Do you remember your first flight with a model airplane? Maybe with a certain bunch of guys who helped you or guided you down the path of R/C modeling? I stopped by my old flying field where I grew up, back where it all began in 1977, flying models in the Mojave Desert out in California.
The Antelope Valley Tailwinds is a model airplane club that was founded in the early 1950’s under the name the Desert Flyers. They changed their name to the Antelope Valley Tailwinds in 1962. Located in the heart of the High Desert in California, the Antelope Valley Tailwinds Inc. is a solid model airplane club with full emphasis on model aviation and helping others grow in the sport.
I joined the club with my father in 1977 when I was 12 years old and began flying radio control with a great group of guys. They taught me a lot and brought success to a large number of flights and projects over the years. I have always kept in touch with my roots in modeling, as a number of these older gentlemen raised me on the flight line and ensured that I was also “kept in line” so to speak. So whenever I am in town, I make sure to stop in and say hello. Much to my surprise, I found an event going on that I had no idea about. Well, with camera in hand, I got out of the car and headed to the flight line.
The 3rd Annual AVTI Senior Bash was in full swing with 21 pilots and 28 senior members present. There are a total of 33 senior members in the AVTI club. This was an event for members only this year. The entry fee is free! Coffee and donuts are free! Crêpes are free! There are pilot prizes, and the only requirement is that you must be a club member and 55 years of age or older. Since the event has grown, it is said that next year it will be open to all senior model flyers of any club in the area. I was quite impressed to see this happening. All too often we forget our roots or those who have paved the path before us and remember it a bit too late.
Bob Knoob of Lancaster California was the event director and had everything running like clockwork. Of course, Bob is a very good and old friend of mine, and I can say his clock was moving a bit slow, but with incredible accuracy. When I called him old, he looked at me and said in a stern voice, “Wiser kid… not old, but wiser!” A few of the other members chimed in and let me know that “older guys rule” and “if I kept getting out of line they would shut me and the website down”, as they are very techno savvy.
There were a number of models flying at any given time and a large group of modelers present. I was able to get one flight on a Sig Kadet Senior owned by Tony Frackowiack, who is a member and recent addition to the 55 club at the AVTI. You may know the name, as Tony has been a top level competitor in the pattern world for the past 40 years. He is known for his incredibly precise flying abilities and aircraft setups. I headed out to the runway with his Kadet Senior, which had an E-flite® Power 60 mounted up in the nose. There was no lack of power as I went vertical on takeoff. The wheel landings were a blast and the simple, but perfect slow flight has to be appreciated on this kit-built model. It was a great flight; thanks Tony!
The prize table was unique in that it had a number of brown paper bags all holding a couple of goodies for the modelers present. All prizes had been donated by club members and they were all in new boxes or packages. Pretty cool idea really. One of the prizes was an NIB ParkZone® Radian® glider. As a gag gift there was a blood pressure cuff, which I thought was awesome. I am sure everyone walked away with something.
I would like to call out one photo in the group I took. This is of the men who brought my hobby of R/C building and flying to life so many years ago. The gentlemen in the photo took me under their wing and gave me help in different areas which I still call on today. Starting from left to right in the back row is Dan Garrabrant. Danny was one of the founders of the Desert Flyers in 1952 and also flew research models for NASA back in the 1970’s and 1980’s. He is still a very active pilot and enjoys it on a daily basis. Next is John Emch. John taught me to fly radio control in 1977 and guided me through many projects in my early days. He gave me some of the best building skills I still use today and he still flies regularly. John was also a founder of the Desert Flyers in 1952. Next is Bob Knoob. Bob came to the club in the mid 1970’s and was always there to keep a young kid in line. Never stopping with his love of aircraft (the P-51 Mustang is his favorite), he continues to bring quality modeling to those around him.
Then there’s Dick Skoglund, a scale guy who has been flying models that were state of the art back in the 1970’s. I still remember his incredible talents at building some great scale models like the Ki-61 Tony and Staggerwing Beech. These models helped me aspire to get to Top Gun one day, as well as compete on a National level, as I have now. Dick still competes at the Scale Masters every year and loves the world of flying. Mac MacGlashan is next, and has been flying out there since the beginning of time. Mac is the guy who is always there to ensure things go off well and helps where needed. He taught me a many virtues I still use today. The last one in the front row is Bob Sumoski. Bob joined the AVTI about the same time my father and I did. We flew a lot together and Bob was always pushing the envelope with pattern ships and ducted fans back in the 1980’s when things didn’t quite work well. His wife Anita has been like a second mother to me and still on occasion sends me some freshly canned zucchini relish when she whips up a batch. Gentlemen, I would like to say thank you for all the guidance and leadership you have delivered throughout the years. You are the best and thought of often. Thank you.
I hope you all enjoy the photos and story of this small little event in a simple place called a club flying field. This is what it is all about guys. I hope everyone out there is able to attend an event such as this at one point in their modeling career. The memories will be thicker than peanut butter before you know it.