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Meet the Northeast Side Taildaggers

Pending three Ws—weather, wind, and wives—these guys will be out on the field, soaring their model airplanes a few hundred feet above Hamilton County.

A group of about 60 hobbyists form the Northeast Side Taildraggers, a radio-controlled model-aircraft club based in Noblesville, with members as young as 12 and as old as 84. Club president Jim David started the group after he and his dad attracted a crowd of onlookers while flying their models in a park. David—a self-proclaimed model-aircraft enthusiast—originally got interested in flying because of his father, a private pilot who traded up planes like cars. “I took my first flying lesson on my 15th birthday,” he says. “But then I met a girl, fell in love, had a couple kids and a mortgage. I couldn’t afford to fly the big ones anymore.”

Today, the Taildraggers—named for a type of airplane—fly on an airstrip near Klipsch Music Center that’s a little longer than a football field and about a third as wide, marked with realistic-looking taxi areas, helicopter circles, and more.

At the club’s annual competitions, the guys go head-to-head in various events like spot-landing, bomb-dropping, balloon-popping, and streamer combat, where aircraft swoop and fly while trying to cut the 20-foot-long crepe paper streamer trailing behind each plane. Although anyone can get into model-aircraft flying for about $300 and 30 minutes of set-up, club treasurer Jay Taylor warns interested hobbyists to take lessons with a club like the Taildraggers before going out on their own. “Otherwise,” he says, “you might see your plane nosedive pretty quickly.”