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story.lead_photo.caption Patrick Mason flies his Decathlon remote control plane at the Texarkana Radio Control Flying Club Annual Fly-In at Wright Patman Lake on Friday evening. The plane is a replica at 40% of the size of a fully operational Decathlon plane. Photo by Kelsi Brinkmeyer / Texarkana Gazette.

 

Hobby pilots own the skies this weekend over Wright Patman Lake.

Established in 1972, the Texarkana Radio Control Flying Club does its annual fly-in out of Ravel Stroman Field.

Ravel Stroman, who established the airfield for the club, is memorialized at the site, located at Wright Patman Lake, along with the names of other prominent club members.

The fly-in traditionally has been done in the spring, but because of the circumstances affecting so many area events, it was moved to October. But the club has decided they like it and so it will be a permanent change.

"October has been beautiful this year and the club likes it, so we are making that our permanent home on the calendar," said Clay Mitchell, club president, who hails from Texarkana, Texas.

Gallery: Texarkana Radio Control Flying Club Annual Fly-In

Mitchell, who has been in the hobby five years, got in when he expressed interest to a friend who flew radio-control aircraft and was a club member.

"He gave me a plane and brought me out here," he said. "I found out I liked it."

Mitchell is a mechanic by trade, so he has a technical background. But like the lion's share of club members, he has been interested in aviation his entire life.

"The hobby appeals to the mechanic in me," he said. "Aviation, both the flight and technical aspect, draws me into this hobby."

Several club members are current or former pilots and have flown full-sized aircraft. This gives them a less expensive outlet to pursue their passion of flight.

"This is a very eclectic group, with different aspects of the hobby they enjoy," said Mitchell. "Both in why they do it as well as the kids of aircraft available."

Mitchell flies what are called 3-D planes. Observers at Ravel Stroman Field who see planes doing startling stunts like assuming a vertical position in the air and hovering like that, as well as various feats of seemingly impossible maneuvers, are specifically designed for such stunt flying. He flies those kinds of planes himself.

"For those who fly R/C planes that maneuver more like traditional airplanes, those are the scale fliers," he said. "Then, you have the warbirds, those who build military replicas, historical or modern. The newest, which has come around in the last 10 years, are the turbines, which are basically jets. Then, you have the helicopter pilots."

"The jets are the speediest R/C aircraft, which are capable of hitting the U.S. speed limit for R/C aircraft, that is, 200 mph," he said.

The R/C airplane hobby has been around since at least the 1950s, possibly earlier.

"I'm more into the building side of the hobby," said Jim Arrington of New Boston, Texas, who has been in the club for 18 years. Arrington, who is a retired U.S. Air Force officer, still has his passion for aviation and expresses it through building these planes and participating in the club.

"I tend to build smaller planes," he said. "And am one of the club's warbird builders. An advantage of being someone who emphasizes the building aspect is that it is easier to do it every day. Not every day is suited to flying, but it is far easier to go to my shop and do some work. These planes can be built for a wide variety of sizes, capabilities, styles and body types. From plastic, Fiberglass, metal, to durable foam to light and fragile balsa wood, all offer advantages and disadvantages."

Though the building is a solitary activity, the social aspect of the club is a key part of the enjoyment.

"It gets you out of the house, you meet lots of people and its fun," he said.

Steven Wells of Texarkana, Texas, says this hobby is also a great family activity.

"I got into this hobby a year ago to have something to share with my son," he said. "I've been interested in aviation all my life. Both my son and I got into this hobby and we are having a great time. Spencer, my son, can't be here on Friday, he's in school. But he's going to be here on Saturday, when more of our pilots and club members start showing up. He's very much looking forward to it. This is a fantastic hobby for families.

Visit the Texarkana Radio Control Flying Club on their Facebook page. Or come see the fly-in out at Wright Patman Lake. They will go from 1 p.m. to sundown Saturday and Sunday.

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