“It’s about the journey of getting there and building and making every piece just right.”
This is how Ryan Lockhart explained the art behind the model airplanes flown at the annual Grand Island Modelers RC Airplane and Fun Fly event.
The Grand Island Modelers Association hosted another successful Fun Fly event with 32 pilots and around 70 model planes to showcase at the group’s airfield west of Grand Island.
The Fun Fly, also known as Big Bird, started Friday and concluded Sunday with almost 100 spectators in attendance. With food, plane crashes and a raffled model plane, the Fun Fly weekend fulfilled the journey of many.
Lockhart is originally from Alliance and makes frequent trips to attend association’s flying events. Lockhart started his model planes hobby at the age of 12 and has continued until assembling his personal favorite model planes: warbirds.
Lockhart has spent about a decade piloting model planes for the G.I. modelers’ club events and has even built a few of his own models. However, Lockhart finds it easier to purchase the parts and assemble them together or buy the model planes at other events.
“I cut out parts of airplanes and wood. Then kind of glue them together and slap some paint on them and I’d go,” Lockhart said. “This hobby lends itself to kind of an individualist.”
The Fun Fly event showcased model planes from the beginners’ stage made of styrofoam and electrical to the pro stage, which are the larger model gas planes such as the warbirds. For this event, Lockhart showed two of his model planes, a North American P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair. Both planes were used during World War II and they are some of Lockhart’s favorites.
Since Lockhart claimed he is not a great model plane builder, Lockhart uses many “Almost Ready to Fly” planes. Although ARFs planes are much easier to purchase and cheaper, Lockhart said majority of the club members learn how to construct the planes before knowing how to fly.
“I grew up in the age where the ARFs really came on in the last 15 to 20 years,” Lockhart said. “When I started, you really had to build them yourself.”
Despite the changes of recent model planes, Lockhart said the pain of crashing a plane is always the same each time. Lockhart said he has crashed many planes, but that is a part of loving the hobby.
“That’s why we do it because if we knew it was coming back every time, there’s no excitement. It doesn’t make your heart pound,” Lockhart said.
As a tradition of the modelers association, a Hardluck award is given to the pilot who experiences the best crash. This year Ken Skariak of Grand Island received the award because he crashed a Consolidated PBY Catalina with a 13-foot wingspan. Skariak had spent almost two years building his plane before showcasing it this weekend.
Another pilot known for his knowledge in model planes, Randy Landen, started the hobby in 2012 and is now considered one of the best pilots in the club. Landon is the vice president of the Grand Island Modelers Association and he showcased his A-10 Warthog this weekend.
Landen said he has built model planes before, but typically purchases his planes assembled. Other than the A-10 Warthog, Landon owns many model planes and even pilots a lawnmower shaped plane.
“If you stay at it, it’s not hard to learn,” Landen said. “You got to be consistent and flying all the time.”
In addition to the Hardluck award, a Phoenix Model P-40 Warhawk was raffled and Jim Nicklaus from Hampton was the lucky winner.
As for the result of the event, Landen said it was good and very community oriented.
“We just want people to come out and enjoy,” Landen said.
In addition to its annual events, Trey Salter, president of the club, and Steve Blayney, contest director, said they are wanting to grow the association and pass down the enjoyment of the hobby. Salter said anyone can join the association as long as they have an Academy of Model aeronautics membership.
If anyone would like more information they can visit, https://www.gimodelers.club/membership or visit the Grand Island Modelers Association booth at this year’s State Fair.
Natalie Saenz is The Independent's summer intern for 2019. She welcomes news tips and information 24/7!