They may not resemble conventional fliers, but this group of plane lovers are definitely ‘pilots’.
“We have jokingly called ourselves the Willyburg Fliers,” said Adam Hill, a remote control (RC) plane enthusiast. “Right now, we’re a small group, just the four of us, but we welcome others to come out and join us. We will teach people how to fly the planes, how to build them if they want. The whole experience is just a lot of fun. I guess you could call us plane addicts,” he laughed.
They can be seen out in the fields behind Williamsburg, at the waterfront in Morrisburg and even up at the point in Iroquois, piloting their graceful crafts. The group flies year round: they firmly believe that no one is too young or too old to enjoy flying remote controlled craft.
The planes the group flies are often striking looking replicas of real planes like the Pitts, the F4 Phantom or the Sbach 342. Among the four of them, they own some 17 planes.
Many people, thinking back to the heavy gasoline powered model planes from a few years ago, might believe that hobby flying is an expensive hobby.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Dave Rae explained that “our planes are all electric now. New battery technology and the electric engines have dramatically reduced the costs of the planes from what they were a few years ago. Now, instead of needing $1,000 to get started, a person can start on about $200.”
“The planes are all electric and definitely environmentally friendly,” said Jerry Gibson.
The Willyburg Fliers also have experience in building models and would be glad to share their expertise.
“Right now, I’m actually building a Cessna 182 with a wingspan of eight feet,” Adam Hill said. “It’s still a hobby plane, but building your own flyer is really a big part of the fun.”
How did the four get drawn into the hobby of flying RC planes?
Michael Butler, 14, the youngest fly boy, said he “spotted the guys out flying, and I went over with my small plane. They let me join them. I listened and learned, and then Jerry let me fly his plane. I was hooked. They ordered the parts, and helped me build my own plane. Now I come out on a regular basis. I say planes before homework,” Michael added.
“As a kid I drooled over RC magazines,” Dave Rae explained. “When I was growing up, it was still too expensive a hobby, but in May of 2011, I was able to get my first plane, and I’ve been flying since.”
Jerry Gibson began with RC helicopters, but he soon got into the planes. Despite a crash or two (“Crashing is actually part of the learning process,”), he, like the others, was quickly hooked.
Adam Hill flew once, the others laugh, and was immediately “addicted.” He is now a major plane collector, who has built a miniature landing strip outside his Williamsburg home.
The hobbyists gather a lot of attention from the public wherever they fly.
“Our planes are equipped with lights,” Dave said, “and we often fly at night. Actually, some people spotted us night flying and called the police thinking we were UFOs. Fortunately,” he laughed, “Jerry’s brother-in-law is with the OPP and he realized it was just us out there.”
Jerry has also mounted a camera in the cockpit of one of his planes, and been able to record the river and the colours of fall. “The videos were crystal clear,” he said, “and fairly dramatic. We loaded two inflight recordings on YouTube.”
A hobby shop (RPM) recently opened at Dixon’s Corners makes getting supplies and kits locally much easier for people interested in flying.
The Willyburg Fliers are looking forward to sharing their love of flying remote controlled planes with anyone in the area who might be interested.
“You don’t need to have your own plane,” Adam said. “We can buddy box two planes hooked into a remote, and we would be glad to work with you, and teach you. We welcome everyone (over age 12) to our hobby flying group.”
Adam Hill can be reached at 1-613-330-7630 for questions, references or information.