Some sons inherit their looks or an affinity for baseball from their fathers. Tenth-grader Stoil Avramov inherited a love of flight.
The Long Reach High School student travels the country and world piloting model airplanes in competitions, and when he's not doing that or sitting in class, he's in his basement working on his planes, he said.
"At the age of 6, I started flying gliders for the first time," he said. "And from there, when I got enough skills, I was like, why not try some competition? That's how I, pace by pace, got to the world championships."
The 15-year-old recently returned from Ukraine and Slovenia, where he represented the United States on a three-person junior team in his third trip to the airplane modeling world championships.
"That one continues for almost a whole week," said his father, Dimitre. "You actually meet the best three pilots from every country that is involved."
Stoil was 4 when he was first exposed to model airplanes. His family had just moved from Silver Spring to Elkridge and his father started flying planes at a model plane airfield in nearby South West Area Park in Lansdowne.
"I gained interest in airplanes really quickly watching my dad fly around here, and watching other people fly," he said.
Avramov, who immigrated to the United States from Bulgaria in 1998, has been flying model airplanes since the end of the 1970s, he said.
"My history of flying is so long," he said, laughing. "Look, at that time, there weren't computers, and not the games that boys are interested in."
Model airplanes presented an opportunity to "build things from rough materials, from scratch," said Avramov, who later worked as an industrial engineer.
The "magic of flight" has kept him hooked on the hobby, he said. Stoil agreed.
"And when you build some skills, you start to bump with other people, you start to compete," Avramov said. "You think, I can fly much better than another one, and I have to learn something to fly much, much better."
After they moved to Elkridge, the South West Area Park, or SWAP, modelers club of model plane enthusiasts, based at the Landsdowne airfield, provided a welcoming community for Avramov and especially his son to become better pilots.
"Here on the field, the gate is open for new people all the time," Avramov said. "They can meet a lot of people who have been doing this for more than 20, 30 years, and of course they can get a lot of information about what model to buy, how to fly and learn the rules of the field."
"And if you want to know something, or if you have a problem with your flying, you can just ask someone and they'll be happy to help," said Stoil, who wants to become an aerospace engineer.
The various aero modeling competitions feature a variety of events for different planes, from rocket and propeller gliders to gas-powered planes. In each competition, pilots must keep their airplanes in the air for a specified amount of time and land them precisely at a predetermined location and time marker.
Top finishers are often separated by a matter of seconds in their landings, said Stoil, who placed second in a 2014 world championship event just 13 seconds behind the gold medal winner.
To improve his precision, Stoil spends nearly every free moment practicing at the Landsdowne airfield.
On a recent bright but breezy afternoon, he took a large motorized glider and much smaller rocket glider out for a spin. He had made the former from a kit and the latter from raw materials.
His father helped him launch both planes, which weigh less than three pounds, by running and throwing the motorized glider and by setting up the fuse for the rocket glider.
After that, Stoil was in the pilot's seat. Using a remote control, he navigated the wind direction and different layers of air to bring the planes hundreds of feet above the ground, then back down for low passes, flips and, finally, landing.
Stoil and his father will be giving demonstrations and tutorials on model airplane piloting at the Charm City Fly-In hosted on Sept. 24 and 25 by the SWAP modelers at the airfield in Landsdowne. For more information, go to http://dzisow.wixsite.com.