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Miniature warbirds take to northern Cape skies

By Staff | Jan 19, 2009

Early Saturday afternoon, local pilots set their T-28s on the short runway and moments later the foam planes took off in total silence.
In the 1950s, these models were used to train pilots in the U.S. Air Force and Navy, but over the weekend miniature versions of the aircrafts underwent trick maneuvers mere feet from each other.
An announcer, Michael Russell, described the flight of the T-28s as “the sound of silence” because unlike their electric counterparts, they make no sound as they cut through the air.
Nearby a crowd of residents from across Southwest Florida watched the pilots showcase their skills.
The event was hosted by the Cape Coral R/Seahawks, a club serving enthusiasts of radio-controlled model airplanes, and the air show was one of three yearly fly-over events. Warbirds Over Paradise allowed pilots and residents to see the planes loop and twirl through the sky in north Cape Coral.
Besides this weekend’s event, the club also hosts the Gathering of the Giants and Jets Over the Cape. The Warbirds event specifically commemorates planes from the World War II era.
Three hundred members of the club spend a range of time and money on model airplanes they use at one of the annual events.
The PT-19, another airplane used for training purposes in the 1940s, took the skies after the T-28s touched ground. These models are much larger and produce a loud noise like a lawn mower, which scared a nearby flock of egrets.
One of the PT-19s ran into a wind shear and crashed to the ground. Moments later the pilot ran over and reset the plane on the runway so it could take off again and join its squad.
Model airplane enthusiasts from all over the region attended the Warbirds event. Joseph Hurley, a resident of Fort Myers Beach, said he used to fly radio control lines many years ago.
“They are model airplanes but on a line,” said Hurley. “I’ve always been interested in model airplanes. I sail model boats, too, but I’m not into airplanes yet. I’m getting the fever.”
He stood in the park on Saturday with a camera around his neck to catch the action. In fact, he used to serve in the U.S. Navy but not as a pilot.
William Knox drove from Bonita Springs to attend the event. He has been flying model planes for the past four years, but said it is difficult getting used to flying a model. Besides participating in Warbirds, he also flies in Naples and northern Minnesota.
“I was a commercial pilot, but I had to get used to flying backwards with a model plane,” said Knox.
Currently he is building a low-wing model airplane with a 60-inch engine.
Organizer John Niezelski said the event was a success and had many fine aircrafts. He said there were 58 registered pilots and 125 airplanes participating in the event. The crowd throughout the weekend numbered at approximately 250 people.
“The weather started out cold and rainy looking, but it all cleared up and turned out to be a wonderful weekend,” said Niezelski.
Out of all the flights this weekend, Niezelski said he personally enjoyed when 10 smaller-sized airplanes flew at the same time and disrupted a flock of egrets.
“They all took off at the same time. It looked like the sky was full of white airplanes and it was comical but interesting,” he said.