If there isnt a NASCAR race on TV, and the weather is clear, Terry Holston can be found in the park flying his model planes.
He builds each plane by hand; detailing even the minuscule gauges in the cockpit, which is just large enough to fit a doll-sized pilot.
As the president of the Fort Wayne Flying Circuits R/C Model Airplane Club, Holston spends most afternoons as an instructor for novice pilots – even on his 72nd birthday last week.
Im retired; I celebrate every day by flying, Holston chuckles.
The Fort Wayne Flying Circuits will celebrate the 31st annual Monster Mash on Saturday at the organizations flying site in Jefferson Township Community Park on Webster Road near New Haven.
In conjunction with the Academy of Model Aeronautics National Aviation Day, the giant aircraft rally invites pilots to display and fly large model remote-controlled airplanes with half of the registration fees benefiting Toys for Tots and the Wounded Warrior Project. The event will host a 50/50 raffle in which half of the prize money will go to the winner and half will go toward the two charities.
The club is offering open flying sessions today and Sunday for all remote-controlled planes, creating a weekend of social activities that promotes the organizations mission of gaining public interest in model aviation and community outreach.
Holston says although model planes are a hobby enjoyed by all ages, the large model aircrafts on display this weekend are certainly not toys.
The International Miniature Model Aircraft Association, AMAs largest special interest group, defines a large or giant scale aircraft as a model with a wingspan of 80 inches for a monoplane and 60 inches for multiwing models. Ducted fan and turbine aircrafts must equal 140 inches in length and width to qualify for the rally. Holston says his turbine jets can reach up to 250 mph – although in the U.S. the maximum legal speed limit for a model aircraft is 200 mph.
People usually dont understand until they actually see what were doing out there. They are some pretty small ones, but theyre still sophisticated. They have circuit boards that are an inch across, but youd be surprised what they can get in there.
The Fort Wayne Flying Circuits, a local charter of the AMA, was founded in 1951 and became incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1954. The AMA, which has its headquarters in Muncie, consists of more than 2,500 clubs nationwide.
Holston says that the age of its 95 members range from 15 to 80.
We have to keep people interested in model aviation and keep the club going, Holston says. We got a plaque on the wall of the clubhouse that is called The Angel Flight plaque, and nobody wants to have their name on it because it means that person has passed away. I dont want to be on that plaque – but one day, I will be. The club has been going on since 1954, and we need young members to continue the club.
With advances in technology, modern, sophisticated model planes can now maneuver as easily as a full-sized aircraft, giving operators control over wing flaps, landing gear and lights. Certain radio systems can now accommodate a larger number of channels, making radio interference while flying no longer a concern.
Holston says hes been interested in model airplanes since the age of 10. Growing up in the early 50s, he says, he would construct model planes out of cardboard because he couldnt afford balsa wood. As an adult, Holston says he bought his first remote-controlled plane in 1972, and he has built nearly 25 model aircrafts and five flyable turbine-powered jets in the past 40 years. He has several models yet to build.
Although larger aircrafts can come at a high price, the investment in an inexpensive trainer airplane and four-channel radio control system is all thats needed for a beginner. Its important to start small since crashes can happen to even the most experienced pilot, Holston says.
Its as expensive as you want it to be; you can get an electronic R/C plane for less than $100, Holston says. I look at it like this: if I was playing golf, I would be spending more.
Holston says that in his experience working with students, there is a certain learning curve. He has had students who have been able to land a plane by the third lesson and other students who will spend the afternoon trying to remember their left from their right.
He says the only way to correct it is to mentally hop into the cockpit.
Youd be surprised to see how different it is when youre looking up at the airplane and youre standing on the ground. The plane is in the air but youre not in it, so it gives you an illusion that it is backward. Its like looking in the mirror and raising your left hand, but your reflection is raising your right hand, Holston says. You have to put your body in the same direction of the plane so you can have better control of where the plane is going.