CAMPOBELLO — A sleek red-and-black biplane called The Beast nose dived and turned barrel rolls over a field on Roddy Road on Sunday.
Its engine hummed over the pasture, and several in the crowd along the airstrip gasped, sure the speedy biplane would crash with each acrobatic feat.
Its pilot, Campobello resident Marvin Gardner, however, was never in any danger, as he stood safe on the ground at the controls of a remote.
The TNT Foothill Flyers R/C Club, formed in April, held its first fly-in and grand opening at the club's new field on Sunday. Remote-control pilots showed what their battery- and gas-powered planes some with 10- and 12-foot wingspans and 15- to 18-horsepower engines could do.
Gardner also flew a model Sbach, a 45-pound plane with a 121-inch wingspan and an engine similar to that of a lawn trimmer. Four men held it down so that it wouldn't dart across the field as Gardner got the propeller started and prepared for takeoff.
Gardner, who lives about 2 miles from the club's new space, sometimes flew his 35 planes at home or drove to Woodruff to enjoy his hobby. He's pleased that a quality runway, sanctioned by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, is now closer to home.
"It's really nice," Gardner said. "That Bermuda grass is smooth a good, tight blend. There's no rocks. I like it."
Campobello resident and business owner Manny Mander agreed to let the club use his property for its airspace. Mander, owner of the Briar Patch convenience stores in Campobello and Inman, watched from the sidelines Sunday, as did dozens of other enthusiasts, lining the grass runway with canvas chairs and canopies to enjoy the mini-airshow.
"It's just entertaining," Mander said. "I really like these guys, too."
It's likely that the couple dozen or so club members won't let Mander sit on the sidelines for long.
"I gotta learn now," Mander said, with a smile.
Tony Gaffney, one of the T's in TNT Flyers, said most remote-control flyers get their start with small planes on a control line, as he did, and graduate to the remote control. He walked the grounds on Sunday and shot photos of the club's inaugural fly-in.
"The biggest thing I like is the fellowship," Gaffney said. "We all help each other. And, of course it's fun to fly after you crash a couple of times."
Woody Brammer of Columbus, NC, prepared his red Spacewalker II for flight. The plane is constructed of balsa wood and plywood, with a silk coating. The plane is 13 pounds, has an 81-inch wingspan and a 1.2 cc engine "that's a little louder than it needs to be," Brammer said. A miniature brunette sat in the cockpit, her ponytail blowing in the breeze as the plane taxied down the grass.
"That's my wife, Marie," said Brammer, jokingly. Now 70, Brammer has been flying remote-controlled planes since the late 1970s, but has been toying with model planes since he was 12. That's the age of TNT Flyers' youngest member, Alex West of Campobello.
Alex brought his Dynam Peaks foam plane to Sunday's fly-in. Though smaller and lighter than some of the other planes, "it flies awesome," Alex said.
Alex's plane did have a rough landing on Sunday that ended with a bounce on the field. After a quick repair to the tail rudder, the red plane took to the sky again.
Tom Cummings, the other T in TNT and the club's president, chose not to fly on Sunday. He watched the day's family-oriented festivities instead. He said he was "very pleased and impressed" with Sunday's turnout.
"We're planning more fly-ins," he said.
Anyone interested in joining the TNT Flyers may call club treasurer Allan Smith at (864) 490-1968.