Flights of fancy

PRIESTVILLE – Flying model airplanes was a way for Ben Lann to spend time with his father.

He would go to the flying field at seven years old and watch his father fly the model plane he had spent all winter building.

Now, Lann is VP of the Northumberland RC Modelers which boasts 15 members, and is organizing the sixth annual Northumberland Scale Aerobatic Challenge.

“The aerobatics challenge will take place on August 14 and on August 13 there is a fun fly where people from all over Atlantic Canada fly helicopters, airplanes and quad-copters, also known as drones.”

The fun fly is free of charge and begins at 9 a.m. while the competition on Sunday has a participation fee of $10 and registration begins at 8:30 a.m. with the competition starting at 9 a.m. for acrobatic planes only.

This year, Lann says they are expecting approximately 15 competitors with many more participating in the fun fly the day before.

“We’ve been trying to grow it every year,” he explains. “The last two years we have put more of an effort in making it well known and getting sponsors on board.”

Classes range from basic and sportsman to intermediate and advanced. There’s a level above that, unlimited, but there’s nobody in the province flying at that level right now, he says.

Lann flies his Extreme Flight Extra 300 in the intermediate class and is one of three pilots from his club in that class. His plane has a 92 inch wingspan and a length of 90 inches, powered by a 61cc gas engine and weighing approximately 20 pounds.

The planes must be 30 per cent to scale of a real airplane.
The pilots are judged based on a set routine of manoeuvers by judges typically in a class above them and the routines are ones the actual planes would be able to perform.

Lann says they are hoping to run four rounds with two sequences each and there will be awards  to the top three competitors from each class.

Some of the manoeuvers include hammerheads, figure N, Ptrap, humptybump and rolling turns for the intermediate class.

“Spectators are always welcome. Last year we had about 50 to 100 spectators come check it out.”

And spectators are welcome to put their name in a raffle for a plane, two batteries and a charger.

Lann says lots of different types of planes will be flying during the fun fly and the competition.

The Northumberland RC Modelers club was  formed in the late 1970s and Lann’s father got involved in the late 1980s.

“The flying field was the same field we use today, but it looked a lot different back then,” he recalls. “There were a lot of people involved in the club when it first started but it fell off for a while; we’re starting to see a bit of an increase again though.”

Lann grew away from the hobby in his teens but approximately eight years ago, he got back into it as a way to spend more time with his father again.

“Dad was always interested in aviation. He was getting ready to retire and I wanted to help keep him occupied. Back then (in the 1980s) he used to make his airplanes by hand with wood. Now they come almost ready to fly, you just have to put in the engine and electronics.”

Now, there are simulators to practise on as well as trainer airplanes which are made of foam and various other advancements in the hobby, making it easier and cheaper to get involved.

“There are a lot of different aspects to the hobby now.”

Members also continue to meet in the winter at the Nova Scotia Community College gymnasium where they fly smaller planes every week.

He says anyone can get involved in the hobby and at any price. Beginner planes cost about $100.

“It’s all hand-eye co-ordination so if you can play an X-Box, you can learn to fly a (model) plane.”

Lann is looking forward to the competition and hopes that by next year he can get enough practice in to move up to advanced level.


Ben Lann gets ready to fly his model airplane in preparation for the upcoming Northumberland Scale Aerobatic Challenge.  (Harvie photo)

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Debbi Harvie
Debbi is a graduate of McGill University in Montreal. She grew up in Pictou and spent a few years away travelling and working overseas. Debbi has been working for The Advocate since 2007 as a reporter/photographer. She is the mother of a toddler and in her spare time enjoys baking and spending time with family.