Local Group Gathers to Build Model Airplanes

For most people, an airplane is something they sit inside to get from point A to point B. Something they watch whizzing through the air in their favorite war movies or coloring the sky at a local county fair. For Jim Anderson, planes have been a lifelong passion and something he’s come to love even more in his retirement. He creates beautiful historic model planes along with Larry Cherry, Obie Lillo, Tony Belka and Fred Dalleska who all share a similar passion for airplanes. “We have been building World War II models on a giant scale. They have a 10-foot wingspan,” Anderson says.

Anderson became interested in planes when he was a child and began building them when he was 10 years old. Growing up in the 1930s, the now 88-year-old was surrounded by the wonders of flying. “Our next door neighbor in the 1930s, when I was in grade school, was a navy pilot,” Anderson says. “Everybody was building model airplanes when they were in grade school.” Throughout the years, Anderson began building his own model planes and became even more interested in the subject. After meeting men who shared those same interests, they decided to create a group. Their group has been meeting every week on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. since 2000. While the group has lost some members, it also continues to gain new ones. While it’s a place for them to pursue their shared passion, it has also become something of a social event; somewhere where they can share a cup of coffee and catch up on each other’s lives.

The men have put together many different planes including several World War II models. They started with a Piper J-3 Cub, a plane popular in the 1930s and 1940s. They have gone on to complete many more, like a U.S. Navy PBY flying boat, which was used extensively in World War II. “These are primarily kits that are cut with lasers. They’re cut out of balsa wood [and other materials], and we glue those all together,” Anderson says. Anderson explains the hard work that goes into every plane they build, and each plane takes a year or two to finish. “It takes a lot of skill to be able to read the plans,” Anderson says. “And of course you have to build it strong enough so it can fly.” Anderson also has a few models of his own, including a UC-78 Cessna.

The group welcomes visitors to see their creations during those get-togethers on Mondays and Wednesdays. “We have a lot of visitors come in, and they stop by now and then,” Anderson says. “And other friends and other model builders.” They are located in the former Connco shoe store building  in downtown Stillwater. It’s something that has also inspired Anderson’s son, Paul, an airplane pilot. “He was more interested in the full-scale flying, and he flies our full-size airplanes,” Anderson says.

It’s clear these gentlemen have found something that is both a pastime, but also something that keeps them young at heart. Like the boys they once were creating small model planes, they’ve grown into adults who share the same passion but on a grander scale. “I just love old airplanes, big and little,” Anderson says. “I love to see them fly.”  

For more info on MN model airplane clubs visit the website here or stop by and visit Jim and the guys.