By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT
Overshadowed by the remote-controlled airplanes humming and spiraling around inside the old Hays High School gymnasium on 13th Street, a paper airplane floated almost unnoticed on the sidelines.
The contrasts between the airborne toys in the Hays Indoor Radio Control Flying Club were obvious. An AR drone, controlled by a user on an iPhone using a Wi-Fi signal, captured video and pictures and could hover as it did flips. One version of a night vapor plane, small enough to rest on a fingertip, buzzed like a bee traveling from flower to flower. The Red Baron's iconic triplane with the iron cross decals cruised overhead with ease as if its legendary owner still was in the pilot's seat.
The club's first session was in January.
Ed Gil, Hays, said he organized the group because there are few local spaces for the hobby indoors, and inclement weather can prohibit flying outdoors.
"I'm just a hobby enthusiast. I just share the love of aviation, and I've been doing this for 30 years," Gil said. "I've taught people to fly R/C. I build models for other people that didn't want to take the time to build their own."
Gil and many of the older participants can trace their first experience with the toys to their childhoods. The technology has grown by leaps and bounds, and advances have led to smaller planes that can be used indoors.
"We kind of grew up with R/C airplanes and building rubber band-powered planes, and you covered it with tissue paper and stuff. ... I've always had a mad love affair with airplanes," Gil said.
Passions vary among flyers.
"Some people do not enjoy building; they only fly. That's OK. Some people enjoy building, and they don't really fly," Gil said. "I enjoy both. It's a passion. It's a huge satisfaction to be able to see something you made with your own hands went from the building board into a flying machine."
Engineering the planes can be demanding. Drawing, sanding, gluing, painting and knowledge of aerodynamics and electronics is required.
With approximately 50 people crowded in the small gym, incidents were inevitable. Even the ace pilots were unable to avoid mid-air collisions, getting tangled in basketball nets or clipping the rafters.
"I break mine every time I fly," said Blake Seitz, an automotive student at North Central Kansas Technical College. "If I didn't break it, I did something wrong ... because you're not having enough fun."
Gerald Wyman, Hays, said he attended the program with his daughter, son-in-law and grandson. Wyman has been an aviation aficionado for six years and has 34 models at home that range from gliders, electric-powered planes to 30cc gas-engine planes.
The hobby's fun nature breeds camaraderie among friends and family.
"Seems like everybody that's flying RC like this, everybody's having a good time. It's fun, it's a good way to get together," Wyman said.
Contact the group at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.