Remote-controlled aircraft enthusiasts share their passion at expo

2013-12-05T00:00:00Z Remote-controlled aircraft enthusiasts share their passion at expoBy Phil Villarreal Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

There will be hot models on display and plenty of people getting high, but this is no fashion industry event.

The Sonoran Desert Flyers, an Academy of Model Aeronautics chartered club, is launching Aviation Awareness Day in Oro Valley.

The free event, which features paragliders and public safety helicopters in addition to model aircraft demonstrations, goes from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at Naranja Park, 600 W. Naranja Drive.

The event will raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project through raffles and donation collections.

Sonoran Desert Flyers Vice President Bob Schumann said there will be more than 100 model aircraft on display, at least 25 of which will take flight.

Paragliders will demonstrate their skills; a homemade aircraft will be on display; and medical and law enforcement helicopters will drop by.

Schumann said the purpose of the event is to inspire a love for aviation. He said the 118-member club, which started in 1984, takes pride in making it easy for newcomers to join.

Club President Larry O’Day  said club members want to share their joy of flying model aircraft.

“We’re trying to open this up so people understand we have a place to fly, and we teach people at no charge,” he said. “We’re trying to get more kids involved, and it’s working very well. I think we grew faster than any club last year.”

The club is well-respected around the country for its efforts in growing the hobby, Schumann said.

“We’ve taught more people than any other club in the U.S., and we’re just on a little dirt strip,” he said. “We’re kind of on the Johnny Appleseed model. Every weekend, we have between one and three new members that want to come out and learn how to fly, and we just want to teach them.”

Schumann said he expects hundreds of people to attend the event.

“The reason we’re doing this is to make people aware of aviation,” he said. “We’ve had fathers bring their sons to events, and now those sons are corporate pilots. We want to inspire a love of aviation and encourage people to stay on that career path.”

Inexperienced model aircraft pilots can bring their aircraft to the event and have a club instructor teach them how to fly it for free.

“If someone buys an aircraft, goes out the first time and crashes it, it’s not going to be a hobby. They’ll say: ‘Gee, that was fun. Now I’m going to go do something else, like put my finger in my eye,’ ” Schumann said. “We’re interested in you succeeding, and we’d like to keep you as a member. We’ll get you out there on the field and give you a trial flight.”

Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or pvillarreal@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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