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The Remote Control Airplane Lesson

Teachings of a Child

by Hal Evan Caplan
June 29, 2013

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The Remote Control Airplane Lesson

My son is my teacher. When I open myself to learning from him, he teaches me life's lessons. Sometimes I have no idea the lessons are on their way. They pop out of thin air and I am usually caught off guard and I don't realize a lesson is in the making until it is either upon me or just wrapping up. I don't try and anticipate the lessons anymore as this would drive me crazy. Seriously now, the lessons happen when they happen and that is why he is the teacher and I am the student.

My teacher turned 10 years old in June. Yes folks, 10... double digits and as my teacher put it, "getting up there". For his birthday, my dad and mom (my teacher's grandparents) graciously sent him money so he could pick out the birthday gifts that he really wanted and from that he purchased several gifts that I am jealous of and wished I had. First he bought a pair of Chuck Taylor tennis shoes. I love those shoes. Yes, I actually had a pair when I was in college. Rumor has it that when something goes out of style that eventually it comes back in style. This is obvious based on when I had my Chuck's back in the day they were regarded as in style and from what I can see today, these shoes are again in style; or were never out of style depending on who you ask.

He also bought himself a high end skateboard. His skateboard idol is Tony Hawk and he has always wanted a high end skate board as a result of that. For those of you who may not know who Tony Hawk is, let?s just say that he is one of the pioneers in the skateboarding industry that helped elevate the sport to what it is today. Since Tony is one of his idols, according to my teacher he just had to get a skateboard.

His favorite gift and the one he really wanted; however, was, wait for it, wait for it and pause for effect... a very over the top remote control airplane. Now I?m not talking about one of those little planes one would find in a "Mart" type store. I mean a sophisticated remote control plane that can only be found in a true hobby store that specializes in remote control vehicles. Let me just say this for the record, when we were walking around the hobby store I felt like I was the kid in a candy store and was seriously thinking about putting some money aside so I could purchase one of those planes myself.

My teacher and I spoke to the technician in the store specifically to get some pointers. The number one suggestion from the Tech was to not and I repeat, NOT, fly the plane when it was windy outside. No matter what size the remote control plane, they are all light and a good wind could carry it out of control and the remote would be of no use. Okay, check, no wind! He also explained and suggested that we make sure the "Thingy-Mi-Doddle" was centered and the "Whatch-Ma-Call-It" was not set too high. Wait, does that mean now as we speak or when we begin to fly it? At that moment I was so confused. My teacher replied that he got it. "Whew" because I did not. After more of a question and answer session with the technician, I felt a little better about the task that was about to be at hand.

We left the store and headed for my truck. My teacher positioned the very large box in the back seat of my truck and we left for home. Upon opening the box at home, there was virtually no assembly required. I really liked that part! We immediately began to charge both batteries at the suggestion of the technician. We then read the directions, which were very limited and in six different languages mind you. I could have read any one of those languages and the outcome would have been the same; dazed, confused and frustrated. Once I finished reading the directions, apparently we were considered to now be qualified to fly this thing. The directions gave this false sense that we were aerial masters. The directions should have had just six steps. I mean, in the end that's what we did anyway and believe me the amount of steps outlined in the directions was ridiculous and nowhere near as basic as it should have been.

In my opinion, this is what the directions should have read:
Step (1): Charge the plane battery.
Step (2): Insert the batteries in both the plane and the remote control.
Step (3): Turn on the plane.
Step (4): Turn on the remote control.
Step (5): In a wide open space, throw the plane in an upward motion.
Step (6): Let go and see what happens.

My teacher was excited to fly his new plane so we immediately went to a very large field just down the road from our house. Upon arrival to the field we noticed that it was a little windy. I believe the tech at the hobby store suggested not to fly it in heavy wind. So, in my book a little wind didn't count. Plus like I mentioned my teacher really wanted to test fly his new plane.

As he began to fly it, immediately the plane did get caught up in the wind and even though we were in a big field the wind carried the plane away from us and into the housing track across the field. It landed in the back yard of a home. My teacher and wife jumped into my truck and raced around to the neighborhood at the same time I looked to see if there was a way to get to the house on foot. Luckily I saw a pathway between the houses that allowed me to quickly get to the front door. Thank goodness someone was home and not only were they very understanding, but also very nice. The lady of the home walked around to the back yard and recovered the plane.

Once we got the plane from the nice homeowners, we went back to our aviation duties in the field. Only this time we all agreed to try to fly it lower. Well, actually my wife and I were just bystanders to my teacher, the pilot, who was mastering the remote that flew the plane. My teacher dialed the settings in such a manner that it did not allow the plane to get very high, which was his goal. He wanted to fly it low so the wind could not take hold of it as it did before. He mastered the art of flying the plane low very quickly. Occasionally the wind would grab it and whisk up in altitude a little but each time he was able maneuver it back to the level where he felt it would be best to fly based on Mother Nature?s small fury.

"I can't believe you were able to figure that out so quickly." I expressed.

"What do you mean?" He queried.

"Well, before this inaugural flight you had not flown any type of remote control plane before." I explained.

"What?s 'inagal' mean?" He quipped.

"Inaugural means the initial flight or first flight." I clarified.

"Well, I'm a kid dad and I can pick things up fast." He uttered.

No comment. He had a valid point. I mean look at how most ten year old kids learn to operate technology based gadgets so quickly and effectively. My teacher often humors himself that he knows more of the ins and outs of his mom?s Android phone than she does. But might I digress as that is another story and lesson within itself I'm sure.

"Well, just be careful with it please." As a parent I had to say that phrase since it is a prerequisite with the job.

He did remind me that he was flying the plane low to avoid any other issues that might come up from the wind. Like I said earlier, he was doing a really good job of keeping the plane in control given the strong jolts of wind shifts taking place. Even with those winds, he was flying the plane like a pro. As I stood back and watched him flying the plane from a distance, I could see that he had a huge smile on his face. I knew he was very much enjoying himself and he was proud of himself for quickly mastering the flight of his new plane.

While I was watching, I noticed the plane stopped and crashed to the ground. At that time, I was approximately fifty to sixty feet away when this happened. He bent down, picked up the plane and began to walk towards me. He had the plane in one hand and the remote control in the other hand. I was certain something was wrong. I quickly jogged over to meet him.

"Is everything okay?" I started.

"Is it broken?" I went on.

"Please don't tell me it's broken, we just got this thing." I continued without allowing him to get a word in.

"Dad, chill out." He calmly spoke.

I have to agree, I was acting a little over zealous. I hadn't even given my teacher the time to tell me anything. I took a deep breath and asked what happened. I mean just seconds earlier, the grin on his face spoke volumes. So, what was I missing here? I knew I was witnessing a new hobby in the making, but I had no idea what was in store for me next. Yes, it happened again. I was in the presence of a lesson at hand. His response was priceless and the lesson was well received.

"Dad, it's no big deal. The wind it is starting to get much stronger. Let's get out of here. I'm done flying." He described.

"I'm happy to hear that, but surprised since it is so new. I figured you would be here for hours." I retorted.

"Dad, I just knew I needed to stop before something negative happened to the plane. We already had one incident." He reminded me.

"Wow, I am so proud of you. That is a very smart way of thinking." I gleamed.

In a nutshell, the lesson that I was reminded of that day was: Know the limitations so things don?t get broken.

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Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke
Published September 28, 2010

A father learns from the wisdom of his toddler.

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