Ivanka Trump’s company preliminary approval… Continue reading

Few signs of breakthrough as May set to unveil Brexit Plan B

LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May was set to unveil her new… Continue reading

Winter storm brings snow, rain, wind and cold to Eastern, Central Canada

A powerful winter storm that brought heavy rain and snow to much… Continue reading

Students seen mocking Native Americans could face expulsion

One 11-minute video of the confrontation shows the Haka dance and students loudly chanting

Olympian Adam van Koeverden wins federal Liberal nomination in Ontario riding

MILTON, Ont. — Former Olympic flag-bearer Adam van Koeverden will be carrying… Continue reading

World champion Osmond says it’s “really nice” not to know what future holds

SAINT JOHN, N.B. — Kaetlyn Osmond has a world title, Olympic medals… Continue reading

World economy forecast to slow in 2019 amid trade tensions

For Canada, the IMF’s estimate for growth in 2019 was 1.9 per cent, down from expected global growth of 3.5 per cent

Timberlake pops in on patients at Texas children’s hospital

DALLAS — Justin Timberlake has pulled some sunshine from his pocket for… Continue reading

UK police speak to Prince Philip about not wearing seatbelt

LONDON — British police have spoken with Prince Philip after the husband… Continue reading

2-for-1: Total lunar eclipse comes with supermoon bonus

On Sunday night, the moon, Earth and sun lined up to create the eclipse, which was visible throughout North and South America

‘Gotti’ leads Razzie nominations, Trump up for worst actor

The nominations were announced on Monday, Jan. 21 with some movies earning up to six nominations

Curtain rising Sunday night on total lunar eclipse

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The celestial curtain will be rising soon on… Continue reading

Most Read