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The lure of radio-controlled flying machines

Grand Coulee man serious about hobby


Dennis Schuchman puts finishing touches on a radio-controlled airplane he intends to fly. He and others in the area fly in a flat area on top of the hill heading to Delrio. Schuchman builds his planes from kits and eventually would like to start an airplane club in the area. — Roger S. Lucas photo

Dennis Schuchman came by his love of airplanes naturally.

His dad was a Grant County deputy sheriff and had his own full-size airplane, and, from Dennis’ earliest days, his father was into radio-controlled planes.

They flew a lot together, and even though Dennis never got his own flying license, he often took the stick in his father’s plane, taking off and landing.

“My dad would fly prisoners from Ephrata to minimum security prisons,” Dennis remembers.

This love of flying later transferred into his time in the U.S. Air Force, where he — you guessed it — worked on planes.

But probably his fondest memories of flying are more in the present tense as he has an assortment of radio-controlled single- and dual-winged aircraft that he regularly flies in the wide open spaces on the Delrio plateau.

Dennis says you can get into the sport with a couple of hundred dollars for a kit, motor, transmitter and receiver. The deeper your pockets, the more sophisticated you can be.

On good, quiet days you can find him loading up a number of planes in the back of his pickup headed for his flying area on top of the hill.

Fuel is a mixture of nitro, oil and alcohol. Engines hold from 3 to 8 ounces of fuel, depending on the model and size of motor.

The radio controls are a little tricky, and the more hours of video game time in your dossier, the quicker you can get the hang of it. Dennis even has a computer program where you can practice flying a plane.

Dennis owns and runs the Grand Coulee RV Park, but he can get away for some early morning time to go “flying,” which he does as often as he can.

His planes come in all sizes. Most of them are from kits, where each piece is shaped and glued together. He buys the the kits which come with a complete set of plans and then patiently builds the plane.

When the kit is put together, the outer skin in placed and heated so it ends up in a tight fit and the motor is finally installed; procedures that can take a couple of weeks or months depending how energetically you tackle it.

Dennis has eight or 10 flying planes and another dozen partially put together. His workroom is loaded with small hand tools, small power tools, and building stations.

This week, he was preparing his dual-wing plane for flight. The plane, with a 7-foot wingspan, had suffered an accident and the wing had been repaired.

“Building and flying planes teaches patience and a lot of other practical parts of life,” Dennis said.

He has been interested in forming a flying club, hoping to attract young people. “For the most part, radio-plane flying is done by a bunch of older people. We need younger builders and flyers,” he said.

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