Model-airplane pilots fly to fight cancer at event on UA campus

From 8-foot wingspans and fighter jets to palm-sized plastic models powered by thumbnail motors, an array of model airplanes will take flight this weekend for the Northeast Ohio Electric Festival inside the Stile Athletics Field House on the University of Akron campus.

“You’ll see an Angry Bird flying around,” Marc Stermer, president of the Mentor Area Radio Control Society, said of the diverse assortment of homemade and kit-built airplanes. “It’s really crazy.”

The event, which begins at 9 a.m. each day, features pilots of all ages and skills, and is open to the public for $5. Admission is free for children under 12.

Veterans will be flying ultra-light F3P models in a slow-paced competition of graceful maneuvering. With talent traveling from as far away as New Jersey and California, winners named Sunday will represent the United States in a global competition in Warsaw, Poland, next year.

More novice flyers will compete in a series of events, from a flighty version of musical chairs to a full-throttle pylon race.

Crowd-pleasing full-combat contests will be held today and Sunday, featuring 50 to 60 pilots with one goal in mind: take each other out. With each pilot chipping in $5, the last plane flying takes home the pot.

“As long as I’m the last one standing, I will donate all the money to the American Cancer Society,” said Dale Teis, vice president of the Mentor Area Radio Control Society.

Teis will be flying a white plane with a pink-ribbon paint job. He and other members of his group have been hit hard by cancer in the past few years. They lost four friends to the disease last year alone.

His wife overcame cancer five years ago.

“It was a year of hell,” Teis said.

With so many touched, the event’s organizers decided to take to the air this year to raise money for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

Visitors may enter to win a trip for two, including airfare and hotel, to a national air show in Reno, Nevada, where the iconic P-51 Mustang of World War II and other planes will race at more than 500 mph. All raffle ticket proceeds will be donated to charity, along with what is left after expenses to put on the $10,000 indoor model airplane event.

Also benefiting the cause are $5 paper airplanes, $3 donation cards and $1 ribbons. At noon today, donors will be launching their airplanes in memory of those they’ve lost, and to help those who will battle with cancer.

“We wanted to honor them this year,” Stermer said of loved ones. “We’re going to go out there and literally fly these paper airplanes in the face of cancer.”

Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or

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