Clark Follett found himself holding a radio-controlled model aircraft for the first time in 2007, not because he had always wanted to, but because his wife had always dreamed of it.
“She’d always wanted to try it,” Follett said. “So I took her and I discovered that I liked it, too.”
Disabled, Follett’s wife had heard many times she would be unable to control the plane, but she proved them wrong. Both Folletts have since become active in the Southern Tier Aero Radio Society (STARS), which was founded in 1932. Clark is currently president.
Since 1978, the group has held an annual rally, considered by many to be the largest of its kind in the state. On Saturday and Sunday, July 13–14, group members and visitors will descend upon the Olean/Cattaraugus Airport for yet another weekend of flying and socializing.
From 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Sunday, you can watch hundreds of different types and sizes of scale aircraft take to the skies over the 2,000-plus-foot runway. The airport is located at 5420 Hatch Hill Rd. in Ischua.
“It’s a wonderful time for everyone involved,” Follett said, adding that fliers from surrounding states and beyond come to show their stuff. Even vacationers, passing through on their way further east, west, north and south stop and watch. It’s common knowledge that STARS was the first organization to feature the giant scale model aircraft.
Activities at the rally include demonstrations and food.
And while there are no opportunities for people to try their hand at flying planes, the group does hold an open house in late summer for those who want to try. Follett said the rally is more of a show, a chance for the approximate 44 active members to show their stuff. From bi-planes to jets to helicopters, the aircrafts on display this weekend will amaze everyone, Follett said.
The skill required to fly them through the air may impress people even more.
“It’s not something you can just pick up and fly,” Follett said. “You should go through a training period.”
Novices work with “master” fliers via remote. Once the aircraft is airborne, the master pilot controls the aircraft until the novice is ready. Flipping a switch, control is given to the novice, who practices under the master’s watchful eye. Follett said it’s the best way to learn the skill. After all, one mistake can be costly.
“There’s this belief that starting a hobby like this is expensive, but that’s not necessarily true,” he said. “I ask guys if they hunt, and most say yes, and then I tell them they can get an aircraft and supplies for about $350. That’s less than a gun and supplies.”
Follett said the hobby isn’t as expensive as it used to be, and planes and supplies are more durable than in the past.
If you are interested in joining STARS, Follett said annual dues are reasonable, only $45, and the benefits are many. Not only is there the opportunity to keep active and social in a group, there is the benefit of learning a skill.
“I have a lot of hobbies,” Follett said, laughing. “This is just another one. But it’s also one of my favorites.”
Summer meets are held at the flying field, located near the intersection of Oil Spring Road south of Cuba Lake, at 7:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month. Winter meetings are held at the College Center at Jamestown Community College in Olean at 7 p.m.
For more information about the group and upcoming events, including this weekend’s rally, visit www.rcstars.org. For more information, please call (716) 372-1137 or (716) 376-5650. Admission and camping is free with a $5 parking donation.