As he flew his plane at the model aircraft show in the Town of Hamburg on Saturday, Spencer Weigand was among the younger participants. The 15-year-old from Rochester stood next to pilots at least double his age.
But he is far from an amateur. His dad , Kurt, has been bringing him to model aircraft competitions since he was 2 weeks old.
The teenager had plenty of company during the 33rd annual Model Aircraft Scale Rally of the Flying Knights of Hamburg at the Hamburg Recreation Center Model Airport off Lakeview Road. The rally continues today.
Saturday’s radio-controlled flight of fancy attracted 65 fliers from around the state, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Canada. As the hobbyists piloting their model aircraft stared skyward, an audience seated in lawnchairs drank cold beer and soda, ate hot dogs and admired the aerial ballet. Both pilots and spectators enjoying a cloudless, sunny sky, and cheered each other along.
“It’s just the people that are around the hobby – they’re good people,” said Weigand, who also plays football and basketball and runs track. “You go to other things, like sports competitions – like soccer moms, they get so competitive. They’re annoying. But the people around here have known each other their whole lives and they’re good people.”
That camaraderie has brought Scott Miller, 57, of Brockport, back to the Hamburg rally for the past 15 years.
Both Miller and Weigand arrived in campers at the Hamburg site for the weekend event – along with dozens of others, with campers parked next to each other.
“We’re like a second family,” said Miller, a corporate jet mechanic. “We travel together, camp together, we have a campfire at night and we have a good time. That’s where I met most of my friends, by coming to these meets.”
Weigand met one of his good friends, Matt Kloss, 24, at a “fun fly” event three years ago. The two see each other about five times a year at “fun flies” around the region, and on Saturday they took turns spotting one another.
Other fliers said they are fascinated with the history behind their model airplanes. Many built their planes modeled after those used during World War I, World War II and the Korean War.
Ron Gore, 81, of Fort Erie, Ont., showed off his white and green Piper J-3 Cub, modeled after the plane used to train pilots during World War II.
When John Scarantino, the president of the Flying Knights of Hamburg, flies his own model aircraft, he imagines what it would have been like to be the pilot in the real version.
“I can’t believe somebody actually flew that in battle,” he said, pointing to a World War I biplane model. “To see this plane fly around, you [imagine] little guys with their heads poking out of the plane – they were just out there in the wind with a pair of goggles on. ... I can’t believe the guys were able to do that.”