High-flying hobby

RUSHM0RE -- Aircraft whizzed through the air, performing spirals, dives and other gravity-defying feats to the delight of the spectators, who craned their necks to take in all the action. Planes -- and a helicopter, too -- took off and landed at ...

Flying through the air
A one-third scale model of a Embry-Riddle aircraft performs stunts complete with smoke Saturday at the radio-controlled airplane airshow in rural Rushmore. The plane is owned by Rick Apitz, New Ulm. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

RUSHM0RE -- Aircraft whizzed through the air, performing spirals, dives and other gravity-defying feats to the delight of the spectators, who craned their necks to take in all the action. Planes -- and a helicopter, too -- took off and landed at a steady pace so there was almost always something to watch up in the sky.

But a couple of things set this event apart from other airshows. The planes were piloted by people with their feet firmly planted on the ground, and the location -- Boldt International Airfield, elevation 1,620 -- is in the middle of a cornfield.

The 19th annual radio-controlled airplane airshow, sponsored by the Southwest High Flyers radio-controlled model airplane club, took place Saturday and Sunday on a farm place south of Rushmore.

"The first year, we had five people," recalled Dave Boldt, owner of the airfield and model airplane enthusiast. "So far, we've got 32; we'll probably have 40 by tomorrow. They come from as far as Rapid City, Sioux City, Duluth, Beresford, Sioux Falls -- all over the place. These guys come to fly."

Two such guys -- father and son Forestt and Patrick Wagner of Sioux Falls, S.D. -- alternated between flying and working on their small fleet of aircraft -- planes, helicopters and jets -- on Saturday afternoon. Forestt began flying model aircraft as a kid and passed his enthusiasm for the hobby along to both of his sons.


"I've been doing it since I was big enough to hold the radio," boasted Patrick, now 22. "I fly 'em all, like 'em all."

"It's a full-time hobby," explained Forestt, who also flies for a living as a corporate pilot for Avera Health and was a jet mechanic during military service. "In this country, you have to have something to do, so you build during the winter and fly during the summer, and when there's adverse weather, you work on your planes. One thing people don't realize is that it teaches so many avenues and skills. You learn to do the artwork. You learn about plastics, metals. You learn engine repair, battery technology. It teaches depth perception. ...

"And, for the wives, it makes for a good opportunity to buy the husband something for Christmas, and it's always appreciated," Forestt added.

Learning to fly the remote-controlled helicopters has provided a different challenge for the Wagners.

"It's about four times harder because of the level of coordination," Forestt said, "And you have to learn the hardest thing first. You have to learn how to hover before you can fly. I've had this one for about a year. Patrick built it for me. He's my mechanic."

"I fix 'em when he screws up," Patrick said with a smile.

A blustery wind made for some tricky flying and kept a few of the aircrafts grounded on Saturday, waiting for more favorable conditions. More than one airplane had to be retrieved from the adjacent cornfield, blown awry by the tricky breezes.

Bob Varilek, a member of the Windom Eagles Model Airplane Club, was content to watch his fellow flyers test their piloting skills.


"Right now, I don't have a plane that's flyable," he explained. "I have three or four of them hanging in the ceiling until I get my skills back. ... I've been too busy doing some remodeling on the house. But this is the big event in Worthington's backyard, so I had to come over."

Aviation has long been an interest for Varilek, who is now retired after working in sales, custom harvesting and over-the-rode trucking.

"Years ago, when I was in the second, third or fourth grade, I had a touch of it," he said about the model airplane bug. "When I was overseas, I did a little flying over there in a full-size plane."

Varilek returned to the smaller planes a few years ago and was president of the Windom club for two years before resigning this year to focus on the remodeling project. He has especially enjoyed sharing his hobby with a younger generation of flyers.

"There's a bi-plane," he said pointing up to an aircraft taking off at Boldt field. "That's my cup of tea. The best part is seeing these young kids light up when they go out on the field and you hook them up ... and then when they get to this level."

Southwest High Flyers vice president Rick Hansen, who was busy taking photos at the airshow, agreed that it's a good hobby to pass along to children. He was lamenting that his 13-year-old son, Cody, wasn't able to attend the show.

"I don't mind spending a lot of money on this hobby for him if he stays away from alcohol and drugs," Hansen reflected, "if it keeps him out of trouble.

"The other thing about this hobby is, you just can't get a better group of people," he added.


The Southwest High Flyers club meets at 7 p.m. the first Tuesday of every month (except for December, January and February). During March, April, October and November, the meetings are at Harvey's Upholstery, 259 Kragness Ave., Worthington. During the summer months, the meetings are at Boldt International, south of Rushmore. Training nights are every Tuesday at Boldt International.

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