PEÑITAS — “If you build it they will come.” That is a popular line from the 1989 Kevin Costner movie, “Field of Dreams.” In the movie, Costner’s character built a baseball field in the middle of a cornfield to give deceased baseball legends a place to play.
The Bell family did something similar when they built an airfield of dreams in the middle of a sorghum field in Peñitas. The Bells built the airfield so Rio Grande R/C Flyers (RGRCF) club members would have a place to fly their radio-controlled (R/C) airplanes and helicopters, explains RGRCF club President Bob Barry.
“Bell Field is a privately-owned airfield built specifically for the RGRCF by the Bell family in 1996,” said Barry. “It includes a 400-foot long by 40-foot wide asphalt runway, a shade structure, benches, picnic tables, a barbeque pit and a restroom with running water. It has pretty much all the amenities our club members need.”
More than just a place to fly R/C aircraft, the club also provides a training program to help people learn how to fly. After Carlos E. Lopez bought his first radio-controlled airplane four months ago and demolished it in 17 seconds, a friend introduced him to the Rio Grande R/C Flyers.
That is why the RGRCF has a training program in place to help people learn how to fly, explains club member Kurt Yundt.
“We’ll take a trainer aircraft and we’ll connect two controllers together using a buddy cable. One controller is the master and the other is called a buddy box. The instructor uses the master controller to get the plane off the ground and to get it up to a safe altitude,” he said. “He will then press a button to pass control over to the student pilot. This allows the student to learn how to fly the airplane. If the student gets into any kind of trouble, the instructor releases the button and takes back control of the plane.”
As a student gains confidence and demonstrates they’re able to fly the airplane, they’ll get into taxiing practice.
Landing is the hardest part, Barry said.
“Takeoffs are optional but landings are mandatory,” he explained. “This process makes it a lot less likely that the student pilot will crash his plane.”
Barry, who has acquired 24 R/C airplanes in the four years he’s been flying, said RGRCF members can be found taking advantage of the facilities at Bell Field pretty much every weekend.
“We normally have on any given weekend at least three or four, but sometimes up to 20 or so people out here at the field flying,” he said. “We fly pretty much everything from small electrics to large gas powered engine airplanes. Some folks fly helicopters, which have become more and more popular.”
McAllen resident Yundt has been flying R/C planes for seven years. He was among the handful of RGRCF members that were flying their planes at Bell Field on a recent Sunday. His Sbach 342 was the largest of all the planes in the sky that day.
“I bought a new simulator program for my computer and this plane was on my program. I liked it so much that I had to get one,” he said. “As far as the planes I’ve flown, it’s the nicest and smoothest plane that I’ve ever flown.”
“The reality of flying as opposed to what you may think is reality, are two different things,” Lopez said. “There’s a lot of engineering, a lot of aerodynamics, a lot of stuff that you need to know before you can get up and fly.”
For more information on the Rio Grande R/C Flyers club visit their website at http://www.rgflyers.org.
SIDE BAR SEPARATE STORY (500 WORDS)
R/C vehicles a hobby for Valley residents
MISSION — Airplanes are not the only radio-controlled vehicles operated in the Rio Grande Valley. Every Friday evening, R/C car, truck and buggy enthusiasts from the upper Valley gather together at the Hobby Pro R/C shop and track on Shary Road. They run their vehicles on the custom built dirt track, but they also use the location as a place to meet up with fellow enthusiasts.
As Hobby Pro R/C owner, Alex Molina explained having an on-site track for his hobby shop was part of the business plan from the very beginning.
“The only way we would open a hobby shop was to have an off-road track,” he said. “There are a lot of hobby shops that provide the service and they sell the vehicles, but they don’t have a place to run the cars.”
The R/C vehicles on the market today vary greatly in design, engine type and cost. That makes R/C racing a hobby that enthusiasts of all ages and all income levels can enjoy.
“We have vehicles with electric and nitro engines available,” said Molina. “It seems as if the older people run nitro because it takes a little more skill to tune your motors and there’s a two speed transmission. The electrics on the other hand are really good entry level vehicles because you just charge and go.”
The cost for the vehicles run from $199 all the way up to $800.
“Basically you can buy it, take it right out of the box and play with it. We also have our kit versions that run up to $2,000,” he said. “That’s where you pick your own radio and your own motors…basically higher end vehicles.”
As enthusiasts continued to show up at the Hobby Pro R/C shop and track well after the sun had set and the track lights had turned on last Friday, most of them seemed to spend more time working on their vehicles than running them on the track. Molina said it’s part of the hobby.
“That’s what brought me into the hobby. The fact that I could work on a vehicle, learn the mechanics of it and see what makes it work,” he said. “These kids do seem to enjoy that part of the hobby
“There are also a lot of hop-ups and suspension adjustments you can do on these cars. They’re either replacing something or modifying their cars for the surface they’ll be running on.”
While the track at Hobby Pro R/C is currently open on Friday nights for people to use at their leisure that may change soon.
“In about a couple of weeks we’re going to start having organized races,” Molina said. “That’s going to consist of a timing system where it actually counts your laps. It will also keep track of each racer’s individual lap times.”
Races could start at 6 p.m. on Friday and run until around midnight, depending on the crowd.
To get in touch with the Hobby Pro R/C shop and track call 956-580-9599.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.