The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 21, 2013

For the fun of flying

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — An Enid radio-controlled airplane club will hold a special event Saturday, when it raises a flag that was flown over Afghanistan above their flying field west of town.

The event will occur at noon, and that day, a Vance Honor Guard member will be present to assist, said Bill Cunningham, president of the Salt Plains Aeronautical Development Society Radio Control Club. The flying field is located three miles west of Atwoods and one-quarter mile south.

The flag was donated to the club by Air Force Maj. Steven Freedman, a former student pilot at Vance Air Force Base. Freedman was deployed to Afghanistan, and was a member of the club.

Cunningham said the event on Saturday is a club fun-fly, in which fliers from other clubs in the area are invited.

The club was started in the mid-1970s and still is going strong with about 35 members, Cunningham said.

“We fly planes whenever it’s nice — in the evening and on weekends, if it isn’t too windy,” Cunningham said. “In the evening before dark, and on weekends, if it’s nice, you’ll find people out there then.”

The radio-controlled aircraft of today are not much different than when the club started, Cunningham said. However, today, they come nearly ready to fly with wings put together and pre-covered, with minimal build time. He said it only takes four to five hours to build one, whereas the original planes took “hours and hours” to put together.

“You can buy them ready to fly, with just about everything ready, and it only takes 30 to 45 minutes to put together,” he said.

Engines are slightly different than they used to be. Today’s engine type may be nitro, which runs on a mixture of nitrogen, methane and oil. Sizes range from 2 horsepower to 5-6 horsepower. With the advance of batteries, there are some electronic aircraft with nearly the same horsepower as gas-powered planes. Radio-controlled helicopters are as difficult to fly as real helicopters.

“We recommend people start with a trainer (aircraft) and work up to a helicopter,” Cunningham said.

Normally, there will 8 to 10 people flying on nice days. The weather has a lot to do with whether they fly or not, he said. If the wind is blowing, they may not fly, making northwest Oklahoma spring days a little uncertain for flying.

“If it’s a perfect day, it will get pretty busy,” he said.

The flying field has a flight pattern off the 300-foot runway. The runway is made of trampoline material laid on the ground, the same as used in road building material. Everyone flying will use the same pattern, and on days when there are more than four flying at once, they use spotters to keep track of where the planes are. They also have a spectator rope to keep everyone except pilots back. There also are tables where pilots can work on their aircraft.

“We fly from the runway east and everyone else stays behind. The direction of the wind will determine the direction of flight,” he said.

An electric trainer with radio control and equipment can be purchased for about $250, and prices go up from there. That will purchase a “nice-size” trainer. Prices go as high as $2,000, depending on how big the plane is.

Saturday is the first event being held at the club’s new field. It usually has one fun fly-in the spring and one in the fall. There are clubs in Ponca City, Guthrie and Woodward, and those members are invited to participate. Cunningham said the public is invited to the fun-fly, or to watch the planes any time. There will be hamburgers and hot-dogs available for a donation, he said.