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Flying ‘foamies’

Ann’s Choice silent flyers club builds, tests model planes

Created date

June 21st, 2011

Silent flyers. Is that a code name for alien aircraft that suddenly appear, then disappear, without making a sound? Not at all. Silent flyers is a club of fun-loving guys at Ann s Choice, an Erickson Living community in Bucks County, Pa., who engage in one of the most popular hobbies in the country: they build and fly remote-control model planes and helicopters. Why silent? Because the models are powered by quiet, lightweight, and safe electric motors instead of yesteryear s noisy, dirty gasoline engines. On mornings when the air is still, members like to gather in their corner of Warminster Community Park to test their construction and flying skills. Many members fly models they ve built themselves, with Styrofoam models called foamies among the most popular. Foamies are quick and inexpensive to construct and no great loss if they slam into the dirt nose-first. Some of the silent flyers build their models at home, but they can also build them in the Keystone Clubhouse crafts studio (one of three crafts studios on campus) where the group meets twice a week. Because the group is interested in building and testing, not bureaucracy, there are no officers, dues, or formal agenda. We just have a good time, says the group s unofficial spokesperson Herman Birnbaum. New members are welcome regardless of experience.

Fun for everyone

When Joe Levy started the club three years ago, new resident Dick White joined immediately. He had been a civilian pilot, and like many other members, flew remote-control planes as a young boy. But I hadn t had a model plane for 60 years, he says. When I joined, I started over. Dick has a helicopter and six home-built foamies in his apartment home. When his planes require something special, like a 1/8-inch-thick plywood engine mount, he goes to the Ann s Choice woodshop. I can cut a circle there and it s neat, not raggy. Matt Hill also flies a helicopter. He received his as a Christmas gift from his nephew. Mel Kohlreiter s daughter gave him a helicopter after a club member told her that her dad really wanted one. Now Mel, a former Navy pilot, is trying his hand at building. Herman Birnbaum and Clarence Good, both former private pilots, have the most experience flying remote-control aircraft. Clarence sometimes flies a large kit-built glider he converted from gas to electric.

Home for his hobby

The fact that Herman even chose his ground floor Oxford-style apartment home at Ann s Choice to accommodate his hobby shows his passion for model planes. He builds his models at home and uses a folding cart to roll them across his patio to his van on flying days. Herman says he most enjoys teaching others to fly. And he has a buddy cord, a transmitter with dual controls, which lets him take over if a novice is at risk of crashing.