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Model for an A+ retirement

Group builds and flies remote-controlled airplanes

Created date

January 12th, 2017
In the campus woodshop at Ann’s Choice, Dick White (left) and Herman Birnbaum work on a remote-controlled airplane.

In the campus woodshop at Ann’s Choice, Dick White (left) and Herman Birnbaum work on a remote-controlled airplane.

With more than 150 campus activities and events, Ann’s Choice, Erickson Living’s retirement community in Bucks County, Pa., offers a nearly endless selection of special-interest groups. But if your interest isn’t represented, staff will help you launch a new group. 

That’s what Herman Birnbaum and another Ann’s Choice resident did nearly nine years ago. They launched Silent Flyers when Herman and his wife Diane moved from Bensalem.

Silent Flyers attracts people who fly, or want to fly, remote-controlled model airplanes.

Year-round fun

Herman started making model airplanes as a kid, and he’s never lost his fascination with flight or with model making. He also owned and flew three full-size airplanes, one of which he docked at the private airstrip on his farm in Flemington, N.J.

Only a few club members are former pilots. “But most of us had a workshop full of tools and implements,” Herman says. “Now we have workshops in our apartments, the crafts room, and the woodshop.”

Because those locations are all on campus, winter weather never stops the group from pursuing their passion. And they can walk to their destinations without ever venturing outside; climate-controlled hallways and bridges connect all campus buildings internally. 

Also, says Herman, the walking provides built-in exercise. 

Newbies are always welcome at the group’s working sessions in the Keystone Clubhouse crafts room. All it takes is a curious mind and an interest in challenging yourself. “You use your brain in all kinds of ways,” Herman says.

Case in point: He and another member recently gave a demonstration of their 3-D printers to the Ann’s Choice ROMEO (Retired Old Men Eating Out) group. Herman uses his printer to make plane parts for his fellow flyers. “You do for other people,” he says. “That’s part of life.”

Making time for making things

The Silent Flyers pilot remote-controlled drones, kit-built planes, and do-it-yourself planes made from foam board. During inclement weather, they fly their drones in Ann’s Choices’ multipurpose room. 

A recent work session found them constructing planes using $1 pieces of foam board from the local dollar store. They’ll fly the DIY planes at Warminster Park adjacent to campus. 

Herman’s version boasts two motors and a 60-inch wingspan that required joining two pieces of foam board. When he realized the angle was off on one of the joints, he and another member trimmed it up at the woodshop.

While he’s also an avid cyclist and enjoys tinkering in his home workshop, “I spend 90% of my time with the Flyers and in the woodshop,” Herman says. 

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