Model airplanes take flight over Placer County [NEW VIDEO]

Associated Modelers of Sacramento opened RC field
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Miss Texas 1943 prepares for flight. She sits in the cockpit, her curly gray hair and makeup perfectly done, as the plane idles, ready to cruise down a runway and launch into the sky. But she won’t be the one flying this plane. The Sig 3D Mayhem plane has a 6-foot wingspan and Miss Texas is just a doll pilot. The real pilot is Roseville resident Rich Fabbre, a member of Associated Modelers of Sacramento, Inc (AMOS). The group boasts 80 members — and grows by the day — and a handful of them hang out on a recent afternoon, ready to fly their model airplanes. The men come from Roseville, North Highlands, Citrus Heights, Rocklin, Auburn, Lincoln and other nearby cities. And more members have been attending these weekly meet-ups now that the modelers association has a new home: A field in Placer County, which cost the group $90,000. The radio-control club is hosting a grand opening Saturday, Oct. 16 at the field, located on East Catlett Road, about one-mile west of Fiddyment Road. The site covers 11 acres and fliers have fly-over rights to 160 acres of property east of the field. But on this afternoon, the men fiddle with their equipment, repairing damaged airplanes and putting other ones into flight. Every Wednesday, they host a flight-instruction training program until the start of daylight-saving time. An instructor handles one of the control boxes, so he always has operational power over the device as the student learns. Roseville resident John Sorenson, who serves as secretary of AMOS, says he has planes of all different scales and estimates that he owns at least 100. “I don’t want to count them because I don’t want my wife to know,” he says, smiling. Sorenson, 69, has been flying model airplanes since he was a kid. “I remember being in kindergarten and the one thing I wanted was an airplane,” he says. “But I never wanted to fly one. I always tell people I get to watch my crashes from outside (the plane). It’s become a really fascinating hobby because there’s so much different stuff you can do.” Hobbyists use radio-controlled planes, helicopters, gliders, jets, ones with electric batteries and more. On this particular afternoon, one plane has a 7-inch wingspan and another one has a 7-foot wingspan. Virtually everything flown as a real airplane can fly as a model. But the first rule of thumb: Model airplanes can only be used for sport. Sorenson says actual pilots tend to be harder to teach than someone who’s never flown before because operating the equipment is different from the outside. Inside, a pilot sits relative to the aircraft and feels the movement. With radio control, the controller pushes the lever right to make a plane go right as it moves away from the flier. But when the plane faces the pilot and he pushes right, the device veers to its left. “It’s harder than you think,” Sorenson says. “I had an F-4 fighter pilot from the Vietnam War and I was teaching him (in the early 1980s). He sweat blood trying to fly a model airplane.” But that wasn’t the case for Fabbre, who flew in the U.S. Air Force for 26 years. He retired from the Washington D.C. area, moved to west Roseville and joined AMOS about three years ago. He owns eight model airplanes. “Once you understand the principles of flight, it comes pretty easy,” Fabbre says. “I’ve loved flying models since I was really young. It’s just a lot of fun (and there’s) a lot of camaraderie.” Those friendships are partly what bring Auburn resident Marvin Pass back to the group year after year. He owns 15 planes and has been in the club since it formed in 2004. “The guys are great, wonderful friends and everyone helps each other,” Pass says. Some of the men regularly visit a nearby lake or river so they can fly platoon planes off water. Fred Quartier of North Highlands drives his motor home to Blythe, a desert town on the California-Arizona border, every winter to fly his model planes whenever he wants, without worrying about rain. In the meantime, Quartier now has a place closer to home where he can enjoy his hobby. The tightly knit group hopes to expand its ranks with the opening of the new flying field. The field cost $60,000 in construction and $30,000 for permits and engineering plans, and took three years to complete. The group leases the land. And, of course, there’s a paved runway where Sorenson sets down one of his planes and gets ready to lift off, do some twists, turns and flips before attempting a smooth landing. The men get a little fancy with their flying sometimes — and they’ve all had their share of crashes. Leaving the field with no accidents and all the pieces of an airplane intact is considered an accomplishment. “That’s what makes the day good,” Fabbre says, laughing. Sena Christian can be reached at