Ever since I wrote about flying R/C planes a little while ago, I’ve been paying more attention to it than I have in years. As I said, some part of it really calls to me, it’s something that I enjoyed a lot back in the day and the more that I think about it, the more I realize that what I liked would be difficult to achieve today, either flying R/C aircraft or driving R/C cars. The world has changed, my situation has changed and what I want, as with pretty much everything else in my life, isn’t really part of the majority desire.
So here’s why it would really be wishful thinking to get back into it, no matter how strong the desire.
I guess I’m a bit of an anomaly in this, which is hardly a surprise. I had two entirely different tastes when it came to R/C. When I flew planes, I only wanted to fly glo-powered (fueled) planes and I had no interest whatsoever in competition. I didn’t want to pylon race, I didn’t want to do pattern, I just wanted to put a plane in the sky for some lazy, relaxing time. I didn’t really want anyone else around, I just wanted to shut out the world and do some flying.
On the other hand, when I did R/C cars, I only ran electric and I was very competitive. I wanted to race. Just driving around did nothing for me, I wanted to be on a track, surrounded by other drivers, showing what I could do.
Of course, I’m sure the time that I started doing it and the facilities I had available had a lot to do with my preferences. Electric flight was in its infancy, the majority of planes available were fuel-driven, pretty loud and required a lot of open space. Luckily, I lived near a major public park where they had paved runways and anyone could go and fly. It didn’t require membership, you didn’t have to pay for it, no clubs controlled the skies, you just showed up, took off and flew. There were lots of times when you could go and there would be nobody around for hours, you had the whole skies to yourself and doing lazy loops and low passes by yourself, without a care in the world, was a ton of fun. Sure, I would go to competitions and fun flies and watch other people fly but I really had no interest in taking part.
For driving, I lived near a hobby shop with a big indoor dirt track. Because it was indoor, they didn’t allow nitro-powered cars, the fumes could be toxic so it was all electric and that’s what I learned to love. I’d go in there and watch cars go around the track for hours, then I’d fire up my own buggy and go up against the other drivers. A lot of people on the pro-circuit drove there and I got to know all of the “big names”, at least at the time. It was a lot of fun going up against them and occasionally beating regional and national champions in the sport.
Now though, I no longer live near that park and the R/C runways are long since gone. There are a couple of local flying fields but all of them are controlled by R/C clubs, all of them require membership and none are available to people to just show up and fly, they have all kinds of requirements, brought about by fears of litigation, that just make it no fun at all. On the driving side, the old hobby shop closed years ago and while there are a couple of them within a reasonable driving distance locally, nothing is particularly close. The hobby has gone largely nitro-powered, which I don’t have an issue with per se, but the community has changed at a lot of sites where people only race for money, it costs you to get into every single race and you win money for first, second and third in every single race. It’s not for fun, it’s not for excitement, it’s for cash. I don’t find that interesting at all.
It looks, based on what I’ve said, that there’s no hope but that’s not really true, especially in R/C flying. Back in the day, you needed a ton of space and a lot of money and time to fly. Everything was scratch built, it took months and months of dedicated hard work to get a plane built and ready to fly and every plane cost hundreds of dollars and the chances of a catastrophic crash that could mean hundreds of hours and hundreds of dollars of hard work down the drain was a constant concern. Today though, there are cheap models that can be put together in minutes for less than a hundred dollars, including radio gear, and you can be in the air in no time. These RTF models are made of foam, easily repaired and quite robust. Parts are cheap too. Add that to the park flyers and micro flyers that were just getting started when I was leaving the hobby, planes and helicopters that you can easily fly in your own back yard, or heck, in your own living room, and suddenly you no longer need a field to go to, you can fly wherever you are and whenever you want.
So maybe I will get back into it one of these days. I have to see if my thumbs remember what to do after all these years. Flying, just for the sake of flying, just for the heck of doing it, is still something that appeals to me, maybe it’s time to give it another shot.