Young Campers Take Flight With Model Airplanes

By Guy Leonard, County Times

Matt Tillman, president of Patuxent Aeromodelers club talks to some campers about the ins and outs of flying model airplanes. (Photo: Guy Leonard)
Matt Tillman, president of Patuxent Aeromodelers club talks to some campers about the ins and outs of flying model airplanes. (Photo: Guy Leonard)

HOLLYWOOD, Md. (July 3, 2008)—As the 20 or so young campers trotted up the dirt path from Greenwell State Park in Hollywood to adjacent Helwig field, the temperature started to rise and they did not look happy to be out in the sun.

But that was about to change. It started when they got a look at the scale replicas of the model airplanes that members of the Patuxent Aero modelers Radio Control had set up for them.

Modelers were busy gearing up their planes for flight to show just how involved, and how much fun, their hobby could be.

Some modelers charged up their planes with battery power while others worked manual fuel pumps that pumped in a pink, nitrousbased compound to get their motors running.

More than a few of the planes used weed whacker engines for thrust.

As the first plane took off, what modelers called a 42-percent, because it was 42 percent the size of the real aerobatic propeller plane it imitated, the campers from Greenwell were wowed by the stunning acrobatic moves the pilot showed off as well as just how high and fast the little plane could fly.

After the first plane’s smooth landing, campers got a look at another prop plane, this time with a Barbie doll placed in the cockpit.

As the plane performed a low fly-by of the smiling youngsters, the bomb bay doors opened and three toy paratroopers dropped out and floated to the ground perfectly.

Campers got to see replicas of World War II era fighter planes take to the sky, too. Concurrent machine-gun firing noises from the campers followed several low level passes.

It was not long before campers got to get on the stick while one of the club members helped control the plane from an auxiliary controller called a “buddy box.”

Campers said it was well worth the wait and the heat.

“It was completely different,” said Hannah Crosby, 12, of Charlotte Hall. “It was fun.”

Crosby said the flying was a bit tense at times, too, since just a little movement on one of the control sticks could send the plane spinning.

“It’s like getting off of a roller coaster… you’re proud you did it.”

R.C. Wildes, 10, of Hollywood found out quickly that piloting the little models was tougher than it looked at first.

“It was fun. Challenging, but fun,” Wildes said. “It’s kind of hard to steer.

“It’s fun to figure out how the piloting works… I think I did a loop by accident.”

Education was the main reason the aero modelers got their start, other than just for the fun of it.

The club is a local chapter of the Academy of Aeronautics and teaches new members the ins and outs of aero modeling, including mathematical applications, electronics, mechanics, physics and aerodynamics.

Local club president Matt Tillman said that membership in the club, particularly for young people, can have other benefits as well.

“I tell parents it develops and takes a lot of skills,” Tillman said. “It teaches patience and perseverance… and it teaches you how to solder and glue stuff together.”

Crosby was impressed with the perseverance and skill it would take to get one of these model planes in the air — and keep it there.

“It’s something you have to put together yourself,” she said. “You can’t just buy it at a store.”

For more information about the club and how to become a member, visit their Web site at

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