Movies and TV shows about Christmas are famous for their scenes of dear old dad attempting to assemble a complicated toy before placing it under the tree for their child to enjoy. "We don’t need all those parts," the frustrated parent insists as he tosses away the "extra" nuts and bolts, only to have the bike, carousel or other plaything collapse when the child tries to use it.

Well, the members of Sonoran Desert Flyers, Inc., don’t want that to happen to you. They’re hosting “How to Enjoy That Christmas Airplane” from 9 a.m. to noon on Jan. 15-16 at the Oro Valley Naranja Park, 660 W. Naranja Drive. The high-flying event is being held in cooperation with the Oro Valley Parks, Recreation, Library & Cultural Resources Department.

It’s a hands-on opportunity to learn not only how to properly assemble the radio-control, electric-powered model aircraft you purchased during the holidays (or anytime, for the matter) but also to learn how to fly it.

“We want dad to be the hero kids look up to, that kids say, my dad can fix anything,” said Bob Schumann, the event’s coordinator and Sonoran Desert Flyers member.

The sessions will include flight instructions, model airplane building tips, advice and refreshments. First-time fliers can fly their plane with instructor assistance through the use of a “buddy box,” a dual remote-control flight system that enables the instructor to take control of the flight in case of novice error. It is similar to the dual controls in a driving-lesson vehicle.

Participants can take their RC plane “three mistakes high.” That’s the term RC fliers use when referring to the height a plane must reach in order to make three flying errors and still recover without hitting the ground, said Schumann.

Among the maneuvers novice pilots will be taught are a figure 8, which helps them make right and left turns; and how to turn without losing altitude.

“Without the proper instruction, people get discouraged,” said club president Jim Corbin. “They try to fly on their own and often crash quickly. These model airplanes are not as forgiving as model cars.”

The technologically advanced control units can frustrate some parents, said Schumann. “Young kids catch on like that,” he added, snapping his fingers.

Real airplane pilots have the hardest time flying the model plane because everything is backwards.

“They’re used to being inside the plane and looking out at the ground,” Schumann explained.

The biggest mistakes new pilots make are to try and take off without adequate speed and to not properly research a model plane’s flying characteristics before purchasing it.

“If you’re buying your first car, you don’t necessarily buy a Ferrari or a muscle car. They handle differently from your average car,” said Corbin.

The event is free; however, the club will be collecting canned food donations at the event for Angel Food Ministries.

Sonoran Desert Flyers, Inc. (SDF) is an Arizona non-profit corporation and an Academy of Modeling Aeronautics (AMA) affiliated radio-control model aircraft club. Members fly their aircraft each Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at Naranja Park. For more information, visit or call 297-4664.

* Web mail address corrected from original posting.

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