Sky Kings

Flying the friendly skies with radio-controlled airplanes

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Dick Campbell likes to take the controls of his DC3 airplane and fly above the cliffs at the Rim Country Flyers' Airfield.

On sunny days, the twin engines of his Eastern Airlines passenger liner whine as the plane rises into the sky from the 600-foot-long runway.

"I have six or seven planes ready or nearly ready to fly and 22 kits to build," Campbell said.

Campbell is a member of the Rim Country Flyers -- a group of radio controlled aircraft (RCA) enthusiasts. On Tuesday and Friday mornings, club members are at their airfield in Rye with their Corsairs, flying wings and biplanes.

For many, flying RCA planes has been a passion since childhood.

They may have left it behind while they raised a family, but, now retired, they are able to spend the time building models.

"It is still such a rush watching a plane I built lift off for the first time," Ralph Larkin said. Forty years ago, he spent seven months building his first RCA plane, a Senior Falcon.

RCA planes have the same flight controls as real aircraft. There are two sticks. The right stick controls up and down and right and left. The left stick controls throttle and rudder. Flight controls run on batteries, and transmit the signals for loops, rolls and spins to the plane.

The pilot maneuvers his plane through Cuban 8s (horizontal figure-eights), Split Ss, loops and rolls, tricks that originated by fighter pilots during World War I and II.

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This sport, aerobatic plane flying against the cliffs in Rye, is known as a Fun Fly. It has a mid-range, about 3/4 horsepower engine.

"As long as you can see your plane, you can control it," Frank Golub said.

Highest and farthest is not good, but Campbell admitted there was a little bit of one-upmanship when one pilot dares another by asking, "How much range does your radio have?"

Wind is not the pilots' friend in the case of these small planes.

"You can live with a steady wind, but a gusting and shifting wind is a real bummer," Golub said.

Big wings in a wind means the plane flies like a leaf.

Marty Rosentel is the club's test pilot.

His dad used to build "peanut planes," powered by rubber bands.

In 1986 Rosentel said, "If I'm going build and fly model planes, they need to have motors."

A WWI Sopwith (like the plane Snoopy flies) and an A10 Warthog are the planes he has flown most recently.

What makes an RCA pilot's knees shake?

Several pilots agreed: plane heading for the ground when you find out you are not in control.

Yet, true pilots, do not give up.

When Martin Faulkner crashed his favorite plane, a Sig Cavalier, he bought another kit and built another one.

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Frank Golub hopes to fly his blue and yellow F4U Corsair sometime in April. The Rim Country Flyers will host a Fun Fly from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 28 at their field in Rye.

"Like any hobby, building RCA planes can be as expensive as the person wants to make it," Campbell said.

Breakthroughs in technology have made the costs of getting into the sport reasonable.

Planes can be built completely from scratch. RTF (ready to fly) planes can be assembled in a few hours. ARF (almost ready to fly) planes come with radios and engines installed for $140 to $260.

For the extremely avid pilot, half-scale RCA Jets might cost the owner $15,000.

Last year, the Rim Country Flyers showed two dozen children how to fly RCAs at their annual Fun Fly.

This year's Fun Fly will be held from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 28 at their field in Rye. The field is located on the west side of the Beeline Highway next to the Gila County Maintenance Yard. The event is free and reservations are not required.

There will be open flying and flight demonstrations, a raffle and food.

"Training-aircraft and instructors will give the public a chance to experience the excitement of radio-controlled flight," Larkin said.

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