Canadian model airplane team uses Plattsburgh skies for practice

Published: Feb. 26, 2023 at 8:08 PM EST
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - Outdoor model aircraft flying has been grounded in Canada, causing turbulence for some Canadian engineering students. But a club in Plattsburgh was happy to help.

“Maybe it won’t make the most points, but fingers crossed we should be able to fly several times,” said Emily Cohen of Montreal.

Cohen is on a design team from Canada competing in the Society of Automotive Engineers International Competition. It’s designed to encourage the development of soft skills, foster teamwork and expand critical thinking as teams from colleges all over the world compete in different categories.

Cohen’s team is competing in the SAE aero design category, creating a remote-control airplane. But after the Model Aeronautics Association banned all outdoor model aircraft flying in Canada, the team needed to find a space to test the plane. That’s how they ended up connecting with the Plattsburgh Radio Aero Modelers.

“We know that it is not necessarily an easy feat for any pilot to man something that hasn’t flown before. For the competition, we have to submit a proof of flight video. We have to show that the plane is safe to fly at the competition,” said Cohen.

The Plattsburgh Radio Aero Modelers is a nonprofit that flies remote-control planes throughout the year. The club says when the students asked them to help fly their model, they couldn’t help but say yes.

“We’re all about teaching people how to fly and stuff like that. I’ve taught a lot of members here how to fly. I get more satisfaction out of teaching someone how to fly. It’s the fear of the unknown. Even if you have built it, and you know everything is up to snuff, you still have that uh-oh factor,” said Gary Dumas, a member of the PRAM.

The students spent the day getting the plane ready for the first test run. They gathered to make sure the plane was even in terms of weight. The plane will carry water bottles in the competition that weigh more than seven pounds. At the same time, they also have to land a smaller plane on a target.

“I mean I hope it’s going to do great. I think it should be able to the thing we want it to go. Hopefully good enough, but I think it’s going to be OK. We are going to have to see today,” said Marianne Gounelle of Quebec.

After the flights, the team will submit a video to the judges’ panel, and they will be off to Florida on March 7 if all goes well.