The Daily Courier
CHINO VALLEY - These model aviators are proof that flying isn't easy or cheap, but it is highly addictive.
Each weekend, the Chino Valley Model Aviators Club meet by a remote airstrip off Perkinsville Road flying all types of model aircraft ranging from small, electric-powered balsa wood planes and larger fuel-powered propeller planes to helicopters, and even The Silver Surfer.
Two members fly model jets powered by mini turbine engines.
The weekend air shows draw lawyers, plumbers, retirees and others from all over the area who share an obsession for flying.
Some in the club are former pilots who "enjoy aviation vicariously through their models," said club president, Bob Shanks, estimating membership at about 88.
Shanks, 66, is a retired Air Force intelligence officer and adjunct professor in Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Global Security Intelligence program.
Shanks started flying model planes in 1979, stopped to work on his doctorate because "it was too distracting," and jumped back into the hobby 20 years later.
"These are not toys. They follow every law of aerodynamics," said Randy Meathrell, identifying himself as a "dyed-in-the-wool" airplane nut, and retired aeronautical engineer.
A foam-framed electric-powered plane was the latest casualty three weeks ago in his string of models that often unfavorably meet the ground as pilots work to master aerobatics.
"One thing about these planes, they all have expiration dates. You just never know when it is," he said.
"Nobody gets too attached to their planes. It's only a matter of time," adds Dave Marston, a visiting spectator from ERAU's Case De Aero club.
Some of the aviators joined the club through the club trainer, John Stewart, who works at Valley Hobby in Prescott Valley.
Stewart said flying was "a family thing," for him, getting into the hobby around 1970.
Stewart gives free lessons at the airfield, the club providing "buddy stalls" where new pilots learn on connected radios with the instructor, who can turn over or retrieve control from the novice at any time.
Newer members usually buy their first planes ready to fly, while veteran flyers typically build an endless variety of types.
Andy Milsap, 43, from Cordes Junction, learned from Stewart five years ago, he said, while getting ready to fly a model he built with his 11-year-old son.
"I love building them," he said.
"I have planes hanging all over my house. I have a very understanding wife."
Juan Garcia, a 34-year-old Baptist minister from Prescott Valley, said Stewart invited him out to fly, and after four weeks, just completed his first landing.
Garcia said he flies for fun, and to get his 9-year-old daughter involved in a hobby.
"It keeps her away from the TV screen, and helps her coordination," he said.
The club will hold the Steve Crowe World War II Eagle Squadron Fun Fly on Sept. 22 and 23 to honor Crowe, a current member and 133 Squadron pilot of the outfit that flew Hurricanes and Spitfires in battle over Europe.
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