Multitudes of model planes whoosh skyward in the Valley

Correspondent photos / Brandon Cantwell... David Runyan of Leetonia prepares to land his plane at the Mahoning County Model Club’s fun fly and swap meet event. Runyan joined the club recently after moving to the area earlier this year. .

COLUMBIANA — For Kenneth Paugh of Butler, Pennsylvania, all it took was a single plane ride to start a lifetime’s worth of love for aviation.

“When I was 8 or 9 years old at the Butler Farm Show — it’s actually at an airport — they were doing rides you could pay for,” Paugh said. “Take you on a 20- or 30-minute flight around the city of Butler. My dad paid to take us all up and away we went. Been into it ever since.”

Paugh, now an aviation mechanic, brought his own custom builds as one of the many model aircraft enthusiasts flying planes at the Mahoning County Model Club’s fun fly and swap meet event on the outskirts of Shaker Woods on Saturday.

Club members and enthusiasts from all over Ohio gathered to put their model crafts to the test. Saturday’s meet was the first of two the club hosts yearly.

Club President Jim Mesticelli, who joined in 2014 and took over as president two years ago, explained they begin planning for the meets months in advance.

“Well, we decide at our November meeting when we’re going to have fun flies,” Mesticelli said. “And then we have to check with the owner of this property, she owns the Shaker Woods, to make sure she doesn’t have anything planned for that date. And then we check with other clubs. We try to coordinate with other clubs so that we don’t have a fun fly at the same time they’re having them so everyone can participate.”

Mesticelli said the meets are typically advertised online, and they have a few guys who are good at going online and finding out when the other meets are so they can coordinate.

Mesticelli explained that over his decade with the club, he’s seen a wide variety of planes flown from Paugh’s creations, from one featuring a thrust tube made from a Styrofoam cup, to the average box kit.

“Some of these planes are built from scratch, some of them are built from kits, and some of them are called ARF, almost-ready-to-fly kits,” Mesticelli said. That’s really popular now, because you’ll get your plane, your ARF kit, and it’ll come in a box with maybe six pieces: your fuselage, your wings, your back wing, your tail and you just have to assemble that plane.

“Then you have to order what type of power system you want, electric or gas. You order your power system, install that. Then you have to balance that plane.”

Mesticelli added that beginners can buy a plane that is ready to go out of the box, which is what he bought for his grandson.

Some of the planes faced technical difficulties during their flights, with one having its battery fall out of it. Mesticelli said mid-air accidents like this are typically rare, as the battery has a tube connection system and is strapped in with Velcro.

The Mahoning County Model Club dates back to 1973 when it was formed during the growth of the radio-control airplane hobby, with the intention of promoting model aircraft building and operation in the Mahoning Valley, and its parent organization, the American Academy of Model Aeronautics.

The club maintains two flying fields, but it considers the Shaker Woods site its main one.

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