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Charleston Stone Flyers mark 30 years in the air

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CHARLESTON -- While other people had their model planes buzzing through the air, guys like Larry Drake and Nick White were happy to talk about why they like to fly their crafts when they're the ones at the controls.

That was the idea Sunday when several radio-control model plane hobbyists and people who wanted to see the planes fly gathered to take part and learn about the activity.

Some of the planes are quite elaborate -- smaller but otherwise nearly identical copies of larger craft. But it's like any other hobby in that participants can put in about as much as they choose into it, the flyers said.

"It's as expensive as you want," White said. "You can get started for a couple hundred bucks."

Sunday marked the Charleston Stone Flyers Club's 30th annual public event that serves as a chance for hobbyists to get together and fly and let people learn about the club and maybe think about joining, said Drake, the club's president.

"Through the years, our membership has lowered a bit," he said.

There are about a dozen members of the club and there were about 40 planes at Sunday's event, which took place at the Charleston Stone Flyers field at Lake Charleston.

During the event, club member Robert Holmes presented Drake with a plaque recognizing him as the club's founder. The plaque's inscription said it was in honor of "30 years of dedication and service to the hobby of radio-control flying."

White, a Mattoon resident, is a member of the Tri-County RC Club and said he started flying radio-control planes about six years ago. He said he "kind of got the bug" when his father Ralph, a longtime flyer and award winner, bought a piece of equipment from a friend.

One of the planes White had at the event was about one-third of the size of the actual airplane after which it was modeled. He said he thinks some people are surprised when they learn how large some of the model planes are.

His other plane was "kind of old school," a model common in the 1970s with a motor that uses a methanol mix for fuel, he said. White's newer plane has what he called "almost like a Weed Eater engine" and runs on regular gasoline.

White said some model planes are available that are ready to fly so a newcomer to the hobby doesn't have to assemble them. There are also computer programs now that simulate flights for practice and make things easier after a crash, he said.

"In life, it takes a lot more to put it back together," White said.

Drake said club members will provide free flying instructions for people interested in joining, though participants have to have their own equipment. He said anyone interested in joining the club can call him at 217-273-6257 or 217-345-2873.

Contact Fopay at dfopay@jg-tc.com or 217-2388-6858.

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