Grandchildren-inspired flying adventures

We did not have a camera, but I remember every moment in great detail. That’s how I register an experience when I am a hero to my grandchildren. To begin at the beginning:

Three days ago, Steve and I took our grandson, David, to Battle Point Park to fly his Super Cub electric-motorized, remote controlled airplane. Steve let David fly the plane first, since Steve had landed it into a tree a few weeks ago. David’s friend, Teddy, climbed the tree and rescued the plane.

David flew the plane quite well, but the flying field was really too small, due to the local horse show taking up our regular flying field. The soccer field where we were flying was surrounded by poplars and other lovely deciduous trees, with outstretched arms. David landed his plane softly in the outstretched arms of one of the lovely trees. So the plane was at the top of the tree. We examined it closely, then got into the car and drove home. I had actually tried to climb the tree, and made it up to the first level, when my grandson said, Grandma, everyone is looking at you. Don’t do that.” I made a mental note to work on my upper body strength at the gym.

The next day the weather turned nasty with heavy rain and strong winds. We were hoping that the winds had blown the plane out of the tree. But when we drove to the park the next day, we found that the wind had actually blown the plane deeper into the branches of the tree, and the tail section was neatly inserted into a fork created by two branches. We reported to Kim and David our findings, and began planning how we might extricate the plane.

Yesterday we all piled into Kim’s car, carrying five bamboo poles (designed to be garden stakes, each pole about 6 ft long), one shorter pole, duct tape, and a “fork” that Steve had fashioned from a coat hanger. We taped the poles into one long pole, with the fork on the business end, and with great difficulty, Kim worked the contraption up into the tree. She maneuvered the far end of the pole closer and closer to the plane, 30+ feet above her, until her neck began to hurt. She handed the pole to me, I took a deep breath, told myself I could do it, and remembered the words of Lynne Cox in her book Grayson. Poke, prod, lean, turn, reach — I pushed the plane up and away from the fork of the branches. It slid back in. I poked and prodded again, and after a while, the tail of the plane was no longer in the fork. With a twist and a gentle tug, (Kim was saying, “Pull down now.”) I turned the plane with wingtip towards the ground, and the plane tumbled gracefully through the branches, pole hooked through the wing rigging somehow. The only damage was a small bite out of one wing, and the wheels were missing. We cheered and could not believe our achievement. What at team! David expressed his thanks in the wonderful way that he does.

With big smiles, we drove to the other side of the park, to join the other model airplane flyers who were gathered for the weekly Wednesday fly-in. You would not believe the skill of some of these hobbyists. Most of the planes are less than three feet across, wing tip to wing tip. A skilled flyer can make one of these planes do anything — fly upside down, sideways, loops, hovers, you name it.

I was astonished to see that all but the newest of the planes had been crashed and taped and glued back together many, and I mean many, times. One of the men told me that he had never used a computer simulator [like the simulator FS One we got for David]. He just began flying and crashing, buying a new plane, crashing, etc., until he learned how to fly. The glue, tape, and reinforcing battens were all over the planes. There was serious discussion about the most effective types of glue and tape to use. This was encouraging to beginner flyers like us.

Our friend, John, lent us a DVD of “The Higher Plane Film Festival” by Higher Plane Productions, where you can also view his free films of expert flyers and their planes.

A local web site with some even better short videos in HD, filmed around Bainbridge Island.

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