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Updated: 02/16/2017 08:30:02AM

Model airplane club hosts ‘fun-fly’

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Jerry Meisenheimer/Highlands Sun

Larry Kauffman is the president of the Lake Placid Aeromodelers Club and hopes others will join him.

Jerry Meisenheimer/Highlands Sun

Miniature planes have to be scale sized models of real planes, past or present.

Jerry Meisenheimer/Highlands Sun

Newer versions of scale model airplanes run on electric batteries and are remote-controlled from the ground by their owners.

Jerry Meisenheimer/Highlands Sun

Jeff Ragonese has been flying for five years and likes showing off one of his stunt planes.

Jerry Meisenheimer/Highlands Sun

Drones come in different sizes and prices ranges. Professional models deliver pizzas in some cities.

Jerry Meisenheimer/Highlands Sun

Miniature model planes come in all different sizes and types. You can build your own from a kit, or buy one ready made.

Jerry Meisenheimer/Highlands Sun

Spectators at the LP Aeromodelers Club open house included Sam Shames (from left), George Eschenbach, 'Wild Bill' DeStefano, and Hal Wilson, all experienced pilots themselves.

Jerry Meisenheimer/Highlands Sun

Drones are becoming popular these days. Burke Even uses his in his business, to photograph homes for sale by real estate professionals.

Tom Meisenheimer/Highlands Sun

All model planes have to have a pilot in the cockpit, even if it's just for show.

Tom Meisenheimer/Highlands Sun

Model planes have to look like the real thing, like the Red Baron from World War I.


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LAKE PLACID –– All systems were go Saturday for members of the Lake Placid Aeromodelers Club for an open house and “fun-fly.”

For club members it was a chance to show off their flying skills in front of a crowd of spectators. The place was Riley Field, southwest of Lake Placid. The fun-filled event introduced novices to the sport of flying scale model planes.

There were model airplanes ranging from small crafts to quite large models, from inexpensive to costly ones, and even warplanes complete with mounted machine guns and the “Red Baron” in the pilot’s seat. What these airplanes all had in common is the International Miniature Aerobatic Club’s requirement that they all be scale models of actual full-sized real airplanes.

As each of the planes took off, a description of the maneuvers the on-the-ground pilots were performing by remote control was announced over the loud speaker. Some of the planes did intricate turns, stunts, and touch-and-go landings, much like would be seen at an airshow.

Some of the models were gas driven, others were electric models.

According to club president Larry Kauffman, the electric models are becoming more and more popular. Pilots bring about six fully charged batteries with them and just land the plane and pop in a fresh battery. The average flight is about 6-15 minutes. A few of the gas operated planes can stay in the air up to 25 minutes, depending on the maneuvers performed. They all operate ‘line of sight’, meaning the pilot on the ground must be able to see where his/her plane is in the sky.

Kauffman has been involved in flying model airplanes since 1970. Originally from Virginia, near Washington D..C, he moved to Lake Placid four years ago and became active in the local club that meets at Riley Field on the first Saturday of each month.

The club has been trying to attract more members. Currently there are 40 active pilots, most of whom are retired. The annual open house is to get younger men and women interested in the sport of flying model planes.

This rewarding hobby is truly a sport competition. There’s more to flying than just knowing how to operate a remote-control joy stick. Members become licensed after learning about basic aeronautical facts, safety issues, rules of competition, and communications.

New recruits can advance through five main classes: Basic, sportsman, intermediate, advanced, and unlimited. Pilots are challenged with sequences and complex movements that come with experience, and skills developed over time. Judging in all the categories is based off pre-determined aerobatic maneuvers. It truly is a competitive sport.

Belonging to the IMAC has the benefit of bringing local and international clubs together. Jeff Ragonese belongs to the Okeechobee branch. He came over to Lake Placid with his Edge 540-3D plane to show spectators what a stunt plane can do in the air. In real life, Ragonese is an engineer for Aero-Jet Rocketdyne. He designs rockets like those used by NASA. He’s been flying models for five years now and says he has lots of miniature planes at home.

Brad Fuller, a Lake Placid resident, operates a model plane that attracts a lot of attention. It’s a look-a-like to the 1917 Fokker DVII of World War I fame, the one piloted by the famous “Red Baron.” It has all the insignia, and even the machine guns, of the original. It weighs 45 pounds and is gas driven. It requires spinning the propeller to start it, just like in the day. He enters his plane in what’s known as warplane competition, with real air battles.

Drones are becoming more and more popular at Riley Field. For instance, Burke Even has been a photographer for years. He specializes in preparing virtual tours for local real estate companies. He can show perspective buyers what a home looks like inside before they even go to an open house. Now with a drone, he can photograph a home for sale from the air, too. His drone hovers over the house and takes video and still camera shots of the front, back, and sides of the house. It’s an excellent sales tool for the real estate agents.

In the past, various miniature planes operated off different radio frequencies. Today’s planes all use 2.4 mhz. Each receiver and transmitter lock into each other and have their own code. That way there’s no duplication that could cause interference. Also, multiple model planes can be in the sky at the same time, flying independently.

On-lookers at the open house consisted of old-timers, other area club members, grandfathers with grandsons, and families. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and just a slight wind – perfect flying weather.

If you would like to know more about becoming a member of the Lake Placid Aeromodelers, call Jon Draper at 863 840-0440. He’ll tell you all about the fun and challenge of being a miniature airplane pilot.