Club offers opportunity for more than the imagination to take flight

When Arbutus dentist Dr. Art Vail, 55, isn't seeing patients, chances are you can find him flying one of his remote controlled airplanes at Southwest Area Park in Baltimore Highlands with fellow members of the Southwest Area Park Modelers club.

He got into the hobby of flying remote controlled aircraft 27 years ago when he picked up a modeling magazine.


"It was something that I always wanted to do when I was a kid but never had the money for and as I was older I had a little extra free cash," said Vail, treasurer of the club.

Last Friday afternoon, Vail was among a group of men controlling different model airplanes that whizzed and dove through the air.

The planes took off from a 275-foot paved runway at the park, soaring hundreds of feet through the cloudy sky on Sept. 19.

"It's sort of like a brotherhood here," said Nick Coggiano, 56, of Linthincum Heights. "Everybody helps each other and we're always learning new things."

The hobbyists, who also build the aircraft they fly, often share flying tips and techniques with each other, Coggiano said.

Being part of the club provides them a place to share their passion and appreciation for aviation.

This weekend, they will share with the public at the annual Charm City Fly-in. The free event at Southwest Area Park, tucked away off Annapolis Road, at the intersection of Baltimore Street and Georgia Avenue, begins Friday, Sept. 26. It continues through Sunday, Sept. 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

It is held to celebrate the hobby and allow club members to honor past members who have died and others who have influenced the area's aviation enthusiasts, Vail said.

Twenty-five pilots will show off their skills and will give lessons to those who have never flown a remote-controlled aircraft, said Vail, who is organizing the event.

"It gives people a chance to try something new and if they try it once they'll probably want to try it again," said Coggiano, who owns 55 planes.

Food and refreshments will be available and a remote controlled plane will be raffled off, Vail said.

"We all have the same love of aviation," said Dr. Stanley Blum, a retired Catonsville doctor who has been a member of the club for 20 years. "We're children who have never grown up who are hanging onto our childhood.

"We're little 5-year-olds that refuse to give up the loves and passions we had when we were children," said Blum, a former pilot

Blum, 75, said World War II propaganda sparked his interest in planes and aviation at the age of 5.


He often saw pictures of planes in magazines sent by the U.S. government, he said.

Vail said members of the group, which was established in 1984, enjoy sharing their hobby with others and hope others may want to join their club.

"We're open to anyone," Vail said.

To join, you must be a member of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, a nonprofit organization that serves as the parent organization of the club, he said.

The club's flight safety regulations require pilots to stay within a half-mile of their takeoff site, not fly more than 400 feet in the air and not fly over spectators or vehicles, Vail said.

"If you can't see it, you can't fly it," he said.

The club's current members are a variety of ages and occupations, including students, a doctor, engineers, mechanics, a photographer and others, Vail said.

"We're a diverse group, and we welcome anyone to join," Vail said.

Those interested in joining can do so for about $300, Vail said.

To learn more about the Southwest Area Park Modelers and the Charm City Fly-in event, go to