Ready For Takeoff
Through the air and on the ground, the PVA Cal-Diego Chapter radio control club provides injured veterans with flying fun and a driving distraction.
From high-speed maneuvers on a race track to doghouses and lawnmowers that fly, the potential in the hobby known as radio control (RC) has no bounds. That’s especially true when it comes to operators with spinal-cord injury or disease (SCI/D).
RC hobbyists with SCI/D “really don’t have time to concentrate on what is bothering them that day, and that diversion is really important,” says William “Buddy” Wachtstetter with the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Cal-Diego Chapter RC Club in California.
An Air Force veteran, Wachtstetter works with fellow Air Force veteran Duane Norman and Navy veteran David Smith in organizing the club. They each sustained service-connected SCIs, and all three are tasked with storing, maintaining and bringing the RC equipment to each club outing.
Started about a year ago, the club has roughly 15 members and tries to meet at least two times a month, except during the summer. They have three separate meeting sites around southern California, where they drive and fly their models.
Flying seems to be the most popular area of the RC hobby with an estimated 195,000 members of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA). It also helps that some of the model planes can get pretty interesting.
“In today’s RC sport, you can find almost anything,” Norman says. “In flying fixed-wing aircraft, World War II warbirds are currently extremely popular. In addition, every conceivable type of airplane from single to multiple engines is available, and some creative hobbyists have been known to build everything from flying Snoopy doghouses to flying lawnmowers.”
RC can be a very attractive hobby for those with SCI/D because many models are ready to go right out of the box, and there’s no involvement with the lower extremities.
“Pretty much by definition, if you say remote control you are talking about hand controls, so a para[plegic] needs no special equipment whatsoever, and with something as simple as a lap tray with a little Velcro to stabilize a controller, many quads are able to operate cars, planes or quadcopters using over-the-counter equipment,” Smith says. “There are even programmable controllers available that were initially intended for aircraft but can be programmed to control a car through single-joystick operation."
The club also has custom controllers for higher-level quads who’ve lost mobility in their arms but can use a chin-control device. The controllers have been modified to hold an external joystick on an adjustable arm that can be mounted on a wheelchair or any stable surface.
Ready For Takeoff
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