Remote control air meet kicks off in Sanford
By Tammy Wells, Senior Staff Writer
Published: Friday, September 7, 2012 12:06 PM EDT
SANFORD — An A-10 Thunderbolt flew past, turned and hen prepared for landing. Then, moments later, another A-10, called the "warthog" by those in aviation circles, took to the skies and performed some gut-stirring aerobatics.
The A-10s are remote control scale models of the full-size Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt. One was flown by a Maine man Thursday, the other by a 33-year-old remote control star from London, England.
Welcome to the U.S. Air Meet, which began Thursday with warm-up sessions by pilots and continues with demonstrations and air shows today through Sunday, including night-flying Saturday followed by a bang-up fireworks display.
The event is held at Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport and is expected to draw 350 participants and upwards of 20,000 spectators. Admission is free; parking is $10 per car.
At the controls of one of the A-10s Thursday afternoon was Jim Baker of Limington, piloting the aircraft model built by owner Dave Skillings of Auburn.
A mechanic, Baker said he became intrigued with remote control about 15 years ago when he thumbed through a hobby magazine he found in a client's car.
"I was hooked," he said.
Skillings has been involved for 50-55 years, he said – so long that when he first started building and flying the models, enthusiasts had to build their own radios.
Flying the second A-10 – the one that was making the dizzying dips, dives and tailspins – was Ali Machinchy, who hails from London, England and now travels worldwide, in his words "earning his living," at flying remote control aircraft.
The 33-year-old began flying remote control planes at age 3, he said.
"I'm very lucky. I love my work, traveling and playing with toys," he said Thursday.
Radio controlled aircraft pilots from around the country and beyond – and some close to home – are preparing to thrill spectators with their skill at flying precision models at speeds up to 200 miles an hour. And while airplanes are a big feature of the Horizon Hobby U.S. Air Meet, remote control helicopters will fly across the skies and off-road vehicles will take to a specially-designed dirt track.
Among the highlights are aerobatic shows by some big names in the radio controlled aircraft field, including Matt Chapman, who won one of only five slots on the U.S. Unlimited Men's Aerobatic Team in 1996 and 1998, according to information on the U.S. Air Meet website. An airline captain, Chapman was a recipient of the Hillard Trophy, awarded to the highest finishing U.S. pilot in the World Aerobatics Championships.
The focus of the U.S. Air Meet is on the spectators, said Joe Schamuhn, vice president of strategic marketing for Horizon Hobby. Based in Champagne, Ill., the company is hosting the air meet with Ray Labonte of Ray and Robin's Hobby Center of Falmouth, who initiated the Maine Model Jet Rally at Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport beginning in 2005.
Spectators will be entertained, and at the same time, learn a bit more about the remote control hobby, Schamuhn said in a recent interview.
Other remote control stars performing are David Ribbe, a 2005 U.S. Scale Masters Grand Champion, Peter Goldsmith, Australian National Champion, Seth Arnaud, XFC Airplane Champion, world class competitor James Haley, along with off-road remote control stars Mike Truhe and Dustin Evans, according to information provided by show organizers.
There here will be plenty of cool flying and plenty of "try me" activities for spectators to get a feel for the hobby, said Schamuhn.
While the air meet continues through 7 p.m. tonight, organizers say Saturday and Sunday are the best days for spectators. The Air Meet opens at 9 a.m. both days, with an Air Show Extravaganza at 12:30 p.m. Saturday and Night Flying Ballet and fireworks at 9 p.m. Flying is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, with the Air Show Extravaganza at noon.
Labonte, on the runway Thursday, said he's looking for good weather and big crowds. Machinchy said he's impressed.
"We've got nice weather, a massive runway, and (the meet) is very well organized," he said.
Thumbs up for these guys who build and fly these large scale A-10 RC models!