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Love of flying creates a hobby PDF Print E-mail
Vilas SmithBy Carolyn Lee
The Imperial Republican
    “I’ve always been an airplane nut.” That’s according to 86-year old Vilas Smith of Champion. That love turned the pilot in another direction in 1973, when he built his first radio-controlled airplane.
    His hobby has grown and taken wing. Smith now has about 10 radio-controlled airplanes, ranging from just over a foot wingspan to a 100-inch wingspan.
    Sitting in his “hobby shop” recently, Smith said he has a franchise to sell parts and kits. Clients contact him from all over the country.
    It takes about 30 days to build a balsa wood plane. Overhead floats a 1929 Fleet bi-plane model covered with fabric.
    A transmitter allows a “pilot” to change the altitude of the plane, the rudder direction and the speed.
    Some of Smith’s larger planes carry a two to five horsepower gasoline-fueled engine.
    Besides selling kits and supplies, Smith has also taught countless enthusiasts how to fly the airplanes.
    Every Sunday someone shows up at his farm to fly the planes. Some even went out on Dec. 14, when the area was experiencing a blizzard.
    Smith also has a hanger for storing other people’s planes. “Lots of guys leave ‘em here,” he commented.
    For 30 years he conducted a fly-in on the farm for operators from all over. Last summer was the first year he skipped, mainly due to bad weather.
    Smith still flies a real airplane himself. He has a Piper Tri Pacer in a hanger next to the little planes.
    His father bought him an Aeronca Chief when he was 18. He’s been through a few planes since, using them mainly for business flights.
    Smith used to have a feed yard and little time to spare, so he’d hop in the airplane, fly to a sale in Kansas, and be back to feed the cattle several hours later.
    He’s glad he found such a congenial hobby. He meets the nicest people that way, Smith concluded.

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