Much to the delight of the crowd, the plane took a nosedive right in front of them, righted itself, flipped and landed safely.
The sound of engines and the sight of aerobatics Saturday morning provided a spectacle for participants and audience members alike at Norman Frye Memorial Field on the Seven Cities Sod farm in rural Davenport, where the Davenport Radio Control Society's 20th annual Fun Scale Fly-In was held.
On hand were 30 hobbyists, many of whom brought more than one plane. More than 100 other folks of all ages gathered to watch, learn about and admire the machines.
Dr. Steve Thompson of Bettendorf, the president of the society, brought along five of his own radio-controlled planes. A friend introduced him to the hobby about 10 years ago, he said.
“A lot of it is just the camaraderie with a lot of guys with similar interests,” he said. “It’s not unusual, in the summer on a Saturday, for us to be out here for several hours at a stretch.”
Full-scale pilots, he said, “tell us this is harder than flying a real airplane.”
“All you have, when you’re flying a model, is watching it,” said Phil Vernon of Davenport, the contest coordinator.
Most remote-control enthusiasts “have an interest in aviation, and probably would be full-scale pilots if it weren’t so darn expensive,” said Vernon, who has been an airplane enthusiast since he was a little kid. (He, too, had five planes at the fly-in.)
The planes are powered by a combination of alcohol, gasoline and electric motors, he said.
The replicas of full-scale aircraft took to the skies as an appreciative audience, many of whom sat under a long line of tents or umbrellas to ward off the occasional drizzle, took photos and enjoyed the festival-like atmosphere that included a lunch made available by Hy-Vee Food Stores.
Among the viewers was Brian Gebhart of Park View, a fairly new remote-control enthusiast who was a full-scale pilot and flight instructor for many years. When he house-sat for his “snowbird” neighbor, he saw a number of remote-control planes in the home. He said he admires the craftsmanship of the planes.
John Bybee of Burlington admires the craftsmanship so much that he restores planes built in the 1970s or 1980s and even uses vintage motors in them. His World War II SOC (Scout Observation Curtiss), which weighs about 28 pounds, was available only as a set of plans rather than a kit.
Saturday’s event, Vernon said, is “kind of our version of the Quad-City Air Show.”