- Associated Press - Monday, November 3, 2014

FUNKS GROVE, Ill. (AP) - Garrett Stotler, 18, of Bloomington always wanted to be an airline pilot, but he was born color blind, which prevented him pursuing such a career.

Still, he gets his aviation fix by flying a radio-controlled aircraft, better known as model airplanes.

“I figured this would be the next best thing,” he said. “I love the excitement and adrenaline of flying planes.”

Stotler is one of 40 members of the Sentral Illinois Radio Society, a remote-control airplane club. On Oct. 11, the club held an open house on its property near Funks Grove, celebrating the club’s 50th year.

“My dad got me started,” said Justin Worden of Pontiac. “I grew up with it by going out to the airfield and watching and learning. My kids are doing the same thing.”

The planes are controlled remotely by an operator on the group using a hand-held radio transmitter. The transmitter communicates with a receiver in the plane based on the position of the joystick on the transmitter.

“It took me about a full summer to learn how to do it,” said Jerry Worden of Normal, who has been in the club for 30 years. “It’s a lot of fun, but it also takes a lot of concentration. There are lots of things that you have to be aware of such as other planes or crosswinds.

“Safety is also a big concern. We don’t want to be flying over people’s heads or anything like that.”

The planes are flown over a grass field away from wires or buildings. Spectators are welcome, and members are always teaching people how to fly.

“Aviation is a big interest of mine,” said the club’s president, Dave Haas. “It’s fun to see them fly and it is kind of a challenging hobby. But, we enjoy visiting with each other, too.

“We are all like-minded individuals with an interest in airplanes. Lots of times we’re not even flying; we are just standing around visiting. The people are what makes this hobby fun,” Haas said.

“It’s great to fly planes by yourself, but there is more too it than just flying planes.”

Father Ric Schneider also is a hobbyist and said he has taught hundreds of kids to fly planes over the years. Many continue to fly planes even as adults.

“It’s a great hobby,” he said. “It’s perfect for families, and it’s just a lot of fun. I really enjoy it. When I’m flying, it keeps my eyes heavenward and when I crash, it’s humbling.”

Various kits are available, and the planes can range from $200 to $3,000. Some have been handmade, and the engines can be electric or powered by fuel.

“Weather doesn’t really bother us too much,” Jerry Worden said. “We can fly 12 months a year if we wanted to. If there is snow on the ground, we can add skis to the bottom of the plane and they can land on snow.”

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Source: The (Bloomington) Pantagraph, http://bit.ly/1o7JRIi

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Information from: The Pantagraph, http://www.pantagraph.com

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