Originally Published: July 8, 2002 6:15 p.m.
Justin Phelps launches a homemade helicopter Wednesday at that school. The helicopter, made by
Ed Piggott, is powered by a long rubber band and was demonstrated to members of the Boys and Girls Club.
Courier/Jo. L. Keener
"Model aviation kept me out of prison," he said, adding that it held him away from friends who were looking for nothing but trouble. And most of them ended up behind bars, he said.
Six years ago, when Walsh's group formed a club in Chino Valley, he told this story to town's officials. It got their attention, he said, and they agreed to designate a field to his club.
"We are trying to get a model field in the Prescott Valley area so it could be more convenient for these kids," he said. "Our goal is to introduce these kids to full-scale aviation career opportunities through model aviation."
Many of the commercial and military pilots in the U.S., as well as astronauts, were and are airplane modelers, Walsh said. Astronaut Neil Armstrong was one of them, he said.
"Modeling teaches the kids how to apply their (modeling) knowledge in school," he said, adding that it helps them with problem solving, patience and concentration.
Even if they do it only as a hobby, they can apply the skills learned in model aviation in many other professions, he said.
"I held a job and I was the only non-college graduate in the job," he said. "It was only because of model aviation. I could solve the problems that other guys couldn't."
Besides being fun, a message that YFF hopes to get across to the youth about model aviation is that their involvement can keep them out of trouble, he said. And it can introduce them to the math and science knowledge needed to enter the fields of astronomy or aviation, he said.
"There is no limit to what we can do with these kids if we get an opportunity," he said, adding that YFF can teach them about aviation history as well.
Walsh also stressed that these model planes are not toys.
"These are miniature aircraft that fly on the same aerodynamic principles with the same problems and the same performances as the real ones," he said.
Many people, including children, do not participate in model aviation because of its costs, he added.
"We are maintaining trainer airplanes so that these kids can come out and fly without cost," he said. "We do not want to turn one kid away because of their financial status."
"We want these kids to be members of the Academy of Model Aeronautics," he said. "It costs them $1 a year and it provides necessary insurance for flying."
YFF is trying to get moral and financial support from the community, Walsh said.
The Valley Hobby Shop, a local business, for example, has shown its support by selling YFF models at a discount, he said.
Some of the model planes are dual control trainers, which allow the instructor to rescue a model in case the navigator loses control of it.
"Dual control makes a no-risk try for anyone interested," he said. "We want families (to get involved), not just kids. We want to get people that always wanted to fly models, but couldn't."
Fourteen-year-old Justin Phelps became interested in flying model airplanes a year ago. Currently, he is building an aerobatics biplane, he said. Meanwhile, two to three times a week he practices flying a PT40 model, which is a little trainer plane, he said. Besides being fun, his interest in airplane modeling is geared more toward becoming an aeronautical engineer one day, he said.
"When you are building planes you learn how aerodynamics works and you learn how to design better planes," he said. "That is why I'm doing this. And it is a lot of fun."
His friend Brandon Wheeler, who started flying models just recently, said that flying a miniature aircraft is not easy because it requires multiple skills. For him, however, it will be only a hobby, he said.
"I just like having fun and something to do during the day," he said.
Walsh said that airplane modeling is a hobby that can close a gap between generations.
"One of our oldest members is 83 years old," he said. "It is a hobby that they (children) can have until they are old like us."
Contact Mirsada Buric-Adam at email@example.com.