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RC gliders take flight in Modesto, Los Banos
Remote-controlled gliders, like this one, are the norm with the Modesto R/C Club. - photo by Photo Contributed

MODESTO – It’s a bird.

It’s a plane.

It’s a radio-controlled glider?

While there’s a large subset of the R/C community that focuses on airplanes – World War II replicas, stunt planes, exotic creations – the Modesto R/C club places a heavy emphasis on those planes that use the wind current to keep themselves afloat once they’re already in the air.

No propellers. No gas motors.

Just flight in its simplest form – giving those that practice it the opportunity to show aerodynamics and what it takes to keep something with wings in flight without any sort of propulsion or mechanical assistance.

The group meets at a takeoff strip behind Encohs High School in North Modesto as well as a creek in Los Banos that provides its own set of challenges. Here are a few places that you can find R/C glider practitioners, and what goes into the practice:

• Los Banos Creek – Winds from the up slope on the cliffs along the creek provide the perfect setting for gliders, but can also provide challenges. For instance, those that don’t clear the steep canyon walls need to be retrieved by a repel rope – motorized gliders aren’t allowed because of fire danger. Learning how to navigate the slope can also be difficult, but can be a sight for those willing to watch.

• Modesto Reservoir – Low-launched thermal duration gliders and electronic planes can be spotted year-round at this popular flying spot. A series of improvements have been made over the years by the club to make it something that can be used even when the ground gets wet and soggy. The site might be off the beaten path – flight centers like the one in Livermore is within eyeshot of I-580 gather quite a few  onlookers – but it still generates plenty of interest.

While certain local spots don’t allow for gas-powered flyers, the hobby is alive and well in the region. The Livermore Flying Electrons – the group that manages the runway on the opposite side of the freeway from the Lawrence Livermore National Labortatory – currently has a waiting list for members.

Those wishing to participate in Modesto’s events also need to become members.

For additional information, visit the organization’s Yahoo group at

209 staff reporter