MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

October 10, 2013

Look! Up in the sky!

Model planes headed to Love-Hatbox for Fly-In

By Leilani Roberts Ott
Phoenix Correspondent

— There’s a buzz in the air over Muskogee today. About 40 pilots have one to four planes each ready to fly at Love-Hatbox Sports Complex on Hatbox Field.

It’s the 12th annual Three Rivers Area Model Plane Society Fly-In. TRAMPS member Gaines Smith of Fort Gibson said last year’s event was rained out, so the area club is hoping for good weather today. He wants people to experience the hobby that he is so passionate about. Admission is free with seating available. Wives of the members will staff a concessions booth.

“It’s a fun fly, no competition,” Smith said. “We are miniature aircraft enthusiasts — miniature versions of full scale.”

Smith started building the planes in his garage. He now has a separate shop for them and will bring several to the fly-in. His Cessna Bird Dog is built at a one-third scale with a 12-foot wingspan. The full-scale version was built just up the road in Wichita, Kan., and was flown in Vietnam by the Army as spotter aircraft, he said.

“I didn’t go to Vietnam, but we need to honor the men and women that were there,” he said.

He also has an A1 Skyraider, which he calls a “Vietnam flyer or warbird.” It has a 100-inch wing span and weighs 35 pounds. It has retracks, flaps and operating canopy. The planes are flown by radio; the pilot is on the ground instead of in the cockpit.

“There are going to be a lot more airplanes, bigger airplanes,” Smith said about the show. “We have visitors from four or five states.”

A lot of the planes are from the World War I era, including his SE 5A one-fourth scale biplane. Bill and Sharon Holland of Edmond will bring a one-third scale WWI Nieuport 17 and Howard Davidson of Sallisaw will fly a giant Coast Guard Cessna 182. Some of the planes will look like modern-day jets with turbine motors.

Besides the fun of watching the planes on the ground and in the air doing tricks, people can get an education from the pilots, who are happy to talk about their planes. Smith said just being at Hatbox Field is historical. It was built in the 1920s.

“Hatbox Field was a WWII training facility,” he said. “Nathan Sams was the first black instructor and he taught a lot of people.”

Smith encourages people to come out and experience the fly-in.

“It’s quite impressive.”

If you go

WHAT: Three Rivers Area Model Plane Society Fly-In.

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Saturday.

WHERE: Love-Hatbox Sports Complex at Hatbox Field.

ADMISSION: Free, with concessions available.

INFORMATION: (918) 478-8410 or (918) 478-8297.