2016-08-22 / Front Page

Small planes sweep across OOB sky

By ALAN BENNETT Staff Writer


Model airplane enthusiast Bob Cyr of Cumberland flies his E-Flite Carbon Z Cub model airplane at the Old Orchard Beach Ballpark’s first Radio-Controlled Vehicle Festival on Saturday, which drew hobbyists from several neighboring communities. 
ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune Model airplane enthusiast Bob Cyr of Cumberland flies his E-Flite Carbon Z Cub model airplane at the Old Orchard Beach Ballpark’s first Radio-Controlled Vehicle Festival on Saturday, which drew hobbyists from several neighboring communities. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune OLD ORCHARD BEACH — It’s a bird – no, it’s a bird-sized plane, and dozens of them took to the skies on Saturday at the Old Orchard Beach Ballpark’s first Radio-Controlled Vehicle Festival.

“I’m trying to think a lot of times outside the box for the ballpark to bring different events here,” said Guy Fontaine, operations manager for the Ballpark. “And I thought, ‘You know what? Maybe an RC (radio-controlled) event.’ My son has a drone so that kind of got me interested.”

Fontaine said he intended the event to display radio-controlled cars, boats and other vehicles. But scheduling conflicts prevented the cars from being shown, and the Ballpark’s pond, where the boats were to be displayed, dried up prior to show day – a side effect of the state’s continued drought.

But the festival, the first of its kind to be held at the Ballpark, was successful in drawing a number of model airplane enthusiasts to Old Orchard Beach for a day of fun and fascination.

Representatives from several area model airplane clubs attended the event, and wowed spectators with a multitude of tricks from flips to dips and even a couple flops.

Clubs sponsoring the event included the Propsnappers Club of Greater Portland, Ray and Robin’s Hobby Center, Brunswick Area Modelers, Skystreakers R/C Club, Strawberry Patch RC Pilots, Bush Pilots, Southern Maine R/C Helicopter Association and the Kenny Beck Valley Model Association.

“We come down here and we get to fly with people from the other clubs. We always like the challenge of flying in a different facility. It makes it interesting,” said Mike Fasulo, who is on the board of directors for the Propsnappers Club and who emceed much of the event. “We like to show the stuff off in front of crowds.”

And while it’s all in good fun, Fasulo said, he hopes the crowd takes more away from the event than just a good show.

“We like to inform people more about the hobby,” Fasulo said. “One of the black eyes we’re getting these days are what everybody wants to call a drone. But a drone is a very generic term used by the military. What we’re flying is remote controlled airplanes.”

Fasulo said the public’s use of drones has been the cause of stricter regulations placed on hobbyists, despite the fact they already fly off-the-radar, in fields away from the public’s view.

“People are doing dumb things with them, taking them out, flying them near airports, putting them in places where they shouldn’t be ... that’s just stuff we never did,” he said. “And because of the people doing bad things with them, we’ve had more restrictions placed on (us).”

Fasulo said radio-controlled model airplanes formerly had to be registered only with the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which charters model flying clubs, but now the Federal Aviation Administration has also required hobbyists to register their aircraft.

At the end of last year, the FAA began requiring anyone who owns a small unmanned aircraft, such as a drone, or radio-controlled model aircraft weighing more than 0.55 pounds to register with the FAA before flying the craft outdoors.

Failure to do so could result in fines of up to $250,000, according to the FAA.

“I’m hoping we’re educating people. We’re trying to explain the differences – the model aircraft enthusiast versus someone playing with a toy drone somewhere,” Fasulo said.

Bob Rings, Ballpark commissioner, said he hopes the festival can grow in subsequent years to include races, which he said would attract more people to the Ballpark in the future.

“If you can get people who are going to this do this RC race, and they come and bring their families, then it will draw the general public as well,” Rings said.

Above all, Fasulo hopes people left Saturday’s event with a new or deeper appreciation for model airplanes and a desire to take up the hobby.

“Mail order has become huge in this industry and so many people start off with the wrong equipment,” he said, noting people often purchase cheaper materials rather than higher-quality kits. “So they buy it, take it home, smash it … They never join the hobby, they never come back. We try to say, ‘Come talk to us first.’”

Fasulo said the Propsnappers Club offers free training for anyone who wants to learn how to fly radio-controlled planes, and hosts open houses to promote the hobby.

And, he said, there’s nothing quite like building a plane from scratch and seeing it through to flight.

“You go buy some wood and a tube of glue and build this airplane, install your electronics and take it out and fly it,” Fasulo said. “That’s pretty gratifying.”

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or abennett@journaltribune.com.

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