Flying event is snapshot of aviation history

As he watched the colorful remote controlled model airplanes soar through a blue September sky, Anthony D’Ostilio recalled the planes he had seen in France and Germany during World War II.

D'Ostilio was among several residents of Teresian Towers assisted living facility in Trumbull who are treated to an air show and lunch each year by the White Hills Remote Control Club.

“We have a great time here,” said D'Ostilio, during the event at the club’s flying field off Birdseye Road in Shelton.

D'Ostilio served in the glider infantry of the U.S. Army’s 13th airborne division and remembered especially the Spitfire and the Corsair.

“The Corsair had an extra big engine and propeller,” he said.

D’Ostilio and the rest of the audience saw a Corsair on a much smaller scale, a model Corsair F4U airplane assembled by Remote Control Club member John Nowell, a 50-year employee of Sikorsky Aircraft.

The actual Corsairs were built at the former Avco Corporation plant in Stratford, Nowell said.

As the audience watched from the shade of a large tent, event coordinator Andy Figlar, a club founder, helped club president Dr. Carmen Luciano fuel up a model Fokker PC, a German World War I fighter aircraft.

The Allies demanded that the Germans turn over the Fokker at the end of the war, Figlar said.

The club’s airplanes are powered by electricity, gas or a special fuel consisting of alcohol and nitro fuels, he said. Members buy the airplanes as kits and glue them together.

When people join the club, they receive training to fly the planes using the remote control devices.

Luciano used the controls to guide the Fokker up in the air, make long arcs over the 600-foot-long field and perform maneuvers, including barrel rolls and other tricks.

“The fun thing is to see them fly,” Figlar said. ”We have a good friendly group. It’s a good club.”

An array of model aircraft
Jim Fino of Monroe spent two years reconditioning his bright yellow Super Cub sport aviation aircraft, converting it from gas to electric.

Electric motors are quieter than gas motors, which “can get loud,” Fino said.

The 20-year-old model plane has a wingspan of eight feet, and it was originally built using cloth material placed over glue drops to simulate rivets.

Jim Jenkins, 86, is the oldest member of the club.

“I’ve done this since I was nine years-old,” Jenkins said, “and I’m here almost every day.”

A 12-year member of the White Hills Club, he was formerly a member of a similar club in Stratford, is a licensed pilot, and flew his own plane in years past.

When White Hills club members were searching for a suitable flying field, they discovered the Birdseye Road site on the Sam Stern Farm from the air, he said.

At the Sept. 18 event, he displayed the Reactor, an acrobatic airplane that he put together from a kit.

“I love aviation,” said Jenkins, who worked at Sikorsky for 40 years as a crew chief, building helicopters. “I saw many of Igor Sikorsky’s first products flying. He was friendly and humble. His designs are all over the world.”

Richard Dore of Shelton flew a model Sukhoi, a Russian plane that was sold “receiver-ready,” he said.

The model plane was ready to go, and he only had to supply the radio control receiver. Dore, an eight-year club member, started flying remote control planes when he was in college.

“The equipment was rudimentary,” he said.

Ron Barrett of Milford demonstrated a Yak-54, a Russian aerobatic and sports competition aircraft.

Barrett was a U. S. Air Force pilot in Vietnam, flying a KC-135 Stratotanker, which was used for mid-air refueling.

He made three trips to Vietnam and flew 150 missions.

Flying remote controlled planes become a hobby after he left Viet Nam.

“I took them up once I returned,” he said. “It’s almost like flying.”
An event to remember
Charles Grich, a Teresian Towers resident, said it was his third or fourth visit to the club’s flying field to see the model planes fly.

“I enjoy it,” he said.

Grich, who served in the U.S. Army’s first armored division in the 1950’s, worked for 30 years in research and development at the Avco Corp where he helped develop the AGT 1500, a gas turbine engine for military vehicles.

Grich later became director of manufacturing engineering at the company.

Sitting nearby, Eleanor Adams, who also lives at Teresian Towers, was very enthusiastic about the remote control club event.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” she said. “I find it very informative. The fellows help us understand.”

“The residents just love it,” said Rita Raucci, activity coordinator at Teresian Towers, who was busy organizing a picnic lunch.

Susan Figlar, Andy Figlar’s wife, was Teresian Towers activities coordinator for 16 years.

“I started the event,” she said, “and Andy continued it.“

It appears to be an occasion the residents look forward to each year.

“They love it,” Figlar said.