October 22, 2018
Constantly smiling, known for helping a friend, and most often seen flying a radio controlled plane; that’s Chuck Hocking. With a variety of interests, skills, and qualities, his #1 hobby is building and flying radio controlled (RC) model airplanes. At age 91, he’s found that his golden years are the perfect time to fuel his passion.
Just weeks from turning 92, Chuck Hocking continues fueling his passion for flying radio-controlled airplanes.
Since childhood Chuck has been into model airplanes. He’s built many over the years. He had a fulfilling career as an AV coordinator and industrial arts teacher at Oconomowoc High School, but he’s always been surrounded by technology.
After retirement, his interest in planes and mechanics led him to the flying field north of Oconomowoc. He’d spend time watching people fly radio controlled planes, and it was then, about 25 years ago, that his interest was reignited. He was intrigued by the setup of the RC field, which is adjacent to a larger airport with a grass landing strip and north-south runway. With a grin, he refers to it as “Oconomowoc International, one of the best places to spend time.”
Each time he’d go to watch he’d chat with those flying their RC planes. He’d ask questions, learn more about this or that, and marvel at the flights. Eventually, someone said, “Geez Chuck, why don’t you just quit asking so many questions and join the club already.” And so he did.
Membership in RC flying clubs brings a special component of camaraderie to the hobby for Chuck.
The Lakeland RC Club is a group that flies together, shares knowledge, holds meetings and events, and aims to inspire more to get into the hobby. Chuck served as president for two years, and he also joined the ABC Flyers, based near Sullivan.
“On flying days at the field with the club,” Chuck explains, “there’s a max of four planes in the air at any given time. Sometimes, they do synchronized flying, which is fun to watch. When we’re not sharing flying stories, we’re asking questions, sharing laughs, and helping each other out. It’s all about the camaraderie between ‘The Flying Guys’ (and one gal).”
Membership in the flying clubs has indeed brought fellowship, knowledge, and the realization of what a small world it is. When he moved to Three Pillars in early 2014, he soon made the connection that a fellow flying club member was the son of one of his new neighbors. Chuck shared his hobby with others at Three Pillars who expressed interest in learning more about radio controlled airplanes. He did a demonstration, showed his peers indoor flying, drones, and more, and even took some to the field. His passion piqued the interest of a couple neighbors who were inspired to get into the hobby, learn the art of flying, and join the club. “It’s been really fun to share about it with others, and I couldn’t be happier that a couple buddies wanted to get into it too,” he says.
Chuck has seen his hobby evolve over the years.
“While the planes used to all be powered by glow fuel or gasoline, the advent of the new lithium battery has meant they’re now almost all electric,” Chuck explains. “And boy, do the electric ones remind us how loud the gas-powered engines are!”
The emphasis shifted from visiting the hobby shop and plane building kits, to putting together simpler versions and getting to the flying.
“Back in the day, I loved browsing a hobby shop and learning about the different plane kits available. I’d choose one and could spend a whole winter building a kit. Now, the hobby shops are closing, but I can buy an ARF plane online - almost ready to fly - and have it assembled in a couple of days,” says Chuck. “They’re very popular; made of a type of Styrofoam, built beautifully, and they have a great price tag.”
"Radio controlled flying is all about hand-eye coordination," says Chuck.
Today Chuck owns seven planes that he’s built, known fondly as the “Three Pillars Air Force!”
There are various types and sizes, but there’s one in the trunk of his car at all times, in case he finds himself with an opportunity to fly.
Where does he keep the other six planes?
“Easy,” he says. “There are three in my underground garage parking spot, two in my storage locker downstairs, and one in the laundry room. Because who doesn’t love admiring a plane as you load the washing machine?”
It’s not only his storage space that this hobby fills – his heart is full as well.
“For me, the flying clubs are friendship. You learn how to build, how to fly, and how to relate to people. There are doctors, lawyers, and all types of people in the club, but we’re all equals. The camaraderie and relationships are equally as important as the actual flying.”
The sharing that happens amongst members is a highlight as well. Members are always giving, trading, and sharing information, planes, and parts.
“We share an engine here, give another part to someone there. We know who’s great at testing new planes, and who to go to when you need a repair. You can even donate planes to the club refurbish and help kids get started in the hobby. When you’re done and ready to pass it on, it’s a great community to share with,” Chuck says.
In addition to the fun and friendships that RC flying builds, Chuck is motivated by the goal to keep learning and working on his skills. Flying takes hand-eye coordination, knowledge, and practice. “You’ll never be perfect, but you can always keep honing your skill, even at my age.”
The controller he typically uses is no simple piece of equipment. It has 4 knobs, one each for the elevator, aileron, rudder, and throttle. “Out of those knobs, you can set and forget the throttle and the others are constantly in use. You’re always thinking, watching, and strategizing. When your plane’s coming towards you, you have to use the controls in the opposite way. You have to fly the plane, never let the plane fly you. There’s a lot of skill to learn and to ensure you’re never reacting, but doing the flying.”
So what’s next for Chuck? Flying, flying, and more flying. Now, weeks from turning 92, Chuck gets out to the field to fly on his own or with the club up to four times each week, depending on the wind. When he doesn’t get to the field, he’s found two excellent open spaces on Three Pillars’ 60-acre campus that are perfect flying grounds, as well. “And I’ll keep flying as long as I can. I love the friendship, the constant work of improving my skill, and fueling my passion.”