High-Flying Stunts Wow Crowd at Annual Air Show

Over 5,000 spectators from all over the Bay Area turned out for the 20th installment of the Santa Clara County Model Aircraft Skypark Radio Controlled Air Show on Saturday and Sunday.


Helicopters, jets, rocket-powered gliders and even Snoopy and the Red Baron took to the sky this weekend as part of the in Morgan Hill.

“This is really our opportunity to open up our land to the public and show them a great aspect of aviation that we're involved in,” said Mike Luvara, president of SCCMAS.

Over 5,000 spectators packed the park during the two-day event, a record for the air show Luvara said.

Club members, known as the Tomcats, were joined by fliers from places as far away as Half Moon Bay. They gave the awed crowd a dazzling display of technical prowess, maneuvering their gas and electric-powered aircraft through the air with deftness and zeal.

“It’s way more than moving joysticks up and down,” said Kevin Wallsh, 25, of Sunnyvale. Wallsh has been a member of SCCMAS since 2005. “There is a lot more that goes into making the precise and finite movements needed to fly these things.”

Wallsh said SCCMAS’s governing body, the Academy of Model Aeronautics, sets an altitude limit of 400 feet and a speed of 200 miles per hour. While compliant, radio controlled fliers or R/C, which use radio signals to remotely control a device, live by the credo that the sky's the limit.

“The general answers we give people when they ask how high we fly, how fast we go and how much money we spend on these aircrafts are, ‘As high as I want, as fast as I want and as much as I want to spend,’” Wallsh joked.

Many of the air show’s models were built from scratch and others were crafted from kits, he explained. A basic kit can cost as little as $80, though the price tag to build some top-end models can reach $10,000.

Luvara and SCCMAS board member Steve Smith both said many of their members joined after seeing the air show and participating in flight lessons, given to attendees halfway through the day’s program.

“I guarantee a lot of kids trying out these lessons are going to come back with their own planes and then they’ll sign up to be members,” Smith said. “They get hooked and then they want to come back.”

Spectators were impressed with the passion and dedication of the weekend’s fliers. Some, like Paulette Brooks, a Willow Glen resident in her early 60s, said they were inspired to start tinkering with their own R/C models again.

“I’ve built an electric car and a jet stream boat, but they're somewhere in my garage now,” she said. “Seeing all these aircraft makes me want to go home and break them out.”

Brooks said this was her first time at the air show, but definitely not her last.

“We’ve already got the calendar marked for next year,” she said.

Gilroyan Elias Mitri, 69, said he enjoyed watching the helicopters more than any other aircraft.

“It’s amazing to me that they can build these choppers using electric motors, not like in the old days,” he said. “The batteries they use are the same kind you’d find in your cell phone, too.”

Mitri said while he didn’t have the tenacity to fly one himself, he enjoyed sitting back and marveling at the aircraft taking to the sky.

“I absolutely love the technical skill, how well put together they are, the woodwork, the plastics and the motors,” he said.

Young attendees like Tyler Biesemeyer, 7, of San Jose, jumped on the chance to fly the models themselves.

“It’s really fun,” the first-time attendee said. “I got to do turns and flips. I’ve flown helicopters before and a real simulator, but I’ve never flown a plane.”

Biesemeyer grabbed the hand of his father, Jim, rushing back in line for another spin on the controls.  

“Come on, dad, let’s fly!”

For more event coverage, check out the .

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