Learning to fly

Frank Purcell of Coolville had never really been into model building or remote controlled vehicles, but after he saw a notice for a local fly in listed in the newspaper about 14 years ago, he decided to see what it was all about.

“I went down to check it out because I was curious and I found it to be a very rewarding experience,” he said.

Purcell, 70, is one of about 35 members of the Blennerhassett Area R/C Club, which will be holding its annual Spring Fly In on Saturday, at their field off Ohio 618 near Belpre. Activities are expected to last all day.

“This group was formed, I think, about 19 years ago just out of a love of models. It’s mainly single wing airplanes, but there are some bi-wings, some helicopters and even some jets,” Purcell said.

In fact, according to an original founder and past president of BARCC, Larry Smith, the group has been in existence in some incarnation since the late 1970s. And though numbers have dwindled over the years, there is an effort to reach out and get more people involved.

“Our primary purpose is to involve the public and mainly to give youth something to do besides be in front of the computer or the video games,” Smith said. “We have members of all kinds – doctors, lawyers, mothers, sons, dads and daughters. It really is a family activity.”

At this Academy of Model Aeronautics-sanctioned event, spectators can expect to see all types of aircraft, which are controlled through radio frequencies via a transmitter and receiver. Many are made from kits but some avid hobbyists are adventurous enough to build their own.

“One question a lot of people ask is, is it expensive? And the answer is that it varies,” Purcell explained. “It’s a hobby that can start at about $100 to $150 to in the thousands.”

Another question that is asked many times, according to Purcell, is about the amount of time it takes to learn such a hobby.

Purcell, who is also an instructor, said it takes about six weekends of dedication but those who have a real interest can master the skills pretty quickly.

Members of the audience will also have a chance to experience the hobby firsthand, through the “Buddy Box,” a type of tandem flying where Smith will hand off the controls and be able to take them back.

If all works out, there might possibly also be an example of current “drone” technology, which has been in the news lately.

“There is a lot that can be learned about electronics and aviation technology through this hobby,” Smith said.

There is no cost for the event, though pilots and spectators are asked to bring donations for area food pantries. Membership is open to the public and there are different levels, making it affordable for youth to retirees.

“If people really want to have a fun day, they can come out and join us on Saturday,” Smith said.