A design for flying
Troke's hobby brings him closer to lifelong dream

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

FORT SIMPSON (Oct 15/99) - Barry Troke can fly in every season, landing his plane on wheels, skis or floats, just like many of pilots in the Deh Cho.

The difference is that Troke remains on the ground the entire time. You see, he flies his planes -- model planes -- with the use of a transmitter, or remote control. He started out with a trainer aircraft after moving to Fort Simpson a year ago. Naturally, there has been some trial and error, he admitted.

"I got it out there and beat it up 10 times before I got it flying," he said, pointing out various parts of the plane that he has since rebuilt, such as the nose and wing.

It's the construction, and re-construction, of the planes that consume most of the hours he spends on his planes.

"Ninety-five per cent of my time is in the building, fixing and improvising," he said.

And improvise he does. Some of the model kits leave something to be desired, so he finds a way to improve upon the directions. For instance, to check the fuel level in his trainer, he previously had to remove the wings. So, he cut a hole in the fuselage allowing him to simply peer inside to gauge the amount of flying time he has left before having to refuel. The models also come with basic moulded tires that are designed for paved airstrips. Without that luxury in Fort Simpson, Troke installed "tundra tires" like those found on a twin-otter, enabling him to make landings on the beach and in the bush.

An advanced model plane, such as the Cessna 182 that Troke is working on now, comes with detailed plans, an instruction booklet and a balsa wood frame. With 400-500 hours of meticulous labour and hundreds of dollars spent, a flying mishap would be "devastating," Troke acknowledged.

"You invest a lot of time and money into it, so you don't want to crash it," he said, adding that a collision with a bystander could be lethal, so the hobby has to be approached with caution. Jet models can approach 160 kilometres an hour, and his trainer generally, which flies at a 50-60 km/h clip, can reach higher speeds in a dive. Propellers are capable of shearing off fingers too, he added.

Troke suggests that novices should begin with a cheaper and more simplistic trainer, which takes about 10 hours to assemble. The model kits range from $50 to $1,000, he said. There's also a basic start-up cost of about $500 for the transmitter (some of which are programmable to fly up to 10 different models), an engine (which never accompanies the plane), basic tools, glue, sandpaper, etc. The engines come in a two-stroke and four-stroke variety, with larger planes using little gas engines like those found in a chainsaw, according to Troke.

"No two planes are alike ... they all respond differently," he said.

He has had a fascination with the physics of flying as long as he can remember. In his job as a park warden, he's been aboard planes and helicopters many times over. He's even spent countless hours learning instrument flight rules on a simulator with intentions of someday flying a ultralight aircraft.

"That's where I'm headed. I've got the itch," he said, smiling.

In the meantime, he's found several other people in Fort Simpson who also have model planes. After contacting all of them, he's considering starting a club with hopes that even more people will get involved. Maybe they too will become so caught up in the hobby that they too will keep flight logs with dates, weather conditions, location, number of hours flown and other general comments. Why not?

"It's just like a real plane, all the same principles," Troke said.