It’s a late summer morning in the North Texas countryside. The air is heavy with heat, and the surrounding fields are dotted with cattle. The skies are clear, with clusters of cottony clouds. The winds are gentle and low. It’s a perfect day to fly a plane.

A small group of Preston Hollow men have gathered here to do just that, but none of them are pilots. They don’t need to be – the planes they’re flying are remote control models.

These guys are part of the North Dallas Remote Control Club. The group has more than 200 members, but every Tuesday about a dozen self-proclaimed “old timers” gather at this flying field to take their planes for a spin. Most of them are retired and have been flying remote control planes for several years. Ed “Doc” Hunt has been in this hobby the longest.

“If I had known I’d be alive this long, I would have taken better care of myself,” jokes the 82-year-old retired doctor. “I’ve been flying remote control planes for about 35 years now.”

Hunt says like many in the club, his interest in airplanes started early in life.

“I started building model planes when I was about 13,” he says. “Back then, it was the days of free flight, so when the plane went up, you chased it. Now, radio control has made flying very refined.”

Today, remote control aircrafts fly at an altitude of about 400 feet and can travel at speeds up to 200 miles per hour. The planes typically have wingspans anywhere from 50 inches to 12 feet. But it’s not only remote control planes that are taking flight these days – there are also remote control jets, gliders and helicopters. But no matter the aircraft, even the best flyers crash their models at some point, says Ted Hill, a retired engineer who has been flying remote control planes for more than 20 years.

“We all crash sooner or later,” he jokes. “Birds have been hit, but they’re hard to hit. It’s amazing how birds pay no attention to you. I’ve often thought birds should react, but they don’t. The cattle around this flying field also pay us no attention.”

When a plane goes down, there are usually no salvageable parts, Hill says. The only options are to construct a new plane from a kit or build an entire plane from scratch. Most of the parts needed to do that are found at local hobby shops, although he says he has seen some people be creative and use their own parts.

“I’ve seen some people fly planes that run on motors they’ve taken from Weed Eaters,” he says. “They’ve just removed the motors and modified them so they’ll fly.”

It’s a hobby, members say, that virtually anyone can enjoy at any point in their lives. And on weekends, when the club’s flying field is full of members and spectators of all ages, it certainly seems that way. The club even offers instructional classes to novice flyers.

The only hurdle is financial. The planes’ engines run on alcohol-based fuel that can cost anywhere from $10 to $20 per gallon. An increasing trend is battery-operated motors, but Hill says those too can be pricey.

Still, for members such as Sandy Downing, a retired business owner who has been flying remote control planes for 14 years, it’s money well spent.

“I’ve been retired for several years, but I work part time to support my hobby,” he says. “It’s a good hobby because it keeps me busy, it keeps me out of trouble.”


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