Remote-control pilots do it in the openEvery Saturday about 30 men bring their flying machines to a suburb south of Seoul and put on their version of a spectacular air show. The aviators, including architects, businessmen and students, are members of the Bundang Radio Control Enthusiasts Association, established three years ago.
These pilots, yes, are ground-bound. They fly model planes, which they've built in workshops by themselves, and maneuver them via remote control boxes. "I started flying model planes because I've always been curious about rockets and things that zoom through the air," said one member of the group, an architect. "I was so exhilarated when the first plane I built took to the air and I was able to control it from the ground."
The crafts vary in size from 1 meter in both length and wingspan to 2.5 meters in length and 3 meters in wingspan. The remote control boxes consist basically of two sticks that are used to maneuver the plane - to control the speed, turn and climb or descend. The planes usually have a top speed of about 75 kilometers per hour, but the lighter ones can reach 100 kilometers per hour.
Saturdays are, for the members, days full of speed and thrills. The men essentially load up the planes with their stress and frustrations and send the troubles airborne, as high as possible, to jettison them.
The most adrenalizing moments come when the experienced fliers attempt aerial stunts or challenging techniques. Some of the more common tricks are loops and forward-flight spins. A more dramatic feat is a stall turn, in which the plane climbs vertically until it is overcome by gravity and begins to fall straight down, whereupon the pilot must pull it out of a nosedive. "With all my stress at work, I can't wait for Saturday," another member said. "I really find peace while flying my plane."
Another member was such a model-plane enthusiast that he decided last May to quit his steady job and open a hobby shop specializing in model planes. "When I'm working with or flying model planes I feel like I'm in such a groove, and nothing can bother me," he said. "And when I pull off a difficult aerial skill, I get the illusion that I'm actually in the airplane flying it."
The only problem the group has, apart from the more-than-occasional crashes, is that the area they use in Bundang for their habit is not big enough to do everything they want; nearby are clusters of shops and pedestrians. So they regularly head out of town to find bigger playgrounds and more airspace. Their last excursion was to an open space a short drive away, in the Gyeonggi province city of Gwangju. The meeting before that they had a special New Year's Day session, when they all made resolutions to improve their aerial skills.
Though no solid statistics exist, estimates place the number of model-plane clubs nationwide at 300, with some 10,000 fliers. Who would have thought that the peninsula had so many soar spots?
For more information about the club call 031-715-6535.
by Park Hyun-sun