Club members prepare for annual remote control air show Sept. 29-30

Bob Pollokoff walked into a hobby store nearly 12 years ago, came across some model airplanes and began talking about them with some of the customers in the store.

The men told about an annual event for remote control model airplanes at Southwest Area Park in Baltimore Highlands.

"I got curious, so I went and watched the planes fly," Pollokoff said.

"One of the members put me on a buddy box with a trainer," said the Owings Mills resident on his opportunity to practice flying that day. "It took off from there, literally and figuratively."

Now, Pollokoff is now among the 125 members of the Southwest Area Park Modelers. Members of the group range in age from teenagers to those in their 70s. All share a love of flying, a love that will be on display this weekend in Southwest Area Park, near the intersection of Baltimore Street and Georgia Avenue.

The club will again host Baltimore's largest gathering of remote control (R/C) planes during the Southwest Area Park Modelers' Fly-In and Family Fun Weekend from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 29-30. This is the 17th year in a row the club has put on a show.

Dr. Art Vail, an Arbutus dentist and one of the event's organizers, said he expects a turnout of about 300 or 400 people if the weather cooperates this weekend.

"This is spectator friendly," said Vail of the event. "If they want to see a particular plane because they like it, we will put it up for them."

According to organizers, dozens of local R/C pilots will send up R/C airplanes, jets and helicopters, many of them taking advantage of the park's 600-foot grass runway or 275-foot paved runway.

"Number one, they will get to see some incredible flying, with planes of all shapes and sizes," said Pollokoff on the attraction.

He added that visitors will also be able to try their hand at flying model planes.

There will be nonstop demonstrations with aerial stunts, trainings session for novice pilots and a commemorative air show at 2 p.m. Sunday in honor of former club member and president Ron Krokus as well as grilled food.

Pollokoff, a past president of the club, said models can go up nearly 1,000 feet but that most fly from 300 to 500 feet.

Wingspans can range from 12 inches up to 12 feet, he said.

The group, mostly a male domain, is made up of retirees, military veterans, medics, engineers and auto mechanics, said Pollokoff, who is involved in commercial real estate.

One ofits youngest members is Zack Bury, who graduated from Lansdowne High in 2012 and is now a freshman at the Community College of Baltimore, where he studies aviation management on the Catonsville campus.

Bury, the son of Wayne Bury, the club vice president, began flying model planes when he was 5.

"We will have a bunch of club trainers," the younger Bury, who lives in Baltimore Highlands, says of the weekend show. "Anyone that comes will have a chance to fly. We will have some demonstrations going from about 10 a.m. to 5 p.m."

One of the planes Bury flies is an Extra 260, a model that sells for $416, according to the website

"He is our best pilot. He wants to be a commercial pilot, " said Vail, of the younger Bury.

Vail, who graduated from Lansdowne High School in 1976, can appreciate that love of flying.

"I always had a fascination with aviation since I was a kid," said Vail, a past president and current treasurer of the club. "I would look at models when I was a kid. I was 9 or 10 but I could not afford to buy them."

He built his first plane about 25 years ago, around the time he joined the club.

Longtime club member Tom Kowalski, 77, is recognized as the best model plane builder in the club.

The Catonsville resident is assigned the yearly task to build a model plane to be raffled off at the air show.

"They select the airplane and engine and give it to me to build," Kowalski, a former IBM employee who retired about 15 years ago.

Years ago, he would take sticks and glue and then add a motor to a model. The process could take as much as 100 hours to build.

These days the models are almost ready to fly and Kowlaski said it now takes him about 20 to 30 hours to build a model.

Kowalski moved to Maryland in 1982 and has been a member of the club for more than 10 years.

"I have always had a love affair of airplanes. I built stick models with rubber bands when I was living in Detroit," he said.

For information on the club and the weekend show, go to or call organizer Dr. Art Vail at 410-925-6306.

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