Flights of Fancy : Model Plane Pilots Keep Their Feet on the Ground, Their Eyes to the Skies

Planes will roll and loop, paratroopers will make daring jumps, and a jet will zoom overhead.

The pilots at Sunday’s Mile Square Regional Park air show, however, will be on the ground, maneuvering their handcrafted model airplanes by radio control.

The planes “look just like the real ones,” said enthusiast Bob Rosenlof, “except for their size.”

Rosenlof, of Garden Grove, co-founded the air show four years ago with Fountain Valley flier George Kotichas. This year’s event, Rosenlof said, will feature 23 top-gun pilots who will entertain spectators with acrobatics.


More than 4,000 spectators attended last year’s event, sponsored annually by the Scale Squadron and Orange Coast Radio-Control Club, both based in Orange County. This year, Kotichas said, organizers are expecting twice that many because of the sport’s growing popularity.

Added to this year’s event, he said, is a noon flyover by pilots in real planes: vintage military and civilian aircraft.

The public can also get a close-up look at the model airplanes during a noon runway display. Among the large-scale airplanes, valued from $2,000 to $10,000, will be models of civilian and military aircraft from the World War II era, including American and German bombers, and of planes flown in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Jerry Ortego, 55, of Cerritos is among the pilots who will perform. His sleek silver T-33, a model of an Air Force training plane used in the Korean War, is worth about $3,000 and took 400 hours to make.


“One thing about flying model airplanes is that we all imagine ourselves as these great pilots,” said Ortego, a flier for 25 years. “You try to fly the model airplane like it’s the real thing.”

Another flier is George Normington, 73, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who flew bombers in World War II. Normington, of Huntington Beach, will be piloting his hand-built sport plane, a model of a Morrisey Bravo. The plane, which has an 8-foot wing span, will drop a paratrooper named Charlie, also radio-controlled.

“It’s thrilling, all right,” Normington said of the hobby. “The whole purpose of air shows is to get people interested in model aviation.”

The free event, open to the public, will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the hobby area of Mile Square Park.