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FACING MECCA FROM LOGAN: Muslims gather for Friday prayers in a new Pixel photoessay. / Photo by Sarah Ali

Today's word on journalism

Friday, May 12, 2006


PETERSBORO, Utah -- Gloom like a Bulwer-Lyttonesque pall hung heavily over the Cache Valley as word came that the WORD had gone.

"As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire. . . ." No, wait. . . . That's actual Bulwer-Lyttonism. Scratch it.

We conclude, with joy and trumpets and a tankard or two, the 10th season of TODAY'S WORD ON JOURNALISM. What began in 1995 as a professor's strategy to get his students to read email (guess that worked!) now has spread, birdflu-like, far beyond that unwilling audience to self-flagellating WORD volunteers on five-and-a-half continents. But the willing and unwilling alike--the halt and addled and addicted and deluded--will have to get a life and smell the roses, for a while anyway.

Today marks the end of the WORD for this academic season. Even ere the rosy dawn that didth bust o'er this glade, this vale, this happy home. . . . ooops. Avert already, Sir Bulwer, you mangy cur!!!!

See you in the fall. . . TP

Is that a bird? Superman? No, it's a radio-controlled model airplane

By Liz Lawyer

May 2, 2006 | LOGAN -- Jerry Cokely keeps a plaque in his home that says, "Time spent flying is not deducted from one's lifespan."

Cokely has been flying radio-controlled model airplanes for 15 years. The retired law enforcement officer said he used to build models as a kid and came back to the hobby after several years

"Young kids can't really get involved because it's expensive," he said. "[Though] it's not a rich man's hobby."

At an abandoned airstrip at Logan Airport, five or six men gathered at the edge of the pavement, bent over their model airplanes, testing propellers, fueling them up, and checking engines. Most of the planes they constructed themselves, although some came as ARFs -- Almost Ready to Fly. Even these require some construction, Cokely said, but they are reflective of society's need for immediate gratification.

"We're just living in a faster society, he said. "With the ARFs you've already taken the fun out of building for me."

Planes of all kind were lined along the grass by their proud architects. Nate Friedli of Logan had a replica of a World War II fighter plane he had built completely from scratch -- no kit, no mold. Just sheets of balsawood, spools of wire, and a set of instructions.

"It's a dual passion: building and flying," he said. "Not everyone splits it the same."

The group is only a small representation of the Bridgerland Radio Control Club, which has approximately 32 members from all over Northern Utah, said Cokely, a Wellsville resident. The club, a chapter of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, meets regularly at the airport to fly together and chat. As Cokely puts it, the time spent there is 10 percent flying and 90 percent talking. Membership even includes a few retired airline pilots, Cokely said.

The AMA is a national organization begun in 1936. According to its Web site, it has 161,000 active members and has more than 2,500 chartered clubs in the U.S. The organization's vision, as stated on its site, is to make aeromodeling "the foremost sport/hobby in the world."

Cokely's membership in AMA covers him for up to $2.5 million in liability insurance. Membership in the national organization costs $250 initially, with a $50 yearly fee.

For Cokely, the pleasure of the sport is balanced pretty equally between building radio-controlled planes and flying them. He said though summer is called the flying season and winter the building season, the club still meets occasionally in the winter with skis on their planes to allow smooth landings on the snow-covered airfield.

"We don't want the weather to hold us back. We've got the bug and we want to fly," he said.

Cokely said learning to fly can take time, and the older you are the harder it becomes. "We've had some fathers and sons come out and the boy learns in three or four lessons and the dad's still struggling after four or five weeks," he said.

Not only that, but flying a model is different from flying an actual plane, he said. It can be difficult to remember that when the plane is coming towards you the controls are reversed: right becomes left and left becomes right. He said some of the retired pilots in the group struggle most with "thumb glitches," a mistake in steering. The controls have several switches on them to control altitude, rolls and turns.

Cokely said some members of the RC club fly for competitions but he flies just for sport. L.R. Earl, owner of Earl's Hobby Hangar in Logan, said interest in models ranges from airplanes and helicopters to boats, cars and trains. His store carries accessories and supplies for each kind of model, but it was originally focused on planes, he said.

"This is a hobby run amuck for me," he said. Earl said he has been building models for 60 years, starting as a boy in Mendon and eventually making his passion into his career, first as a helicopter pilot in the Army, and then as a hobby store owner.

He said his store began as an extension of his family's store in Mendon, but as business grew, he eventually moved. Then "the guys from Ogden" discovered his store, and he moved it again when it outgrew its location in 2002. Earl said his store gets customers from all around Cache Valley, and even as far south as Layton and as far north as Burley.

"It's about the enjoyment, being able to reproduce something in miniature," he said.

Earl said there are four major clubs in the area, the Bridgerland RC Club being only one of them. With radio control clubs in Ogden, Syracuse and Tremonton, Earl said he stays pretty busy.

Though ARFs are becoming more popular in the hobby, Cokely said he enjoys the process of putting his planes together himself. Cokely's blue-and-white trainer plane came from a kit, not an ARF. "This was a box of sticks when I got it," Cokely said, proudly gesturing to the plane.

Earl said whereas several years ago you would see 15 kits to one ARF in a hobby shop, now you see 30 to 40 ARFs to one kit. Kits can cost $130 to $140, whereas ARFs have a much wider range, costing between $100 and $350, according to Earl. However, the real sacrifice comes in the time put into the models.

Cokely said his plane kit cost $70 and took about 35 hours to build, though they can take longer. "I'm building a plane that I've spent 80 hours on and I'm not done yet," he said.

Another trend in the sport is electric engines, Cokely said. They make no noise compared to gasoline engines, he said, and come in all sizes.

At the airfield, one man shouted urgently to another, "Up, up, up!" The pilots stared in the direction a yellow model was buzzing around a moment ago and saw only sky and grass.

"Where'd it go?" said one of the pilots.

"It's in the weeds," said the other as he headed off across the runway to find what had become of the plane. The two returned a few minutes later with the ripped fuselage and wings of the plane in hand. Seeing the inside of the plane was surprising. They look as sturdy as a real airplane, but they're made of only soft, light balsawood and durable plastic sheeting held together with glue.

"It hurts to crash a plane. They can revert to a thousand pieces in a millisecond," Cokely said. "We have a motto for the club: If you can't crash them, don't build them."

The Bridgerland RC Club has been meeting at the runway in Logan for longer than Cokely's 15-year membership. The airstrip is no longer used except in emergencies and for training for the fire and police departments, Cokely said. The blacktop is lumpy and lined with tar. Hitting a small bump sends one of the light planes hopping across the pavement, but he said they have big plans for the future. The club has purchased 30 acres of land west of Benson to build a private runway that will be 50 by 600 feet.

"And we need that much room," he said. Gravel has already been laid at the site, and it just needs to have the blacktop poured on top to have the makings of a private club.

Cokely said the club is required to adhere to strict safety standards. The planes on the runway had about a 5-foot wingspan and Cokely said the models can go 60 to 80 miles per hour. Just like actual pilots, they do thorough ground checks before taking off and carefully maintain their engines. They make sure everyone in the area knows they're flying and never "buzz" people or wildlife.

"That is just verboten," Cokely said. "If a plane hits you it can be fatal."

Cokely said every year the club has an air show at the airport on Labor Day. He said the show has drawn crowds of up to 2,000 in the past. The show will be held this year as usual, from 12 to 3 p.m., and may be preceded by a display in the mall the day before to advertise the event, he said.


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