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Archive for Monday, January 3, 2011

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Model Citizen: Army Reserve retiree reclaims favorite hobby

January 3, 2011

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Gary Allcorn was a model child; he’s now a model man. He started building plastic airplanes at 6 and is now president of Jayhawk Model Masters-Lawrence model airplane enthusiasts’ club.

Allcorn’s flying passion started in 1956 when his mom bought him a nickel paper kite for his sixth birthday.

“I’d take it out every day and see how far I could get it to fly,” he recalls.

“From there I progressed to 25-cent stick and tissue model airplane kits. I’d put them together and paint them to look like the real planes.”

At 8 he abandoned school sports for a paper route to support his hobby.

“I started building the Comet and Sterling rubber-band-powered paper and wood kits,” he says. “It was difficult getting those early models to fly right because I knew nothing about flying or aerodynamics. I just put them together and hoped they’d fly.”

He got his first control line gas-powered plastic model with a .049 glow fuel gas motor at 14.

“I saved for months to buy it,” he says. “After many trips to the park and crashes, I finally got one of them to fly. It was a great day in my life. I felt like a pilot.”

Model airplanes were abandoned when hormones kicked in; girls became more interesting. He married his wife, Sue, at 17, and applied to the U.S. Air Force at 18 to fulfill his aviation dreams. His application was unsuccessful. He joined the Army and served in Vietnam for two years working with helicopters.

Upon discharge he took his models off the shelf, built control-line models from scratch but put them aside for nearly 30 years to undertake a hectic work schedule.

He joined the Army Reserves, worked with CH-47 helicopters for the Defense Department, became a trainer with the National Guard, a CH-47 inspector at the Army Reserve center in Olathe and ran his ranch at McLouth.

He retired in 2005 to raise Angus-cross cattle full-time.

“I got bored in the wintertime, and Sue suggested I take up my hobby again,” he says.

“There’d been so many technological advances in the hobby I didn’t know where to start. I searched the Internet, found Jayhawk Model Masters. I called the president, attended a meeting and found a great group of fun, enthusiastic model airplane guys.”

Allcorn’s childhood passion was rekindled. He dusted down a control-model World War II bomber he’d made from scratch in 1973.

“I was thrilled to find it still worked,” he says with pride.

His basement’s become a man-only-cave model aircraft factory.

He admits it’s challenging to find basic kits these days.

“Most modern model planes are RTFs (ready to fly) or ARFs (almost ready to fly). You can fly them almost immediately,” he says.

“I love building models from scratch and taking them to the club’s two grass runways below Clinton Lake dam to see if they’ll fly. Building something from nothing but a pile of wood and then seeing it take off and fly like a real plane gives me a great sense of accomplishment.”

— Eileen Roddy can be reached at eileenroddy@sunflower.com.

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