Radio-controlled fun

Fans flock to Walla Walla Valley R/C clubs.

An R/C Plane prepares to do a backward flip.

An R/C Plane prepares to do a backward flip. John Czarnecki

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In the history of aeronautics, sibling teams cast a long shadow.

The Wright brothers, Wilbur and Orville, and their famous Kitty Hawk top the list for name recognition, but they are not alone in the world of flying families.

In 1909, Eduardo and Juan Paublo Aldasoro flew one of (if not the) first gliders in Mexico.

The following year, Swiss brothers Armand and Henri Dufaux piloted their Dufaux 4 across Lake Geneva, winning a large monetary prize. The Dufaux brothers are also credited with important developments in modern helicopter design.

So it should come as no surprise that a pioneering pair of brothers were responsible for developing modern radio controlled airplanes.

In 1937, Walt and William Good built and flew a radio controlled airplane in their hometown of Kalamazoo, Mich. Their plane, Big Guff, was housed in the Smithsonian Institution in 1960 after some 1,000 flights.

The family tradition has remained strong in the world of radio controlled toys, according to Tony Waggoner, owner of Tony’s Hobby and Video in Milton-Freewater, who said R/C vehicles and aircraft appeal to young and old alike.

Waggoner said he has enjoyed radio-controlled vehicles since he was young, and now enjoys the hobby with his three grandchildren.

“The oldest one is into the rock crawling,” Waggoner said.

Joe Morris said he and his son, Kam, got into radio-controlled trucks several years ago as a way to include Kam in the family hobby of drag-racing.

“We tested the lights at the strip with (Kam’s) two trucks,” Morris said, adding the little speedsters can reach speeds of 60-miles-per-hour.

Morris said he and his son own six different R/C vehicles, including three racing trucks and several rock crawlers.

John Morris, no relation to Joe Morris, also got into R/C vehicles with his son, Blake, about four years ago.

“We live pretty close to the track,” John Morris said, adding that he is now the president of Xtreme R/C Club of Walla Walla. The club operates an R/C racetrack and rock crawling course at Fort Walla Walla Park.

Unlike Joe and Kam Morris, who only dabble in R/C racing, Blake and John Morris take the competitions more seriously, and John Morris said he hopes to host a regional race at Walla Walla next June.

“It would be a turnout of probably 150 to 250 racers,” John Morris said, adding that R/C racing features a wide range events.

No doubt the registered racers would bring their families along with them, and John Morris said it’s common to see young and old competing head to head.

“You can have a 50-year-old racing an 8-year-old,” John Morris said, adding that in addition to diversity in age groups, there is a wide range of vehicle types, competition styles and race classes.

Waggoner confirmed the R/C world is awash with possibilities.

“You can pretty much replace any part on the car,” Waggoner said, pointing out racks of stock parts and vehicle upgrades. “I can’t carry everything.”

He added that racers can be pretty competitive, and will spend both time and money on vehicle upgrades to give them an edge. It’s common to see cars that will run at speeds of 100 mph, Waggoner said.

In addition to the diversity among cars, Waggoner pointed out airplanes and helicopters are not only becoming more A RCcommon, but much easier to pilot.

“Twenty years ago, if you wanted an airplane, you built it,” Waggoner said. “Now a real beginner can fly a helicopter or a quad copter.”

The helicopters that many of these beginners will by flying are not only easier to control than their predecessors, but many include video capture devices, and GPS navigation systems.

Waggoner said some can even be controlled via a computer with preprogrammed flight paths, or by using goggles to get a bird’s-eye view from the plane. In fact, with the level of technology now available for radio controlled vehicles, Waggoner said he sees college students browsing his store for parts for student projects.

“They do a little bit with robotics,” Waggoner said.

Despite the dizzying array of options available for even a casual dabbler in the R/C world, Waggoner said the hobby still seems to come back to family. Like the Goods, Waggoner himself first got into the hobby with his brother when they were children.

“I was just a little guy,” Waggoner said. “I wish I had more time.”

Luke Hegdal can be reached at lukehegdal@wwub.com or 526-8326.

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