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BEHIND THE SCENES: Model planes are flying all around us

ThoroldToday editor Bernard Lansbergen takes us behind the scenes

As you traverse Thorold Townline Rd on a clear day, a picturesque scene often greets your eyes: miniature airplanes gracefully adorning the sky. For more than a decade, the Niagara Region Model Flying Club has called a field at the intersection with Upper's Ln their aerial playground, showcasing an array of daring aerial maneuvers with their model aircraft.

A seasoned member of the club since 2006, Bill Michell, who's been constructing and piloting model airplanes for over half a century, elaborates on the evolution of the hobby. Although technology has evolved, the fundamental principles of flight remain unchanged. The hobby, once requiring meticulous craftsmanship, now includes an abundance of ready-to-fly options.

Prospective model airplane enthusiasts can expect to invest around $800 to initiate their journey, acquiring a proficient Almost Ready-to-Fly (ARF) model with minimal assembly. To fully take flight, a solid investment in a reliable radio system and batteries can elevate the total cost to approximately $1500. Various factors, including the type of fuel required, influence the overall expenditure.

Flight mastery necessitates considerable practice, with new club members devoting training hours before achieving full autonomy. This emphasis on safety stems from the current stringent airspace regulations due to the proliferation of drones. Adapting to these rules has been challenging for the club, leading to a subdued year for flying due to regulations and exemptions.

In response to the amended regulations by Transport Canada, necessitating model registration and pilot licensing, the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada (MAAC) faced changes in its exemption status, impacting the club and its activities. The club, congregating whenever weather permits, values camaraderie and social interaction among like-minded enthusiasts.

Attracting younger members proves more challenging nowadays, as modern generations have grown up with aviation being a common occurrence. Despite this, members like Jaime Sarabia are determined to inspire interest among youth, recognizing the educational value of model flying. Sarabia's personal connection to aviation through his relative, Francisco Sarabia, who made history by surpassing Amelia Earhart's flying record, highlights the deep-rooted passion shared among members.

These aviation aficionados, each with their unique tale of fascination, are united by their ardor for flight. This shared passion brings them to the field, where they pilot their aircraft almost daily. Brian Stavert, another club member, aptly captures the sentiment: "Flying is as close to magic as humans have ever come." For those seeking to join the club or explore the captivating visual spectacle of their flights, a visit to the club's website is recommended.

Video Summary:

Tiny airplanes have taken to the skies over Thorold, with the Niagara Region Model Flying Club showcasing their aerial prowess. However, the surge in drone usage has significantly impacted the club's operations. The club's long-standing member, Bill Michell, explained that stricter drone regulations implemented by Transport Canada have caused challenges, ultimately leading to changes for the club. The Model Aeronautics Association of Canada (MAAC), which governs the club, initially negotiated an exemption for model airplanes, but it was revoked during the pandemic. Now, individuals who wish to fly model airplanes must obtain an online pilot's license and register their aircraft.

Attracting younger members to the club has posed difficulties, as the spontaneous nature of flying has been hampered by bureaucratic requirements. The club is focused on raising its profile to draw more interest, considering that the hobby holds value for educating younger generations about aviation.

Some members believe that model airplanes offer insights into aviation and can contribute to its future, underscoring the importance of sustaining the hobby for upcoming generations. For those interested in joining or learning more about the club, its website serves as a resource.