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ANAHEIM : ‘Crashes’ Around Big A’s Parking Lot Spell Goodby for Model Plane Pilots

John Mc Murray has an attitude about flying planes that would frighten even the most seasoned air traveler.

“If you’re afraid to crash or make mincemeat out of it, you shouldn’t be out here flying,” said Mc Murray, 66. “I’ve seen people come out here and lose one wing, and never come back again.”

Although they swoop and soar like the best contenders in a military flying show, Mc Murray’s aircraft weigh but 4 to 6 pounds and fly at an altitude of about 200 feet.

Some 110 members belong to the 20-year-old Anaheim Model Flyers Assn., whose members use the airspace over the Anaheim Stadium parking lot when it’s not being used for sporting events.

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At least three people are needed to fly the planes: a pilot; a spotter who stands near the pilot to keep track of the plane, and a pole guard, who monitors the plane so that it doesn’t fly beyond the parameters of the parking lot.

Despite this self-imposed policing system, the city recently gave the club six months to relocate after a plane crashed into an office building. No one was injured, but a window was broken.

“It wasn’t so much the frequency of the accidents that was the issue, but the potential severity of it,” said Mark Deven, the city’s recreation superintendent, who estimated that a plane crashes every couple of months.

“If anyone had been sitting in the office when that plexiglass window was broken, we could have been looking at a real problem,” he said.

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The planes are controlled by radio and run on an alcohol-based fuel that Mc Murray said barely burns when the planes crash.

“Most of them have about 4-ounce tanks, and there’s not enough in there to hurt anything. I’ve never seen an airplane burn,” he said.

With price tags between $200 and $10,000, the planes have wing spans up to 50 inches. Their pilots range in age from teen-agers to an 80-year-old member, and all must be card-carrying members of the association.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department has worked with the club since it was founded, helping members to keep their sport safe. But in March, the club must move from the stadium parking lot.

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“We don’t want to see the club go; it has a history here,” Deven said. But the city’s liability has increased over the past two decades as the areas around the stadium have become more congested.

Mc Murray, a former pilot, said he isn’t too worried about the future of model-plane flying in Anaheim.

“They’ve been very nice to us,” he said about the city. “It requires a fairly big place . . . but they’ve offered to help us relocate to another flying site.”


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