MIDDLEBURG – John Klyzub and his grandson, Andrew once lost an electric-powered radio-controlled airplane when it veered into the treetops at the Sleepy Hollow Landfill Facility after the battery malfunctioned.
Prompted by a passion, if not obsession, for the hobby, Klyzub hired a tree climber to find their lost toy.
“I got hooked really bad,” he said. “You build an airplane, you work on it real hard and it flies really well, you feel like you’ve accomplished something.”
Although the tree climber didn’t find the missing airplane, another member of the Clay County Flyers eventually found it six months later.
The club flies at the landfill on most Thursdays and Saturdays. The mornings are a social mixer with humming planes.
“You get together with people who know how to build them, who know how to fly them and it’s a lot of fun,” Klyzub said. “It’s a lot of fun. I started when I was in my 20s. Now I’m in my 70s and I’m still having fun.”
Jim Wright remembered being a child with a cheap balsa wood airplane with a propeller that was powered by a twisted rubber band. He now has several radio-controlled planes.
“When I was a kid in junior high, there were a bunch of old guys who flew planes RC planes in a field,” Wright said. “I had a little plane I could fly in circles on the end of a string. It’s called U-control. I always wanted a real RC plane, but I was into the hobby as much as my budget could afford it.”
Wright finally bought his first RC plane when he was 55.
“That first year, I didn’t come home with a plane that didn’t need to be fixed,” he said. “You crash a lot when you’re learning.”
The group conducted a dogfight last Saturday. Each plane pulled a 12-foot paper streamer and the objective was to clip the streamer without crashing the planes. The pilot who cut the most streamers while saving his own was declared the winner.
During the first round, two planed collided.
“The best part of this is it’s really affordable,” Wright said. “The planes are made of cardboard and Styrofoam. They cost $24 to replace. The electric motor is about $85, and they can be used over and over again. It doesn’t cost a lot to do this hobby.”
But since each aircraft is built by hand, there is a greater desire to recover and repair a fallen flyer than replace it.
It’s why Klyzub also used a slingshot to dislodge a drone from another tree.
The Clay County Flyers fly everything from smaller electric airplanes to giant-scale aircraft. Not only do they enjoy a large field for maneuvers, they’ve constructed a paved landing strip and have a clubhouse. Although the tree line is more than 100 yards away, a plane occasionally will veer off course, Klyzub said.
Members are required to join the Academy of Model Aeronautics, club president Phil Eddy said. There currently are 74 members of the local chapter.
And all of them share some level of obsession with the hobby, Wright said.
“It’s a little bit of an addiction,” he said. “I’ve been through other hobbies that didn’t grab me like this one. I’ve seen guys come in and go crazy for a few weeks and they disappear for a couple weeks or a month, but they come back. It’s not easy to quit.”
Even if you can’t climb trees.