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Radio control flying club members take fancy flights

June 25, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

HAGERSTOWN - Above a cornfield just east of town Saturday afternoon, a lone bird could be seen gliding effortlessly, and not a little courageously, across the overcast sky.

Other flying objects in the area were of the inanimate kind, thrust heavenward by 17 "mostly middle-aged" men clutching radio control units as they sent their model planes rolling and looping in the annual Fun Fly sponsored by the Pegasus Radio Control Flying Club.

Some might view their obsession with radio-controlled planes as just so much fascination with big-boy toys, but club members take their flying seriously. And a little friendly competition on a summer afternoon in the country had these flyboys laughing and grinning and chomping 50-cent hot dogs and watching each other's airships performing graceful pirouettes at Pegasus Field, a clearing surrounded by cornfields off Old Forge Road.

Participants competed in eight categories, including looping, gliding, even drag racing on the ground. One competition had them fastening egg-bearing cups to their planes; the object was to drop the egg from the plane onto a target on the ground.

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Toward the end, 13 competitors braved what event organizer Mike Frey called "the Pegasus Carnage" - three rolls, three loops and a landing. The "pilot" performing the skills and landing his aircraft fastest would win.

While the weather forecast had threatened the event, the club had relatively dry and quiet airspace most of the day. That is, until a sudden breeze skirted the field as Frey, the final competitor in the Pegasus Carnage, prepared his own plane for its voyage.

"I got wind to deal with," he remarked. "Where'd that come from?"

Nevertheless, he whipped his plane through its paces in 20.32 seconds, the winning time for the contest.

Flying these babies is not as simple as it might look. A steady hand and precision control is required to keep the planes from spiraling to earth.

Henry Bergen, the club's treasurer, patiently teaches newcomers how to maneuver radio-controlled planes by hitching the "student" switches to a master control unit. That way, he can take over operation of the plane before it ditches.

"You'll have macho types who'll come out here and say, 'I can do this,' and end up turning their plane over, then when they try to give it lift, guess where it goes? Then, they'll walk over to that pile of garbage and say, 'This isn't much of a hobby,' and they'll never be back," Bergen said. "This way, we can teach somebody new how to fly it without worrying about it."

He patiently granted an impromptu lesson to a brand new student during a break in Saturday's competition, guiding her through left and right turns. It took several tries, but he finally said he was satisfied with her progress.

Though no female pilots competed Saturday, Frey said he's working on his 7-year-old daughter.

"She wants a pink plane," he said.

The competition, sanctioned by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, was scheduled to end with an awards ceremony at 4:30 p.m., but several club members planned to return to the field at 8 p.m. for a little fly-by-night activity.

And since the event announcement challenged all comers to "hang around 'til dark to see the Pegasus Night Hawks night fly after dark ... You won't believe your eyes," who could resist?

"You'll have macho types who'll come out here and say, 'I can do this,' and end up turning their plane over, then when they try to give it lift, guess where it goes? Then, they'll walk over to that pile of garbage and say, 'This isn't much of a hobby,' and they'll never be back." -- Henry Bergen, Pegasus Radio Control Flying Club treasurer

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