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The Seattle Sketcher

An illustrated journal of life in the Puget Sound region by Times artist Gabriel Campanario.

July 26, 2013 at 6:43 PM

A mini-Seafair air show at ‘Lake Weaver’

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Sketched July 18, 2013

It’s like a miniature Seafair air show. At speeds ranging from 30 to 50 mph, little radio-controlled floatplanes loop and twist over Lake Washington. They are piloted by about a dozen hobbyists standing on the Ferdinand Street Boat Launch near Seward Park.

Boeing retiree Dick Weaver, the man squinting to see the acrobatics of his own “flying-W” model, is the group’s organizer. Though we live in a region of lakes, he said it wasn’t easy to find an aquatic playground to practice the sport. “Most lakes have speed limits,” he said, “and public access is hard to find.”

Eventually, he found this ideal spot on Lake Washington, where there’s no speed limit, only to be told by the Parks Department that he needed special permission from the superintendent to operate the motorized aircraft. He did his homework to get the permit, and his group, the Lake Sawyer Hawks, has been flying here from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Thursday since 2007.

Neighbors who bring their kids to watch the planes are grateful for the little-known air show. And Weaver’s pals now talk of coming to “Lake Weaver” for the weekly “float fly.”

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Flying the models sure looked fun, but Weaver said it’s even more fun putting them together. To start, he recommends getting an ARF kit —ARF stands for “almost ready to fly,” or, in other words, you have to assemble the parts yourself. The whole kit, including a transmitter, a receiver and a battery costs about $500 but, of course, you can always spend more money, and more time on your models. It took Weaver 18 months to build a 1:12 scale replica of a Coast Guard Albatross.

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While most of the models at the float fly were electric, gas-powered ones are also common. Christian Figueroa, one of the youngest members of the group, posed with his, a red and white LT-40, for a quick sketch.

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Someone called it an “ugly stick,” but Bruce Waddell’s model is actually known as a “slow stick.” Waddell’s background in engineering also led him into the hobby.

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Although he already flies models with the Marymoor RC Club in Redmond, Ray Feller has never tried them from the water. He brought his first floatplane model for a float test and plans to fly it next time.

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