Steve Coleman controls his radio-control Extra 330 SC airplane Saturday during the Rally of the Giants at Agate Airways Field near Agate Lake. The event continues from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today. - Julia Moore

Catching Air

Caught in a seeming free fall as it somersaulted to earth, Steve Coleman's radio-control airplane looked destined for a crash Saturday near Agate Lake.

But Coleman, an RC plane enthusiast who works at Chief Aircraft in Grants Pass, was well in control, stopping the Extra 330 SC just short of the ground. The plane hovered helicopter-like for a few seconds, tail fin pointed directly at the ground, before launching back into the sky in a whir of miniature propeller blades.

The snapshot of freestyle flying was just one of many aerial acrobatic moments at the Rally of the Giants, held at Agate Airways Field, 880 E. Antelope Road.

Put on annually by the International Miniature Aircraft Association, the 2013 gathering of RC pilots and their giant-scale, model aircraft drew participants from all over the U.S. The event continues from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today.

"We're talking up to 144- to 158-inch wingspans, so they're quite large," said Rogue Eagles RC Club member and event coordinator Gary Neal.

The Rogue Eagles and IMAA Chapter 323's "Fighting Falcons" host the event, which is held annually at different locations around the country.

On Saturday, 81 pilots had entered by late morning.

"We're just absolutely tickled to death," said contest director Cliff Sands of the number of entries and spectators, adding pilots traveled from as far as Canada to participate.

The event is not a competition. Pilots take turns flying until they wish to land or they run out of fuel. It drew quite a crowd Saturday, with cars spilling into the overflow parking lot by 11 a.m. Spectators sat in nearby bleachers, tracking flight patterns while sunlight flared on the aircraft wings.

"It never gets old," Neal said. "It's just a joy."

Coleman, 30, has been flying remote-controlled planes since childhood, but he really got into the large-scale models about five years ago. He said his freestyle flight, which included numerous, quick spins and turns, is a rush.

"It's the flying that gets the adrenaline pumping the most for sure," Coleman said. "It's just fascinating."

Love of flight drew many of the enthusiasts to the hobby. Neal, who recalls watching parachute jump drills over the Mojave Desert during his childhood, eventually joined the U.S. Navy Construction Battalion, where he built runways. Sands worked as an air-traffic controller and commercial pilot. Both eventually picked up RC planes.

"Unique people seem to do this," Sands said.

RC pilot Glen Spaulding of Sacramento, Calif., graduated from RC boats and cars. He found planes to be more challenging.

"RC cars and boats are great, but there's only so much you can do in one dimension," he said.

Aspiring pilots, such as 10-year-old Skyler Maerz of Medford, also attended.

He'll be receiving his first radio-control plane next month. Until then, he's content to watch others carve through the sky.

"I like the sound and the way they look," he said.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or

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