Can you solve this “model mystery”?

Jul 02, 2014 43 Comments by

Fifteen years ago, a Chattanooga man flying his RC airplane lost control of it, and the plane flew away, never to be seen again. The pilot and his family never looked for the plane, and he died a decade later. Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when a St. Louis man found an RC plane in a tree in his yard. He took the plane to a hobby shop, where employees cleaned it up and found the Chattanooga contact information still taped undernath the fuselage! Watch this heartwarming video, then tell us what you think: did the plane fly all the way to Missouri on its own? Did someone find the plane, store it for 15 years and then fly it again in Missouri? Did the plane get caught in a time warp? Inquiring minds want to know! (And we really want to know what receiver was inside!) Put on your creative thinking caps, and we’ll send our favorite answer a free subscription or extension to Model Airplane News.

Debra Cleghorn

About the author

Executive editor About me: I’m a publishing professional who has a passion for aviation and RC, and I love creating issues, books and a website that help RC pilots to enjoy this sport even more. I admire scale aircraft and enjoy the convenience of flying smaller electrics.

43 Responses to “Can you solve this “model mystery”?”

  1. Mike D. says:

    Re: The plane’s mystery flight. When I was a young boy I made a paper glider and was playing with it in the school playground. This one time I threw it in the air for one final time before recess ended.
    The plane glided over the ground, maintaining an elevation of about three feet for over a city block. I was shocked. I tried it again, but it didn’t fly the same way again. All I could think was that the air currents were just perfect for that one long distance flight. The same thing could have happened to the mystery Yellow RC plane.

  2. Jorge Alberto Ontiveros - City : Neuquén Country: Argwentina says:

    It´s a “Kadet Senior”. Excelent RC Airplane. The better to who initial in the RC.
    Regards.

  3. Brian Templeton says:

    From the outside condition of the model, I would say it did not go through being exposed to the elements for the fifteen years. It was found by somebody soon after being lost by flying away, and has been stored by the finder until they moved to Missouri, were they felt that nobody would know the model, and they matched another transmitter to the receiver, and put the model up. And they very possibly lost it as well by a fly away due to a ongoing “glitch” in the receiver. It was possibly a first “test” flight, since they had not changed the address label.

  4. Jack Cogswell says:

    My guess is that the aircraft was captured by a UFO and transported to Nibiru where they realized that the atmosphere in Nibiru wouldn’t support an internal combustion engine. Having realized that they brought it back and mistakenly missed the point at which they had captured the craft. Nibiru is a 7 year journey from earth.

  5. A.J. says:

    The plane looks like a Sig Kadet Senior to me.. Having built and flown one years ago, trimmed correctly, they can pretty much fly themselves.. Interesting mystery

  6. Tom Miller says:

    Possibly when the plane flew off, it either fell into a trailer going down the road and as Brian said, was re-radioed. At some point repairs were needed and the address was discovered. Or, similar to Jacks idea, it went thru a time warp worm hole. In any case, a sad but interesting story.

  7. Nikolei Zinsli says:

    Little did David know, he was flying his plane directly into the path of Doctor Whos TARDIS, whom was on his way south to save the world from an impending invasion of the Daleks. Everyone knows, that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside…so Dr. Who didn’t even notice it had found its way into the far corners of the ship. Years later (only a week for Dr. Who), he found the poor missing aircraft while searching for his spare sonic screwdriver. He marveled at the craftsmanship and wondered just how it got there. There was still fuel in the tank, so he started it up and used his sonic screwdriver as his transmitter. While Dr. Who is a master of time and space, the knack for controlling an aircraft outside of the actual aircraft was a little too much for the doc. The plane gently lifted off the ground, up up and awayyyyy…right into a tree. Dr. Whos wrist watch alarm sounded off an alert of another incoming invasion and he hurried off in his TARDIS with no time to retrieve the poor airplane.

  8. Rusty Roark says:

    Seeing it is a SIG Kadet I would not be surpirsed if it showed up somewhere further away than normal but after 15 years exposed to the elements the covering would be falling off of it. I too think it was found and the new owner took it home and then tried flying it lost it also and someone else found it in the tree. If it was stored inside that would be the only way the original covering would still be on it along with the contact information. I lost a glider some years back and after weeks of looking for it finally gave up. It evidently went futher away than the last place I was able to see it, it’s never been returned.

  9. Flyoz says:

    So thats where my fly- aways end up the Missouri RC triangle hmmm
    Looks like the poor dear has the wing on backwards.

  10. Wayne says:

    I agree with Brian that something like that happened.

  11. Terry White says:

    Wing on backwards??? Not a modeler are you?! I totally agree with Brian.

  12. Chris says:

    Picked up by Dr.Who,its been hanging in the Tardis one day,but really was 15 years….

  13. RR says:

    <<<>>>

    That’s a bunch of hokey, Jack. Everyone knows 90% of the UFOs are from Venus.

  14. Chuck b. says:

    I had a Sig Kadet that we lost for over 2 years it ended up landing in a farmers field 2 miles away and then in his garage for the whole time. Great plane!

  15. Bob B. says:

    My guess, is that the day he flew it, the ” Heavens ” were watching. They thought it was such a strange craft to see, but felt the purpose and great feelings behind such a thing. So they held on to it, to study it, and put among their treasures for safe keeping.
    Upon the arrival of their newest resident, ( the original owner) they saw it fit to return it to him. There he enjoyed it and flew it many times, until he saw fit, to pass it on to some one else to enjoy it. So on it’s last and final flight, he let the “Air Gods” take control of it. And they returned it back to earth.
    When found in the trees, and returned to the relatives of the original owner. The thoughts and memories, of such a great man were realized, in the hearts and minds of many.
    What not to have built one the greatest trophies of all, to be seen, and remembered, by so many !!!

  16. AY says:

    It’s quite simple actually. After his passing, David joined the Hereafter Flyers RC Club (AMA District 0, I believe). Of course, all missing planes end up at Hereafter Field, so it is not surprising that he found his plane there. Unfortunately, it still had a receiver glitch and so he lost it again. It’s actually quite surprising that ended up as close to its original starting point as it did.

  17. Jerry Dennis says:

    I agree with Brian. There is no other possibile answer.

  18. Robert Wilkerson says:

    His Plane caught a thermal became part of the jet stream the flat bottom wing kept it aloft until a down draft brought it down.

  19. Luis f. González says:

    IT IS POSSIBLE THAT PLANE GOT THERE ON ITS OWN, BECAUSE I HAVE SIMILAR CASE IN 1970, WHEN MY TWO METER GLIDER WAS FOUND 300 MILES FROM MEXICO CITY IN THE STATE OF VERACRUZ. AT THAT TIME, I DID NOT HAVE RADIO AND MY PLANE WAS FREE FLIGTH, BUT SAFETY MECHANISM DID NOT WORK. FOTUNATELY IT WAS FOUND BY HONEST PEOPLE AND RETURN IT TO ME SIX MONTHS LATER IN PERFECT CONDITION (PLANE HAD ADDRESS AND PHONE IN A LABEL)

  20. A. Goldstein says:

    Folks, Let us just say it was “borrowed”. But it has found it’s way home.

  21. Jim Braithwaite says:

    In the early 90s’ a friend was flying his Radio Queen old timer at our club field. It was a “floater.” He would prop himself up in a lawn chair and fly the Queen, gaining altitude until it was just a tiny spot above him. He did not see the low cloud that drifted over from behind . The Radio Queen vanished in that cloud. He did everything that he could think of to bring his plane out of that plane eating cloud. Nothing worked. The cloud continued on its’ journey with the Queen, never to be seen again.
    That happened over 20 years ago and to this day nobody knows where it went.
    Like so many aviation mysteries; some are meant to be solved and some are not . Even in the world of model aviation. Is it really that important who did what and for how long with the missing plane?The bottom line in this story is that there is an ending; a closure. Perhaps grandsons or daughters will restore this time machine and it will fly again for another fifteen years……or forever…

  22. Tritos Monk says:

    The model caught a thermal that took it to a higher alltitude. There it was caught by jet stream at carried it too its final destination.

  23. Marvin Mattingly says:

    In the early 1970′s I lost a model in a field behind our flying site. Dead stick and below the tree line, I set everything in a neutral position and waited until I figured it was near the ground, timed a slight flare out to land and turned off the transmitter. After a lengthy, fruitless search, I gave up on ever recovering the aircraft and several months later left town to attend college. Fast forward several years and a visit to the same field; one of the guys there asked “hey didn’t you loose a plane here a couple of years ago?” The story was that there were several junk cars in the farm field behind our city park flying field. My plane flew into the open back window of a junk station wagon. It was found many months later by the farmer when he decided to remove some parts from the junked car. All those months it was protected lying between the front and back seats in the floor! The only damage was to the firewall where the front nose gear struck the back of the front seat. It was definitely a one in a million shot.

  24. Randy T. says:

    It actually looks more like a World Models Frontier Senior. It has to much dihedral for a Kade Senior. Other than that, there’s very little difference in the two. The front portion of the Cowel looks more like the Frontier also. Both are among my all time favorites.

  25. Marc Allen says:

    I’d say it went through a time warp similar to the one in that movie The Final Countdown except it forward in time.

  26. William Swartworth says:

    Despite the fun involved in fantasizing a hypothesis that it was caught in a transporter beam from the Starship Enterprise, my most logical guess not involving human transport would be that the plane was caught in a tree near Chattanooga the day it was lost. It may have been resting in the tree for the requisite number of years before a storm or tornado finally dislodged it, whisking it high into the atmosphere and subsequently depositing it near St. Louis Missouri where it was found!

  27. Ron says:

    Hi Debra,

    Our church had a rummage sale and afterwards our pastor told me there was an R/C airplane from the sale in the cellar. There was no name on it but outside from a few Monocote tears in perfect shape. Upon examination of the plane (a senior Kadet) it had a never used Airtronics radio, brand new Enya 40SS motor, and was properly installed ready for flight. There is a very elderly man in our club who needed a plane but was not wealthy by any means. I asked him if he was interested in the plane but he said all I have is my savings account in the bank. I asked the pastor if she could sell it to him for 50 bux and she said OK. You should have seen the smile on his face when i gave him that three channel plane! The whole club cheers every time he flys it.
    We found out the plane was built and hung in a garage for many years as the builder had passed away. What a wonderful thing to see that Sig Kadet finally fly after all those years (we think it was built in 1975 or so).

    Ron AMA 3342

  28. Ray Cox says:

    If the plane was perfectly balanced when it ran out of fuel I think it’s very possible that it made the trip from Chattanooga to Missouri. Knowing what radio receiver and servos were in it when found would certainly help solve the mystery. That being said, if someone else found it, why would they leave the owner’s name and address on it?

  29. Frederick Burman says:

    The aliens abducted it to study the technology then threw it away.

  30. Paul Foote says:

    My guess is it caught a thermal and just rode the waves till it lost lift.In the early 1950′s I was12 years old and a model builder,while fishing below a dam in Bow,Nh,I came upon a early RC model i believe it was the pulse type radio,it had gotten away from its owner about 10 miles away and landed on the rocky terrain below the dam.Another 100yards it would have landed in the river.The name and phone number were on the plane,He was very happy to have it returned.

  31. Danno says:

    I think the plane got blown away and made friends with two dogs and a cat. After helping them find their way home in California, it went to find its own home and ended up too far north since it had inadvertently go it’s wing on backwards.. Since it had learned to like turkey, it chased one up a tree and got stuck there until rescued and sent to the Hobby place. The rest is history.

  32. Eugene says:

    Thank you for sharing your story.
    It is very touching.

  33. Michael J. Denistran says:

    I think that God all mighty wanted to to show us all how much he loves us by a mystery of this magnatude and his wife needed to know that her husband was finally home with our father in heaven soaring through the skies because she needed to know this so as not worry or fear death any longer. Messages of love from the otherside. She’s a very lucky woman.

    Mikey D.

  34. Robert A. says:

    The plane landed on someones property. It was recovered by a dishonest individule who stole the airplane. He decided to try flying the aiplane after he moved to Missouri from Chattanooga. However, he didn’t know what he needed to do so he took it to a hobby shop to find out how to fly it. At the hobby shop he was told he needed a RC transmitter and other items. He asked how much it would cost and when told by the hobby shop what was involved he came up with the story about finding it in the tree. There is no way that plane sat up in a tree for 15 years.

  35. bob baird says:

    Sure looks like Bill Northrop’s Apprentice That I built in 1969 (still have it).

  36. Tim says:

    I think it flew to St.Louis by it’s self because if a plane is trimed right like others have said it will fly on it’s own and if it had a vary big tank on it the plane could fly an hour or so and after it ran out of fuel if their was a strong wind current model airplanes are so light they can glide a long way . If you look at a map you’ll see that Chattanooga and ST.Louis are strait in line with each other as a bird would fly. If it was in the tree for fifteen year or not I can’t tell you but I doubt it.

  37. Forrest Sumner says:

    I find it ironical that I lost my Senior under similar circumstances years ago. Something happened to the switch or battery and I lost control. It was perfectly trimmed and at half throttle on the engine. It had a OS 80 four stroke and the plane was used for launching gliders. I waited for the engine to run out of Doyle as it circled overhead. The only problem was that when the engine finally quit, there was some great thermals over the field and the Senior started climbing into the clouds and continued out of sight. It is still missing and maybe it will be found in the Missouri triangle someday! Needles to say, the wonderful Senior will thermal!

  38. Michael McIntyre says:

    I lost my sailplane (glider) years ago. Someone found it, took it home then tried to sell it to a local hobby shop. The hobby shop owner found my name inside the plane and called me. I was lucky, that I had a kind hobby shop owner and the seller (finder of my plane) had some talking to do to the police.
    So, it pays to place your name on your plane, if you want to get it back (someday) and I have always supported my local hobby shop.

    So what do I thnk happened. Someone found the plane and took it home to Missouri. Stored it away for a while. Then either the person who took it tried to fly it, or maybe he sold it to a friend and his friend tried to fly it. His friend maybe thought that he bought it from the man in Chattanooga?

    Mike Mac

  39. Frankie Stretesky says:

    The question is, “how did a flyaway R/C model get from Chattanooga, TN end up in a tree in St.Louis, MO fifteen years later? The model might have been cought in an updraft and carried to very high altitude and then carried N.W. on wind-currents 472 miles to St.Louis. That is a Big Maybe but highly unlikely because of the prevailing-westerlies. The wind currents that move all weather eastward. But St.Louis is northwest of Chattanooga. My reasoning is, that a vacationing St.Louis resident was traveling through the Chattanooga area and spotted the R/C model in the weeds next to the road, stopped and picked it up. I venture to say, that he was not an R/C modeler so to him it just a toy. After arriving home, he might not have known what to do with it so he stashed it in his garage, and there it stayed safely for 15 years. Until maybe someone visiting like a model building, R/Cing grandson brings up the subject. Grandpa suddenly remembers that toy airplane up in the garage. So they both set out to get it. They both work with it until they get it ready to fly, radio, engine and all. Satisfied, they take it out to the flying field. After it is airborne the plane flies beautifully. But then a glitch interrupts the signal and control is lost again. God forbid, another flyaway. But this time in St.Louis. It flies until it runs out of fuel and glides into a tree. It stays there until the home owner spots it and retrieves it. END

  40. Steve Behling says:

    I’d like to think David finally found it. Or he installed the largest fuel tank I’ve ever heard of!

  41. Scott M. says:

    It has a rubber band retained wing.
    No rubber band will survive 15 days in the elements much less 15 years.
    Someone found it, lost it again. As Debra asked, “what receiver was inside”?

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