On a wing and a prayer

Updated: 2014-09-20 10:33

By Zhang Lei(China Daily)

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On a wing and a prayer

Hu Bin (left) and Liu Kaijun, two members from the Beijing Flying Heart RC Plane Club fly their remote-controlled planes in the city's suburbs. [Photo by Wang Jing/China Daily]

Remote-controlled airplanes are becoming increasingly popular in Beijing. Zhang Lei meets enthusiasts to find out why.

After two failed attempts at takeoff, Tao Li finally managed to get his recently purchased radio-controlled plane airborne. The plane with a 1-meter-wingspan soared into the air before banking and landing safely. However, during the fourth flight, the battery died mid-turn and the model aircraft plummeted to the ground, resulting in a large crack in the nose section.

On a wing and a prayer

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Tao, a 30-something model plane buff whose boyish looks belie his age, examined the damage, retrieved the parts scattered on the ground and frowned. The motor had been damaged and it will cost a small fortune to replace it.

In the four years he's been flying remote-controlled aircraft, a hobby he described as "addictive", Tao has spent about 200,000 yuan ($32,551) on a wide range of models. For him, the excitement of flying the planes is far more important than their appearance.

"When you manage to get these aircraft to perform acrobatics and difficult maneuvers in the sky, the sense of achievement is really indescribable," Tao said proudly. In the past three years, he and his friends have spent at least one day every weekend flying their planes in an open terrace near the China Science and Technology Museum - weather permitting - and have made a bike lane of smooth concrete into a perfect airstrip.

Although the hobby is essentially an individual pursuit, collective experience can help things to go more smoothly. "We get together to discuss the flight capabilities of various models of aircraft. We brainstorm to solve each other's problems, so we can help everyone cut corners and get their planes back into the air with the minimum of fuss," Tao said. A year ago, he joined the Beijing Flying Heart RC Plane Club, where he and his fellow aviation enthusiasts organize all kinds of competitions.

Tao's interest in RC planes was first aroused when he read a magazine that carried page after page of photos of model aircraft. The photos rekindled a childhood dream. "When he sees planes soaring overhead, every boy dreams about flying for real. Like many enthusiasts, I quickly fell in love with RC planes through a longing for freedom, and this hobby allows you to fly whenever you want," he said.

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