The Sky Rovers RC Flying Club's airshow wows the crowd and continues on Sunday.
PHELPS — Give them five minutes and they’ll make you fall in love with flying.
Members of the Sky Rovers RC Flying Club are passionate about their handcrafted, radio-controlled aircraft, and they’re proving why, to the applause of hundreds attending this weekend’s 2017 Sky Rovers Annual Airshow on McBurney Road.
Is it the mesmerizing buzz of the engines that draws people in? Or the graceful spins, loops, snap rolls, stall turns and tailslides of the model aircraft? Or could it be the pristine craftsmanship of each of the $150 to $5,000 models?
Everyone loves the hobby — or as some call it, sport — for different reasons. Take Dave Reid, who has been a member of Sky Rovers for the last 46 years.
“Everybody thinks the club is just flying airplanes,” said Reid. “But it’s the camaraderie, the fellowship. It’s just a lot of fun.”
And it’s relatively inexpensive, he said.
“We’re competitively priced with other hobbies,” said Reid. “If you’re a bass fisherman or an active golfer, you’re going to have a lot more money tied up. With us, if we spend money on something, it can be used over and over again. And even if we crash an aircraft, you can take the parts out, repair them and use them over again.”
If a person isn’t mechanically adept, they can still fly, he said. Some just don’t like the idea of balsa dust and glue.
“I like building and flying, and in the past have designed and built them, starting out with a blank sheet of paper,” said Reid. “I can do it at 10 at night in the dead of winter, so it’s a 365-day-a-year, 24-hour-a-day way you can do the hobby.”
Scott Miller of Brockport is an international competitor who’s a regular at the Phelps airshow. His splashy one-quarter scale S.E.5a Scout, a World War I British biplane fighter, weighs about 30 pounds and is just one of several planes in his “fleet.”
To put it in perspective, if four of his S.E.5a Scouts were laid out end to end, they would be the length of a full-scale plane, Miller said.
“Bigger flies better,” he said. “They fly smoother and don’t get affected by the wind as much, but they’re kind of a pain to transport around.”
What’s the overall value of the aircraft?
“We never discuss that,” said John Gee of Sodus, who took about a year to build the plane for Miller. “It’s a hobby so there’s really no price on that.”
By day Miller is a corporate jet mechanic for a local millionaire and philanthropist. When he’s off the clock, he’s in the sky, most recently in Lakeland, Florida, for the Top Gun Invitational, an international competition.
“I got fifth in expert class, so I was pretty happy,” said Miller. “I have a jet, a MiG-15 Korean war fighter.”
No jets fly in the Phelps two-day event, in consideration of neighbors and proximity to the state Thruway, said Reid.
The 35-member club saw about 30 different aircraft in the sky on Saturday, with more expected Sunday when the show continues.
“We have some pretty young fliers here,” said Reid. “One young boy is 8 years old — he’s been flying for a couple years. The oldest pilot we have is a gentleman who, I believe, is 90 years old.”
Tony Steiner, who flew a Pitts Model 12 high-performance aerobatic plane, also appeared alongside his 8-year-old son, Carter, and 12-year-old daughter, Tory. Each has his or her own specialty.
“There are so many aspects of the hobby,” said Reid. “We’ve got one of the guys in the club who builds and flies radio-controlled airplanes. He’s a world-renowned aviation historian and artist. He likes the aviation history part of it. He’s a walking encyclopedia. Then there are some guys who have no interest in scale aircraft, they like sport aircraft. If I whack it, no big deal, I’ll build another one.”
The hobby can be heartbreaking, Reid said. Once in awhile a crash will occur for no apparent reason, but it doesn’t happen very often, fortunately.
“If you fly long enough, you come to know that you will wreck an airplane,” he said.
Reid said he’s in it for the long haul.
“The only way I’ll stop building and flying is if I go blind or I die,” he said. “That’s dedication.”
If you go
WHAT Day two of the Sky Rovers RC Flying Club's annual airshow
WHEN 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
WHERE Ford Field, 2269 McBurney Road, Phelps
INFO Visit skydivers.com or call 315-548-3779