Miniature aircraft descend — and ascend — on local field at annual festival

Jaws dropped as two aircraft smashed into each other above a small pond north of Forest Grove. Moments later a helicopter, too, crashed into the pond and sank to the bottom.

It was an air-traffic controller’s nightmare.

But Dave Noel laughed at the memory.

Noel is the public relations director for Oregon Miniature Aircraft Squadron, a hobby club with more than 50 members aged 14 to 80, including two women. Most are local but some travel from as far away as Lake Oswego and southern Washington.

The smashups occurred last year at the annual Radio-Controlled Modelers Air Show, now in its 32nd year.

“A mid-air collision between a glider and a plane happened right over the pond. It was a spectacle,” Noel said.

While that crash was an accident, this year, for the first time, the air show is adding an aerial-combat segment, where planes will crash into each other on purpose.

Past collisions have ruined model airplanes worth hundreds of dollars, Noel said.

“The pilots don’t always like it, but the crowd always loves a crash,” he said.

Planes used to have a ribbon trailing behind them that others would try to cut, but this year they will attempt to hit each other out of the sky (with less expensive planes). “This is full contact,” said Noel. “The last man flying wins.”

In addition to combat, the show will feature numerous small-scale models of real aircraft, including several replicas of World War II planes. Acrobatic planes will dive, spin and do tricks.

“We can do more stunts than regular planes because we don’t have a pilot in there that would pass out from the tricks we do,” said Noel.

There are also the “crowd pleasers,” such as the helicopters, Noel said. And miniature floatplanes will take off and land in the pond.

In addition to aircraft, the show features scaled-down boats, which motor around the pond. And one club member sets up a scene from a German war zone, with model tanks driving around on it.

The show is held on the Oregon Miniature Aircraft Squadron Flying Field at Lewis Fawrm on Northwest Strohmayer Road, which includes a 35- by 450-foot paved runway, a six-acre lake, a clubhouse and a boat launch. A picnic area allows spectators to enjoy lunch with the show.

Another addition to the two-day event is a food drive for the Oregon Food Bank. Attendees are encouraged to bring healthy, nonperishable food donations.

“This makes us more a part of the community,” said Noel. “Why wouldn’t we take advantage of this opportunity? It’s a way for us to lend a helping hand.”

To fundraise for their own club, a ready-to-fly airplane will be raffled the first day and a build-your-own airplane kit will be raffled the second. Raffle profits offset costs related to the event, said Noel, who expects about 700 people to attend.

In addition, pilots can enter a raffle every time they fly. Gift certificates for $20, $30 and $50 to Tammie’s Hobbies in Beaverton will be given away each day.

“It’s a hobby for all ages. We’d like to see more kids involved,” said Noel. “It’s like a videogame, but with the consequences. I think that’s good because it teaches more responsibility. If you crash, you can’t just press ‘redo.’ ”

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