Chatham-Kent municipal airport will be home to dozens of jets this weekend – remote controlled ones – as ThunderThrust hits the airstrip.
The annual scale-model remote-control event takes place this week, and was set to start on Wednesday, but is open to the public Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. respectively.
Organizer Peter Doupnik said he expects upwards of three-dozen pilots flying more than 100 aircraft.
These aren’t simple toy model planes. Doupnik said some of the aircraft are worth upwards of $50,000.
The average time to build a plane is between three months and 10 years, he added, depending on the size of the craft, and the level of detail.
“It’s up to you what you want to do,” he said.
The typical R/C pilot that comes to ThunderThrust has been in the hobby for at least a decade.
These planes rely on jet turbine engines, which are fueled by kerosene, diesel, or even jet fuel.
“You mix in a little turbine oil to keep the bearings happy,” Doupnik said. “These turbines run at 40,000 rpm on idle and 125,000 rpm when spooled up.”
He said some of the aircraft reach speeds of more than 400 km/h.
Those fast movers include planes such as scale-model CF-104 Starfighters, CF-18 Hornets, F-86 Sabres, and more.
As for the men and women at the controls, Doupnik said they would be coming from far and wide, as far away as New York, Chicago and Quebec.
“This show is part of a circuit. There is a group of dedicated enthusiasts who travel to airports once a month,” he said.
Doupnik expects 250 or more spectators on the weekend. More than a few come from out of town as well.
“These are all aviation enthusiasts. They will drive a fair distance to see some of these jets,” he said.
Doupnik estimated the economic impact by ThunderThrust at about $30,000 annually.
“We go out to a restaurant every night, and book a hotel in Chatham. There is a benefit,” he said.
Doupnik said airport management has been very accommodating and are great to work with for ThunderThrust organizers.
He added the location is perfect.
“You want to have clear views, so you can see the plane coming in,” he said from a pilot’s perspective.
That also applies to the spotter. Each time a plane flies, it is done with two people, one being the pilot and the other the spotter, who checks to see where other planes are around the airport.
Plus, there is the possibility the spotter has to take over flying the aircraft in an emergency.
“You pick your spotters carefully. At any time, they may have to fly the airplane,” Doupnik said. “We had one pilot get stung by a bee once.”
Admission to the airport for ThunderThrust is $5, with children under 12 at no charge.
There will be a concession stand on site.
Doupnik recommends spectators bring a lawn chair and perhaps a sunshade if the weather gets warm.
This is ThunderThrust’s seventh year. Doupnik said it was under a different name prior to that and with a different group.