They say boys never grow up, they just get bigger toys! And some of those toys can get pretty high tech.
Few toys are more complicated than radio-controlled helicopters – they can cost thousands of dollars and take years to master.
But next month, a Fort Dodge man will look to become one of the best pilots in the hobby.
They’re just another father and son headed out for an afternoon in the park, it’s just that instead of a football or a kite LaDon and Ryan Sams take things up a notch.
“One day we bought a helicopter and that’s where it all went from there,” says Ryan, watching his helicopter fly through a grey Iowa sky.
To be fair, the learning curve with these expensive toys was steep and costly.
“It was a regular disaster,” says LaDon, “and we wrecked a lot of helicopters and tore up a lot of stuff before we finally got to this point.”
“This point” is close to the zenith of the RC flight stratosphere.
Ryan, now 22, has become one of the hobby’s top “pilots.” He can dance his $3,000 toy to choreographed chaos yet maintain complete control.
“Knowing your orientation is key to knowing which way you’ve got to have your controls going,” Rayn says, concentrating on his ‘copter’s flight.
The Sams’ helicopters can hit 120 MPH and stop on a dime. They can fly so high they disappear and then low enough to cut the tops off the dandelions.
“That’s what makes it the most fun is being out there with him,” LaDon says, “and then seeing how he’s progressed and see what he’s turning into with the helicopters.”
Next month, Ryan will represent Iowa at the Extreme Flight Championships in Indiana.
“I don’t know about winning,” Ryan says, “but I know I can do a very respectable job, at least.”
“They’ll judge you on how well you can do them maneuvers,” LaDon says, “on keeping symmetry, and smooth and speed all equivalent.”
The Sams’ were nice enough to give a bird’s eye view to our camera though they’ll remind you that these are toys, not drones. After all, this is all in good fun between father and son.