Thursday, July 17, 2008
Radio controlled and gliding over a Madison park as smooth as silk and quiet as a whisper
I was passing one of my favorite Madison parks when my eye caught what looked like a jet soaring above the early evening clouds -- until I realized it was a trick of perspective, and not a jet at all, but a model airplane at treetop level. But what happened to the engine? I'm not fond of the deranged snarl of model airplane engines, and was happy it had apparently conked out.
As I watched. it came circling back and floated to a stop near the feet of a young man in the center of the park. He picked it up by a wing and launched it again. Spinning around like a discus thrower, he heaved it into the sky as high and far as he could. That's when I realized it had no engine. It was a glider. Since it always returned to his general vicinity after riding the thermals above the park, it must be radio controlled. I walked over between flights. The pilot's name was Ben. It turns out that, although you can buy kits, Ben designed and made his own glider. He's been doing this about 10 years. He referred me to the Madison Area Radio Control Society (MARCS) for more information. MARCS members do powered flights at Kettle Field behind the Dane County Landfill on Highway 12. But sailplanes, as they call them, are flown at Paul's Turf & Tree Nursery in Marshall, east of Madison. (Check website for next date, as there have been postponements due to flooding.)
As I left the park, Ben waa still sending his glider soaring in lazy loops above the park. There was a wonderful serenity about the process. Each time the craft came gliding back, whisper quiet and magically homing in on its owner like a feather with a sense of purpose.