Building and flying airplanes is no longer a childhood dream for Roger Richards, a major account principals for BellSouth and Cingular accounts with Nortel Global Professional Services in Alpharetta, Georgia. It has become a gratifying hobby. He’s built approximately 10 model airplanes and is currently working on three others–one of which costs more than $2,000.
"Growing up in Jamaica, I didn’t have access to a lot of fancy things," says Roger. "I think I was about 5 years old, and someone had a rubber band powered airplane. It was just amazing to me. It actually flew–it would glide, and it was so graceful. Just sitting there watching it was almost like I was flying with it, and I was actually in it. Ever since then, I’ve just been hooked."
At that point, Roger began drawing planes and then carving wooden airplane toys for neighborhood children.
His fascination with airplanes intensified at age 15 when Roger moved to the United States. One summer day in Woodbury, New Jersey, he and several friends stumbled upon an open field where members of a local club of model plane fliers were flying radio-controlled model airplanes.
He became eager to learn piloting techniques, and the men he met on the field that day became his mentors.
His interest in building planes and the mechanics of flying influenced Roger to later earn a B.S. in electrical engineering from Rutgers University in 1987, and to become a pilot with the U.S. Air Force.
Roger notes that collecting model airplanes can be expensive. The cost of a plane can be from $500 for a basic airplane to more than $10,000 for certain models. He is grateful to his mother, who was a single parent, for making many sacrifices to support this hobby while he was in high school. In the late ’70s, Roger’s mother actually used an entire paycheck to buy him a radio-control unit that he still uses today.
Roger highly recommends his hobby to others. Although the building process can be lengthy, it develops craftsmanship and artistry. "It really takes your mind off whatever else is going on," says Roger, "because it pulls you in totally. It truly allows you to relax."
VISIT A HOBBY STORE. According to Roger, you can find advice and information on products and local clubs at hobby stores. Check your local phone book for locations.
DO YOUR RESEARCH. Roger suggested Model Airplane: Build and Fly Radio Control Planes (Milt Videos, $19.99). Or read Getting Airborne by Harry Higley, $14.99. They can be purchased on www.towerhobbies.com.
GO ONLINE. Check out the Academy of Model Aeronautics at www.modelaircraft.org. With more than 150,000 members, it’s the world’s-largest sport-aviation organization.