Winter is the time for Denis Doucette to build his model airplanes while summer is his time to fly.
Doucette, 73, spends the cold months holed up in his small and cozy workshop in Buffalo Creek listening to the best music from the 1960s and working on his craft. His workshop is jammed with plane memorabilia, from old pictures and diagrams on his walls to planes hanging from the rafters.
“I’ve been modelling for it seems like 100 years and I’ve built all kinds of stuff,” said Doucette, a member of the 100 Mile Model Flyers. “It’s been a lifelong hobby for me. It drives my wife crazy but that’s all part of the fun too.”
A cousin first turned Doucette onto the hobby when he gave him a control line plane that you fly in a circle using a line to control the plane. He was 12 at the time and played with it for years until he joined the military out of high school. While he was stationed in Cypress, Doucette met a man flying a control line airplane and it reminded him of his childhood.
When he returned home and left the military, the first thing he did was order a model airplane and has been building, flying and fixing them ever since.
A soft-spoken man with a twinkle in his eye, Doucette jokes that he spends more time repairing planes than building them. He is currently working on a model of a Cessna 182 with 86-inch long wings, which just barely fit in the back of his truck. The project has been ongoing for the past two winters now and he aims to complete it this spring. He will then test fly it. If he doesn’t like it, he’ll get rid of it.
“I enjoy flying. I like 3-D flying and pushing the envelope. Having the plane hover and do weird stuff that real airplanes can’t do. I’ve crashed a lot of airplanes over the years,” said Doucette, who had worked for the then-Department of Highways, before retiring 13 years ago. “Building is fun, it keeps me occupied and keeps me out of the bar. It’s a good hobby and it’s not that expensive like it used to be.”
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While model planes can run upwards of $15,000, particularly for a model jet with miniature jet engines, Doucette said overall prices for pieces like controllers have dropped as technology has improved. A radio controller to fly his planes used to cost him $800 but nowadays cost $300 and has far more features, such as the ability to pass the signal to another controller rather than have to physically hand it off to another pilot.
These days model airplanes can be as simple as paper wings and elastic band powered propeller or a simple wooden frame with an electric motor to detailed replicas with small engines and even jet turbines.
Doucette said he’s even seen someone fly a lawnmower before at a hobby plane show.
One of the things he enjoys the most about the hobby is the camaraderie and the chance to hang out with his fellow flying enthusiasts and fly planes together. COVID has made that harder this year, but Doucette is looking forward to this summer’s Fun Fly that’s being planned for the last month of July.
Doucette said they are always looking for new members. He encourages anyone interested in taking up the hobby to swing by the club’s regular flying field at the old snowmobile track during the summer.
Doucette or one of the club’s other 16 members will be there flying and willing to let someone test fly one of their planes.
With their new technology, Doucette said they can even share controllers so the teacher can take over should the student fly into any trouble.
For more information, call the club’s president John Code at 250-706-8305.