Bob

Alexander

, New Market

, Virginia

, United States

Posted on
2020-02-17 21:31:15
“I love to fly. Flight has always been in my life. From an early age I was exposed to aircraft as my dad was an aircraft mechanic and pilot. I always had a strong desire to take flight myself and would occasionally get to go up with one of my dad’s friends or with my dad in a plane he had been working on. When I was a little older, my dad would take me to the RC flying field and we would watch in awe the tricks and grace those RC pilots would exhibit. I would ask Santa for an RC airplane every Christmas. I’m sure my dad also wanted to join them. Unfortunately that was not feasible for my family as times were tough and model aircraft were expensive. Finally, when I was 13, my dad worked in secret in his workshop for many months constructing a balsa RC airplane and when my brother and I woke up that Christmas morning to that glorious stick built airplane with the german insignias on the tail and bright red wings we were in complete shock! Waiting for good weather conditions to send it soaring was excruciating. Finally, a few weeks later we got our opportunity. Now, my dad was a pilot of real aircraft and I’m sure he didn’t want to show up at the flying field without being able to operate this little airplane so he decided to taxi it in our driveway a bit. Vrooom went the little nitro engine and the little craft would hop and jump over the rough rocks and grass. Back and forth it went, each time getting a little faster until suddenly it was off the ground! I’m quite certain that wasn’t the intention as my dad quickly brought the plane back down… a little too quickly. Snap! The prop hit the ground and as the little airplane nosed over and the two small balsa sticks that made up the structure of the fuselage broke. Embarrassed and disappointed (and probably a little angry with himself), my dad made the walk of shame to pick up the pieces. I wish I could say that we all went to the shop, made the repairs and went to the flying field where we were welcomed and taught how to fly. I wish that was how this part of my story ended. Unfortunately, that isn’t how it worked out. Defeated, the little plane sat on the hope chest, crying out to be repaired. For years it sat there, sometimes being moved to the shop, but never taking flight again. I can’t help but think that my hopes and dreams of being a pilot stalled out right there with that crash. I went to college, met a girl and got a job creating networks. Life went on. Fast forward to 2006. I was married, had a dog, we had just bought a house, and found out we were going to have a baby! Wow, life was stressful! My wife knew how much I loved flight and suggested I get a RC helicopter as this new thing called YouTube had quite a few RC helicopter pilots showing off their stuff and it looked like a ton of fun! So we went to the local hobby shop and they suggested a Blade coaxial heli. “They’re super easy!” they said. Yeah, right. Those ‘early’ coaxial helis were anything but easy. After replacing almost everything twice I gave up until one day in 2010 when browsing YouTube for this new idea of putting a camera and video transmitter on airplanes was taking off I stumbled upon a fledgling YouTube channel called Flite Test. These guys were funny, entertaining, and really made me think I could do this and finally have my dreams of flight! The best part was they were teaching people how to build airplanes with cheap foam board I could get at the local dollar tree. I saved up and placed my first order with HobbyKing, a Chinese hobby supplier that was sponsoring my new found Internet friends. Four weeks later my parts finally showed up and I assembled my first FT Delta from free plans Flite Test provided. I quickly broke the propellers I had purchased and went to my local hobby shop to get more. They were intrigued and somewhat miffed by my hand made ‘cardboard’ airplane I had proudly brought in. They clearly wanted to sell me more than props. I pointed out that they didn’t have any of the individual components to build your own plane and that the parts they did have were easily ten times the cost of the ones I could get online (I left out the fact that I had just waited a month for these cheap parts). They now carry a good selection of individual components and the owner and his son got into drones racing and has even made it to several Flite Fests, setting up shop to sell products at one of them! As time went on I broke less parts and started designing my own planes with the intention of getting into this FPV thing. I brought several coworkers into the hobby and helped them build their own Flite Test planes. We would fly at lunch, weekends, evenings. It really brought us together as a team. We became more than coworkers, we were becoming really good friends. Our ability to function as a team at work improved and we were really enjoying the stress relieving aspects of the hobby. But, back to the FPV part of the story! I had finally put together an airframe that would carry my camera, GoPro, and huge FPV transmitter. This Saturday I was ready. We made plans to meet up at the field (a huge hay field that is completely empty most of the year. That first flight was a true out of body experience. Suddenly, I was not only on the plane, I was flying! It was a short flight with a hot landing and my hands were shaking for hours afterwards from the experience. I’ll never forget that first flight when I felt so free that my only fear was getting lost in this huge new world (and losing video signal in the process). After a while I got used to my new wings and could better control the craft, shooting through gaps barely the wingspan of my plane. This is true freedom and I believe everyone should experience it for themselves. My first FPV flight – 2012 It was a few years later that my daughter expressed interest in what I found so fun. So I took her with me to Flite Fest that year. It was only my second FliteFest, but it was magical all around. We camped on Furey Field, listening to acoustic music around the campfire while brightly lit planes flew through the sky. She flew built and flew her first FT Explorer there that year with Josh himself cheering her on. Flite Fest and the friends we have met through Flite Test have been a huge part in our lives since then. Flite Fest friends – Flite Fest 2016 Her first FT Explorer – 2016 Flite Fest Family Building her first Simple Cub with friends. Breakfast crew making pancakes. Completely made by herself. I finally was able to bring RC flight back to my dad that year when we built an FT Explorer on my parents kitchen table. That flight was one of the best things I have experienced in a long time. Now my dad is teaching Aviation Merit Badge to the Boy Scouts where they will be building FT Simple Cubs and learning to fly. I hope he can make it to Flite Fest this year! Denny Alexander, flying RC for the first time. Well done Dad. Well done. I don’t know how to say how devastated I would be if none of this were possible. If the dream of flight was taken away from me and so many others that would be a terrible crime. Please don’t take our dreams away.”
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