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Gathering of the Giants: Radio-controlled aircraft to soar at Seahawk Air Park this weekend

By Staff | Mar 14, 2019

An air show like no other arrives with style this weekend in Cape Coral for two days of fast-paced aerial action.

The 25th annual Gathering of the Giants takes place at Seahawk Air Park, put on by the Cape Coral R/Seahawks in conjunction with the Cape Coral Parks and Recreation Department.

These radio controlled aircrafts will be on full display as pilots from across the region and the world show off their skills.

“They’re going to see something that they don’t often see,” said R/Seahawks Club President Joe Fannon. “It’s going to be an incredible show because we have all really good pilots flying. You’ll have big planes, which means incredibly experienced pilots doing all kinds of stunts – demonstration flights that will blow people’s socks off to see. Especially the jets, they go up to 200 mph.”

The giants will fly on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 3 pm. on Sunday.

The club has more than 300 members, all of whom have a passion for flying these RC airplanes, no matter the size or experience.

The Cape Coral R/Seahawks is an Academy of Model Aeronautics sanctioned club, and one of the largest of its kind in the country.

“I think the friendship, the camaraderie, the skills required, just the relaxation,” said club Vice President Joe Dolliver, who has been with the group since 1997, of why he enjoys being a member. “When you go out there and you’re on the flight line, everything disappears. You just can’t focus on anything but the controls.”

Attendees will certainly get a show, as around 80 pilots and 100 planes that vary in type, size and ability will take off from the 600-foot-long runway.

Planes must have wingspans of 80 inches to be “giants,” and Fannon said they’ve had planes with 25-foot wingspans participate.

There will also be RC helicopters cutting through the air doing some slick tricks.

“We have a huge variety of aircraft,” said Fannon. “We do everything from helicopters, to gliders, to seaplanes, to jets, to gas engines, to electric engines. We have everything you could think of here with regard to different people who fly different RC aircrafts.”

The day will also be interactive for patrons as they will be able to walk the flight line, talk to pilots and get an up-close-and-personal look at these giant sky-dancers.

And for the kids, a “candy drop” will take place where a 14-foot wingspan “bomber” aircraft, piloted by Mayor Joe Coviello, will dump 10 pounds of delectables onto the vacant strip, where children can gather as much as they can.

Richard Bressman serves as event coordinator for this one-of-a-kind weekend of action.

“It’s the biggest event we put on as a club the entire year,” said Dolliver.

World famous RC pilot Quique Somenzini will be one of many skilled pilots to show off their skills at the show.

“They’re awesome,” said Dolliver of Somenzini and other renowned pilots that will be participating. “They fly inches above the backstop. They put on a stunning show.”

One club member, Jay Cutler, of Fort Myers, is a real-life pilot who said maneuvering the RC planes can be more difficult than flying an actual aircraft.

He’s flown the real thing since the mid ’70s and owns three full-scale aircrafts. He got into the hobby like most do, for the love of flying.

“Probably the single biggest difference is, when you’re in a real airplane, you always see the flight from the position of the cockpit. Here, when the plane turns towards you, you have to learn to orient differently. So you have to pretend as if you were in the cockpit. It’s the orientation that screws up the students,” he said.

“It’s easier for a RC pilot to jump in a real plane and fly it, than it is for a full-scale pilot to try to fly RC,” Cutler continued. “Because when you jump in a real airplane, it works just like the model does. The RC, when it’s coming towards you, the real pilot gets confused and doesn’t know what to do – has to learn that orientation.”

Cutler is looking forward to seeing some skilled pilots take to the runway over the weekend to give the crowd a show.

“Just seeing people that are really good fly – the professionals, if you will,” he said of his excitement for the Gathering of the Giants. “These guys come out with very, very expensive models, very big models, very unusual models, and you get to see a lot of things that are quite different than what you see at a normal club on a normal day.”

For those who are interested in picking up the hobby, a lower-tier plane and equipment will run around $500-$1,000.

The club provides free flying instruction and construction guidance and pre-flight checks before you take off.

“Now-a-days, technology has advanced to the point that anybody can fly,” said Fannon, who also is a flight instructor. “Anybody can learn to fly, and it’s one of the specialties of our club. We love having new members come out. We even allow people to try flying before they become a member. We do a introductory pilot program. We teach people how to fly and we expect that they will be enlisted in our instructional program, which is free.”

A “buddy box” allows an instructor to fly with you, so that if things go awry, they an correct the flight path until you’re ready to take back over.

“Nobody crashes. I have yet to lose a plane in my instruction,” he said.

Memberships are $80 for the year with youth and family discounts available. General meetings are held the third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at Gulf Coast Village at 1333 Santa Barbara Blvd.

A $5 parking donation is requested for attendees of the Gathering of the Giants. Admission is free.

Handicap accessible seating is available.

Seahawk Air Park is at 1030 Northwest 28th St.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj