Friday, November 23, 2012

Remote pilots land at craft show

From left, Eli Vuksanovich, Bill Buchan and Ron Roy have a sparkle in their respective eyes when they talk about the fun had at the Timmins Golden Hawks RC Model Aircraft Club. The club will be displaying some of its members' favorite airplanes and discuss how they work at the Mountjoy independent Farmers' Market Craft Sale at Centennial Hall this Saturday.

TIMMINS - Look, up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane, it's ... wait, no, it's definitely a plane. 

Actually, if you're lucky enough to drive by the wide open field located a short drive down Goldcorp Rd. on a day when the Timmins Golden Hawks RC Model Aircraft Club are practiSing, you'll see a whole fleet of miniature aircraft zooming through the skies.

The winter months keep members of the club grounded, literally, although they still fly some specialized models in school gymnasiums throughout the city.

But this weekend there's another reason for the RC aircraft club's members to take a break from their workshops, as they'll be bringing some of the flashiest and most intricate planes they have to the Mountjoy Independent Farmers' Market Craft Sale.

"Our market is always looking for talent, and this is talent," said Eli Vuksanovich, the market's former president, who is still very much involved in its daily activities.

"We try to bring a feature every year, and these guys here, I've gone down to watch them fly these things, and I thought this would be something that could attract the younger generation, as well as the older ones."

Indeed, the handful of planes hanging from former Golden Hawks RC club president Bill Buchan's workshop in Porcupine invoke a kind of child-like awe as you stare up at them. Even for Buchan, and the club's current president Ron Roy, who are both retired, building and flying these model planes is about letting go of all worries and enjoying the moment.

"I like making my aircraft," said Roy. "I probably get more fun from the building than I do the flying. If I've had a long day, it's almost like my therapy."

While the words "model aircraft" might make the planes seem simple and diminutive, these things are basically exact replicas, down to the engine (albeit usually battery powered), the propellor, the rudders, the ailerons, and most of the other intricate parts of a regular, full-sized airplane.

"If you're looking for a hobby that requires a wide variety of skills, from electric, to mechanic, to creative, this is a good one for you," said Roy, who added that the club has about 20 members, but is always looking to generate more interest.

Buchan added that even though some of the club's members were pilots, or had flying experience, many others are just people who love to dream of the power of flight.

"There's a lot of people who come for the fun flies, and they sit and watch all these airplanes and think, 'Oh jeez, wouldn't I love to do that'," said Buchan. "And then they find out that they can do that."

If the only way for newer members to truly learn how to fly a model aircraft with a remote control that looks like it belongs on the Starship Enterprise is through experience, the same can be said for seasoned veterans of the skies.

"We've also got a lot of pilots of who've dropped out of the pilot leagues after flying full-scale, and most of them are harder to teach to fly a model airplane because they're used to sitting in a cockpit driving," said Buchan with a laugh. "Now they've got to stand on the ground, with a transmitter, and they've got to look up at this airplane in the sky. It makes a big difference."

Though not responsible for hundreds of lives like commercial airline pilots, nor flying multi-million dollar machines (although the most impressive models can cost multiple thousands of dollars to build), RC pilots must also be ready to deal with unexpected situations requiring calmness under pressure.

"If you're in the hobby, there's about a 99.9% chance you're going to crash one, or many more," said Roy. "I'm well above one, trust me on that one."

Luckily, the repercussions of making a fatal mistake while flying a model aircraft usually aren't that severe.

"Last year at one of our shows, I had an aircraft that dropped candies on the field for the kids," said Roy, recounting one of his more harrowing experiences in the air. "When I dropped the candy, I watched the kids run after the candy and didn't pay attention to my aircraft. By the time I thought of it, my aircraft was going down and it was too late to recover. So the aircraft crashed and went into the garbage.

"There was no investigation, thank God for that, because it would have been pilot error for sure."

The Independent Farmers' Market Craft Sale will be at Centennial Hall, next to the Mountjoy Arena on Park Ave. Doors open at 9 a.m., and will remain so until 3 p.m. In addition to the Golden Hawks model aircraft club, at least 20 other local vendors and artists will be on hand, as the evening is designed to truly be an organic celebration of Timmins' craftsmanship and creativity.

"The reason I came to these people is because they're hands-on," said Vuksanovich. "A lot of craft shows are trying to raise money for profit, so they're not particular about who they bring in. I've seen craft shows that are just swamped with retailers, with poor craft makers sitting on the side making no money. Our market takes pride in having no retailers whatsoever.

"A fellow will be coming in from Chapleau, he's got some really nice woodwork, and we'll have one of the top potters from this area," added Vuksanovich. "We'll have jewellery makers; my wife, she's the leading lady when it comes to all the stuff the women like. We'll have something for everybody, stuff they can all take home for Christmas."

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