Pilots Compete with Model Airplanes

EUGENE, Ore. — You might notice more airplanes taking to the skies above Eugene this holiday weekend.

That’s because one of the largest model airplane competitions in the Northwest is in town.

The Northwest Control-Line Regionals took off Friday.

Model airplane pilots compete in categories from racing, to aerobatics and combat.

It’s a sport that’s brought a niche group of experts together for the past 42 years.

When it comes to his model airplane, Paul Walker specializes in aerobatics — figure eights and other maneuvers all controlled by metal wires.

“(A) person does the same set of figures and you are judged on how accurately you do each one,” Walker.

And when walker is judged, he usually lands one of the best scores.

“I’m going to Europe in the end of August for the World Championships,” Walker said.

He already won the world championship in 1992.

Walker discovered his love for these replicas when he was a kid and later became an aerospace engineer for Boeing.

He says control-line competing gives him a sense of freedom.

“Build a big fancy airplane. You got a whole set of schedules you got to work to, certain requirement and all that, you don’t have too much control over. Here I set all my requirements and schedules,” Walker said.

For other model airplane enthusiasts, competing is more about controlled chaos.

“We’re all adrenaline junkies out here. We like speed. We’re like speed feins. We like to go fast,” said model airplane pilot Mel Lyne.

These fliers go head-to-head with their planes, some reaching speeds more than 100 miles per hour. It’s a combat-styled competition.

“You’ve got to get his streamer off and stop him from getting your steamer off,” Lyne said. “We have some pretty heavy plane fixing days.”

But no matter where your specialty or passion lies, when it comes to these aerodynamic toys, flying is about focus.

“It’s 100 percent concentration out there and if you don’t, things aren’t going to go your way,” Lyne said.

“I really enjoy it. It’s a fun time and when you learn, you meet new friends,” Walker said.

The competition goes all weekend at the Eugene Airport. It’s free for spectators.

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