With necks craned skyward and hands shielding their eyes, more than 50 mid-Island seniors and their caretakers oohed and ahhed Friday in Nanoose Bay.
No, it wasn’t an early Canada Day fireworks show. The draw was a flight demonstration by members of the mid-Island’s PDQ Flyers radio-controlled aircraft club at its remote airfield just south of Arbutus Meadows.
“This is the biggest crowd we’ve had — and the most airplanes,” said Ross Donogh of Cedar, a master builder who brought several World War I-era replica biplanes and triplanes.
The air show was hosted for the benefit of seniors from multiple care facilities in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region, who were bused to the field and treated to a hot dog barbecue and refreshments while the club’s pilots put their gas- or electric-powered aircraft through a series of manoeuvers, stunts and high-speed passes overhead.
“We’re hoping to make this an annual thing,” said Keith Hoelscher, event organizer. “We used to do it for years but it kind of went away.
“We’re gonna make it bigger and better. We love doing it, and it gives the seniors something to get out and see.”
The guests got to see a myriad of flying craft, ranging from custom-built, replica planes like those made by Donogh to simple wing made of core plastic board used to display student science fair projects.
They included helicopters, a para-sail powered by a fan propeller and occupied by a Spiderman action figure, and a familiar red-roofed doghouse “piloted” by Snoopy, the beloved beagle from the Peanuts comic strip.
The highlight for the crowd came when Snoopy took his doghouse, built by Hoelscher, into the air for a mock dogfight against one of Donogh’s World War I replica planes.
The 80-member club, made up of flyers from communities stretching from Ladysmith to Courtenay, has operated from the dedicated field in Nanoose Bay for 13 years.
But the club has existed much longer, and model airplane flight has been around perhaps as long as the real thing.
“I’ve been doing it for 75 years,” said Leo Katila of Nanaimo, a club member who turns 85 next month and who is older than some of the care home guests invited to Friday’s show. “The planes were rubber-powered in those days. You held onto a line and controlled them by hand.”
Katila first built his own model planes as a young boy during the Second World War.
Like the other members of the PDQ Flyers, he is also a member of the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada, a national club for model flight enthusiasts which has certified the Nanoose Bay airfield.
“I think they’ve got about 95,000 members now,” Katila said of MAAC. “My membership number is 35.”
For more info or to contact the club, visit www.pdqflyers.com.