FARMINGTON — Howard Limback and his grandson, Hunter Perez, 11, gripped the controls, their eyes locked on their radio-controlled airplane as they brought it in for a smooth landing at Farmington's second "airport."

For Limback, Perez and other members of the San Juan Radio Control Club, Saturday morning was the kickoff to a much-anticipated time of the year flying season.

"It's hard to see (the airplane) when it gets far," Perez said.

Saturday marked the third time Perez flew his airplane under the watchful eye of his grandfather.

"I started when I was his age," Limback said.

San Juan Radio Control Club held its first event of the 2013 season on Saturday at Farmington's Radio Control Park off of the Bisti Highway.
Howard Limback teaches his grandson, Hunter Perez, how to fly a remote control airplane at the Farmington Radio Control Park on Saturday.
Howard Limback teaches his grandson, Hunter Perez, how to fly a remote control airplane at the Farmington Radio Control Park on Saturday. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)
The air was filled with the smell of fuel and the sound of whirring engines.

"You get to come down and talk to all the guys," said Jerry Huwe, a club member from Farmington. "They're big boys' toys, but you can get started in this for $100. You can price yourself at whatever you can afford."

Huwe has flown, off and on, for about 15 years.

"Every little kid wants an airplane. When you figure out you can have this..." he said, trailing off and staring at one of the model airplanes executing a complex roll.

The plane stopped abruptly and seemed to hover before jetting off again.

"It's pretty neat," said Steve Guattery, another club member. "This (park) used to be the old city landfill."

One of the club's founding members, Allen Prince, was instrumental in securing the park for the club.

"Back in the early "80s, we formed the San Juan Radio Control Club," Prince said. "A lot of the companies in town gave donations, and we put down a runway. Back a long time ago, we used to fly at the old drag strip on Crouch Mesa, but we knew that they would start building homes there, and we couldn't use it anymore. (Rep.) Tom Taylor (R-Farmington) was a founding member. We haven't seen him out here in a little while, but he's actually a pretty darn good radio control flyer."

Farmington's Radio Control Park, however, is not reserved for club members.

"I'm a retired professional pilot, and I've been to many parks around the country," Prince said. "All the parks in Farmington are premiere. This field, we've flown real turbine jets here. We're not a big club, but it's a city park, and anyone can come fly."

Across a small dirt field, another group of flyers were enjoying the sunny day and the brisk, spring air.

Frank Bowman stood in the middle of a large, circular court, controlling his airplane with two taut steel lines.

Although many model airplane pilots have moved to radio control, there are still a few who choose to fly what are known as line-control airplanes.

"We do loops, fly upright and inverted, figure eights, square eights, four leaf clovers," said Gary Marchand, who was visiting from Albuquerque. "Sometimes, we do a figure nine."

He laughed as he mimed a nose dive.

"Most of us old timers build them right from pieces of balsa and a little plywood," Marchand said. "We use fiberglass to reinforce."

Many flyers are moving to airplanes with electric engines because of their reliability, said Darwin Perry, a club member from Aztec.

But for Perry and other "old-timers," a big part of the fun is in tinkering with the little two-stroke engines.
Frank Bowman, spins around as he flies his line control airplane in a circle at the Farmington Radio Control Park on Saturday.
Frank Bowman, spins around as he flies his line control airplane in a circle at the Farmington Radio Control Park on Saturday. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)


"It's just like working with an old car," he said.

But like classic cars, parts are becoming scarce, or impossible to find at all.

"We're all flying engines you can't buy new anymore," Perry said. "(Frank Bowman) is a mainstay (in the flying community). He rebuilds and repairs the engines. These are the engines that we grew up with. They have characteristics that the newer engines don't have. Those of us that fly control lines are a dwindling breed."

Greg Yee can be reached at gyee@daily-times.com; 505-564-4606. Follow him on Twitter @GYeeDT.