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RC Airplanes in Merida

What is as small as a shoe, or as big as a car, flies as slow as a Turibus going around the Monumento de las Banderas or as fast as a that guy behind you from Mexico City and sounds like a fighter jet or a giant Africanized bumble bee coming to getcha’?

Yep, up in the sky, it’s a bird! It’s a plane! Yes, yes, it IS a plane!! Oh, and it’s so CUTE!!

If you are already an "RC addict", you’ve probably guessed that what we are referring to is a remote-controlled airplane, the flying of which is a growing hobby all over Mexico, and Merida is no exception. We aren’t RC addicts by any stretch of the imagination… in fact, our recent visits to an RC airfield were our first brush with this hobby that is practiced and enjoyed all over the world. And we were impressed with how much fun it seemed to be for the people who are involved. We were also amazed that there are many opportunities here for people who might want to practice this sport.

On a bright and sunny Saturday morning a few weekends ago, the Working Gringos set out across the flat expanses of the Yucatan Peninsula towards Motul and turned left at the sign to Mococha, about 20 minutes past the Periferico. We passed through Mococha and headed onward to Too (pronounced TOE). Too (yes, it is a funny name for a town… but there are funnier. Poop (pronounced poh-OPE) comes to mind) is no bigger than the big toe of the Jolly Green Giant… a cluster of about five houses and a church set down in the midst of green fields of henequen and monte. We turned right just past the church, and bumped along a dirt road for what seemed like miles, going around fincas and ranchos like a PacMan. Eventually, the road emerged into a clearing where a few bright tents had been set up against the sun, and a cluster of cars baked outside the tents.

This was the airfield of the Club de Radio Control "Too", a private remote-controlled airplane club based in Merida. According to our good friend and Eclectec employee Joseph, who is a member of this club, it is the nicest and most modern RC airfield in the Yucatan, and it’s just getting started. It has a brand new 300-foot pavement landing airstrip, with areas for the pilots to service and park their planes.

This airstrip is privately owned, and so it costs to belong to this club: about $250 USD a year. The advantages of this location is that there are no properties around the airfield that could be damaged in the event of an accident, and radio interference is a non-issue (apparently a problem with other local airstrips). It certainly was out in what seemed like the middle-of-nowhere, but with the big tents, the port-a-potty, the generator fueling a sound system playing loud music (it just wouldn’t be Mexico without music) and the huge coolers of cold drinks, we were cool and comfortable. Someday, there will be a clubhouse, we were told, but for now, it was more like camping.

 

But instead of being next to a stream or a lake, we were next to a miniature airstrip listening to Steppenwolf’s "Born to Be Wild".

The club is mostly men (and a few women), young and old, who were incredibly friendly, incredibly serious about what they were doing and having an incredibly good time doing it. There were instructors teaching the new guys, and fathers sharing the activity with their sons. Some of the pilots there spoke English, some were visiting from Campeche and Quintana Roo. (We happened to be there during a competition that was going to last all weekend.) And there were a number of people there just to enjoy the spectacle.

As we waiting for the first flyers to take to the air, cars continued to arrive, disgorging their passengers and airplanes. Soon there were a bunch of planes lined up next to the tarmac. Each participant went to a table under the tent and signed in, registering the frequency of his or her radio control device. This is done to prevent two people using the same frequency at the same time, and the one whose plane is in the air at the time having a nasty surprise when his plane plummets to the ground. After registering, the men would line up their planes, fill them up with fuel and generally tinker and tweak until they were ready to fly. One at a time, the men would start their planes using a little generator to turn the propellers. Then they would step back and take their radio control device (a sort of wireless joystick) in hand, taxi their little machine down the runway and then take off and start flying.

We were not surprised to discover that, while we saw some very accomplished fliers who appeared to be in their mid to late 30′s, the most impressive performers were two young men who were there with their fathers, and neither of them could have been older than 16. These boys had nice airplanes, and attentive dads who obviously shared their passion for flying but seemed happy to be the support crew for their young aces.

Watching these young fliers was a bit like watching guitar players in a good rock and roll band. They weren’t swaggering or strutting or driving the girls crazy, but they were making music with their airplanes… visual music. The planes they flew zoomed past, turned and banked and stalled and dove and some even did it to the music. The planes seemed to turn the puffy-cloud-filled sky and their presence in it into a work of kinetic three-dimensional art.

We’re sure there is a pleasurable sense of power and control for the fliers in the feel of the controls, but mostly this is a spectator sport, both for the spectators and for the fliers themselves. When a little airplane was streaking overhead, doing loop-de-loops and flying past upside down, it was flying with the dreams and visions of about 30 people packed inside its miniature cockpit. It struck us as a lovely way to fly without hurting anyone, putting oneself in danger, wasting a lot of jet fuel or getting airsick.

There were a number of older men there who seemed to be beginners and were taking instruction from some of the younger participants. One man we spoke with briefly is a Federal Judge who told us he discovered this sport only a few months ago. That day, he was learning the most basic skills: taxiing down the runway, taking off, flying in circles and landing. Even that proved to be too difficult eventually, and he crashed his airplane into the ground. Luckily, no one’s bones or egos were damaged, and now the Judge will have a few evenings of sitting at home repairing the wings on his plane before he comes out again to fly.

Radio Controlled Aircraft apparently come in all sizes and prices, from small electric ones that can fit in the palm of your hand, to gasoline-burning scale models which can be half the size of their full-scale "real" counterparts. Here in Merida, most pilots fly sport airplanes ranging from 40-size trainers to 120-size aerobats (going from 65 to 80 inches wingspan and 5 to 15 pounds), which are apparently the predominant sizes in the United States as well. The day we were there we were also treated to the flight of a RC helicopter and a RC witch-on-a-broomstick!

To keep these fliers and their planes flying, there is a well-stocked hobby store here in Merida, called Heaven Hobbies, it is located in Colonia Aleman where most of these people buy their spare parts and kits. If the store doesn’t have something, they will order it. Some people here also buy directly from Tower Hobbies or Horizon Hobbies on the internet and pay the extra shipping. It will cost the same either way, due to import taxes.

There are three RC clubs in Merida. The MonteSORRY RC Club flies in an empty lot behind the Liverpool Department Store. The location is easy to get to, the airspace and landing area are free to use and we’re told the people are friendly. The downside is that the space is surrounded by houses, a construction site (for the new Liverpool shopping center) and businesses, all of whose antennae can and have interfered with a fliers’ radio signal.

You can view the site on Google Earth here:

21° 02’21.04" N
89° 37’55.20" W

Merida’s oldest RC Club is privately owned and charges $10 US per day to fly on one of the two 300 foot landing strips. Joseph says the landing strips are not in the best shape, and after watching them for a day, we can see how a pothole or bump on the landing strip might affect or damage a plane. There is plenty of tall grass and even some trees in this location, and it is located outside the main city area, so radio interference is almost non-existent. ‘Fly-ins’ are performed once a year and pilots come from other parts of the peninsula, from places like Cancun and Campeche.

Again, if you have Google Earth, this airfield can be seen here:

20° 55’12.47" N
89° 36’04.12" W

(By the way, Club Too’s airstrip is so new that it does not show up on Google Earth right now. But seriously, if you just go to Too and turn right at the church, you’ll find it.)

Fly-ins and Fun-Fly events are organized once or twice a year with each club. Usually pilots are sorted by categories (Beginners, Intermediates and Advanced). Contests consist of each flier performing several tests, like precision flying or "limbo", where pilots have to fly and/or perform precision maneuvers under a stick or a rope. Each flight is timed and monitored by other members to make sure they reach each milestone. In the end, the flier who completed the tasks in the fastest time takes home the trophy. The rest of the year, fliers go to the airstrips on weekends to test their planes and perfect their maneuvers.

While we were there, we not only took photos, we also videotaped the activities because it is really the kind of thing that warrants pictures that move. We visited with the fliers and were impressed by how friendly everyone was, what a sense of cooperation and geniality was in the air (along with the airplanes of course) and just what good clean fun it all was.

As we drove away, we passed a few groups of local children who were riding their bicycles to the airstrip from Too and Mococha. This may be a hobby that takes some money to participate, but apparently it has become a free source of entertainment for the local children in the surrounding area.

 


It seems to be a hobby for people with an engineering and tinkering bent, but something anyone can enjoy watching.

Oh, don’t forget to see the video of this event by clicking here!

Up in the air, Junior Birdmen!!

 

 


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18 Responses to “RC Airplanes in Merida”

  1. AWSOME!

  2. How wonderful! And, for all you gringos who ride motorcycles, there are organized bike clubs in several towns in Yucatan. The Jaguars are in Merida. So there is virtually no sport you enjoy “back home” that you can’t continue to enjoy in Yucatan.

  3. Hello Woking Gringos…
    I’m a Yucatecan expat living in Long Beach, Ca. for 9 years now ( you know we read you ). I always enjoy your articles that help me keep in touch -which also the “Diario” does, but with the basic difference that your articles have taught me a lot of my own land. Not necesarely in the “historic” sense but on the “perspective”, “apprecitation” and “activity” sense. So I sincerly thank you for your efforts on explaining Yucatan to people around the world and making them feel it as the welcoming land it is. A final suggestion: Shouldn’t the YucatanLiving logo feature a HABANERO ?

  4. It’s a very nice article. But how can me and my kids join this club? How can I contact them? And where can I buy an airplane like those and how much do they cost?

    Congratulations and thank you

    I’m from Chiapas but it’s been 8 years since I live here in Merida with my family.

  5. Hello Working Gringos

    Do you know the address of the Heaven Hobbies store in Colonia Aleman? How can I contact the people from the “Too Radio Control Club”?

    Thanks

  6. Hola Horacio!

    Te puedes poner en contacto con el club de Radio Control Too a través de la tienda Heavens Hobbies. El correo electrónico es heavenshobbies arroba hotmail punto com.

    Pide que te pongan en contacto con el Dr. Luis Vargas, es el presidente de la asociacion de radiocontrol del sureste y el te podrá dar toda la informacion necesaria, tambien dan cursos para aprender a volar y a reparar aviones y helicopteros.

    La direccion exacta de la tienda no la recuerdo, pero el telefono es 938-09-68 para que hables y pidas mas informes.

    Los aviones los hay de todos precios. Yo te recomiendo que empieces con un avion entrenador que te cuesta (completito con todo lo necesario) al rededor de 6,000 pesos. Tambien con un poquito de esfuerzo puedes ir armando uno comprando partes de medio uso y ahorrarte una lanota. Ya conforme vayas aprendiendo puedes ir avanzando hasta donde permita tu presupuesto.

    Espero te sirva esta informacion. Saludos!

    —————————————————-

    Hello Horacio!

    You can contact the Too RC Club through our local hobby shop, Heavens Hobbies. You can contact them through their email (heavenshobbies at hotmail dot com).

    Ask them to put you in touch with Luis Vargas, he’s the president of our club and he can give you all the info you need, there are also flying lessons for airplanes and helis.

    I can’t remember the exact address of the hobby shop, but you can call 938-09-68 and they can tell you [ spanish only :( ]

    There’s an airplane for every budget. I would advise you to start off with a trainer airplane wich will cost around $6,000 MXN. You could also with a little extra effort, get some used gear and save some cash. As you learn you can move on, as long as your budget allows.

    Hope this helps. Cheers!

  7. Thaks a lot for the information!! Gracias por la Informacion

    Regards/ Saludos

  8. Hola!!!! Somos de Honduras queremos decir hola como estan,visiten nuestra pagina y ver si nos intercambiamos info y fotos de los lugares….

  9. ok..

  10. Tienen un Club muy fino, muy bonito y muy moderno.

    Vivo en San Bernardino County, California y pertenesco al Club: Pomona Valley Modellers Association Club con unos 400 miembros, con dos campos de vuelo, uno en Chino, y el otro en San Bernardino.

    Me da la impresion de que el nuevo Campo de vuelo se encuentra un poquito lejos de la Ciudad, unos
    40 kilometros de Mérida?.
    Me da mucho gusto que tengan una tienda de Hobbies que esta al dia en Aeromodelos.

    Yo soy yucateco y pienso que muy pronto ire a vivir de vuelta a Mérida.
    Ademas soy Radio Amateur o HAM, mis letras son KA6YLP.

    Muchos saludos a todos ustedes y felicitaciones por lo bien que lo estan haciendo.

    Jose Brea.

  11. Dear RC USERS,

    Hello!
    It is really nice tofind thie space and write this message in here.
    My name is David and I’m working in HITEC’s overseas sales team.
    As you may know, HITEC is one of the representative brand for RC especially for servo. We do have really various range of servos from Micro scale to Jumbo and many Analog, Digital servos. Also HITEC is famous for our high technical RADIOs. So if there’s anyone or any companies who want to be a HITEC’s distributors in your country Mexico, you can just come to me and share your idea with us.

    You can contact me through my email.
    - david [at] hitecrcd [dot] net
    - http://www.hitecrcd.com
    - Phone number : 82 43 717 2054
    - Fax number : 82 43 717 2190

    Thanks and any proposal would be welcomed!
    Bravo for all RC users’ life!!

    Sincerely yours,
    David

  12. espero me puedan ayudar lo antes posible, estoy por viajar a merida y me gustaria saber si me pueden recomendar una buena tienda de aeromodelismo ya que solo estaré ahi el fin de semana. espero su pronta respuesta

    (Editor’s Translation: I hope you can help me as soon as possible. I am traveling to Merida and I would like to know if you can recommend to be a good model airplane store. I will only be there for the weekend. I await your prompt reply.)

  13. Hi
    Guys I am glad that you guys have an RC club in Merida. By the pictures it looks like you are having a lot of fun. I am new in Cancun and would like to know of an RC club near by. THANK YOU AND HAPPY LANDINGS.

  14. Hola, 21/11/09
    I have some nice helicopters that I would like to sell at a good price .
    Raptor, Apache, Honey bee I live in Cancun if I have time this sunday I would arrived at your field,
    Question…. what time do you guys usually get there to fly your R/r

  15. I am building a hydroplane race boat a dumas u-1 kit #1314.
    is there any boat race clubs in the yucatan
    thanks
    art newton [at] shaw [dot] ca

  16. hydroplane racing in the yucatan?
    thanks
    art newton

  17. Wife and I are planning a mover to Merida and I was thinking I’d sell my planes and radios. Good to see there is a club there. Now I can keep them.

  18. I am an avid RC’r and spend the winter in Mexico in Playa del Carmen. Is there anyone in Playa, flying RC?
    I want to bring a quad with me. Has anyone had a problem flying on a commercial airline with Lipo’s?

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