April 6, 2010


Truxton man’s hobby spans lifetime

Wilbur Turner builds radio-controlled airplanes at his Academy St. home

PlanesJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Wilbur Turner of Truxton assembles a radio-controlled plane Monday that is a model of a Fairchild PT-19 World War II trainer. Turner has been building and flying model planes all his life.

Staff Reporter

TRUXTON — Wilbur Turner’s lifelong passion for model airplanes was obvious Monday in the workshop attached to his house on Academy Street.
A rack displayed wings for the radio-controlled aircraft, which can have wingspans up to 8 feet or as small as just under 6 feet.
Electronic supplies and parts covered the walls. Three airplanes hung suspended from the ceiling, six more stood on their noses along the sides and three miniature helicopters of different sizes sat in a corner.
Turner was working on another airplane in a nearby garage, standing in the sun as he made sure the rudder fit on the tail section. It had a blue body and yellow wings, with a 114-inch wingspan.
“It’s about a month away from being done,” said Turner, 64, who retired two years ago from Cooper Tools in Cortland. “I’ve been working on it since September.”
He said that despite the warm weather the past few days, it was too wet to use the landing field on Maybury Road between Truxton and McGraw where he and the field’s owner, Mike Finn, fly the airplanes.
The planes are made of wood and powered by combustion engines. The engines’ fuel is ignited by a glow plug, a plug that fits on top of the engine’s cylinder head and contains an electric filament that glows red-hot to ignite the fuel. The plugs are sometimes nicknamed “nitro,” after nitromethane, a key ingredient.
Radio controls allow the operator to taxi the plane to roll along the ground, take flight and turn or climb in the sky.
Turner said he started as a boy with model planes controlled through two 60-foot wire cables attached to them and held by the operator. He switched to radio-controlled planes in about 1975, when the technology became inexpensive enough for him to afford.
His early model aircraft on cables weighed about 3 pounds. His radio-controlled aircraft weigh 12 to 21 pounds.
Turner buys the kit with assembly plans from a manufacturer such as Tower Hobbies, Great Plane or Balsa USA. He assembles the parts and sands them down, paints them, installs the gasoline-powered engine and fits the electronic controls into them.
One airplane suspended from the ceiling was a replica of a white British Pup fighter from World War I, piloted by Snoopy from the “Peanuts” comic strip. The aircraft’s wingspan is 5.5 feet and it weighs about 12.5 pounds.
The red plane flown by Snoopy’s nemesis, the Red Baron, stood against a nearby wall.
The aircrafts’ costs vary. Turner said a smaller airplane cost about $350.
Pointing to the yellow aircraft with the 8-foot wingspan, he said, “That one was $180 for the kit and $400 for the radio. If I was going to sell it, I would want $800 for it.”
Turner held two jobs at Cooper Tools, die welder blacksmith for 14 years and millwright for 27 years.
His home shop was also full of hunting gear, since he has been an avid bowhunter, and vintage vehicles he shows.


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