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Aviation hobbyist model for others
plane flyers 6 es
Tommy Roberts hand launches a plane for a quick demo flight in the neighborhood by his dad David Roberts. Roberts and his dad David Roberts fly model airplanes together. - photo by Emily Saunders
If you’re going

War Birds Over Atlanta ’09, a Georgia Model Aviators military model aircraft show, is set for 8 a.m. to dark Saturday on the airstrip at 8250 Old Federal Hwy. in Ball Ground. Attendees are advised to bring a chair. Concessions available.

Most people have some clutter in their garage, perhaps an old lawn mower or a bicycle.

But that’s a stark contrast to David Roberts’ garage, which resembles an aviation museum. It’s clean and filled with beautiful miniature airplanes, each one a near replica of the real thing after which it was modeled.

Passion for flying is something Roberts, a South Forsyth resident, has had since he was young.

“I have always been enthralled with flight,” he said. “I figured that one day when I got older I would get my pilot’s license.”

Roberts is a member of the Georgia Model Aviators club, which is organizing Saturday’s War Birds Over Atlanta ’09 event at the group’s airstrip in nearby Ball Ground. The annual event promises fun for all ages, he said.

“It is really quite a spectacle,” Roberts said. “These are magnificent military aircraft from around the world and they fly with beautiful scale precision.”

Despite the precision involved, learning to fly miniature airplanes was something Roberts stumbled upon.

In 1986, while living in California, Roberts and his then girlfriend Mary went sail plane riding on a date. He enjoyed flying so much, he decided he would attempt to fly a miniature airplane.

The couple bought and assembled a kit. But when Roberts took the miniature airplane out for its first flight, he did not know how much skill it would require.

“Well, it crashed,” he said. “And when my girlfriend cried over the wreckage, I knew I had to marry her.”

Twenty-three years later, Mary remains supportive of her husband’s somewhat unusual hobby.

“That is one of the things I love about this hobby,” he said. “There is always something you learn as you fly different airplanes.”

His knowledge of various aircraft is extensive.  

“Every airplane is a replica, and each one has all of the traits of the actual airplane,” said Roberts, who is particularly fond of his Curtis Hawk P-6, built by the late Slick Larson more than 30 years ago.

“It is a perfect replica,” Roberts said of the craft, which has hundreds of flights to its credit.

“The P-6 originates from the 1920s era single-engine fighter. The full-scale version was used more as a pilot trainer prior to World War II.”

Roberts has passed on his love of planes to 14-year-old son Tommy, with whom he has flown for the last five years. Not surprisingly, the younger Roberts said he is interested in becoming a pilot.

A freshman at South Forsyth High School, the teen said he loves flying the airplanes because it keeps his mind sharp. That, in turn, helps him with his grades, especially in math and science.

His father echoed those sentiments.

“Flying a model airplane is not only a stress reliever, but it also keeps my 50-plus-year-old brain sharp and quick thinking,” he said.

Both father and son say there is more skill involved in flying airplanes than many people realize.

“Anybody can get a plane up in the sky, but you have to learn how to get it down responsibly,” David Roberts said. “There are only two reasons for an airplane to crash. Either it is a mechanical error, or it is pilot error.

“If a plane does crash, figuring out which one it was is part of the learning process.”