It wasn't just the noise that turned heads as Richard Carey and Barbara Carey started their model plane at Fleming Park Saturday.
Though the 120 cc motor emitted chainsaw-like drone, the green plane drew more eyes because of its size: with a wingspan of about seven feet, it was one of the biggest models on the tarmac.
Richard Carey taxied it onto the runway and shot it into the sky at a 45-degree angle. It spun five times and banked away from the wind running over the field Saturday morning.
The plane swept through the skies at the National Model Aviation Day, an event sponsored by area model aviation clubs working in coordination with Kansas City Radio Controlled Club.
The event is both a meeting gathering point for area miniature aircraft enthusiasts as well as a fundraiser for the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting veterans from conflicts following 9/11.
Nationally, August 16 is celebrated by model aviation clubs throughout the country. Last year, National Model Aviation Day was celebrated by 176 clubs across the nation and brought in $76,000 for veterans.
While this is the Kansas City Radio Controlled Club's first go at the event, President Susan Calvin hopes to establish an annual tradition.
The event had a wide range of aircraft from a working model of an old, 1930s biplane to a quad copter, a more contemporary looking craft with four rotors that produces helicopter-like flight and handling.
In fact, it'd be easier to write “drone-like” as a description if the club members were any less averse to the comparison. The words had barely been uttered before Calvin and another member went to work explaining the differences.
“For one, we don't fly in public spaces,” she said. “And we don't have any cameras (on them). And these aren't flown by the government or farmers … it's just hobbyists in designated areas.”
Aside from it being a question and a comparison Calvin gets a lot, one can also see how trying to lump a lovingly built reproduction of the emblematic Yak aircraft with the obliterating plainness of a white predator drone: there's just no art in the latter, no life.
Even one of the smallest planes on the field on Saturday – which model aviation enthusiasts will readily identify, perplexingly, as an “ugly stick” – is designed with a careful compromise of beauty and function down to the white crosses emblazoned on the red body.
“Just about anytime you go to an event like this, you'll see an ugly stick,” Calvin said walking up to the little red plane.
Calvin explains she found model aviation a natural fit given her past life as a helicopter pilot. She flew for the U.S. armed forces for nearly three decades before retiring.
For Calvin, it's a calming hobby that connects her with like minds and, occasionally, puts her alongside younger, greener pilots looking to get their footing in the sky.
Not to mention it's a crowd pleaser.
In addition to club members, the event drew around 30 people who watched Richard Carey's green inverted plane follow a controlled spiral earthward. An announcer narrating the flight over a microphone went silent briefly.
“I can roll, bank,” his wife Barbara Carey said. “But I definitely can't do that.”