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Andersen’s Air Force adventures

Paul Andersen

New adventures in aeronautics are about to be launched in the Fryingpan Valley. It’s called Andersen’s Air Force, and it involves intricate and expensive model airplanes flown by inexperienced, crash-prone pilots.It’s all my brother’s fault for sending my son, Tait, some balsa wood gliders for Christmas. Things started badly when I inadvertently glued my fingers together while assembling the wings. Ripping thumb from forefinger was like breaking the lip lock between Madonna and Britney Spears. Ouch!The gliders were fun, but they have led to harder, more addictive flying machines, and Tait is now smitten with radio-controlled airplanes. He’s got his sights set on a model big enough to launch one of our cats into the troposphere, which could be a newsworthy achievement.But let me back up here so you get the gravity of this flight craze. It all began 40 years ago in the basement of my childhood home where my brother built model planes with tubes of smelly glue.Eventually he had a squadron of gas-powered airplanes of the control line variety – the kind that has you spinning in circles while clutching a hand grip attached by monofilament lines to a screaming gas-powered missile going 800 miles an hour.Radio control (RC) came later as his addiction to flying (and to glue) reached desperate levels of intoxication. My maniacal, model-mad brother sent us those balsa kits the way a drug dealer gives a customer the first hit free. And now we’re stuck … literally!I confess that some of the blame goes to my romantic vision of a time many years ago when I climbed to the rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and launched a small balsa glider that caught a thermal and specked out a thousand feet above me doing big, looping circles like a hawk. It was a “WOW!” experience.Now Tait and I are captivated by flight, just like the Wright brothers, and we’re looking at an RC plane, a radio controller, a flight simulator … and I’d really like one of those Top Gun flight suits like George W. wore on that aircraft carrier.”Help!” I wrote my brother. “Those little balsa models have morphed into a .46 OS BB engine, a Futaba 4-channel radio system, and a Hobbico NexSTAR RTF with a wingspan of 68.75 inches! We’re talking 500 smackers!””You’re screwed,” responded my brother without even a hint of sibling sympathy. “You think that glue was bad … be careful of the propeller. These aren’t the cute little motors we messed with as kids, and they can mangle a finger worse than a Cuisinart. And make sure you get somebody to help you learn to fly,” he advised, “or you’ll watch your investment augur into Mother Earth ala Chuck Yeager.”I did a Web search and, to my great relief, found an RC club in Glenwood Springs – Sunnyside Aviation. I called and a nice man there assured me that an experienced pilot could help us “get off the ground.” All we have to do, he said, is join the Academy of Model Aeronautics and the Sunnyside club, then buy fuel, glow plugs, a starter, tools, 6-volt battery, extra propellers, etc.Tait is too psyched about this to dismiss it with a parental veto. Even though it may take a second mortgage to pay for it (and for occasional surgeries to separate my fingers), RC flying is better than hanging out at the bowling alley bumming smokes and funneling quarters into arcade games.And who knows, this could lead to bigger things – like maybe full-sized aircraft, like maybe four years at the Air Force Academy, like maybe flying fighter planes on dangerous missions over hostile countries …You know, I’m going to think this over. But first, I’ve got a few words choice words for my brother … and a few novel uses for that glue.Paul Andersen is on a different plane. His column appears on Mondays.


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