Model airplane club soars to new heights


All of these youngsters are retired. But they carry something from their youth: a love of planes.

Patrick Helpingstine is the vice president of the Decatur Model Airplane Club. “About 5 years ago I realized I was going to retire and I needed some sort of activity so I wouldn’t get drive my wife crazy.”

He says others are welcome to join no matter what the engineering level of the plane builder. “You can go from a straight scratch built airplane or buy them pretty much built.”

It’s a love going back to childhood. Just ask Don Nordwall, the group’s treasurer. “I was probably about 10 years old and built the wooden airplanes and the plastic airplanes. ”

This is a hobby for folks with some pretty deep pockets, with some model kits costing upwards of $100. Even so, the treasurer of the Decatur Model Airplane Club says nowadays these planes are a lot cheaper.

“You can buy that for lets say $100. And it comes complete with a transmitter so you can talk to the airplane and the airplane comes with a receiver so it can receive a signal.”

The 45 current members have all levels of planes and helicopters. Nordwall says as you gain experience, most people move up to larger, more expensive planes. “Why you find out that the difference between men and boys is the cost of their toys and you can easily spend on an airplane or a helicopter in the thousands of dollars.”

Jim Forthman, president of the club, says there is an open invitation.  “Or if you don’t have a plane, we have club trainers. We have 6 instructors and they will instruct you could fly. Most of us provide the fuel and everything. They fly with a buddy box system.”

To understand the buddy box system – think “Drivers Ed”. There is someone wiser who also has controls and can take over in an emergency.

Before entry to the club you’ll be tested with basic maneuvers like take-off, landing and more.

It’s a high flying hobby in Bobby’s Bama. Learn more here: (

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