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Pilot builds plane inspired by father’s warbird shot down in WW2

This weekend the Tri-Valley RC Modelers hosted it’s Fourth Annual Central Coast Giant Scale Fly-In at their field at the Elks Event Center in Santa Maria.

There’s only a handful of events like this that take place in California every year. Most of the planes are gas powered and hand made.

150 airplanes and 35 radio control pilots from across the state were here at the Elks Event Center Sunday .

“Been flying for, well pretty much off and on all my life,” RC Pilot Mike Leggett said.

Mike Leggett traveled down from the San Jose area to fly his B-17.

“It’s a replica of the one my dad was shot down in in the war, he and his guys had to bail out over Germany after coming back from bombing,” Leggett said.

Leggett’s father survived but his co-pilot didn’t.

“He jumped out in the fire in a rush without his parachute, so sadness there,” Leggett said.

Leggett says building this plane is his way of commemorating his father’s service.

“Just gets me once in a while, you know,” Leggett said.

His plane took three and half years to build and has 79 missions on it.

“In fact when I gave the presentation on the plane this past January down south I got choked up a little during one of the presentations,” Leggett said.

Some of these pilots traveled in from as far south as Los Angeles County and as far north as the Bay area.

“We have some giant stuff, 200 CC’s, we have some big stuff that flies here,” President of Tri Valley RC Modelers Clark Stiles said.

Tri Valley RC Modelers was formed in Santa Maria over 52 years ago and is 90 members strong. All these airplanes have at least 6 foot wingspans – many built by hand, taking hundreds of hours.

Their events are always free to the public. Bill Tjaden says this is a great way for him and his two sons to bond.

“They’re really supportive of youth and their interest in flying,” RC Pilot Bill Tjaden said.

“It’s a great hobby, I tell people it keeps me out of the bars,” Leggett joked.

If you missed it this weekend, they’ll be back in two weeks here at the Elks Event Center in Santa Maria at Gate #3 for the IMAC Series Aerobatic Competition with 30 pilots from all over the state. Those dates are Aug. 12-14.

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