Jeff Howard has always loved remote-controlled toys. But at 49, the civil service worker and former Navy submariner has found only one that’s still exciting.
Mr. Howard was among some 40 enthusiasts flying scaled-down airplanes at the Shadetree Miniature Aircraft Association’s air show north of Glen St. Mary last weekend.
“I’ve had every high-dollar remote motor-controlled thing that has ever existed ... ,” Mr. Howard explained the morning of September 28. “But this is the only thing — because if it goes up, it has to come down — that’s kept my interest and didn’t get boring.”
The association hosted the three-day event at the privately-owned 35-acre field, drawing pilots from as far away as New Jersey and Pennsylvania, some arriving with RVs and campers.
Billed as the International Miniature Aircraft Association’s District V Fly-in and Bud McMillan Memorial, the show featured motorized and remote-controlled replicas of real aircraft, some decked-out with strip lighting for night flying the evening of September 28.
One of Mr. Howard’s planes, a Citabria, which he pointed out was “airbatic” spelled backwards, has a 103-inch wing span and 35 cubic centimeter engine. It was adorned with multi-colored lights along the body, wings and tail, plus a trio of small flashlights mounted to the under-carriage that serve as landing lights.
The plane was also equipped with a small hatch on the underbelly that releases illuminated figurines hanging from parachutes.“At night, they look like stars falling down,” said Mr. Howard of St. Mary’s, GA.
The plane itself was cheap and not particularly well-functioning so, he said, “I turned it into a fun plane.”
More expensive was another of Mr. Howard’s aircraft, valued at $1500 and under the control of another pilot when it crashed the previous day due to “a malfunction, not pilot error,” he said. The plane’s “guts,” worth about $700, were salvaged, however.
The fly-in for District V, which includes the southern U.S., Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands, also served as a tribute to the late Bud McMillan, a Shadetree Miniature Aircraft Association member who died several years ago.
“He was one of the nicest guys you could ever meet,” said association president Howard Spegele of Maxville.
Buford Howard, 81, of Callahan has been a member of the Shadetree association since the early 80s. He said Mr. McMillan was known for “training and helping more pilots than you can imagine.”
A portion of the concession proceeds from the fly-in will be donated to the American Cancer Society.
The Shadetree Miniature Aircraft Association field, which features a 200,000-square-foot runway of smooth grass, is located on the east side of CR 125 a few miles north of Glen St. Mary.
It will host another air show, Warbirds Over Glen, October 12-13. Please call Bryan Stephens for more information at (352) 745-1556.
To see video from last week’s fly-in, please visit the video section at www.bakercountypress.com.