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Fellowship of flight
Model aviators share skills with friends, family
Air 1 WEB
Patrick McLaughlin checks the propellor of his plane before takeoff during the Georgia Model Aviators Family Day on June 18 at the Eagles Beak green space. - photo by Autumn McBride

Burt Gunter admired the bright yellow wings of his Piper J3.

The model airplane, about 3 feet in length, sat atop a table at the Eagles Beak green space area in northwestern Forsyth County.

“This is just like the first plane I actually flew in 1955. A lady I was dating a few years back had this made for me,” said Gunter, a member of the Georgia Model Aviators.

The group, which allows radio-controlled model air plane enthusiasts to show off their skills, held its annual Family Day on June 18.

The gathering, which has been held for the past 15 years, allows members to share their hobby with their loved ones.

President Rex Briant said about 200 people came out for the day of flying, food and fellowship.

“Attendance was down a bit,” he said, noting that high gasoline prices have caused some members to fly their model planes less often.

“Although our membership has remained strong and at the same or slightly higher this year and last, we have noticed less flying these days simply because of gas prices,” he said. “They just stay home more.”

That didn’t deter Gunter, who’s been a member of the group for about six years.

He enjoys the chance to showcase his model, which is an exact replica of the big plane he learned to fly in college. He later served as a pilot during two tours of duty in Vietnam.

While he enjoyed flying the big ones, he said navigating the little planes is better in some ways.

“You crash one of these and it just hurts the pocketbook and the pride,” he said.

Fellow club member John Singer agreed.

“You walk to the crash with these, instead of the other way around,” said Singer, who’s also board member of the group.

Singer said he enjoys the “camaraderie and fellowship” the organization provides.

“It’s lot of fun,” he said. “It’s a great group of people and we have diverse membership. It’s a great place to go to get away from work.”

Carolyn Jurick, mother of aviator Steve Jurick, said their family has been coming to Family Day for several years.

“We enjoy the peace and quiet and being outside and watching him do his loop the loops,” she said.

Besides flights, the day also included a barbecue lunch, war bird demonstrations, paintball target shooting and a candy drop for the kids.

“It’s nice because everyone can get together,” Carolyn Jurick said.

The Georgia Model Aviators’ next event, a new one called AtlantaFlyFest 2011, will be the first weekend in September, Briant said.

It will include war birds, as well as demonstrations on radio-controlled planes.

“We are teaming up with several industry vendors for a fair-type atmosphere,” he said. “With the membership depth we have in former airline and fighter pilots, we will be holding 20-minute interval classes on aerodynamics, turbine engines, gas engines and the history of flight.”