Flying Tigers dazzle crowd with model airplanes

Remote controlled airplanes and helicopters took to the sky for an impressive show in Lake City Saturday. More than 80 members of Flying Tigers RC put on a little in flight entertainment during their annual fundraiser.

"The skill level varies. We have gentlemen out here that are 80 years old, and we got kids that are as young as 8 years old," Flying Tigers RC President, Lynn Tisdale, said.

Planes of every size and color did flips, loops, stunts and acrobatic maneuvers. One even zipped through the sky at 199 miles per hour. The controllers were held by a mixed bag of pilots. "You got your old school pilots, who built planes from scratch, then you have the younger crowd, that tends to be, because it takes a lot of hand-eye coordination. They'll fly what we call 3D flying and that means they have the plane hovering on the ground, doing a lot of rolls and acrobatic type stunt maneuvers," Tisdale said.

All of the pilots make it look easy, but flying remote controlled aircrafts is far from simple. "To master some of those skills can take up to three years. It takes constant repetition on simulators. If you watch their hands while they're doing this, they're controlling four, to a helicopter pilot maybe eight, things at one time. How they do it, I don't know," Tisdale added.

A lot of people don't know how to get started in the hobby, but the one thing Flying Tigers RC offers is free training. "You come out we hook you to a 'buddy box'. What that means is we have an experienced pilot standing with you and he'll fly with you. If you get in trouble, he'll take over and you don't have to worry about crashing the airplane," Tisdale said.

It's a good idea to remember that if you fly them, you crash them. "That's all part of the hobby. You hope to be safe and not hurt anybody, but yes, you will crash. The main issue is trying to keep control of it, make sure it's safe and then enjoy it," helicopter pilot Chris Calhoun of Loris said.

Saturday's event wrapped with only one casualty. Michael Bodiford, of Charleston, was a good sport after his large plane, that cost several thousand dollars, went down. "It was my first flight of the day and I decided I'd do a maneuver called an 'aneurism'. The impact of the air against the wing was too great and caused the right wing to separate from the aircraft," he said.

Bodiford has crashed several planes before, but this time he was worried about recovering the wreckage. "I just hate to see one come apart in the air. What was going through my mind is I got to go across that bean field to pick it up."

Flying Tigers RC is located in Lake City. If you're interested in becoming a member or learning to fly remote controlled planes or helicopters, click here.