Lessons from Bernie

Lessons from Bernie

I joined the local RC model airplane flying club in 1973 and enjoyed almost 20 years of making friends and flying until about 1990. I retired in 2014 and decided to pick up where I left off.

The old club was still active and my original AMA number was available to renew. So I paid my dues, put together a new modern electric sport plane and took up my old hobby again.

There were some great people who helped me get started back in 1973. Most were retired then and I was still in my 20s. After all those years I lost track of them. A friend that I remember well was Bernie. He lived close by and we car-pooled to club meetings. Almost 30 years ago he lost his wife, moved away and we lost touch.

Flying again with my old club was great. I was the only one from the old days and many of the original members had passed away. But reading over the club roster, I saw Bernie’s name and sent him an email. He suggested we meet at the field the next Tuesday.

Bernie, now in his 90s, had remarried, he had a stroke, has trouble walking and his eyesight isn’t too good. He doesn’t fly any more but still has a plane that he built from scratch. He comes out to the field rarely now just to watch and talk RC. His new wife drives and looks after him.

On Tuesday Bernie brought out his plane, which looked great. It hadn’t been flown since his stroke. I showed him my plane and I flew it couple times. Then he asked if I would fly his plane for him. I’d hate to be responsible for damaging a plane that was obviously very dear to him. But, I said I’d be proud to.

He got his plane ready for me, turned it on and he even taxied it a little. I was impressed. His wife and I helped him to the flight line and brought a stool out for him to sit on while I flew his plane. The other flyers landed and cleared the flight line for us. He taxied it out to the active runway, I adjust the nose gear to track a little straighter then put it back on the runway.

Instead of handing me the transmitter, Bernie throttled up. He steered it down the runway, not perfectly straight, but good enough. He lifted the plane off and did a respectable job of flying the pattern. I tried to help by saying things like “nose down”, “more power”, etc. It wasn’t needed.

After a few minutes he made a couple landing passes. They were a little bit high and wide, and he would go around. The third time was the charm. He set it down smoothly. Applause broke out behind us from the other flyers as he taxied back.

That was the last time Bernie flew. He is gone now. I hope to keep my mind sharp, my enthusiasm high and stay healthy enough to be as good as Bernie. Hobbies like this can help.

Updated: March 20, 2023 — 2:33 PM

1 Comment

  1. What a brilliant story encapsulating long term friendship and club comradeship
    both shown and reciprocated over some 5 Decades. Very moving with a sad yet indelible Endgame .
    This is not the ONLY story as there must be many many similar .
    However it is still testament to the special breed of R/C Flyers to whom We belong

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