Flying Aces of Smyrna, Kid’s Style It all stared in 1995 when I decided that I was through building and flying free flight by myself. How much fun is it if what you build or fly is all done alone with no one to see the good, the bad, and the ugly? So I invited my daughter and some of her friends to come build a few simple planes with me on Thursday nights. From these humble beginnings a free flight cub of Flying Aces of Smyrna took off.
It’s been twelve years now and over 60 kids have joined me in the fascination of building a flying these light scale wonders that take to the skies. What fun. Along the way we attended contests put on by the Chattanooga Flying Aces and the Atlanta Thumbs as well as participating in the Johnson City Nationals. These events did much in challenging and inspiring the kids to press on in their efforts. My fellow modelers have gone out of their way at these contests to brag on the kids and help them in any way they could. I am indebted to many who sent me plans and wood to share and have encouraged my efforts. The best age to begin building with kids is when they are nine or ten. At this age they are able to follow instructions and handle razor blades and glue. Also, they are young enough to be delighted with “flying things” especially ones they have made themselves. What keeps me going is to see their eyes light up and a big smile come across their face when their first free flight takes to the air. I give them a beginner design that always flies well and never disappoints.
Once they are hooked most of the kids stay with me and build until they are old enough to drive. At that point they discover the opposite sex and want a car and to keep it going they get a job, and there goes their time. There are a few that stay with it up through college and beyond, but I don’t count on it. I feel good about what they have accomplished by the time they fly the coop, and hope some time in the future they will return to our fun hobby and keep the cycle going. At the very least, we all have good memories of building and flying sessions that last for years. Everyone has their own philosophy in working with kids. I have heard that some never criticize or make corrections to what a kid is doing. I do the opposite. Yes, I want to encourage them and compliment them on doing a fine job, but then too I want them to be able to learn by their mistakes. So as their building progresses on whatever model they are working on they ask me what I think. Often I’ll say, “This looks so good I’m going to have a hard time finding something wrong, but let’s just see what can be improved.” Normally there is something that they will point out to me and we talk about how to do it right the next time. It is fun to see them improve and the next time they show me that they did it right is gratifying. What they really love is building and flying their model so well that they beat me at the contest. Beating the mentor makes their hard work worth while, and when it happens it that makes me proud. If you are thinking of working with kids you need to have an organization of some kind behind you. I happen to be a minister of a large church and the club uses a room in the church building for its activities. This works great, and I know of others who have been successful in doing the same at their church. However, you might find an EAA group, a YMCA, a company, school, or R/C group that could give permission for you to start a program for kids. Most parents are reluctant to bring kids to your garage to build and in this day and age you can understand why.
We don’t live in Mayberry any more. Go to one of these groups and fly some of your stuff and then explain how you want to teach kids to do the same. Explain that not every kid is into sports, and this offers them an alternative way to build self confidence and take pride in their work. I truly feel whether a kid wins a contest or not, just taking the time and patience to build an airplane and get it fly makes them a winner. Many parents have told me that their son or daughter has really enjoyed the club through the years because it gave them a place where they could excel and belong. It also got them away from the video games, computer, and TV and made them think and use their hands. It gives them a way to be creative. (I allow the kids to decorate their own model any way they want to for the first two years.) If you do decide to work with kids it does take time. Not only do I help them build along with my buddy Wayne Anderson, I also spend some time in getting things ready for the build during the week. You will have to buy all the supplies, cut out more 16th inch sticks than you can imagine. Most of the time you will have to slice the ribs, and build the nose plug. You will also be the supplier of all that wonderful tissue, wood, and rubber. We use Devco glue (green tube at Wal-Mart) in a syringe that I put a #18 needle on that has been ground down. You can buy the syringe and needle at your local farmer’s supply store. Take them to your grinder and grind right through the plastic holder and they are ready to use. We use CA very sparingly. Buy some thin Teflon tubing (on the internet) and using an exacto knife twirl a little hole for it in the shoulder of the bottle leaving the cap on.
This works well and will not clog as often as the bottle tip. Dip your catalyst for CA, never spray it, and mount the bottle on a tip-over-proof piece of wood with a little Goop. Build simple models at first! Co-Cals are perfect for this age group, and they love them. Every kid wants to build a fancy bomber, etc. put this will frustrate you and them and the model will not get done. After a kid can master building about anything I turn them loose to do just that. Some learn in one year and others never learn. Contests keep the club going. Find one or have your own. Give away prizes and ribbons. We bring our own trophies when we go to a big contest so that we can award our kids for something. We give away a trophy for the one who flew the most recorded times, the longest flight, the best Bostonian, and so on. Kids love trophies and most contest directors love giving them out and making a big deal about it. Fun! The first words when we get back home are, “Mom, I won a trophy.” I encourage any of my fellow modelers to get a club going with some kids. It only takes a few to get up and running. We present have grown to twenty meeting every week and that is all we can handle. The local paper has done a story on us from time to time and that just adds to the fun and brings out others who love to fly with us. Jump in and quit building long hours alone. Help a kid enjoy the hobby and you will enjoy it more yourself. I garuntee it. Tim Lavender 615-459-4994 or Lavendertravel@Hotmail.com