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Written by Andy Argenio
Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
AMA News
As seen in the July 2019 issue of Model Aviation.


Ron Carey, from the Southern New Hampshire Flying Eagles (SNHFE), submitted the following story. It is a wonderful example of how teaching others to fly can be as rewarding for the instructor and club as it is for a new member—especially when seeing how their efforts made a positive influence on someone who is disabled.

I met Dave Bell and his wife, Cindy, at the club’s flying site in June 2015. They had a new-in-the-box Apprentice RC airplane with them. Dave was 55 years old, in a wheelchair, and with poor dexterity in his right hand. His throat was paralyzed, making it difficult for others to understand him. He was able to communicate further with a tablet.

I asked Dave if he wanted to fly his airplane and he excitedly responded with a sound that we soon learned to recognize as "Oh yeah!" With that kind of enthusiasm, we all wanted to help him.

Dave didn’t have the physical dexterity to put his airplane together, so some of the club members and I built the model and programmed the radio along with a buddy box. Dave had only one battery, but club members provided spares, which allowed him to try flying on the buddy box until he was tired.

It became clear that he wasn’t going to be able to control both sticks to fully navigate the airplane but he had a great time with what he was able to do with the controls. Everyone that day went home with huge smiles and a lot of pride.

Later on, in discussions on ways to help Dave, club members suggested that possibly a mode 1 radio setup might be easier for him to control the airplane. While I was away on vacation, Dave went to another club equipped with a mode 1 radio. Unfortunately, while on a buddy box, the airplane crashed and was totaled.

Dave returned to SNHFE with another Apprentice and again the club members built it. It was decided that a mode 3 setup might be best because the primary flight controls of aileron and elevator would be on the left stick, allowing him to navigate the airplane with his good hand. With this setup, he was also able to practice at home on a simulator and soon he could control the flight path of his model airplane at the club’s flying site.

Eventually Dave had his DX9 radio modified to include a foot pedal for throttle control and a knob mounted on the top of the left stick that could be turned for controlling the airplane’s rudder. Despite his disability, Dave could now finally control all of the channels needed to fully navigate an RC airplane.

Dave and I flew and built a friendship over the months that followed. It was great to see his confidence and excitement grow as his skills improved. He and I started to practice takeoffs and landings. In late 2016, Dave’s health turned for the worse and he passed away on February 3, 2017.

ron carey standing was flight training dave bell
Ron Carey (standing) was flight training Dave Bell on the buddy box during the SNHFE annual Float Fly at Greenfield State Park.

Working with Dave was one the most rewarding things I have had the honor and privilege of doing. I know it was a source of pleasure and excitement for Dave. It is amazing to see how challenges can be overcome by a community of AMA people who share a passion.

Rest in peace, Dave. I think of you often. Dave’s wife donated all of his gear to SNHFE and the club now wishes to donate it to someone with a disability who would require a radio for onehand control. Please send a request to president@snhflyingeagles.org.

Thanks Ron, for this inspiring story of your efforts and the SNHFE to help someone with a disability enjoy the sport of aeromodeling.

dave flew using this buddy box during the snhfe annual float fly
Dave flew using this buddy box during the SNHFE annual Float Fly.

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