2016-09-09 / Front Page

R/C pilots take to the skies this weekend

20th year for radio control jet rally
By DINA MENDROS
Associate Editor


Jeff Lynds of Columbia, Conn., poses with his model jet at the Maine Jet Rally in September 2014 at the Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport. 
DINA MENDROS/Journal Tribune Jeff Lynds of Columbia, Conn., poses with his model jet at the Maine Jet Rally in September 2014 at the Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport. DINA MENDROS/Journal Tribune SANFORD — When he was 10 years old, Ray Labonte discovered the joys of flying. That’s when he first started using radio-control jets.

That led him to take to the air himself at age 17, when he began piloting planes. At age 21, Labonte became a commercial pilot, and for 15 years he flew 727 jets for Continental Airline.

Although he’s retired as a commercial pilot (he still flies for recreation), Labonte is more involved with what started his love of flying: radio-control model jets. He’s wants to help others catch the flying fever too, and is hoping for big crowds at the 20th Maine Jet Rally & Model Expo, which starts today and runs through Sunday at the Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport.

The event will consist of open flying for registered R/C pilots and drivers during much of the three days. There will also be featured demonstrations of remote-control jets from 1-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.


Peter Reny of Augusta is shown with his BD-5J jet, which he will fly at the Maine Jet Rally & Model Expo at the Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport. The event begins today and ends Sunday. 
SUBMITTED PHOTO Peter Reny of Augusta is shown with his BD-5J jet, which he will fly at the Maine Jet Rally & Model Expo at the Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport. The event begins today and ends Sunday. SUBMITTED PHOTO Peter Reny of Augusta will perform high-speed fly-bys in his BD-5J plane. Billed as “the world’s smallest jet,” Labonte said Reny’s plane “is not a whole lot bigger than the radio-controlled jets. People are amazed he can fit in it.”

In addition to the radio-controlled jets, there are areas for radio-controlled helicopters and cars, and control line circles (which are planes controlled by strings rather than transmitters), as well as the latest craze: first person view, known as FPV, flying. According to Labonte, FPV flying involves a camera being attached to a drone, which gives the flyer “the perspective as if they’re riding it.”

For those who want to give R/C flying or driving a go, there will be “try me” activities that allow bystanders to get hands-on experience.

Labonte, an owner of Ray and Robin’s Hobby Center in Falmouth, has been an organizer of the jet rally since its inception in 1993 at the Biddeford Municipal Airport. In order to grow, the event moved to Sanford after 12 years in Biddeford.

The last year the event was held was in 2014. Labonte said organizers took 2015 off because the Great State of Maine Air Show, featuring the Blue Angels at the Brunswick Naval Air Station, was held around the same time the jet rally would have been scheduled.

Although Labonte said he’s a fan of the Blue Angels, he thinks the jet rally can provide a more intimate experience for spectators. “They get to go up and talk to the people that (fly),” he said.

The Maine Jet Rally & Model Expo takes place today and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport.

Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for ages 11 to 17 and free for ages 10 and under; parking is free. For more information, contact Ray & Robin’s Hobby Center at 797-5196 or rrhobbyctr@aol.com, or visit the website, mainejetrally.org.

— Associate Editor Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or dmendros@journaltribune.com.

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