One Christmas morning in the 1970’s, 12-year-old Tom Schwartz was given a toy that he would come to master, developing a lifelong enthusiasm for the sport of it and passing that passion down to his own son.
That toy was a control-line model airplane, also known as a U-control plane, something popular with kids generations before Tom, but by the ’70’s had lost its popularity with the invention of radio-controlled airplanes. Still, something about flying the control-line plane, smelling the fuel it burned and manipulating it with a device that attached him to the aircraft by long cables, had Tom hooked.
“It takes an incredible amount of practice and skill with a margin for error that’s almost non-existent,” he related. “I like it cause it’s different than radio-controlled. You’re actually connected to the airplane physically…I practiced and stuck with it.”
There was a period of time when Tom put his plane away and got caught up in adulthood, working and raising a family. He regained the enchantment for flying that he felt during his childhood, though, when his son, James, discovered one of his old airplanes in their garage in Dorrance. Tom dusted off the plane and flew it for the curious 10-year-old.
“I flew it once to show him and he said, ‘Hey, Dad, I want to try it,’” Tom recalled. When James tried to fly it for the first time, he got the plane to make two laps in the air before it crashed.
“He was heartbroken,” Tom
remembered. “But I said, ‘That’s ok. That’s how everyone starts.”
Determined to persevere just like his father, James practiced flying and, at age 18, is now building his own planes and has earned trophies at flying competitions. With his son off to college this fall, Tom feels fortunate for all the time he spent flying planes with James, allowing the two to develop a close bond.
“It’s a pretty old school kind of sport,” Tom said, as many of his son’s friends are unfamiliar with that style of plane, popular in the middle of last century. Still, comrades can be